"There's no real way to measure Jaenelle's strength. But considering the number of Birthright Black Jewels that were transformed into Ebony when she made the Offering to the Darkness, my best guess is that, at her full strength, she's six times more powerful than our full strength combined."
"Mother Night." Daemon concentrated on breathing for a minute. "Just when were you going to mention this to me? Or weren't you?"
Saetan winced. "I wanted you to be... comfortable... with each other before I told you. But now—"
A blast of power shook the Hall, tossing them to the floor.
Daemon felt as if he were desperately holding on to a crumbling bank inches from a raging flood that would not only sweep him away but crush him in the process.
He felt Saetan grab him, dig in, hold on.
That rush of power vanished as quickly as it had struck— and that scared him more than the blast. For Jaenelle to unleash and reabsorb that much power that quickly...
"Jaenelle," Daemon said, springing to his feet. He sent out a psychic probe, a quick, casting search for her, and brushed against a spot in the Hall that was burning cold. Despite his pulling back quickly, the lancing pain almost drove him to his knees. And that drove him forward.
"Daemon, no!" Saetan said, struggling to get to his feet.
Daemon ran through the corridors. He didn't need to search anymore. The corridors got colder and colder the closer he got to the room where she had unleashed that power.
He heard Saetan running to catch up to him, but by then he'd reached the door to the room. Using Craft, he opened the door, then stepped into the room.
The cold had a jagged edge that was physically painful, but he barely noticed it because, as he looked around, he couldn't quite understand what he was seeing. It wasn't until he realized that the odd red speckles on the windows were frozen drops of blood that his mind identified the rest...
... and he understood what Lucivar had been telling him about Jaenelle's forced marriage.She splattered him all over the room.
He heard the plea in Saetan's voice, but couldn't respond to it. A peculiar numbness had settled over his emotions ... and without being able to feel, he could think.
He knew why Saetan hadn't wanted him to see this room. By the very nature of his duties, a Consort couldn't be inhibited when dealing with his Queen. A Consort knowingly and willingly made himself physically vulnerable to her in ways no other male in the court had to. A Consort who feared his Queen couldn't function in the bed.
But he'd seen this side of her before. Oh, it had been only a faint glimpse, but he'd known that this was another facet of Witch.
And this was the side of her that would be drawn to the surface by intense arousal as well as intense rage. Could he live with that? Could he lead the sexual dance once he brought out this side of her?
The heat of the sexual hunger inside him, the driving need to mate with Witch that suddenly engulfed him, burned away the emotional numbness. And left in its place a chilling approval of what he saw.
He stepped out of the room and closed the door.
"Daemon," Saetan said softly, watching him.
Daemon smiled. "It's a pity about the wallpaper. It was a lovely design."
4 / Kaeleer
"Well," Surreal said as she pushed her hair away from her face, "I don't think any of the 'guests' are going to be eager to leave their rooms right now, do you?"
"No," Falonar replied, sounding a bit queasy, "I don't."
"Yeah." Surreal leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. "Shit."
"Were you hurt by ...that?" Falonar asked, meaning the blast of power that had shaken the Hall. He briefly touched her shoulder before stepping back.
Surreal shook her head.Hurt? No. Scared shitless? Oh, yes.
But the people who lived with Jaenelledidn't live in constant fear. In fact, thinking about how Karla and Lucivar had acted in the courtyard, she would have called their behavior cautious rather than fearful—and that caution wasn't usually in evidence either.
Putting those thoughts aside for the moment, she scowled at Falonar and decided to tackle something easier—like the arrogant Way he had been tossing out orders after they reached the courtyard. "I could have handled that bastard."
Falonar looked insulted. "It's a male's right to defend and protect."
Surreal bared her teeth. "I've heard that song before, and—"
"Then you should heed that song, Lady—and respect it."
"Why? Because poor little me isn't capable of handling myself in a fight?" she said with venom-laced sweetness.
"Because you're deadlier," he snarled. He paced a few steps away from her, swore, paced back."That's why males defend, Lady Surreal. Because you females are deadlier when you're roused—and you're merciless when you're riding the killing edge. At least if I go down first in a fight, I don't have to deal with you afterward."
Not sure if she'd just been complimented or insulted, Surreal said nothing. She was about to concede that hemight have a point when he growled at her, "You've picked a lousy time to play the bitch. It's going to be hard enough facing Yaslana without having to dance with you right now."
Now thatwas an insult. "Since you feel like that, sugar, I'll just get out of your way." She pushed away from the wall.
Falonar reached out, touched her arm. "Surreal... You were right. I should have killed that bastard. Now I'll have to accept the consequences for that error." He hesitated, and added quietly, "He could have killed you or Lady Benedict with that poisoned knife."
She shrugged. "You couldn't have known about the knife, and he didn't kill either one of us, so—"
"What difference does that make?" Falonar said harshly. "My error gave him the chance."
Surreal studied him. "You think you're going to be punished?"
"That's a certainty. The only question is how severe it will be."
"Well, I have a few things to say about that. When Lucivar gets around to discussing this—"
"There is no discussion," Falonar snapped. "He's the Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih. I serve him. He'll do as he pleases." He looked away. "I'd rather be tied to the whipping posts than be sent back to Terreille."
"There's no reason for you to be punished at all!"
Falonar smiled grimly. "That's the way it is, Lady Surreal."
We'll just see about that,Surreal thought.