“Daemon has gone to his suite to wash up and change into fresh clothes,” Lucivar said.

“Are you pissed off at me?” Surreal asked. She heard tears in her voice.

“No, I’m not pissed off at you,” Lucivar said. “Neither is Daemon. We want to do whatever you need to feel safe and easy.”

“I’ll stay and have a bite to eat with Surreal,” Marian said quickly, looking from one to the other. “Daemon could come back a little later.”

Surreal studied Lucivar’s face, his eyes. “He doesn’t want to see me?”

Lucivar met her look, made some decision, and sighed. “You caught him in the ribs as well as the arm. Bastard managed to hide that from me even while I was cleaning the arm. It wasn’t until the Healer stepped in the blood that had pooled under the chair and I pushed to break the illusion spell that we discovered the other wounds and realized how much blood he’d lost.”

“Mother Night,” Surreal whispered.

“After she closed the wounds, we got him a clean shirt and let him receive congratulations from the family before taking him to his suite. Right now, the Healer is pouring some potent healing brews down his throat, and Jazen and the Scelties are under orders to make sure he stays down for a couple of hours. Then, if he’s steady enough, he can come back and see you.”

Tears filled her eyes and spilled over. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to hurt him. I’m not sure what I was trying to do.”

“You thought you needed to protect your baby. He doesn’t fault you for that, Surreal. Neither do I. But I need to know you’re steady before I let him back in this room. He’s in no condition to defend himself right now. Not from you.”

“He doesn’t have to.”

Marian went into the small bathroom and returned with a damp cloth. “Here. Wipe your face so the children can come in and meet their new cousin.”

Surreal did as she was told. She had a feeling Tersa knew why Daemon wasn’t present, but the others were more interested in the baby and didn’t notice the absence of the father.

When Lucivar decided they’d all had sufficient chance to coo, he herded them out, reminding them that there was a celebratory feast in the dining room.

“I’ll tell Beale we’re ready for some food and be back in a minute,” Marian said.

Finally alone, Surreal looked at the baby girl sleeping in her arms and sighed. “Your birthing day turned out to be a lot more exciting than I’d intended. I figure your papa and uncle will start forgetting about that around the time we’re planning your wedding. Of course, getting your papa to agree to let a boy have that first kiss could be a problem, but I’ll work on it. I promise I will.”

As soon as the rest of the family was out of sight, Lucivar wrapped his arms around Marian.

“Is Daemon really hurt that bad?” she asked.

“Yeah, he’s hurt that bad,” Lucivar replied. “He was bleeding all that time and hid it.”

“To protect the baby.”

“And so that Surreal wouldn’t know, wouldn’t feel the weight of blame for something done when she wasn’t thinking clearly.” He sighed. “But he will be all right.”

“Did he tell you the baby’s name?”

He nodded. “And that Surreal chose it.”

“Lucivar?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you think either of them has realized yet that Jaenelle Saetien has the same birthday as Jaenelle Angelline?”

Later that evening, Surreal looked up from watching the baby sleep to find Daemon standing in the doorway.

“May I come in?” he asked.

“Sure.”

He moved slowly, stiffly, as he approached the bed and came around to the side that held the baby basket.

“Hell’s fire, Sadi, you look like shit.”

“You flatter me, as always.”

“I’m not playing,” she said sharply, then lowered her voice when the baby stirred. “Sit down before you fall down.” How much blood had he lost? And why had the fool allowed himself to keep bleeding like that?

Because he wouldn’t leave the baby. And she wouldn’t have calmed down if he’d left the room with the baby. So he’d stayed, hiding the wounds and the blood soaking into his clothes.

They were going to have a little chat about him taking care of himself so that he’d be able to take care of the child. On the other hand, she appreciated his restraint in not hurting her today.

“Daemon, sit down.”

He used Craft to move a chair next to the bed. When that didn’t give him a good view of his daughter, he sat on the edge of the bed, wincing as he shifted position. One finger touched a tiny hand.

He’s already in love with her, Surreal thought as she watched him watch Jaenelle. The baby had a fuzz of black hair, gold eyes, and light brown skin. The delicately pointed ears were the only sign that she wasn’t purely from the long-lived races.

“Are you disappointed that she’s not a Queen?” Surreal asked.

The Healer had said it might take a few days for a psychic scent to become strong enough to identify a caste, but the words had been said to ease possible disappointment. Surreal had known within minutes of holding her baby that Jaenelle Saetien wasn’t a Queen. Lucivar had known just by being in the same room with the girl, so she figured Daemon also knew.

Daemon looked at her, surprised. “Disappointed? No.” His eyes went back to the baby. “Queens are the Blood’s moral center and the heart of the land. Their will is the law, and every single person who lives in their territory is held by their whims. But for all that, their lives are set from the day they’re born, and their lives are never truly their own. We need the Queens, but I’m relieved that my daughter will be spared the weight of those duties. She can become whatever she chooses to be.”

“I’ll remind of you of that when she announces a new course of study that’s so outrageous just hearing about it makes you snort coffee out your nose.”

He let out a startled laugh. Then his breath caught from the pain.

Surreal sighed. “Daemon, we both need to get some sleep before she wakes up and wants another meal.”

He nodded, clearly unhappy.

This should have been a wonderful day for both of them, and he shouldn’t have been exhausted from pain and blood loss because of her.

She snugged the baby basket up against her. “Come on, Sadi. Stretch out here and get some sleep.”

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