“Fine,” Lucivar said dismissively.“Hallevar,Tamnar, you’re in here with me. Falonar, you can take the others out to play in the snow if that’s what you need to do.”
Falonar’s gold eyes blazed with anger. He shifted his weight into a fighting stance.
The door opened, and Jillian rushed in.
Both men turned toward the girl who had shifted a little more toward being a woman in the past few months.
“You’re supposed to be in school,” Lucivar said at the same time Falonar said, “You’re supposed to be home doing chores.”
Jillian lifted her chin. “I want to be here. I can learn to fight, same as Tamnar.”
“I forbid it,” Falonar said.
“You what?” Surreal said, taking a step toward Falonar.
All the Warlords flinched at the cutting edge in her voice and took a step back, indicating they wanted no part of this fight.
Lucivar swore silently. Great. Fine. Wonderful. Just what he needed—Surreal being pissed off at Falonar. Or more pissed off than usual. On the other hand, if they took a couple of swings at each other, maybe that would clear the air a bit.
Falonar rounded on Surreal and said viciously, “Just because you want to grow a pair of balls doesn’t mean I should permit an Eyrien girl to do the same.”
“Growing a pair of balls is easy,” Surreal snarled. “Growing a heart, that’s a lot more difficult.”
“This is none of your business,” Falonar shouted.
“And none of yours,” she shouted back. “Just because you’re humping her sister—”
“Surreal!” Rainier snapped.
“—doesn’t give you the right to control Jillian’s life!”
“Damn right!” Lucivar roared loudly enough to make everyone flinch. Even Surreal, although she was the one who looked ready to ram a knife between his ribs, which was a sharp reminder that dealing with a Dea al Mon witch wasn’t the same as dealing with an Eyrien witch. “If anyone gets to control someone’s life around here, it’s me.” He pointed at Jillian, then pointed to a corner of the room that was away from the men. “You. Over there.” He pointed at Surreal, then pointed at the other far corner. “You. Over there.”
Surreal bared her teeth. Her right hand curled.
He wasn’t sure if that was a habitual reaction when she was angry or if she was now holding a sight-shielded stiletto.
“Witchling, if you want to kiss dirt, I will let you have the first punch.”
He waited, watching her.
She stormed over to the corner he’d indicated. Thank the Darkness for that.
Lucivar turned to Falonar and kept his voice low. “What in the name of Hell is wrong with you? Did you wake up this morning and decide to piss off everyone with tits?”
“She doesn’t belong here,” Falonar said, keeping his voice just as low. “If we lived as Eyriens should live, she wouldn’t have tried to be here. And we wouldn’t have to tolerate outsiders among us.”
“Surreal is not an outsider. She’s a member of my family.”
He saw the disgust in Falonar’s eyes, the contempt, and almost heard the word Falonar didn’t quite dare say. At least, not yet. Half-breed. For most Eyriens, family had to do with having the proper bloodlines. Lucivar didn’t give a damn about bloodlines. For him, family was about heart.
“If she was good enough to sleep with, she’s good enough for everything else,” he said too softly.
“Tell that to all the men who paid her to spread her legs.”
He didn’t play by anyone else’s rules, and since Falonar seemed to want him to start a fight over the way Surreal used to earn a living, he wasn’t going to oblige.
“Well,” Lucivar said with a savage smile, “if that’s how you feel about her, I’ll have her tally up your bill.”
As he walked away from Falonar, he glanced at Surreal, decided she wouldn’t explode in the next few minutes—at least, not at anyone but him—and went to the corner where Jillian waited, looking scared and defiant.
Resting one hand on the wall, he spread his wings to give them some privacy. It occurred to him that he could have created a sight shield and aural shield around them—and he knew that he would seriously hurt any man who cut off a young girl in that way from the watchful eyes of other adults.
“Why aren’t you in school?” he asked quietly.
“Because I want to be here.” Her voice trembled, but she looked him in the eyes.
Girl has balls, he thought. Of course, running tame in his home might have something to do with it, since she watched Daemonar and was used to being around him. But this was different, and they both knew it.
“School is important,” he said.
“So is this.”
All kinds of messages in those three words. And he hadn’t forgotten what he’d been told about the attack on the Eyriens here two years ago. Hallevar had made light of it at the time to spare the girl’s feelings, but Jillian had killed her first man that day, putting an arrow in the bastard’s heart. That had been the main reason he’d let her continue an informal kind of training after it became clear that the other women wanted no part of that training.
“Has anyone tried to hurt you, Jillian?”
She hesitated. “Not here.”
Not here could explain why Nurian had made the decision to take her younger sister and emigrate to Kaeleer.
“Practice and training are done in the morning,” Jillian said.
True enough, but this morning just proved that being around the men wasn’t the right time for Jillian’s training, not if Falonar was going to snap and snarl the whole time the girl was with them.
He closed his wings and lowered his hand. “You go on to school now. You tell the teacher you’re late because I kept you. If she has a problem with that, she can talk to me.”
“But . . .”
“If you don’t give me any sass about this, I will figure out how to work in some regular, formal training for you.” Especially now, when the girl might be a good working partner for both Surreal and Rainier.
Jillian’s shoulders relaxed. She smiled shyly. “Yes, sir.”
He stepped aside and watched her run out of the eyrie, her steps light. Then he walked over to his next problem, who looked ready to tear out his throat with her teeth.
With her black hair and sun-kissed brown skin, Surreal looked like a beautiful woman from Dhemlan or Hayll—until a man noticed the delicately pointed ears. They were an indication, and warning, of her other bloodline. Just as he had a dual heritage of Hayllian and Eyrien but was Eyrien in every way that counted, Surreal was Dea al Mon, one of the Children of the Wood. They were a fiercely private and feral race who lived closer to the land than any other humans. And because they seemed to be born knowing what to do with a knife, they were deadly.