She easily read his thoughts. "I will keep you safe. This won't happen again." She brushed his forehead tenderly, then frowned at her hand. She dropped it, hastily glancing around to see if anyone had caught her. "Sleep, demon."
He couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. "Don't read my mind," he thought. "Do not..."
"I won't," she said.
"Give me your vow!"
"You have it." She murmured, "Now sleep, demon. And dream. Dream of what you need most."
His eyelids slid shut. And he did.
From a chair beside the fire, Rydstrom gazed at his wife in their bed,- Flickering light shone over her face as she slumbered peacefully. Their beloved son slept in a crib in their chamber.
Outside, an ocean storm boiled, whipping against the castle; inside, they were warm. Rydstrom watched over the two, protecting them.
Nothing had ever felt so good.
The pup sounded hungry, so Rydstrom crossed to the crib. Gently cradling him, he brought him to his mother's breast. Half-asleep, Sabine held their babe lovingly and murmured Rydstrom's name.
My family . . .
His efes flashed open. I need that most. And she is the key to it all-
At once, pain assailed him, agony stabbing at him all over with each breath. My spine's healed. How long had he been out... ?
Sabine swept into the cell just then. She was dressed in a different metal top than before, and her eyes were painted a navy blue. How much time had passed? "I can't stay long, just coming in to check on my colossally stupid demon."
He could tell she was on edge, the affectionate and soft Sabine of before gone. "How long was I out?" he asked with effort. He lay in bed with only one ankle shackled and his arms free, not that he could lift them yet.
"A day. Your body has been mending rapidly. Your spine and neck are already healed, as are your battered lungs if you can speak once more."
When he peered at the bandage wrapped around his torso, she said, "Your skin hasn't closed over the wound yet, but it will soon. You're lucky you weren't harmed worse. Why in the gods' names did you have to taunt Omort like that?"
"Because it felt good ... to finally do so."
"If I hadn't been there, you would've died."
Sabine's power and cunning had been indescribable. She was as powerful in her own right as Omort-more so even, because the sorcerer wanted her.
But did she return his feelings? Had they slept together? More disgusting things had happened within their numbers. Maybe that was why she allied with him.
Or was it because she couldn't quite kill him? Without Omort's deathlessness, could Sabine defeat him? She might be plotting toward it right at that moment.
What if Rydstrom convinced her that the sword would work? Would she make her move?
The queen on the chessboard, waiting for her moment to strike.
Rydstrom could give it to her. What did he have to lose?
Sabine crossed her arms over her metal top. "I suppose you feel no need to thank me for saving your life. You're a very ungracious demon, in addition to being colossally stupid."
He'd never been more certain that he was about to die, and she'd prevented it. But . . . "It's because of you and your trickery . . . that I am here in the first place!" Pain erupted from his wound.
"It's because of me that Omort has spared you all these years. Have you never wondered why he hasn't pursued your assassination?"
Rydstrom had wondered, especially since he'd settled In New Orleans, staying for months in the same place. He liked his home there. It sufficed until he could reclaim his kingdom. Until he could take back Tornin-and scour it clean. His eyes briefly closed against the memories of what he'd seen last night. "Are you sleeping with Omort?"
"I am not sleeping with him. I'm sleeping with no one. There's an heir to be had, and I'd rather no one question its parentage."
She hadn't denied that she'd ever slept with Omort, but he sensed she hadn't. Or maybe he merely refused to believe it-because that would put her forever out of his future.
"Why did you fight Hettiah?" he asked. Each word was coming more easily now.
"She attacked me. She's been looking for a way to get revenge on me for centuries."
"Probably because I made a wreath out of her intestines in front of the entire court. And I've plucked out her organs a few times. And I might have kept them in jars on my bedside table."
"You . . . you do not." And the vampire had said I was killing her?
"Yes, indeed. I'm missing her appendix and spleen." She rose, crossing to the table where a plate of food was laid out. "And on that note, are you hungry?"
He cast an irritated glance at the plate, filled with fruits and vegetables, with no meat to be found. "Now, sorceress, how do you expect me to heal . . . when you feed me twigs?"
Over the last week, Sabine had yet to provide for him meat and demon brew-a potent fermented drink. The Sorceri drank sickeningly sweet wines and brandies, calling demon brew a crude concoction. He couldn't stomach their sugary creations.
"I keep forgetting that my pet's a carnivore." She set the plate down. "Here, I'll make you more comfortable." With a wave of her hand, she suddenly made the cell appear to be his old room here.
But this time, she added a sea storm outside. How would she know ... ? "You read my mind, didn't you?"
"I did," she said, her tone absent, although her expression was one of interest.
He'd suspected that she concealed her expressions. In the future, he wouldn't scrutinize her face, he would watch her hands, the tensing of her slim shoulders. "Do you often break your vows?"
"Constantly." She nodded. "I'd go so far as to say uniformly."
The fact that she'd broken her word to him was infu-riating-her lack of shame made it that much worse. "No reservations about being known as a liar?"
"It's not my fault the truth and I are strangers-we were never properly introduced."
"And what did you learn when you hacked into my head?"
She seemed keyed up, listening for something from the outside. Again she didn't look anxious, but she paced. "You used to be lulled to sleep by the sea storms here, and have long missed your room in your tower. You have a contentious relationship with your brother that disturbs you greatly. You resent him for losing your kingdom."
Everyone thought he blamed his brother Cadeon for losing his kingdom. He did partially-was he supposed to act pleased with him? But Cadeon also lied, cheated, and he warred for profit. His life had no meaning.