“Theran Grayhaven,” he said reluctantly.

“Territory?” the butler prodded after a moment’s silence.

“Dena Nehele.”

The butler tipped his head in a tiny bow of acknowledgment. “I will inquire if the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan is available to receive you.”

“I don’t need to talk to . . .” He was talking to the butler’s back, so there was no point continuing. Besides, the man didn’t go far—just to the back of the great hall.

After a quick knock on the door, the butler stepped into an adjoining room and stepped back out a few moments later.

Nothing subtle about the snub if the butler now informed him that the Prince wasn’t available.

“This way,” the butler said.

Theran followed the man back to the half-open door. The butler stepped in and announced, “Prince Theran Grayhaven of the Territory of Dena Nehele.”

“Thank you, Beale,” a deep, cultured voice replied. “Show him in.”

Beale stepped aside, allowing Theran to enter, then retreated, closing the door behind him.

The room was shaped like a reversed L. The long side was an informal sitting room, complete with tables, chairs, bookcases, and a leather sofa large enough for a full-grown man to sleep on. The short side of the room had floor-to-ceiling bookcases filling the back wall, red velvet covering the side walls, and a large blackwood desk with two chairs in front of it for visitors.

From behind the desk rose the most beautiful man Theran had ever seen. Hayllian coloring—the thick black hair, golden eyes, and light brown skin. But the man moved like something too graceful to be completely human, and as he came around the desk,Theran felt the punch of sexual heat.

“Prince Grayhaven.”

The voice caressed him, a warm syrup over his skin, producing an unwelcome arousal.

“I’m Daemon Sadi.”

Of course this was Sadi. Who else could it be?

He’d heard stories. Who hadn’t heard stories? But now he had a glimpse of why Sadi had been called the Sadist. All Warlord Princes had that sexual heat to some degree, but he’d never met another Warlord Prince who could halfway seduce a normally uninterested man just by speaking, just by walking toward that person.

Then the door opened, Sadi looked around, and Theran felt the ground crumbling right out from under him.

He’d thought the sexual heat had been a deliberate ploy to throw him off-balance. It wasn’t. The punch he’d experienced when he’d walked into the room was Sadi with his sexuality chained. One look at the woman who walked into the room, and Sadi . . .

Theran froze. Warlord Princes were territorial at the best of times, and lethally so when it came to a lover. A woman could end a relationship with a Warlord Prince without fear, but the only kind of male who could survive an attempt at poaching was a stronger Warlord Prince.

Based on what he was picking up from Sadi’s psychic scent, this woman was definitely the lover, and since he was a stranger, just being in the same room with her might be enough to provoke Sadi into a kill.

Not pretty,Theran decided. Attractive in an uncommon way, but definitely not what he would call pretty. The golden hair looked shaggy and was too short for him to find personally appealing. And she looked too thin to have the kind of curves a man would find interesting.

And all those things that would have made Theran dismiss her as a potential partner didn’t seem to matter to Sadi at all. The hunger in those gold eyes when he looked at her, the hunger that had sharpened his psychic scent . . .

She stopped, narrowed her blue eyes, and rocked back on her heels.

“Nighthawk and I are going for a ride,” she said. “Beale said you wanted to see me before I went out.”

“Wear a hat,” Daemon said.

Her mouth primmed. “I don’t like hats.”

Daemon moved toward her.

Theran adjusted his coat to hide his reaction to the heat pouring off the other man.

The woman just narrowed her eyes a little more and seemed immune to the feel of seduction blanketing the room.

Daemon cupped her face in his hands. “You need to wear a hat when you go out in the sun,” he purred.

“You don’t wear a hat.”

“My nose doesn’t turn bright pink and peel.”

She frowned at Daemon.

“And since I adore that nose,” Daemon said, kissing the tip of the adored nose, “and the rest of your face, and the rest of you . . .”

Daemon’s hands caressed her lightly but thoroughly as they traveled along her shoulders and down her back, his arms wrapping her tight against him as his mouth covered hers in a kiss that . . .

Theran felt his legs go weak. He should avert his eyes, give Sadi and the woman some token of privacy. But he couldn’t look away.

He wanted that kind of heat and hunger. Hoped he’d find it with the new Queen who would rule Dena Nehele.

And hoped he could get out of this room very, very soon.

How in the name of Hell did anyone else manage to live here?

Sadi finally ended the kiss and loosened his hold. His lover braced her hands against his chest as if to push away but didn’t move.

“Mother Night,” she muttered. On her second try, she managed to push away from Sadi and stand on her own. Then she studied the warm golden eyes that were watching her. “Fine. I’ll wear the damn hat.”

“Thank you,” Daemon purred.

“Pleased with yourself, aren’t you?”

A flashing grin was her answer.

As she headed for the door, Daemon caught her and turned her around.

“There’s someone I want you to meet,” Daemon said.

Theran felt those blue eyes lock on to his face, and would have sworn they changed to a darker blue, a sapphire blue that became a doorway to something dangerous, something feral. Something he couldn’t name but knew he didn’t want to see.

“This is the Warlord Prince Theran Grayhaven, from Dena Nehele,” Daemon said. “He hasn’t said, but I believe he can trace his bloodline back to Jared, a Warlord I knew a few centuries ago.”

“Jared,” she said in a voice that made Theran shiver. “And Lia?”

Afraid to answer—and more afraid not to—Theran nodded.

He couldn’t look away from those sapphire eyes.

Then her eyes were simply blue again. “Welcome to the Hall, Prince Grayhaven.”

Maybe it was because he was getting used to the feel of being in a room with Sadi that he was finally getting some sense of the woman.

A Queen. He felt certain she was a Queen. That caste had a distinctive psychic scent. But he couldn’t figure out if she wore a lighter Jewel or a dark one. She seemed to circle around his own Green, feeling lighter one moment and darker the next.

Tags: Anne Bishop The Black Jewels Science Fiction
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