Burning Skies Page 25

“Why?” He knew for certain the next words his enemy spoke would be important.

“Because she is to me what ascender Morgan is to you.”

A blood donor? No, not that. Then what? Shit. Rith would never tell him, and he’d never been able to read his goddamn mind. Well, wasn’t this a day of surprises?

Crace relaxed his shoulders. “So basically, if I should happen to find the women together, as the future streams have suggested, then you want me to deliver the mortal-with-wings to you personally.”

Rith met his gaze with a blank stare, his mental shields practically glowing. “I would be obliged to you for the favor.”

Crace could lie with the best of them. “Then I’ll just have to see what I can do.” There was more than one way to destroy an enemy.

When Rith left, Crace headed to the war room. He scouted the notables present and ignored five of the generals to glare at the sixth, General Leto, former Warrior of the Blood. He disliked Leto immensely and distrusted him even more.

He moved to the surveillance grid and changed the coordinates to reflect the Metro Phoenix area, Mortal Earth. A mortal-with-wings by nature would have a power-signature strong enough to show up on the grid. Once he had her location, he’d go after her.

He glanced at Leto. How he despised the bastard who had fought Alison Wells in the Tolleson Two arena and failed to destroy her. He was tall, taller than Crace by at least an inch, and well muscled. He had intense blue eyes and long black warrior hair, which he kept drawn back in the traditional cadroen, a reminder to his peers that he’d once been a Warrior of the Blood. So fucking what!

Crace was happy to make use of him, though. Greaves had given Crace power over all the generals for any assignment that came down the pike.

He called Leto over and instructed him to keep an eye on the grid, told him what he was looking for, and asked the man to summon him the moment he found a strong enough signature to indicate a mortal-with-wings. He’d be in his forge until notified.

Leto, to his credit, merely flared his nostrils slightly, then responded, “Yes, Mr. High Administrator.”

Master would have been a preferred choice of address, but Crace thought it more likely he would ice-skate in hell first.

As he folded to the underbelly of the entire complex, deep in the earth—his beautiful forge—a shiver of anticipation went through him. If there was to be a convergence between ascender Morgan and the mortal-with-wings, then Crace thought it likely he’d be in the presence of his preferred blood donor very soon.

How much he loved synchronicity.

* * *

As the hour neared seven in the evening, Parisa Lovejoy stood in front of the mirror in her master bath. She wore black lace French-cut underwear but nothing else. Her breathing was shallow, her eyes burned, and her back was on fire.

She had waited ten days. She could never go beyond ten days or the release occurred spontaneously. So far, in the past year since the event had overtaken her body, she had been able to mount her wings in complete privacy and secrecy. But she feared more than anything else in the world that her unique condition would become public knowledge.

She closed her eyes. She drew a deep breath and released it slowly. At the same time, she relaxed all the hard fiery lumps that ranged in a V down her back. The weirdest vibration, accompanied by an almost unbearable itch, followed. Nausea overtook her and she shuddered.

She should have done this sooner, but even though she knew quite a bit about the ascended world of Second Earth, she was still worried that as a regular human being, a mortal, she was able to mount a pair of wings. It just wasn’t normal, at least not in her dimension.

She arched back then folded forward.

That was when the indecent pleasure began, almost like sex, as ripples of sensation flowed over her breasts and down deep within her. Okay a lot like sex. Then the wings came forth, gliding as though well oiled, from her body, just as they did for the other ascenders who mounted their wings. She was grateful she knew about the world of ascension; otherwise when her first wing-mount had occurred, she might have gone crazy.

When they were fully released, she straightened up. Her gaze fell to her breasts, which always looked like this, full and peaked as though she had just climaxed.

The nausea still worked over her stomach and she felt weak, like she could fall over if she wasn’t careful. But her gaze was drawn to the feathers her body had somehow produced, at the sheer height and beauty of the cream-colored wings, of the tall span that reached all the way to the nine-foot ceiling. She leaned forward and stared into the mirror. She might dislike the fact that she was a complete anomaly on earth, but her wings were magnificent.

As she stared, a slight gasp left her lips. Today there was a difference, a very beautiful difference. Near the tips of the outermost feathers there had always been two bands, one black and one a soft burnished gold. But now there was a new color, the same color as her eyes, a light purple, not quite lavender, placed between the bands. When she held each wing to its fullest height and breadth, and drew them together to touch above her head, the bands made a perfect arch, black forming the outermost arch, then amethyst, then gold.

“So beautiful,” she whispered, her gaze tracking the arch from left to right. Her heart ached at the sight and familiar longings trapped her breath in her chest. She felt a profound call on her life and she knew exactly what it was: She was being called to ascension.

She knew about the dimensional world because of another preternatural ability she possessed: She had visions of Second Earth. Or at least that’s what she called them. When she made herself still and focused, she could see into the ascended world, like opening a window.

Of course, the strangest part of all was that these visions centered on one particular man, a very tall, muscular warrior, who proved to be a vampire and a warrior. But not just any vampire warrior. He served in a place called Second Earth with six other warriors, all of whom she knew by name. As a group, they were known as the Warriors of the Blood, probably because they were vampires.


She could say the word now, quite easily, though that hadn’t been the case early on. She had felt ill. She had always believed that vampires were a dark mythology that arose from the collective unconscious of the masses. So when the world of ascension presented itself in the form of her unique visions and immediately presented as also the world of the vampire, well, that had taken some getting used to. But then so had her wings.

She manipulated her back muscles and the wings responded instantly, as though an extension of her muscles. She could make them unfurl almost to a full span and would have if the bathroom had been larger. She could pull the wings in tight to her body as well, even arching them forward to create a cocoon around herself.

She had a powerful urge to waft them downward and fly, which of course would only force her body upward and no doubt punch her head into the ceiling. She would probably break her neck.

She extended her left wing and stroked the feathers with her right hand. They were extremely sensitive to touch. Tugging on one hurt. But she separated the feathers and found the gossamer superstructure, thin filaments that must have bound the wings together once they released from her back. How this happened, she didn’t know, couldn’t imagine.

Her head waggled back and forth. There was so much she didn’t understand. Her wings had appeared a year ago, demanding release initially at month long intervals but accelerating to ten days now.

As for her visions, the latest one had been particularly disturbing. She had seen Warrior Medichi visit with Warrior Luken in what looked like a hospital room. She didn’t know exactly what had happened to the warrior except that he had been badly burned; the two men were concerned that he might have lost the use of his wings permanently because of the accident.

Warrior Medichi was so very handsome with pronounced cheekbones and smooth olive skin. His hair was black and very long. Sometimes he wore it in a leather clasp, called the cadroen, and sometimes he wore it free.

She met her gaze in the mirror, her amethyst eyes staring back at her. So what was going on with her? Why was she so fixated on Warrior Medichi? What did all of this make her? Was it possible she was going insane, that all these experiences and sensations were mere hallucinations?

She shook her head back and forth. No. What she experienced was real. She knew in the depths of her being that her wings existed, and that her visions were real. Maybe she couldn’t explain any of it right now, but she didn’t doubt the truth of what her eyes saw and her body felt. She gave the woman in the mirror, with the layered dark brown hair and amethyst eyes, a serious nod of her head.

Then she smiled. For a long time now she had wanted to try something new. She had considered performing this daring feat more than once, but tonight, for some reason, she had decided to take action. She would give her wings a test flight, albeit a very small test flight—more like a test float.

Still wearing just her French-cuts, she drew her wings close to her body by arching the top of the span and folding the layered feathers back almost behind her, the way birds did when they hopped about. In this configuration she could walk through her house without doing injury to her wings.

She moved to the small vanity area of the master bath, which had a door that opened onto a walkway and railing overlooking a small courtyard below. The courtyard was completely private, located in the center of the house. Not one window could be seen from the street or by any of her surrounding neighbors.

Two stories wasn’t that far, and she felt certain if she expanded her wings, she could float to the pavers below.

At least, she hoped so.

She moved onto the walkway and, making use of a stepladder she’d planted by the railing earlier, climbed up the few steps. Was she really going to do this?

Her heart started to race. She spread her wings for balance, and by creating a little lift with a gentle downward sweep of her wings, she was able to rise onto the railing. She planted her feet on the wrought iron. She had to work to maintain balance—her toes curled around the rail as she extended her hands and manipulated her wings to keep from flying either forward or back.

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