The other thing that was becoming clear was that no matter how they appeared for the servants and guests, no matter how Sadi was presented as the dominant power in Dhemlan, when the bedroom door closed at night, she had a Warlord Prince by the balls and wasn’t afraid to squeeze.
Which brought him to the unpalatable conclusion that he was going to have to negotiate with Lady Angelline instead of Prince Sadi.
Then he looked up and realized those sleepy gold eyes were focused on him, had been focused on him all the time his thoughts had wandered—and he had the terrifying feeling that Sadi was analyzing him right down to the last drop of blood and the smallest sliver of bone.
A sudden chill hung over the table, along with an unspoken warning: Keep your hands, and your thoughts, away from my wife.
Thank the Darkness, Theran thought as Daemon turned his head to look at the butler standing in the doorway.
Beale nodded once.
Daemon pushed his chair back, hesitated a moment, then called in a sheet of paper and dropped it on the table.
“Those are the terms for having a Kaeleer Queen go to Dena Nehele,” Daemon said. “You can look them over and give me your decision later.”
Theran waited until Daemon was out of the room before letting out a shuddering sigh of relief.
Maybe if he told the butler he was going to take a walk around the estate, he could catch the Winds and reach the Keep before anyone realized he was gone. Maybe he could persuade that Hayllian librarian to help him go through the Gate and get back to Terreille.
Maybe you can throw away the one chance you’ll have of finding someone who might be able to help your people. If you run away now, you run away from everyone. Jared and Blaed wouldn’t have run. They would have been scared—Hell’s fire, they weren’t stupid—but they wouldn’t have run.
And neither would he.
Resigned to that much,Theran picked up the sheet of paper to look at the terms.
Carrying the loaded breakfast tray, Daemon paused outside the bedroom door.
Control it, damn you. Lock it away. Keep it leashed.
He was Daemon Sadi, Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, husband of Jaenelle Angelline. This morning, that was all he was. All he would allow himself to be.
Choked by that leash of self-control, he passed through the bedroom door and the shields still surrounding the room. When he’d crept out of the room at the first hint of dawn, he could have changed the locks and shields to Red, which would have kept Jazen out but allowed Jaenelle to leave. He hadn’t. So she was still in his bed, tucked under the covers, just as he’d left her.
Not quite, he realized as he rounded the bed and saw her. She’d gotten up long enough to pull the shift on—and, most likely, to realize that he’d locked her in the Consort’s suite.
Her eyes opened. He wasn’t sure who stared at him—Jaenelle, his wife . . . or Witch.
“I’m still deciding if I should be very pleased with you or very pissed off at you,” she said.
Cautiously hopeful, because he hadn’t thought there would be any chance of her being pleased, he raised the tray to catch her attention. “I brought you some breakfast.”
“Did you bring coffee?”
“Yes.” Of course he’d brought coffee. He wouldn’t have dared come back into the room if he hadn’t.
He waited until she was sitting up and comfortably settled before he placed the tray across her lap.
A pointed look from her had him sitting gingerly on the edge of the bed. He didn’t speak while she inspected the contents of the tray.
“Vegetable omelet and”—her eyebrows rose as she cut into the other one—“seafood omelet.”
“Took a little persuading to convince Mrs. Beale to give up some of the shrimp and cold lobster she’s using for the midday meal,” he said.
She took a bite of the seafood—and didn’t look at him. “Did you eat?”
“Wasn’t hungry.” He was so scared of what would happen now, even the thought of food made him queasy.
“I’d like an explanation,” Jaenelle said quietly.
“Sweetheart, I’m sor—”
“An explanation, Daemon, not an apology.”
He swallowed the words and closed his eyes. An apology would have been easier.
“Something snapped in you last night, in a way I’ve never seen before. I think I provoked it—or was the final shove. I’d like to know why.”
“You didn’t provoke anything,” he snarled as he met those sapphire eyes. “It wasn’t . . .” He wouldn’t let her take the blame for this, not even a crumb of blame. But how to explain? Where to begin?
She sipped her coffee and waited.
“The Consort’s room is a kind of sanctuary,” he began, choosing each word with care. “A place for a man to let down his guard. A place where he doesn’t have to perform.”
She bit into a piece of toast and chewed slowly. “Do you feel like you have to perform, Daemon?”
He shook his head. “No. Never. Not with you. But . . . for most of my life I’d had to perform, had to be on my guard except for the few precious hours each day that I had to myself. So even though things are different now—so very different now—I like having this private space. I’ll come up here sometimes in the afternoons, stretch out on the bed for an hour, and let my mind wander.” And know he was safe when he did it.
She cut off a piece of the seafood omelet and held up the fork.
His stomach cramped, but he kept his eyes on hers as he leaned forward and accepted the offering.
“Nothing wrong with wanting a place for yourself,” Jaenelle said. “The cabin in Ebon Rih is my private place and seldom shared even with the people I love. So I do understand.”
“All those years in Terreille, I had to fight hard to have a private place,” he said softly.
When he didn’t say anything more, Jaenelle poked around the tray. “Ah. There is another fork.” She handed it to him. “Eat in between the pauses.”
He wasn’t sure if being required to eat was a subtle punishment or confirmation that she was more shaken by last night than she wanted to admit. Otherwise, since she was a Healer, she would have known he couldn’t eat.
He took a piece of toast, then a bite of the vegetable omelet. And swallowed hard to keep it down.
“I needed a private place,” he said. “In order to stay sane, I needed a place. My room. My bed. Out of bounds to everyone.”