“We’ll have to figure out who brought it and get it replaced.” Sweet Darkness, please don’t let it be something that was commissioned and was one of a kind.

Lucivar stared at the boy and the mess, looking more and more baffled. “Marian wants another one of those.”

“Another one of what?”

Lucivar lifted his chin. “Those.”

Daemon looked at the little winged boy who was the reason Jaenelle was going to rip him into chunks and feed him to somebody, then back at his brother. “Why?”

Lucivar sighed. “I don’t know.” Then he narrowed his eyes. “But I’m pretty sure it’s your fault.”

He completely lost the ability to speak. He just stood there with his mouth hanging open, staring at Lucivar.

Lucivar nodded. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s your fault.”

“Bt. Dt. Zt.” The sputtering sounds fired up his shocked brain. “Since I am not the one sleeping with your wife, it is not my fault.”

Lucivar was looking grimly pleased. “Yeah, it is. Marian’s been mentioning lately how much I value having a brother the same age.”

Daemon usually valued having a brother too, but that was beside the point.

“You can’t do this,” Daemon said.

“It’s not that hard,” Lucivar replied. “Just don’t drink the contraceptive brew during a woman’s fertile time, and it isn’t hard at all.” His voice changed when he added, “Besides, it might not be another little beast. It could be a cuddly little witchling. A miniature of her mother.”

There was a dopey look on Lucivar’s face.

“Ah, no,” Daemon groaned. “No, no, no. You’re being seduced by the possibility of a daughter.”

“Maybe.”

“Then let me remind you that our father had four children, and all of them had cocks.” Five, actually, if they counted the boy who had been murdered shortly after birth.

Lucivar slanted a look at him. “So you’re saying I shouldn’t count on getting a cuddly little witch?”

“I’m saying the odds aren’t in your favor, so before you pour your contraceptive brew down the sink, consider what it will be like having two of those in the house.”

Lucivar winced and muttered, “One of them would probably end up living with you half the time.”

It was a distinct possibility—and it was exactly what he was afraid of. Not that he didn’t love Daemonar. He did. But most days he loved him much better knowing he could send the boy home.

Suddenly, Lucivar tensed. “How long are you supposed to guard this room?”

Daemon felt all the blood drain out of his head. “Mother Night. Jaenelle is going to be back any minute now.”

They sprang forward at the same moment Daemonar gave the box one last bang on the floor before throwing it and reaching for another.

“You get the boy away from here, and I’ll do what I can to clear up—or hide—this mess,” Daemon said.

Lucivar grabbed Daemonar and swung him around as they twirled toward the door, distracting the boy from the fact he was being taken away from the presents.

Once brother and boy were safely out of the way, Daemon dropped to his knees and began gathering up boxes and wrappings.

He could vanish everything and sort it out later—if he could figure out an excuse Jaenelle would accept for why the packages had disappeared.

Of course, these boxes had arrived after she’d left the room, so maybe she didn’t know about them. That would be good. That would be wonderful. That would—

The door opened—and he froze. When there was no outraged shriek, he dared a look over his shoulder.

Saetan stood in the doorway, clearly amused. The bastard.

Daemon said, “If you love me at all, don’t ask how this happened. Just help me fix it.”

Saetan walked toward Daemon, the door closing silently behind him. “I know how it happened. As a reward, and to give you a break from the festive chaos going on in the rest of the Hall, your wife asked you to guard the gifts. And you, not having brains enough to get comfortable with a brandy and a book, decided guarding the gifts was foolish. So you left ‘for just a few minutes,’ and when you returned, you learned how much of a mess can be made in a short amount of time.”

Daemon closed his eyes and hunched his shoulders. Right now he would gladly give up the privileges of being an adult if he could shove the responsibilities of being an adult under the sofa—along with all the torn wrapping paper.

“How did you know?” Daemon asked.

“I used to have one,” Saetan replied.

Puzzled, he looked up at his father. “One what?”

“Small Eyrien boy. I learned this lesson the hard way, and now, my darling, so have you.”

“You could have warned me.”

“You wouldn’t have believed me.”

So what? You still could have warned me.

Since that wouldn’t get him any help, he swallowed the comment and tried to look woeful. It wasn’t hard to do. “Help?”

Using Craft, Saetan moved a straight-backed chair from one side of the room, placed it close to Daemon, and sat down. “I’ll show you a trick. As long as you don’t use it too often, you can get away with it. Especially during this season, when males are forgiven their foibles. Mostly.”

“The first problem is figuring out who these gifts were intended for,” Daemon said.

“That part is easy. I brought these, so I know which box belongs to which person.”

“Bt. Dt. Zt.” On the second try, he formed actual words. “You brought these? Then why in the name of Hell didn’t you put shields around them?”

A raised eyebrow was his only answer—and an unspoken reminder that Saetan could leave the room without incurring a woman’s wrath.

Sufficiently chastised, Daemon muttered, “Sorry.”

Figuring it was best to confess the worst, he nudged the box Daemonar had pounded on the floor—and winced at the merry tinkle of broken glass.

No response. Just the feel of his father’s formidable presence.

“Lesson one,” Saetan said, sounding too damned amused. “If you shield all the gifts, you also need to shield and Craft-lock the room sufficiently to keep small boys out. Otherwise, that boy will transform from a happy, excited child into a cranky, frustrated child. And trust me, a frustrated Eyrien boy during Winsol is twice as bad as what you’re imagining right now—especially when his little brain is dazzled by boxes and shiny ribbons.”

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