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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(45) by Anne Bishop
  • Saetan sighed. "Coming from Lucivar, that was almost tactful. He's right. Blunt, but right. Males react strongly to feminine distress."

    Wilhelmina frowned. "Is that why that large striped cat keeps following me?"

    Saetan looked at the study door. A quick question on a psychic spear thread gave him the answer. "His name is Dejaal. He's Prince Jaal's son. He's appointed himself your protector until you feel comfortable with the other males at the Hall."

    "He's kindred? I had heard stories—"

    "The Blood in Little Terreille don't have much use for the kindred, and the kindred have even less use for the Blood in Little Terreille," Saetan said, and then added silently,Except when they're hungry.

    Rising, he offered a hand to Wilhelmina and led her to the door. He called in a grooming brush and gave it to her. "If you want to do something that will help all of us right now, take Dejaal out to one of the gardens and brush him. Once you get used to him, perhaps it will be easier for you to be around the rest of us."

    "If it's supposed to make me feel easier, maybe I should brush Lucivar instead," she said with just a hint of tartness. Saetan burst out laughing. "Darling, if you want to get along with Lucivar, just show him that bit of steel in your backbone. Since he's lived with Jaenelle for the past eight years, he'll recognize it for what it is."

    8 / Kaeleer

    "Are you sure this is the path back to the Hall?" Daemon asked as he ducked under a low-hanging branch.

    *We left the path,* Ladvarian said. *We have to cross the creek, and the path has no bridge.*

    "I don't need a bridge to cross the creek."

    Ladvarian looked at Daemon's shoes. *You would get wet.*

    "I'd survive," Daemon muttered.

    When he left Tersa's cottage, he'd found Ladvarian waiting to escort him back to the Hall. At first, he'd wondered if this was a subtle kind of insult, implying that he couldn't find his way back by himself. Then, when Ladvarian offered to show him a footpath that ran between Halaway and the Hall, he'd wondered if he was being set up for an ambush. Finally he realized the dog just wanted to spend a little time getting to know the male whose duties made him an important part of the Queen's life.

    What he didn't like was the growing impression that he was being labeled as a human who needed to be coddled.

    He stopped walking. "Look, this has got to stop. I may not be an Eyrien warrior, but I'm perfectly capable of walking a couple of miles without collapsing, I can get across a creek without getting wet if I choose to, and I don't need a short furball treating me like I can't survive if I'm not inside a house full of servants. Do you understand?"

    Ladvarian wagged his tail. *Yes. You want to be treated like a Kaeleer male.*

    Daemon rocked back on his heels and studied the Sceltie. "Is that what I said?"

    *Yes.* Ladvarian headed off at an abrupt angle. *This way.*

    A minute later, they arrived at the creek. Ladvarian trotted up to the bank and leaped. By rights, he should have landed in the middle of the creek, but he kept sailing over it, and when he landed, he was standing a foot above the ground, a doggy grin on his face.

    Daemon looked at the creek, looked at the Sceltie, and then air walked over the creek to the other bank.

    *Did Jaenelle teach you that?*

    Remembering the afternoon when Jaenelle had shown him how to walk on air, Daemon's chest tightened. "Yes," he said softly, "she did."

    *She taught me, too.* Ladvarian sounded pleased.

    As soon as they walked through another stand of trees, Daemon saw the road. The drive, he amended. Once the north road out of Halaway crossed the bridge, it became the drive up to the Hall, and the land spread out before him was the family estate.

    He headed for the drive, then spun around when Ladvarian growled, half-expecting an attack despite the dog's display of friendship.

    But Ladvarian was facing the way they'd come. The bridge was out of sight because of the roll of the land, but the wind was coming from that direction.

    "What is it?" Daemon asked, opening his first inner barrier enough to sense the area around them.

    *Humans are coming. Three carriages. I've warned the other males, but we have to get back now.* Ladvarian started trotting in a direct line toward the Hall, forcing Daemon into a fast walk to keep up.

    "What's wrong with humans coming to the Hall?"

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