"Baby, why didn't you tell me you were coming?" He sounded hurt.
"I didn't know until a few minutes ago."
"Will you sit with me?" I looked at him and sighed.
"Yes." I slid off my stool and went to him. Lok, who sat apart from us at one end, watched the whole thing with hooded interest.
"Do you know about the Dragon Warlord?" I asked him, even as Tory pulled me off the stool beside him and settled me on his lap.
"The Dragon Warlord is my many times great-uncle," Lok sniffed. Tory pulled my hair back and kissed behind my ear. He knows that drives me crazy and initiates the linking.
"Really?" I was starting to feel it, heat suffusing my body. "Drake, Drew, is your father available?" I gasped and sent mindspeech at the same time. Drake, Drew, Dragon and Crane all appeared in the kitchen. "Lok here," I was breathing with difficulty while Tory kissed down my neck, "is your many times great-nephew, Dragon." Lok stood up, startled.
"My many times great-nephew?" Dragon's inscrutability could eclipse anyone's, Lok's included. And Crane was right behind Dragon in that respect.
"How is the Dragon Warlord here?" Lok whispered.
"Uh, somebody else explain," I breathed when Tory's hand brushed a nipple through my fleece shirt. Tory skipped both of us to his bedroom.
"Reah, baby, I just," Tory was pulling my clothes off as fast as he could. Then his came off. Tory is perfect. Perfectly proportioned for his height, with wide shoulders and well-muscled everything. He never finished his statement. Both of us were so heated by the time we were undressed we made love as quickly as we could. High Demons had what was termed the linking, and the desire feeds off itself until lovemaking is a frenzied affair. We both fell asleep afterward.
"I am First among the Saa Thalarr," Dragon held out his hand. "We are an immortal race, chosen to combat the Ra'Ak."
"Reah killed eleven spawn earlier," Lok nodded.
"Reah is High Demon. They have the ability to fight spawn and the Ra'Ak as well. It is the way they are made. Saa Thalarr also have ways to fight them. We are recreated for that purpose."
"Is this the Crane General?" Lok nodded toward Crane.
"Yes." Dragon smiled. "And these are my sons, Drake and Drew. I have another son, Dragon Taylor, but he is with his mate at the moment."
"I haven't had anyone to spar with for months," Lok winced. "I feel out of practice."
"We can take care of that," Crane grinned maliciously. "Easily."
"Baby, wake up," Tory kissed me gently.
"Huh?" I cracked an eye open.
"Baby, I love you. And I'm an idiot. Tell me you'll overlook that." Tory rubbed his nose tenderly against mine.
"Tory, what will you do if it happens again?"
"If I make you pregnant?"
"Yes. I don't even have an empty birth control chip, now. Karzac removed it since it was drained."
"If you get pregnant again, I'll be screaming with happiness from the top of the palace. Your grandfather will hear me and jump for joy."
"Denevik. I keep forgetting about him."
"Baby, he knows you're not used to this. He would like to see you, though. Just so he'll know you're all right."
"I don't know what to do with all of you. It's too much, almost."
"Don't worry about it. We'll give you as much space as you need. Come on, let me love you again, then we'll go to dinner."
"Thank goodness," Lissa muttered when Tory steered me into the dining hall later. We had quite the crowd and Lok was sitting with his ancestor. He looked like Dragon and Crane had given him a workout. They weren't ones to allow laxness as far as bladework was concerned.
"Did they beat you up?" I gave Lok an innocent look.
"Completely unsympathetic," Lok said. His dark eyes sparkled with humor, refuting his statement. Who could hope to meet an ancestor they'd admired greatly, and have them appear, alive, well and able to spar with them? Lok was lucky. Extremely so.
"When will you heal Campiaa's core?" Gavin was back to a previous subject.
"I'll go tomorrow." I'm sure I was a huge disappointment to the old vampire.
"Gavin." Lissa slapped his hand lightly.
"Reah, you remind me of Lissa," Gavin sighed. "You have no need to be frightened of me. Do you think I might harm you?"
"Emotional harm is still harm," I said, lowering my eyes to my plate. "I always think you disapprove of me." A tear fell before I could stop it. "I think I should go now." I pushed my chair back and stood.
"I will come with you." Aurelius was beside me in a tick, motioning Tory back to his seat. He folded me to his home on the light side of Le-Ath Veronis. "My child does not disapprove of you," Aurelius settled me on the sofa overlooking the floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows. The sun was setting over the ocean, and it was beautiful.
"But he always looks at me as if I'm not adequate in some way," I brushed away another tear.
"I think he worries that you are at odds with Gavril. Gavril is his only son-he never made any vampire children. Gavin has suffered too, Reah. He thought his son lost to him, and in a way that is still true. Gavril left at seventeen. Now, he is nearly seventy. Gavin was robbed of those years with his child. Just as you were robbed of your friend."
"My best friend," I said. "Chash is gone forever, and now there's a hard-nosed vampire in his place."
"Then you know how Gavin feels. Lissa, too. Child, all of you were cheated in some way. Gavril is different now, and that will never change. There is a chasm between all of you that might never be bridged or repaired."
"Kifirin," I muttered angrily.
"Gavril is at fault, too, although he made his request at such a tender age. Asking a god for something such as this holds a danger he didn't realize. I think that young boy is still there somewhere inside Gavril, but he is a prisoner now, that Teeg San Gerxon will only allow to come out now and then. You are the key, Reah. I think you are the one to bridge that gap for your Chash. Convince him to surface, once in a while."
"He held me captive, Auri. He knew I was pregnant, and still he was hauling me around, using me as a shield against those warlocks. How am I supposed to feel about that?"
"I believe that pains him more than you might imagine. He thought to keep you safe as best he could while he used you, thinking that your comfort would be seen to during the later months. He didn't know the child would be lost, Reah. None of us did."
"Is Jes still in the dungeons?"
"No, love. He was sent to Evensun nearly two months ago."
"He was damaged, Auri. Mentally."
"I know." Aurelius' voice was soft. His arms came around me, hugging me tightly as the sun slipped below the horizon.
"Love, must you go?"
"I promised I'd go to Campiaa and heal the core." Aurelius had coaxed me into his bed the night before. Now, the sun was up again and I was getting dressed after my bath.
"You could go later." Aurelius slid an arm around my waist. "Or have breakfast with me."
"I don't feel hungry."
"You didn't eat last night."
"I know. I feel queasy. I'm worried I'll run into Teeg. I want to see Farzi and Nenzi, but that means asking Teeg."
"And you don't want to ask him for anything."
"Don't you love him at all, Reah?" Aurelius' voice was soft. Persuasive.
"How do you want me to answer that question?" I moved away from him. I wasn't sure about my feelings where Teeg was concerned. What did I owe him? What did he owe me? What could he hope to get from me now? Teeg killed Nidris, then I'd tossed Teeg aside while the Ranos launcher was fired at me. I had no memory of that rocket piercing my flesh, I only knew that it had and that the Larentii-I couldn't say which ones-had saved me afterward. The eternally curious boy that Gavril had been was now Teeg San Gerxon, the King Vampire with nearly unlimited knowledge and inexhaustible resources. He knew almost everything. Except how to get his mate back, an inner voice insisted.
"Auri, I'm going," I said, pulling his head down for a kiss.
"Do you know how much I worry about you?" His hands cupped my face and golden-brown eyes gazed into mine with concern.
"I don't know what to do about that. Even though I'm out of the ASD, I feel guilty if I'm not out there, trying to do something about the Ra'Ak and the spawn and the rogue warlocks. I wake hyperventilating sometimes-did you know?"
"The only reason the Saa Thalarr and the Spawn Hunters aren't out seriously hunting this bunch is because this is outside the norm. Usually they camp on a planet and we go in disguised and hunt them down. These are moving around, and even now Belen and the others are deciding what to do about it. This shouldn't be your worry, it's just you're the one who can do something about it. You and Lissa, perhaps. We live by a structured set of rules, and we have to be sent after the enemy. So far, we haven't been sent."
"So, I'm the rogue and can move about freely," I sighed. "Just as well, I wouldn't want Norian breathing over my shoulder again."
"Reah, he knows he hurt you. And it eats at him. He's a good man; he thought he was doing the right thing. It isn't like Norian to sit still when something can be taken care of right away."
"And we saw where that led." I was ready to go.
"He didn't know Nidris was still free. Nobody did. You and your baby paid the price."
"So you just expect me to forgive right here and now? Is that what you want? Act like it never happened?" I wanted to cry. And shout. At Aurelius, and he hadn't done anything wrong. Maybe in time, I'd drop the anger and guilt I felt over the whole thing. But right then, the pain was still too fresh. If I said I forgave Norian, I'd be lying. I wasn't ready to forgive him.