“So one of your conditions is that I be a husband to my wife in every way? That I don’t deny you the pleasure and comfort of sex?”
She nodded, still not daring to look into his eyes.
“I was aware of that when I made the offer, Surreal,” he said gently. “I can’t promise you a husband’s love, because I don’t know if I have that in me anymore. But I can promise you all of the social courtesies, all of the physical courtesies. That much I can, and will, give you.”
He lifted her chin with one finger, a silent command to look at him. “Is there anything else?”
“No. Yes. I don’t want to be locked up here for the next ten months!”
“If I agree to that, you, in turn, will try to tolerate occasional bouts of rabid protectiveness?”
She heard amusement in his voice and felt the slightest release of tension in his body.
“If you turn rabid, I’ll turn bitchy.”
He smiled. “Fair enough. One question. Is there a particular stone you would like for your wedding ring? Or a particular kind of setting?”
She shook her head. “Surprise me.”
“In that case, Lady . . .”
His lips touched hers, a soft kiss that remained soft but grew warmer. She floated on the sensation of being wrapped in the softest blanket. So soft, so deliciously warm. She felt light and heavy, and there was nothing in the world but his mouth so soft on hers and his hands lightly brushing her back under her shirt.
She wanted to snuggle down into that soft warmth and doze for hours, safe and content.
She didn’t know how much time had passed before Daemon raised his head and said, “Feel better?”
Her head began to clear, but the warm, sleepy feeling remained—and the sharp discomfort in her abdomen was gone.
“You drained my power,” she said. “Gray and Green.”
“Yes.” He kissed her temple.
“You going to kiss me like that every time you drain me?”
She felt him smile.
“I’m going to kiss you like that simply to kiss you like that. And I’ll do it often if it pleases you.”
She felt the pull of desire between her legs, but the soft warmth wrapped around her again, and she didn’t want to do anything about that pull. Not right now.
“Once I drain your Jewels to give you an unfilled reservoir, your body will channel its power to them naturally, the same as it does during your moontime,” Daemon said. “I thought you would be more comfortable if I took a direct path this first time.”
She was pretty sure he’d wrapped some spells around her while kissing her, but she felt too comfortable and lazy and soft to care.
“Why don’t you snuggle down on the sofa in here and take a nap?” he said.
She nodded. She’d do anything to keep that voice stroking over her, petting her. And maybe tomorrow—or next month—she’d figure out why feeling that way should piss her off. For now, she let him settle her on the leather sofa in his study and tuck a light blanket around her.
“Rest, Surreal,” he said quietly as he ran a hand over her hair.
Rest, he’d said. So she obeyed.
Happy to have a few minutes when she wasn’t required to smile at women she wanted to knife, Surreal sat alone at a table near the ballroom windows, watching her husband partner one of the Province Queens in a dance.
Sadi hadn’t insulted anyone’s intelligence by pretending—or implying—that the reason the marriage had been planned with such speed was that he had suddenly fallen in love with his second-in-command. Besides, no one, male or female, who had participated in a pregnancy and saw the way Sadi and Yaslana responded whenever anyone came near her had any doubts about why Daemon was getting married again.
Some of the Province Queens who attended the brief ceremony and were now staying for the afternoon-long reception resented Surreal for standing between them and Sadi all those years, certain she’d done it so that she would be in position to snag the coveted title of lover or the more lucrative title of wife at a time when Sadi might be emotionally vulnerable—like, for example, the day his father finally became a whisper in the Darkness. Other Ladies were noticeably relieved that Daemon had remarried and had chosen someone whose temper and ambitions weren’t likely to give anyone unpleasant surprises. A few were genuinely happy for her.
All the Queens’ Consorts were hearty in their congratulations since her new title of “wife” meant their Ladies would no longer dare look in Sadi’s direction—which meant their own positions in the courts were secure at least for the duration of their contracts.
But whether they resented her, were relieved for themselves, or were happy that the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan had a steady sexual companion, they had all been careful of how they approached her.
Not because they felt threatened by her, Surreal thought with a dollop of resentment, but because the consequences of pissing off Daemon or Lucivar right now were bound to be painful—and messy.
“Am I interrupting?”
Surreal smiled at Lady Zhara. “Not at all. Please join me.” She and the Queen of Amdarh had had their share of disagreements over the years, but despite that, they had become friendly and worked well together.
Zhara set a plate on the table. “I thought you might be feeling up to a little nibble now that the ceremony is over and your nerves have settled. When I was pregnant with my first child, I found that a bite or two every couple of hours was easier to handle than a meal, especially in the early stages.” She studied Surreal. “But if seeing or smelling food makes you queasy, I’ll remove the plate right now. Is that why you’re sitting so far away from the feast?”
Surreal selected a triangle of toast that held a bit of chopped beef. “I wasn’t sitting away from the food; I was sitting close to the windows and fresh air. And, actually, I could use a bit of food now. Breakfast didn’t stay down this morning.”
Zhara made a sympathetic face. “It will get better.” She selected a slice of fruit from the plate and tipped her head toward the center of the room. “I’m surprised Prince Sadi isn’t dancing attendance on you instead of dancing with the guests. Especially since you weren’t feeling well this morning.”
Snarling, Surreal selected a cube of cheese. “After the wedding ceremony and well-wishing were completed, I went to the bathroom to pee. Just to pee. And he followed me inside the room and intended to stay so that I wouldn’t—I don’t know—fall over in a faint and crack my skull or some other such nonsense. After I tried to punch him, I told him if he didn’t stop fussing and give me some breathing room, he would have the distinction of being married and divorced on the same day. Which is why he’s currently over there and I’m over here.”