Settling into a chair, Saetan put his goblet on the tray, picked up the envelope, and called in his half-moon glasses. “So let’s see what has Cassidy so riled up she wasn’t willing to wait to send this with her regular report.”

Talon almost choked as he swallowed a mouthful of yarbarah. “It’s addressed to Prince Sadi.”

Saetan broke the seal and removed the sheets of paper. “Prince Sadi gave me the authority to open any messages from Dena Nehele that I felt needed to be considered immediately. I think something marked ‘urgent’ qualifies as such a message, don’t you?”

“Look,” Talon said, setting his glass aside. “I don’t know what Cassidy and Theran wrangled about today or why it got her so riled, but they seem to butt heads more often than not.”

“Which is not good for Queen or court,” Saetan said mildly as he read the first page and went on to the second. “But we both know Theran wasn’t chosen to be First Escort because he was qualified for the position.”

Talon felt his jaw drop.

Saetan finished reading the second page. He glanced at Talon as he vanished the papers and envelope. “Oh, don’t look so surprised. Theran had decided he didn’t like her before they left the Keep to go to Dena Nehele, and by now Cassie’s dislike for him is probably just as strong.”

“He’s . . . disappointed.”

“I don’t give a damn about his disappointment,” Saetan snarled. “If he can’t honor the Queen he chose to serve and do his duties, he should ask to be released from the contract.”

“There’s only the twelve of us,” Talon protested. “If any man steps aside, we lose the court!”

“Then maybe you should explain to your boy that he should help build the court instead of trying to break it.”

“What did she say about him in that letter?”


Talon sat back, feeling as if he’d been kicked in the chest.

“She said nothing about him,” Saetan said. “If you hadn’t mentioned Theran, I wouldn’t have known he was involved.”

“But I was told they’d had words today, and after that, she wrote that letter. I thought—”

“No, Talon. You haven’t thought.”

There was an angry heat in Saetan’s eyes, but it was the ice in his voice that made Talon sit very still.

“So I’ll give you something to think about,” Saetan said too softly. “Your boy doesn’t like the Queen he accepted, and whether you agree with him or not, you’ve let him set the tone. You’ve let his disrespect set the flavor of the court. You’ve seen enough to know better, but you’re letting it happen.”

“I’m not letting anything—”

“You’re the Master of the Guard. Stand up for your Queen. Even if it means standing against Theran.”

Talon said nothing. What could he say?

“Do you want to know who would have liked Cassidy?” Saetan asked. “Jared would have liked her. Thera would have liked her. Lia would have understood her. I can’t say how Blaed would have responded, since he never made it to the Dark Realm.”

“You saw them?” Talon whispered.

“I saw them, briefly, and got a feel for the kind of people they were. Lia stayed the longest because she waited for Jared. Once he arrived, they had a little time together. Then their power faded and they became a whisper in the Darkness. Thera’s power was almost burned out by the time she made the transition to demon-dead, so she didn’t stay in the Dark Realm for long.”

“My wife?”

A hesitation.

“There are some things that are said at the end that would never be said otherwise,” Saetan said softly, “and I don’t break the confidences of the dead. But I can tell you this. She loved you,Talon, and she understood why you felt you had to stay. She hoped you understood why she couldn’t.”

Talon closed his eyes and nodded.

“Tell Cassie it will take a couple of days, but we’ll take care of her request.”

There was nothing in the High Lord’s tone that invited him to ask about the request, so he didn’t. He just thanked the man for his time and gladly followed the servant who responded to the High Lord’s summons and escorted him to one of the landing webs.

He didn’t feel easy until he was riding the Sapphire Winds and heading home.

Jared would have liked her. Thera would have liked her. Lia would have understood her.

Yes, he had a lot to think about.

Saetan walked into a sitting room similar to the one he’d left at the Keep in Terreille, but this one held a golden-haired treasure.

“Before we were interrupted, I believe you were going to tell me why you’re spending a few days with me here,” he said as he settled on the sofa next to Jaenelle.

“Because my moontime was supposed to start this evening, and Daemon politely requested that I spend the three days when I’m vulnerable here instead of remaining at the Hall.”

“With him.”

“With him.” She looked tired and sad.

“Was he right? Did it start?”

She gave him a sour look. “You know it did.”

Of course he knew. He smelled the change in her scent the moment he walked in the room.

“Give him time, witch-child. He’s running scared. He loves you with everything that’s in him—and he’s just beginning to understand that it really is everything that’s in him.”

“I miss him.”

Saetan drew her closer and put an arm around her shoulders. “Not half as much as he’s missing you. And right about now, he’s wondering why he’d been such a fool as to ask you to come here.”

“How do you know?”

“Because he’s a mirror.” He kissed her head. “So tomorrow when he shows up, don’t tell him he looks like he hasn’t slept, because he hasn’t slept. And don’t bristle over whatever paltry excuse he makes about you needing a nap. Just tuck in with him so he can get some sleep—and let him heal his wounds in his own way.”

Those sapphire eyes looked at him, looked through him.

“Will he heal, Papa?”

“In order to be with you, Daemon needs to heal. So he’ll heal,” Saetan replied.

They sat quietly for a couple of minutes. Then Jaenelle said, “So why were you called to the Keep in Terreille?”

“For this.” He called in Cassidy’s note and handed the pages to her.

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