“I don’t know what to say.” Daemon sipped the coffee. “I know too much, Lucivar. I heard too many nightmares while Jaenelle and I were married, and I never want my little girl to know the things my Queen knew.”
“I know about those nightmares too.” Lucivar took two plates out of the cupboard and divided the rest of the food. “Jaenelle Saetien didn’t say anything about her visit here until this morning?”
“Oh, she was a bundle of information about the visit, talking about the baby, and Auntie Marian teaching her and Titian to make wildflower wreaths, and getting to do practice routines with you using the sparring sticks, and playing with the wolf pack who lives on the mountain with you, and shopping in Riada with Titian and Jillian and the three of them stopping at The Tavern for the midday meal. She said you had some new rules, but that was thrown in with the rest, and she didn’t elaborate, so it sounded like they were boundaries that just applied to her when she was with you in Ebon Rih.” Daemon took a long swallow of cool coffee. “She didn’t say anything about seeing a man’s body until she wanted to show me something wonderful and tried to drag me out of bed.”
“What was it?” Lucivar asked.
Daemon sighed. “I don’t know. The conversation ended once she mentioned boy parts.”
Lucivar looked out the kitchen window. “Hell’s fire. What time did she jump on you that you got here so early?”
Lucivar huffed out a laugh. “No wonder you arrived here looking like you were skating the border of the Twisted Kingdom.”
“Prick, I know you better than to think what I was thinking. For that, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. If Titian had hit me with that bit of information before I was awake, I would have landed on your doorstep wondering the same thing. The only difference is I would have pinned your ass to the wall before we started talking.”
He meant it. All of it.
Lucivar picked up one of the plates and held it out. “You want this?”
“Yes, I do.” Taking his plate and mug to the kitchen table, he sat down.
Lucivar tossed him a fork, then joined him.
“Tell me about these rules,” Daemon said.
“I kept it simple.” Lucivar spread jam on his toast. “Look equals tell. Touch equals tell. Permission before action. No exceptions.”
“Is that supposed to make sense?”
“The long version of the rules is, if any male tries to show them his stuff or tries to talk them into showing him their bodies, the first thing they do is shield. The second thing they do is holler for you or me, and we will decide what needs to be done. If anyone tries to touch them or tries to make them touch body parts—”
“They shield and holler for one of us.”
Lucivar nodded. “If they want to spend private time with a friend, male or female, they get our permission first. I won’t refuse any reasonable request and will set whatever boundaries I feel are necessary, but permission comes before action.”
“And the consequences of disobeying your rules?”
Lucivar looked him in the eyes. “I’ll destroy the enemy, regardless of gender or age. And unless there is permission beforehand, I will regard any person who tries to sneak off with one of my children as an enemy.”
Daemon sat back. “There might be mitigating circumstances.”
“Not if I find out about it afterward instead of beforehand.”
“That’s a hard line.” One he knew Lucivar would hold. “Do these rules apply to Daemonar too?”
“Yes. And Jillian.”
Daemon stiffened. “Has someone been bothering Jillian?”
Lucivar shook his head. “No—and I intend to keep it that way.” He paused. “Look, Bastard, you may think those rules are harsh, and maybe you want to soften them for Jaenelle Saetien. But when it comes to my children, when they stay with you, I expect you to hold that line.”
He polished off the eggs. “I don’t have any trouble with your rules or holding that line for any of the children—including Mikal.”
Daemon shook his head. “Beron has his own residence and is apprenticing in his chosen profession, so he’s old enough to choose his own company.” But it wouldn’t hurt to remind the young Warlord that being given that much independence didn’t mean the family patriarch wasn’t aware of all of his activities.
“The theater group he belongs to is performing a play in Riada next month. We’re looking forward to seeing him.”
And Uncle Lucivar will keep an eye on him while Beron is in Ebon Rih, Daemon thought, working to hide a smile.
“You want more coffee?” Lucivar asked. “I’ll make another pot.”
“Sure. Where is Marian?”
Something in the tone, in the way Lucivar moved around the kitchen. “Is she all right?”
“Just slow coming back from this birthing. It’s taking longer for her to regain her strength and energy. She’ll be fine.”
“But . . . ?” Daemon asked gently.
Lucivar filled the coffeepot and put it on the stove to heat before replying. “Nurian is an excellent Healer, and I trust what she says. But I wish Jaenelle Angelline was still here to tell me Marian will be fine. I’d feel a lot easier if she was still here to tell me that.”
Daemon walked into his study and found Surreal waiting for him, comfortably settled on the long leather sofa. She had a book in her lap and a crossbow aimed at his groin.
“Is that necessary?” he asked politely.
“You tell me.” Her tone was a few steps short of polite.
He slipped his hands in his trousers pockets and waited. When Surreal began a discussion by pointing a weapon at a man, it was wise to yield as much as possible.
“I upset Jaenelle.” The crossbow didn’t waver, so he considered the other half of his offense. “And I left you to deal with it without giving you any idea of what you were facing.”
“Which is something you won’t do again. Agreed?”
Was there a choice? “Agreed.”
Surreal vanished the crossbow, then shifted so that he could sit beside her.
“Jaenelle Saetien is very sorry that she forgot to tell you about Uncle Lucivar’s new rules—which you will explain to me in detail by the end of the day,” she said. “A new friend showed up early this morning, and she needed to tell you about him before she totally broke the rules instead of just bending the rules by waiting for you to wake up before she told you about her new friend, since he was in her room, but you didn’t wake up, which is why she woke you, but then she mentioned the boy parts, which Uncle Lucivar had also told her to tell you about, and before she could explain, you cat-puffed, kicked her out of the room, and left to yell at Lucivar.”