As the enemy lunged at her, she wrapped shields around herself and ran, hoping to lure him away long enough for her boys to escape. She didn’t worry much about Mikal. Asking Tildee to run meant something terrible had happened, and the Sceltie would protect the boy with everything in her while getting him to a safe place. But Beron . . .

“Mother?” Beron shouted, sounding much too close. “Mother?”

*Run!* she screamed.

A blast of power hit her legs, breaking her shields and exploding her knees. She struck the ground hard and rolled, denying the pain while she twisted around to face the enemy.

“Mother!”

No time to argue with Beron about running toward her instead of running away. She blasted the enemy with everything she had in her Purple Dusk Jewel. It didn’t break his shield, but it stopped him for a moment. He was stronger, had a deeper reservoir of power than she did, and that meant he would win this fight.

She’d still make the bastard work for the kill.

Slipping on the blood and shattered bones, he fell on her and began tearing at her clothes. She tore at him with her nails, breaking through his shield long enough to rip her fingers on a protective mesh that covered his face.

He rammed a knife between her ribs. Before her body registered pain, he yanked it out.

“I’m going to give you a smile from ear to ear,” he snarled.

A blast of power knocked him off her. Leaping to his feet, he grabbed her torn clothes and used Craft to fling her far out into the garden.

As she flew through the air, in those moments before the physical death, she saw the enemy attack Beron.

Daemon followed Jaenelle into her sitting room, closed the door, then wrapped his arms around her.

“I love listening to you sing,” he said as he nuzzled her. “And so did everyone else tonight.”

“I was pleased that we had a full house.” She tipped her head to give him access to his favorite spot on her neck.

He brushed her hair back before giving that spot a delicate taste. After years of keeping her hair sleek-short or shaggy-short, depending on her mood, she had finally let it grow out. It wasn’t as long as it had been when she was twenty-five, but it now hid the spot between neck and shoulder that the Warlord Princes who served her found so intriguing.

“You always have a full house,” he said, feeling a swell of pride, among other things. She owned a music shop in Halaway and sang there twice a month, hosting Dhemlan musicians as well as musicians from many other Territories in Kaeleer—and beyond. “Since you included a couple of folk songs from Shalador Nehele, I was surprised you hadn’t asked Ranon to come here and play with you.”

Jaenelle gave him a wicked grin. “I knew better than to ask Ranon. I asked Cassidy and Shira if he could indulge me. They—and Vae—ganged up on him. He’ll be here for the next concert.”

Daemon laughed. He felt a keen sympathy for the Shalador Warlord Prince because he knew how it felt to be backed into a corner, but he laughed anyway.

Then Jaenelle kissed him with heat, and the parts of him that had swelled along with his pride responded with enthusiasm. But he eased back a little before he forgot what he’d wanted to discuss.

“You’re going to be thirty-seven this year,” he said.

“And that is significant because . . . ?”

“You’ve never been thirty-seven before. I thought we should do something special for your birthday.”

“We always do something special for my birthday.” She rocked her hips, brushing against him. “And some part of the ‘something special’ usually involves you being deliciously naked.”

The world narrowed to his need to make love with her—to play and seduce and savor until they were both boneless and satisfied. His arms tightened around her, and just as his mouth touched hers . . .

*Daemon!*

*daemondaemondaemondaemondaemon.*

He raised his head, snarling. *Go away!* One Sceltie might be cowed by the snarl traveling along the psychic link, especially when he made no effort to hide that he was aroused and wanted to mate. But cowing three of them? Wouldn’t happen.

*Daemon!*

*daemondaemondaemondaemondaemon.*

“I like Shuveen,” Daemon growled as he stepped away from Jaenelle, “but why can’t we send Boyd and Floyd back to Scelt for more . . . seasoning?”

“Ladvarian is staying here with us for a while and wanted those two with him for extra training.” She looked toward the door and frowned. “They seem upset.”

“They probably got in trouble with Mrs. Beale again.” And wouldn’t sorting that out be a fun way to end the evening?

*Daemon!* Shuveen called.

Boyd and Floyd began barking outside the door.

Swearing, Daemon strode to the door. He would tolerate them interrupting him when he was in his study working. After all, they were young, and living with him and Jaenelle was part of their training to become a working member of a household. But he wouldn’t tolerate their intrusion when he was about to make love to his wife, and that was something they also needed to learn.

Then Ladvarian passed through the wall and said, *Sylvia told Tildee to run.*

*Daemon!* Shuveen shouted.

*daemondaemondaemondaemondaemon,* Boyd and Floyd yapped.

Daemon rose to the killing edge in a heartbeat. Telling a Sceltie to run was the code Jaenelle had established between the Scelties living in Dhemlan and their human families. It meant life-threatening danger, and the dog’s task was to grab the special human friend—usually the child—and get them both out of harm’s way.

*Daemon!*

*daemondaemondaemondaemondaemon.*

He used Craft to open the door. Letting the young Scelties in was the only way to shut them up.

“Sylvia isn’t in Halaway,” Jaenelle said. “Or if she is, she’s not able to respond to a psychic call.”

*She is far,* Ladvarian said. *They are visiting. Tildee isn’t sure where.*

“Tildee has Mikal?” Jaenelle asked.

*Yes.*

*Far far far,* the youngsters yapped.

“How far can Tildee reach on a psychic thread?” Daemon asked Jaenelle.

“Not that far,” she replied.

Ladvarian said, *Tildee called. Other Scelties answered, then called to me.*

Daemon swore softly, straining to keep his temper leashed. Upsetting the youngsters wouldn’t get him the information he needed. If that call for help had traveled from Sceltie to Sceltie, Sylvia and her boys could be anywhere in Dhemlan. “Where were the other Scelties? Could you tell?”

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