“Holt?” Saetan wondered if the footman was writing out his resignation. Which would be a shame, because the man was an asset to the household.
“He’s young, strong, and has the experience of having several nieces and nephews,” Daemon replied. “He also gets double wages for any day he assists in looking after the boy—and an extra day off with pay.”
“Generous,” Saetan murmured. “If those are the terms you offered, you should have plenty of volunteers.”
“Not after the first hour,” Daemon growled.
Don’t laugh,he told himself.You know exactly what this is like, so do not laugh at him.
But he wanted to laugh. So he gave himself a stern mental shake and cleared his throat.
The rut wasn’t a laughing matter. Once or twice a year, the fierce sex drive that always simmered in a Warlord Prince intensified to a need that eclipsed sanity, and a man who could normally control his predatory nature became a danger to everyone except the woman he’d fixed his attention on—and sometimes, if she wasn’t careful around him, even she wasn’t safe from a temper that had no leash.
It changed when a Warlord Prince had a strong relationship with a woman, particularly when that woman was his lover. She, at least, could usually penetrate the sexual madness and provide a little control during those three days. And a Warlord Prince who was a father could usually tolerate his own children’s presence when they were infants or toddlers, as long as he didn’t have to interact with them.
But Daemonar had begun the transition from toddler to boy last autumn and now had the unmistakable psychic scent of a Warlord Prince. Now Lucivar saw a rival instead of a son. So the boy could no longer stay in the eyrie when his father was in rut. Which meant Daemon took Daemonar for those days in the same way Saetan had taken Andulvar’s son, Ravenar, and Andulvar had taken Mephis and Peyton.
“You’re taking care of a small boy who is in motion almost every moment he’s awake, and you think there is something wrong with you because you fell asleep before making love to Jaenelle?”
“Well . . .”
“When he goes down for an afternoon nap, do you have sense enough to take an hour of that time to get some sleep yourself?”
Daemon’s gold eyes flashed with annoyance. “I do have work to do.”
“Meaning you haven’t taken that hour.”
His son snarled softly. “Lucivar doesn’t take naps.”
Hell’s fire. This wasn’t a competition. Or maybe it was. Except for these past few years when they had been reunited with him, the only measuring stick they had for what was “normal” for a male with so much power was each other.
“Lucivar is Eyrien,” Saetan said, his patience starting to fray.
“Nevertheless, the Eyriens are a very physical people, and your brother is no exception. Besides, Lucivar catches quick naps throughout the day. Haven’t you seen him stand perfectly still with his eyes focused on some distant spot while you’re talking to him and then realize he hasn’t heard anything you’ve said?”
Daemon shrugged, a movement full of dismissal and irritation.
“He was asleep,” Saetan said.
Daemon jerked. “What? He waswhat ?”
“Asleep. I’m not sure if it’s something Eyrien males are born knowing how to do or if they’re trained, but they can sleep on their feet with their eyes open. Just a few minutes at a time. For a warrior, being able to snatch those moments of rest can mean the difference between surviving a battle or being one of the dead.” Saetan paused, then added, “Andulvar used to do that sometimes when I was talking to him. He even had the balls to tell me my voice was a soothing drone.”
Daemon snorted in an effort to hold back a laugh.
“If it’s any comfort to you, I know for a fact there are nights when Lucivar flops on the bed and is so deeply asleep by the time Marian comes in that she can’t shift him, so she throws a blanket over him and sleeps somewhere else. A few hours later, he wakes up, realizes she isn’t there, and goes and fetches her to tuck them both in for the rest of the night.”
“But he didn’t think something was wrong with him,” Daemon muttered.
Saetan raised an eyebrow. “Then why do you think I know about it?”
Daemon blinked. Blinked again. “Oh.”
He huffed out a sigh. “Is that it? Anything else? I noticed you’re a bit stiff this morning.” When Daemon mumbled a response, he put some paternal steel in his voice. “What?”
“I fell out of a tree.”
“I see.” He didn’t—and he wasn’t going to ask about it. But even knowing the response he was about to provoke, he decided to trespass. “How are you otherwise?”
A heartbeat was all it took for Daemon to switch from being a son to being a Warlord Prince whose cold temper could be as elegant as it was deadly.
“I’m fine,” Daemon replied, a warning chill in his voice.
“And I’m your father,” Saetan replied, “as well as the High Lord of Hell. I’ll have an honest answer this time, Prince.”
They stared at each other, assessing, measuring. Then Daemon leashed the Warlord Prince in order to be a son again.
“I don’t like knowing there are places where I’m fragile,” Daemon said. “I don’t like admitting I can be vulnerable.”
“No man does. But very few men, if any, could have survived having their mind shattered twice and come back from it. Everything has a price, Daemon. Knowing there are some things you can’t do seems like a small price to pay for getting your life back.” Saetan studied his son. “There’s something else. What is it?”
“I’ll be going into rut sometime in the next few weeks,” Daemon said.
“And that worries you?”
“Does it worry Jaenelle?”
“No.” Daemon shifted his shoulders. “Could you talk to her? Make sure she’s willing after . . .”
. . . after the attack.
Daemon took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. “I need to get back. Jaenelle was sure she and Holt could deal with the boy for a few hours, but I don’t want to be away too long.”
“I’ll talk to her,” Saetan said. “Soon.”
Daemon nodded. “If Lucivar gets Marian pregnant again . . .”
They both sighed.
“If that happens, we’ll all deal with it,” he said. And hope for a girl.