“Get off your feet,” he snarled.
“Take a piss in the wind,” she snarled back.
Relieved that she didn’t sound as sick as she looked, he took a step back to give her some room.
“Aren’t you going to ask how this happened?” Surreal said.
“I have two children. I know how it happened. What I don’t know is what you want to do about it.”
“Do about it? I’m keeping it! How could you think I would . . .” She burst into tears.
“Ah, Surreal.” He put his arms around her and cuddled her while she cried. “That isn’t what I meant.”
“I’m not upset,” she said, still crying. “My body is doing strange things, and it’s making me weepy. And being weepy because I can’t help it is not the same as being upset.”
Lucivar rubbed his cheek against her hair. “It will be all right. In a couple of days, you’ll swing over to bitchy and that will feel more normal to you.”
She punched him. He laughed.
When she seemed settled again, he called in a handkerchief and let her mop her face.
“What I meant was, what do you want to do about Sadi? Talk to me, Surreal.”
“I’d rather you talk to him.”
“After you tell me what you want. I thought Daemon had this place locked down to keep everyone out, but that’s not all of it, is it?”
“He says I can’t leave with his child.”
“Well, the baby can’t go anywhere without you for quite some time, and he can’t seriously expect you to stay inside the Hall for the next ten months.”
“I wouldn’t bet on that, sugar.” Surreal sniffled once more, then vanished the handkerchief. “He offered to marry me. Told me, more like it. A week from tomorrow.”
He loved his brother, but he wasn’t sure Daemon was emotionally ready to be anyone’s husband yet—if ever.
“What did you say?” he asked.
“I haven’t given him an answer yet.” She looked sad and wistful. “But I am going to marry him.”
“Why?” When she didn’t answer, he swore softly. “I know you care for Daemon. And he cares for you. But I’m not sure he can give you the kind of love a wife deserves from a husband.”
“I do have some conditions that he’ll have to agree to, and if he agrees, I think we can do well enough together.”
“You don’t have to settle for ‘well enough.’ ”
She turned away to stare out the window. “I want this baby, Lucivar. Not just a baby; this baby. And I want this chance at a marriage. I haven’t shared my life with anyone since Rainier, and we were never lovers, never had that kind of bond. Plenty of men since then have been willing to entertain a short-term liaison, especially if it got them an invitation to sit at a dinner table with Daemon and talk about whatever grand idea they had that needed a little financial backing. But men from the short-lived races didn’t want to have children who wouldn’t reach true adulthood in their lifetime, and men from the long-lived races saw their offspring’s lives cut short if I was the mother. I never fit in to either place. Sadi knows all that, but he wants this child too, regardless of whatever life span it may have. And I have the feeling that if he doesn’t have someone soon who can make a claim on his heart, he’ll become so cold and distant we’ll all lose him. Or he’ll become so lonely, he’ll accept the illusion of love and end up like his father, with a woman who loves ambition more than him. Well, I do love him, and I know he probably will never love me. But I can keep him from being alone, and I can give him a family of his own.”
“And what will you get?” Lucivar asked.
“I’ll get a family too.”
“Is that enough?”
“I’ll find out.”
“Then I guess I should talk to him about the wedding.”
“I need to talk to him first. Could you stay around for a little while?”
“Lucivar? Did you know Sadi is the High Lord now?”
Her words froze Lucivar’s heart. He’d suspected that Daemon had begun absorbing that side of Saetan’s duties years ago—Sadi was, after all, Saetan’s true heir—but he hadn’t wanted to see the evidence, hadn’t wanted to acknowledge what had been unspoken until now. He’d been afraid that once he admitted that Daemon was the High Lord, he would lose the man who was his brother.
He understood Surreal’s decision now. The Realms couldn’t afford to let Daemon slide into an isolated, lonely existence. None of them wanted to see Daemon repeat the mistakes in Saetan’s life—or see the rise of someone like Hekatah because of those mistakes. The new High Lord of Hell needed to be kept tethered to the living because the simple truth was he was more dangerous than his predecessor.
“Go on and talk to him,” Lucivar said. “Get things settled between you.” He paused. “And then get off your feet.”
He thought her answer landed squarely on the side of bitchy, which pleased him because it meant she was feeling a little better—and he’d take bitchy over tears any day.
Surreal found Daemon standing in the middle of his study, watching her with those glazed gold eyes.
“I have some conditions,” she said. “If you can agree to them, I’ll marry you.”
“I’m listening,” he crooned.
Her throat closed up. She was dancing on the knife’s edge by making any demands of him, but now was the only time such things could be said—if she could get her voice working again.
He moved toward her slowly. He probably thought his movements weren’t threatening. Unfortunately, until things were settled between them, there was nothing about him that wasn’t threatening.
“Let me tell you what I think are some of your concerns,” he said as he stepped close enough to touch her. “The wife of the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan has to make a commitment to be faithful to her husband and take no lovers. Naturally, she would want the same commitment from her husband. Yes?”
“Yes,” Surreal whispered, staring at the Black Jewel peeking through the unbuttoned opening of his white silk shirt.
“But I don’t think you want to be married and celibate,” Daemon continued, his voice becoming a soothing caress. “And I think you enjoyed the pleasure I gave you in bed. Yes?”
“Yes,” she whispered.