"Mmm. That first summer, when we all piled in on him, the coven became very adept at brewing soothing tonics. It was so distressing to hear him whimper."
Daemon choked on a laugh. Then his amusement faded. She was clever, this Queen with the ice-blue eyes and spiky white-blond hair. She must realize how much he wanted to hear stories of Jaenelle's youth.
Karla studied him. "If it would make you feel better, you can threaten to throttle me."
He was speechless for a moment. "I beg your pardon?"
"In this court, it's the acceptable way for a male to express annoyance with a witch."
"Threatening to throttle a woman is considered acceptable?" Daemon asked, sure that he had misunderstood something.
"As long as he says it calmly so you know he doesn't mean it."
A male who could remain calm in this place must have an amazing amount of self-control,Daemon thought. He rubbed his forehead and began to understand Lucivar's warning about having one of the coven explain things to him.
"Having Lucivar threaten you doesn't bother you?" Daemon asked. Since Lucivar usually sounded calm when he threatened someone, only a fool wouldn't take him seriously,
Karla twitched her shoulders. "Oh. Well.Lucivar. He rarely says anything if he's annoyed with you. He just picks you up and tosses you into the nearest body of water." She paused. "Although to be fair—"
"Who wants to be fair?" Daemon growled.
"Spent the morning with him, didn't you?" Karla said knowingly. "If it's a watering trough or a fountain, he dunks you rather than tosses you so that you don't get hurt. However, that's Lucivar. We strongly discourage other males from acquiring that particular habit."
"If you didn't, you'd be wet most of the time," Daemon muttered.
Before Karla could respond to that comment, Morghann, the Queen of Scelt—the red-haired Queen he'd seen earlier that morning—and Gabrielle, the Queen of the Dea al Mon, gave the balcony door a token tap before walking in.
"The coven's rooms all face this inner garden, so it's quicker to use the balcony doors rather than walking all the way around inside," Morghann said at the same time Karla said, "Where's Surreal?"
Gabrielle hooked her silver-blond hair behind her pointed ears and grinned. "Chaosti claimed her on the pretense of giving her a tour of the Hall. She was still snarling about having to apologize to Graysfang for sounding like she meant it when she threatened to smack him."
"I was explaining some of the rules to Daemon," Karla said.
"I really do have an appointment," Daemon muttered, then said, "Come in,"—loudly—when someone knocked on the sitting room door.
Saetan walked in, took one look at the three women, and stopped.
"Kiss kiss," Karla said.
"We were going to explain the rules to Daemon," Morghann said.
"May the Darkness have mercy on Daemon," Saetan said dryly.
"I'll get my jacket," Daemon said, not about to ignore a chance to retreat. Pride kept him from bolting into his bedroom. Common sense made him linger far longer than necessary, so that when he finally walked back into his sitting room, Saetan was the only one waiting for him.
"Have they gone off to plague someone else?" Daemon asked sourly as they left his suite and started walking through the corridors.
Saetan chuckled. "For the moment."
Daemon hesitated. "Maybe you'd better explain those rules to me."
"I'll give you a book of court Protocol to review."
"No, I meant the rules that are peculiar to this court. Like—"
"I don't want to know," Saetan said quietly but firmly.
"You have to know. You're the Steward."
"Exactly. And if this court has some rules that I have been blissfully ignorant of for the five years that I've been the Steward, I do not want to know about them now."
"But—" Daemon said. The implacable look in Saetan's eyes stopped him. "That's a prissy attitude for you to take."
"From where you're standing, I suppose it is. From where I'm standing, it makes a world of sense. You're younger. Deal with it."
Before he could make a comment he might regret, a small brown-and-white dog raced up to them and stopped a few feet away, his tail wagging in effusive greeting.
*He's here! Jaenelle's mate is finally here!*
Daemon felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him, not only because he had heard the dog but because he'd seen the Red Jewel hidden in the white ruff.
"Daemon, this is Lord Ladvarian," Saetan said. "Ladvarian, this—"
*A Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince,* Ladvarian said as he danced around in front of them. *He's a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince. I have to tell Kaelas.* The dog dashed down the corridor and disappeared.
"Mother Night," Saetan said under his breath. "Come on. Let's get out of here before you meet anyone else. You've already had a sufficient amount of education for your first day in the court."
"He's kindred," Daemon said weakly as he followed Saetan. "When Lucivar said someone named Ladvarian would be pleased to see me, I thought... Unless he meant someone else?"
"No, that's Ladvarian. He would have gone to the service fair to look for you himself, but kindred aren't well received in Little Terreille, and I wasn't willing to risk him. His ability to explain kindred behavior to humans and human behavior to the kindred makes him unique. And his influence on Prince Kaelas is not to be taken lightly."
Saetan gave him an odd look. "Let's save Kaelas for another day."
Daemon studied the well-kept cottage and neat yard. "I'd always wanted Tersa to live in a place like this."
"She's comfortable here," Saetan said, opening the front door. "A journeymaid Black Widow lives with her as a companion. And then there's Mikal," he added as they followed the sound of voices to the kitchen.
Daemon stepped into the kitchen, gave the boy sitting at the kitchen table a quick glance, and then focused on Tersa, who was muttering to herself as she busily arranged an assortment of food.
Her black hair was as tangled as he remembered it, but the dark-green dress was clean and looked warm.
The boy hastily swallowed a mouthful of nutcake before saying in a suspicious voice, "Who's he?"
Tersa looked up. Joy brightened her gold eyes and made her smile radiant. "It's the boy," she said as she rushed into Daemon's arms.
"Hello, sweetheart," Daemon said, feeling swamped by the pleasure of seeing her again.