Black Heart Page 74

“Are you saying the Retrievers will be good now that they belong to me?” I asked.

“That depends,” Daharan said. “Are you good?”

My cheeks colored. “I think so.”

“I am not passing judgment upon you. I am asking if you still believe that you are, as you would say, one of the good guys,” Daharan said.

I thought about smothering Titania within a cocoon of darkness.

“I try to be,” I said.

Daharan fell silent at this, and I returned my attention to my dinner.

“Aren’t you eating?” I asked, shoveling food in my mouth. Everything was amazing, and as usual, I was famished.

“I have already done so,” he said, but something in the way he said it made me pause.

“No, you haven’t,” I said. “Why would you lie about that?”

Daharan looked surprised. “You know when I say a falsehood?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I mean, I don’t know if I could before. But I can now. Since I . . .”

I trailed off. I didn’t know whether Daharan knew about the Titania thing yet. And I was a little afraid that he did know, and that he would disapprove.

“Since you killed the Faerie Queen,” Daharan said.

There was no judgment in his tone, only a statement of fact.

“Yes,” I said, putting my fork down. “She thought I killed Bendith.”

“Of course she thought you killed her son. Because it was arranged so that she would think that.”

His voice was still calm, but I could see the anger banked in his eyes. The anger wasn’t for me, though.

“Do you know who set me up?” I asked. Whoever it was had a lot to answer for.

Daharan took a large sip of wine, swallowed it, and gazed directly at me. “Yes.”

“Are you going to tell me who it is?” I asked.

“I am sorry I did not return to you as soon as you expected me,” Daharan said. “So much of this could have been avoided.”

“Where were you, anyway? And don’t think I haven’t noticed that you didn’t answer the question,” I said.

“I was detained by Alerian,” he said.

“Alerian?” I asked, alarmed. “Why? What’s he up to?”

“Nothing that he will reveal to me. He simply wanted to see me, as we have been out of contact for many centuries,” Daharan said. “But our powers are in such direct opposition to one another that it has a dampening effect on our magic when we are together. You may have felt the connection between us break while I was in my brother’s presence.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I thought you left, went to some other universe or something. It was the same feeling that I used to get when Lucifer went to the land of the dead.”

“It was because of Alerian’s presence that I did not feel the threat to you when the faerie king’s apartment was under attack,” Daharan said. “Else I would have rushed to your aid immediately. And if that had been averted, none of the rest would have followed.”

“So who was it?” I asked.

“The same person who has interfered so often in your life lately,” Daharan said.

“Lucifer,” I swore. “I don’t know what he’s up to, but when I—”

Daharan shook his head. “Not Lucifer. Puck.”

18

“PUCK?” I ASKED. I DON’T KNOW WHY, BUT THAT TOOK me off guard. “Puck did this? But why would he kill his own son?”

“He has another,” Daharan said.

“Kids aren’t usually that interchangeable to their parents,” I said.

“I would not know. I have none,” Daharan said.

“You don’t?” I said, momentarily distracted. “Lucifer’s got them coming out of his ears.”

“Lucifer is not as discriminating as I,” Daharan said. “And my true nature makes it difficult to mate with human women.”

I made a concerted attempt to refocus. “Still, even if he does have Nathaniel, it makes no sense for Puck to kill Bendith.”

“There is something you do not know about Puck,” Daharan said. “Many millennia ago he was tricked into binding his life to Titania. He has served her ever since.”

I stared at Daharan. “And let me guess. The binding is only broken with Titania’s death.”

“Yes,” Daharan said.

The darkness rose up inside me, swirling as my fury rose. “He set it up to make it look like I murdered his son so Titania would blame me. And he used me to kill Titania and free him from his servitude.”

“Yes,” Daharan said sadly.

I stood from the table. The Retrievers came to immediate attention in the living room. I stomped through the hallway and into my bedroom. If Daharan had restored everything else in the house, then the object I was looking for would still be there.

On my dresser a bright blue jewel winked like Puck’s merry eyes. I grabbed the jewel off the dresser and went back to the living room.

“Puck!” I shouted.

Nothing. He was supposed to come when I called, when I used the jewel.

My power rose up, furious now, and Daharan made no move to calm or stop me. He simply waited. The Retrievers lined up in a row before me and sat on their haunches, as if awaiting my command to attack.

“PUCK!” I said, and pushed my power into the jewel.

“There’s no need to shout,” he said from behind me. “I’m right here.”

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