Big sigh. “The girls will push in.”

“I’ll keep the girls out of the way.”

“Yeah?” Daemonar climbed out of the pool, looking happier.

“Hey.” Lucivar waited until Daemonar met his eyes. “Do not start teasing them.”

“I won’t.”

Lucivar stared at him. “They’re having a good time. Let them be.”

“I’m not going to do anything. Not with Jaenelle here.”

“Because she’s younger than you and Titian?”

Daemonar grinned. “No, because she hits a lot harder than Titian.”

His sigh turned into a chuckle. “Go on, then.”

Daemonar grabbed his clothes and darted over to the bushes where he would have privacy dressing.

Lucivar pushed away from the edge of the pool and floated on his back, his wings spread.

Didn’t get much quiet time these days, not since Marian had given birth to their third child, a boy they named Andulvar in honor of the Demon Prince. A hard birthing, and it was taking Marian longer to recover. Because she needed more rest and her time and strength were being given to the baby, he made sure Daemonar and Titian had a little time alone with her each day. And he made sure she had a little time for herself. Like today when he took the children for an afternoon at the pool and Jillian was at the eyrie to help out and watch the baby so that Marian could have a couple of hours to sleep or read in peace.

With all the children nearby but occupied, he could have a few minutes of peace himself.

The girls’ shrieks had him snapping upright, but he stayed in the pool, listening while he sent out psychic probes to search for the problem. They weren’t yelling for help, and those shrieks weren’t telling him much. The sound could be for anything—bug, snake, weird formation of bark on a tree. Granted, the girls weren’t prone to shrieking, since they’d learned early how their fathers responded to the sound, but they were young girls of a certain age, so . . .

Daemonar’s voice. Angry. Distressed. Close to panic.

It didn’t matter if he couldn’t sense anything wrong. If all three of them were upset, there was a problem.

Lucivar surged out of the water, calling in his war blade as he strode toward their voices. He used Craft to pass through the bushes in his way, never breaking stride. Nothing should have been able to slip through his perimeter shield. Nothing! But if something had and the children were under attack . . .

He burst in on them, his temper rising to the killing edge as he scanned the clear, grassy area where Jaenelle and Titian stood, then probed the bushes behind Daemonar—and found nothing.

“What in the name of Hell is going on?” he roared.

Daemonar and Titian began talking so fast they were barely coherent, their words a cacophony of tripping sounds full of accusations, justifications, denials, and explanations. But it was Jaenelle’s expression—baffled and a bit disappointed—that caught his attention and made him uneasy.

A sharp whistle silenced his children. Daemonar clutched his clothes to cover himself. Titian twisted her fingers. Jaenelle remained focused on ... whatever.

Then, sounding apologetic, she said, “It looks like baby Andulvar’s stuff.”

Daemonar made a strangled noise. Titian glanced at her father, blushed fiercely, and looked away. Jaenelle cocked her head and continued to ponder.

“What?” He looked down to figure out what the witchling found so interesting—and swore silently but with great sincerity. And suddenly all the accusations, justifications, denials, and explanations made sense.

After making one more swift probe to be sure there was no danger, Lucivar vanished his war blade and called in the loin wrap he usually wore as a morning cover-up in the summer. As he secured the wrap, he said, “Before I decide whose ass gets kicked, let me see if I understand this. Some of the older girls at school have gotten curious about what a boy has tucked in his pants, and they’ve been teasing Titian, saying she’s too young to know about such things.”

“They made it sound all mysterious, and I wanted to know!” Titian wailed.

“So when you heard Daemonar in the bushes, Jaenelle tried to sneak up on him and get a look at what the older girls were talking about.”

“I tried to be quiet, but Daemonar heard me right away,” Jaenelle said.

No, he didn’t, Lucivar thought. Otherwise, he would have started yelling before the shrieking started. But he found it interesting that Jaenelle was trying to give Daemonar credit for catching her—and even more interesting that she had been able to sneak up on an Eyrien boy who already had a few years of formal training. Of course, that boy was still naked and nowhere near the bushes where he’d gone to get dressed, which meant he’d decided to sneak up on the girls and see what they were doing and had been so intent on that he’d forgotten the reason he was still carrying his clothes—until Jaenelle sneaked up on him and he realized how much trouble he’d be in for being naked in front of his young cousin.

Lucivar said, “So now you’ve seen the mysterious boy parts that are making the older girls act silly.”

“Really?” Jaenelle asked doubtfully.

“Darling, if someone is male and human, this is what he’s got in his pants.”


He quivered with the effort not to laugh at the keen disappointment held in that single word. Apparently boy parts weren’t mysterious after all. In fact, they weren’t even interesting. At least, not for a good many years.

Thank the Darkness for that.

“Papa?” Titian said after a long moment of feet-shuffling silence. “Can we go back to picking flowers?”

“Not yet.” Lucivar gave all the children a lazy, arrogant smile. “First, we’re going to discuss some new rules.”

“That’s it,” Lucivar said, setting his coffee mug on the counter.

Daemon stood still, saying nothing, trying to find his balance. Jaenelle Saetien hadn’t seen a strange man intent on doing her harm in any way. And he couldn’t fault Lucivar for choosing the war blade over pants when it sounded like the children were in trouble. He would have made the same choice of weapons over modesty.

His head throbbed and his stomach churned, no doubt from holding in all that rage that now had no target.

He watched Lucivar pick up the coffeepot and refill one mug. “Is there enough in there for another cup?”

Lucivar gave him that measuring look, understanding the message. He filled the other mug and handed it to Daemon.