Maryk swallowed carefully. They both knew what could happen to males when Dorothea was annoyed.

“I understand, Lord Krelis. Is there anything that will require special attention?”

Krelis shook his head. “You have the assignment roster. I’ve been informed of nothing else.”

“Then, may the Darkness grant you a safe and speedy journey.”

Yes, Krelis thought, as Maryk escorted him to the landing place. The guards—especially the First Circle guards— might despise him, but they’d rather have him standing between them and the High Priestess of Hayll than nothing at all. And not one of them would envy him this journey.

Krelis didn’t bother to knock before he opened the door of the small receiving room. Men didn’t have to extend any kind of courtesy to pleasure slaves. Even this one. Besides, he’d already used up his courtesy on the pouty Queen who ruled this forsaken Province. Hell’s fire! What had the High Priestess been thinking of to loan the Sadist to a witch who’d had half of her brains bred out of her?

Daemon Sadi stood with his back to the door, looking out a window.

Krelis closed the door hard enough to make anyone else jump. Daemon didn’t even twitch.

“Sadi,” Krelis said, coming into the room far enough to see the beautiful face in profile.

“Lord Krelis.”

The boredom in that deep voice grated on Krelis’s nerves. That Sadi didn’t bother to look at him grated even more.

Krelis’s hands curled into fists. “Do you know why I’m here?”

“No.”

If Sadi’s voice and face were any gauge to measure by, he also didn’t care.

“It seems your Lady grants you a lot of liberties,” Krelis said.

“She has a low threshold for pain.”

Not knowing how to respond to that, Krelis said nothing for a minute. “You were seen at a traveler’s inn a couple of days ago.”

“Was I?”

“You met a Red-Jeweled Shalador Warlord named Jared there.”

“Did I?”

“Did you arrange to meet him?”

“That would have required effort. He’s not that interesting.”

“After he rented a room, he wasn’t seen again. You left the common room shortly after he arrived and weren’t seen again either.”

“It appears someone else was as bored as I was if keeping track of everyone else’s movements was the best entertainment available.”

Krelis clenched his teeth. “You met with him. Why?”

“We were in the same court a few years ago. When he showed up at the inn, having dinner together seemed like a way to pass some time.”

“What did you talk about?”

“Nothing interesting enough to remember.”

“Was there a woman with him? A witch?”

“I’d gone to that hovel to get away from the stink of witches. I wouldn’t have stayed in the room if one of them had been present.”

Krelis took a deep breath and forgot what he was going to say. The air in the room felt soft, heavy. An elusive scent drifted past him, a scent that warmed the muscles in his groin at the same time it melted the tension from the rest of his body.

He took another deep breath. What had they been talking about? The Shalador Warlord. Now he remembered. “You talked all evening and remember nothing?”

“We talked during dinner.”

“Did he mention the Gray Lady?”

“He wasn’t quite that boring.”

“What—” Krelis bit his lip. The pain cleared his head a little. “I want to know what the two of you did that evening.”

Daemon turned and looked at him. “Do you?” he asked too softly.

Krelis nodded slowly.

Daemon smiled that cold, cruel smile.

Krelis shuddered and then gasped.

Long-nailed fingers whispered down his back, over his bu**ocks, down the backs of his thighs. They were still drifting over his calves when another pair of phantom hands brushed the back of his neck and began the journey.

“He bored me.” Daemon took a couple of graceful, predatory steps toward Krelis. “It left me feeling mean, so I seduced him.”

Another pair of phantom hands whispered over Krelis’s chest and belly, separating just before they reached his groin to travel down the front of his legs.

“He was begging by the time I began to feel amused,” Daemon crooned, taking another step toward Krelis.

Krelis opened his mouth to protest.

The tip of a phantom tongue delicately licked his upper lip.

Another tongue licked the inside of his thigh, moving upward.

Warm breath washed over his balls, over his hard organ.

“He was sobbing by the time I left the room,” Daemon crooned, coming just a little closer, but still not close enough to touch.

A phantom mouth brushed against Krelis’s throat. Sucked gently.

“Do you want me to show you what I did to him?”

Krelis couldn’t think. Didn’t want to think about anything but that beautiful face, about the moment when that real mouth would glide over his hot skin, when that real tongue would—

Daemon smiled. “I thought not.”

Everything stopped. Instantly.

Krelis swayed. His vision blurred. Every breath made his body throb. In that moment, he would have promised anything, done anything to make Daemon finish it.

Knowing that revolted him.

He bit his lip until it bled. By the time he could think again, Daemon was looking out the window as if nothing had happened.

Krelis wanted to lash out, wanted to threaten some kind of dire punishment that would make up for his body’s screaming need for relief.

Daemon turned his head and smiled that cold, cruel smile.

Krelis staggered out of the room.

A few steps away from the door, he leaned against the wall while he waited to get some strength back in his quivering legs.

Now he understood why Queens and favored witches from aristo families paid Dorothea such exorbitant fees for the loan of Daemon Sadi. Now he understood why they were willing to endure his cruelty, why they were willing to risk his temper. To have that exquisite pleasure brought to completion . . .

Krelis pushed away from the wall, desperate to get away from this place. Maybe, with distance, he could deny the terrible feeling that, no matter how skilled the whore or how much relief he took between her thighs, he would never again experience the kind of pleasure he’d felt with the Sadist.

Chapter Twenty-one

Lia stopped abruptly at the edge of the official landing place outside Ranon’s Wood.


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