“What do you mean, you’re getting your own place?” Burle said. “What for?”
“I’m thirty-one years old, Poppi. A grown woman doesn’t live with her parents.”
He stopped so fast he pulled her off-balance. “Why not? What can you do in your own place that you can’t do—?” His face flushed as he came to an obvious—and incorrect—conclusion about what a woman wouldn’t want to do in her parents’ house.
“Well now,” he muttered, lengthening his stride and pulling her with him. “We’ll just see what your mother has to say about that. We’ll just see.”
She already knew what Devra would say, but this wasn’t the time to tell her father he was outnumbered.
“Yes, Poppi,” she said fondly. “We’ll just see.”
“Why am I doing this?”
Saetan Daemon SaDiablo, the former Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, glanced at Daemon Sadi, the current Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, and swallowed the urge to laugh. That tone of voice was more suited to a surly adolescent than a strong adult male in his prime, and being Hayllian, one of the long-lived races, Daemon had left adolescence behind several centuries ago.
But he’d noticed that there were times when Daemon and his brother, Lucivar Yaslana, set adulthood—and a good portion of their brains—aside and were just . . . boys. They seemed to test the emotional waters of adolescence when they were alone with him. Maybe it was because he’d been denied the privilege of raising them and the three of them hadn’t gone through the pissing contests they would have all endured if they’d lived with him. Maybe it was because they’d had to grow up too hard and too fast in order to survive the vicious slavery that had been used to control them. At least, that had attempted to control them. The slavery, the pain, the fear, and the cruelty had turned two young men, two Warlord Princes who were natural predators, into lethally honed weapons.
They were intelligent and vicious. Loyal and loving. Powerful and independent. Fiercely protective of those they loved to a sometimes annoying degree.
They were his sons, and he loved them both. But the one standing at the other end of the table, looking at him through long black eyelashes, was his mirror, his true heir. And since he was, among other things, the High Lord of Hell, the fact that Daemon was a mirror was something he never forgot.
“Why am I doing this?” Daemon asked again.
“Because when you arrived at the Keep in Kaeleer and discovered I was here at the Keep in Terreille, you came through the Gate to this Realm in order to ask me something about the family estates. And when you saw me sorting reams of old papers, you asked if there was anything you could do to help.”
“That was a polite offer, not a sincere one,” Daemon grumbled.
“I know,” Saetan replied dryly. “But I chose to take the words at face value.”
Daemon snarled softly and went back to sorting papers.
Saetan hid a smile and concentrated on clearing out the stacks of papers at his end of the table.
“What are you planning to do with this?” Daemon asked several minutes later. “Bring it back to the Keep in Kaeleer?”
“Why in the name of Hell would I do that?”
“Marian says shredded parchment makes a good mulch for flower beds.”
Marian was Lucivar’s wife, a lovely woman and a talented hearth witch whose gentler nature balanced her husband’s volatile one. But there were times, Saetan felt, when hearth-Craft practicality needed to be put aside for a more direct and simple solution.
“I’m planning to haul this out to one of the stone courtyards, put a shield around it to keep it contained, blast it with witchfire, and transform several wagonloads of useless paper into a barrel of ash.”
“If you asked Marian to help, you’d get this done a lot faster. I bet she knows several ‘tidy-up’ spells,” Daemon said. Then he paused. Considered. “Well, maybe you wouldn’t get it done faster, but Marian would be thorough.”
Damn the boy for knowing just where to apply the needle in order to prick and annoy.
He wasn’t trying to clean the place; he was trying to eliminate reams of history so old it was no longer of any use to anyone—including the long-lived races.
Well, two could play the needle game. “If I wanted things to get interesting, I could ask Jaenelle to help.”
Daemon looked at the parchment in his hand, tipped it a little closer to the ball of witchlight hovering over the table so he could read the faded script . . . and paled.
Saetan had no idea what was written on that parchment, but clearly the thought of Jaenelle Angelline, the former Queen of Ebon Askavi and now Daemon’s darling wife, having that information was sufficient to scare a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince.
Daemon put the paper on the discard pile and quietly cleared his throat. “I think the two of us can take care of this without mentioning it to the Ladies.”
“A wise decision.” And the same conclusion he’d come to when he’d decided to clear out some of this stuff.
They worked for another hour. Then Saetan said, “That’s all that can be done today.”
Daemon looked around. They’d thrown the discarded papers into a large crate, but the table and surrounding floor were still strewn with stacks that hadn’t been touched.
“It’s midday, Prince,” Saetan said.
Daemon nodded. “I hadn’t realized it had gotten so late.”
The hours between sunset and sunrise were the part of the day that belonged to the demon-dead—and Guardians, the ones like Saetan who were the living dead, who straddled a line that extended their lifetimes beyond counting. During the years when Jaenelle had lived with him as his adopted daughter, his habits had changed and his waking hours had extended through the morning so that he would be available to the living. But even here at the Keep, the Sanctuary of Witch, he needed to rest when the sun was at its strongest.
“Let’s go back to the Keep in Kaeleer,” Saetan said. “We’ll wash up, have something to eat before I retire, and you can ask me about whatever you’d originally come here to ask.”
The library door opened before they reached it. A Warlord who served the Keep in Terreille nodded to them and said, “High Lord, a Warlord Prince has arrived.”
“His name?” Saetan asked.
“He wouldn’t offer it,” the Warlord replied. “And he wouldn’t say which Territory he’s from. He says he’s looking for someone, and he insists on talking to ‘someone in authority.’ ”