“I cleaned it out,” she replied, feeling defensive.
“You’ll need to see a Healer when you get out of here.”
A statement. One of those simple sentences that summed up the Blood in Kaeleer. Witches ruled. Males served. And somehow those two facts could add up to an escort hauling a witch to a Healer just becausehe decided she needed one.
And you couldn’t even argue with him about it without having all the other males gang up on you.
She couldn’t even argue with the other half of that statement—the assumption that he was going to die getting her out of the house.
“Fine,” she grumbled. “I’ll see a Healer.”
Rainier looked around. They had snuffed out all the candles except the one with the witchfire and had turned down the lamps to conserve the oil. The light didn’t seem to illuminate as much now that it was competing with a room made up of shades of gray instead of true darkness.
“If we can trust the light coming from the windows, it’s almost dawn,” Rainier said.
“I wonder if we were supposed to survive this long.”
“Probably not, but we had incentive.”
“Yeah.” When your uncle was the High Lord of Hell, becoming demon-dead for a stupid reason was not something you wanted to do. The lectures about it would go on fordecades.
“There’s water left in the jug,” he said. “We should hold on to what’s left of the food.”
“And we need to make a decision.” Surreal got to her feet and swore silently. She felt stiffer than she should, and her side hurt more than it should. At least her lungs seemed to be all right now.
“We either need to go upstairs to use the bathroom or we need to pick a corner and pee on a carpet.”
The children were waking up, so they would have to make that decision soon. Hell’s fire,she needed to make that decision soon.
“Could the window be an exit?” Rainier asked. Taking one of the pokers, he approached the window. Then he gave her a considering look. “Your Gray shield will let things out but not in?”
She nodded. “Whatever goes out stays out.”
He retreated, set the poker down, then selected a fork from the hamper.
“Doesn’t give you much distance,” Surreal said.
“No, but I’ll still be behind the shield,” Rainier replied. “Besides, we can’t take the hamper or chill box with us, so losing the fork doesn’t matter.”
No, they wouldn’t use Craft to vanish the hamper or chill box, and they couldn’t carry it with them. While Rainier approached the window again, she selected the sharp knife and two forks. Any weapon was better than none.
Rainier hooked a bit of material in the fork’s tines and pulled aside the curtain. “Surreal, look at this.”
The window should have been facing the front of the house. She should have seen the wrought-iron fence and the street beyond. Instead, there were stone markers and, in three spots, freshly mounded earth.
“Graveyard,” she said.
“Do those markers indicate how many people have died in this house and become fodder of one kind or another? Or are six of those markers reserved for us?”
She didn’t know and didn’t care. “If it’s an illusion spell, we could try getting out through the window. If it’s not…”
“We may not be in the same house anymore. Or even the same village.”
She blinked. “You think someone shifted this whole house without us noticing? Without so much as one of those awful little statues falling off a table and breaking?”
He shrugged. “Jaenelle could have done it. She could pick up a house this size and turn it around without causing so much as a rattle. She could vanish something this size and set it down in a different village. Or in a finger-snap moment of the lights going out, she could swap a room right out from under your feet.”
“You’ve never seen her do that.”
Rainier released the fork, letting the curtain fall back into place. “Actually, I have. There’s an odd sensation of the floor dropping out from under your feet in that moment when the lights go out. Then the lights come back on and you’re standing in a different room—or sitting on a different sofa, which is actually more unnerving. We never could figure out if she shifted the people or shifted the room.”
Surreal felt her jaw drop. Then she shook her head. Why was she surprised? Before she had shattered herself and her Jewels to save Kaeleer, there had been almost nothing Jaenelle couldn’t do.
Except basic Craft.
“Which do we try?” Rainier asked. “Door or window?”
Sage’s voice piped up behind them. “Lady Surreal? I need to pee.”
“Well,” Surreal said to Rainier, “unless you want to try holding her out the window, I guess we find out what’s behind the door.”
“He flinched.” Marian glanced at Daemonar to reassure herself that he was still more interested in the plate of food Draca had brought in for him than the adults in the room. Then she focused on the High Lord. “Lucivarflinched. ”
Saetan looked solemn and serious—if she could ignore the laughter lighting his gold eyes. “Darling, I heard you the first time. It’s the significance of the words that puzzles me.”
“Heflinched. ” Why couldn’t she get through to him?
“And this upsets you. Why?”
“Because…” Flustered, she pushed her hair back. How could she explain if he didn’t—or wouldn’t—understand?
A twitch of his lips. A hint of a smile.
“It’s a bit unnerving to realize you have power over such a powerful man, isn’t it?” Saetan asked.
Thank the Darkness, hedid understand. “Yes. I wear the Purple Dusk. I shouldn’t have that kind of power over him.”
“Marian, you’re the woman he loves. There are very few things that can match that kind of power. Not even these.” He tapped the Black Jewel he wore over the tunic jacket.
“Would you have reacted like that?” Marian asked. “If you had missed an engagement your wife had wanted you to attend, would you have flinched?”
She bit her lip when she saw the look in his eyes and wished she could take back the words. Considering who his wife had been, it was a bad question.
“No,” he said. “I wouldn’t have. Not for her.” He took her face in his hands and kissed her forehead, a fatherly kiss washed in the sensuality that was inherent to the man. Then he added, “But if I had disappointed Sylvia by not remembering an engagement that I believed was important to her, then, yes, Marian, I would have flinched.”