They would all have to wait and see how firmly Kermilla held Theran’s leash.

He finished his changes, read them again, and then handed the document back to Gray. The Warlord Princes from Dena Nehele didn’t linger, and Saetan thought that was wise. News would travel. Rumors would begin. The sooner the official document was in the open, the better.

When they were gone, Saetan looked at Lucivar. “Well?”

“Gray and Ranon are solid,” Lucivar replied, rubbing his left biceps. “And they’re a good team. You fix their paper?”

“Yes, I did. It’s still possible that Kermilla can goad Theran hard enough to try to start a war, but I don’t think he’ll be equally successful in convincing enough Warlord Princes to join him on that particular killing field.”

“I hope you’re right.”

Saetan waited a moment. “What’s wrong with your arm?”


“Would you like to answer that question again without lying to your father?”

Lucivar made a face. “It’s nothing. A bruise. She didn’t break skin.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Well, Hell’s fire, the woman’s got some temper when she’s riled.”

“What did you do to upset Marian?”

“I was being considerate. Don’t women want men to be considerate?” Lucivar looked like a puppy who had gotten smacked and had no idea what he’d done wrong.

It took a formidable amount of self-control to convey nothing but calm interest, but he did it. “Of course they do, but wives also expect to have sex with their husbands on occasion.” After waiting a beat, he added, “I take it you and Marian have resumed making love.”

“I don’t think there was any love in this particular bite,” Lucivar growled. “But, yeah, we had sex.”

“In that case, my darling, why are you here?”

This time Lucivar didn’t try to hide the wince. “The village theater group is putting on a play tonight. It’s a comedy. With singing. More or less.”

Saetan waited. “Are you asking me to watch Daemonar this evening or accompany Marian to the play?”

Lucivar gave him a pained look.

Everything has a price, boyo.“What time should I come over to watch the boy?” Saetan tipped his head to indicate the clock on the mantel.

Lucivar looked at the clock and sighed. “Now?”

Saetan headed for the closest courtyard that had a landing web. “You are planning to get cleaned up, aren’t you?” It wasn’t really a question.

“If I can have the damn bathroom to myself, it doesn’t take me more than five minutes,” Lucivar muttered.

If she really wants to see this play, she’s going to clobber him,Saetan thought. “Go. Tell Marian I’ll be there by the time you’re ready to leave. And Lucivar? If you’re smart, you’re going to give your Lady more than just sex tonight.”

Lucivar went out the first available exit and launched himself skyward.

Saetan sent out a light psychic thread to the woman he considered the perfect match for his volatile son. *Marian?*

*Uncle Saetan?* Surprise turned to concern. *Lucivar was supposed to see you.*

*He did. He’ll be home in a minute. I apologize for the delay, but a meeting with two Warlord Princes from Dena Nehele had to take priority.*

*And he didn’t contact me because he wanted to wiggle out of going to the play tonight?*

Probably, but not consciously. Lucivar would rather crawl over broken glass than see a comedic play that included singing, but he wouldn’t shrug off an event Marian wanted to attend.

*I’ll be over in a few minutes to watch Daemonar. Lucivar swears he can get cleaned up and be ready to leave for you to get to the play on time.*

*So I should be understanding when he comes roaring in?*

Hearing the amusement—and the love—in the words, Saetan smiled. *Darling, make him work for it. It won’t hurt him.*

Her laughter filled the link between them before she broke the thread—no doubt to deal with the husband who had just come thundering home.

Smiling, Saetan shook his head. “She used to be a gentle hearth witch before she had to deal with all of us.” He felt the leash slip on his self-control and heard a peculiar sound come from behind his clenched teeth.

Imagining how well Marian would deal with Lucivar, Saetan leaned against a wall, let go of self-control, and laughed himself silly.



Three copies of a document that would break a land that had survived cruelty she couldn’t imagine, even when she heard some of the stories about Dena Nehele’s past. Three copies of a document that would change all of their lives.

And change nothing that matters the most,Cassidy thought as she carefully pressed her seal into the wax on the third copy—and heard the whole First Circle release the breath they’d been holding while she took this last step.

As soon as she sat back, Powell pulled the copy away and positioned it in the center of the big table, along with the other two copies.

“Done,” her Steward said. “Talon?”

“I’ll take the copy up to the Keep first.” Talon carefully rolled two of the documents and vanished them. Then he hesitated. “Once I hand this paper to the High Lord and it’s acknowledged at the Keep, the path is chosen. There’s no going back.”

He was giving her one last chance to walk away. A Queen’s wants, wishes, and will came first, no matter the cost.

“Safe journey, Prince Talon,” Cassidy said.

Her legs felt shaky, so she sat at the table while Talon and the rest of the court left the room. Naturally, Ranon and Gray were last and kept glancing at her as if trying to decide if they should stay or leave.

Shira made it simple by shoving the two of them out of the room. Before the Black Widow could close the door for a private chat, Reyhana slipped into the room.

“I want to help.” Reyhana squared her shoulders and lifted her chin.

How much death has this girl already seen?Cassidy wondered.How much more will she have to see? “You serve in my Second Circle, Sister, so you most certainly are going to help.” She stood up and felt reassured that her legs weren’t as wobbly as they’d been a few minutes ago. “I could use a bit more to eat than the half piece of toast I choked down earlier. After that, why don’t the three of us review what needs to be done?”

“Don’t we first have to find out what Theran is going to do?” Shira asked.