She half turned. “I’m not going to be marrying Uncle—”

She saw it in his eyes, and now understood why he felt different, felt even more dangerous. The Sadist was now the High Lord.

May the Darkness have mercy on me.

“I’d like to go to my room now.”

“Think about my offer,” he whispered. Then he stepped back and let her go.

She bolted out of Daemon’s study. Beale was waiting for her in the great hall. At first, she was grateful to hook her arm in his for light support, but by the time they climbed the stairs and were walking toward her suite, she was clinging to him to stay on her feet, and Holt came at a run to support her on the other side. Helene met them at the suite and tucked her on the sofa when she got stubborn about being put to bed. After admitting that she had left the tonic the Healer had made up for her at her house in the village, Jazen dashed to Halaway to retrieve it. She didn’t ask what else Sadi’s valet intended to retrieve while he was there.

She let them fuss over her because she needed some help. Mostly, she let them fuss as a way to keep all of them from thinking about the cold temper that waited for them behind the study door.

Daemon stood in his study, staring at nothing.

The vision he had seen in a tangled web last night: a beautifully wrapped gift being offered to him by someone he trusted. He hadn’t seen the woman, only the hands holding the gift. And today ...

A child. A baby. His.

The wanting was suddenly, brutally fierce. He wanted this baby with everything in him and would do whatever it took to keep it. He hoped for her sake that Surreal understood that. He didn’t want to hurt her, but if he had to choose between them, he wouldn’t hesitate to destroy her in order to protect the child.

There were times when the pain of missing Jaenelle almost crushed him. He wanted her back. Sweet Darkness, how he wanted her back!

Jaenelle wasn’t coming back, but now there was a chance to give his heart to someone else without betraying the love of his life. He wasn’t sure if the limited affection he could give a woman would be enough to keep a wife content, but he knew he could love the child.

He hoped for all their sakes that Surreal understood that too.

Lucivar hovered over the Hall and swore softly. When he received Surreal’s note last night, he’d known something was wrong, but based on her saying, “It’s urgent, but don’t come until tomorrow morning,” he hadn’t expected to arrive and find the Hall locked down as if prepared for an attack. Black shields. Black locks. The only partial access was the double front doors, which had a Red lock—probably because Beale would be the one granting access and could release, and restore, a Red lock.

He made a fast descent, then backwinged to land lightly on the gravel drive. The door opened before he reached it, and he was right—Beale was guarding the only potential way into the Hall.

“The Prince is in his study, waiting to speak to you,” Beale said.

“I’m here to see Surreal,” Lucivar replied.

“She is resting.”

“Resting? At this hour? Is she ill?”

“The Prince will explain.”

He didn’t like the sound of that. He liked it even less when he walked into Daemon’s study and found his brother standing in the middle of the room, watching him with glazed, sleepy eyes.

“Is Surreal ill?” Lucivar asked, shoving the door closed.

“She’s pregnant,” Daemon replied softly.

He rocked back on his heels. There hadn’t been a man in Surreal’s life in quite some time, so her unexpected pregnancy explained Daemon locking down the Hall against outsiders, and it explained why Surreal was here and not at her own house. It also explained the chill in Daemon’s temper and those glazed eyes.

Lucivar settled into a fighting stance, his wings half spread for balance—an instinctive response. “Am I here to help her drain her Jewels or to help you have a chat with the c**k who danced with her?”

“I am the c**k who danced with her,” Daemon crooned.

His lungs locked, and for a moment he couldn’t breathe. “You?”

Daemon smiled.

Lucivar shuddered. “I’d like to talk to Surreal.”

“You don’t need my permission.”

“Today I do.”

Daemon’s smile became more gentle—and more terrifying. “Yes, today you do.”

Would I have walked out of this room intact if I hadn’t known that? He didn’t need to ask the question when he already knew the answer.

The study door opened, Daemon’s invitation for him to leave.

Turning his back on the Sadist was playing with suicide, but he did it. When he reached the door, Daemon said, “Lucivar? I want this baby.”

Lucivar looked over his shoulder. “I’ll talk to Surreal. And then you and I will talk.”

He walked out of the study. Beale stood in the great hall at the doorway leading to the informal receiving room and the staircase that led to the family wing.

“Anything I need to know?” he asked the butler.

“Lady Surreal saw her Healer in Amdarh and was given a tonic to help her body adjust to . . .” Beale fumbled, clearly reluctant to speak of something so personal when it pertained to the SaDiablo family—especially when none of them knew if Daemon would take offense at someone talking about Surreal.

Lucivar nodded so that Beale didn’t have to continue. “I’m going up now to talk to her—with the Prince’s permission.”

“I don’t believe Lady Surreal’s Jewels have been drained yet,” Beale said.

Not something I can do for her now, Lucivar thought as he strode through the corridors that led to Surreal’s suite.

Blood was the living river, and the body was the vessel for the power that made the Blood who and what they were. But everything had a price. When a witch wore darker Jewels, her moontimes were more uncomfortable and the pain of doing more than basic Craft during the first three days was fierce. That was the reason they drained their Jewels before a moontime—to let the body rest. And when they were pregnant, they submitted to someone else draining the reserve power in their Jewels so that their power didn’t try to fill the child in the womb—and destroy it.

He rapped once on Surreal’s sitting room door and went in before she answered. One look at her had him yanking back his temper because she didn’t need a man yelling at her, but he couldn’t stop himself from going up to the windows where she stood and opening his wings halfway to look more intimidating.

Tags: Anne Bishop The Black Jewels Science Fiction