“Come in, Prince. Sit down,” Saetan said. He looked at Tersa. “Darling, could you bring in some coffee?”
Tersa nodded. “And nutcakes. Boys need something sweet after a scolding.” She gave Daemon a distracted smile as she scurried past him.
Scolding? he thought as his heart settled back to a regular beat and his mind adjusted to the fact that his mother wasn’t hurt or ill. Oh, no. There is not going to be a scolding.
He looked his father in the eyes and said, “I’m an adult.”
Saetan met his look with steely calm. “When you walk out that door, you’re an adult. Right here, right now, you’re a son. Sit.”
He sat. It was humiliating that his body had obeyed that voice before his brain made a decision.
Saetan took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Your mother is concerned about her boys.”
“We didn’t do anything.”
Where in the name of Hell had those words come from? And why had there been a flash of amused panic in Saetan’s eyes before the High Lord regained that steely calm?
“When you and Lucivar were little boys and one of you said that to me, I knew we had something to talk about,” Saetan said. “And we would sit for as long as it took to discuss it.”
Meaning for as long as it took the boy to start squirming beneath the weight of that stare and blurt out whatever it was he had done.
And damn it, that stare still worked.
“It’s nothing,” Daemon said.
“Tersa didn’t summon me here for ‘nothing.’ ”
Daemon considered the alternatives. There were none. Reminding himself that he’d intended to show the gift to Saetan anyway, he called in the globe and set it on the table next to the chair. As the mousie went through its routine, he watched the fingers that had been resting on Saetan’s chin creep up until they were pressed hard between the High Lord’s eyes.
When the spell finished with the mousie squaring its little shoulders, ready to begin again, Saetan lowered his hands and said in a strangled voice, “You’re going to give this to your brother?”
“I see.” Saetan shook his head and sighed.
Daemon heard the chuckle under the sigh and felt woozy relief wash through him.
“Put that away,” Saetan said, pointing at the globe.
He did, with alacrity.
“You came because of this?” Daemon glanced at the still-closed parlor door. Was Tersa waiting for some kind of signal before coming back into the room?
“Because of what happened in the spooky house, your mother was concerned about making surprises for her boys and wanted my opinion.”
“Boys?” Daemon asked as the significance of the word sank in.
A flood of . . . Not memories. Not exactly. More like he was riding a wave of remembered feelings.
“We were hers when we were young, weren’t we?” Daemon said slowly. “Both of us.”
“Luthvian birthed Lucivar, but Tersa was the one who loved him.” Saetan looked at the fire burning in the hearth. “That was fitting in a way. If Tersa hadn’t insisted that I see Luthvian through her Virgin Night, Lucivar wouldn’t exist. She had as much to do with that conception as the two people who were in the bed that night. So in a very real sense, he is her winged boy.”
Daemon stared at the carpet, trying to sort through feelings that were more elusive than memories. Trying to sort through the tangle of his bond with Lucivar. They had loved each other, hated each other, fought with each other, and fought for each other. There were things he might have done—and things he wouldn’t have done—if Lucivar hadn’t existed, but none of those things would have been worth the price of not having a brother. Especially this brother.
An aftertaste of bitterness filled him. He looked up to find his father watching him.
“Since Tersa was willing to take the cast—off boy, I’m surprised Luthvian . . .” He trailed off.
“The way your mother is now is about how she was then,” Saetan said softly. “Walking the roads of dreams and visions, yes, but not walking so deeply in the Twisted Kingdom that she couldn’t find the borders of sanity. If Tersa could have been persuaded to trade, Luthvian would have taken you in a heartbeat, because even then you were everything she wanted—and everything your brother wasn’t.”
Daemon stiffened, and the air chilled in response to his temper.
Saetan smiled. “Same response, all these centuries later.”
“She didn’t try to talk Tersa into trading?” The word choked him, sounding too much like the years of slavery that would never be forgotten.
“Luthvian didn’t like your brother, so you didn’t like her. Hell’s fire, Daemon. Sometimes you took my breath away when Luthvian tried to coax you into doing something with her. Just you and her. You were barely old enough to string words together in a complete sentence, and you were still so coldly and cuttingly polite there was no doubt how you felt about her.”
Saetan studied him. “Being Warlord Princes, the two of you are bound to feel territorial about anyone who matters to you, and subtle challenges and bristling are not unexpected when those territories overlap, especially when the individuals are still getting used to sharing. But for Tersa’s sake, I need to know if it’s more than that. So I want an answer to a question: Do you have a problem with Lucivar spending time with your mother?”
“Our mother.” The moment Daemon said the words, something in him settled. Things that were the most precious, the most important, were shared cautiously, if at all. Their years of slavery had taught him and Lucivar that hard lesson. Sooner or later, Lucivar would have told him about visiting Tersa. Of that he was certain. “Tersa is our mother.”
“Fine, then. We’ll all have coffee and nutcakes, and I’ll reassure Tersa that making these little Winsol surprises won’t get her boys into too much trouble.”
“Wait.” Daemon held up a hand. “What did Lucivar ask her to make? Aren’t you going to tell me?”
His father just looked at him—and laughed.
After giving the door to the butler’s pantry a perfunctory knock, Daemon walked into the room and wasn’t sure who was more flustered—himself or Beale.
Good manners dictated that he walk out of the room as if he’d seen nothing. Curiosity had him closing the door and asking, “Are the acoustics good in this room?”