She recognized a threat when she heard one, so she slipped out of the kitchen while he watched her with eyes that held more cold fury than hot lust. She kept her movements slow until she was on the other side of the wall, out of his sight. Then she ran back to the bedroom.

The fires in the other rooms had burned out, but Lucivar had fed the one in the bedroom. A small table and two chairs were set before the hearth. They usually sat under one of the bedroom windows. He had moved them before going into the kitchen. Had she, on some level, taken that gesture to mean a return of the man she knew? An error on her part. Maybe he had some lucid moments, but the rut was still driving Lucivar…and she couldn't even guess what he would do when he returned to the bedroom.

Chilled inside and out, Marian sat in a chair close to the fire. That helped warm her, but her feet were freezing. Before she could decide if wrapping herself in a blanket would provoke a violent response, he was back in the bedroom, setting two plates of food on the table.

The look in his eyes… Any man facing him on a battlefield would look at those eyes and see death. All she could do was hope she would survive whatever mood was riding him now.

"Eat," he said, sitting down in the other chair.

Silverware and two mugs of coffee appeared on the table.

Steak, scrambled eggs, and thick pieces of toasted bread spread with butter and some of the berry jam she'd made.

He made no move to begin his own meal. Just watched her.

Eat, he'd said. The first bite of meat stuck in her throat, but she sensed something in him relax as she accepted the food he'd provided. When she tried the toast, his attention turned to his own meal.

Despite the fire and the hot food, she was still so chilled, she didn't hesitate to scramble back into bed when Lucivar told her to. But even with the covers tucked around her, she couldn't warm up, and she waited impatiently for him to get back from whatever cleanup he was doing in the kitchen.

The moment he slipped into bed, she felt that wonderful heat that pumped out of him and didn't hesitate to snuggle up against him. So warm. So wonderfully warm and…

The sound he made fell between a scream and a roar as he lifted straight up out of bed, flinging the covers every which way. The next moment, he was standing beside the bed, his Eyrien war blade in his hand, his eyes scanning the room.

Marian scrambled to the head of the bed and crouched there, her heart pounding. "I'm sorry," she gasped. "I'm sorry."

"Get over here," Lucivar said. "There's something in the room. Something in the bed."

"There's nothing…"

"Something touched me," he snapped. "Something icy."

"My feet." Her teeth started to chatter. She wasn't sure if it was from fear or cold.

His eyes stopped scanning the room. His head turned slowly until he looked at her. "What?"

"My feet are cold and…"

"Your feet? That wasyour feet?' He swore with obscene creativity as he vanished the war blade, plopped her back down on the bed, pulled up the covers, and got in with her. He sucked in a breath and let it out in a hiss as he wrapped himself around her and pressed her feet against his legs. "Why aren't you wearing socks?"

She didn't want to tell him she'd been afraid of provoking his temper, so she said the first thing that came to mind. "It didn't seem romantic,"

He propped himself up on one elbow and looked down at her in disbelief. "You think wearing socks isn't romantic, but putting a block of ice against a man's ballsis romantic?"

"They weren't close to your balls," she muttered. Although, if he hadn't screamed and leaped out of bed like that, she would have tried to tuck her feet a little higher up. After all, his thighs were a lot warmer than his shins.

Muttering dark things about female logic, he settled down. In a couple of minutes, she was sleepy and toasty warm, even her feet.

"Lucivar?" she said softly.

No response except to try to pull her a little closer.


The arm around her grew heavy. His breathing was slow and even.

For the first time since the rut began, Lucivar was sound asleep.


Encouraged by the heat coming from the stone walls, indicating the warming spells had been renewed, Marian made her way to the kitchen the following morning. This time, she wore socksand slippers, as well as a heavy shawl over her nightgown. If Lucivar snarled at her, she could point out that he didn't like cold feet, but she didn't think he'd snarl. After he'd slept for several hours yesterday, he'd been just as hungry for her as he'd been the other days, but it had changed as the day wore on. More of their couplings had been leisurely…not a holding back to prolong the moment of climax, just… quieter, sweeter. More like she'd imagined he would be as a lover after his initial hunger was sated.

She paused when she reached the front room. The drapes she'd made to cover the glass doors were pulled back, revealing a clear, sunny day, which meant the storm had finally ended. She hoped the snow piled so high against the glass was due to drifts, but she suspected that wasn't the case. Which meant Ebon Rih was well and truly buried.


She looked around…and felt shaky relief when she saw the bowls near the front door. One held water, the other chunks of meat that might have come from a package of venison she'd had in the freeze box. She hadn't dared ask about Tassle, hadn't dared try to contact the wolf on a psychic thread to find out if he was all right for fear Lucivar would sense it and think she was trying to summon another male as a rival to him. There was no other sign of Tassle, but Lucivar must have confirmed the wolf was nearby before he put out food and water.

When she entered the kitchen, she found Lucivar, fully dressed, drinking coffee from one of those plain white mugs he preferred to use. He turned away from the window, gave her one quick look, then turned back to study the world beyond the kitchen.

His eyes were no longer wild and glazed, but there was no warmth in them, either. If anything, he seemed… uneasy.

Uncertain about what he expected from her, she tried to smile. "Good morning."

"Storm's finally blown out."

She wondered if he meant the blizzard or the storm inside himself.

He moved away from the window, then stopped, as if he didn't want to get too close to her. And he wouldn't look at her.

He took a swallow of coffee, then set the mug on the counter. "Do you need a Healer?"

The abrupt question startled her. She wasn't sure what she'd expected when the rut finally ended, but she hadn't expected him to act like she was a stranger he'd given shelter to during the storm. "No, I don't need a Healer."

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