“Too early,” Gray said, sounding distant and distracted. And sad. “Won’t know for a while yet if anything will want to grow.”

You didn’t sound this discouraged when you found the things. And what does “if anything will want to grow” mean?

“Something wrong?” Theran asked. “Are you worried about going to the Keep for dinner tonight?”

Why wouldn’t Gray be worried? He was worried. They wouldn’t be dealing with either the High Lord or Yaslana or Sadi; they’d be dealing with all three. As far as he was concerned, those were three good reasons for having nightmares.

At least this dinner had been the leverage he’d needed to stop Cassidy from going into town for the outdoor concert. She’d been disappointed—and unhappy with him—but she had accepted his “request” that she remain at the estate and not take risks.

The Darkness only knew what sort of excuse he could find the next time she wanted to expose herself to the Dena Nehele people.

“Cassie doesn’t want to plant the seeds she brought from Dharo,” Gray said quietly, keeping his eyes fixed on the pot in front of him. “When I asked her this morning why she hadn’t picked out a spot in the garden for them, she said maybe it would be a mistake to plant them, that maybe things that aren’t from Dena Nehele shouldn’t be trying to put down roots here.”

“Makes sense,” Theran said. “We don’t want our own plants pushed out because something else was brought into our land.”

“She wasn’t talking about the plants,” Gray said. “Not really.” He sighed and looked at Theran. “I love you, Theran, and I am grateful for the way you’ve taken care of me these past years.”

“There’s nothing to be grateful for,” Theran grumbled. “We’re family.” And you wouldn’t have needed that care if you hadn’t been protecting me.

“When Cassie goes back to Dharo, I’m going with her.”

The words shocked him. Chilled him. Showed him a potential loss that wasn’t about a physical distance separating them.

“Gray,” he breathed. “Gray, this is your home. Here. In Dena Nehele.”

“She doesn’t think there’s anything here for her. She doesn’t think she can put down roots and make a life.”

“You’re talking about going to Dharo,” Theran argued. “About going to Kaeleer.”

Gray nodded. “I’ve been thinking about it all morning, after she said that about not putting down roots.” He shifted so he was sitting on the flagstones. “If Cassie doesn’t belong here because her bloodlines began in a different place, do we belong here,Theran?”

“What?”

“I guess you belong here because you have the Grayhaven bloodline, but I’m wondering about me.”

“Hell’s fire, Gray. Do I need to show you a map and point out the village where you were born? A village that’s in Dena Nehele?”

“I didn’t begin there,” Gray said. “I can trace my bloodline to Thera and Blaed on my mother’s side.”

“So can I,” Theran snapped. “Our mothers were sisters, remember?”

“Thera and Blaed came over the Tamanara Mountains with Lia and settled in Dena Nehele.”

“To serve Lia.”

“They put down roots, made a life for themselves here, but they didn’t come from Dena Nehele. Neither did Jared. He came from Shalador. And his people, the ones who came over the mountains to escape the destruction of their Territory . . . Did enough Shalador blood get spilled defending Dena Nehele to entitle the survivors to put down roots?”

“Gray . . .” The thought staggered him—and made him wonder how Ranon would respond to that question.

“I’ll be going with her,” Gray said. “If she’ll have me.”

He’d never heard his cousin talk like this. “What would you do in Dharo?”

Gray shrugged. “I’ll find work. Maybe I could work for Cassie’s father.”

A Purple Dusk Warlord Prince working for a Warlord who wore Tiger Eye? What was Gray thinking?

If he was thinking.

If any part of this was actually Gray’s idea.

Was Cassidy using Gray as a pawn in some kind of game? Wouldn’t be the first time a Queen had used one man in order to chain another.

“Well,” Theran said, rising, “there’s plenty of time to think about all this. Right now, we both need to get cleaned up and properly dressed. For Cassidy’s sake, we want to make a good impression.”

Gray’s eyes flashed with temper, turning a familiar face into a stranger’s. Then the temper faded, and the man looking at him was more like the boy Theran had known during these ten years since Talon rescued Gray.

“Yes,” Gray said, “we want to make a good impression.”

Ebon ASKAVI

Settling on the arm of the sofa, Saetan crossed his arms as he studied his daughter.

“I’m not sure what you’re looking for, witch-child,” he said. He’d listened to Jaenelle’s account of Daemon’s return from the visit to Lady Rhea’s country house, and he heard the concern in her voice. Since he’d already heard Daemon’s report about the incident, he didn’t understand why she was concerned.

“I wasn’t hurt, and Daemon wasn’t hurt,” Jaenelle said. “Don’t you think his . . . punishment . . . is a bit harsh?”

“On the contrary, I think it showed a remarkable amount of self-control.” Maybe too much self-control.

She frowned at him, and he suppressed a sigh of annoyance.

“What do you want me to say?” Saetan asked. “Do I think Daemon is entitled to his fury? I certainly do. Do I think his punishment was just? I’ve already said so. In fact, his solution probably will do nothing more than buy a little time for him to confirm what he already suspects about Rhea’s friend. I doubt she’ll live all that much longer. If Daemon doesn’t kill her, another Warlord Prince will.”

“I understand that he’s uneasy about another woman being so attracted to him that she acts foolishly, but—”

“Take off the blinders, Jaenelle,” Saetan snapped. “You’re being obtuse about this because it’s you and Daemon, and because of how he responded last spring when that witch tried to eliminate you in order to have him. But if Lucivar had found another woman in his bed, trying to play this particular game, and had shrugged the incident off instead of doing something about her, you would have pinned him to a wall, either as his Queen—”

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