Burning Skies Page 30

Havily smiled, that pretty smile of hers. His gaze fell to her lips, then he looked away … fast.

She started moving in the direction of the receiving room. “He always keeps his cupboards stocked since he’ll have the warriors over at a moment’s notice. A month ago they started having the occasional poker game, at dawn of course.”

“I could use a bite to eat.” He’d prefer to bite her but he kept that to himself.

He let her lead the way, but after a few steps she glanced at him over her shoulder and said, “What’s with the fennel?”

“You, Havily Morgan, you’re what’s with the fennel.”

He glared at her until she chuckled and started moving again.

* * *

At nine thirty Parisa had no desire to get ready for bed. She had enjoyed a dinner of pasta and a fine Cabernet Sauvignon. Clothed in her nightgown, she had relaxed in the private courtyard once more despite the June heat. And yet instead of fatigue finding her, she felt ramped up, totally stimulated, as though forces were at work she couldn’t possibly understand.

Her heart beat a little too loudly and her ears rang. She had tried reading, her favorite pastime, but couldn’t seem to concentrate and reread each succeeding page of Anthony Adverse at least three times before pressing on to the next.

The longing she had felt earlier returned in a broad sweep of sensation, and the small apertures on her back wept anew. She reached behind her—yep, the lace nightgown she wore was now damp.

What a strange life she led.

She was still excited about having jumped earlier from the upper railing and she wanted to fly again, right now. The desire to release her wings came to her, sudden and profound. She slipped the straps of her nightgown off her shoulders one after the other then tugged the lace until it glided over her hips. She stepped out of the gown and draped it across the chaise-longue.

She now stood naked in her private courtyard. She felt a little naughty but she giggled.

She spread her arms wide and closed her eyes. She thought the thought. The muscles and tissues of her back thickened, and the next moment her wings emerged. She let the resulting fiery sensation flood her mind, her chest, her heart. She opened her eyes and smiled. What ease, what bliss, just like … well … just like an orgasm.

She wanted to fly beneath the warm glow of moonlight. She brought her wings in very close to her body and went inside. She climbed the stairs and once more gained the railing, her wings at their fullest span. She took a deep breath, gave a little squeal and once more leaped.

Ah … what bliss …

* * *

Marcus finally decided to keep his meal with Havily simple, especially since he really couldn’t cook. Even after four thousand years he had never had enough interest in fire, skillets, and spatulas to get a decent grip on how to make a meal. He had preferred, until about two hundred years ago, keeping his dagger and sword sharp and hunting death vampires.

He opened the fridge and started pulling things out to make sandwiches.

Havily jumped in and found bread, a fresh loaf of sourdough that needed slicing. She took a serrated knife and started in. Funny how they worked in tandem so easily. He opened a jar of mayo and one of mustard and started slathering. He stacked the meat. She washed lettuce and tomato, did more slicing, and before long he sat next to her on a stool at the same island where they’d prepared the meal.

Two bottles of Dos Equis flanked blue-gray ironstone plates. He grabbed his sandwich with both hands and took a bite. The sandwich was very good and yes, he was hungry. There was, however, one small problem. No matter how strong the flavor of the salami, or how spicy the mustard on his tongue, or how fragrant the sourdough, dammit, all he could smell was honeysuckle. For that reason, with each bite he took, he avoided looking at Havily. Whatever his need for her might be, he was damn hungry right now, and he could use the distraction of chewing and putting food into his empty stomach.

“So, how do you like ascended life?” he asked between bites. “Are you happy here?” He sipped his beer and glanced at her.

She chewed and stared at her sandwich. She dabbed at her mouth with a cloth napkin. “There is so much to be said for this new world,” she began. “I feel satisfied here.” She put a hand to her chest then sighed. “But I miss my life on Mortal Earth, at least the one I shared with my family.”

“Your family?” Oh, this couldn’t be good.

She looked at him, her chin lifted slightly. “I was married on Mortal Earth.”

He lifted a brow. “You left your husband behind?” Somehow that just didn’t fit with his instincts about her character. Havily would never have abandoned her man, an assessment of her essential strength of spirit that drove a spike straight into his heart. Once committed, Havily would never abandon her man. Oh, God, this just kept getting worse.

She sighed. He watched her shoulders fall. She picked at a piece of lettuce that had fallen to her plate. “Scarlet fever went through Vancouver Island and took him.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Me, too. He was such a joy. A really good man.”

And very different from me, he thought. “What was his name?”

“Duncan Morgan. We had a farm, the most beautiful farm with dry-stone walls to keep the sheep in their pastures, turnstiles like the old country.”

“So Morgan is your married name.”


“No children?”

She paused and set her sandwich on her plate. He had a feeling she wouldn’t be picking it up again. “Three daughters. Three beautiful little girls, all of them with the sweetest red hair.” The words were quiet and fell like stones. Shit.

He was silent as he chewed. His thoughts whirred in his head. He knew the answer to the question he was certain he shouldn’t ask, yet not to ask seemed rude, even insensitive. “Did you lose them at the same time?” The room felt suddenly shrouded in fog, the kind that dampened all noise.

He heard the choppy breath she took. “Yes.” The word disappeared into the fog.

Jesus. What did he say now? “They must have been young.”

“Yes. Very. We buried them on the farm. I wanted them near me. Then Duncan took sick and three days later he was … gone, too.”

He set his sandwich down as well and turned toward her. He saw the stiffness in her jaw and shoulders and he knew a sudden truth about her. “You haven’t told anyone here, on Second Earth, have you?”

She met his gaze. She shook her head.

“Why not?”

Her lips parted. A frown wrinkled the small space between her brows. She released a sigh. “I don’t know. I’m not even sure why I told you but now that I have, given how old you are, and how alone you are in the world, I suspect you’ve had your own losses.”

Not to share also seemed insensitive. “Through the centuries, yes. I had three wives. One divorced me and I don’t know what became of her. Death vampires took my first and third wives. As for the children, one ascended to Third. I think about him, wondering what his life is, hoping he’s still alive.” He smiled suddenly. “I hope he is and I hope he’s happy.”

“I’m sorry about your families.”

“And of course you know about Helena.”

“Kerrick’s wife, your sister.”

“Yes.” He looked away from her. Shit, his heart hurt just thinking about her, and it had been two hundred years. Would that wound ever heal, ever really heal?

She put her hand on his arm. “Tell me about her.”

He took a sip of Dos Equis. The bottle clinked on the granite when he set it down. “You would have loved her but then everyone did. God, she was like sunshine. No matter how bad everything got, she could walk into a room and light up the dullest day.

“Maybe losing her was so hard because she was the last of my family left here on Second Earth. I’d come to rely on her. We were always in each other’s houses, which meant of course that Kerrick was around her a lot. So of course he fell in love with her. I suppose it was just a matter of time.” He still held the bottle of beer in his grip. He thumbed the condensation up and down.

“I don’t think the warriors believed me when I said I’d kill Kerrick, but I would have. I was that crazed when she died.” He glanced at her, saw the stricken look in her eye, and shunted his glance away. But he kept talking. She ought to know the worst about him. “I would have killed him because his marriage to Helena had gotten her killed. I’d begged him over and over not to marry her. I begged them both.

“I know you think I’m a worthless deserter. Maybe I am, but if I hadn’t left that day, I would have killed him. And I was sick of it, all of it, of the battling without end, that my sister and her children died in that horrible explosion, and of Greaves’s endless moves and countermoves.

“I snapped and I knew it. I think Endelle knew it, too. I think she knew I had to leave. Of course she yelled at me, but we’d known each other a long time and she didn’t try very hard to prevent me from going. She only asked one thing of me—that if she needed me to come back, I would. Which I did four months ago.” He looked at her and held her gaze. “And now I’m here again.”

Without thinking too much, he leaned toward her and captured her lips with his own. She didn’t retreat; instead she kissed him back, a tender action that surprised him, almost as though she expressed gratitude rather than desire.

This journey with her had taken a sudden sharp turn. She had borne children and lost them, not to a war as Kerrick had, or as he had lost a beloved sister, niece, and nephew, but to the diseased imperfect nature of Mortal Earth existence. Nor had she shared this information with anyone else. They were both intensely private people, one more similarity that seemed to be binding his heart to hers. So … yeah … shit.

Her phone chimed. She picked it up but held it between them, the speaker function still on. “Hi, Jeannie,” she said.

“We’ve got her. A house in north Peoria and she’s in full-mount.”

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