Daemon opened the letter and seemed to take a long time reading the single page. Then he opened the package that contained Jared’s journal and brushed his fingertips gently over the cover.
“While I appreciate her efforts at economy, Cassidy’s request, as written, is not the most practical,” Daemon said.
“I’ll convey the message,” Ranon said. He reached for the package. It vanished before he touched it.
“Therefore,” Daemon said, “I will take care of it as it should be done.” Ranon hesitated, and Gray understood why. Jared’s story was one of the most precious gifts Jaenelle Angelline had sent back to the Shalador people.
Daemon steepled his fingers and rested the forefinger nails against his chin. “Is that why you asked to come to Dhemlan? I could have met you at the Keep.”
“We need a loan.” Gray hadn’t meant to say it that bluntly. In fact, he’d spent a good part of the journey rehearsing what he would say. Too bad the words just plopped out of his mouth.
“We need a loan,” Gray said again, keeping his eyes on Daemon, who had done nothing more than raise an eyebrow.
“You are aware of the Queen’s gift?” Daemon asked.
Ignoring the slight chill in the words—after all, he figured plenty of people would like to dip a hand into the SaDiablo wealth—Gray nodded. “But that’s just for Cassie, for the things she needs that her people can’t provide yet.”
“All right, I’m listening.”
*Gray, what are you doing?* Ranon asked.
Gray ignored his friend. “We need a loan to start building a life for the people again. For some simple things, like blankets and linens, and cloth so women can sew clothes for their children.”
“Gray,”Ranon said, his voice a clear warning to stop.
“We need money to fix up a Healer’s House. The village will give us the land and buildings, but Shira needs money to fix it up so that she can take care of the court and some of the villagers.”
“Does she know about this?” Ranon asked.
“Not yet. She wants that place, and it’s perfect. But I didn’t want to tell her I’d gotten the deed made out for her until I talked to Daemon about a loan to fix it up.”
Ranon looked ready to fall out of his chair. “Deed. You got an official deed?”
“Yes. I talked to the elders yesterday. They witnessed the deed. The property that backs the Queen’s Residence now belongs to Shira.” Gray paused. “To you, too, I guess, since you’re living with her, but I asked to have it put in Shira’s name since it will be a Healer’s residence.”
“But you didn’t tell her?”
Why was Ranon getting so pissy? It was the best thing to do for the women and the court. “No. But I haven’t told Cassie yet that the Queen’s Residence belongs to her now. She’ll feel better about fixing it up into the home she wants once she knows she holds the deed.”
Daemon started coughing. “We’ll . . . ah . . . have to talk about how to ease into these conversations so you don’t stun the Ladies when you get home.”
Gray looked at the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan. No chill in the voice now. No, Daemon seemed to be struggling with the effort not to laugh. “You think Cassie and Shira are going to go hissy cat about this?”
“Hissy cat?” Those gold eyes were starting to water.
“A Sceltie term for a riled human female.”
Daemon’s roar of laughter filled the room.
A couple of minutes later, Sadi finally regained some control. “So you want a loan to fix up the Healer’s House. Anything else?”
“I don’t know,” Gray said, pressing his hands between his knees and leaning toward the desk. “But you have businesses in other Territories besides Dhemlan, don’t you?”
Something pained and sad flickered in Daemon’s eyes. “I used to have a few businesses in Dena Nehele. It helped some people defy Dorothea’s bitches for a little while longer.”
But the land fell anyway. How many places did you help hold on a little while longer? No wonder Lucivar said you can’t come to Dena Nehele the way he can. There’s no place in Terreille you can go that doesn’t hold bitter memories, is there?
“We could use your help again,” Gray said quietly. “In return for fixing up the buildings and providing the merchandise, since that’s one of the things we don’t have, the elders in Eyota have agreed to give you the buildings and the land they’re on for a hundred years. That may not sound like a long time to you, but it’s a long time for us.”
Daemon looked away, and Gray got the impression that Sadi was trying to decide about something more important than a couple of buildings and some merchandise.
Then Daemon rose and came around the desk. “Let’s go down the road and spend some time in Halaway. It’s a small village and some of the shops there should give us all a reference point.”
“Okay,” Gray said as he and Ranon stood up and followed Daemon to the door.
A quick knock. The door opened.
Daemon froze midstep. His nostrils flared as Jaenelle walked into the room—and the gold eyes that now looked at Gray and Ranon held a barely controlled savagery.
“Daemon,” Jaenelle said softly.
Daemon stared at the two men and snarled.
Those gold eyes focused on her.
She, in turn, smiled at Gray and Ranon.
*Mother Night, Gray, I can smell moon’s blood,* Ranon said. *We have to get out of this room before he kills us.*
Ranon gave no answer, since moving toward the door meant moving toward Jaenelle, and that would be a lethal mistake.
Then two other males entered the room and stopped on either side of Jaenelle at the same time Daemon stepped closer to her.
Still smiling at Gray and Ranon, Jaenelle said, “I believe you know my little brother, Ladvarian.”
Gray hadn’t met the Red-Jeweled Sceltie Warlord when Ladvarian and Khardeen came to Eyota, but he nodded anyway.
She hooked an arm around her other companion’s neck. “And this pretty kitty is Prince Kaelas.”
The “pretty kitty” was a white, huge Warlord Prince who wore a Red Jewel—and wasn’t half as terrifying as Daemon at that moment.
“You have some business to take care of this afternoon?” Jaenelle released Kaelas and turned toward Daemon.
“It can be postponed,” he said in a croon that produced a chill down Gray’s spine.