"Prince Aaron," Jaenelle said too calmly."Attend."
Flinching, Aaron slowly straightened up. Chaosti and Lucivar released him and stepped aside. Deathly pale, Aaron walked over to where Jaenelle stood and sank to his knees.
"Wait for me in the High Lord's study," Jaenelle said.
With effort, Aaron got to his feet and left the dining room.
Surreal looked at those frozen sapphire eyes, felt the lightest brush of immense, barely controlled rage, and started to shake. Her legs gave out. She sat on the table.
Jaenelle slowly approached the table and turned her eyes on Lucivar. "You knew about this."
Lucivar took several shallow breaths before answering. "I knew."
"And you did nothing."
He swallowed hard. "I had hoped it would be taken care of quietly."
Jaenelle just stared at him. Then, "I'll see you in the High Lord's study in thirty minutes, Prince Yaslana."
Those sapphire eyes pinned Chaosti next. "And you after him."
"It will be my pleasure, Lady," Chaosti replied, his voice husky.
Oh, I doubt that very much,Surreal thought, still shaking.
Then Jaenelle looked at Vania—and the cold began to burn.
"If you ever again cause one of my males any physical, mental, or emotional distress, I will hang you by your heels and skin you alive."
No one spoke, no one moved until Jaenelle walked out of the room.
Could she do that?Surreal wondered. She didn't realize she had spoken out loud until Lucivar made a sound that was a cross between a laugh and a whimper.
"In the mood she's in right now? Not only could she do it, she wouldn't bother using a knife."
Surreal looked at her own hands, thought about it for a moment, and then wondered if anyone would be upset if she threw up on the floor.
"Surreal?" Lucivar's hand shook as he lifted her head up.
He's scared shitless. Hell's fire, Mother Night, and may the Darkness be merciful.
"Surreal? Are you injured?"
The sharp concern in Lucivar's voice made her focus her attention. "Hurt? No, I don't think—"
"There's blood on your face and neck."
"Oh." Her gorge rose. "I must have gotten splashed when..." Keeping her mouth shut seemed like a very good idea right now.
Lucivar looked over his shoulder. "Falonar?"
"Prince Yaslana," Falonar replied quietly.
"Your sole duty this afternoon is to take care of Lady Surreal."
"It will be my pleasure."
"Lady Vania needs a Healer," one of the escorts said frantically.
"Well, shit," Surreal said, suddenly feeling a bit drunk, "they really are alive. They can talk and they can move. The way they were sitting on their thumbs a few minutes ago, I'd doubted it. I really had."
"Shut up, bitch," an escort yelled.
Lucivar, Chaosti, and Falonar snarled at the man.
"I suggest you ask Lord Beale to send for the Healer in Halaway," Lucivar said coldly.
"Surely the Hall keeps a Healer," Alexandra said, sounding outraged.
"There's Lady Gabrielle and Lady Karla," Lucivar replied. "If I were you, I wouldn't ask either of them right now."
"You could always ask Jaenelle," Surreal said with a venomous smile.
Frightened silence met that statement.
With Vania supported by two of the escorts, Alexandra and her entourage quickly left the room. Lucivar and Chaosti gave Falonar a hard look before leaving.
Falonar approached Surreal cautiously. "This must have been... distressing... for you." He looked like he was about to bite down on a toad. "Do you need smelling salts or something?"
Surreal narrowed her eyes. "Sugar, I'm an assassin. I've done worse than this at a dinner table."
"I wasn't talking about..." He looked at the blood-splashed table.
"Oh." At least he was smart enough to realize it wasn'tAaron who had scared her.
He paused, then added, "I meant no insult."
"None taken," she replied. It was her turn to pause. "On any other day, I'd be willing to find out what the rules are for inviting a man to have a sweaty afternoon of sex, just to get my mind off this for a few hours. But I don't think sex of any kind would be a good idea today."
Surprise and interest flickered in Falonar's eyes, and his voice held regret. "No, I don't think it would be a good idea... today."
"So why don't we go through another practice round with the sticks? I'd like to get out of this building for a while."
Falonar nodded thoughtfully. "You can handle a knife?"
Surreal smiled. "I can handle a knife." She glanced at his groin. "I can also handle spears quite well."
He actually blushed a little. "A bow?"
Still smiling, she shook her head.
"A new skill requires concentration."
"So do some old skills ... if you want to do them right."
His blush deepened while his interest sharpened.
Surreal stood up. "Let's go concentrate on a new skill."
"And discuss the possibility of practicing old skills?"
In charity with each other, they hurried to escape the growing fury that filled the Hall.
8 / Kaeleer
Daemon paused outside Jaenelle's sitting room. He took a deep breath, straightened his shoulders, and knocked on the door.
She was there. He could feel the fury swirling in the room. And he could feel the cold.
He knocked again, then went into the room, ignoring the fact that he hadn't been invited.
Jaenelle prowled the sitting room, her arms wrapped around her middle. She glared at him, and snarled, "Go away, Daemon."
She should have been resting today, Daemon thought as his temper sharpened. Probably had been before that scene in the dining room.
"Since I'm the only male in the First Circle who isn't the recipient of your displeasure, I thought I'd check and see if you needed anything. Why is that, by the way?" Despite his efforts to keep his tone mild, his voice had an edge to it. Rationally, he knew he should be grateful to have escaped the verbal lashing the others had received. Instead, he resented the exclusion—until he got the full thrust of that frozen sapphire stare.
"Did you know you should have reported Vania's stalking of Aaron?" Jaenelle asked too quietly.
"No, I didn't. Even if I had known, I wouldn't have reported it."
"Why in the name of Hell not?" Jaenelle shouted.