Burning Skies Page 29

Havily glanced around as well. She had been to the estate a number of times. Though parties were rare, if the warriors had one, Medichi hosted, as well he should. The dark, almost black wood floors were covered in fine woven rugs. Antique furniture, some quite massive pieces, ran stem-to-stern.

His villa was a work of art in the Italianate style, and he had expanded the property over many decades. He was wealthy but then he’d spent centuries building his investments, particularly in the import business from Mortal Earth. He also had a love of computers, so as soon as there were whispers on earth of the PC, Medichi had bought stock.

She stood with Marcus near the front door in the large central foyer. Opposite was a bank of French doors that led to a beige stone terrace and rolling lawns, which sloped upward in the direction of the White Tanks Wildlife Refuge. The desert of the refuge was a powerful juxtaposition to the green grass and the dozen or so palo verde trees staggered on that part of the grounds.

To the right, at the north end of the villa, a guesthouse and Olympic-sized pool sat at the entrance to extensive formal gardens. Hundreds of Italian cypresses created various boundaries throughout the grounds, delineating vineyard and winery, from an olive grove and press as well as from the main house and gardens. Medichi sold his wine, olives, and olive oil, but only locally as a hobby.

He read, he studied, he played the piano, and he owned several public gardens throughout the world, including the new hanging gardens of Babylon, reconstructed from the accounts of ascenders over the years, those who had been alive during the height of the Babylonian Empire. His gardens were open to the public, and it was said the combined annual receipts could have funded a small nation for, oh, about a hundred years.

Havily had often wondered why she wasn’t more attracted to Antony Medichi, whose education, extraordinary physicality, and careful manners made him the object of overwhelming attention from the female of the species wherever he went. She adored him, of course, as she adored all the warriors. But the spark just wasn’t there.

Speaking of sparks …

She glanced at Marcus as his gaze traveled over the foyer and moved to look down the southern hall at a series of connected rooms. He whistled as he had earlier at the palace. “Holy shit. Medichi makes me look like a lightweight.”

And there it was, Havily thought, the difference that seemed to reach out to her every time she drew near Marcus of Mortal Earth. He was down-to-earth, single-minded, intense, and probably had little interest in collecting art.

When his gaze landed on an impressionist painting on the left wall of the entrance, she said, “Yes, that’s an original Monet.”

“No shit,” he murmured. He drew close and stared. “Huh. I have a few nice pieces myself but…”

Havily tried not to smile and at the same time tried to ignore the swell of her heart. “Let me guess. You get turned on by the car photos in magazines—you know, the dark, moody pictures in black and white with the light angled to gleam off sleek sculpted lines and magnesium rims.”

He lifted his brows. “I suppose you’ll despise me for that.”

She shook her head. She even shrugged. “How can I when I subscribe to Vanity Fair and Cosmo and think that the Paris and New York designers should form a committee to rule Mortal Earth, Vera Wang to serve as their high queen, of course.”

He smiled. He even chuckled. “So … do you have any idea how we’re supposed to locate this mortal-with-wings?”

Havily processed the question and what lay behind it. She had to admit she was surprised: Apparently he didn’t think she was a complete moron. What a novel experience.

She nodded. “I do recall an anomaly from Alison’s rite of ascension. Thorne mentioned it more than once, and we were all shocked. Even before she ascended, she was so powerful that her signature showed up on the grid, on Mortal Earth.” Mortals never showed up on the grid. Ascenders, yes. Mortals, no.

“That’s right,” Marcus said, nodding. “I remember Medichi talking about it. So you think it might be possible?”

“Why not?” she said. “She’s a mortal female with wings. That has to indicate an incomprehensible level of power.”

“Let’s do it then.”

Havily pulled out her phone again and touched the screen. “Hey, Jeannie. What would it take to utilize Central’s grid for a couple of hours to hunt for a powerful mortal?”

“How powerful?”

“Like Alison.”

Jeannie whistled then tapped on the keyboard. “Well, we just have to punch in new searching coordinates. There is a problem, however. We use the grid one hundred percent of the time to scan for death vampires active on Mortal Earth; that way we know where to send the warriors. So what’s goin’ on?”

Havily explained the mission.

“Wow, a mortal-with-wings. It should work, but I don’t have the authority to switch coordinates.”

“Can you talk it over with Thorne?” As the leader of the Warriors of the Blood and the one who handed out the assignments every night and generally kept the brothers’ activities coordinated, he would be able to say yea or nay.

“You bet. Stay on the line.”

“Of course.”

Havily moved to the table in the very center of the foyer, a large, round, inlaid piece on a massive pedestal. An artistic arrangement sat in the center of the table composed of stems, dried seedpods, mosses, tall branches, and living magnolia blossoms. The entire edifice was nearly seven feet tall.

Marcus took a tour of the space from the bank of French doors, past the art on each wall, making a complete circuit as Havily kept her phone pressed to her ear and waited. He wore a slight frown.

“I want to do better at this,” he said.

“At what?”

Marcus waved an arm around the entire room. “Whatever this is that he does. Collecting maybe. And what the hell is this?” His gaze traveled the height of the floral arrangement. “You know, it looks like a work of art. Are the flowers alive?”

“Yes, they are. The flowers are self-generating, which is a more recent Second Earth technological development.”


“I have no idea. Something to do with the artist herself and her particular ascended power. She goes by the name Tazianne. A real celebrity in the elite horticultural circles.” She smiled. “There is one significant problem with the arrangement, however. If Medichi leaves any of the doors open for very long, bees find their way into his house.”

* * *

Marcus remained near the table, but stayed a few feet away from Havily. She had her phone to her ear, her expression serious as she waited for Jeannie to get back to her with Thorne’s response.

So she liked Vanity Fair. Well, he loved how she looked, like a page out of the magazine. Somehow the silk navy plaid suited her red hair, which still floated in layers around her shoulders. Her green eyes glittered in the low light of the foyer. Even though she was focused on the event at hand, her scent filled the large space. He took a breath and flared his nostrils, bringing it in.

Oh, God, that smell, like the purest honeysuckle. Of all the aspects of the breh-hedden that battered him, this one was the most mysterious, the scents shared only between lovers. He remembered the first time he’d caught her fragrance. He’d arrived on Second Earth, at Endelle’s administrative offices, ready to fulfill the vow she’d called in. But when he first entered the place, he’d been struck by a rich honeysuckle, which later turned out to be Havily. He recalled that he kept looking around the administrative office trying to find the source.

He later discovered that Havily had preceded him. She’d been to see Endelle that same night and left her signature scent behind, a rich bouquet that had worked him up before he even knew the source or the why of it.

The second time her scent had pounded him was at the Cave. And that was the first time he’d actually seen her. She’d been surrounded by warriors, then something had occurred to make all of them turn in his direction, and there she was, a red-haired goddess in a Ralph Lauren suit, staring at him first as though he had sprouted horns and then as though she’d been struck down by the sight of him.

He’d been hooked since.

So had she.

Right now, especially since they were alone in the house, if he didn’t keep his distance he’d attack her again like he had at the palace.

His protective instincts were firing off rockets as well. His senses were on full alert, the way he had felt thousands of times over all the centuries he had battled as a warrior. Something was in the wind. The prophecy alone, of the importance of the mortal-with-wings, had set his warrior nerves to screaming.

So he breathed and kept a few feet away from her. He also tried not to look at her. He was so fucking screwed.

“Yes, Jeannie, but hold that thought.” She drew her phone away from her ear and hit the speaker setting. “Warrior Marcus is listening in. Go ahead.”

Jeannie’s voice entered the space between them. “Thorne says to give you top priority. Do you know where we should start looking?”

“Endelle said anywhere in the Metro Phoenix area.”

“It’s too bad we can’t narrow that down but I’ll set the coordinates right in the middle, near Central and Bethany Home. How does that sound?”

“As good as anything.”

“Stay close to your phone.”

“Will do.” She tapped the screen and returned the phone to her pocket.

Now they had to wait. He slung his arms behind his back and turned away from her; otherwise he didn’t trust himself. He could think of a number of things he’d like to do to her while they waited. He’d start with sucking on her neck. Okay, better not think about that.

He glanced into the north hallway. In the distance, beyond what looked like a receiving room with a whole lot of silk chairs and sofas, he spied a massive table with dining chairs designed to accommodate warrior bodies.

He jerked his head in that direction. “Does Medichi keep anything to eat in this joint?”

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