Burning Skies Page 28

“A mortal-with-wings?” Havily murmured.

“Has there ever been such a thing?” Marcus asked.

“Only once to my recollection,” Endelle said, her voice low, her gaze suddenly fixed on nothing as though she looked deep into the past. “Luchianne.”

Marcus whistled. Luchianne was the first ascender, the first vampire, the one who led the way, eleven thousand years ago, to Second Earth.

“The first ascender had wings before she ascended?” Havily asked. “I didn’t know that, but it kind of makes sense.” She shifted her gaze to Endelle. “So where do we look for her? I mean she could be anywhere on Mortal Earth, right?”

“Lucky for us, she’s in the Metro Phoenix area.” Endelle’s expression grew a little distant. From where he stood, Marcus could feel the ripples of her powerful thoughts flowing through the empty space. She continued, though in a more subdued voice, “I just wonder what the hell is going on.”

She turned and moved toward the side of the rotunda that was open to the air. The space faced south with a view of a long stretch of the McDowell Mountains as well as the Valley below. The palace was at least a thousand feet from the foothills. In the winter, with a storm out of the north, snow would occasionally cloak the palace.

He caught Havily’s hand and drew her with him to follow in Endelle’s wake.

Endelle continued speaking as though to herself. “Alison had the ability to fold even before she ascended, and now she’s a Guardian of Ascension with the self-proclaimed vision that she will be the instrument by which the pathway to Third Earth is finally opened. Now we have a mortal-with-wings. Shit.”

She was silent for a moment as he drew close, still in possession of his woman’s hand. She added, “I want you both to work from Medichi’s villa and don’t ask me why. It’s just my gut telling me that’s the best place for all of this right now. Between Havily’s situation—whatever the hell that is—and now a mortal-with-wings, looks like the war is about to heat up … again. Don’t worry. I’ll cast a shield of mist over the villa so that even Greaves can’t find it.”

Actually, Medichi’s villa made sense. Even before Marcus had exiled himself to Mortal Earth, Medichi had built a vast estate on the east side of the White Tank Mountains. Under the century-old COPASS laws, because Medichi was a Guardian of Ascension, his property was protected from attack.

So Havily would be infinitely safer at the villa than in her town house. Once … or rather if … they found this mortal-with-wings, they could bring her to the villa as well and afford her the same level of protection, at least for an hour or so. Mortals couldn’t survive in the second dimension, not for very long. If trapped on Second Earth, an unascended mortal would die within twenty-four hours. The two-hour mark was usually more than most mortals could bear. But an hour would give all of them enough time to figure out a strong course of action.

There would also be plenty of room for privacy, and as he gave Havily’s hand a squeeze and glanced at her, he knew he would be needing some privacy with her … soon.

Okay, he didn’t need to think about that right now. He looked back at Endelle. “Did Thorne say in what part of the Valley we would find this mortal?” With a population of three million, the Phoenix area on Mortal Earth was one helluva haystack to sort through, especially with a critical time frame.

No doubt Greaves’s war room was already on the task.

Endelle looked over her shoulder at Havily. “No, but ask her? She’s the go-to woman right now. She’s always got some plan for solving problems, getting shit organized. See, I don’t think she’s completely useless.”

Havily laughed. “Was that a compliment, Madame Supreme High Administrator?”

Endelle stepped toward her and met her gaze. “Was that sarcasm, my little organizer?”

Marcus once more put himself physically between the two women. He thought he might have a conversation later with Havily about not baiting scorpions in general. He addressed Endelle. “There’s something else you need to know.”

She shifted her lined, ancient gaze to his. “What?” she snapped. “I don’t have all night.”

Marcus glanced at Havily and frowned slightly. “We need to tell her,” he said.

“You mean about … earlier?”


Havily lifted her chin but released a heavy sigh. “Yes, I think so, too. Shall I?”

He smiled. Maybe she’d been set back on her heels all these decades by Endelle’s sour opinion of Havily’s powers, but his woman didn’t lack for pluck. “Go ahead.”

Havily met Endelle’s gaze head-on. “Earlier today, when Marcus and I were … engaged … I took him into the darkening.”

He liked that she said it flat-out. He also enjoyed just how wide Endelle’s eyes grew.

Her Supremeness blinked. “You did what?”

“For the past four months, I thought I’d been engaged in enjoying very intense, dream-like fantasies about Warrior Marcus. Two nights ago, when I had a vision of Luken with his wings on fire, I also thought it was a vision I was having.” She took a deep breath. This couldn’t be an easy thing for her to say, since she was essentially speaking about sex to the most vulgar, inappropriate, indiscreet vampire on Second Earth. Still, she pressed on. “However, today, this afternoon, when Marcus and I were … making love … we ended up in the darkening. I think all this time, I’ve been taking Marcus into the darkening, and when Luken was attacked I somehow took myself into the darkening and traveled to his location. Once there, however, I couldn’t reach him.”

“No one in this dimension,” Endelle cried, “can go into the darkening but me, not even Greaves. So forgive me if I don’t believe you. Settle down Marcus, what I mean is, why don’t you describe for me what it was like, what it looked like, what it felt like, and I don’t mean your warrior’s cock. This is important, Morgan. I must know exactly what happened.”

Havily took her time and described the experience. Marcus nodded his agreement.

When she had finished, Endelle just stared at her. “Holy shit,” she muttered. “Well, you’ve described it exactly and I’ll be a goddamn motherfucker if you don’t have darkening capabilities. It’s a goddamn righteous Third ability, you know.” Her brows knotted. “Were you in two places at once?”

Havily shook her head. “No, never that. In or out, never both, although I understand splitting-self is a critical aspect of the ability. I never did that. I suppose you can.”

Endelle snorted. “Damn straight I can.” She narrowed her eyes. “And you’re sure you weren’t in two places at once?”

“I’m sure.”

Endelle almost smiled. “Well, well, well. So you have some power after all. I’ll see you in the office tomorrow and we’ll talk about what to do next. For one thing, I’ll need to teach you how to split yourself. Then maybe you’ll be of some real use to me.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Her Supremeness turned to Marcus. “Protect Havily and find this mortal-with-wings ASAP. Update Thorne then keep on updating him. He’ll contact me if I’m needed. Okay. We’re done.”

Endelle lifted her arm and vanished, no doubt to return to her meditation chamber.

He glanced at Havily. “Medichi’s first, then we’ll figure out what we need to do next. How does that sound?”

She nodded, frowning.


“Well, you know how odd Endelle’s clothes can be? But she actually looked almost normal tonight, didn’t she, like she was wearing a sort of Grecian robe?”

“When she does her meditation work, her darkening work, she usually wears something comfortable. At least that’s how I remember her.”

“It was just so strange not to see her in a tiger skin or … rabbit pelts.”


Havily laughed. “You know what I mean.”

“I do.”

He slid an arm around her neck, pulling her close. He held her in that position, locked against him, just looking into her eyes until her lips parted and he smelled a delicious wave of honeysuckle. He planted his lips over hers. He palmed her cheek and deepened the kiss. He made liberal use of his tongue until she responded with a soft moan. He stroked her cheek as he drew back. “We’d better get you over to the villa or I’m going to have you against that wall again.”

She searched his eyes. “Do you know how much I’m tempted to keep you right here?”

He growled deep in his throat. A woman shouldn’t say such a thing to a vampire, especially not to a vampire caught in the grip of the breh-hedden.

“Fennel,” she whispered. She pressed a hand to her chest and gulped as she drew away from him. She brought her iPhone out of her pant pocket, touched the screen a couple of times, then pressed it to her ear. “Hi, Jeannie,” she said after a moment. He still had hold of her hand. “Can you send us to Medichi’s villa?” A pause, then, “Yeah, I’ve got him. Do your worst.”

And the vibration began.

The hunt is the true elixir of ascended vampire life.

—Collected Proverbs, Beatrice of Fourth

Chapter 10

Havily released Marcus’s hand as soon as she felt the planked wood floor of Medichi’s villa beneath her feet. She was aware that if he so much as said the word, or came at her with a familiar wild glint in his eye, she’d fall right back into his arms and let him push her up against any of these walls.

She drew some much-needed air into her lungs and questioned all over again what she was doing with this man. She had never felt more vulnerable.

Marcus looked around. “I see he’s made a few changes.”

“Yeah. I guess it’s been two hundred years since you were here.”


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