Tersa looked at Jaenelle, then looked at him—and walked away without answering.

Jaenelle patted his arm and whispered, “If she answered, it wouldn’t be a surprise.” Then she held out her other hand to Yuli. “Let’s find you a room for a day or two.”

They’d barely gotten into the great hall when four Sceltie puppies came running up to greet them. Three bounced and yapped and wagged tails at everyone before running back to whatever puppy game they’d been playing.

The fourth one planted his little white feet on Yuli’s foot and said, "My boy!"

"I guess that settles that," Jaenelle told Daemon.

"I guess it does," he replied, watching the boy’s face bloom from shy smile to complete delight.

“Can I play with him while I’m here?” Yuli asked.

Oh, boyo, just try not playing with him.“Yes, you can. He still has some trouble on the stairs, so why don’t you pick him up while I show you to your room.”

"Up!" the puppy said. "Up!" When Yuli didn’t immediately respond, the puppy whined and looked at Jaenelle. "Boy has dead ears?"

“He hasn’t learned to hear kindred yet,” Jaenelle said, slanting a glance at Yuli. “But he’ll learn.”

“Huh?” Yuli said.

“Pick him up,” Daemon said. "This is going to be a learning experience."

She pressed her lips together, fighting to keep a straight face. "For both of them."

As Yuli followed them, silent and wide-eyed, and the puppy never shut up about what he would need to train his boy, Daemon thought,At least something good has come from all that pain.

TWENTY-SEVEN

Daemon filled time with paperwork while he waited for Jaenelle to return home.

He’d wondered if his father had been aware of the half-Bloods who were raised in orphans’ homes in Dhemlan. He should have known better. His only excuse for not picking up the clues was his own emotional turmoil the previous year.

One of the vast estates owned by the SaDiablo family contained a self-sufficient community, including a school. When he’d taken over handling the family’s property and wealth, Saetan had told him that community was required to support itself, but no income should be expected from it. Daemon hadn’t questioned it or looked at the place beyond reviewing the quarterly reports to make sure the communitywas still supporting itself.

So when he and Jaenelle sat down to review possible new homes for Yuli, it was embarrassing to discover that the community’s school was for half-Blood children who had the potential to become Blood when they reached maturity. Some of the children were there because their parents wanted them to have the dual landen-Blood education that matched their potential. Others were considered orphans—children who had lost their parents or children whose parents were nothing more than names that acknowledged family bloodlines. The children were educated and cared for, taught Protocol, and instructed in basic Craft if they developed the power to do simple spells. They were also given the opportunity to earn spending money by working within the community or on another part of the estate.

Two hundred children made their home at that school—and now Yuli was one of them.

Jaenelle walked into the study, gave him a look he couldn’t interpret, then slumped in a chair in front of the desk.

“I have been given the honor of being the Official Liaison between the school and the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan,” she said. “I was even given an official-looking piece of parchment, all signed and sealed, to acknowledge my new position.”

“I see,” Daemon said, working to keep his expression bland.

“Didn’t want to talk to me themselves?”

“Not in this decade. So. Do you want to see an extra report from the school? Do you require copies of the reports sent—and approved by the High Lord—from previous years?”

Daemon sat back, steepled his fingers, and rested the forefingers against his chin. “Is this a ripple caused by my note to the Province Queens?”

“Apparently. And even though they would prefer not to talk to you directly, the school’s administrators seemed more puzzled than concerned by this sudden interest in the school.”

A good sign that he wouldn’t find anything wrong at the school when he paid them a surprise visit. And he would take the Official Liaison with him to avoid scaring the shit out of everyone.

“We discussed the necessity of Yuli receiving some individual tutoring, since I don’t think he has much of the Dhemlan race in his bloodline and he’ll mature faster than the other children,” Jaenelle said. “It may be that he’ll do better in a Territory like Scelt, but I’d prefer to keep him nearby for the time being.”

“Was Yuli comfortable with staying at the school?” Daemon asked.

“A little frightened. But after he saw his room—and after Socks declared that it smelled like a good place—boy and puppy adjusted quickly enough. More quickly than the administrators, who are smart enough to realize what having a kindred puppy at the school will mean.”

Daemon smiled. “That they’ll now receive regular visits from adult kindred?”

“And that not all of those adults will be small or canine,” Jaenelle said, returning the smile.

A small frown was added to his smile. “Socks? The puppy’s name is Socks?”

Jaenelle rolled her eyes. “Yuli said the puppy looked like he was wearing white socks, so the puppy announced that that was his name—Socks.”

“He’s a Warlord, yes?”

“Yes, and that one will definitely wear a Jewel of sufficient rank when he goes through the Birthright Ceremony—and that means he’ll most likely wear a dark Jewel at maturity.”

The frown deepened. “LordSocks ? What was his name originally?”

A blush stained Jaenelle’s cheeks. “I couldn’t remember, and the puppy won’t say. When I asked Ladvarian, he said, ‘Socks is an easy name for humans to remember.’”

“The little prick,” Daemon muttered.

She laughed.

Then she looked at him in a way that filled his stomach with butterflies.Nervous butterflies.

Everything has a price, old son. You made a promise. It’s time to pay the debt. Time to pay off all the debts, actually.

“I have an appointment this evening,” Daemon said. “I was waiting for you to return home before I left.”

A subtle change in her eyes, in her psychic scent.


Tags: Anne Bishop Books The Black Jewels Series Books Science Fiction Books
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