“No,” they said.
“Yes, I can,” Daemonar insisted. “Mother said I can.”
“No,” they said.
“Because we’re older than you, and we outrank you,” Lucivar said. “So we get to hold her.”
“Neither of those things are true about me,” Saetan said as he walked into the parlor. “Hand her over.”
Daemon hesitated, but the gleam in his father’s eyes warned him not to start this particular pissing contest. So he transferred Titian into Saetan’s arms.
“Come on, boyo,” Saetan said to Daemonar. “You can sit over there with me, and we’ll both admire your sister.”
Daemonar gave his father and uncle a surly look that was just shy of an actual challenge. Then he turned his back on them and followed his grandfather.
Daemon held his breath while he watched Saetan cross the room. He didn’t realize Lucivar had done the same thing until he heard his brother’s careful sigh.
“Coffee?” Lucivar asked.
Daemon nodded, then said, “We’ll be in the kitchen if you need us.”
“We’ll be here,” Saetan replied dryly enough to tell them both they had been dismissed.
They retreated to the kitchen.
Plenty of food, Daemon noted as he eyed the various dishes on the counters. “Anything you need?”
“Besides help eating all this before it spoils?” Lucivar asked, letting out a huff of laughter. He poured coffee into two mugs. “No, we have plenty, even if we’re feeding a young male who claims to be hungry again before the dishes from the previous meal leave the table.”
“Judging by the look he gave us, he’s clearly left childhood behind within the past few weeks,” Daemon said, accepting the mug of coffee.
“Yeah, he’s in the ‘push until he gets his ass kicked’ stage, so I can look forward to a couple of decades of continuous pissing contests while he’s making the transition from boy to youth. Once his brain starts working again and he’s allowed the privileges of a young adult male, the pissing contests should lessen to one a week instead of several times a day. Or so I’m told. At first Marian sympathized with him about getting into an argument with me about every damn little thing, but she’s feeling less generous now that she finds herself dealing with a young Warlord Prince trying to fuss over her and give her orders instead of being around a son who takes orders.”
Laughing, they both leaned back against the counter.
“Marian is all right?” Daemon asked. He’d arrived at the eyrie an hour ago and he hadn’t seen her yet.
“She’s fine. Tired, but that’s to be expected. No reason for her not to get some sleep when we’re all here to watch the baby.”
“No reason at all.” Daemon studied Lucivar. “But something is wrong.”
Lucivar turned his head toward the window that looked out over Marian’s garden. “How long are we supposed to pretend, old son?”
“That we don’t know there is something wrong with Father.”
He knew Lucivar would be the one to ask the question, to finally say the words.
“He’s old, Prick.”
“Yeah, I know that, Bastard. He’s old. But it’s showing now. Has been for the past few months.”
“I don’t feel him at the level of the Black anymore,” Daemon said quietly. “I’m not sure if that’s significant or not, but when I was with him at the Keep’s library a few weeks ago, I realized I was the only one standing in the abyss at the depth of the Black.”
Lucivar looked at him, a silent question.
“I’ll talk to him,” Daemon said.
Daemonar bounded into the kitchen. “Mother is going to feed Titian. Want to watch?”
“No,” Lucivar said firmly, “and neither do you.”
“Yes, I do!”
Lucivar stared at his son until Daemonar hunched in on himself.
“Another time,” Lucivar said, “but not today.”
“Yes, sir.” The subdued posture lasted until Daemonar focused on the covered dishes on the counter. “If I can’t watch Mother feed Titian, can I have a nutcake instead? And milk?”
“Fine. We’ll all have something. Sit down, puppy.”
Daemonar pulled out a chair at the big kitchen table and sat—and looked much too innocent.
*He wasn’t interested in watching his sister have a meal, was he?* Daemon asked Lucivar.
*Sure, he was.* Lucivar set his mug down and began pulling plates out of the cupboard. *But he’s smart enough to realize he could negotiate getting a treat for himself if I wouldn’t let him watch.*
Daemon held the coffee in his mouth until he was sure he could swallow without choking. Then he looked at the archway and noticed Saetan. The hint of sadness in the old man’s eyes was hidden the moment Saetan realized he was being watched.
*I’ll be back,* Daemon told Lucivar. Setting his mug in the sink, he looked at Saetan. “You’re leaving?”
“I think our Ladies could use some quiet time,” Saetan replied.
“In that case, I’ll go with you.”
A raised eyebrow to indicate a father knew an excuse when he heard one. But there was wariness now in Saetan’s gold eyes.
They left the eyrie and rode the Red Wind back to the Keep.
Daemon made no comment about the choice of Winds. He said nothing at all while he followed Saetan to one of the sitting rooms. He watched his father like a predator coming to some conclusions about the prey.
“Do you need fresh blood?” Daemon asked.
“No,” Saetan replied.
“No. Why do you ask, Prince?”
“Because the daylight hours are draining you in a way they didn’t before. Because you need the support of a cane more often than not these days.”
“I’m a Guardian,” Saetan said testily. “The daylight hours have always been draining. And I’ve had a bad leg for a lot of years.”
Watching. Studying. And then knowing.
“When was the last time you drank a glass of yarbarah, Prince SaDiablo?” Daemon asked softly.
Saetan tensed at the choice of title but didn’t correct it.
“When was the last time you had any fresh blood?”
Saetan turned to face him. “I haven’t had yarbarah or fresh blood since the day after my daughter died.”