*And the asking price is something she can't afford, even with the wages Lucivar is paying her.*
Jaenelle nodded, keeping one eye on Marian while she gently closed the cabinet doors.
*Are we adding it to our purchases, witch-child?*
She turned and smiled at him from across the large room. *Yes, we are.*
Prince SaDiablo had excellent taste, Marian decided as she looked at the table and chairs he'd chosen for the dining room. High Lord, she reminded herself. The men helping them with their purchases kept calling him High Lord, so she should address him that way, too.
"This is wonderful," Marian said, stroking her hand over the gleaming, dark wood. Big enough to seat eight Eyriens, it would still fit easily into the dining room without feeling crowded if a storage hutch and narrow serving table were also added. Looking past the chosen table, she spotted a small pine table. "Oh, yes, that's perfect."
"Why is this perfect?" Jaenelle said, following her. "It's not even finished."
"That's why it's perfect," Marian replied, giving the table a push to test its sturdiness. "Eyrien males need a worktable for cleaning and honing weapons, doing repairs, things like that. And there's a small room in the eyrie that seems like it was designed to be a weapons room…a storage place for an extra bow, quivers of arrows. There's even pegs already in one wall that would hold bladed sticks, so…" She shrugged.
"So you want a table that's sturdy but is going to get rough treatment," Jaenelle said.
"Exactly." Marian smiled.
Jaenelle smiled back. "I'm sure it was a weapons room originally and had a similar table in it. Cousin Prothvar and Uncle Andulvar will be pleased with your choice. So will Lucivar." She brushed a finger over the top of the table. "I noticed some of the other craftsmen are displaying bowls and vases. I'm going to take a look."
"Fine," Marian said. The room was turning slowly, making her feel light-headed.
Lucivar was a common name in Askavi, but Prothvar was rarely used anymore, and Andulvar…
No one had used the name Andulvar since the time of the Demon Prince…the Ebon-gray Warlord Prince who had once ruled the Black Valley… just as Lucivar now ruled Ebon Rih. Lucivar had mentioned his cousin Prothvar. He'd mentioned his uncle, too, but not by name. And he'd said his family took a little getting used to, but he hadn't said why. If what she was thinking, as impossible as it must be, was true…
A deep, soothing male voice washed over her. The room swayed. She looked at Lucivar's father.
Lucivar Yaslana. Prothvar…Yaslana. Andulvar…Yaslana.
"Darling, what's wrong?"
S. D. SaDiablo.High Lord.
"Aren't you feeling well?"
She was sitting down, looking up at him as he bent over her, concern in his golden eyes, his hand resting lightly against her face.
"You're him," she whispered. "You're really him. The High Lord. Of Hell."
He didn't move, but she could sense the warm man pulling away from her.
"Yes," he said quietly, withdrawing his hand. "I'm the High Lord of Hell."
She didn't know much about the High Lord except that he was more powerful…because he wore a Black Jewel…and supposedly more dangerous than the Demon Prince, but the one thing shedid know about him from the stories Eyriens told was…
"You were Andulvar Yaslana's friend. Almost like brothers."
"We still are."
Still are.Oh, Mother Night. "So, Luci— Prince Yaslana's uncle is… ?"
"Andulvar Yaslana.The Demon Prince. Prothvar Yaslana is Andulvar's grandson."
"I'm a Guardian. Andulvar, Prothvar… and my oldest son, Mephis… are demon-dead."
"But… Lucivar talks as if he sees them all the time."
Marian stared at him. She was looking at a legend. Oh, not one ofher people's legends, but a legend nonetheless. And one who had known… still knew…the greatest Eyrien Warlord Prince who had ever lived.
Dazzled, she studied him as if she hadn't spent the morning around him. He was wearing the Red, which must be his Birthright Jewel. A courteous man who had made her feel welcome. A widely read man, based on the books he and Jaenelle had talked about on the journey. He had a dry sense of humor she didn't always understand. He obviously loved his children.
And he was the Prince of the Darkness, the High Lord of Hell…and Andulvar Yaslana's friend.
"This is more exciting than learning that some wolves can talk," she said.
He stared at her a moment, then laughed. When he held out his hand, she didn't hesitate to accept it.
"Come along," he said. "If you're feeling up to it, we'd better rescue the poor males who have been trying to deal with Jaenelle."
They were going back to the hotel for the afternoon. Marian could have hugged the High Lord for saying the morning had tired him and he needed to rest. Days spent doing heavy cleaning were less exhausting than a shopping trip with Jaenelle Angelline, and she welcomed the chance to get off her feet. They would have their midday meal at the hotel, and then…
"This evening I'll take you two ladies to dinner," the High Lord said as they waited patiently for a horse-drawn cab that would take them back to the hotel.
Marian's heart sank. They'd made it easy for her to forget she was a servant, that the social status between them was as wide a difference as her Purple Dusk Jewels were to the Black. But those differences would become painfully apparent even before they left the hotel, and she didn't want him to feel ashamed of being seen with her.
"You don't have to include me," Marian said. "I'm sure you and Lady Angelline…"
"You don't want to join us?" His words were gently spoken, but there was an undercurrent she didn't understand. "Why?"
She had an odd feeling that it wasn't their acceptance of her but her acceptance of them that was really being questioned. So she told the truth and hoped he was one of those males who understood female vanity. "I don't have anything suitable to wear." Which was true. She was wearing the skirt and tunic Jaenelle had given her, and they were the best clothes she owned…far nicer than the things Luthvian had handed down to her…but they weren't appropriate for dining out.
The High Lord froze, and Jaenelle, who had been watching the street for a cab, slowly pivoted to face her. The chilly anger in the High Lord's eyes made her nervous, but it was the cold fury in the Queen's eyes that scared her.