Finally, too breathless to fight, he dropped his hands to his sides and leaned against the wall.

A sight shield slowly faded.

Daemon leaned against the opposite wall, his hands in his trouser pockets, his golden eyes still sleepy.

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t tear your throat out,” Daemon said too quietly.

“You’ve no reason to,” Jared gasped. “Isn’t that reason enough?”

Daemon made a sound that might have been laughter. “You really shouldn’t play games with anyone from such a perverted race as Hayll, little Warlord. You say I have no reason. I say I do. Where do you think that leaves you?”


Daemon smiled. “Exactly.”

Hell’s fire, it hurt to swallow.

“What are you doing here, Jared?” Daemon asked.

Working to breathe, Jared studied Daemon. The man looked as if he was just making small talk with an acquaintance instead of choking someone to death. Then again, unlike his half brother, who was known to be a walking explosion, Daemon seldom gave any indication of his mood.

“What are you doing here?” Daemon repeated.

This time Jared heard the snarl of temper under the calmly spoken words.

Struggling to sound calm despite the phantom fingers pressing into his neck, Jared replied, “The witch who owns me is ill. I was ordered to find a place where she can rest.”

“And you couldn’t find a closer Blood community between where you were and here?” Daemon shook his head. “Try again.”

Jared didn’t dare blink let alone breathe. How did Daemon know where they’d been?

“I told you—”

Daemon cut him off. “When the Gray Lady left Raej, you were with her. Why aren’t you still with her, Jared?”

Jared swallowed carefully and wondered how to answer. If he could trust Daemon, there was no one better to help him. If he couldn’t . . . “Ownership changed hands a few days after we left.” That was true in a way. Once Lia’s illusion web had broken, the Gray Lady was no longer part of their little group.

“What happened to the Gray Lady?”

Jared tried to shrug. “She’s probably back in Dena Nehele by now.”

The phantom hand pulled him away from the wall and slammed him back into it.

Something malevolent flickered in Daemon’s eyes. “Dorothea’s Master of the Guard is hunting for the Gray Lady. Every band of marauders who preys in this part of the Realm has been sniffing around for a particular quarry. Does that sound like Grizelle’s safely returned to Dena Nehele?” Daemon sighed and looked at the ceiling. “This is becoming tedious, so I’ll make it easy for you. You have three chances to give me a believable answer. After that, I’ll take the information I want. But I’ll make sure I leave enough of your mind intact so that you’re able to fully understand what I’m doing when I tear your little witch apart.” He paused. “What are you doing here, Jared?”

For a moment, Jared felt too stunned to even try to answer. Even the agony of the Ring of Obedience was a mild threat compared to this. He’d have no chance against Daemon. His inner barriers would be forced open, his thoughts, feelings, memories picked over like tawdry goods at a market stall. At best, it would be a mental rape. At worst, he wouldn’t necessarily be broken, but he could still be savaged so badly he’d never fully recover.

And what would happen to Lia? Daemon made no secret of his revulsion for the distaff gender.

Jared licked his dry lips. “It’s none of your business, Daemon.”

Daemon smiled, a sweetly murderous smile. “Puppy, when you wailed for help, and I answered, you made it my business.”

Hell’s fire, Mother Night, and may the Darkness be merciful. Why hadn’t he thought of that sooner?

“Although,” Daemon added, “I hadn’t expected you to show up shielding some battered slut.”

“She’s not a slut,” Jared said hotly, pushing away from the wall.

The phantom hand slammed him back again, hard enough to make him wonder if he’d have cracked ribs as well as a crushed throat.

Daemon said nothing.

“I told you,” Jared said through gritted teeth. “The witch who owns me ordered me to bring her—”

The phantom nails stabbed him, breaking the skin. Blood trickled down his neck.

“Liar,” Daemon snarled quietly.

Jared shivered as he watched the gold eyes glaze with cold fury. He bit his tongue to keep from whimpering.

“She owns me,” he said weakly as the fingers tightened a bit more.

Contempt joined the fury in Daemon’s eyes. He looked pointedly at Jared’s groin. “You wear no Ring, Warlord. And you’re down to your last chance.”

“I do wear a Ring,” Jared said, gasping for breath. “I wear the Invisible Ring.”

Unexpectedly, the phantom hand eased its vicious grip.

Daemon studied Jared. Then one finely shaped black eyebrow rose, and he asked mildly, “Which one? The Silver or the Gold?”

Which one? Jared thought desperately.Which one ? How in the name of Hell was he supposed to know which one?

It wasinvisible ! “I...”

A loud thump came from his room.

Jared turned toward the door without thinking. Releasing the Red lock, he rushed inside.

Lia was crawling toward the door, her eyes glazed and unseeing. Her right arm was curled, as if she were still dragging Tomas’s body away from the viper rats’ nest.

“Lia,” Jared murmured, hurrying to reach her.

As he crouched in front of her, he heard the door quietly close. Heard the snick of a lock.

He slowly straightened and turned.

Daemon leaned against the closed door, his hands still tucked in his trouser pockets. In silence, he watched Lia’s efforts.

“Who is she?” Daemon asked quietly. ?

Jared took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Lady Arabella Ardelia. The Gray Lady’s granddaughter.”

Daemon didn’t move, but Jared sensed a change. Not exactly surprise, but a swift reassessment.

“Viper rats?” Daemon said, his eyes narrowing as he studied Lia.

Jared nodded. He had no chance against the Sadist, but he’d make Daemon go through him in order to get to Lia.

Daemon shrugged out of his tailored black jacket, tossed it on a chair, and began rolling up the sleeves of his white-silk shirt. “Get her on the bed. We’ll finish this discussion later.” He stepped through the bathroom door.

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