“Let’s see how amused he is when I put his balls through a meat grinder!While they’re still attached! ”

To give him credit, Rainier didn’t turn and run out of the room. But he also didn’t come any closer. Surreal wasn’t sure if the wariness was sincere or a sop to her ego, since he was the dominant power right now, despite the fact that she wore Gray Jewels and he wore Opal. She didn’t care if it was sincerity or sop. She just wanted someone to howl at.

“Look what he did to my book!” she wailed, shaking the book at him. “Look!”

Cautious, he came closer. Encouraged that she wouldn’t lose her audience, she tried flipping through the pages to demonstrate.

“The pages are stuck together,” Rainier said. “Is the book defective?”

“Hedid this.” She turned the page, as if she’d finished reading it.That she could do. Then she tried flipping through pages and all the pages stuck together. “I can turn one page at a time, but if I want to skip around to—”

“Wouldn’t that spoil the story?” Rainier asked, breaking into her rant.

“Stop thinking like a male,” she snarled.

He grinned at her. The grin didn’t last long when she just stared at him.

“Sorry,” he said, doing his best to sound meek.

She looked down at the book, and her eyes filled with tears. Stupid to get weepy over something so foolish. Moontime moodies. Didn’t hit her often, thank the Darkness, but she was entitled to a mood or two when she didn’t feel well and couldn’t use Craft on top of it.

A tear plopped onto the back of her hand. She sniffled—and heard a low sound rumble through the room. Growl? Snarl? She looked up to ask Rainier and…

“He made you cry,” Rainier said, staring at her through the glazed eyes of a Warlord Prince who had risen to the killing edge.

“The bastard played a cruel trick and made you cry.” He took a step toward the sitting room door.

Hell’s fire, Mother Night, and may the Darkness be merciful. He was going after Sadi. He saw tears and gut instinct kicked in, and he was going after Sadi, who was the most powerful male in the Realm. And Daemon, when challenged, would give Rainier a chance to back down—and then would lash out in response to his own predatory nature, destroying the other man completely.

“No.” The book went flying as she propelled herself out of the chair and grabbed his arm. “You’re not doing this.”

“He made you cry.”

“He pissed me off, and I got weepy. He wouldn’t have done it if he’d known I’d get weepy.” Which was true. On any other day, she would have raged for a few minutes and then tried to figure out how the spell worked. Or she would have stomped over to the nearest bookshop and bought another copy of the damn book.


At the moment, she had some sympathy for his family’s inability to deal with a Warlord Prince, but she wasn’t going to let him leave. She could think of a lot cleaner ways to commit suicide than challenging Daemon. If that meant channeling her power when her body couldn’t tolerate being the vessel for that power, so be it. She’d slap enough shields around Rainier to cage him for a while. It would hurt like a wicked bitch, but she’d do it. And then she’d grab the fastest messenger she could find to ride the Winds to Ebon Rih and deliver a message to Lucivar. He’d arrive with that Eyrien temper of his stoked to the point of explosion and yell at Rainier for considering something so stupid. He’d yell at her too, for hurting herself by using Craft when she shouldn’t. And then he and Rainier would be merciless about fussing over her because, to their stone-headed way of thinking, sheneeded to be fussed over.

What did Jaenelle keep telling her? Workwith a Warlord Prince’s nature instead of trying to work against it.

She sagged against Rainier so suddenly, he grabbed her to keep her on her feet.


Razor-sharp tone, but not the killing edge. This was worry now, focused completely on her.


“You promised to stay with me tonight,” she said.Don’t sound pathetic. He won’t believe it for a moment if you sound pathetic.

“I know but—”

“A mood, Rainier. Just a mood. You don’t ask a man to step onto the killing field for a mood.” At least, not in Kaeleer. The bitches in Terreille had done it all the time.

He studied her, and she could feel the tension in him slowly fading.

“That’s all it is?” he finally asked. “Just a mood?”

She nodded, then rested her head on his shoulder. It was nice to have a male friend. Her one attempt at a romantic relationship with a man had left her with a heart bruised badly enough to wither any sexual interest she had in the gender. At least for the time being. So it was nice to spend time with a male who didn’t want her to be more than a friend.

All she had to do was avoid getting him killed.

“Was there anything you wanted to do this evening?” Rainier asked.

The brilliance of an idea dazzled her for a moment.

“Well,” she said, “I was curious about that book, especially now that I know the things in there about the Blood are very silly. But I don’t want the frustration of those stuck-together pages.” And she was going to send Daemon a blistering letter about tricks that almost backfire.

No. Not Daemon. She’d send a note to Uncle Saetan. He may have retired from being the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, he may have taken up residence at the Keep as a retreat from the living Realms, but he was still the patriarch of the SaDiablo family, and no one could flay an erring son with a look or a phrase as well as the High Lord of Hell.

Cheered by the thought, she almost didn’t respond in time when Rainier said, “I could read the story to you, if that would be pleasing.”

“I’d like that.” She stepped back. “I’m going to freshen up first. Could you see about getting some food we could nibble on?”

A relaxed smile and a look of pleased anticipation in his eyes. “I could do that.”

As she climbed the stairs to her room on the second floor, Surreal considered how annoying the evening might have been. She would have wanted to read the book; Rainier would have wanted some way to look after her, and his need to fuss would have scraped on her temper. Now, with him reading the story to her, they could talk about it and laugh over it, and they would both have an enjoyable, entertaining evening.

She paused outside the door of her room to consider everything that had happened.

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