He gave her a measuring look and decided to ignore the dangerous glitter in her eyes. He levered himself upright, pulled the sheet across his lap, and grinned weakly. "I've always been proud of my accuracy and aim, Cat, but even I can't water the flowers from here."
Thankfully, he didn't understand anything she said after the first Eyrien curse she flung at him.
She slung his arm over her shoulders, wrapped her arm around his waist, and pulled him to his feet. "Just take it slow. I've got most of your weight."
"The males who serve here should be doing this, not you," Lucivar snarled as they shuffled to the door, not sure if he was more embarrassed about being naked or needing her support.
"There aren't any. Hey!"
He almost overbalanced both of them reaching for the door, but he needed to tighten his hand around something. His darling Cat was here alone, unprotected, with no one
but a wolf for company? Taking care of his . . . "You're a young woman," he said through clenched teeth.
"I'm a fully qualified Healer." She tugged at his waist. It didn't do any good. "You were easier to take care of before you woke up."
He snarled at her. "
"Lucivar," Jaenelle said in that voice Healers used on irascible patients and idiots, "you've been in a healing sleep for the past three weeks. Taking that into consideration as well as what it took to put you back together, I think I've seen every inch of you more than once. Now, are you going to dribble on the floor like an untrained puppy or are we going to get to where you wanted to go?"
A fierce desire to get well enough to stand on his own two feet so that he could strangle her got him to the bathroom. Pride made him snarl her out the door. Stubbornness kept him upright long enough to do what was necessary, tie a bath towel around his waist, and reach the bathroom door.
By then his energy and useful emotions were tapped out, so he didn't protest when Jaenelle helped him walk to a stool near a large pine table in the cabin's main room. She moved behind him, her hands firm and gentle as they explored his back. He kept his eyes fixed on the outside door, not ready yet to ask about the healing. Then he felt one of his wings slowly unfurl, guided by those same gentle hands.
The wing closed. The other stretched out. As she came around to the front, he turned his head and stared at a wing that was healthy and whole. Stunned, he bit his lip and blinked back tears.
Jaenelle glanced at his face, then returned her attention to the wing. "You were lucky," she said quietly. "In another week there wouldn't have been enough healthy tissue left to rebuild them."
Rebuild them? Considering the damage the slime mold and the salt mines had done, even the best Eyrien Healers would have cut off the wings. How could she rebuild them?
Mother Night, he was tired, but there were too many things here that didn't fit his expectations. He desperately needed to understand and didn't know where to begin.
Then Jaenelle bent over to look at the lower part of the wing and the jewelry around her neck swung out of her shirt. Later he'd ask why Witch was wearing a Sapphire Jewel. Right now, all his attention was caught by the hourglass pendant that hung above the Jewel.
The hourglass was the Black Widows' symbol, both a declaration and a warning about the witch who wore it. An apprentice wore a pendant with the gold dust sealed in the top half of the glass. A journey maid’s pendant had the gold dust evenly divided between top and bottom. A fully trained Black Widow wore an hourglass with all the gold dust in the bottom chamber.
"When did you become a fully trained Black Widow?"
The air around him cooled. "Does it bother you that I am?"
Obviously it bothered some people. "No, just curious."
She gave him a quick smile of apology and continued her inspection. The air returned to normal. "Last year."
"And you became a qualified Healer?"
She carefully folded the wing and started checking his right shoulder. "Last year."
Lucivar whistled. "Busy year."
Jaenelle laughed. "Papa says he's thrilled he survived it."
He could almost hear the blade against the whetstone as his temper rose to the killing edge. She had a father, a family, and yet lived without human companionship, not even a servant. Exiled here because of the Hourglass? Or because she was Witch? Once he was fit again, this father of hers would have a few things to adjust to—like the Warlord Prince who now served her.
"Lucivar." Jaenelle's voice seemed as far away as the hand squeezing his taut shoulder. "Lucivar, what's wrong?"
Time moved slowly at the killing edge, measured by the beat of a war drum heart. The world became filled with individual, razor-sharp details. A blade would flow through muscle, humble bone. And the mouth would fill with the living wine as teeth sank into a throat.
Lucivar blinked. Felt the tension in Jaenelle's fingers as she gripped his shoulders. He backed from the edge, step
by mental step, while the wildness in him howled to run free. Senses dulled by the salt mines of Pruul were reborn. The land called him, seducing him with scents and sounds. She seduced him, too. Not for sex, but for another kind of bond, in its own way just as powerful. He wanted to rub against her so that her physical scent was on his skin. He wanted to rub against her so thathis physical scent onher warned others that a powerful male had some claim to her, was claimed by her. He wanted . . .
He turned his head, catching her finger between his teeth, exerting enough force to display dominance without actually hurting her. Her hand relaxed in submission, embracing the wild darkness within him. And because shecould embrace it, he surrendered everything.
A minute later, completely returned to the mundane world, he noticed the open outer door and the three wolves standing on the covered porch, studying him with sharp interest.
Jaenelle, now inspecting his collarbone and chest muscles, glanced at the wolves and shook her head. "No, he can't come out and play."
Making disappointed-sounding whuffs, the wolves went back outside.
He studied the land framed by the open door. "I never thought Hell would look like this," he said softly.
"Hell doesn't." She slapped his hand when he tried to stop her from probing his hip and thigh.
Forcefully reminding himself that he shouldn't smack a Healer, he gritted his teeth and tried again to find some answers. "I didn't know that demon-dead children grew up or that demons could be healed."
She gave him a penetrating look before examining his other leg. Heat and power flowed from her hands."Cildru dyathe don't and demons can't. But I'm notcildru dyathe and you're not a demon—although you did your damnedest to become one," she added tartly. She pulled up a straight-backed chair, sat down facing him, and took his hands in hers. "Lucivar, you're not dead. This isn't the Dark Realm."