He loved Jaenelle Angelline with everything in him, had waited all of his seventeen hundred years for the day when he would surrender to Witch and serve her, be her lover. He had dreamed of her, yearned for her, had endured the centuries of being used as a pleasure slave because he had to survive in order to find her. And now…
He was losing her. He didn't know what he'd done, or hadn't done, to cause her feelings for him to change, but he was losing her. There was sadness lurking in the depths of her sapphire eyes whenever he was with her, and with each passing day, she seemed a little more distant, a little more out of reach.
Daemon shook his head. He'd let doubt become a living cry of pain while the kindred were fighting to hold on to Jaenelle and heal her body, and those doubts had cost her dearly. He couldn't afford to let doubt surface again.
Soaping up a washcloth, he scrubbed himself fiercely, as if washing the sweat off his skin could also scour the nightmare from his mind and heart. When he finally shut off the water and toweled himself dry, his body was clean…and his heart still ached.
Going back into the bedroom of the master suite in his family's town house in Amdarh, Dhemlan's capital city, he looked at the bed and hesitated. No. He wouldn't take a chance of the nightmare coming back. Once in a night was more than enough. Besides, he could spend the hours before dawn going over the papers Marcus, his man of business, had delivered to the town house for his review.
During the years when he'd been lost in the Twisted Kingdom and the years he'd remained hidden while he regained his strength and patched together his sanity, Marcus had worked diligently on his behalf. Because of that, much of the wealth he'd accumulated over the centuries had been quietly transferred to investments in various Territories in Kaeleer. That diligence had served Marcus as well, establishing him as a businessman and making it possible for him to bring his wife and young daughter to Kaeleer without having to serve in a Queen's court. Now Marcus and his family also lived in Amdarh, where it was safe for a child to play in the park with her friends, where a woman could walk down the street and not fear the men she passed, where a man wouldn't have to wonder if he would be snatched and maimed for the amusement of a bitch's court.
Using Craft, Daemon turned on the candle-light near the chair and table where he'd left the large stack of papers waiting for his perusal. Between his personal assets and controlling the vast wealth of the SaDiablo family, he had enough work to keep him busy, enough work to fill the hours when Jaenelle…
He reached for the robe at the foot of the bed, then turned away empty-handed to stand in front of the freestanding mirror.
He had the light-brown skin, black hair, and gold eyes that were common to the long-lived races. But his face was beautiful rather than handsome and left women breathless; his deep, cultured voice with its sexual edge could cause a pulse to race; and his body, trim, toned and full of feline grace, made women, and more than one man, crave him. He was seduction in motion, a promise of pleasure to the woman who held his affection and loyalty…and a promise of pain to everyone else who thought to use him in a bed.
He was also a Black Widow, one of the Blood who could wield the Hourglass's Craft of dreams and visions… and poisons. His father had been the first male in the history of the Blood to become a Black Widow. He had been born one, and the venom held in the sac beneath the ring-finger nail of his right hand was deadly. Adding that to the fact that he wore Black Jewels made him the most powerful, and dangerous, male in the history of the Blood, second only to Saetan.
No. Not second. They had taken each other's measure, and they both knew the truth. He might be his father's mirror, but his power was a little stronger, a little darker. And whatever held his father in check from unleashing that power didn't hold him. With the right provocation, there was nothing he couldn't, and wouldn't, do.
Especially when it came to Jaenelle Angelline, the living myth, dreams made flesh, the Queen who had sacrificed herself and the tremendous power she'd wielded in order to cleanse the taint that Dorothea and Hekatah SaDiablo had smeared over the Blood in Terreille.
The Queen who was called Kaeleer's Heart.
She had stopped the war that would have devastated Kaeleer. The price had been vicious. Even though she had healed enough to come home, she had suffered so much during the first weeks when he'd brought her back to SaDiablo Hall. True, the pain had lessened as autumn gave way to the first breath of winter, but even now, when the winter days would soon give way to the promise of spring, she was still so fragile, still an invalid who could barely walk from bed to chair. She never spoke about shattering her Ebony Jewels, never spoke of the new Jewel, Twilight's Dawn, that had taken the place of what she had lost.
She didn't say much of anything anymore. At least, not to him.
"It's not over," he told his reflection. "You've kept your best weapons sheathed, old son. Maybe it's time to remind your Lady what you can offer a woman, remind her that you're hers for the taking. If you don't play this game out to the full and you lose because of it, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. It's not over until she asks you to leave, so give her a reason to want you to stay."
Turning away from the mirror, he slipped into the robe, poured a snifter of brandy, and settled in the chair to take care of the work that had brought him to Amdarh. If he could get through the business that required his immediate attention, he'd have time to take care of some personal errands in the morning before meeting with Marcus…and he'd be home with Jaenelle by tonight.
Daemon left the town house and strode down the sidewalk, his hands in the pockets of his wool coat, the collar flipped up to shield his neck from the bite of winter air. The walkways and streets were clear of snow, which made it easy to enjoy a brisk morning walk.
Personal errands first. As night gave way to dawn, he'd realized the only way to battle doubt was by feeding hope. He knew what he wanted more than anything else, and this would be a small step in the right direction.
The bookseller he patronized was his first stop, and the man barely had time to open his store before Daemon arrived. Today, browsing wasn't a temptation, so he simply looked at the books the man had set aside for him. Reading was Jaenelle's main entertainment these days, so every time he came to Amdarh on business, he made a point of stopping at the store. He selected three of the six books that had been set aside, but asked the bookseller to hold the others until he returned to the city in a fortnight. Buying them but not giving her all of them seemed dishonest, as if he were withholding a treat. Delaying the purchase gave him the pleasure of bringing her something new each time he had to leave the Hall on family business, and he needed to give her anything he could.