“No, Prince. The Lady thinks you look stunning in your usual attire, but she felt a change of pace once in a while would be good for you.”
While Jazen went into the bathroom to “tidy up,” Daemon shucked off the bathrobe and got dressed. There wasn’t much to tidy, but he didn’t need an audience when he dressed or undressed—unless it was Jaenelle—and Jazen, who had been viciously castrated when he’d lived in Hayll, didn’t need to see a whole male and be reminded of what he had lost.
By the time Jazen came back into the Consort’s bedroom, Daemon was dressed and inspecting a cloth bag full of broken biscuits that had been left beside the clothes.
“No!” Jazen said a moment before Daemon popped a piece into his mouth.
His gold eyes narrowed. “Since they were here with my walking attire, I assumed these were treats for the walk.”
“They are,” Jazen assured him. “But not for you,” he finished, hunching his shoulders.
Ah, Hell’s fire.
Daemon opened the bedroom door and stood in the doorway, not ready to commit himself by stepping out of the room.
Five furry little bodies waited in the corridor. Five little tails wagged happy greetings. Five little Sceltie minds yapped at him just outside his inner barriers.
"Walkies?" "Walkies!" "We go with you!"
He got bumped into the corridor when Jazen shut the door behind his back.
“Fine,” he said, vanishing the sack of treats. “Let’s go for walkies.”
The first challenge came when he reached the bottom of the stairs and was stopped by the wails andarooo s coming from the top of the stairs. Apparently the puppies could get up the stairs by themselves but couldn’t get back down.
So it was up the stairs, gather a pup in each hand, down the stairs, set the pups on the floor. He could have used Craft to float all five Scelties and bring them down at one time, but…
Exercise, Sadi. You were taking this walk for the exercise.
Two more trips, and they were all heading for the great hall and the front door.
Where Beale was waiting for him, holding a water dish and a pitcher of water. A footman opened the door, and five bundles of fuzzy scampered outside, yipping for him to hurry up.
Daemon vanished the bowl and pitcher. “Thank you, Beale.”
“Enjoy your walk, Prince. I have asked Tarl to bring around one of the small gardening wagons.”
Daemon just raised an eyebrow and waited.
“It is a long walk for short legs,” Beale said. His expression didn’t change, but there was a definite twinkle in his eyes. “I think you will find the wagon more convenient for the walk home.”
When he’d be pulling that wagon full of five snoozing puppies.
“I am a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince and the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan. I haven’t imagined being those things, have I?”
“No, Prince,” Beale replied. “You have not imagined those things. You are the most powerful male in Dhemlan.”
Nodding, Daemon walked to the door.
He stopped. Twisted at the waist to look back at Beale.
“After the Lady came to live with him here at the Hall, the High Lord quite often asked the same question.”
Sylvia looked at the puppies. She looked at her younger son, Mikal. Then she pointed at the door. “Outside in the yard. Andstay in the yard. That is not only a request from your mother; it is an order from your Queen.”
Boy and puppies scampered outside.
“Does that work?” Daemon asked. “Using both titles?”
“It usually gives me an extra fifteen minutes before I have to check on him and stop whatever mischief he was about to get into.” She brushed at her hair and seemed surprised when it came to an abrupt end.
“New haircut?” he asked, keeping his voice neutral. It was short and sassy and made her look more…athletic…than the longer, more elegant style he was accustomed to seeing on Lady Sylvia.
“New clothes?” she countered.
“I got married,” he replied dryly.
“We did notice.”
Shadows in her eyes behind the amusement.
“Why?” he asked softly, looking at her hair. But he knew.
“I needed to look different.” She touched her hair again. “I didn’t want to look in the mirror anymore and see the woman who had been the High Lord’s lover.”
She walked into the family parlor. He followed.
“I loved him,” she said. “I still do. I’ve sat in this room through a lot of long nights, thinking about what happened last year and why he chose to step away from day-to-day living—and from me.”
“No. Let me say this to someone. Please?”
He slipped his hands in his trouser pockets and nodded.
“Saetan showed me what I deserve from a lover. Not just skills in bed, but the genuine affection, the interest in my life and my concerns. That mix of tenderness and amusement he would have when I raved on about something. That look that said, whatever was going on, he understood it was female and he would just ride it out.” She pressed her lips together and closed her eyes for a moment. “I finally realized he left…. It wasn’t just because of what was done to him when he was tortured in Terreille. He really needed to go, to step away from the living Realms.”
“Yes,” Daemon said softly. “He really needed to go.”
He watched her eyes fill. Watched one tear roll down her cheek.
“We were friends before we were lovers.” She wiped the tear and sniffled. “I miss my friend. More than the lover, I miss my friend. I wrote him letters on some of those long nights. Just newsy things about Halaway or the boys.”
“But you never sent them.”
He held out a hand. “Give them to me.”
“Oh, no, I—”
“Give them to me. I can’t tell you that he’ll welcome them or that he’ll read them. But I’ll offer them.”
She opened a drawer in the rolltop desk and took out a packet tied with a rose-colored ribbon. “There are a couple of letters from the boys, too. Maybe…”
He took the packet and vanished it before she could change her mind. “He did love you, Sylvia. He still does. But he’s not coming back.”
“I know.” It was a trembling smile, but it was still a smile.
“Well, I’d best gather the furry children and—”