Mephis locked the door. "That was quite a show you put on."

"The show's just started." Lucivar prowled the room. "I didn't see you trying to stop me."

"We can't afford to be publicly divided. Besides, there wasn't any point in trying to stop you. You outrank me, and I doubt you'd let brotherly feelings get in your way."

"You got that right."

Mephis swore. "Do you realize the trouble we're going to have with the Dark Council over this? We're not above the Law, Lucivar."

Lucivar stopped in front of Mephis. "You play by your rules, and I'll play be mine."

"She signed a marriage contract."

"Not willingly."

"You don't know that. And twenty witnesses say otherwise."

"I wear her Ring. Ican feel her, Mephis." Lucivar's voice shook. "She was ready to break the link rather than submit to being mounted."

Mephis said nothing for a full minute. "Jaenelle has problems with physical intimacy. You know that."

Lucivar slammed his fist into the door. "Damn you! Are you so blind or have your balls dried up so much you'll submit to anything rather than have someone bleat about the SaDiablo family misusing their power? Well, I'm not blind and there's nothing wrong with my balls. She's my

Queen—mine!—and rules or not, Laws or not, Dark Council or not, if someone makes her suffer, I will pay them back in kind."

They stared at each other, Lucivar breathing hard, Mephis unmoving.

Finally, Mephis slumped against the door. "We can't go through this again, Lucivar. We can't go through the fear of losing her again."

"Where is she?"

"Father took her to the Keep)—with strict orders for the rest of the family to stay away."

Lucivar pushed Mephis aside. "Well, we all know how well I follow orders, don't we?"

3 / Kaeleer

Saetan looked like a man who had barely survived a battlefield.

Which wasn't far from the truth, Lucivar thought as he quietly closed the door of Jaenelle's sitting room at the Keep.

"My instructions were explicit, Lucivar."

The voice had no strength. The face looked gray and strained.

Lucivar pointed casually to the Birthright Red Jewels Saetan wore. "You're not going to be able to toss me out wearing those."

Saetan didn't call in the Black.

Lucivar guessed, correctly, that getting Jaenelle to the Keep in her present physical and emotional condition had drained the Black.

Saetan limped to a chair, swearing softly. He tried to lift a decanter of yarbarah from the side table. His hand shook violently.

Crossing the room, Lucivar took the decanter, filled a glass, and warmed the blood wine. "Do you need fresh blood?" he asked quietly.

Saetan stared at him coldly.

Even after all these centuries, Luthvian's accusations were still deep wounds barely scabbed over. Guardians needed fresh blood from time to time to maintain their strength. At first, Lucivar had tried to understand Saetan's anger at being offered blood hot from the vein, tried not to feel insulted that the High Lord would accept that gift from anyone but him. Now he felt annoyed that someone else's words still hung between them. He wasn't a child. If the son willingly offered the gift, why couldn't the father graciously accept it?

Saetan looked away. "Thank you, but no."

Lucivar pressed the wineglass into Saetan's hand. "Drink this."

"I want you away from here, Lucivar."

Lucivar poured a large glass of brandy for himself, booted a footstool over to Saetan's chair, and sat down. "When I walk away from here, I'm taking her with me."

"You can't," Saetan snapped. "She's . . ." He raked his fingers through his hair. "I don't think she's sane."

"Not surprising since they dosed her withsafframate."

Saetan glared at him. "Don't be an ass.Safframate doesn't do that to a person."

"How would you know? You've never been dosed with it." Lucivar struggled to keep the bitterness out of his voice. This wasn't the time to worry old hurts.

"I've usedsafframate."

Lucivar narrowed his eyes and studied his father. "Explain."

Saetan drained his glass."Safframate is a sexual stimulant that's used to prolong stamina, prolong one's ability to give pleasure. The seeds are the size of a snapdragon seed. You add one or two crushed seeds to a glass of wine."

"One or two seeds." Lucivar snorted. "High Lord, in Terreille they crush it into a powder and use it by the spoonful."

"That's madness! If you gave someone that much—" Saetan stared at the closed door that led into Jaenelle's , bedroom.

"Exactly," Lucivar said softly. "Pleasure very quickly becomes pain. The body becomes so stimulated, so sensitive that contact with anything hurts. The sex drive obliterates everything else, but that muchsafframate also blocks the ability to achieve orgasm so there's no relief, just driving need and sensitivity that's constantly increased by the stimulation."

"Mother Night," Saetan whispered, slumping in his chair.

"But if, for whatever reason, a person doesn't submit to being used until the drug wears off ... well, the encounter can turn violent."

Saetan blinked back tears. "You were used like that, weren't you?"

"Yes. But not often. Most witches didn't think riding my c**k was worth having my temper in the bed with it. And most of the ones who tried didn't walk away intact if they walked away at all. I had my own definition of violent passion."

"And Daemon?"

"He had his own way of dealing with it." Lucivar shuddered. "They didn't call him the Sadist for nothing."

Saetan reached for the yarbarah. His hand still shook, but not as badly as before. "What do you suggest we do for Jaenelle?"

"She doesn't deserve to endure this alone, and she'll never agree to sex for whatever small relief it might give her. So that leaves violence." Lucivar drained his brandy glass. "I'm taking her into Askavi. I'll keep us away from the villages. That way, if anything goes wrong, no one else will get caught in the backlash."

Saetan lowered his glass. "What about you?"

"I promised myself I'd take care of her. That's what I'm going to do."

Not giving himself any more time to think, Lucivar set his glass on the table and crossed the room. He paused at the door, not sure how to approach a witch strong enough to tear his mind apart with a thought. Then he shrugged and opened the door, trusting instinct.

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