Burning Skies Page 11

What they couldn’t know was that in some inexplicable way, she had just had sex with Marcus this very morning.

“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“No. No, of course not. It’s just that … I’ve had visions of him, as well.” Once again she was overwhelmed with the probability that they weren’t visions but actual experiences.

Oh. God.

Which would mean, of course, that she’d been having sex with him for four months now!

Oh, dear God.

She squeezed her eyes shut and pushed all those unsettling thoughts out of her head. When she opened her eyes, she straightened her shoulders and turned to Medichi. She took a deep breath, “If the link involves mind-engagement, I think I’d be fine.”

Medichi frowned slightly. “I want to assure you, Hav, that this is a fairly superficial level of mind-engagement. Nothing deep. One level below telepathy. I won’t be able to see your memories or anything like that, which can occur with deeper levels of mind-diving.”

For a brief moment she felt really uncomfortable with the arrangement. She couldn’t explain why, exactly, but the thought of allowing this kind of link with Medichi felt as though she was being unfaithful to Marcus. Which was utterly and completely ridiculous. So ridiculous in fact that she nodded in a swift dip of her chin and said, “Let’s do it. You’ve convinced me. What do you need me to do?”

Medichi moved to stand in front of her then put his hand on her forehead. “Just relax.”

It wasn’t easy to be close to so much lean muscled warrior. Medichi was the tallest of the brothers and very handsome in his Italian way. He had high strong cheekbones, dark brown eyes, and long straight black hair. She forced her shoulders to settle down and worked to unknot her stomach. Finally she gave up and closed her eyes.

“You’re doing fine.”

At first his hand just felt warm, but a moment later she felt his mind slide against hers then dip inside. A tingling followed, along with something that felt like a solid clamp on her brain, which made her smile.

Do you feel that? he sent.

She opened her eyes. She grinned. “It’s the oddest sensation.”

He nodded. “I’m going to fold to the Cave then reach out to you, as a test. That will put a dimension between us. We’ll see how well this works.”

“Okay. Good. Do it.”

He smiled at her first. “You know, that’s what I like best about you. You’re so game.” He lifted his hand and was gone.

She shifted her gaze to Luken. “It really is weird.” She tilted her head sideways. “It’s like that feeling when you’ve gone swimming and water ends up in your ears and won’t come out. I want to shake my head.”

Luken just looked at her, his expression warm, affectionate.

Havily. You there?

She heard Medichi as plain as day. “Yes,” she said aloud, then laughed at her stupidity. I mean, yes, she sent mind-to-mind. I said it aloud as soon as I heard you … in my head, I mean.

Yep, you’ve got powers. And I’m not hurting you?

Not even a little.

A moment later he materialized in front of her, smiling.

“How do I call you?” she asked. “I mean how did you reach out to me? Does this mean you can hear my thoughts?”

“Only if you direct them at me. It’s a link. I’m not in your head. It’s telepathic. Think of it as long-distance telepathy.”

“Oh, okay. I guess that makes sense. All I know is that I’d hate to subject you to the ongoing chaos of my thoughts. Sometimes it’s like a lettuce spinner in there.”

He laughed. “Don’t worry. The link is nothing like that.” He grew sober for a moment, his expression inscrutable. He then cleared his throat. He glanced at Luken. Havily’s gaze followed. The warrior’s eyes were closed.

“He must be exhausted,” she whispered.

“Yeah,” Medichi said, his voice low as well. “I guess I’d better hunt down my bed. I’ll be battling by eight.” He turned to her. “I’m always here for you, Hav, you know that, right?”

She nodded. “You’re the best, Antony.”

* * *

Eldon Crace, High Administrator of Chicago Two, minion to his deity, Commander Darian Greaves, had muscles on his muscles now. Oh … yeah.

And, shit yes, sweat poured off him in streams, but not because of fear like it used to. Now he sweat because he pumped iron several hours a day and because he’d built himself a goddamn righteous forge, the old-fashioned kind, deep in the heart of Greaves’s compound. He never wore a shirt, just a black leather kilt and warrior battle sandals.

Decades ago, before his ascension to Second Earth, he had worked for a smithy in rural Indiana. He had always enjoyed the nature of the work, taking metal, heating it up until it glowed red, then pounding it into whatever shape he wanted. The metaphor pleased him immensely.

Horseshoes then.

Manacles now.

A few months ago, shortly after he’d been introduced to the exquisite properties of dying blood, he’d constructed the forge deep within the Commander’s compound, well into the belly of the earth, on the lowest level not far from the vast room used to test all manner of weaponry, including incendiary bombs.

He had labored hard over the forge. The ventilation alone had been one bitch of a challenge. Because the compound existed beneath the Commander’s famous peach orchard, the ducting had to be routed a good mile from his current position.

But he’d gotten it done and now he had a proper workstation.

Sometimes life’s simplest pleasures were the best.

He could think in the space he’d created for himself. Right now he pounded the hell out of a strip of glowing red metal the old-fashioned way, on an anvil, beating it so that it would fit the small wrist of a woman. Yes, his newly emerging death vampire nature had strong appetites and by God he indulged them.

For one thing, he really liked keeping his blood donors close at hand.

He glanced to his right, and desire flowed down his chest and into his abdomen, then low into his groin. A mortal woman hung from her manacled wrists, her dark eyes blank now from her new reality, her body a sagging weight barely supported by watery knees. He liked his donors weakened through the trauma and sheer fatigue of hanging from manacles. He liked his women worn out when he was ready to take what he’d earned. He also liked them draped in white gauze, a sacrificial symbol that pleased his vampire soul.

He laid a message over the mortal’s mind: Your life gives me life and for that you are blessed.

He enjoyed delivering false hope. Her gaze flickered toward him, despair giving way to possibilities. But his sudden burst of laughter drew the blank stare once more as she looked away, her body sagging a little more.

She would feed not only him this night but also several of his personal attendants, those death vampires he’d recruited to serve as his guards and general lackeys.

He often did the hunting for his blood donors by himself, slipping quickly down to Mortal Earth before Central’s grids could happen upon his powerful signature. Other times, he would take his squad with him. He had sufficient advanced power to fold them straight to Mortal Earth, which would keep them off Endelle’s Central grid for a good long while.

He knew how the grids worked. They scanned back and forth looking for the signature of the death vampire, but Metro Phoenix took in a vast section of real estate and so far, in the past four months, he and his squad hadn’t been caught once.

God, he loved his life, a new life, the life his master had given him when he’d insisted that Crace drink a small goblet of dying blood. The thought of that first experience still aroused him, every damn time.

But it was the months that followed that had fulfilled him, the increasing physical strength, the clarity of mind, of purpose, the incremental bursts of expanding power.

Power was the real drug, the real erotic pressure on the pleasure points of his brain.

He’d never been happier.

He’d never been more powerful.

He’d also left his former life behind.

He rarely traveled to Chicago Two and he no longer had contact with his wife, Julianna. How odd to think that at one time she had been everything to him, the center of his world and his ambitions. But dying blood had changed all that. Now she was a fly in the ointment, and every text he received from her made him want to destroy his fucking BlackBerry. The woman needed to move on. Rumors had it she was screwing everything in sight, no doubt to try to attract his attention.


A muffled noise struck his ear. With his newly improved preternatural hearing, he detected movement beyond the steel door of his forge.

“This had better be good,” he shouted, the ring of metal on metal a seductive rhythm in his ears. The blood donor actually jumped.

He glanced at the steel door to his right, rivets gleaming.

The door opened and a fellow war-maker appeared, a relatively short vampire by the name of Rith. The bastard also took dying blood but he clearly made use of the antidote immediately afterward since he showed none of the hallmarks of the ordinary death vamp: no porcelain skin, no faint bluish tint to his complexion, no increased physical strength, no blackening of the wings, no beautifying of the features.

Rith was odd looking. He had short straight black hair, a wide forehead, and a broad nose. His eyes were black and deep-set. There had to be something of the Orient in his DNA. He stood maybe five-seven in his bare feet.


The idiot would be improved a thousandfold if he gave up the antidote.

“I do have news,” Rith called to him from across the space, “and I think you’ll be interested in this.”

“The mortal-with-wings?” Crace asked. Four months ago, when the fiasco involving ascender Wells drew to a close, Greaves had shared with him intriguing if highly improbable info from the future streams about a mortal-with-wings.

At the time, Crace hadn’t believed it was possible. The only mortal ever to have wings before an ascension was the original ascender herself, the famous Luchianne. When nothing came of the Seers’ rumors, Crace had thought it a hoax. Had it proven otherwise, had there really been such a mortal, Crace would have been at the head of the line to go in pursuit. Such a mortal would have had enormous power.

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