"You were crying. I thought you were hurt. Look, I just want to know ahead of time if you're going to get weepy over it."
"When Jaenelle read it, I'll bet you didn't barge in on her when she got weepy."
Lucivar eyed the book as if it had just grown fangs. "Oh.That book." He curled an arm protectively over his belly. "Actually, I did barge in on her. Her aim was better than yours."
Marian's growl turned into a laugh. "Poor Lucivar. You try so hard to protect the women in the family, and we don't show our appreciation, do we?"
Lucivar grinned. "Well, if there are any interesting love scenes in that story, mark the pages and you can appreciate me in a few days."
Marian glanced at Daemon and blushed.
Lucivar gently kissed her, then stepped aside to let her pass. "Get into bed now."
"I'll see you tomorrow, Daemon," Marian said a little shyly.
"Good night, Lady Marian," Daemon said. It was all he could manage.
They watched her until she went into her and Lucivar's suite, then Lucivar reached out. Daemon stiffened, rejecting the touch.
Dropping his hand, Lucivar said, "The High Lord's suite is just down this corridor. He'll want to see you."
Daemon couldn't move. "I thought you married Jaenelle."
"Why would you think I married Jaenelle?"
The surprise in Lucivar's voice woke Daemon's temper. "You were here," he snarled. "Why wouldn't you want to marry her?"
Lucivar didn't say anything for a long minute. Then, quietly, "That was always your dream, Daemon. Not mine." Turning, he walked down the corridor. "Come On."
Daemon followed slowly. When Lucivar stopped and knocked on a door, he kept walking, drawn to the strong, dark, feminine psychic scent'coming from a room on the opposite side of the corridor.
Lucivar's voice faded, muted by a powerful tide of emotions.
Daemon opened a door and walked into a sitting room. One wall had built-in bookshelves above a row of closed, waist-high wooden cabinets. A couch, two triangular side tables, and two chairs formed a bracket of furniture around a long, low table. A pair of sinuous, patinaed lamps sat on the side tables. Next to one chair was a large basket full of skeins of wool and silk and a partially completed piece of needlework. A desk sat in front of the glass doors that led out to the balcony. A tiered stand filled with plants occupied one corner.
The psychic scent washed over him, through him. Oh, he remembered that dark scent. But there was something different about it now, something delicately, deliriously musky.
His body tightened, then swelled with male interest before his mind understood the significance of that difference. Then he noticed the sapphire slippers near one chair. A woman's slippers.
Against all reason, despite all desire, even when he had thought that Lucivar had married her, he hadn't fully absorbed the fact that she was no longer the child he had known. She had grown up.
The walls of the room faded to gray, then darkened and began to close in, forming a tunnel around him.
He remembered that deep voice, too. He had heard it amused. He had heard it full of rage and fierce power. He had heard it hoarse and exhausted. He had heard it plead with him to reach up, to accept the help and strength being offered.
Turning slowly, he stared at Saetan. The Prince of the Darkness. The High Lord of Hell. His father.
Saetan extended his hand, with its slender fingers and long, black-tinted nails. "Daemon... Jaenelle is alive," he said softly.
The room shrank. The tunnel kept closing. The hand waited for him, offering strength, safety, comfort—all the things he'd rejected when he'd been in the Twisted Kingdom.
He took a step forward. He raised his hand, with its slender fingers and long, black-tinted nails. This time, he feared his own fragility. This time, he would accept the promises Saetan offered.
He took another step, reaching for the hand that mirrored his own.
Just before his fingers touched Saetan's, the room disappeared.
"Keep your head down, boyo. Breathe, slow and easy. That's right."
Calm strength and warmth flowed from the hand that stroked his head, his neck, his spine.
The effort made him queasy, but after a moment Daemon got his brain and body working together enough to open his eyes. He stared at the carpet between his feet— earth-brown, with swirls of young green and burnt red. Obviously the carpet couldn't decide if it was representing spring or autumn.
"Do you want some brandy or a basin?" Lucivar asked.
Why would he want a basin?
His stomach jumped. He swallowed carefully. "Brandy," he said, gritting his teeth and hoping it wasn't the wrong choice.
When Lucivar returned, Daemon got a generously filled snifter shoved into his hand and a basin shoved between his feet.
The hand rubbing Daemon's spine stopped moving. "Lucivar," Saetan said, his voice equally amused and annoyed.
"Helene won't be pleased with him if he pukes on the carpet."
Daemon didn't know the word Saetan used, but it sounded nasty. It was petty, but he felt childishly pleased that his father had taken his side.
"Go to Hell," he said, sitting up enough to take a sip of brandy.
"I'm not the one whose nose was heading for the floor a minute ago," Lucivar growled, rustling his wings.
"Children," Saetan warned.
Since his stomach didn't immediately reject the brandy, Daemon took another sip—and finally edged around the questions that needed answers. "She's really alive?"
"She's really alive," Saetan replied gently.
"She's lived here since..." He couldn't bring himself to say it.
Daemon turned his head, needing to see the answer in Saetan's eyes as well as hear it. "And she healed?"
But he saw the flicker of hesitation in those gold eyes.
Taking another sip of brandy, he slowly realized that, while Jaenelle's dark psychic scent filled the room, it wasn't recent. "Where is she?"
"She's making her autumn tour of the kindred Territories," Saetan said. "We try not to interrupt her during that time, but I could—"
"No." Daemon closed his eyes. He needed some time to regain his balance before he met her again. "It can wait." It had already waited for thirteen years. A few more days wouldn't matter.
Saetan hesitated, then glanced at Lucivar, who nodded. "There is something you need to think about before she returns." He called in a small jeweler's box, then pushed the lid open with his thumb.