“Cassie has some interesting friends,” Gray said.

Interesting,Ranon thought as the four of them separated for a few minutes before joining Lucivar for whatever lessons the Eyrien had in mind. Yes, the Blood from Kaeleer were certainly interesting. But he wondered if Theran was paying any attention to their visitors and the influence they were having on the people here. They were both the forge and the fire that could shape the Blood in Dena Nehele into bright steel—or leave them broken. And he wondered if, like himself, Theran was paying attention to the kind of man Prince Jared Blaed Grayhaven was becoming in the heat of that forge.

“Do you have a reason to be concerned about Karla?” Surreal asked.

“A particular reason?” Lucivar shook his head. “Her Master of the Guard works with her to help her maintain strength in her legs, and I won’t step on the man’s territory. But that doesn’t mean I won’t take an opportunity to assess her for myself and send along a suggestion or two if I think something needs more of his attention.”

“Are her legs getting weaker?”

“Not yet, but the day will come when they won’t support her.” Considering what Jaenelle had to do in order to save Karla, the fact that Karla could walk at all was testimony to Jaenelle’s skills as a Healer and Karla’s strength of will. But the ever-present cane and the face aged beyond its years were a reminder that even the best Healer and the strongest will couldn’t eliminate the effects of terrible poisons that should have destroyed a Gray-Jeweled Queen. “I’ll help her postpone that day for as long as possible,” Lucivar added quietly. Then he smiled at Surreal. “You’re looking good.” And since she hadn’t tried to knife him, he figured she’d finally forgiven him for the time she had spent in Ebon Rih.

“I’m feeling more comfortable about a lot of things,” she replied. “About myself. About this.” She called in a stiletto.

Lucivar tensed—which seemed to amuse her.

“Relax,” she said, vanishing the stiletto. “When I first arrived at Chaosti’s clan, Grandmammy Teele gave me some old sacks. I spent the evenings embroidering your name on them, then stuffed them with rags, tied them to a tree, and stabbed them until my arm cramped.”

“Shit,” Lucivar said. He’d pushed her because he cared. He hadn’t meant to push her so much she hated him.

Surreal laughed. “You should see your face. Breathe easy, Yaslana. I was just teasing. I would never spend that much time on embroidery.”

This time he swore in Eyrien and said a whole lot of things he didn’t want her to understand.

“I do recognize some of those words,” she said.

“Good for you,” he snapped.

She grinned at him.

He stared at the people gathering in the yard. They stared back at him and Surreal like dumb sheep facing a couple of wolves.

Dumb sheep.

Lucivar frowned. “Where is Vae?”

“Don’t know,” Surreal replied. “She came with me as far as Dharo when I went to fetch Cassidy’s family, then continued on to Scelt instead of coming back with us.”

Lucivar looked at Surreal. Surreal looked at him. They headed for their flock of two-legged sheep.

“Not our problem,” Surreal said.

“Definitely not our problem,” Lucivar agreed. Especially when he had a wife who wouldn’t appreciate dealing with morning sickness and a small boy all by herself for more than a couple of days.

Assuming there would be morning sickness. And thatwould be his problem. And his fault. And a few other things, depending on whether Marian felt happy about being pregnant or bitchy about throwing up. So he wasn’t going to wonder what Vae was doing in Scelt.

But he was certain that whatever the Sceltie was up to was going to besomeone’s problem.



*Cassie? Cassie! Are you allowed to do that?*

Cassidy closed her eyes and counted to ten to stop herself from throwing the weeding claw at the Sceltie. All she wanted was an hour to work in the garden while she answered some of Reyhana’s questions. “Yes, Vae. I’m allowed to do this. I’mfine. ”

*Gray? Is Cassie allowed to do that?*

“Isn’t she supposed to listen to you?” Reyhana whispered.

“She’s a Sceltie,” Cassidy grumped. “She doesn’t listen to anyone.”

“She listens to Prince Gray,” Reyhana pointed out.

And that particular alliance of Warlord Prince and Sceltie had been an unrelenting pain in the ass ever since Lucivar, Karla, and the rest of the Blood from Kaeleer left two days ago. The biggest difference between dog and man was that Vae never stopped yapping at her unless she was sitting or sleeping, and Gray wouldn’t speak to her. Hadn’t said one single word to her after Karla said she was well enough to leave her room in the boardinghouse. But he was always nearby, watching everything she did. Judging everything she did.

*Gray? Should I nip?*

“No,” Cassidy said, dropping the weeding claw and rising from the spot she and Reyhana had been weeding. “You shouldnot nip. Gray, tell her!”

There was a wild look in Gray’s green eyes, a look that hadn’t been there before she collapsed. This wasn’t the boy who had been damaged by torture and frozen emotionally and mentally. And it was more than the man Gray had been becoming since she’d met him. This was a sharp-tempered stranger who was pissed off with her but refused to discuss the reason for his anger.

Well, fine.

No,not fine.

“Gray, I’d like a word with you,” Cassidy said, heading away from the rest of the men who were hovering in the garden, standing guard over her. When he didn’t move, she snarled, “Jared Blaed,attend !”

Thatgot his attention. His eyes blazed hot as he strode to where she waited, and it took everything in her not to back down in the face of what was heading toward her.

Warlord Prince.Most of the time it was easy to forget Gray belonged to that caste of males. She never forgot what kind of man she was dealing with when she was around Theran or Talon or Ranon, but caste hadn’t been the dominant psychic scent when she was with Gray. Until now.

“Do you think using my real name is going to intimidate me into doing what you want?” Gray snapped. “I’m not a child, Cassidy.”

She glanced at the other men. They were all paying attention to this little drama, so she kept her voice low. “I made a mistake, an error in judgment. It happens. I’m sorry it upset you—”

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