He removed his hands from the box and slipped them into his trouser pockets. He wanted to hold her, but he chose to keep the table between them.
“I am my father’s son,” he said.
She tipped her head. “That shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, Prince. You’re more than his son. You are your father’s mirror.”
“Yes, I am. But despite all the things I’ve done, that wasn’t as clear to me before as it was last night.”
He took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. He and Lucivar had taken shifts, one standing watch while the other rested, and during one of those vigils, as he replayed that dance with Saetan, he’d acknowledged a difficult truth.
“Last night I saw the man who had destroyed an entire race, and I understood something about myself. That kind of rage is in me, Jaenelle, in a way it’s not in Lucivar. I am capable of doing what Saetan did to Zuulaman, and unlike my father, I wouldn’t need to be drowning in grief or insane rage before I made that choice. Given the right provocation, I could do what he did.”
That stopped him, had him rocking back on his heels. When he’d first met her, those sapphire eyes had looked through him and she had made some decision about him, passed some judgment. Had she known then, at twelve, the depth of his temper, his potential for violence?
“And yet you love me,” he said, “despite what I am.”
Jaenelle walked around the table and took his face in her hands. “No, Daemon. I love you because of what you are. Because of all that you are. Right now, you’re feeling raw, which is understandable, and you’re shining a light on one truth about a complex man and not seeing the rest. So I’ll see the whole of who you are and not let you shine a light on one part for too long.”
He wrapped his arms around her. “Do you know how much I love you? How much I need you?”
Her arms twined around his neck. “Why don’t you show me—”
His stomach growled.
“—after breakfast?” she finished, laughing.
They ate, they slept, they made love. When they were heating up the remainder of the food for a midday meal, Daemon said, “Your strategy was quite brilliant. In case you were wondering.”
“Strategy?” Jaenelle said, setting two plates on the counter in anticipation of simply dividing the food.
“Having Lucivar draw that particular line.”
She gave him a puzzled look. “I told Lucivar to give Saetan a nudge that would remind him of his family as it is, here and now. You would be able to get him to the border, but that reminder is what Saetan would need to take those last steps out of the Twisted Kingdom.”
Daemon laughed. “Well, it was a damn good bluff, threatening to toss Daemonar into the library unsupervised and let him at the books.”
Jaenelle dropped the silverware. “What? Lucivar said what?”
Daemon turned away from the stove and studied Jaenelle’s pale face.
“That was your bluff, wasn’t it?” Daemon asked, feeling the blood draining out of his head.
“I would never threaten Papa that way.”
One moment he was standing by the stove. The next moment he was sitting on the floor with Jaenelle kneeling beside him.
“That wasn’t your idea?” he asked weakly.
She shook her head.
“Lucivar is Eyrien.”
“I know,” she said.
“He wears Ebon-gray.”
“He doesn’t bluff.”
She plopped on the floor beside him. They sat there for several minutes before she said, “Did Saetan think it was a bluff?”
“I’m sure he did—at least after he woke up and thought, as I did, that you had told Lucivar to say that.”
They pondered that for a few more minutes while their meal got cold.
“So,” Jaenelle finally said, “how long do you want to wait before we explain this to Papa?”
No point having children who could match a man’s temper if they weren’t going to be a pain in the ass on occasion.
“Let’s give him a couple of days,” he said. “By then he won’t be expecting anything.”
“That’s mean,” Jaenelle said. “I like it.”
Picturing the look on Saetan’s face when he discovered the library threat had been Lucivar’s idea, Daemon wrapped his arms around Jaenelle, lay back on the kitchen floor—and laughed.
Shira walked into the Steward’s office and shook her head in response to the men’s unspoken question. “She wouldn’t answer the door, and Vae says Cassidy still doesn’t want to talk to anyone.”
“Why not?” Gray said, hugging himself. “She didn’t do anything wrong.”
“She was in a fight, Gray,” Theran said. “That’s bound to unsettle anyone, and it would be more unsettling for a Queen.”
A hard look from Ranon and an equally hard look from Talon, who had delayed going to his room when the sun rose in order to hear the morning report.
Since they’d come back from town three days ago, Cassidy hadn’t left her suite, claiming to be unsettled by the fight—a fight Theran could have ended before it began.
Should have ended.
Talon had made that abundantly clear when he’d heard their account of what had happened.
And Gray . . . Since the two young Warlords were working on the estate to pay off their debt of ten days’ labor, Gray had turned into a merciless taskmaster, and Ranon’s job wasn’t supervising the Warlords so much as holding Gray back and providing some balance.
Theran didn’t know what to think, didn’t know what to do. Cassidy hadn’t been hurt, hadn’t been harmed. Not really. Shaken up, sure, but not harmed.
Except she hadn’t left her suite since it happened, hadn’t talked to any of them.
Not even Gray.
What in the name of Hell was she thinking?
Cassidy brushed her fingers over the cover of each journal, as if touch could be a conduit, and wisdom would seep into her fingers from the leather.
She had been hiding in her room for the past three days. It was time to stop hiding. Time to do the right thing.
Lia had revealed her heart in the journals, but Cassidy had found no wisdom that would help a Queen who didn’t belong. Could never belong. She’d shocked her court, shocked the Blood in the town. Hell’s fire, she’d even shocked the landens by standing up for them. What had made her think she could rule these people when she saw and thought about things so differently from them? And what made her think any of them would accept the way she thought about things? She wasn’t Lia. Could never be Lia.