• Home
  • Directory
  • Popular
  • Authors
  • Series
  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Dreams Made Flesh (Chapter 86)      Page
  • Dreams Made Flesh(Black Jewels,Book 5)(86) by Anne Bishop
  • "I would appreciate it if you would send a message back to let me know you arrived safely," Saetan said.

    Her shoulders slumped, her only acknowledgment that she had lost this battle of wills. Then she walked out of his study.

    He waited there, his hands, tightly clasped, resting on the desk, while his mind, at times too facile for his own comfort, turned over nuggets of information and presented him with some unpalatable conclusions.

    Last year, Hekatah's father had come to him for help in solving a "minor financial difficulty" shortly before Peyton's Birthright Ceremony, when the power a Blood child was born with was tested and confirmed, and the child received the Jewel that would be a visual warning of the depth of power that lived within that flesh as well as a reservoir for the power that wasn't used. It was also the time when paternity was formally acknowledged or denied. A man could sire a child, raise that child, love that child, but he had no rights to that child until the mother granted him paternal rights in a public ceremony that usually followed the Birthright Ceremony. It didn't matter if the child looked like the man in miniature, didn't matter if the woman had taken no lovers so there could be no question of who was the sire. If paternity was denied at that public ceremony, the man had no rights to the child. He could be cut out of the child's life in every possible way, becoming nothing more than the seed.

    A public ceremony…and a decision that was never overturned. In many ways, a man who wanted children was held hostage by his heart until that ceremony. After that, the child was his, no matter what happened between him and the mother.

    He should have wondered why Hekatah had wanted to get pregnant so soon after they'd married, should have wondered why she hadn't wanted a year or two just for the two of them to enjoy each other. But her true personality had already begun to crack the facade that had attracted him to her in the first place, so she couldn't afford to delay a pregnancy if she was going to keep the prize of a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince whose wealth rivaled any of Hayll's Hundred Families and who ruled a Territory without having to answer to any Queen. At least, not a flesh-and-blood Queen that she could see or understand. She hadn't recognized his deep commitment to Witch, to the living myth, dreams made flesh. He had served Cassandra, the last Witch to walk the Realms. He had made a promise to serve the next one, no matter how long he had to wait for her to appear.She was the Queen he served, and he ruled both Dhemlan Territories, the one in the Terreille and the one in Kaeleer, on her behalf.

    Hekatah hadn't recognized his commitment, and he hadn't recognized that she'd seen him as a way to fulfill her ambitions to become the most powerful Priestess in Terreille…or, possibly, all the Realms.

    How convenient that she'd become pregnant with Peyton a few months before Mephis's Birthright Ceremony. How well-timed was her father's embarrassed admittance a year ago, when it was time for Peyton's Birthright Ceremony, that the family debts had become a difficulty. The bastard had mentioned too many times how distressed Hekatah was about the family's social status being tarnished by whining merchants who had so far forgotten their place that they'd gone to the Queen of Draega to complain about a "few" overdue bills.

    He'd made sympathetic murmurs, but he'd understood the threat: If he didn't make some effort to reestablish her family financially, Hekatah might say something in haste when it came time to acknowledge Peyton as his son and grant him paternal rights to his child.

    Hekatah's father and brothers were anxious to have their gambling debts paid off since those were to other aristos and the invitations to social engagements had declined as those debts had piled up. Instead, Saetan had paid up the accounts with all the merchants and presented her father with the receipts…and had insisted that he was simply too caught up in the celebration of Peyton's Birthright Ceremony to deal with "minor" gambling debts. He'd assured her father that those would be taken care of after the ceremonies.

    While they realized he might refuse to pay the gambling debts if Hekatah said something in haste at the ceremony, it never occurred to anyone in her family that his timing in paying off the debts that concerned them the most was as manipulative as their timing in asking for financial help.

    So his paternity of his younger son was granted, the debts were paid off… and he gave himself a few weeks to consider if, with his sons safely under his control, he wanted to remain married to a woman who expected absolute fidelity from her Warlord Prince husband while she indulged her taste for variety by having affairs with men from the minor branches of Hayll's aristo families.

    He'd almost accepted that his hopes for this marriage had been wishful thinking and the self-delusion of a lonely man who, while receiving plenty of bedroom invitations, had been craving love.

    Then Hekatah had told him she was pregnant again. And, once again, a child's life held his heart hostage. He didn't blame her for the pregnancy. He wanted another child, had willingly stopped doing anything to prevent conception, and had let her decide when she was ready.

    But the timing had just been a little too convenient to make him feel easy, just as this request for another loan coming so close to when Hekatah would be brought to childbed was a little too convenient.

    He sighed. Hekatah would punish him for not agreeing to provide the loan by staying with her family instead of being with him right now, and Zuulaman…

    He pushed away from the desk. Screw all of it. What was the point of being the most powerful male in Terreille and shouldering the responsibility for a land and its people if he couldn't indulge himself once in a while?

    Leaving the study and moving through the massive structure he'd built as a symbol of his power as well as a family home, he bounded up the stairs and headed for the family wing. He opened a door and his sons, Mephis and Peyton, the two joys of his marriage, rushed forward to greet him.

    "Papa!" Peyton said."Look what we helped Daemon Carpenter make for us!"

    "You helped him, did you?" Saetan said as he took a wooden ship from his younger son and gave it the careful inspection that was expected… and wondered if he should offer Daemon Carpenter hazard pay for whatever "help" had been given.

    "Well," Mephis said, "we didn't actually help him make the ships, but we did make the sails."

    Which explained the badly stitched canvas. But that was the difference between the two boys. Peyton tended to be fiery, dramatic, always leading with his heart, while Mephis thought things through as well as he could before acting, was a little less demonstrative, and more bitingly exact about details.

    "That's helping," Peyton protested, scowling at his older brother. "Are you going to read us a story?" he asked, turning back to his father.

    Saetan blew softly on the sail, using Craft to expand a puff of air into enough to fill the canvas. "No, I don't think so," he replied, handing the ship back to Peyton in order to inspect the one Mephis now held up for his approval.

    Peyton's lower lip pushed out in a pout, but before he could start wheedling, Mephis gave him a hard elbow jab in the ribs.

    "No," Saetan said slowly, "as commander of the fleet…"

    "How come you get to be commander?" Peyton demanded. "Ow!" That because Mephis's elbow caught him in the ribs again.

    "Because I'm bigger," Saetan replied. "As I was saying, as commander of the fleet, I think my stalwart captains should test their new ships on the Phantom Sea."

    "Where?" Peyton asked.

    "He means the pond," Mephis said out of the corner of his mouth. "Now, hush."

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire