Page 24

Jayr touched her brow to his. “No, you will not.”

He sketched his fingers along the side of her face. “Then I willnae look for any excuse to kill him.”

Byrne’s suspicions plagued Jayr even after they parted, and partially out of embarrassment she skipped her habit of beginning the evening in her study and went instead to attend to her lady visitors.

Christian answered her chamber door with a grin. “My lady Jayr.” She bobbed a cheeky curtsy before opening the door wider. “Come on in, we’re got Amélie on.”

“Amélie?” Jayr couldn’t place the name, but as soon as she saw Simone sitting in front of the television and watching a subtitled French movie, she felt relieved. “I thought for a moment you had a mortal in here with you.”

“I left all my mortals back in Provence,” Simone told her. “Fifty-three brothers. They were very unhappy about it, but then, they are also my garrison.”

“At least you have guys.” Chris offered her a glass of bloodwine. “My garrison is all chicks. Immortal former sex-slave chicks.” She winked at Jayr. “Don’t worry; I left them back home, too.”

“Do not describe them to my garrison, Christian, I beg you.” Jayr perched on the arm of one love seat and studied the two women. “Now I can see the resemblance. You have the same smile.”

“With only brothers, I always wanted a sister.” Simone gave Christian a fond look. “Even one who wishes to steal all of my shoes.”

The petite brunette sniffed. “We wear the same size, and you get to shop in Paris.”

“While you live in Paradise,” Simone countered. “Literally.”

“To think, you’re squabbling like sisters already. I expect you will be great friends.” Jayr finished her wine. “When are your lords due to arrive?”

“Tomorrow, we hope.” Chris sighed and absently rubbed her temple. “We’re already feeling the separation anxiety thing. Massive bond-strain headache here.”

“You should know that once their business is done, Lucan promised that he would personally escort Korvel and Jamys here,” Simone said, and then glanced at Jayr. “With your permission, of course, my lady.”

Like most of the Kyn, Jayr had avoided Lucan while he served as Richard Tremayne’s chief executioner. Since coming to America and assuming the suzerainty of South Florida, however, the former assassin had gone to some lengths to establish friendly relations with his neighboring jardins. He’d also fought alongside Jayr against a nightmarish enemy, and had proved to be a formidable ally.

“Lord Alenfar knows he has a standing invitation to visit the Realm.” Jayr hesitated, not wishing to trouble the women with her own dilemma, but in dire need of feminine advice. “I rarely have the chance to confer with other Kyn women. I wonder if I might trouble you both for your counsel.”

Christian exchanged a look with Simone. “We haven’t been Kyn that long, but sure. Shoot.”

Jayr briefly explained the situation with Devan Leeds. “He is an exemplary tresora, and I believe him to be perfectly suited for my household. But for some reason Byrne has taken an unreasonable dislike to him, and wishes him gone. We have argued about it twice now, and tonight he challenged me to test the man.”

Simone frowned. “What sort of test?”

“It’s a loyalty thing,” Chris said. “Kyn lords—and ladies—have to be absolutely sure their mortals will stick to their training and serve them without question under any circumstances, even the most nerve-racking. The only way to know is to deliberately put pressure on them. A lot of heavy, nasty pressure.”

The Frenchwoman’s expression turned cool. “You intend to physically harm the man, my lady?”

“That is not my want or my thinking.” She explained what she thought she had to do, adding, “I do not wish to torment him. But if by some small chance Byrne is right about him, I must alert the council and have him permanently removed from service.” Which would destroy Leeds’s life all over again.

“Do it.” Chris’s dark eyes were solemn and direct. “This guy is going to have access and control over practically every part of your life. He’s going to be your first line of defense against the mortal world. If he’s not a hundred percent, you have to know. So does the council, or you’re just going to pass the problem along to another suzerain. You can’t be nice or polite about this, my lady. It’s too important.”

“That is not her worry,” Simone said, giving Jayr a shrewd look. “I think she’s never done anything like this.”

Chris frowned. “Not even with Byrne?”

Jayr shook her head. “I have always served, and it is not in me to be so…aggressive.”

“Oh, no problem.” Chris made a dismissive gesture. “I can walk you through it.” She saw how Simone was looking at her. “Not all of us were raised by nuns, sweetie.”

“Well, I was,” Jayr said, and made them all laugh.

A half hour later Jayr left the women and went to her study, where she found Leeds patiently waiting.

What she was about to do to the mortal made her feel sick, but she would see it through. I can do this. As Christian said, it is but playacting. “Hello, Devan.”

“My lady.” He bowed. “I was about to go in search of you.” He watched her secure the door. “Is something wrong?”

“Not at all.” Steeling herself, Jayr strode past him, pausing only to switch off the phone on her desk. “I was late rising because of my seneschal. Sometimes he still believes himself lord here.” She sat back in her chair and regarded him with what she hoped was an arrogant look. “I had to remind him that this is my jardin, and he belongs to me. Like you.”

Leeds merely inclined his head. “Would you care to go over the schedule for the evening, my lady?”

“I am weary of schedules and work and business.” She picked up the glass of bloodwine he had poured for her, cradling it in her hand but making no move to taste it. She had to feign boredom, restlessness. “I am in a mood to be entertained.” She cringed a little to hear how arrogant she sounded.

“I am not sure what you mean, my lady,” Leeds said, frowning slightly. “Do you wish me to summon Rainer?”

“I do not want that fool. He does not even like women, you know.” She eyed him. “Are you a lover of men, Devan?”

The tresora stiffened. “No, my lady. I am a heterosexual.”

“Such cold words you mortals use. I dislike them intensely.” She rose and approached him, keeping her gaze locked with his. “No more of them tonight. Say, ‘I am a lover of women.’”

He didn’t move out of place, not even when she stopped just short of touching him. “I am a lover of women.”

“Many women, I think. I can see it in your eyes.” Jayr looked him up and down as she might inspect a new horse. “You’re stronger than you look as well.” She forced herself to lean into him so that only an inch separated their faces. At least the tresora had a pleasant scent, or she might not be able to bear what was about to occur. “Take off your jacket.”

He blinked once. “My lady?”

“You heard me.” She stepped back and circled around him as he removed the garment and draped it over his arm. When she trailed her hand across the back of his shoulders, she felt him flinch. “Very nice indeed. Do you like the look of me, tresora?”

“You’re a very beautiful woman,” he said quietly.

She came around to face him. “Give me your hands.” When he did, she placed them on her waist. Making the man touch her made her think of how it had been with her and Byrne the first time he had kissed her. She’d not been at all prepared for it, and neither would Devan. “Now kiss me.”

Leeds’s hands tightened before he took them away. “I’m afraid I cannot do that, my lady.”

“You needn’t fear. No one will see us,” she promised, resting her hands on his shoulders. “I’ve bolted the door. You want to. I can smell the lust on you. Go on, then.” She put her lips a whisper away from his. “Give me your mouth.”

Leeds took a step back. “I would like nothing better than to please you, my lady,” he said carefully, “but you are bonded to your seneschal.”

“Byrne? Forget him. He will never know.” She touched his face. “I want you to be my mortal lover. When we are alone, I will let you do whatever you wish.” She glanced down and felt disappointed when she saw the bulge at his crotch. Byrne was right about him. “You like the idea of that, I see.”

“I am not made of stone, my lady, and you are everything a man dreams of.” He swallowed. “But you already have a lover, and whether he knows what you do or not, I must respect his prior claim on you.”

“His claim? Do you forget that I rule here?” she snapped. “You are my servant, and you will serve me as I wish. I want you to pleasure me. Now.”

“I have not yet given you my oath,” Leeds said. “Even if I had, I would still be permitted the right to refuse. So I must again respectfully decline, my lady.”

Jayr no longer had the stomach to keep pressing him, and the regret in his eyes made her retreat to Byrne’s chair by the hearth. “Very well. You may go.”

Leeds came and crouched down before her. “Whatever happened between you and Lord Byrne has obviously upset you. Do you wish to talk about it?”

She stared at him. “You would console me, after what I just did to you?”

“You have paid me an enormous compliment.” He smiled a little. “And you frightened the wits out of me, but now I think that was your intention all along, wasn’t it?”

She groaned and covered her eyes with one hand. “I am a wretched actress.”

“I beg to differ. You had me utterly convinced.” He sat back on his heels. “At least until you ordered me to kiss you. Kyn ladies who enjoy using mortal males for sex are rather more direct about how their desires should be serviced.”

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