Red shield. Hell’s fire, Lucivar needed more than that. Knew better than to come into a potential fight with less than his strongest shield.

Then Lucivar smiled the lazy, arrogant smile that always meant trouble, and Daemon realized the Red was simply hiding the Ebony shield in the Ring of Honor Jaenelle had given Lucivar years ago when she’d been cornered into accepting him into service.

“You’ve upset your daughter,” Lucivar said in the conversational tone that he usually followed with a fist in someone’s face. “You remember her? Well, you’ve upset her enough that she skipped over being pissed off about it and went straight to the scary kind of bitchy. You remember that mood? It’s been a while since we’ve seen it.”

There was still enough of a psychic link between them that Daemon felt Saetan’s response to the emotional punch—the equivalent of a fist in the gut. And through that link came one flash of memory. One image of a large golden spider, an incredible tangled web—and one small strand of spider silk threaded with a chip of an Ebony Jewel.

Mother Night.

He tightened his own control, closed off more of his inner barriers. Now wasn’t the time to share his own memories—especially since neither he nor Saetan had missed the threat under Lucivar’s words.

Lucivar held up a stoppered bottle. “She sent me here to give you this. It’s a soothing brew. A few hours’ sleep will help you regain your balance.”

Saetan snarled.

Lucivar bared his teeth in a smile. “Now, we could tussle about this, which, personally, I think would be fun, but that would get Jaenelle mad at all of us. So I’ll just give you a choice.”

No, Lucivar, Daemon thought. Not one of your choices.

“You can drink this and get some rest—or I can let Daemonar loose in the library, unsupervised, and the only way you’ll get your grandson away from all that old paper is by going through me.”

Crackling tension—and something more.

Daemon felt Saetan recoil. Lucivar had drawn the line and would hold it with everything he had in him. And something about meeting Lucivar on a killing field was making the High Lord stumble away from that line.

Saetan sat on the table, called in a handkerchief, and blew his nose.

Cornered. Trapped.Nowhere for Saetan to turn that wouldn’t bring him up against an adversary he didn’t want to fight.

Grandson. Sons. Daughter.

Jaenelle had chosen her weapons well.

“You prick,” Saetan finally snarled. “You’d really do it.”

“Damn right I would,” Lucivar said. “If you’re going to scare the shit out of your sons, you deserve to be threatened.”

Good. Fine. Wonderful. Let’s just start a pissing contest and threaten the High Lord of Hell while he’s in the Twisted Kingdom and might not remember who we are. Damn you, Lucivar.

Except it worked. The madness-driven rage faded, replaced by exasperation and annoyed amusement—maybe because no one but Lucivar would dare piss on the High Lord’s foot.

Saetan took those last steps across the border and walked out of the Twisted Kingdom. His shoulders sagged. He looked exhausted, but he rallied enough to hold out a hand. “Give me the damn brew.”

Lucivar pulled off the stopper and handed Saetan the bottle.

Saetan gulped down the brew and handed the bottle back. “Well,” he said several moments later, “at least this brew of hers doesn’t kick like a demented draft horse.”

“Lucky for you.” Lucivar vanished the bottle and hauled Saetan to his feet. “Come on, Papa. We’ll all have a nice nap and then play round-robin snarling.”

Daemon rolled his eyes and tucked a hand under Saetan’s other elbow. Whatever was in that brew was hitting the High Lord hard and fast. They didn’t bother trying to get him to his bedroom. The room they were in had a sofa long enough to accommodate a grown man, so they stripped off Saetan’s tunic jacket and his shoes and settled him on the sofa, tucking blankets around him.

Barely awake, Saetan struggled to focus on them. “Lucivar . . .”

Lucivar grinned. “Nah. I won’t let the little beast in the library until you’re feeling frisky enough to chase him.”

“You pri—”

They watched their father sleep for a couple of minutes to be sure he really was settled.

Lucivar shook his head. “She said he’d go down fast. I’m glad she was right.”

Daemon tipped his head, an unspoken question.

*Not here,* Lucivar said on a psychic thread.

They found another sitting room nearby. One moment, they were staring at each other. The next moment, they were holding each other, shaking.

“You stupid prick,” Daemon said. “What were you thinking of, drawing a line like that?”

“Me?” Lucivar squeezed hard enough to leave Daemon breathless. “You’re the one who left yourself open to every kind of attack. Hell’s fire, Bastard. You didn’t even try to shield.”

“Couldn’t take the chance of igniting his rage.”

“I know.”

Daemon eased back enough to rest his forehead against his brother’s. “Scared me, Lucivar. Seeing him like that. Watching you draw that line. All of it. Really scared me.”

“Scared me too.” Lucivar hesitated. “You would have killed him. If it came down to that, you would have killed him.”

Daemon closed his eyes. “Yes. Would have tried to anyway. Actually, I figured the best I could do was weaken him enough before he crippled me, so that you would be able to finish it.”

“Well, that’s good to know.” Another hesitation, then Lucivar said,“We’re not the only ones who have scars. He hides his better than most men, but he’s got some.”

“Yeah.” He wasn’t about to forget this particular scar anytime soon.

“Daemon . . .” Lucivar eased back a little more, but still kept his hands on Daemon’s shoulders. “There’s something I’d like to ask you. If you can’t tell me, I’ll understand.”

“All right,” Daemon replied, not liking the wariness now filling Lucivar’s eyes.

“I meant what I said about Jaenelle’s temper riding the scary kind of bitchy.”

“Not the side of her temper a smart man would choose to tangle with.”

“It was Witch’s side of her temper. More than that. The look in her eyes . . .” Lucivar shook his head, frustrated. “For a moment, when I looked into her eyes, it felt like the abyss had opened up right under me and . . . I haven’t felt that kind of power since . . .” He sighed. “Hell’s fire. I don’t even know what I’m asking.”

Anne Bishop Books | Science Fiction Books | The Black Jewels Series Books