She staggered back as if he'd struck her. It was possible she'd never known that Ravenar hadn't been pure Eyrien, but she had to have realized herbloodline wasn't pure Eyrien. That's why there were a few Eyrien women each generation who were born without wings. They were throwbacks to Hayllian or Dhemlan women who'd mated with Eyrien males. In Luthvian's case, that woman had been Hekatah.

"You don't know that," she whispered.

"Oh, yes, I do," he replied softly. As he looked at her, he knew it was time to finish it. She'd been a troubled young woman when he'd seen her through her Virgin Night. She was still a troubled woman…and there was nothing he could do to help her beyond providing her with this house to live in. But he could, and would, protect Lucivar.

"I lost Lucivar once because of you," he said. "I won't lose him again. So listen carefully, Luthvian, because I will only say this once. Stay away from Marian. Don't interfere in Lucivar s life. If they want each other, that is their choice, not yours. If you do anything to try to take her away from him, I will show you the darkest corner of Hell…and I will leave you there."

"You'd…You'd kill me?"

His voice became viciously gentle. "No, my dear.You'll still be among the living when I leave you there."

She sank to the floor, shaking.

Satisfied that she understood he would leave her as prey for everything in the Dark Realm that relished fresh meat and hot blood, he walked out of the kitchen. He waited until he had passed through the low stone wall before he caught the Red Wind and rode it to the Keep. Tonight he needed that dark sanctuary while he wrestled with bitter memories that still had the power to hurt.

THIRTEEN

Unable to sit a moment longer, Lucivar sprang out of the chair. He didn't like this. Didn't like any of this.

Especially the fact that Saetan had chosen the sitting area of his study as the place for this discussion. He wasn't sure if he was talking to his father or the Steward of the Dark Court. Didn't matter. He knew when he was being cornered.

"Find someone else."

"There is no one else," Saetan said quietly.

Restless, he prowled from one piece of furniture to the next, never looking directly at Saetan but always keeping him in sight. "Why not ask Chaosti? He wears the Gray, and he's First Circle."

"He doesn't, as yet, have enough experience in bed to handle something like this. And his physical relationship with Gabrielle is still too new for him to respond… appropriately. Besides, his feelings toward Karla are too familial."

"And mine aren't?"

"You have the maturity to handle this." Saetan sighed. "I know sex is… difficult… for you…"

"You know nothing about it!" Lucivar shouted. "You have no idea what it was like, being used that way."

Seeing Saetan flinch, he regretted the words, but not enough to stop himself from using whatever weapon he could to avoid this particular duty.

"Lucivar," Saetan said, his voice painfully calm, "Karla is a Gray-Jeweled Queen. Her Territory is divided between the Blood who supported her uncle and the vile changes he was making in their society and the Blood who have waited desperately for Karla to come of age and stand as Glacia's Queen. Until she has her Virgin Night, she is vulnerable and could be broken, could be stripped of the Gray. Without her strength, civil war could erupt in Glacia and devastate her people."

He knew all of that, but it didn't make it easier. "She doesn't like men," he muttered. "Not that way."

"Which will make this even harder for her, since she doesn't have interest in the male body to quicken her own body's response." Saetan rubbed his forehead. "If I was physically able to do this, I wouldn't have asked you. I would have taken care of it…because it's Karla."

Lucivar stared at his father.When the coven first came to visit Jaenelle here at the Hall, they adopted Saetan as an honorary uncle. But over the five years since then, he'd become an uncle to all of them in heart, the man who had trained them in Craft the way no one else in Kaeleer could have, the man who had helped them with problems, disciplined them for mistakes, taught them about honor. Considering the justifiable fears Karla had had about her uncle by blood, having Uncle Saetan take her to bed for her Virgin Night would have been a nightmarish experience for both of them. But Saetan would have done it, knowing he would lose the young woman he loved like another daughter in order to save the Queen. If Saetan would have been willing to pay that price, could he do any less? He was First Circle in Jaenelle's court. So was Karla. He couldn't turn away from a request to help a First Circle Queen. And, really, wasn't this just another kind of battlefield? Normally, the Virgin Night was a witch's initiation to sex as well as the act that would protect her power, but the likelihood of Karla ever taking another man to bed were slim to none, so bedroom skills weren't as necessary as a warrior's skills. He just had to get her safely from one side of this battlefield to the other.

He closed his eyes, accepting his duty while his stomach churned. "Everything has a price," he said quietly. He opened his eyes in time to see the hint of disapproval in Saetan's before it was masked.

Saetan hesitated before saying, "I'm sure Karla would be willing…"

"Not from Karla. From you."

No hesitation this time. "Then name your price. I'll pay it."

That simple. Not even the usual, sensible precaution of asking what the price would be in case it was too high to pay.

"After," Lucivar said. "We'll discuss it after I've seen her through this." Because he knew what he wanted. They didn't need it hanging between them while they both needed to stay focused on the task ahead.

Saetan rose gracefully. "I'll inform Karla of your decision and make the preparations. Come up to the room when you're ready."

Lucivar waited until his father left the study before he covered his face with his hands.Please. Sweet Darkness, please let me get her through this.

Wishing fiercely that his brother Daemon was there to offer advice, he left the study and headed toward the bedroom that would be a very personal kind of battleground.

Saetan had chosen a guest room in another wing of the Hall. Lucivar felt grateful for that since he wouldn't have to remember whatever happened here every time he looked at his own bed. And neither would Karla when she stayed in the suite of rooms she'd been given as her own here at the Hall. But the lack of personal effects in the room also made him feel a bit… dirty. Just another male acting the slut.


Tags: Anne Bishop Books The Black Jewels Series Books Science Fiction Books
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