Realization. His legs gave out, and he sagged against Caspion.
“No, Mirceo,” the demon murmured. “We will find her. And we will heal her.”
Lothaire canted his head. “You think she has the plague. Interesting.”
Interesting??? Mirceo almost attacked again.
Caspion said, “The Gaolers might have taken her to their dimension. Which would explain why your oracle can’t see her.”
“Ah, the demigod devils are riding again? They used to be much more active. Of course, there used to be many more sick vampires before those sweeps began.” To the court, Lothaire said, “If Mina has the plague, then the Gaolers have her. Sadly, she will not be returning home.”
“Leo!” the queen snapped. “You better start behaving yourself.”
Mirceo nearly vomited again.
Lothaire said, “Those phantasms are untouchable—and there are few beings I consider beyond even my unholy reach. No one knows whence they come.”
Caspion had said the Gaolers’ dimension couldn’t be reached. Dear gods, what if she ran afoul of Silt Harea—the male who’d threatened to kill anyone Mirceo loved?
Caspion squared his shoulders. “I can get to the Gaolers.”
Lothaire laughed. “This I must hear. How can you find demigods?”
Cas said, “Because I know where they will go in the future—and when.”
Mirceo cast him a questioning look.
Cas told Lothaire, “Mirceo and I are going to capture another one of their bounties. When the Gaolers come to collect, we will collect them.”
Lothaire flashed his fangs. The king’s version of a smile? “I approve of your cunning. Which bounty will you retrieve?”
“There are several possibilities. Once Mirceo has fed and healed”—Cas directed a look of menace at Lothaire—“he and I will assess the bounties with other seasoned hunters.”
“Keep me informed.” Lothaire’s attention fell to his gagged and shackled prisoner. “Apologies, Kristoff. Apparently your faction had nothing to do with the Dacianos’ troubles. No hard feelings, brother.” Kristoff yelled behind his gag, thrashing. Unaffected, Lothaire said, “I assume we’re still on for our match this afternoon. I will even move your chess pieces while your broken fingers heal. Best keep your eye on your queen.” Lothaire took Elizabeth’s hand. About to trace her away, he paused to ask Mirceo, “Why is that demon still embracing you?”
Mirceo lifted his bruised chin. “He’s my mate.”
Lothaire’s red eyes widened and blazed. “I don’t care how valuable he is for us to use, I forbid such a union in my kingdom!” He slammed his free hand down on his throne’s armrest, disintegrating it. “Not on my watch! If you want that male, I’ll exile you.”
Sounding crazed, Mirceo said, “Then my mate and I are going to live in a dismal cave and hunt Wendigos for the rest of our lives.”
Cas shot him a side look. Pardon?
Mirceo muttered to him, “I realized I would rather that scenario with you than anything else without you.”
The queen snatched her hand away from Lothaire and glared at him. “What the hell is wrong with this match, Leo?” The angrier she got, the thicker her country accent grew. “They clearly care about each other.”
“Mirceo is my blood! And he dares to proclaim this male as his mate? Bringing this”—he gestured to Cas and Mirceo—“into my court?”
Cas clutched Mirceo’s frail form against him. He’d figured they would get pushback somewhere or sometime—simply because they possessed two dicks between them—but he hadn’t thought it would come from a three-millennia-old vampire.
Voice thrumming with fury, the queen told Lothaire, “You had better check yourself.”
Lothaire threw his hands up as if all the world had gone mad. “When Trehan mated a sorceress with demon blood, I tolerated the match, even encouraged it. But now Mirceo’s mate is a full-blooded demon? With horns! Will Viktor bring home a Wendigo? Stelian will surely mate a ghouless. When we find Kosmina, she’ll probably be knocked up with centaur foals. Lizvetta, there’s only so much I can STAND!”
“Wait,” Cas said, “you don’t care that I’m male?”
Lothaire blinked those creepy eyes. “Why the fuck would I care if you’re male?”
Then solely because I’m a demon?
The queen frowned. “For lordy sakes, I thought you’d be more tolerant since your queen was a human ‘peasant’ before you turned her into a vampire.”
Lothaire gazed down into her eyes, and his expression softened. “Ah, but you were different, my love. There is uncommon greatness in you.”
Her eyes went soft as well, and she gave a resigned sigh. “You’re digging yourself deeper than a mole.” She turned to Cas. “I’m Ellie, and I’m so happy to welcome you here to Dacia, Prince Caspion. I know you will protect Mirceo to the death and help bring back Mina. We officially recognize your union in front of all.” To Lothaire, she pointedly said, “Don’t we, Leo?”
Lothaire sneered to Cas, “We recognize this union.” With a sinister grin, the king added, “We also recognize that the demon probably won’t make it out of his upcoming mission alive. . . .”
Caspion drew Mirceo even closer, teleporting them to their villa.