A moment later, the basket vanished too.

“I changed my mind,” Gray said. “I’m taking all the bulbs I planted for Cassie. If your bitch wants a spring garden, she can plant one herself.” He walked away, heading around the house to reach the landing web beyond the gates.

“Gray!” Theran yelled.

Gray stopped and turned. “My name is Jared Blaed.”

EBON ASKAVI

Saetan opened the Gate and stepped through to the Keep in Terreille.

He was going to have to talk to Gray about the timing of these unscheduled visits. The boy had a knack for catching him at the end of his waking hours.

He opened the door of the sitting room, then stayed in the doorway, assessing the changes in the man who furiously paced the length of the room.

“Prince,” he said as he stepped into the room and closed the door.

Gray rushed toward him, those green eyes filled with a fury that must have been building every minute of the journey here.

“You have to teach me how to be a Consort,” Gray said.

“Boyo, I don’t have to teach you anything,” Saetan replied mildly.

“Theran’s going to break the court,” Gray snapped. “He’s planning to push Cassie out come spring and put that bitch Kermilla in her place.”

“Gray . . .”

“It’s not fair! After all the work Cassie has done, all the good she’s done, and he thinks he can snap his fingers and everyone will drop to their knees and lick Kermilla’s ass.”

“Gray . . .”

“Well, I’m not licking anyone’s ass, not again, and he isnot going to break Cassie’s court. So you—”

“Gray!”

Gray drew in one deep breath after another, as if he’d been running hard. His hands were clenched, and there was a wild look in his eyes. “My name is Jared Blaed.”

“And my name is Saetan. I suggest you remember that.”

A month ago, he would have been more lenient with the boy. But Jaenelle’s remark that Gray could have been Second Circle changed things. A Warlord Prince who had the personality and strength to stand in the Second Circle of the Dark Court at Ebon Askavi was a dangerous man. Not just because of the Jewels he wore but because of thekind of man he was inside. So Gray was going to be held to some very strict standards from now on.

“If I become Cassie’s Consort when Theran leaves, then her court won’t break,” Gray said.

Two Queens. Two courts in a fight for the same Territory.

If the fight remained between the courts, a few good men would die—and possibly the vanquished Queen as well. If the fight escalated beyond the courts . . . it would be war.

“This is what is going to happen today,” Saetan said. “You’re coming back with me to the Keep in Kaeleer. I’ll ask Daemon and Lucivar to join us. Then we’ll discuss your concerns and your request for training.”

Gray opened his mouth, and if he said what the look in his eyes indicated, Saetan wouldn’t hesitate to toss him out of the Keep with the firm understanding that he wouldn’t be allowed back in until he’d learned some manners.

Apparently Gray had already learned some manners because he reined in his temper and said, “Thank you, sir. That would be appreciated.”

“Fine. Since I was about to retire and get some rest, I’m going to do that until Daemon and Lucivar arrive. And what will you be doing?”

A long pause while Gray eyed him warily. “I’m going to be making mulch?”

Saetan’s smile had a razor’s edge. “I’m delighted we understand one another.”

“Yes, sir. I’m delighted too.”

Hardly,Saetan thought as he led Gray to the Gate and opened it to the Keep in Kaeleer.

After leaving Gray in a courtyard with an empty barrel and enough wood to keep the boy occupied for the rest of the day if need be, he sent a thought on a Black psychic spear thread. *Daemon.*

*Father?* Instant concern.

*Gray is here. I need you and Lucivar at the Keep as soon as you can get here.*

*Is Gray all right?*

Saetan snorted softly. *Prince Jared Blaed is pissed off and doing just fine.*

A thoughtful assessment he could feel through the psychic thread.

*Are you going to get some rest before we arrive?* Daemon asked.

*Yes.*

Amusement filled the thread. *So what do you have him doing with his time? Chopping wood or making mulch?*

*Since Lucivar has been working through a lot of temper lately by chopping wood, there’s already enough stacked to supply his eyrie, the Keep, and The Tavern for the next year or so.*

*Ah. So Gray is making mulch.*

*Or sawdust.*

Saetan broke the link and went up to his suite. If the discussion turned out to be as lively as he expected, he was going to need all the rest he could get.

Tired, sore, and dressed in clean clothes after taking a long, hot shower, Gray mopped up the stew in the bottom of the bowl with the last bite of bread. Full, he sat back and noticed the books that filled one shelf in the wall.

He’d just made his selection when Daemon walked into the room.

“So you decided to stir things up today, did you?” Daemon said, smiling.

Gray put the book back on the shelf. “Did Uncle Saetan tell you why I’m here?”

“No, he just said Lucivar and I were needed.”

“I didn’t think he told you. You wouldn’t be smiling if he had.”

“Be careful, puppy,” Daemon said softly. “I consider you a friend, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful.”

Daemon walked out of the room. Gray followed to the sitting room where Saetan and Lucivar waited. Daemon took a seat. Gray didn’t.

“Now,” Saetan said, “say what you need to say, and we’ll listen. And thenyou will listen.”

The anger, and the feeling of betrayal, that had been building since his fight with Theran that morning overflowed, and he told them everything. He told them about all the things Cassie had done for the Shalador people and for Dena Nehele. He told them about the village and how it felt to be part of that community. He told them about the landen community and the people who lived there. And then he told them about going to Grayhaven early that morning to retrieve some of the special bulbs he’d planted for Cassie and learning that Theran intended to replace Cassie with Kermilla, just tossing Cassie aside after all the work she’d done for their people.

And he felt jagged ice fill his gut when he realized the three of them didn’t seem the least bit surprised to hear about Theran’s plans for Kermilla.

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