“The residences are always ready. . . .” No, Daemon realized. It wasn’t about the houses. It was about him. It was about staying in a place where he wouldn’t have to be on guard all the time. It was about having servants around him that he could trust.
It was about other people—one Lady in particular—being safe around him because he felt safe.
“I should give you a raise,” Daemon said, not sure if he felt grateful or embarrassed.
“You already pay me quite well,” Beale said with a little smile as he left the room.
A few minutes later, dressed in trousers and a dressing gown, Daemon was down in his study listening to the barely coherent report of a murder. When he left the study, he found Jaenelle waiting for him in the great hall, with Beale and the footman Holt in watchful attendance.
“Have one of the Coaches brought round to the landing web,” Daemon told Beale.
“I’ll do that,” Holt said, looking at Beale.
Beale nodded. “I’ll ask Mrs. Beale to prepare something you can eat on the way.”
When the two men headed for their assigned tasks, Daemon led Jaenelle into the informal receiving room.
“Problem?” Jaenelle asked.
“The bitch who tried to play with me has been murdered,” Daemon replied.
“That didn’t take long,” she muttered.
“Apparently it’s how she died that’s causing alarm. The host’s wife has also been injured, but I don’t have a clear idea of how or how badly. I have to go there.” He could keep his pride or he could ask for what he needed. “Come with me.”
Her smile was gentle and teasing. “You want me to come as your escort and protect you from all the nasty witchlings?”
“Yes, I do.”
Her smile faded.
Did she understand what it cost him to ask?
Of course she did. She was Witch. In some ways, she knew him better than he knew himself.
She placed a hand against his cheek, a touch full of comfort. “I’ll make a bargain with you, Prince. I’ll stand as your sword and shield when you need it if you’ll do the same for me.”
He pressed a kiss into her palm. “I’ll take that bargain. Gladly.”
She stepped back. “Find out as much as you can, then ask Beale to slip that Warlord the sedative I prepared. I don’t think either of us wants to ride in a Coach with a hysterical man, and I could feel him losing control even before I came downstairs. I’ll pack some clothes and ask Jazen to pack a bag for you.”
She was about to open the door when Daemon said, “Jaenelle, they think it was me.” She didn’t turn to look at him. She froze in place, listening. “Rhea sent her man here to ask for help because everyone in that aristo Warlord’s house is more than scared. The Warlord who brought the message is afraid to say as much as he knows, but I got the impression that there’s something about the way Vulchera died that . . . They think they’re asking for help from the same man who killed her.”
“It wasn’t you,” Jaenelle said, finally turning to look at him. “May the Darkness have mercy on her, because it wasn’t you.”
She looked pale, and that confirmed his own suspicion. And the worry that went hand in hand with that suspicion.
“I’ll get packed,” she said.
He went back to his study and reviewed the information with the Warlord again but didn’t learn more than he had gleaned the first time. Leaving the man in Beale’s care, he returned to his suite and took a quick shower before getting dressed.
The sun—that lazy bastard—was just beginning to think about dawdling its way to the eastern horizon when he tucked the lightly sedated Warlord into the back of the Coach with Holt and took a seat in the driver’s compartment.
Jaenelle hovered in the doorway between the two compartments, frowning at the large urn of coffee Beale had put in the Coach, along with a variety of foods to provide them with a cold but substantial breakfast.
Daemon lifted the Coach off the landing web, then caught the Black Wind and headed for the house of the aristo Warlord and his wife.
“An urn of coffee?” Jaenelle said. “Riding on the Black, it won’t take that long to reach Rhea’s Province and that Warlord’s house. Why would Beale give us that much coffee?”
He knew better. He really did. But he tucked his tongue firmly in one cheek and said as casually as possible, “I guess he wanted to make sure I would get a cup with my breakfast.”
He felt her sapphire eyes fix on a spot between his shoulder blades, and he really wanted to twitch.
Finally she growled, “Drive the damn Coach.”
He waited until he was sure she was occupied with fixing a plate of food before he allowed himself to grin.
And he did, eventually, get a cup of coffee with his breakfast.
Standing in the hallway beside Jaenelle, Daemon looked at the bedroom and the body—and swallowed hard.
It wasn’t the blood. There had been times when he had drowned rooms in blood, so the sight of a sodden carpet and smears on the walls and furniture didn’t bother him.
And it wasn’t the body, which, from the shoulders down, looked relaxed, as if she’d fallen asleep on the floor.
It was the rage—the cold, dark, glittering rage—that made him shiver. It filled the room and yet felt elusive, wispy. As if it could be brushed aside. And there was something more in that rage, some quality to it that he knew he should recognize.
“Mother Night,” Jaenelle said softly.
“And may the Darkness be merciful,” Daemon added.
“She came upstairs early, said she was tired,” Lord Collyn, the aristo who owned the house, said. There was a bitterness in his voice, in his eyes. “She often got tired at house parties and went to bed earlier than the other guests.”
“This wasn’t her room?” Jaenelle asked.
“No,” Collyn replied. “My wife and I were the last to retire, and when we were about to go upstairs, our butler mentioned that one of our guests left in a hurry and was very upset. Having heard about what had happened at Lady Rhea’s country house”—he shot a nervous look at Daemon—“my wife went up to confirm that my ‘friend’ was in the guest room that had been assigned to her. She wasn’t, of course, so my wife came to this room . . . and found her. I don’t know what she could have been thinking. It was clear Vulchera was dead, but Rosalene touched the body. That’s how she hurt her hands.”