So he moved, scooping up Daemonar in one arm and the pup in the other. He vanished the papers on the kitchen table and plunked boy and pup down—and faced the next problem as he kept pushing back that storm, thatsound.

There was one of him and two of them—and a truth that would sink into the marrow of their bones and remain long after the actual memory was gone. No matter which one he tended first, the other “child” would always know he wasn’t as important, didn’t matter as much. And things would never be the same between boy and wolves.

So one hand examined the pup and found a sore spot that could have been caused by a kick, while the other hand pushed down the boy’s sock. The pup had caught Daemonar enough to scrape the skin on the inside of the boy’s ankle. Lucivar rubbed his thumb over the scrape, wiping away the blood before Daemonar noticed it.

“You’re all right,” he said, trying for soothing but not able to keep the grim temper out of his voice. “Nothing punctured, nothing broken.” And neither more damaged than the other, thank the Darkness.

Keeping a firm grip on both of them, he stopped trying for soothing. “I don’t care what you did. I don’t care who started it. If this happens again, you won’t be allowed to play together.”

Whimpers from the pup. A poked-out, quivering lower lip from Daemonar.

Hearing the click of nails on the stone floor, Lucivar turned his head and looked at Tassle, who was standing in the archway. Using a light psychic touch, he showed the wolf the memory of what had just happened.

Tassle bared his teeth and snarled at both children.

“Here,” Lucivar said, setting the pup on the floor. “Why don’t you take care of yours this afternoon, and I’ll deal with mine.”

At least, he hoped he’d be able to take care of his son. He hoped the emotional storm produced by that sound wouldn’t cripple him.

Tassle grabbed his pup by the scruff of its neck and stalked off.

Lucivar looked at the dribble trail of puppy urine he would have to clean up, then looked at his son, whose eyes were now swimming in tears. Sighing, he picked up Daemonar and rubbed the boy’s back to comfort him.

“Want Mama,” Daemonar sniffled. “Want Mamanow. ”

“Me too, boyo. Me too.”

He took Daemonar into the parlor and settled into the rocking chair. Between the rocking and the soothing spell he wrapped around the boy, it didn’t take long before Daemonar was sound asleep.

Once he was sure the boy wouldn’t wake, Lucivar called in a bottle of ointment Jaenelle had made up for “everyday ouchies” and rubbed some on the scrape to clean the wound while he used basic healing Craft to make “everything all better.”

Then he vanished the bottle, rocked his son…and faced the storm raging inside him.

Not a memory. Not exactly. More like reliving afeeling. He didn’t know where or when, but he was young. Older than Daemonar, but not by much. He was in that small-boy body, sitting on a bench, hunched around himself as the echo of thatsound pressed down on his skin, on his bones. Pressed into his heart.

His father’s voice. But there had been something terrible in that sound.

There had been agony in that sound.

His fault. He couldn’t remember why, but he was certain of that.

Prothvar would know.

The thought brought tears to his eyes. He blinked them back.

Prothvar was gone now. Truly gone. He had died on a killing field over fifty thousand years before, in the war between Terreille and Kaeleer, but he had remained, along with Andulvar and Mephis, as one of the demon-dead who continued to guard the Shadow Realm. In a way, the war that Jaenelle had stopped last year had been an extension of that first war, since Hekatah had been behind both conflicts.

In a way, when Prothvar gave himself to Jaenelle’s webs to help protect the Blood when she unleashed her full power, he had stepped onto the last battlefield of that old war.

So Prothvar was gone now. Truly gone. So were Andulvar and Mephis.

Whatever had happened the day Lucivar had caused thatsound to thunder out of his father had changed his life, had changedhim. He was sure of that. Now he needed to know why.

There was only one person he could ask.

He closed his eyes—and felt a single tear roll down his face. He wasn’t sure if the tear was for the boy he had been or the family members who were gone.

As he rocked his son, the weight of that old memory that was only a feeling settled over him—and smothered everything else.

Surreal pulled Rainier into the town house’s sitting room the moment he arrived.

“Did you get one of these?” she asked, holding out a cream-colored invitation.

“No,” he replied after he read it.

She watched his expression change into a thoughtful frown. “What?”

“Well, Jaenelle and Marian both know anyone they invite to view the spooky house will show up—especially anyone from the family—so why set this up like a test of obedience?” He studied her deliberately blank expression. “Queens—especially young Queens—sometimes test their First Circle by making demands that aren’t harmful but also aren’t considerate. The phrasing on this invitation makes this a command to attend, and since the viewing is for this evening, you’re expected to cancel whatever plans or commitments you had made and obey.”

“Maybe they wanted to make sure the invitations wouldn’t be ignored.”

“Maybe.” But Rainier didn’t sound convinced.

It didn’t sound like something Jaenelle or Marian would do, but they could have gotten the jitters about showing the spooky house and hadn’t thought out the phrasing of the invitations.

Surreal hooked her hair behind her pointed ears. “Doesn’t matter. There isn’t much time to get there, so I’ve asked for a quick meal. We’ll eat in a few minutes. I’m going to change clothes. You talk to Helton and find out where this village is.”

“Surreal.” Rainier looked a little embarrassed. “I wasn’t invited.”

“Did you or did you not tell me you would stand as an official escort whenever I needed one?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Then it’s settled. I’m going to change, and you’re going to find out how to get to the spooky house.”

He flashed a smile at her as he opened the sitting room door. She returned the smile as she walked past him. Then she bolted up the stairs. But she paused when she reached her bedroom, bothered by Rainier’s comment that the phrasing of the invitation sounded like a test—especially since the invitation arrived just a few minutes before he did, and barely gave them time to grab a quick meal before they had to leave.

Anne Bishop Books | Science Fiction Books | The Black Jewels Series Books