Daemon made his way through the Hall’s corridors to the section that held the family’s suites of rooms. When Jaenelle was fifteen, the coven came to spend a summer, reuniting with the special friend they thought had been lost. The coven—and the boyos who also came for that afternoon tea and never quite went home again—had been given suites. Even now, when those Ladies were the Queens of their own Territories, those suites were still theirs, a second home and a place where they still gathered as friends and Sisters.

Karla’s suite looked out over Jaenelle’s courtyard. He knocked on Karla’s door and didn’t get an answer. His hand hovered over the door’s handle, but he tried another approach before reacting as if something was wrong.

*Karla?* he called on a psychic thread.

*Come on through,* she replied. *I’m down in the courtyard.*

He entered her sitting room and hurried to the glass doors that led out to the balcony. He paused then, reassured when he saw her standing near the drained fountain, her face raised to the sun. Moving more leisurely, he went down the nearest set of stairs and joined her.

“Kiss kiss,” Karla said, giving him a wicked smile.

Raising the hand she offered, he kissed her knuckles.

“Darling, isn’t it a bit cold out here?” he asked.

“Your blood must be thin if you think this is cold. Which you wouldn’t notice as much if you put on a coat.”

At least he had put a shield on his shoes to keep his feet dry and protect the leather.

She linked her arm in his and sighed. “Glacia’s winter has too much bite for me a lot of days, so I wanted to take advantage of spending a little time outside in softer weather.”

“Meaning a little snow on the ground and air that doesn’t freeze your lungs?” Daemon asked dryly.

“Exactly.”

He felt her shiver and led her to the stairs. “Enough.”

“Bossy.”

“Protective.”

“Bossy.”

He bared his teeth and said, “Kiss kiss,” which made her laugh.

He didn’t know if it was proof of Beale’s uncanny timing or if Karla had made the request earlier, but they entered the sitting room moments before Holt brought a tray of coffee and pastries.

“You look good,” Daemon told her as he poured coffee for both of them.

And she did, despite her face having thinned and aged a decade more than her years. Whether that aging was due to the task of ruling Glacia or a result of the poisoning she’d survived two years ago, he couldn’t tell.

“Flattery will not get you the last nutcake,” Karla said, taking the cup he offered. “I do feel good most of the time. Oh, my legs feel the weather, so there are uncomfortable days, but unlike people whose brains are attached to their penises, I’ve actually done what I was told to do in order to get better and keep my legs as healthy as they can be.”

Shit. “So this isn’t a social call?”

“Jaenelle asked me to come and look at Rainier. Provide a second opinion as a Healer.”

Daemon stiffened. “Jaenelle asked for a second opinion?”

“Tells you something is wrong, doesn’t it?” Karla sipped her coffee. “Doesn’t matter what Jewels she wears; Jaenelle is the most brilliant Healer in the entire Realm. If she can’t heal something, it can’t be healed. I’m testimony to what she can do. I shouldn’t have survived that brew of poisons I was given when my uncle Hobart tried to regain control of Glacia. And having survived, I shouldn’t be as healthy as I am.”

“Do you . . .” Daemon swallowed some coffee to wet a suddenly dry throat. “Do you sometimes wish she’d let you die? You wouldn’t be walking with a cane, wouldn’t have weak legs, if you’d made the transition to demon-dead.”

“That’s your c**k talking,” Karla said.

“It is n—” He stopped. Thought. “Rainier.”

“Yes. Rainier.”

He set his cup down on the table in front of the sofa. “He won’t come all the way back, will he?”

“No, his leg will never be what it was. It will never support him the way it did before that Eyrien war blade cut through all that muscle and half the bone. If he’d gone down and stayed down, any of us—Gabrielle, me, Jaenelle—could have healed him and brought him almost all the way back. Maybe so close to all the way back he could do whatever he wanted to on that leg as long as he gave it some care. But he slapped shields around his leg and kept fighting.”

“He did what he had to do.”

“I know. But that leg will never be the same because of it, and he knows that.”

“Does he?”

“Yes, he does. He’s fighting it, Daemon. I don’t know what he’s doing or why, but I can see the results. Jaenelle has had to rebuild that bone and muscle so many times, there is almost nothing left to work with. Something is riding him, and riding him hard, but if he doesn’t stop damaging that leg, he really will be crippled.”

“He’s not a fool,” Daemon said.

“No,” Karla said quietly. “He’s scared. That’s worse.”

“Anything I can do?”

She shook her head. “No, there’s nothing you can do. And there is nothing I can do that Jaenelle hasn’t done.”

“Maybe having a leg so damaged there is no possible way to dance is easier for him than a leg that is almost whole but not whole enough.”

“Maybe, but I wouldn’t have thought Rainier was that much of an ass.” Karla selected a pastry. “Is he still going for this extra training with Lucivar?”

“He’s going. And he’s already been told if he doesn’t show up on his own, Lucivar will hunt him down and drag him all the way to Ebon Rih.”

“Well, then. I’m sure things will get sorted out—one way or another.”

Since he could imagine how things would get sorted out if Rainier started a pissing contest with Lucivar, he changed the subject. “How is Della? Is she excited about Winsol?”

Karla laughed. “She’s more excited that I’ve agreed to let her start learning basic healing.”

Daemon took a nutcake. “Training doesn’t usually start so early, does it? She’s still a girl.” A girl who had lost her mother when her entire village had been slaughtered by Eyriens working for Dorothea and Hekatah SaDiablo. A girl who had been rescued by Arcerian cats and spent months with them, living wild, before being adopted by Karla.

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