“What was Uncle Daemon doing in the tree?” Lucivar asked again.

Daemonar hesitated. “Falling.”

“Uh-huh.”

*Is Marian pregnant?* Daemon asked on a Red psychic thread.

*We won’t know for a few weeks,* Lucivar replied.

You know, you prick,Daemon thought. And Lucivar not giving him a straight answerwas an answer.

Lucivar’s gold eyes brightened when Jaenelle stepped into the great hall.

“Hey, boyo.” Jaenelle smiled at Daemonar. “Are you going home without reading one last story with me?”

“No! Put me down, Papa!”

When Lucivar didn’t respond fast enough, Daemonar rammed his feet into his father’s gut and launched himself at Jaenelle.

Too fast, Daemon thought as the boy winged toward Jaenelle. But Daemonar backwinged an arm’s length from his beloved auntie. He dipped and wobbled, but he landed without slamming into Jaenelle.

“Excellent backwinging.” Jaenelle held out her hand as she gave Daemon and Lucivar a warm, amused look. “Come on. We’ll sit in Uncle Daemon’s study and read a story while he and your papa have a little chat.”

When boy and Queen disappeared into the study, Lucivar rubbed his belly. “Well, so much for my minute of being important.”

Daemon didn’t reply. He just crossed the great hall and went into the formal receiving room.

Thank you, Beale,he thought when he saw the tray that held a decanter of brandy and two glasses. Normally he wouldn’t consider a drink before the midday meal, but today . . .

“You’re looking a bit rough, old son,” Lucivar said as he came into the room and closed the door.

Daemon poured himself a hefty glass of brandy and took a generous gulp. “If you got Marian pregnant, you damn well better have a girl, because if you don’t, I will twist your c**k off. I swear it.”

When he didn’t get a smart-ass reply, he turned and looked at his brother—and the look on Lucivar’s face made his heart pound. “What’s wrong? Is Marian all right?”

“She’s fine. She’s good. Father is at the eyrie now, pampering her.” Lucivar made a face. “When I do something, it’s fussing. When he does the same damn thing, it’s pampering.”

“He has a way with women,” Daemon said. “Lucivar . . .”

“Was it that hard?” Lucivar asked. “I know the boy is a handful. Hell’s fire, Bastard, I know he is.”

“We did all right,” Daemon said sourly.

Lucivar sighed. “Look, next time I’ll leave him with the Eyriens and—”

“No, you will not.” Daemon’s voice chilled. “You and I were given a particular code of honor when we were very young—a code that isn’t known by many, if any, who come from Terreille. And that is the code of honor our family will live by. So when your boy needs to spend some days away from you, he comes here. Is that understood?”

“Not all Eyriens view honor as something they can bend to suit themselves,” Lucivar said cautiously.

Falonar.The name of Lucivar’s former second-in-command wasn’t spoken, but it hung in the air between them.

Then the moment, and the tension, were gone.

“Look,” Daemon said, setting the brandy aside. “I’m just pissing and moaning. I fell out of a damn tree. I’m entitled to piss and moan. And I feel . . . inadequate.” Hell’s fire, it bruised his ego to admit that.

“You’re not Eyrien, old son,” Lucivar said. “You never will be.”

“Yes, I know.”

“No, I don’t think you do.” Lucivar studied him. “We knew Daemonar couldn’t stay with us anymore when I went into rut, and when Marian recognized the signs and got him down to Merry and Briggs before I . . .” He raked a hand through his black hair. “The boy wantedyou. His Uncle Daemon. Who isn’t Eyrien. Who doesn’t fly or fight—at least in a way he understands yet—but who knowslots of things. He doesn’t want you to be Eyrien. He wants to be with you because he loves you.”

Hearing those words relaxed the knot of expectations he’d inflicted on himself—and filled him with warm pleasure.

“I’d better get the little beast home. His mother misses him.” Turning, Lucivar reached for the doorknob, then stopped and looked at Daemon. “You really fell out of a tree?”

He sighed. “I really did.”

“He was up in the tree?”

“I wouldn’t have climbed it for any other reason,” he said dryly.

Lucivar’s face was filled with baffled amusement. “Didn’t you tell him to come down?”

“Of course I did.”

Even more baffled. “Since you told him to come down and he didn’t obey, why didn’t you use Craft to haul his ass down? I would have.”

CHAPTER 5

TERREILLE

Cassidy closed her eyes and concentrated on breathing.

Nerves and excitement. Her first official visit among the people she ruled. And the first time people outside the town of Grayhaven would see her First Circle working together as a First Circle.

She glanced at Theran. Ever since she had found the treasure hidden in the attic at Grayhaven, he had made an obvious effort to act like he wanted to serve in her court. But his forced courtesy was a daily reminder that he didn’t belong to her the way the other men in her First Circle did.

In fact, his effort to serve felt too much like her previous court. They had lavished her with forced courtesy too—right before they broke her court and left her to serve another Queen.

This visit to Eyota, Ranon’s home village, was harder for him to accept than it was for the rest of the First Circle. They had spent the days prior to this trip discussing the details of what was required to guard their Queen in an unfamiliar place. Theran had offered no comments, no suggestions, nothing. He had, in fact, voiced none of the concerns that a First Escort should have. Was he distancing himself because she had refused to cancel this visit—or because being on a Shalador reserve would make him look at the other side of his heritage? He was proud to be descended from Jared, but he seemed to resent having to acknowledge that Jared came from Shalador.

Then there was Gray, who was clinging to her hand despite the fact they were in a Coach that had a driver experienced with controlling a long, enclosed, furnished box designed to ride the Winds, those psychic webs through the Darkness. It wasn’t being dependent on someone else’s power and skill that made Gray cling to her. Captured at fifteen and given to Dena Nehele’s Queen, he had survived two years of torture before being rescued. It had taken courage for him to go back to Grayhaven when Theran and Talon had announced they were going to live there with the new Territory Queen. And she knew it had taken even more courage for him to leave Grayhaven and come with her to a place that was unfamiliar and spend time among strangers.

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