Allista, looking like a cat who had been dunked in a tub of water and then stroked the wrong way, hesitated before letting him into the cottage.

“The witchling is still sleepy,” Tersa said when he walked into the kitchen. “But boys start the day early in order to do all their boy things.”

On another day, it would have been interesting to find out what Tersa considered “boy things,” but one of them needed to stay focused, and it had to be him.

Her mind had shattered centuries ago, but Tersa was still brilliant in her own way, still powerful in her own way. She had given up sanity in order to regain the Hourglass’s Craft and could draw power out of madness in ways that even Saetan didn’t understand.

Lucivar loved her. It was that simple. He had begun these twice-monthly visits for the same reason he had visited his own mother, Luthvian—as a family duty. But unlike Luthvian, who had hated her son because of the heritage she had given him, Tersa had accepted the wings and the fact that he was an Eyrien warrior down to the very marrow of his bones. She didn’t criticize him for what he was—or for what he wasn’t. She didn’t lash out at him physically or verbally. He could sit in her kitchen and enjoy her company, and she seemed to enjoy his.

He should have told Daemon about the visits. Maybe not when Daemon had first arrived in Kaeleer, since Sadi had had enough things to deal with, but he should have said something soon after, instead of having that nugget of information come out a few weeks ago while they were dealing with that damned spooky house that had been built to trap, and kill, some of their family. He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t said anything. Maybe because he’d been afraid he would be asked to step aside? After all, Tersa was Daemon’s mother, not his, and when the real son was present, a surrogate wasn’t needed. Or maybe, like his father, he had gotten into the habit of not mentioning any relationship that would have given Luthvian an excuse to feel neglected or cast aside. Even now, when his mother was a whisper in the Darkness and truly gone, he had continued to keep his visits to Tersa private. Either way, by the time Daemon came to Kaeleer, the visits were a long-established habit that he didn’t discuss with anyone.

“Do you want food?” Tersa asked. “There are some scrambled eggs and toast left. The boy made them.”

In that case, he wasn’t going to refuse. No one made scrambled eggs better than Daemon—including his own darling hearth witch wife. Which was something he would never ever admit to anyone. Especially Marian.

Since Allista hadn’t joined them, he figured she had already eaten or would fend for herself, so he got a fork out of the drawer, hefted the bowl, leaned a hip against the counter, and began to eat.

“You should sit at the table,” Tersa said.

“I can eat just fine where I am.” She looked like she was about to scold, so he added casually, “Did you eat?”

“I ate.”

He caught the hesitation before she answered. She would have eaten something. Daemon wouldn’t have left if she hadn’t. But she still had the skinniness of someone who had been half-starved for too many years, and even now, when there was plenty of food, she sometimes became too distracted by something only she could see and forgot to eat.

So he never wasted an opportunity to feed her.

Scooping up another forkful of scrambled eggs, he held it in front of her. “Open up.”

Her mouth remained stubbornly shut.

He sighed—but his eyes never left her face and his hand remained steady. “Am I going to have to embarrass myself by making funny noises like I do with Daemonar?”

Her mouth fell open in surprise, and he slipped the fork in before she realized what he was doing.

She scowled at him. He grinned at her. And prudently ate a couple of forkfuls of egg himself before offering her another.

Tersa waved him off and got her own fork.

They polished off the eggs—and he made her work to claim the last bite—then he finished off the toast while enjoying a mug of coffee.

“Were you able to do it?” he asked as he rinsed off the dishes and set them in the sink.

Tersa frowned at him. “I was able to do it, but . . .”

Grinning, he wiped his hands on a towel. “Let’s see.”

Using Craft, she called in a small wooden frame and set it at one end of the kitchen table. The carefully constructed web attached to the frame held the illusion spell. She triggered the illusion spell, and they watched as a small black beetle appeared and headed for the other end of the table. It grew and grew with every step. When it got as big as his palm, it burst open with enough gore and green goo to delight a small Eyrien boy.

“You have the box?” Tersa asked.

He called in the long wood-and-glass box he’d had made to hold the illusion web and keep the entire illusion contained. He valued his skin—and his marriage—enough to make sure the bug remained in the box.

After she placed the illusion web into its part of the box, they watched the beetle once more. Lucivar grinned at the way the gore and goo splattered all over the inside of the glass before it all faded away. “Darling, this is perfect.”

Tersa looked uneasy. “Maybe I should ask your father.”

Not quite a statement, not quite a question. More a tentative testing of an idea.

He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, not quite sure if he was troubled or intrigued by the words. “Why?”

“I made little surprises for my boys before, and it caused trouble. Almost hurt them. I don’t want to cause trouble for my boys. Your father will know what to do.” She nodded, as if she’d made a decision. “Yes. Your father will know.”

Lucivar vanished the box and decided this would be a good time to give her something else to think about—before she contacted his father.

Boys. My boys.

The ground shifted under his feet. His breath caught. He felt like he was riding a current that could be a very sweet wind or have a cutting edge.

“What boys, darling?” he asked.

“My boys.” She glanced at him, suddenly shy and hesitant.

Painfully sweet words, and a possibility he hadn’t considered about why Tersa had welcomed him from the first time he’d knocked on her cottage door.

“Am I one of your boys, Tersa?” he asked.

She was Daemon’s mother. She would have been around during the childhood years he couldn’t remember. She had known him as a child—and he must have known her. That hadn’t occurred to him before.