Burning Skies Page 24

But holy shit … her blood.

He lifted his head and looked into the mirror. He drew away from the counter and let his gaze drift over his body. Jesus H. Christ, he really did look stronger, his muscles better defined, larger, and that orgasm. Like taking off into outer space … again and again. Of course, dwelling on the recent experience was not the best strategy since his proverbial missile started throbbing.

He worked at breathing a little more and focused on Havily, the woman. They were going to be together for a few days, at least long enough to secure her future safety.

For starters, therefore, he should try talking to her, getting to know her. If she wanted to make use of his body now and then—well, he would be happy to oblige her. How generous of him. He smiled. She’d obviously enjoyed the recent lovemaking as well.

His thoughts took a more how-about-now turn.

Maybe …

He let the towel drop.

He moved out of the bathroom and was greeted with a strange sound, which he couldn’t place right away. Havily lay on her side facing away from him in the direction of the window. She had a pillow pulled up to her chest, her knees drawn up.

What was that sound?

He drew closer. It wasn’t quite like singing or talking. Somewhere in between.

He was at the edge of the mattress and listened hard, then heard a faint giggle followed by a murmur, then a sigh. His shoulders relaxed just a little. His woman had fallen asleep and in her sleep she made a series of contented noises.

He put a hand to his chest and listened. His heart warmed. He was drawn to her soft mumblings and sighs.

He didn’t want to wake her but right now he needed to be close to her. Maybe it was the recent attack, maybe it was the breh-hedden, or maybe the sex, but, yeah, he wanted to be near her.

He put a knee on the mattress then the other. He ducked his head to keep from hitting some of the lowest dangling butterflies. He crawled toward her and lifted the sheet. Slowly, he eased himself down beside her. He inched toward her, pulling the sheet up over both of them.

The mutterings stopped. “Marcus?” But it was a soft, slurred question.

“Yes,” he whispered. “Just me.”

“Good. I’m glad.”

“Go back to sleep.”

She reached behind her and took hold of his forearm. She pulled his arm around her and pressed his hand between her breasts as though she had done so a hundred times before. He couldn’t help that his cock responded, but that only made her wiggle her hips and press close.

He knew it wasn’t an invitation, so he forced more air in and out of his lungs. He thought about anything else. Digging a trench. Yeah, he pictured the rocky hillside outside her town house and digging a trench, working hard under the sun, getting good and exhausted.

That helped. He calmed down a little so that he could press closer, embrace her more fully, plant his chest against her back, let her know he was here.

She murmured her approval. She had been up most of the night. His woman needed her rest and needed his protection. He could be here for her in both ways right now. Her soft mumblings started again and he smiled. He had forgotten, truly forgotten, what it was like to be close to a woman in this way, the comfort of her soft body against his hard warrior muscles, the sweetness of being physically connected that had nothing to do with sex. He had not allowed this kind of involvement in too many centuries to count. His last marriage had ended in AD 800. Death vampires had murdered his wife of five centuries, his beloved Neeja. His three sons were gone as well, warriors all, lost to the war before the advent of Christ. The pain … Jesus, he’d forgotten what that pain felt like until this moment because the breh-hedden had made Havily precious in his eyes. He’d promised himself no more. Now he was here, holding a goddess in his arms, an ascender who smelled so erotically of honeysuckle.

She was a balm against his burning skin, an unexpected ease to his soul. If this was her way of seducing him, damn it might just work. He had lived a solitary life for over a millennium. He’d found lots of ways to make it work, one of which was never getting involved with a woman. Another was having lots of casual sex.

But the breh-hedden had orchestrated this moment, which in turn had brought memories forward of former times when he’d known this kind of closeness and joy with a woman.

And in this moment, his heart began to hurt.

* * *

“Is this all the footage you’ve got?” Crace asked. He sat at his desk in the office he’d commandeered four months ago from one of Greaves’s generals. Rith had just loaded a DVD of the attack at the Superstitions, the one in which Rith had personally detonated the incendiary bomb that was supposed to have offed Warrior Luken. Everything looked in order—so why had the mission failed?

Rith stood next to him and grew very still, the man’s only tell. “Yes,” he responded succinctly. “This is all I have. Warrior Thorne showed up thirty seconds after Warrior Luken hit the earth.”

“Fucking bad luck,” Crace muttered. He grunted his displeasure at the screen. He thought the height of the flames could be taller but he liked the colors, some pinks and greens, almost glittery, real spectacle-grade shit. But why the fuck hadn’t the warrior died? What was the point of beautiful explosions if someone didn’t get killed?

“There is something, however, I think you might have missed,” Rith said. He gestured with both hands toward the keyboard. “May I?”

“By all means.” Crace scooted away in his rolling desk chair, his hands in the air. He had an instinct about this vampire who pretended to be submissive. He should kill him right now and would have except that Greaves favored the bastard.

A few clicks followed. “There,” Rith said. “A hint of red hair. I was too far away at the time and preparing to leave so I didn’t see the arrival of a third person. I snatched the camera and tripod then folded away. I only saw this later.”

Crace peered close. “Fuck. You think this is ascender Morgan?” He could still taste her exquisite blood on his lips. His heart rate increased, double time.

“Yes. I do.”

“What the hell was she doing there at the scene?” Crace asked.

“The real question is—how did Warrior Thorne know to come to Warrior Luken’s aid?”

Crace frowned. “Are you saying he was warned?”

“I’m not sure. But ascender Morgan has a special relationship with Warrior Luken. I believe she knew he was in trouble.”

“A link?”

“Not necessarily, but I do think it’s possible she had a link with Warrior Medichi and that’s why he arrived at the town house so swiftly last night.”

No shit, Sherlock, he thought. Aloud, he said, “Go on.”

“There is no way Warrior Thorne could have known of the bomb at the Superstitions or that one of his warriors was down. I made certain that the Awatukee Borderland, where he was fighting, had a surplus of death vamps to battle. Even so, Warrior Luken fell hard to earth, and you can see by the footage that he was unable to make a call.”

“But you think ascender Morgan somehow knew that he’d been hurt, then intervened?”

“Yes. I do.”

“If not a telepathic link, then how do you explain it?”

“Do you recall the dispatches of yesterday?”


“One of the Seers spoke of emergence. There have been at least six more reports from Seers Fortresses about ascender Morgan in the past twenty-four hours. One of them spoke of darkening capabilities.”

At that, Crace frowned. He was just a little skeptical about Seers’ prophecies. “Are you suggesting that she located Warrior Luken through the darkening?”

“I think it possible. It would explain a lot, especially her increased appearance in the future streams.”

Crace shook his head. To his knowledge only Endelle had darkening capabilities, which meant it was a Third Earth power even Greaves didn’t have. Yeah. Skeptical.

“And you’re telling me this because—?”

“Because I know you have an interest in her beyond her emerging powers.”

Crace didn’t trust Rith any farther than he could piss on him. He sensed in the man duplicity and schemes, plans of his own, but it didn’t matter. Right now, for whatever reason, it suited Rith to share information with Crace about Havily Morgan, and that was good enough. Maybe it was simply that Rith wanted her out of the picture the way Greaves did. Making Havily dead would be a feather in his cap where the Commander was concerned.

Crace did indeed have an entirely different interest in Havily Morgan. Truth be known, he didn’t give a damn about her emerging powers. What he wanted was her blood. Permanently.

He had never felt better in his long fucking life.

He flexed his right arm and felt the increased bulk of his bicep. Goddamn if the dispatches weren’t right. Her blood had done exactly what dying blood could do: It had increased his physical strength, lit up his libido, improved some of his normal human abilities. Bottom line? He may have just discovered the mother lode.

Rith stepped away from the computer and rounded the table to stand facing Crace. “There’s just one more thing. We have a convergence in the future streams.”


For the first time since Crace had known Rith, the vampire’s cheeks wore color—very faint, but the flush was there, a pale pink. What the fuck? “Ascender Morgan and the mortal-with-wings, a woman. She finally showed up in the future streams.”

Crace jerked forward in his chair and rose to his feet. “What the fuck?” He moved so fast, however, that his chair skidded backward and slammed into the stone wall. “We’ve heard nothing about the mortal-with-wings in the past four months and suddenly we have a convergence between these two women? Are you fucking sure?”


Crace knew the bastard was holding something back, something big. “What do you want, Rith? Tell me.”

“I want her, the one purportedly with first-flight capability, the mortal-with-wings.”

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