Warlord Prince. Husband. Daemon.
With each word that identified who he was, her head cleared a little more and images and sounds flashed by in memory, jumbled and distorted—the pain, the Healer’s encouraging voice, a male voice promising it wouldn’t hurt much longer, the thin cry of a baby, the man lowering her to the pillows and moving toward the child a woman lifted from between her legs, and her sudden attack to keep him, and everyone else, away from her baby. Hands holding her down while she fought and screamed—and the woman, the Healer, rushing to the far side of the room and handing her baby to ...
Surreal raised a hand, touched her shoulder, and flinched.
“You’re going to have a few bruises,” the Healer said quietly. “Prince Yaslana wasn’t trying to hurt you, but you had to be restrained for your own safety and the child’s.”
She stared at Daemon. “Was anyone hurt?”
“No,” he said quietly. “But we all learned some things about the Dea al Mon side of your nature.”
He was lying. She could feel it. Someone had gotten hurt, but she knew he wouldn’t tell her if she asked him. At least, not right now.
“I’ll be back in a little while to answer any questions you may have,” the Healer said. “For now, why don’t the three of you get acquainted?”
Helene and the Healer’s assistant left through the outer room while the Healer went into the adjoining room, no doubt to report to Lucivar and Marian.
“I guess I must have gone a little insane?” she asked.
“Something like that.” He sat on the edge of the bed near her knees, still wary of her and ready to move out of reach. He also had a shield around himself and the baby so she couldn’t touch either one.
She scraped her fingers through sweat-damp hair. “Hell’s fire, Sadi. What do you want me to say? Things got fuzzy toward the end.”
“Sometimes you’re a scary woman, Surreal.” Daemon studied her. “Still feeling fuzzy?”
“No.” Now she felt scared as she realized how badly she’d unnerved him. He was keeping the baby away from her. Was he going to take her child? Had she done something that made him think she would hurt the child? Mother Night. “The baby?”
She. Daughter. “She has the right number of fingers and toes?”
He smiled. “Yes, she does. I didn’t have a chance to look at everything, but I saw that much.”
We’re both afraid, she thought. Both afraid of being shut out by the other. And I don’t know what I did to make him so wary of letting me near my own baby.
“I hadn’t decided on a name for a boy, but I know the name I’d like to give our daughter—with your consent,” she said.
“Unless it’s outlandish, I doubt I’ll have a problem with any name you choose,” he replied.
“Jaenelle Saetien. I would like to name her Jaenelle Saetien in honor of two people who meant a great deal to me.”
Shock. Pain. And then, gratitude. “Are you sure?”
Surreal smiled. “I’m sure.”
She watched his shoulders relax as he studied his daughter.
“Jaenelle say-tee-ehn,” he said, pronouncing the name as she had. Then he gave his girl a loving smile. “Hello, witch-child.”
The right choice, Surreal decided as she watched Daemon relax enough to unwrap the blankets and get a better look at his baby. She wanted to touch them both, and she couldn’t until he trusted her enough to drop his shield.
His eyes wandered leisurely over that small body that had come from hers. Then he studied the head and his expression became bemused.
“Her ears are pointed,” he said softly.
Suddenly self-conscious, Surreal pulled her hair over her own delicately pointed ears.
Daemon’s smile turned soft and silly. He shifted position, moving up so that she could finally see her daughter and share this discovery.
She reached out to move the blanket to get a better look—and couldn’t touch it. He tensed, but he dropped the shield. When she did nothing more than touch the blanket, he relaxed and shifted his body to include her.
“Look,” he said, sounding enchanted. “Her little ears are pointed. She’s going to be beautiful, like you.”
A prick of tears. She blinked them back before he noticed.
Jaenelle began crying. Surreal saw Daemon change in a heartbeat from a soft man to a predator ready to protect his own.
“What’s wrong?” Daemon’s gold eyes were cold and glazed as he raised his head and looked at her.
The temper wasn’t aimed at her, she realized. If he couldn’t deduce what was wrong with his child quickly enough, he expected her to point out the problem so that he could take care of it—permanently.
That was the moment she understood that her part of the job wasn’t so much to protect the child as to push Sadi back the necessary half step that would give his girl some breathing room from the instincts that would be honed to a lethal edge from now on.
Uncle Saetan hadn’t had the leash of a partner when he’d raised Jaenelle and stood as the coven’s protector. Looking at Daemon now, she began to appreciate just how formidable the old man’s self-control had been.
“I think she’s hungry,” Surreal said.
A heartbeat. Two. Then Daemon blinked and looked around as if expecting to find a table of food that would appeal to his girl.
Surreal touched his sleeve. When he focused on her, she tapped her chest. “For the next few months, her kitchen is right here.”
He looked at her chest and blinked again. “Oh.”
She held out her arms and waited.
Hesitation. Reluctance. But he finally settled the baby in her arms.
When he sat there, waiting, she turned shy. “I know you’ve seen my br**sts before, but this is different.”
Another heartbeat. Two. “You want me to leave?”
She nodded. “Could you ask Marian to come in?”
That request melted whatever resistance he had for leaving her alone with the child. He brushed a finger over the baby’s hand, then leaned over and kissed Surreal with a tenderness that made her heart ache.
“Thank you,” he said.
She grinned. “She is pretty wonderful, isn’t she?”
“She’s her mother’s daughter. How could she be anything else?”
She sat there, stunned by the words, as Daemon slipped out of the room and Marian slipped in.
The moment Daemon stepped into the adjoining room, Lucivar caught him in a hard hug and held on while his brother shook with the effort to control his emotions—and probably control the pain he’d been hiding.