“But he doesn’t know about gardens,” Gray protested. “He told me that when he was in Dena Nehele.”
“He has a wife who knows about gardens,” Saetan replied. “A wife who will remember exactly what seeds she gave her daughter. But you send your request to Lord Burle whether he knows about gardens or not.”
Gray nodded. “Because a male doesn’t interact directly with a Lady unless he’s been formally introduced, especially when he knows a male who is connected to the Lady.”
“You’ve studied your Protocol,” Saetan said, his voice warm with approval.
“Yes, sir. Cassie is helping me.”
I don’t know him, Theran thought, feeling a pang of loss as he watched Gray. I don’t know this man who is sitting there chatting with the High Lord of Hell as if he did it every week.
“Add your note to the next batch of reports that are sent to me,” Daemon said. “I’ll see that it gets to Lord Burle in Dharo.”
Gray smiled. “Thank you. I’ll write it tomorrow.”
Theran cast about for something to say, but he wasn’t comfortable around those men, didn’t want to share anything with them that he didn’t have to share.
“I have scars,” Gray said quietly, his eyes fixed on the carpet between his feet.
Another of those strange silences, as if Saetan, Daemon, and Lucivar were hearing more than words.
“Has Cassie seen them?” Saetan asked gently.
“Some of them,” Gray mumbled.
“Do any of them interfere with your ability to have sex?”
Gray blushed and shook his head.
“Well, then . . .”
“I have scars.”
The pain in those words ripped at Theran’s heart.
Another beat of silence.
“If you kiss a girl the right way, she won’t notice the scars,” Daemon said.
“The right way?” Gray slowly lifted his head. “There’s a right way?”
Gray stared at Lucivar, and there was a hint of challenge in his voice. “You didn’t tell me there was a right way.”
“You’re in the first stage of courtship,” Lucivar said. “Beginner kisses. As long as you don’t drool on the girl or chew her face, you’re doing fine.”
Saetan and Daemon made pained sounds.
“What?” Lucivar said. “Let him figure it out for himself. He’s not kissing her below the neck—or he shouldn’t be.”
“I’m not,” Gray said hotly. “But—”
“We’ll discuss technique later,” Daemon said quietly.
Gray swallowed whatever he’d been about to say and sat back.
“Oh, the joy of dealing with young men,” Saetan said dryly as he looked toward the sitting room door. “Thank the Darkness, I think the Ladies are returning.”
Theran rose to his feet with the rest of the men, feeling awkward, exposed. Gray had been the one dumping intimate worries in front of men he barely knew, but Theran felt as if he had been stripped naked as well.
Then Cassidy walked into the room between Jaenelle and Marian—and Gray gasped and rushed over to her, knocking Theran out of the way.
Gray clamped his hands on either side of Cassidy’s face, his expression horrified.
“What happened to her face?” His voice began rising to that desperate keening. “Where is her face?”
“Gray,” Cassidy said, “what’s wrong?”
“WHERE IS HER FACE?”
Saetan and Daemon grabbed Gray’s wrists, trying to pull his hands away from Cassidy’s face.
Theran leaped toward them, wanting to stop them before Gray got hurt, but Lucivar grabbed his arm and yanked him back.
“Easy, Gray,” Daemon said.
“WHERE IS HER FACE?”
Saetan snapped out a sentence that sounded like a command. Theran didn’t recognize the language Saetan spoke, but the tone was sharp, commanding, and angry—and Jaenelle jerked back as if she’d been slapped.
A moment later, Gray’s keening changed to gasping sobs as he smiled and said, “There it is. There’s her face.”
“Gray,” Saetan said. “Come with me now. We need to talk.”
Seeing naked fear on Gray’s face, Theran tried to shake off Lucivar’s hold on his arm—and almost got yanked off his feet.
Green eyes stared into gold. Gray’s hands relaxed and were gently drawn away from Cassidy’s face.
“Come with me,” Saetan said, still holding one of Gray’s wrists while wrapping his other arm around Gray’s shoulders. “We won’t leave the room. We’ll just go over there so we can talk for a minute.”
At first there was that audible hitch in Gray’s breathing, the prelude to one of his bouts of mindless terror. Then the breathing evened out. Looking beaten, he let Saetan lead him to another part of the room.
This time when Theran tried to shake Lucivar off, the Eyrien let him go. Sadi was between him and where the High Lord was talking to Gray, and he wasn’t foolish enough to think Daemon would let him interfere with the discussion.
“It was just an illusion spell,” Cassidy said, sounding shaken. “To hide the freckles.”
He hadn’t noticed, hadn’t seen anything different about her. The room wasn’t brightly lit. How in the name of Hell had Gray seen the difference halfway across the room?
“I’m sorry,” Jaenelle said, looking at Daemon. “It never occurred to me that it would upset him.”
“Not your fault,” Daemon replied. “But I think Gray does better with changes when he has plenty of warning.”
The movements looked casual, as if they were drifting from one position in the room to another without any real reason, but when they stopped, Daemon and Lucivar were flanking the women. Theran had the impression that no matter what they personally thought about what had just happened, they would support and defend their wives—and Cassidy.
Gray looked anxious and uncertain when he and Saetan rejoined their tense little group, and he stared at Cassidy’s face for so long all three women squirmed.
“Now,” Saetan said, his voice a velvet-coated whip.
Theran felt his shoulders tighten in response to that sound. This was a voice that allowed no challenge, no discussion, no defiance.
“Every relationship requires compromises,” Saetan said. “So those compromises are going to be established here and now.”