A sharp whistle came from another room in the eyrie.
Lucivar? Fear rushed back into Marian as Jaenelle pulled her toward the archway on one side of the big empty room.
"I thought you…" a male voice said.
One last tug and Marian was in the kitchen facing an Eyrien male. A Warlord Prince. Who wore Ebon-gray Jewels.
The room spun. Her knees weakened.Hell's fire, Mother Night, and maythe Darkness be merciful. Not him. Please,not him.
"Marian," Jaenelle said, "this is Lucivar Yaslana, the Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih. Lucivar, this is Marian…your newhousekeeper."
No. No nono. She'd heard of Lucivar Yaslana. Who in Askavihadn't heard of Lucivar Yaslana, even though it had been centuries since he'd actually lived in Askavi.He was Luthvian's son? The ruler of Ebon Rih? She couldn't possibly stay here. Shecouldn't. When Luthvian complained to him about her leaving… He could do anything he wanted to her and no one would mutter a word. Warlord Princes were a law unto themselves. Even in Terreille the ones who weren't kept on a tight chain were treated cautiously, and everyone knew the rules that
applied to every other male didn't apply to them.Couldn't apply to them.
"Lady Marian," he said.
Had she already done something wrong? Was he already angry with her? She couldn't stay here.
Jaenelle huffed. "I'm sorry. I really have to go." Her hand brushed Marian's shoulder. "I'll be back in a day or two to see how you're doing."
Then she was gone, and Marian was left facing a man who, even doing nothing, was a hundred times more dangerous than the five Warlords who had tried to kill her.
"Why don't you sit down?" Lucivar said, tipping his head to indicate the nearest of four chairs that were on either side of a large pine table.
Not knowing what else do to, Marian pulled out the chair and sat down.
"Would you like some coffee?" he asked.
She nodded, but kept her eyes focused on the table. She flinched when he set a white mug in front of her, but he stepped back, putting enough distance between them that she could breathe again.
"Did my sister explain anything on the way here?"
Startled, Marian looked up. "Sister?" Luthvian hadn't mentioned a daughter.
"Jaenelle," Lucivar said. "She's my sister."
That should have been comforting. It wasn't. But there was one thing she had to know. "Does anyone else live here?"
"Tassle lives with me. He's…"
She heard the click of nails on stone a few seconds before a wolf appeared in the archway. Yaslana kept a wild animal for apet?
The wolf came forward slowly, the tip of his tail waving as he sniffed her hand. She didn't move, didn't dare even twitch when he stepped closer to sniff her feet and legs, his tail waving with more enthusiasm. But she jumped when he suddenly pushed his muzzle between her legs. That's when Yaslana stepped forward, grabbed the wolf by the scruff of the neck, and pulled him away.
"Go outside, Tassle," Lucivar said, his voice, although quiet, demanding instant obedience.
With a whuffle-whine, the wolf left the kitchen.
Lucivar stepped away. The move brought him to the archway rather than moving back into the kitchen. "Relax for a few minutes and finish your coffee. Then I'll show you to your room." He left, not waiting for her answer.
Just as well. She wasn't sure shecould have answered. Her hands trembled as she lifted the mug and took a large swallow of…
She shuddered. He'd said this was coffee. She wasn't sure what it was, but she wascertain it wasn't coffee. At least, she hoped it wasn't. Setting the mug down, she braced her head in her hands. She was alone with an Ebon-gray Warlord Prince and a wolf. Sweet Darkness, what was she supposed to do?
Lucivar wound his way through the rocks, needing to put some distance between himself and the witch trembling in his kitchen. Tassle danced beside him, a furry bundle of excitement.
*Can we keep her,Yas?* Tassle asked. *She can be the female for our pack.*
Since he didn't think Marian wanted to be part of their "pack," he answered the question with a question. "Why all the tail wagging?"
*Ladvarian says dogs wag their tails to let humans know they want to be friends.*
Ladvarian was a Sceltie Warlord Jaenelle had brought to the Hall when he was a puppy. Since dogs had more experience living with and around humans, the wild kindred who were part of Jaenelle's court considered Ladvarian an expert on human behavior and looked to him to explain the bewildering things humans did.
*So I wagged my tail,* Tassle continued happily. *I want to be friends. I like her smells.*
Lucivar's feet rooted to the ground.This was a statement he couldn't ignore… no matter how much he wanted to. He scrubbed his hands over his face and sighed. "Tassle… Don't sniff her crotch."
"I know it's acceptable among wolves, but you cannot do it with human females. It makes them snarly."
Tassle hung his head and looked up at Lucivar with woeful eyes. *Would she snarl at you if you sniffed her crotch?*
The picture formed in his mind before he could stop it. Marian, sitting in the chair in the kitchen. Him on his knees in front of her, his arms around her waist, his face pressed against the juncture of her thighs, breathing in the smell of her as her scent changed from warm and quiet to hot and aroused.
He turned away from Tassle, not sure if he should curse himself, curse Marian, curse Jaenelle, or curse the wolf for asking the question.
Because that was the question, wasn't it? One look at Marian and everything in him had sharpened with interest, had churned toward desire. If he'd met her in any other way, he would have staked a claim. That was Protocol. That was permissible.
Warlord Princes weren't like other men. They were passionately violent and violently passionate and far more territorial than other males. And when a particular woman intrigued a Warlord Prince sexually, he had a simple way of dealing with potential rivals: He killed them.
Because that lethal response was part of the nature of Warlord Princes, the Blood had long ago established Protocols to give other males a chance of survival. When a Warlord Prince indicated interest in a female, the other males stood back, giving him time to get to know her…and for her to get to know him and consider if she wanted that formidable temper and driving sexual hunger focused exclusively on her. Because it would be exclusive. But the choice was always hers.When she'd spent enough time with him to make a decision, she would either accept him as a lover… or tell him to go. And if she told him to go, he didn't argue, didn't try to persuade her…he had to walk away. That was part of Protocol, too.