“What body in which closet?” Daemon asked.

It took her a moment to remember.

“This one.” She finger-snapped the offending page of the book. “What’s wrong with these people? Why are they leaving bodies around for other people to find instead of disposing of them in some sensible way? And what’s wrong with the person who found the body? With help, I should add, from a cat. What does he need help for? Even a human nose can smell that much rotting meat.”

“What are you reading?”

There was a hint of wariness mixed in with Daemon’s amusement. Which was fair, she supposed, since she’d made a good living as an assassin before she moved to Kaeleer and acquired too many powerful male relatives. Not that he’d be concerned about that. After all, he’d taught her most of the nastier tricks of that particular trade.

She held up the book so he could read the title.

“Ah. That book.”

Definite wariness now, as if he had measured the distance between her chair and his place on the sofa and was determined to maintain it.

“Is there something I should know about this book? And what kind of name is Jarvis Jenkell? Do you think that’s his real name?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Daemon replied dryly. “I do know that since he came out with this new series of books, Jaenelle isn’t allowed to read his stories in bed anymore. She starts laughing so hard, she ends up flailing.”

“What…? Oh. Caught you, did she?”

Stony expression.

Oh, yeah. Back to the first subject. “So why don’t these people have brains enough to bury a body where it won’t be found? Nooo, they’ll put a body in a closet…or in an old trunk in a spare bedroom—not even up in the attic, where it might be harder to find—or in the shed out back, where it attracts critters that want to take home some carrion for dinner.” She clapped her hands to her cheeks, widened her eyes, and wagged her head. “Oh! Look! It’s the gardener. Who is dead. And look! There’s blood on the hedge clippers. Do you think it’s a clue?”

Daemon snorted out a laugh, tried to regain control, then just slumped back and let the laughter roar.

She laughed with him, then shook her head. She was too much a professional to be able to dismiss sloppy work, even in a story. “Really, Sadi. Granted, a landen would have to work harder than we do to dispose of a body, but they do have shovels.”

“It’s a mystery, Surreal,” he said when he could talk again. “That’s the whole point of the story. A person discovers a body, gets caught up in the events surrounding the death, and has to figure out why the person died and who did the killing—usually while trying to avoid being killed himself. Until you’ve got a body, there’s no reason to look for clues.”

“And no point to the story.” She nodded, since that part made sense. “That still doesn’t explain this character who is supposed to be Blood—or the cat. A species of kindred who have chosen to remain hidden while pretending to be larger-than-usual domestic cats, except for this one rogue feline who has decided to help the poor, dumb, smell-impaired human figure out murders?”

Daemon got up and went over to the corner table that held an open bottle of wine and glasses. He lifted the bottle and gave her a questioning look. She shook her head.

After pouring a glass for himself, he returned to his place on the sofa. “It hasn’t been that many years since the kindred dogs and horses made their presence known, so it is possible that a species chose to remain hidden when the rest of them decided to let the human Blood know the kindred existed. Not likely, but possible. As for the human side of the partnership, this is the second book with these characters. The man discovered his Blood heritage in the first story and is still learning how to use his power.”

“Doesn’t that sound a bit too much like the stories Lady Fiona writes about Tracker and Shadow?” Surreal asked.

“I believe it was Fiona’s success that spurred him to write this new story line. Jenkell is a well-known writer in landen artistic circles, and he’s become quite wealthy writing his mysteries. I’ve read a few of the books in the other series; they’re entertaining stories.”

She huffed out a breath and shook the book. “But this! The man has never been in the same room as one of the Blood. At least, not the kind of Blood he’s trying to write about. You can tell he doesn’t understand a damn thing about us.”

Daemon smiled. “I know. For years he’s been considered the top writer in his field, mostly because his characters were clever and found imaginative ways out of difficult situations.”

“And entertained both landens and Blood.”

Daemon nodded. “Then ego or temper overwhelmed sense when Fiona’s Tracker and Shadow stories became popular with landens as well as the Blood, and he began writing this new series about a Blood male and his kindred partner.”

“And he’s still popular with the Blood?” She put as much disbelief in her voice as possible.

“He is, but not because he’s telling a good story anymore.” Daemon lifted his glass in a salute. “His portrayal of the Blood is so bad it’s hysterically funny. At least, a good number of people have thought so.”

Apparently Daemon wasn’t one of them. “Does he know the Blood are buying the books to laugh at the characters? That must be biting his ass.” She riffled a few pages until she got to the next chapter.

“I imagine it is. What are you doing?”

“I wanted to see what other Blood things he’s doing wrong.”

“The point of one of these stories is to read it in order to see the clues as they’re revealed.”

He was getting that bossy tone in his voice. She wasn’t sure if it was family bossy or Warlord Prince bossy, but he’d stare her down if she tried to ignore him. Once he went home, she could…


She glanced at the clock on the mantel, considered the man now studying her, and decided not to waste time being subtle.

“You have to go home now.”


She hadn’t thought giving him an order would work, but he didn’t have to sound so politely unyielding about it. Now the only way to get rid of him was to tell him why he had to go.

“Rainier will be here soon,” she said.


Something under the pleasant tone made her think of a cat sharpening its claws before it went out to play with the mouse.

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