She drank some coffee. Dabbed at her mouth with a napkin. “You could have asked me to leave.”

“I didn’t want you to leave.” He kept his eyes fixed on the tray of food, no longer able to look at her. “In every court, there would always be one who wouldn’t respect the boundaries, one who had to be the lesson to the others. Always one little bitch who thought I would bend in private in ways I wouldn’t bend in public. And there she would be one night, dressed to arouse, rubbing her stink on my bed.”

Jaenelle flinched.

“I hurt them, Jaenelle. Even when I let them live, I hurt them. They were violating what little peace I could make for myself, trying to create a need, a desire, a physical response that would have condemned me to a more savage kind of slavery once Dorothea found out I was capable of being aroused. And in a way those little bitches succeeded. They created a need to hurt them, a desire to inflict pain. As for physical response, they didn’t get the one they wanted, but they got one—and they lived with the nightmares for the rest of their lives.”

“Daemon,” Jaenelle said gently.

He couldn’t stop now. “Then last night, talking to Theran, remembering Jared and the last time I saw him—and the years that followed. Those weren’t easy years for me.”

“Those memories were riding you last night.”

“Yes. And then I was here, in my room, my private space, trying to settle my feelings, talking to you but not paying attention to you. Listening to you, but not paying attention while I was getting undressed, still steeped in that other time in my life. And then I turned around. . . .”

“And saw a memory.”

“A thousand memories.” Daemon swallowed hard. “I saw the body, but not the face. I saw the clothes, but not the person who wore them. And my own worst nightmare from those years happened. I was so completely aroused I couldn’t turn away from what I wanted. What I needed. It was like being thrown into the rut without any warning. And then you moved as if you were going to leave, and—” He clamped his teeth together.

Jaenelle refilled the coffee cup, taking her time as she added cream and sugar. “You scared me last night.”

He bowed his head. “I know.”

“This was more than the rut, Daemon.” She hesitated. “You know who I am when you’re caught in the rut. Last night . . . I wasn’t sure you knew who was under you—or cared.”

“I didn’t know,” he admitted. “Not until I touched you. And then . . .” The smell of last night filled the room, and every thought encouraged his body to remember what he’d done while she was under him. Every thought encouraged the part of his nature he tried so hard to keep leashed to wake up again, play again, dance with her again.

After a long silence, Jaenelle said, “Say it.”

“When I touched you, when I realized where we were and that I was aroused because it was you, I had one thought: This was my room, my bed, and you were . . . mine. And no one was going to stop me from having you. Nothing was going to stop me from satisfying every need.”

He reached for the coffee cup, then reconsidered and took another bite of omelet.

“Once I knew it was you,” he said softly,“all the things I had hated for so many years were the things I now wanted. I wanted your scent on my sheets. I wanted to lay in this bed on other nights and remember having you.”

When she didn’t comment, he poked at the food, eating to have something to do.

Finally she said with dry amusement,“You were pretty single-minded last night. Mine, mine, mine. I guess this really did jab at the possessive side of your nature, didn’t it?”

He huffed out a laugh. “I guess it did.”

She pinched a bit of the shift between thumb and forefinger. “As for this, I’m sorry it brought back bad memories. I’ll—”

“Wear it again? Please?”

She looked wary.

He touched her hand briefly, the first contact he’d made since he’d walked back into the room. “Bad timing. If I’d seen you in those clothes in your bedroom or here on any other night . . . Well, I can’t say the outcome would have been different, but the reasons I reacted to the clothes would have been.”

Which made him wonder about something that hadn’t occurred to him last night. “Why were you wearing that?”

She blushed. Shrugged. Fiddled with the coffee cup.

He waited, a patient predator.

“I was reading a story and when the woman wore something like this, the man . . .” Another shrug. More fiddling.

He tried to remember what she’d been reading lately, but couldn’t recall a title. “Maybe I should read that book to get a few ideas.”

“You don’t need any ideas.”

He was pretty sure that was a compliment.

Since he was feeling easier and the food was there in front of him, he ate some more.

“Will you wear it again?”

“To spend the night in this room or the other bedroom?” Jaenelle asked softly.

“Both,” he answered, just as softly.

A slow, mischievous smile. “Instead of negotiating about which bed to use, maybe we should just flip a coin to see who gets to be on top.”

Last night he’d dominated, possessed, kept her under his body and under his control. Now he had a sudden image of her riding him, her body a teasing shadow covered by the shift, her legs sheathed in those sheer white stockings, his fingers moving up her legs to the damp skin above the stockings, moving up to the wet heat that sheathed him.

That image stayed in his mind, but the tone changed, becoming a dark, spicy thrill when she realized she wasn’t the one in control, that he was still . . .

He jerked back, snarling, as fingers snapped in front of his face.

Jaenelle stared at him. “I don’t know where your brain went just now, but, Mother Night, Daemon, judging by the way your eyes glazed, we don’t have time for whatever you were thinking.”

They had all the time they wanted. Who would dare interrupt them?

“I’m going to Dharo today, remember?”

Leave? She was going to leave?

“Daemon. You have a guest, remember?”

Theran. Stranger. Male. Rival.


Her hand clamped over his wrist. Physically, he could break the hold without effort. But her touch, her will, was the only chain strong enough to keep him leashed.

He shifted on the bed, trying to find a comfortable position, trying not to snarl at her for denying him the right to eliminate a rival.

Anne Bishop Books | Science Fiction Books | The Black Jewels Series Books