“You like Rainier,” she said. “Heworks for you.”

Daemon settled back on the sofa, making himself more comfortable. “I’m aware of that.” He waited a beat. “Why is he coming here this evening?”

For the same reason you’ve got your ass snuggled into the sofa.Which was not something a witch said to any male relative who was bigger than she was and wore darker Jewels than she did.

“Doesn’t he have family of his own to fuss over?”

Hell’s fire. He was going to get pissy about this.

“Actually,” she said, “he doesn’t.” A flicker in Daemon’s eyes warned her he was aware of the lie within the words—he knew perfectly well Rainier had family living in Dharo—but he didn’t know why the words were also true. And she wasn’t looking forward to being the one to tell him. “His family prefers that he stay away.”

“Because he prefers to warm a man’s bed rather than a woman’s?”

It was like seeing a storm coming and knowing you couldn’t get out of the way in time.

“No,” she said softly, “it’s because he’s a Warlord Prince.”

A heartbeat. That’s all it took. Daemon, the amused male relative, was gone. The Warlord Prince who looked at her…Not the Sadist, who could be so elegantly vicious. Thank the Darkness, it wasn’tthat facet of Daemon’s personality that had surfaced. No, this was Prince Sadi, ruler of Dhemlan, who was considering the depth of the insult contained within her words.

“They aren’t like our family,” she said hurriedly.

A moment of silence. Then, too softly, he said, “Explain.”

She didn’t dare look at the clock to see how much time was left. It didn’t matter. This discussion had to be over, done,fast.

“Most of the males in the SaDiablo-Yaslana family are, or were, Warlord Princes. So none of you are different from the rest. You know how to live with a Warlord Prince. The women in this family know how to live with a Warlord Prince. But Rainier…From what I gathered, there had been a couple of Warlord Princes in the family bloodlines over the generations, but they’d worn lighter Jewels, so the more aggressive, predatory nature”—Shit! Don’t remind him of that!—“of a Warlord Prince was balanced by not having as much power. But Rainier wears an Opal Jewel that’s considered a dark Jewel. His family didn’t know what to do with him when he was young and wore Purple Dusk as his Birthright, and as sure as the sun doesn’t shine in Hell, they don’t know what to do with him now.”

“So they turn away from him.”

Oh, yeah. This was turning into afun discussion.

“To his benefit, since they don’t deserve to have him.” She put some snap in her voice, hoping for a flash of amusement from him.

Nothing.

“A Warlord Prince needs a female to fuss over—if not family, then a friend,” she finished quietly.

“Having his company for the evening is fine, Surreal, but—”

“He’ll be staying for breakfast.”

Long pause. “You trust him that much?”

Now they had gotten to the core of it. Did she trust a man who wasn’t family during the hours when she was asleep and would be the most vulnerable? “Yes, I trust him that much. So go home to your wife, Sadi.”Then I can read this book however I want to.

Another pause. Then the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan took a deep breath—and Daemon let it out in a sigh as he stood up.

“All right, then.” Using Craft, he vanished all the papers and called in his black jacket. He slipped on the jacket, then ran his fingers—with their long, perfectly manicured, black-tinted nails—through his hair. Now the hair looked bedroom-disheveled. Now the partially unbuttoned shirt looked like a lure to attract and entice.

Which was insane, because the only woman who could safely have Daemon Sadi as a lover was Jaenelle Angelline, since she was the only woman hewanted for a lover.

Don’t just sit here. Get up. Move. You’ve got no fighting room in this position.

Then a little flash, a blink of light near the floor. Nothing there, but…

He was still barefoot. There was something too sensual about him still being barefoot when he was wearing that silk shirt, the expensive jacket, and the too-well-tailored trousers that taunted women with a hint of what they couldn’t have.

She pondered the feet and not the significance of their movement until he was leaning over her, one hand resting on the arm of her chair, the fingertips of the other hand drifting down the page of her book, then over her thumb and wrist.

She actually felt her heart skip a beat in anticipation of a kiss before it began pounding like a rabbit’s.

Why was he doing this? What did he want from her? Those golden eyes held hers, demanding her attention. The way his mouth curved in a hint of a smile seemed to promise all kinds of delights. Which was probably the exact look the Terreillean Queens who had used him saw right before he killed them.

Then his lips brushed her cheek and lingered there as his chained sexual heat washed over her.

“Enjoy your evening, cousin,” he said.

He eased back—and glided out of the room.

Had he used Craft to open and close the door, or had he used the power that lived within him to simply pass through the wood? She didn’t know, didn’t care. She felt a bit breathless—and more than a little scared. When Daemon was the Sadist, he used sex as a terrifying weapon. She felt as if she’d brushed against that side of his temper, but she didn’t know why he’d be angry with her.

Maybe nothing. Probably hadn’t even been aimed at her. Just feeling pissy about Rainier’s family was all.

Which reminded her.

Shaking off the sexual haze—which she wasn’t in any mood for anyway—she glanced at the clock. Rainier was late. Wasn’t that lovely? Now that she knew the book was meant to be silly, she wanted to read a little more. And she wanted to flip through and discover some of the other stupid things this Jarvis Jenkell thought the Blood did.

She picked up the book and tried to flip through the pages.

Tried to flip through the pages.

Tried to flip through the pages.

“That whoring son of a whoringbitch !”

As he walked down the town house’s steps, Daemon reached inside his black jacket. Then he stopped, baffled that he’d been reaching for a cigarette case he hadn’t carried in several years.

He couldn’t remember when he’d stopped smoking the black cigarettes. Sometime during the years when his mind had been shattered and he’d wandered the paths of madness the Blood called the Twisted Kingdom. During the years when he was slowly regaining his sanity and lived in hiding with Surreal and Manny, it hadn’t been prudent to call attention to themselves by adding an expensive item to their supplies when the invalid—and fictitious—owner of the island had never ordered cigarettes before. Now the only way to get the things would be to buy them from a supplier in the Realm of Terreille, and there was nothing he wanted from Terreille. Nothing.

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