He crouched, held out a hand, and felt warm air.
And then someone had put a warming spell on the flagstones to keep them clear of snow.
The cottage door opened and the someone walked out.
Lucivar rose and looked pointedly at the walkways, then at Daemon. “You know, Bastard, using Craft is all well and good, but it wouldn’t hurt you to sweat once in a while.”
“If I’m going to work up a sweat for a woman, I’m going to be doing something besides sweeping the walk,” Daemon replied.
They were brothers. Half brothers, but they had never made that distinction. They both had the coloring of the three long-lived races—the black hair, light brown skin, and gold eyes. They had inherited much of their looks from their Hayllian father, who was the High Lord of Hell. Daemon’s face was a more refined, beautiful version of Saetan’s, while his own face was more rugged than their father’s. But the real distinction between him and Daemon came from the other side of his dual heritage. He had the dark, membranous wings that set the Eyrien race apart from the Hayllian and Dhemlan Blood.
They studied each other for a moment before Lucivar’s mouth curved in a lazy, arrogant smile.
“You’re up early,” Lucivar said, taking the few steps that separated them.
“You’re up even earlier, since you had to come in from Ebon Rih,” Daemon replied. “You must have left at dawn.”
Lucivar shook his head. “I’m farther east; sun rises earlier. But I was up at dawn.”
“Was that by choice?”
“Hell’s fire, no, but the little beast is up with the sun, and I feel less guilty about Marian holding the leash most of the day if she gets a little extra sleep.”
“How is my darling nephew? Counting the days until Winsol?”
“One of us is,” Lucivar muttered. He smiled grimly in response to Daemon’s laugh. “Last year,Winsol was something that just appeared and dazzled him. This year he’s figured out that Winsol is coming.”
“Ooooh, yeah. So every morning, he climbs into bed with us, pries my eyes open, and says, ‘Papa! Is it Winzel yet?’ ”
Daemon’s lips were curved in a smile, but his golden eyes were full of sharp understanding. “Can you put a shield around the bed?”
“Tried that. Unfortunately, one that will keep him out also keeps Marian out. She didn’t appreciate smacking into a shield when she wanted to get back into bed after getting up to pee.”
He heard Daemon’s concern wrapped around that single word.
“I’ve got a light shield around Daemonar’s room that will wake me if he starts wandering,” he said. That shield was a necessary precaution now to keep his son safe—from him. A Warlord Prince was a born predator, a natural killer. A Warlord Prince startled awake didn’t think; he attacked. The first morning Daemonar pounced on him, the boy’s physical scent and psychic scent had penetrated his sleep-fogged brain fast enough that he managed to pull back what might have been a killing blow.
Marian’s presence didn’t bother him. He was so steeped in the feel of her, she could touch him, mount him, do just about anything to him before he was fully awake without provoking that lethal rise to the killing edge. But Daemonar was male, he was a Warlord Prince, and he’d matured just enough over the past few weeks that Lucivar’s aggressive instincts now recognized caste before son.
So even though he let the boy have the fun of prying his eyes open, Lucivar was always awake and aware before Daemonar entered the room.
He looked into his brother’s eyes and knew he didn’t need to say anything more.
Then Daemon looked pointedly at Tersa’s cottage and raised an eyebrow as if asking a question—or demanding an explanation.
“None of your business, Bastard,” Lucivar said.
It wasn’t, and they both knew it. They also knew that Daemon was protective of Tersa and, in the past, had been brutally efficient when it came to dealing with men who had taken the wrong kind of interest in her.
And they also both knew that, in Terreille, Lucivar Yaslana had earned his reputation for being unpredictable, uncontrollable, and explosively violent toward women, so Daemon’s concern about his brother spending time with his mother was not without reason.
“Well,” Daemon said after an awkward moment. “I’d better get back to the Hall before the rest of the household is up.”
Lucivar nodded. “We’ll be coming in at the end of the week to help you and Jaenelle get the Hall ready for Winsol.”
“Get what ready?”
Lucivar blinked, decided Daemon wasn’t being a smart-ass, and gave his brother a pitying look. “Since I’ve been married longer than you, here’s a piece of advice: Never ask questions like that. They’ll only get you into trouble.”
Daemon huffed out a breath. “There are servants at the Hall. Lots of them. They’re the ones who are getting things ready.”
The pitying look changed to a wicked grin. “You do have a lot to learn.”
“No, really. They haven’t put up any of the fresh greenery because that’s done on the first day of Winsol, but yesterday Helene hauled out a century’s worth of decorations from the Hall’s attics. Hell’s fire, one of the young maids even put bells on the Sceltie puppies.”
“Did the puppies jingle into your study to complain?” Lucivar asked.
“Of course they did. Until the wolf pups decided the bells sounded fun. So now I have Sceltie puppies prancing up and down the great hall wearing bells while the wolf pups howl.”
“Your guests are going to be greeted by a jingle howl?” Correctly interpreting Daemon’s look, Lucivar added, “If you try to whack me upside the head, you’ll end up on the ground.”
Daemon squeezed his eyes shut and muttered, “Maybe I can run away from home.”
“We’re not allowed to do that. Trust me. We’re allowed to hide for an hour or two at a time, but we’re not allowed to run away from the festivities.”
“The women we married.”
Daemon sighed. “Was life simpler when we were slaves in Terreille?”
“Simpler in some ways, yes. But not as much fun. See you in a few days.”
Lucivar stepped aside to let Daemon pass. Choosing to be cautious, because the Sadist had earned his reputation too, he watched until Daemon was out of sight, that gliding walk and feline grace covering a lot of ground. Then he approached the cottage and knocked on the door.