“To do what?” Gray asked, narrowing his eyes.

He was getting too damn good at sensing when she was about to throw water on a bag of cats, as her father would say.

“This is the growing season,” Cassidy said. “The land is in desperate need of help. The Queens need to do something to increase the harvest, and they need to do itnow .”

“No,” Gray said.



His voice thundered in the room as he leaped to his feet, knocking the chair over.

Cassidy pushed away from the table and rose. Since he’d been sitting on her left, there was nothing but the corner of the table between them. So all they needed to do was lean forward a little to be nose to nose.

“Yes,” she said.

“Doing that almost destroyed you, Cassie.”

“I was careless. I won’t make that mistake again. But it isvital to take care of the land and to do it now. Gray, youknow it’s vital. What the Queens can do will make a difference for everyone in Dena Nehele. And this is a ritual. This is part of the Old Ways you all said you wanted to learn.”

“Not at the risk of you getting hurt again!” Gray snapped.

“I’m with Gray,” Ranon said, starting to get to his feet.

“You sit down!” Cassidy pointed at him.

Ranon froze. Then he looked at Talon for instructions, which really pissed her off.

“Sit down, Ranon!” she yelled. “You too!” She gave Gray a push. It wasn’t much of a push, but the look on his face had Ranon reaching across Shira to clamp a hand on Gray’s arm.

“Hell’s fire,” said a voice full of biting laughter, “this sounds just like home.”

The men whipped around to face the doorway. Shira had a look in her eyes that made Cassidy wonder if the woman was preparing to use some of the Black Widows’ Craft. Reyhana looked fearful.

Strap some steel to your spine.Cassidy turned and stared at the black-haired woman who had delicately pointed ears and the handsome man who leaned on a cane.

Mother Night, what was Surreal doing here?

“Doesn’t it sound like home, Rainier?” Surreal asked her companion.

“It does,” he replied. “Although these two are clearly still novices. When Jaenelle and Lucivar used to go at it, they could make the glass in the windows shake—until their father had enough of listening to them and roared them into silence.”

“Yes, Uncle Saetan is very impressive when he lets his temper slip the leash,” Surreal said.

“Lady Surreal,” Cassidy said, hoping no one had been foolish enough to stand in Surreal’s way when she came through the house. “What brings you here?”

Surreal called in a stack of envelopes and held them up. “I’m delivering your letters. And I’m here to have a little chat.”

“Why don’t you and the Ladies go into the parlor for your chat while I stay here and answer the gentlemen’s questions?” Rainier said.

“There aren’t any questions,” Gray snarled. “Cassie isnot doing this.”

“Not now, Gray,” Cassidy said. Then to Surreal, “Thank you for bringing the letters, but there is nothing for us to chat about. This is Terreille, not Kaeleer, and I don’t have to discuss anything with you.”

“Trust me, sugar, you don’t want to be summoned to the Keep to explain whatever this is to Sadi. Or Yaslana. Or the High Lord. Because I don’t think they’re going to be as flexible as I’m willing to be. Comes from them having cocks.”

“I beg your pardon,” Rainier said.

“You’ve got a c**k too, so beg all you want,” Surreal said. *Sugar, do this with grace because you don’t have a choice. You either talk to me here or you talk to Sadi.*

Since Cassidy doubted Daemon Sadi would like what he heard, she also doubted he would stand aside after that “chat” and let her return to Dena Nehele.

Surreal was right. Talking to another witch was a much better choice. “Ladies, let’s adjourn to the parlor and leave the men to their own discussion,” Cassidy said. She walked past Surreal and Rainier, then waited for Shira and Reyhana.

As Surreal closed the door, she heard Rainier say, “So what is it that Lady Cassidy isn’t going to do?”



Daemon settled in the chair behind the blackwood desk, crossed his legs, steepled his fingers, and tried to decide if his second and his secretary, who werefinally coming to report, deserved a verbal ripping or if he should hold his tongue and his temper.

Surreal gave him a smile that dared him to say anything. Rainier gave him a panickydon’t expect me to control her look.

“My darlings,” he said with a mildness that would frighten any intelligent person—excluding females. “Breakfast is served here at the Hall every day. You didn’t have to bypass the family seat last night and go all the way to Amdarh to get a meal this morning.”

It wasn’t that he minded them going on to Amdarh instead of coming to the Hall, even though that would have been more sensible since the Hall was closer to the Keep and its Gate. What pissed him off was that neither of them had sent a message last night to let him know they were safely back in Kaeleer. No, it was Helton who’d had sense enough to send a message to Beale early this morning.

“I wanted some time to think before coming here—and I chose to do my thinking in the family’s town house in Amdarh,” Surreal said with equal mildness.

She’d had plenty of time to think on the journey back from Dena Nehele, so she’d probably wanted a little more time to consider what she was—and wasn’t—going to say.

Daemon raised one eyebrow and waited.

“Why don’t you go first?” Surreal said to Rainier.

Rainier gave her a long look, then shrugged. “Our arrival interrupted a full-volume discussion between Cassidy and a Warlord Prince named Gray.”

“So he’s reached that stage, has he?” Daemon asked dryly.

“You were expecting this?” Rainier hesitated. “Gray is . . . different.”

“He was held captive by a Queen and tortured for two years,” Daemon said. “He was fifteen when he was taken.”

Rainier nodded. “That explains the schism. I felt like I was listening to an adolescent who was still innocent enough to blurt out every thought and complaint, but it was a Warlord Prince around my own age who was absorbing the answers.”

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