Heat. Daemon felt his legs weaken as relief washed through him. Thank the Darkness, this was no longer cold rage but hot anger. He could work around hot anger. "Because shewas stalking him. Aaron wasn't casting any lures or making any unspoken invitations. She was trying to push him into her bed because she wanted the conquest. She didn't give a damn what it would do to him."


She still didn't understand. Daemon raked his fingers through his hair. "Hell's fire, woman, the man has a wife and an infant daughter. If he had said anything, would Kalush really believe he was innocent?"

"Of course she would!" Jaenelle shouted. "But if he didn't feel he could tell Kalush, he could have told me or Karla or Gabrielle."

"How would that have helped?" Daemon shouted back. "You would have told Kalush, and he'd still be under suspicion for something he didn't do, didn't evenwant to do."

"Why do you keep harping about suspicion? This—"

"I am not harping."

"—has nothing to do with suspicion."

"Then why are you so furious with him?" Daemon roared.

"BECAUSE HE GOT HURT AND HE SHOULDN'T HAVE!" Jaenelle's eyes suddenly filled with tears. "I'm mad at him because he got hurt. Don't you think I know how ecstatic and terrified he's been since Kalush got pregnant? How much she and Arianna mean to him? How vulnerable he feels about another woman showing interest in him?" She swiped at a tear that rolled down her face. "But you all hid it so well, we weren't picking up anything but the edginess the boyos have felt since those... people... came to the Hall. If we'd known, the coven would have done something before now."

Hearing something underneath the words, Daemon narrowed his gold eyes. "What else?"

Jaenelle hesitated. "Alexandra is my grandmother."

He advanced on her so fast, she took a quick step back and tripped on the train of her gown. Catching her by the arms, he pulled her up against him. "You arenot going to wallow in guilt, Jaenelle," he said fiercely. "Do you hear me? You're not going to do it. She's yourgrandmother. A grown woman. As an adult, she's responsible for her own actions. As a Queen, she's responsible for controlling her own court. If anyone should share the blame with Vania, it's Alexandra. She was warned about this and did nothing." When she started to argue, he gave her enough of a shake to make her bare her teeth and snarl at him. "If you want to shoulder guilt and blame because they're here, then Wilhelmina is equally guilty and equally to blame."

Oh, the protective fierceness in those eyes.

Daemon ran his hands soothingly up and down her arms. "If one granddaughter shouldn't be blamed for Vania's actions or Alexandra's lack of action, how can you, in all fairness, blame the other?"

"Because I'm the Queen, and a Queen not only controls her court, she protects it."

Daemon snarled in frustration and muttered a few uncomplimentary things about female stubbornness.

"It's not stubbornness when you're right," Jaenelle snapped.

He couldn't win this fight if that was the stand she was going to take, so he tried to shift them to different ground. "All right. We should have reported it." Or taken care of it themselves better than they had.

She stared at him suspiciously. "Why are you agreeing with me all of a sudden?"

Daemon raised one eyebrow. "I would think you would prefer having males agree with you," he said mildly. "Should I keep arguing?"

"When any of you gives up this quickly, it's only because another of you has gotten into position to continue the argument from another angle."

"You make the First Circle sound like a hunting pack," Daemon said, trying hard to suppress a chuckle.

"I think they learned that tactic from the wolves," Jaenelle replied sourly.

Daemon began massaging her neck and shoulders.

She closed her eyes. "Did you know you and Lucivar were the only living human males in the First Circle that Vania didn't try to bed?"

"She wouldn't have dared try with me," Daemon said too softly.

"And she was smart not to try with Lucivar. When someone puts him in that position, he has a tendency to hit first and discuss after."

"Sounds like a successful deterrent."

"Mmm. Oh, right there."

Daemon obligingly focused on a knot of tight muscle. As he caressed and massaged, he subtly coaxed her to lean against him until her arms were around his waist and her head rested on his shoulder. "Lucivar's very hurt over your being so angry with him," he said quietly. "All the boyos are."

"I know." She sighed. "I'm too tired to think of a task for each of them. I guess I'll have to stub my toe."

"I beg your pardon?" His hands stopped caressing for a moment.

"I'll stub my toe, and then I'll let them all fuss and fetch and carry, and they'll know I'm not angry with them anymore."

"They'll actually believe a stubbed toe is a serious injury?"

Jaenelle snorted softly. "Of course not. It's more like a ritual."

"I see. The Queen can't apologize for the discipline but has to give a clear signal that it's done."

"Exactly. If it had been just one of them, I would have asked his assistance with something that I could just as easily do myself, and he would have understood. With so many, I'll have to let them fuss." Her voice took on a bit of a growl. "They'll plump pillows and tuck blankets around me that I don't want. They'll make me take naps.''

"So it's not just forgiveness, but a little revenge thrown in."

"The revenge isn't so little. Usually, one of the coven will sneak a book in so I can read during my 'naps.' Once, when Papa came in to check on me, I stuffed the book under a pillow, but not quite well enough. He didn't say anything. When Khary and Aaron came in, he even poked the book farther under the pillow to hide it better. Then Saetan had the balls to say I looked flush so that they could fuss even more."

Daemon paused for a moment, sorting through the distinction she made between "Papa" and "Saetan." "Sweetheart," he said carefully, "if Saetan has balls, then so does Papa."

"It sounds disrespectful somehow to say that about Papa."

"I see," Daemon said in a tone of voice that indicated he didn't see at all.

"Papa," Jaenelle explained, "is charming and intelligent, a well-rounded companion."

Thinking of Saetan and Sylvia, Daemon said dryly, "I don't think Saetan is the companion who's well-rounded."

Tags: Anne Bishop Books The Black Jewels Series Books Science Fiction Books
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