CHAPTER 19

Ebon ASKAVI

Lucivar walked into the sitting room at the Keep and wasn’t surprised to find Daemon there as well as Saetan. His brother’s presence wasn’t a lack of confidence in his ability to handle himself in a potentially hostile place; it was a need for firsthand assurance that he had returned home safely.

Or maybe it was Daemon’s way of letting him see that the emotional fragility had passed—or, at least, had mended enough not to be the first thing he sensed about his brother. In fact, he’d say Daemon had the contented feel of a man who had been well stroked last night—a condition he hoped to find himself in tonight if he and Marian had enough energy left after they put the little beast to bed.

There was food on the table, so he filled a plate, accepted the coffee Daemon poured for him, and said, “Young Warlord Princes are a pain in the ass.”

His father, the coldhearted bastard, laughed.

“I could have told you that,” Saetan said.

“Did Theran give you trouble?” Daemon asked.

“Not Theran. Gray.” Seeing the same narrowing of their gold eyes, Lucivar nodded. “Yeah. The one who didn’t leave boyhood behind after he was tortured. He’s making up for it now.”

“In what way?” Saetan asked.

“He staked a claim on the Queen.”

“What?”

Two voices. The same disbelief swiftly followed by thoughtful consideration. He could have used some of that thoughtful consideration over the past three days.

Comfortable with the silence, Lucivar ate the first relaxed meal he’d had since he walked into the Grayhaven estate and found a situation a lot more potentially explosive than he’d anticipated.

“Gray is twenty-seven?” Saetan asked.

Lucivar nodded. “He’s a couple months older than Theran.”

“This is the first time he’s caught the scent of moon’s blood?” Daemon asked.

“Apparently. Combine that with the fact that I’m pretty sure he’s falling in love with Cassidy. . . .”

Saetan sighed. “No training, no control, no one prepared for his reaction. He and Cassidy must have been alone when he caught the scent. He could have killed one of her First Circle before anyone realized he was dangerous.”

“I arrived at the same time he was bringing her back to the house. The First Circle was there, waiting for them.”

“Talk about drawing a line,” Daemon murmured.

“I drew quite a few lines while I was there,” Lucivar said. “And I convinced Gray I would hammer his c**k into the ground if he crossed any of those lines.”

“Cassidy has a court,” Saetan said.

“I know,” Lucivar replied. “Since Gray is studying the Protocol books, it wouldn’t hurt if he received a note calling his attention to the parts that deal with the proper way for a Warlord Prince to stake a claim and what is considered acceptable behavior.”

“I can do that,” Saetan said.

“Getting a note from the High Lord should impress him enough to take the studying seriously,” Lucivar said.

“Killing his rivals isn’t acceptable because it can destroy an entire community, but it isn’t unexpected behavior,” Daemon said. “If Gray is that aroused and attracted to Cassidy, maintaining self-control is going to be difficult if he’s pushed in any way.”

“I divided her,” Lucivar said. “Gray is courting Cassidy the woman. The First Circle serves Cassidy the Queen. Steward, Master of the Guard, and First Escort form the triangle around the Queen and always have access to her. The fact that two out of three are family made it easier. The only other male Gray could accept being around Cassidy in an informal way was a Warlord Prince of Shalador descent.”

“Why him?” Daemon asked.

Lucivar smiled. “Because he’s in love with the court’s Healer and isn’t interested in warming anyone else’s bed.”

“Ah.”

Lucivar set his empty plate on the table. “Maybe it would be a good idea to invite Cassidy to the Keep for dinner sometime soon, along with Theran and Gray.”

Saetan raised an eyebrow. “Theran because he’s her First Escort, and Gray because . . . ?”

“Because I think Gray would benefit in seeing how he should conduct himself. And I’m guessing right now he has questions he doesn’t really want to ask anyone back home.”

“So this is dinner and sex primer?” Daemon asked dryly.

Well, at least Daemon understood who was going to be answering most of those questions.

“All right,” Saetan said. “I’ll extend the invitation for a week from today. Will that suit both of you?”

“I’ll check with Marian,” Lucivar said.

“I’ll be back by then,” Daemon said. “So will Jaenelle.”

Lucivar let his expression ask the question.

“Visits to a couple of Provinces,” Daemon said. “Seems my presence is required to sort out some things. Jaenelle left this morning for Dea al Mon to visit Surreal, who is feeling crowded by the amount of trees in the Territory.”

“The Dea al Mon are called the Children of the Wood,” Lucivar said. “Isn’t hard to figure their Territory would have trees.”

“Isn’t hard to figure that the Dea al Mon’s idea of a city is vastly different from Surreal’s,” Saetan said.

“She doesn’t have to stay there,” Lucivar said. “She can come back to the town house in Amdarh if she’s happier living there.”

“She’s not quite ready to leave. Apparently she and Grandmammy Teele are getting along extremely well.”

It took a minute before Lucivar remembered to breathe. Grandmammy Teele, as she was called, was the matriarch of a Dea al Mon clan and had adopted Jaenelle into her family before Saetan had formally adopted Witch. She wore the role of cranky old woman because she enjoyed it, but she was a force to be reckoned with—not to mention a very skilled Black Widow. “That’s a terrifying thought.”

Saetan’s gold eyes twinkled as he said dryly, “Isn’t it?”

TERREILLE

“Cassie.”

Cassidy sat back on her heels, looked over her shoulder, and wondered whom she was dealing with—Gray the boy, or Gray as the man he was becoming. Since she wasn’t sure, she said warily, “Yes?”

“Do you think you’ve had enough for today?”

Asking, not telling. But not a long step away from telling, and a much shorter step away from that bossy, fussy state of mind that was impossible to deal with when a Warlord Prince got stubborn.

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