Disclaimer: The characters in this work of fanfiction belong to Anne Bishop and her publisher. No money is being made off this work. I am merely playing in someone else's sandbox.
Post-Dreams Made Flesh.
He should have recognized the signs: The threadbare temper. The way the scent of the maids grated on his nerves. The urge to lash out at any male in the vicinity, even Beale or Jazen.
Most of all, he should have known from the way he hungered for Jaenelle.
Daemon stalked swiftly through the corridors of the Hall in search of Beale. He had to find him quickly before the madness hit, before he lost his already shaky control of himself and did something he would regret.
He found him in one of the sitting rooms organizing the day's mail.
"I need you to get everyone out," said Daemon without preamble, bursting in.
Beale slowly put down the letters. "Everyone, sir?" he asked carefully, watching Daemon.
Daemon paced—no, prowled—the opposite side of the room like a panther in a cage. He dared not get any closer. Already he was one breath away from the killing edge.
"Yes, everyone. Every living thing in this place, Kindred included. The wolves, too."
Beale nodded, recognizing the rage that was barely chained. He kept his voice low and even, to avoid inciting an attack. "The Lady as well?"
Yes. No. Hell's fire, he didn't know. He knew what he had to do, but the hunger….
"Especially the Lady."
He had to get out of the room. Beale's presence as another Warlord Prince was undoing his control faster than he could handle. His hands were clenched from the effort of restraining himself.
"You have 30 minutes to get everyone out before I Black-lock the entire Hall."
And then he was gone, taking the overwhelming tension and sense of imminent danger with him. It was a moment before Beale could breathe normally. Even his usually unflappable exterior was slightly shaken.
There was only one thing that could rival Queen's rage, Witch's rage in making Beale afraid: the idea of a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince, the most powerful male in all the Realms—the most powerful Blood in all the Realms—going into rut.
May the Darkness have mercy upon us all.
Daemon paced feverishly.
The Warlord Prince was rising. He could feel that power rumbling deep down inside him, rattling the chains that held it in check. Whereas the Sadist was cold silk, smooth and inviting until he was wound tightly around your neck, the Warlord Prince was a force of nature. It was what the male Blood were when the veneer of civility was stripped away. It was the Blood at their most basic, most primal state. And it was almost here.
He threw a glance at the doors leading to Jaenelle's bedroom and was grateful that they were closed and silent. Thirty minutes had passed since he had shut himself inside his rooms. He hoped Beale had gotten everyone out. He didn't dare do a sweep to check, for fear that he would be tempted to lash out at anyone he found, especially a male. Anyone who stayed would be a fool who deserved to die anyways, but he still didn't want to risk it.
He knew he had cut it close this time, but he hadn't realized what was happening until the last minute. The rut had never hit him like this before.
Sex or violence—that was the rut. Often it was both, but there was always passion of some sort involved. And blood.
In the past, he didn't have a female to focus his sexual energy on, so it would always be violence. He would awake from the haze in the middle of a massacre. Entire courts have been destroyed, buildings leveled, towns emptied by fleeing Landens and Blood during the times he went into rut. And he had not cared one bit.
The first time it happened, the Terreille bitches thought this would finally be their chance. Surely he would be so crazed with sexual energy that he wouldn't care who he mounted. They could sell tickets and line up for two rides apiece! Too bad in their eagerness they forgot that males caught up in the rut focused only on one female. That sexual energy turned into violence against anyone who was not their object of desire. And there was no one that Daemon desired.
This time was different, though. This time he could actually destroy something he cared about.
He wheeled on her voice so fast that Jaenelle didn't even have time to gasp.
"Get out!" he snarled.
He hadn't heard her knock, hadn't heard the door open, which was a bad sign. His awareness and control were nearly gone. He would have flung her out the door if he had trusted himself to touch her.
She stood just inside, dressed in a flimsy black silk sheath that hid as much as it revealed. One rip and it would be gone. Daemon's fingers itched. Oh, the foolishness of tempting him. The Warlord Prince could smell her….
He didn't care if she got mad at him for screaming at her; he would rather bruise her feelings than break her limbs.
Instead of recoiling or turning away, she carefully closed and locked the door behind her, her movements slow and precise. If she was feeling any hesitation or fear about being in the room with a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince about to go into rut, she didn't show it—at least, not in her face. Daemon could smell wariness and caution, but not the emotions that would trigger his predatory instincts. She was not challenging the Warlord Prince, but she was not marking herself as prey either.
She had him fixed in her steely sights. Daemon could feel her gaze traveling over him, taking in the sheen of sweat on his skin and the tension and desperation in every line of his body. She was weighing him, judging him with her unfathomable eyes like she had done on those occasions where she was about to make a decision that would affect them both.
"Get out," he repeated, though there wasn't much bite behind his words this time. He already knew her decision.
Even so, Daemon felt the floor fall out from beneath his feet when she said, simply and succinctly, "No."
Mother Night. This was not the time for her to be stubborn. Surely she knew he wasn't doing this solely for her sake. Because if she stayed, and he awoke afterward with her blood on his hands….
"Please, just leave." He was not above begging. Time was running out. He was prepared to do whatever it took to make sure she survived.
She took one step closer. Daemon could feel the Warlord Prince in him focusing on her with keen interest. Cursing, he forced himself one step back, and the Warlord Prince howled with rage.
She took another measured step closer. "I'm not afraid of you, Daemon."
Daemon cringed. "Maybe you should be."
Because the Darkness knows I am. As much as it pained him to admit it, he didn't trust himself around Jaenelle. Males were automatically absolved of anything they did while caught in the rut, but for a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince, the potential for destruction was immeasurable. And for a newly married husband, the stakes were even greater.
He had never experienced the rut this way before, and he had no idea what the Warlord Prince was going to do once he got his hands on Jaenelle. (Actually, he knew exactly what the Warlord Prince was going to do, but that was anything but reassuring.) Daemon never wanted Jaenelle to be afraid of him, but if he couldn't trust himself, how could she trust him?
Jaenelle rolled her eyes and huffed in annoyance. "I'm fully healed, Daemon. I thought we went over this already. I'm not going to break again from a few days' worth of rough sex."
"I know that!" growled Daemon. He paced his side of the room, his hands clenched in frustration and desperation. "But I don't think you understand the danger of the situation. This won't be just another one of our rough-and-tumble sessions. I won't be myself. I don't know if I'll even recognize you through the haze."
Jaenelle's eyes narrowed. "I think you might be the one who doesn't understand the full danger of the situation. This power within yourself that you are so afraid of: what do you think might happen if it didn't have an object to focus on?"
Daemon remembered the torn bodies and crumbled buildings of Terreille, and then imagined the same scene here in Kaeleer, especially in nearby Hallaway. He felt sick to his stomach.
Jaenelle nodded. "Exactly. Believe me, I know precisely what I am walking in to and what's at stake."
"And so you will sacrifice yourself for others yet again?" He sounded wounded and angry, but he didn't care. This whole argument touched on scars that were not very old at all.
Jaenelle snorted. "I might not have the power that I used to have, but I'm hardly a helpless damsel. Before you got here, I used to tangle with Lucivar whenever he was caught in the rut."
Daemon growled and instantly wished a painful death upon his brother.
Jaenelle gave an exasperated sigh. "Not in that way. With the sticks. How else do you think I got so good with them?"
That tidbit of information gave Daemon pause. If she could take on a trained Ebon-Gray Jeweled Eyrien Warlord Prince who had an uncommonly close relationship with his blade, then it stood to reason that she might be able to handle an unarmed Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince.
Still, reason didn't stand a chance against the rut. The rut was what Warlord Princes would be like in the absence of reason. It was pure instinct.
Couldn't she see why he was so afraid?
"Lucivar has always had the advantage when it came to a physical fight, but we both knew there would be no contest if it came down to raw power against power. The Black will always win over the Ebon-Gray. That's why we never truly fought to kill, even when we couldn't stand each other."
It was the unspoken truce between them in the centuries before they learned of their common descent. It became the unacknowledged truth that kept them back from the killing edge in the time since.
"Fighting Lucivar is very different from fighting me. That's why we make such a deadly team," he said quietly. "I have no idea what I'm capable of, and I'm terrified of waking up to find you injured—or worse."
Of course, the potential for violence had always been there. For Warlord Princes, the line between passion and violence was always blurred. But in the rut, the line was virtually nonexistent. Her presence alone made his blood run hot in their day-to-day interactions; he didn't know how far he would take things if his primal hunger was unleashed now.
Memories of a blood-drenched alter floated up like debris.
NO. Daemon forcefully shoved the image aside. He had to remind himself that he was not the one responsible. He had not killed her. It had been a lie, one that had cost him dearly. But it was a lie that could become truth if she did not leave soon.
His eyes searched hers, pleading for understanding. "Do you have any idea what it would do to me to find out that I had killed you with my own hands—for real this time?"
Jaenelle's face hardened, the first sign of anger since she came in. "Of course I do. It would destroy you. Don't think that I've forgotten your history, Prince. I saw the shattered pieces; I put them together myself. I probably know better than anyone the extent of the damage wrought and the price you paid. Which is precisely why I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to spare you the same pain."
"Then why won't you leave me here?"
He could see that the question hurt her. Her voice was tight as she said, "Because I've already left you twice to suffer alone. I won't do it a third time."
His eyebrows rose. She couldn't possibly still feel guilty for choices that she had been forced to make. The first time, she left him to suffer in the Twisted Kingdom, but that was hardly her fault since her mind had blocked her memories. The second time, she had chosen to sacrifice herself for her loved ones, and she had more than repaid the debt she owed for using him and then leaving him alone.
He made to protest, but she held up her hand—the hand with her wedding ring. The sapphire gleamed like blue fire.
"When I accepted this ring, I accepted all of you. Completely and without condition. I accepted your strengths and your weaknesses, your gifts and your needs. I accepted all the love you had to offer, as well as all the responsibilities that came with being husband and wife."
The ring was a stark reminder of the bond of honor between them, similar to a Queen's duty to care for the members of her court, especially the male triangle around her. They served, and in return she took care of them. It was an integral part of Blood society, and the same ties of love, loyalty, service, protection, duty, and obligation bound husband and wife together. He couldn't possibly reject her help without rejecting her.
This time he let her approach. Her steps were as sure as the look in her eyes. She rested her hand gently on his shoulder and forced him to look at her.
"I don't break my vows, Daemon. You should know that by now. I won't run from you."
She knew what he needed to hear to take down the wall of fear that separated them. He pulled her close, needing to feel her body, her strength. These were possibly the last moments he would be aware of his actions, and he needed to feel the truth with his hands.
He buried his face in the crook of her neck. "Promise me, you'll do whatever is necessary to protect yourself if I become too violent."
Whatever is necessary, including injuring or even killing him. Because if he was going to kill her, it would be more merciful for her to kill him first than to let him wake up to face what he had done. It was a selfish request, because it would hurt her to have to kill him, but he couldn't let her stay otherwise. A Warlord Prince was expendable; a Queen was not.
She understood what he was asking of her.
"I promise," she said solemnly.
He nodded, accepting her word. "It's almost time. Are you ready to dance the razor's edge with me?"
"I've always been ready."
He held her in front of him, searching for the source of that strength. "How can you be so sure? We've never done this before."
Witch raised her midnight eyes. "Because you'll be dancing with me."