"It was an accident."
"You believe that if you want to. You seem willing to believe a lot of things lately."
Before Zhara could reply, they all heard the quiet clink of glass against glass. She glanced toward the sitting room…and the two women left with more speed than dignity.
Lucivar closed the front door, then leaned against it for a moment. He didn't want to walk into that sitting room, but someone had to dance with the Sadist, and it looked like it was going to be him.
Taking a deep breath, and hoping he wasn't about to make Marian a widow, he walked into the sitting room and closed the door.
"Brandy?" Daemon asked as he filled a snifter halfway.
"Sure." Lucivar walked toward his brother, watching for any sign that things would turn lethal. Daemonsounded calm, but that didn't mean a damn thing.
Daemon poured brandy into another snifter and handed it to Lucivar.
"I was willing to let it go," Daemon said softly. "I told myself it was just words. Some petty bitch sees a male she wants and goes after him in one way or another. How many times had we watched that game played out in Terreillean courts over the centuries?"
"Too many," Lucivar said, wishing he could test the brandy for poison… and knowing the insult would probably get him killed. "Hell's fire, when that little Rihlander was planning to trap me a few years ago, I exiled the bitch."
"Just exile? Did you have a weak moment, Prick?" Daemon's smile was still on the chilling side, but not quite on the killing edge anymore.
Lucivar shrugged. "At the time, killing her would have caused more problems."
Daemon nodded and took a large swallow of brandy. "If this game had stayed focused on me, I would have let it go. Jaenelle didn't believe the rumors, and I don't give a damn what anyone else thinks." He looked away. "And I thought, if it got physical, I would be the target."
"You were in that carriage, too."
"But I'm not the one who was supposed to get hurt. It happened fast, Lucivar. We'd been using that same cab all afternoon. Anyone following us would have had time to put a spell on it…or at least prepare the spell for a fast strike. The way the cab rolled… It was too fast, too violent. Had to be Craft-enhanced. Which means someone hoped Jaenelle would be hurt."
"In order to have you." He could see it too clearly. A shield would have protected her from broken glass or wood, but being thrown around in a rolling cab could have resulted in a damaged neck or spine. Jaenelle could have been crippled, perhaps forever, just when she was starting to reclaim her life.
"In order to have me," Daemon agreed.
"So what are we going to do?"
"Whoever caused the accident killed the driver but didn't finish the kill. I have him. After he makes the transition to demon-dead, he may be able to tell me something."
"You have plenty of experience in finishing the kill and none when it comes to dealing with someone newly demon-dead."
"Why not take the cab driver to the one person whodoes know how to deal with the demon-dead?" Lucivar took a swallow of brandy. "If you don't tell Father about what happened today, he's going to kick your ass. You know that."
The room went cold. "Do you think he can?"
Hell's fire. No. "Jaenelle is his Queen, too, Bastard. If she's in danger, he needs to be told."
The temperature in the room eased closer to normal.
"I don't want to leave Jaenelle," Daemon finally said.
"Then I'll take the driver to the Keep."
"And after we find out whatever the driver knows?"
Daemon watched the brandy as he gently swirled the snifter. "Jaenelle wants to help me find whoever is behind the rumors. I'm not happy about that, but I understand the need. If I try to keep her away from everything that might hurt her, I'll smother her…and I'll lose her. She won't stay if she's thought of as less than what she was."
"She is less than what she was." Lucivar shrugged, ignoring the skitter of nerves down his spine at the way Daemon looked at him. "But she'll never discover what she can do if we keep standing in the way."
"Exactly." Daemon sighed. "There's a party in three days. One of those mind-numbing affairs. So Jaenelle and I will play out a little game at the party. Maybe we'll even find out something. Either way, I think I can convince her that she played out her part and should go back to the Hall."
"A mind-numbing party," Lucivar muttered. "Sounds like fun."
Daemon's eyes and smile finally warmed. "I'm delighted you think so, since you'll be there, too."
Lucivar swore. "Why do I have to be there?"
"Because if someone there goes after Jaenelle and somehow manages to get past me, I want to know they'll have to go through you in order to hurt her."
"Done." He set the snifter on the table. "You'd better include Surreal in this party. If you piss her off, she'll threaten to pin your balls to the wall."
Daemon grinned. "She does have a way of expressing her opinions, doesn't she?"
"That she does. So what happens after the party?"
The grin changed into a viciously gentle smile. Daemon set the snifter down and turned his right hand palm up so Lucivar could see the snake tooth slide out of its channel beneath the ring-finger nail.
"After that," Daemon said, "I'm going hunting."
Daemon shrugged into his black jacket and adjusted the cuffs of his white silk shirt. He didn't want to go to this party, didn't want Jaenelle anywhere near the aristo Blood who would be crowding the rooms. But her plan to try to draw out whoever was behind the rumors sounded safe enough, especially with Lucivar and Surreal in attendance.
That didn't mean he liked it. And he wasn't sure he could do it.
To distract himself, he silently rehearsed the phrase in the Old Tongue that he'd painstakingly pieced together over the past few weeks. He'd learned a few phrases of the Blood's ancient language over the centuries from scholars who still had some knowledge of those fluid words, but nothing he'd known had come close to what he wanted to say. Something private. Something erotic. Something he could whisper to Jaenelle to tell her what she meant to him.
Unfortunately, there were only two people in all of Kaeleer who were fluent in the Old Tongue. He couldn't ask Jaenelle to help him translate the phrase since he wanted to surprise her, and Saetan… Well, no matter how sophisticated the relationship, no matter how adult the people involved, there were some things a son just couldn't ask his father.