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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(71) by Anne Bishop
  • The cold slipped through Daemon's veins, sweet and deadly.You weren't here. You can't think of it as a betrayal since you weren't here. It didn't matter. A Consort could be nothing more than a physical accommodation. But a husband... "Then where is he?" he asked too softly.

    Lucivar twisted the towel. "He didn't survive the consummation.''

    "You took care of that? Thank you."

    "He was dead when I got there." Lucivar closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "Hell's fire, Daemon, she splattered him all over the room." He opened his eyes. The bleakness in them made Daemon shiver. "They gave her a large dose ofsafframate on top of the other drug."

    Daemon's body went completely numb for a moment.

    He knew all too well whatsafframate could do to a person. "You took care of her?" Meaning,you gave her the sex she needed? There was no room in him now to feel jealousy or betrayal, just the desperate hope that Lucivar had done what was needed.

    Lucivar looked away. "I took her hunting in Askavi."

    Daemon just stared at his brother, letting the magnitude of those words ripen. "You went out with her asbait?"

    "What was I supposed to do?" Lucivar snapped. "Let her stay locked up in Ebon Askavi suffering? Bloodletting relieves the pain ofsafframate as well as sex does." He paused to take a deep breath and regain control. "It wasn't easy, but we survived it."

    And that, Daemon realized, was all Lucivar intended to say about a period of time that must have been a nightmare for him.

    "She's only been back to Little Terreille a couple of times since then, and then only with a full, armed escort that included me," Lucivar said. "She hasn't been back at all since she formally set up her court."

    "I see," Daemon said quietly. "It's almost time to hear her decision. Do you want to get cleaned up?"

    "What for?" Lucivar asked with a grim smile. "Once I hear it, I'll probably be back out here anyway."

    5 / Kaeleer

    "May I help you?"

    Osvald, the escort, clenched his teeth, then made an effort to smile as he turned to face the footman. Hell's fire, wasn't thereone male in this whole damn place who wasn't spoiling for a fight? "I seem to have gotten turned around, so I thought I'd admire the pictures in this part of the Hall."

    "I would be happy to show you the way back to your room," Holt said with frigid courtesy.

    In Terreille, he could have had the footman whipped for no better reason than sufficient lack of subservience. In Terreille, servants wouldn't wear their Jewels so blatantly that it forced their social superiors to acknowledge that strength. It galled him that he, who was favored by the High Priestess of Hayll, had to acknowledge that afootman was also an Opal-Jeweled Warlord.

    "This way," Holt said just as Wilhelmina stepped out of her room.

    Osvald swore silently. If Holt had shown up a few minutes later, he could have had the bitch and gotten out of this place.

    Then the large striped cat stepped out of the room and immediately fixed those unblinking eyes on him, making him glad of Holt's presence. When the cat's lips began to lift into a snarl, he didn't need any more urging. He offered Wilhelmina a polite greeting—and felt intensely relieved when she returned it so automatically it sounded like casual familiarity, the kind of automatic response the other bitches in this place only gave to males they knew fairly well. With every other male, there was that slight pause that practically screamed "stranger."

    That could work to his advantage, he thought as he followed Holt back to the wing where Alexandra and her entourage had been quartered. It wouldn't seem odd for an escort to deliver a message from one Lady to another— especially if it was assumed he'd been working for that family for a number of years.

    Yes, that could work very well.

    6 / Kaeleer

    *When they work in tandem, they're dangerous,* Andulvar said to Saetan, using an Ebon-gray communication thread.

    Looking at Lucivar and Daemon, Saetan understood the distinction Andulvar was making. All Warlord Princes were dangerous, but when two men with complementary strengths became a team... *So were we at their age,* he replied dryly. *We still are.*

    *If it ever came down to a fight, I wouldn't want to go up against those two,* Andulvar said thoughtfully.

    Any amusement Saetan felt fled with that statement. His heart wanted to shout,They'll never be enemies. They're my children, my sons. But another part of him—the part that had to assess the potential danger of another strong male—couldn't be sure. Hehad been sure when it had been Lucivar alone. But Daemon...

    Lucivar had endured a brutal childhood, but in some ways, it had been a clean brutality. He hadn't gotten entangled in a court until he was a youth. But Daemon had been raised in Dorothea's court, and he had taken the twisted lessons taught there into himself, had made them a part of himself, and then used them as a weapon.

    While he might fight individuals, Lucivar had been able to embrace loyalty to family and court. Saetan strongly suspected that Daemon's loyalty would always be superficial, that the only loyalty the rest of them could count on was his commitment to Jaenelle. Which meant Daemon was capable of doinganything in the name of that loyalty. Which meant this son had to be handled very, very carefully.

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