Lucivar stared at him for a moment before laughing. “Hell’s fire, Bastard. You do like to dance on the knife’s edge.”

“Maybe.” Or maybe he felt fairly sure that Jaenelle wouldn’t object too strenuously if she did find out.


*Rainier,* Daemon replied. *Anything to report?*

*I know why Sylvia’s family was lured down to that place, but I didn’t find out anything that will help you hunt down the bastard. If you and Prince Yaslana are coming back to the Hall, Surreal wants to go back to our house in Halaway and get some sleep. She knows she has a suite at the Hall and I have a suite too, and there’s no point in you reminding her because Beale already has—twice—but she wants to be in the village, closer to Tersa and Manny. Just in case.*

*All right. I’ll stop by in the morning before I go to the Keep.* He broke the link and closed his eyes. “Can you stay until morning?” he asked Lucivar. “I’ll be heading to the Keep after I talk to Rainier.”

“I can stay. I’ll check on Tersa and Mikal while you get Rainier’s report. Maybe between us we can give Sylvia a little peace.”

And maybe by tomorrow he would have a better idea of how to find the bastard who had ended a good Queen’s life.


Sylvia jerked awake and tried to pull herself out of a memory-dream about Mikal and Tildee. It was during the first year Tildee had lived with them. Mikal had snitched some goody from the kitchen earlier that day and hidden it under his bed for the two of them to have as a treat late that night, not realizing that the treat would spoil if left outside the cold box on a summer day. Tildee had thought it smelled bad, but the boy assured her it was wonderful, so boy and Sceltie had gobbled up the treat.

She still remembered Mikal’s panicked yells, and running into his bedroom to discover that Tildee had vomited all over his lap. In the seconds it took her to realize the dog was extremely ill and needed healing help from someone who knew kindred, Mikal began throwing up. So there she was, very late at night, pounding on the Hall’s front door, holding a blanket-wrapped Sceltie who was covered in Mikal’s puke, while her court Healer was taking care of Mikal, and Beron was running to fetch Manny and Tersa.

Jaenelle had taken one look at Tildee, asked what she and Mikal had eaten, and then poured a tonic down the dog’s throat. An hour later, Sylvia was back home with an embarrassed, freshly bathed Sceltie, who was greeted by an equally embarrassed, freshly bathed boy. For a few years after that incident, on the days when Mikal attended the village school, Tildee went up to the Hall for her own kind of lessons.

The two of them had gotten into their share of trouble since then, but when Tildee told Mikal something was bad, the boy didn’t argue.

Why would I dream about that now? she wondered. Then she remembered she’d told Tildee to run. The boys!

Rolling over on her side, Sylvia tried to fling the covers back and push her legs over the edge of the bed, but an arm tightened around her waist.

“Easy,” Saetan said. “From now on, you have to think before you get out of bed.”

“The boys!”

“Are safe. Beron was injured, but he’s at the Hall in Jaenelle’s care. We’ll find out more when Daemon and Lucivar arrive here in a couple of hours.”

Sylvia shivered. “And Mikal?”

Saetan’s arm didn’t move from her waist, but the covers settled in place around her. “Tildee grabbed Mikal and didn’t stop running until she got them to Tersa’s cottage. They’re upset, but otherwise they’re fine.”

“Thank the Darkness.” All her strength seemed to drain away once she knew her sons were safe. She rolled onto her back—and remembered the rest.

The candle-light in the bedside lamp began to glow softly, providing just enough light for her to see the man who raised himself up on one elbow to look at her.

“You’re not under the covers,” she said. “Is it because of how my legs look?”

“My darling Sylvia, I am the High Lord of Hell. I have seen much worse than truncated legs. No, I’m above the covers because I didn’t want you to wake up alone, but you weren’t in any condition to extend an invitation to sleep with you.”

She let out a pained laugh. “You’re still going to insist on propriety?”

“Your body is dead; you are not. That being the case, I see no reason to dispense with propriety or any other courtesy,” he said with just enough bite to make her feel chastised.

No, he wouldn’t dispense with propriety or courtesy or the Blood’s Protocol or their code of honor, and she doubted the demon-dead were allowed to dispense with those things either. Not if they wanted to extend their existence a while longer after the physical death.

“Saetan . . .” She wasn’t sure what she was asking of him, wasn’t even sure if she was asking anything. But he bent his head and gave her one of those slow, thorough kisses that used to make her knees weak. When his mind surrounded hers, she felt the wave of sensuality that used to bring her an orgasm before his hands touched her.

Now it felt comforting, but it was her heart and not her body that felt that comfort.

He ended the kiss and eased back enough to look at her. “Everything has a price.”

Being demon-dead wasn’t the same as being among the living. Her Self was now encased in dead flesh. Sylvia the woman could still feel love, but her body no longer felt the pleasures of sex.

She tried to shift away from him, but he rolled just enough to pin her.

“I think you would like some answers to some questions you don’t want to ask,” Saetan said. “Can I love you when sex is no longer part of that love? Yes, I can and do. Do I still want to spend time with you and sleep with you? Yes, I do. I couldn’t remain with you when you were among the living, but there is no reason why we can’t be together now—if that’s something you want too.”

“For how long?” she asked.

“For as long as you want,” he replied. “You’ll know when it’s time to go, and I won’t ask you to stay a day longer.”

“My legs.”

“An illusion spell and some Craft to air walk can hide the loss from the eye.”

“That would be a constant drain of power.”

“Yes, it would—and not a necessary drain on most days, in my opinion.” He looked at the two pendants resting on her chest. “It looks like the dose of Jaenelle’s blood had enough power in it to fuel the healing and fill both of your Jewels’ reservoirs partway. That’s a good start.”