Damned if he understood why they had ended up here, except that he’d needed to have her in this room, in this bed.

You’re only eighteen hundred years old, Daemon. You are not going to spend the rest of your life celibate.

You don’t think I can? he’d crooned.

I know you can. That’s why I want you to promise me that you won’t. No one will think you’re being unfaithful if you find another lover after the year of mourning. You’re not going to spend the rest of your life without that kind of companionship or comfort. If you’re not comfortable accepting that as a request from your wife, consider it a command from your Queen.

Cornered. He hadn’t liked making that promise, and he hadn’t liked the sex much. Even when he’d enjoyed it physically, he hadn’t liked it much because of the expectations that always seemed to shroud the bed. And because he usually dreamed about Hekatah and Dorothea afterward. He didn’t need more of a reminder than that of what could happen if a man got careless and had sex with a woman who rode a c**k in order to ride ambition.

Besides, something had been missing from the bed with the women he’d pleasured that had made even the best sex a disappointment for him.

That elusive something wasn’t missing last night, though.

The water in the bathroom shut off, and his attention sharpened.

He’d have to think about why last night was different. Later.

Daemon hadn’t moved at all during her time in the bathroom.

“It’s early,” he crooned. “Come back to bed.”

Not a lot of choices.

She slipped into bed, not sure what to expect. Arousal was dominant in his psychic scent, so she wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d rolled on top of her. After all, he was the dominant male in Kaeleer, and that much power had privileges no other male could claim.

Instead, he pulled the covers up high enough to cover her br**sts. Then his fingers lightly stroked her hair, combing it away from her face.

“How are you?” he asked, his voice still in that dangerous croon.

“All right.”

“Sore?”

“A little.” She didn’t dare so much as tweak the truth. Not with him. Not now.

His fingers drifted to her temple, down her jaw, over her neck and shoulders. So light. So delicate.

Her heart stopped racing as she relaxed under that delicate touch. When he eased the covers down to her hips, she didn’t protest, barely noticed because those fingers kept drifting along her skin, making her float.

A brush of thumb over hard nipple made her whimper—and whimper even louder because he stopped touching.

“Pain?” he asked. Then his mouth closed over that nipple, and what he did with his tongue stopped just shy of pain. “Stop?”

She curled her fingers in his hair to hold him in place. “Not if you want to live.” It was meant as a growl but came out a different kind of whimper.

After he gave her br**sts sufficient attention, he kissed her mouth, hot and full. Then he said, “Do you want more, or do you want to leave?”

It took her a moment to realize she understood the words. He could sense her arousal, psychic and physical, but if she said she wanted to leave, he would release the lock on the door and let her go with no protest, no show of temper or disappointment. When a man belonged to the most dangerous caste of male, a display of temper in bed could be seen as coercion far too easily.

It took her even less than a moment to realize he would probably never make this invitation again, and while she’d had some men who were good lovers—and a few who had been excellent in bed—she had never been with anyone who could make a woman feel like he did.

“I want more,” she said.

He slid over her, slid into her as she opened for him.

As the sun slowly brightened the room, he rode her delicately, lazily, and so thoroughly he made her feel things she hadn’t ever dreamed were possible.

SIX

Four days after her night with Daemon, Surreal caught the Gray Wind and headed for Amdarh, intending to spend a few days at the family’s town house. She had barely reached the town beyond Halaway when she felt a pain in her abdomen—a pain more severe than the worst moontime cramps she’d ever experienced. A pain so severe she almost tumbled from the Gray Web.

Shaken, she dropped from the Winds and waited for the pain to subside. Then she continued on to Amdarh, riding the Green Winds.

A day after that, just wearing her Gray Jewels caused her the same kind of pain as trying to use her Gray power during her moontime, and even wearing her Birthright Green made her queasy.

A day after that, she used Craft without thinking and threw up on the sitting room rug—and became so weak and dizzy, Helton found her lying in her own vomit a few minutes later.

Helton panicked, along with the rest of the town house’s staff, and Healers converged on the SaDiablo residence, including Lady Zhara’s personal Healer.

She answered all their questions truthfully, except one.

Despite her protests that it couldn’t have happened, every single Healer assured her that it had.

So she stayed in bed resting for a day, putting up with Helton’s fussing to make up for scaring the man so badly.

For herself, she was excited—and she was scared.

And she was terrified of what would happen when she told Sadi.

SEVEN

Surreal walked into the Hall early the next morning and gave Beale a bright smile. “Good morning, Beale.”

The flash of alarm on Beale’s face before he regained control confirmed that her mirror hadn’t lied—she looked as washed-out and sickly as she felt, and she was becoming more fragile with every hour that passed. That was why she had to act before she lost the reason to act.

“I need to see Sadi,” she said, tipping her head toward the study door at the back of the great hall. “Is he there?”

“Yes.” Beale hesitated. “Should I send for the village Healer? Or your personal Healer in Amdarh?”

“Saw my Healer yesterday. Today I need to talk to Sadi.” Now it was her turn to hesitate, but she had to consider the tempers she would be dealing with today. “Prince Yaslana is supposed to see me this morning. I left a message at my house that I would be here. You know how early he can arrive, and I didn’t want him getting snarly if he didn’t find me at home, so . . .”

“I’ll be certain to let him know your whereabouts the moment he arrives,” Beale said.

Maybe he meant to sound reassuring, but as she walked to Sadi’s study, she thought Beale’s words sounded more like a threat.

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