He lifted the cover off the last dish, raising an eyebrow at the puff of cold air that was released.
Two bowls filled with . . .
Daemon picked one up, gave it a thoughtful study, then picked up a spoon. Since it wasn’t anything he’d seen before, tasting it was the only way to figure out what it was.
He took a spoonful, then closed his eyes as the flavors melted on his tongue.
A sweetened cheese whipped into lightness. Little chunks of chocolate. Veins of raspberry sauce.
He opened his eyes and licked his lips. Then he studied the table once more. There were two bowls of the stuff, so one of them must be for him. What difference did it make if he ate it before the rest of the meal or after?
Pleased with the rationalization—in case one was needed—he dug in.
Whom was he going to have to bribe to get the recipe? And if he did get it, would he keep it to make himself, or would he offer to share it with Mrs. Beale, the large, rather terrifying witch who was his cook at SaDiablo Hall? Sharing a recipe like this might be a fair trade for her tolerating his putting in a small, additional kitchen for his personal use. So far the only reasons Mrs. Beale hadn’t declared outright war on this affront to her domestic territory were (1) he owned the Hall; (2) his Black Jewels outranked her Yellow Jewels by a considerable degree; and (3) technically, she worked for him.
None of which meant a damn thing to Mrs. Beale unless it was convenient for her to remember them.
And in a way, having Mrs. Beale challenge his authority and power was convenient for him too. Now that he was ruling the Territory of Dhemlan, he understood why Saetan had been so passive within his own home and allowed himself to be dominated at times by the people who worked for him.
The people in Dhemlan—or more accurately the Queens and their courts, who were the ones who had to answer to him directly—feared him. They had reason to fear him. The Black Jewels were a reservoir for the power that lived within him, a warning of the depth and potency of strength that could be turned against anyone he considered an enemy. But at home . . .
He’d been in places where everyone lived in constant, debilitating fear. He didn’t want to live in a place like that. He didn’t want to be the cause of that. Not in his home. Not with the people who worked for him.
And especially not with Jaenelle, the woman who was his life.
So he appreciated the game he played with Mrs. Beale, although, admittedly, she was a damn scary woman and his fear of her was not altogether feigned.
Rather like his father, come to think of it.
Lucivar was right. There was something cleansing—not to mention fun—about being able to throw yourself against a strong personality just to see what would happen, and to know you would come to no harm by doing it. It was a relief to be a son, to really be a son of a father who drew a firm line about some things and wouldn’t bend but who also had a fine understanding of when to be indulgent—or look the other way altogether.
A father who truly understood him.
He was just scraping the last of the treat out of the second bowl when that father thundered into the room.
Mother Night, Daemon thought, hastily vanishing both bowls.
“If you truly owe a favor to that little prick’s family, then we will pay the debt and be rid of him,” Saetan snarled. “Or I can send him to the bowels of Hell here and now.”
“The ill-mannered Warlord Prince who came to the Keep looking for someone? He’s looking for you. He says you owe his family a favor.”
Ice shivered in his veins, a prelude to his unsheathing the lethal blade of his temper. “Who?” he asked too softly.
“Theran. From Dena Nehele.”
Dena Nehele. A place he wouldn’t forget.
Daemon tightened the leash on his temper. “What does he look like?”
A light brush against the first of his inner barriers. When he opened that first level of his mind to his father, he saw the man. The same green eyes. The same sun-kissed skin. The same dark hair.
“Jared,” Daemon whispered.
Saetan shook his head. “He said his name was Theran.”
“The man I knew. Jared. This one has the look of him.”
He could feel Saetan reevaluating, making an effort to rein in his own formidable temper. “Do you owe them a favor?”
Jared had left a written account of his journey with Lia while being pursued by Dorothea’s Master of the Guard. Within that account, which Jared had left at the Keep for Daemon, Jaenelle had found the answer to cleansing the taint from the Blood without destroying all of the Blood.
So, in a way, he did owe Jared. Whether he owed anything to Jared’s bloodline . . .
“I liked Jared,” Daemon said. “He was a good man. So for his sake, I would be willing to talk to this Prince Theran and find out what he wants.” He paused and considered. “But not here. I’d like Jaenelle to meet him.”
“Because I would trust her instincts about him better than I’d trust mine.”
Saetan considered that and nodded. “Then we’ll arrange to have him brought to the Hall. How soon do you want me to discover your whereabouts?”
Daemon huffed out a laugh. “Since you’re my father, you’d know where to find me.”
“Oh, he doesn’t know I’m your father. As far as Prince Theran is concerned, I’m just the assistant historian/librarian. Just a ‘pissy old cock.’ ” Saetan’s smile turned feral and sharp. “The boy doesn’t shield his thoughts as well as he should.”
Oh, shit. “Arrange to have him arrive at the Hall late this afternoon.”
“Done.” As if trying to shake off the mood—and the temper—Saetan looked at the table and raised an eyebrow. “I see you enjoyed the sweet-cheese confection.”
Damn. He must not have vanished the bowls fast enough.
“Even so,” Saetan continued, “you should eat some of the beef and vegetables.”
An undercurrent of amusement. A fatherly kind of amusement.
Feeling like a boy wasn’t as much fun when he didn’t choose to feel like a boy. And feeling like an erring son was downright uncomfortable. “I just meant to taste it.”
“Hmm.” Saetan pulled out a chair and sat down. He took a spoonful of vegetable casserole and a slice of roast beef, and warmed his customary goblet of yarbarah, the blood wine that was all the sustenance the demon-dead—and Guardians—needed.