He laid his hand on the cover of his latest book, closed his eyes to shut out the world around him, and savored this new reality that was still so painfully sweet.

They had embraced his previous story about Landry Langston. They had read his thinly veiled discovery about himself and had bought more copies of that book than any other.

He was one of them. Cheated out of his heritage for so many years and discovering his true nature only by accident, now he could stand among them as an equal. Some—themselves insignificant—had thought him worthy enough to be a casual acquaintance because his writing skills had earned him fame and wealth, had earned him invitations to parties and literary discussions that would otherwise be closed to a landen.

Now they would welcome him simply because of the power that flowed in his veins.

He’d been overwhelmed by his discovery and had kept it a secret for all these months. Well, an open secret, since he’d put it down on paper for all to read. But now he was ready to walk among them, to be acknowledged by them. Not just by the society sparklers, but by the true aristos. He’d even taken the first step to indicate he would welcome just such an invitation.

He could see himself sitting at the dining table at SaDiablo Hall, one of a small number of select guests. He would entertain the other guests with amusing stories, and he would flirt with the Lady—but not so much that he would offend his host. He’d heard rumors about a fool who had offended Daemon Sadi inthat way.

Had Sadi really burned out the man’s brain using witchfire? How intriguing. Perhaps…

There was so much to learn now that he was one of them.So much. And there was so much he could do now that he was no longer shackled by landen law. So much he couldn’t have tried before. Except in stories.

For a long time he’d feared there was something wrong with him that made him crave the violence that had no outlet except by being poured into his stories. Now he knew that violence was simply part of his nature.

Oh, yes. He was one of them now. One of the ones who walked the Realms in all their dark glory.

He was no longer an insignificant landen, chained by someone else’s rules.

He was Blood.



“Hell’s fire.”

Surreal SaDiablo stared at the page she was currently reading, then let the book drop into her lap. “A body in a closet? What kind of idiot leaves a body in a closet?”

“Someone who doesn’t have large furry friends who think ‘human’ and ‘snack’ mean the same thing?” Daemon replied in an offhand way that told her he was paying some attention but not really listening, his thoughts still on the papers spread out around him.

Another woman might have been insulted by that lack of immediate attention. Knowing the man, Surreal just waited.

Looking at Daemon Sadi wasn’t a hardship at any time, but at the moment, he was comfortably rumpled, which made the picture even more delicious. His thick black hair was disheveled from his fingers running through it while he read reports and made notes of things he wanted to discuss with Dhemlan’s Province Queens. His white silk shirt was partially unbuttoned, giving her a view of toned muscles and golden brown skin, as well as little flashes of the Red Birthright Jewel that hung from a gold chain around his neck. His bare feet rested on a pillow he’d tossed onto the low table in front of the sofa.

His deep, cultured voice always had a sexual edge that made a woman’s pulse race—even when the look in those gold eyes promised pain instead of pleasure. He had a face too beautiful to be called handsome, and he had a temper typical of his caste.

Since he was one of the two males in the entire history of the Blood to wear a Black Jewel, he was as lethal as he was beautiful. And, may the Darkness help her, he was family.

It was that last part that assured her she’d have his full attention before much longer. It was the nature of Warlord Princes to be protective and territorial—as well as violent and deadly—so it was pretty much a given that a Warlord Prince was going to pay attention to the women in his family.

That thought had her narrowing her gold-green eyes as she considered why he was settled in the sitting room of the family’s town house in Amdarh, Dhemlan’s capital city, instead of doing paperwork in his own study at SaDiablo Hall. Where he belonged.

“Hell’s fire, Sadi,” she growled. “Now that you’re the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, don’t you have enough details to keep you occupied without keeping track of my moontimes?” Which reminded her of the problem that was going to be filling up the sitting room if he was still there in an hour.

He set aside his papers and looked at her, his gold eyes full of warmth and amusement.

“You’re married,” she said, as if he needed the reminder of an event that had taken place a few weeks ago. “You should be keeping track of your wife, not me.”

No answer. Just that annoying amusement.

“Why don’t you keep track of Marian too while you’re at it?” she muttered.

The warmth and amusement in his eyes deepened.

Shit shit shit. Hedid keep track of his brother’s wife.

Her stomach gave a funny little twirl as she considered that. Daemon Sadi. Lucivar Yaslana. Half brothers linked through their Hayllian father, who was the Prince of the Darkness, the High Lord of Hell. Men who were ice and fire, working in tandem to look after the women in the family—especially during the few days of each moon cycle when those women couldn’t use Craft and might be vulnerable.

Which made her wonder about the Warlord she had met at a party shortly after Daemon became the Warlord Prince who ruled the Territory of Dhemlan in the Realm of Kaeleer. The man had managed to maintain the mask of an interesting companion until she agreed to go to the theater with him. Then his true personality began to seep through. She would have gone with him anyway to find out what he really wanted, but he’d canceled, sending a note to offer his regrets and apologies for being called away unexpectedly. She hadn’t thought anything of it; just figured he’d found out a little more about her and decided not to risk being gutted during the play’s intermission. After all, men who were willing to escort a former whore who was connected to the most powerful family in Kaeleer tended to get nervous when they discovered the former whore was also a former assassin.

Now she wondered whether the little prick-ass had canceled to avoid having a few bones broken (Lucivar’s method of dissuading fools) or whether he had run from a much scarier threat (if the prick-ass had ended up having a chat with Daemon).