Burning Skies Page 23

He collapsed on her, once more panting over her chest. Once more her arms encircled him. She slid a hand over his hair. His fennel scent surrounded her.

She remained like that, awed by what had happened between them and by where she was.

After a long moment, he eased out of her and rolled slightly onto his side He leaned on one elbow and looked around. “I think I know what this is, where we are? I just figured it out.”

Havily once more glanced at the darkness that bordered the edge of the space, that seemed to drift on for miles. “Where?” she asked, confused.

“Of course. Havily, this is the darkening. You’ve brought us into the darkening, which is what you’ve been doing in your dreams.”

“But … this is where Endelle hunts the Commander, isn’t it? She chases him through the darkening?”

“I don’t know about chasing him. More like she hunts him down. I don’t think he’s actually in the darkening, if I’ve understood Endelle’s process.” He then shifted slightly and looked down at her. He chuckled softly. “Well, for an ascender who has repeatedly disappointed Madame Endelle, you’ve got a goddamn righteous Third ability.”

“No,” she said and laughed at him, but he lifted a brow. “That’s not possible.”

“Yes. You do.” He then kissed her forehead.

Her cheeks grew warm as his lips drifted to an eyebrow, where he placed another kiss. First a compliment, then a tender display of physical affection. She could get used to this. “So how do we get back?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I think this is your show, not mine. I told you yesterday that you bring me into this place, not the other way around.”

Her thoughts took a hard turn. “Oh, God. If you’re right, then that’s why Crace came to me. This is why I had a guardian at my ascension, because I can do this, because I have darkening abilities.”

“Yes, that would follow.”

She overlaid his hand with her own and before she spoke the words, she knew exactly what would happen. “We’ll return now.”

Leaving the darkening felt as though she were being swept thousands of miles on a swift wind, then suddenly she was back in her real bed, Marcus beside her.

“That was … amazing,” he said.

“I had only to think the thought and we were back.”

He leaned down and kissed her again. “Look at me for a second.”

She was staring into his eyes. “I am looking at you.”

“I mean all of me.”

Her gaze ran down his chest over his arms, down to his partially thickened cock and lower. “Marcus, you look different.”

“I feel different.”

Her gaze flew back to his. “How? Why? Is it the breh-hedden?”

He shook his head. “No. It’s your blood. Your blood did this to me.”

Havily’s mouth fell agape. She touched his pecs and his biceps. Her brows rose. “You look like you’ve worked out nonstop for about a month.”

Because only rare anecdotal evidence suggests that the occasional mortal has mounted wings before ascending, a conclusion can be drawn that first-flight falls into the category of myth.

—From Treatise on Ascension, by Philippe Reynard

Chapter 8

Medichi sat on a bar stool at the Cave, the laid-back rec room used only by the Warriors of the Blood. He sipped a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, the only Warrior of the Blood to prefer wine over hard liquor. The heavy tannin teased his tongue and he smiled … a little. He loved an excellent red wine.

He’d meant to head to his villa on the east side of the White Tank Mountains and crawl into bed. But after he’d been with Havily, after he’d comforted her, smelled the freshness of her shampooed hair, felt her breasts pressed against his chest, he’d been nerved up. Sleep couldn’t have found him.

So he thought maybe a glass of wine in a room that smelled more of war than a woman’s soft sweetness would ease him.

He was grateful Marcus had shown up. Of course he was.

But for just a moment, holding Havily in his arms, he’d once again been reminded of what he’d missed all these centuries, and something in him had collapsed, fallen flat. His props had failed. All the reasons he used to justify his solitary state had exploded and here he sat, a burned-out shell, his loneliness exposed like an open wound.

Of course, life was changing for the Warriors of the Blood. And all because of the newest Guardian of Ascension, Alison Wells.

A shudder went through him at what her horrific ascension had put the warriors through: the increased battling with death vamps, the painful experience of watching a mortal woman forced to battle a powerful vampire on her own, the haunting image of Kerrick’s near-death, then his incredible resurrection because of his breh’s immense abilities. Jesus.

But maybe worse than these traumas was the sight of Kerrick every night since, over the past four months, looking rested and content even though he battled harder than ever. The completion of the breh-hedden had done this for him. The bastard was happy, happy, even though nothing had changed for him in any other sense than that he took the same woman to bed every dawn, and, yeah, he had a child growing in her belly.

He knew what that was like. He could remember what that was like.


He threw back the rest of the wine, something he never did. He always swirled and savored. Right now, for the first time in centuries, he wished for something harder. Scotch maybe.

A faint vibration of air near the new pool table had him off the stool and on his feet, his free arm extended ready to fold his sword into his hand. Who would be coming to the Cave midday? His heart rate shot into the stratosphere.

Thorne materialized.

Thank God.

They spoke at the same time and said the same thing: “What the fuck are you doing here?”

Medichi slumped back onto his stool and took a few deep breaths. His hands shook from the quick flooding of adrenaline through his veins. They were all on edge these days.

“So what the fuck are you doing here?” Thorne asked again.

Medichi turned into the bar and because of his trembling fingers, he had to work to refill the goblet without spilling. Eventually he succeeded. He took a solid mouthful then swallowed. He took a deep breath. “Got news, boss.” He turned back to look at the leader of the Warriors of the Blood. Thorne’s eyes were the usual—bloodshot and red-rimmed. Talk about never sleeping.

Medichi held the glass with both hands and worked at taking a few more deep breaths. He glanced at Thorne. They each wore jeans and tees, some indication they were both trying to dial it down. Wasn’t working.

“News, huh?” Thorne had a split between his brows and he planted his hands on his hips. “Just tell me first why the hell you aren’t home and in bed asleep.”

“Why aren’t you?”

“Asked you first, asshole.”

Medichi would only lose this battle if he kept going, so he answered the question. “I went back to see Havily at her town house. Wanted to make sure she was okay.”

Thorne walked in his direction, his gaze shifting over the back of the bar where the bottles were lined up as though waiting for target practice. The hunting stopped, no doubt on the bottle of Ketel One, his favorite drink. “How’s she doin’?”

“Rattled. Her home was crawling with Militia Warriors.”

“How many?”

“A couple of dozen, at least.”

“Good.” He reached for the bottle, unscrewed the lid, and poured three fingers, neat. He took a deep breath, tilted his head, and slid the contents down his throat.

Thorne was one wrecked warrior. He even had crow’s-feet beside each eye, something that was supposed to be impossible on Second, but maybe not if you made war all night, battled with Endelle every off-minute, drank like a fish, and never slept. The only relief the man seemed to find was visiting his sister each dawn at the Creator’s Convent. Thorne was a very devoted brother.

When the tumbler hit the bar, Thorne looked at him and said, “So what’s your news? Or was that it—Havily’s okay and Militia Warriors are guarding her town house?”

“Nope. While I was there, Marcus showed up.”

He heard the quick intake of breath as Thorne grabbed his arm and squeezed. “Don’t shit me now.”

“He’s back. The deserter is back.”

Thorne’s head rocked like he couldn’t quite control his neck, and he released a ragged sigh. He righted himself. “To stay? Tell me Marcus is here to stay.”

“He was pissed that I had my hands on Havily’s arms.”

Thorne searched his eyes. He nodded. He even smiled. “You think the breh-hedden’s got him?”

“Looks like it. His greeting to me was something like, Get your hands off her, asshole.”

Thorne’s smile eased into a full-blown grin, which of course deepened the crow’s-feet. But for just a moment he lost that we’re-perpetually-fucked look. He released another long breath and once more reached for the Ketel. “Well. Thank the Creator for small favors.”

* * *

When Marcus stepped out of the shower and started toweling off, he wondered what the hell he and Havily were supposed to do now. The problem was, he was ready for another round. He looked down at his subversive cock, thick and doing a righteous imitation of a heat-seeking missile. He wagged his head. “Don’t even think about it.”

Between the powerful effect of Havily’s blood and the call of the breh-hedden, he shook with need. He tucked the towel around his hips and leaned forward to plant his hands on the counter. He forced his torso and shoulders to relax. He took deep breaths, a lot of them.

He had to get a grip. Somehow. After all, he hardly knew this woman, her likes and dislikes, the essentials of her temperament or her temper. He did know she had a bit of a short fuse and that she was defensive as hell. And why wouldn’t she be? Apparently, her boss, the proverbial bitch-from-hell, had let Havily know she’d been a disappointment to Second Earth from the moment she’d completed her rite of ascension. A hundred years of you’re-not-good-enough had to take a toll.

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