“Most, Cassidy. But some will see who you are as a woman, and in time the others will appreciate who you are as a Queen. You can do this. I wouldn’t be here if I had any doubts about that.” Jaenelle patted her hand and sat back. “You’ll have a few days to think about it.”
Living in a strange Territory. In a different Realm. In Terreille. People didn’t go to Terreille. They ran from Terreille.
But she could make a difference to these people. She could help them remember who they were, help them rebuild.
“How long would I be gone?” Cassidy asked. Would she ever see her family again? Could she go home to visit, to reassure her parents that she was all right?
“There would have to be terms, conditions,” Aaron said as he continued to pace. “We are not letting her go to that damn Realm without some assurances.”
“Who is ‘we’?” Cassidy asked, bristling. “No one makes decisions about my life except me.”
“Think again,” Aaron snapped.
Cassidy blinked. “You’re a distant cousin!”
*Don’t yank that leash,* Jaenelle warned on a distaff thread.
*When it comes to family,Warlord Princes are only as distant as they choose to be. He’s already angry about your former court and didn’t trust himself to come here on his own.*
Cassidy glanced at Aaron, then fixed her eyes on the carpet between her feet. She’d been curious when she’d received Aaron’s note, requesting a visit at a specific day and time, but she’d thought he was going to give her a pat on the shoulder and a little sympathy about losing the court. Then, when Jaenelle showed up with him and began telling her about Dena Nehele, she hadn’t been sure what to think about the visit. But it hadn’t occurred to her that Aaron, who really was a distant cousin, would be angry enough to come to Dharo with the intention of going after the males from her former First Circle.
*You weren’t aware that Aaron has already had a “discussion” with Sabrina about your court breaking for the reasons it did?* Jaenelle asked.
*No.* Thank the Darkness. *What kind of discussion?*
*The kind that ended with them yelling at each other.*
Aaron had yelled at the Queen of Dharo—who was a member of Jaenelle’s coven and a longtime friend of his—because of her? Mother Night.
“I believe Daemon has already drafted a list of terms,” Jaenelle said. “And the High Lord is reviewing it.”
Aaron finally stopped pacing. “Daemon wrote the terms? The males will have to answer to him?”
Jaenelle nodded. “Or the High Lord. Or both.”
Aaron sat in a chair, all his tension and temper gone. Cassidy, however, felt a lot more nervous. Knowing two Black-Jeweled Warlord Princes—the two most powerful males in the entire history of the Blood—were taking an interest in her life wasn’t a pleasant feeling.
She looked up in time to see Jaenelle’s lips twitch in a knowing smile.
Of course, long-distance interest would be easier than living in the same house with either man.
“I’d like to see a copy of those terms,” Cassidy said.
“I’ll arrange for that,” Jaenelle replied. Then she slanted a look at Aaron. “And I’m sure your father—and the other males in your family—will want an opportunity to voice their opinions.”
“Couldn’t we skip that part?” Cassidy asked.
“Not a chance,” Jaenelle said cheerfully. She stood up. “Well. You have plenty to think about. If you decide to accept the challenge, come to the Keep a week from today.”
Cassidy rose to see them out. “Who else have you asked to consider this?”
Jaenelle just looked at her—and Cassidy felt a shiver run down her spine.
“I do not idly weave a tangled web of dreams and visions, Lady Cassidy,” Jaenelle said with a hint of midnight and lightning in her voice. “Within the next year, Dena Nehele will begin to heal or it will break beyond all saving. You’re my choice to stand as their Queen. Whether you will be their choice . . . That is up to them. Whether you go . . . That is up to you.”
She was Witch’s choice. Because of a web of dreams and visions. How could she not try?
“In that case, Lady,” Cassidy said, “I’ll see you in seven days.”
*Theran? Theran! Wait! These are good smells!*
Theran hunched his shoulders and walked faster. When he was ten years old, he’d spent a week sulking and pining because Talon wouldn’t let him have a dog. Why in the name of Hell had he ever wanted one of the damn things?
And how was he supposed to shake free of this one? Maybe, once he was in the village, she’d get distracted by another of those damn smells and he could slip away, and she’d lose the trail, the scent, whatever. Maybe she’d latch on to some other unsuspecting man.
Of course, there would be the little problem of going back to the Hall without her, but she’d find her way home, wouldn’t she? Eventually?
When he got home, he was going to apologize to Talon for being such a whiny little prick about not having a pet. Sure, that was seventeen years ago and something Talon had shrugged off, but the man had raised him and now with the wisdom of maturity—and less than an hour’s worth of actual experience—he knew Talon’s decision had been the correct one.
He caught sight of the village of Halaway and forgot about the dog.
The road was the main street of a small, prosperous-looking village. Confident that he would go undetected at the depth of his Green Jewel, he sent out psychic tendrils to get a feel for the place. For a moment, he thought he detected a ripple of power under the strength of the Green, but it was gone before he could be certain.
The village smelled clean. There was no underlying psychic odor of fear that was typical in Dena Nehele’s villages. These people were practically on the doorstep of SaDiablo Hall, but they weren’t afraid of the power that lived there.
He wanted this for his own people, he thought as he strolled down the sidewalk, glancing into shop windows. He wanted this for the town of Grayhaven. He watched how the people moved, noticed the lack of wariness and tension when men and women passed one another on the sidewalks.
Then a door opened a couple of shops up. The woman who was leaving said,“Yes, I’ll watch for that” to someone in the shop and didn’t notice him until she stepped right in front of him.
He didn’t particularly like the gold eyes that were typical of the long-lived races, but she would have been an attractive woman if she hadn’t cropped her black hair so damn short. What was it about the women here that they tried to look unappealing? Sure, men served and women ruled the bed, but at least back home the women knew that arousing a man was the first step to their own pleasure.