Burning Skies Page 35

When Horace tipped him on his side to work on the hole in his back, he could hear the drop and squeeze of the sponge in the bucket and the soft slide against the floor. She worked quietly, steadily. There was something soothing about these small ministrations.

Oddly, his thoughts turned to Leto. During the past decades, the former warrior had developed some serious skills. He knew Alison was capable of throwing physical shields like that but he hadn’t known Leto could, which made him wonder. Leto had fought Alison in an arena battle four months ago, a terrible engagement that Greaves had orchestrated and COPASS had supported. Alison had won that contest against Leto by casting a similar shield around herself. So why hadn’t Leto done the same? Why had he put himself in Alison’s power? Leto hadn’t held back during the actual battle with swords, and more than once Marcus had been sure Alison would get skewered before she even ascended to Second Earth. Leto couldn’t have faked his intent to make her dead.

But he had held back at least some of his powers. That much was clear, which led Marcus back to the shield Leto had constructed around himself while in Parisa’s courtyard. And what had Leto meant by issuing a warning about the Ambassadors Festival? After all these decades, was Leto having second thoughts about having aligned himself with Greaves?

Well, at least Medichi was in charge of delivering the message to Endelle, who in turn would know exactly what to do with the information. Not his problem. His problem was next to him cleaning blood off a wood floor.

When all the pain in his abdomen, front and back, disappeared, and when Horace sat back on his heels, Marcus put a hand to his side. He pushed gingerly, astonished as always at what the man could do. He sat up then rose to his feet, but damn—all he felt was the slightest twinge.

Horace hopped up as well and planted a hand on his shoulder. “A good night’s sleep will put you right.” He then drew his pager from his pant pocket. He arched a brow. “Looks like I’m headed to Awatukee. Santiago got a burn on his arm.”

Marcus looked at Havily, who passed behind him carrying the bucket and all the rags back in the direction of the kitchen. He thought about Parisa still in the house, still under his protection. His warrior instincts were strong and he didn’t like the idea of Santiago in the desert by himself, a new wave of death vampires probably on the way. He almost offered his help, but he had two women with him and no way of really knowing that Greaves wouldn’t put together a new plan to come after them.

He therefore repressed the urge to draw his sword once more into his hand and tell Horace to lead the way. Even so, the words left his mouth in a rush: “Anything I can do?”

At that, Horace met his gaze, his warm brown eyes smiling. “Still a warrior, I see, but no. Your job is here.”

Marcus nodded several times. “Right.”

“Be well, Warrior,” Horace said. He lifted his arm and vanished.

Havily returned to the foyer, bucket and rags gone. She nodded in the direction of the southern half of the villa. “I folded some of your things here for you to use, you know, from my town house. Let me show you to your bedroom.”

He stopped her, taking hold of her arm harder than he meant to. “Our bedroom. You’re sleeping with me.”

* * *

Havily stared at a determined slash of dark eyebrows over very intense light brown eyes. These warriors, she thought, always ready to fight, even about sleeping arrangements.

“Yes,” she said, agreeing with him so maybe he could relax a little. “Fine. Our bedroom. But just FYI, I intended to share your bed tonight anyway, because in case you haven’t noticed, you’re not the only one caught up in this ridiculous, obsessive, frustrating, oh-my-God-you-smell-like-fennel myth.”

The fingers on her arm gentled and a smile softened some of his intensity. “Good. That’s good.” He nodded.

She didn’t know whether to kiss him or hit him, which frustrated her all over again. “You’ll want a shower and I’ll need to get Parisa settled. I’m putting her close, across the hall from us.”

“Wait a minute. Shit, I totally forgot. How long has she been here? Has it been an hour? Two? We need to get her back to Mortal Earth but where is she going to be safe? Shit, shit, shit.”

“Uh … that may not be an issue.”

“Why? You know ascendiates can only tolerate Second Earth for a limited time. You know that. I heard even Alison felt dizzy after two hours, and her powers approached Endelle’s levels.”

“Well, what can I say. Parisa has wings and she’s not the usual mortal. But you should probably see her for yourself.” She led him to the second smaller central hall and to the arched doorway of the library. But the dark brown hair of the ascendiate was all that was visible, her head tilted slightly. Asleep, maybe or perhaps unconscious because of being on Second Earth? Had she erred? “Parisa?”

The head bobbed. Parisa jumped to her feet, holding a small leather volume in her hand. “Pride and Prejudice,” she announced. “Isn’t this amazing? It’s a really early edition. I think the first edition was in three volumes but still—”

Marcus tugged on her arm. “Okay. Exactly how long has she been here?”

Parisa glanced around the library, her gaze landing off to her left. She turned back to them. “I’ve been here two hours and fifteen minutes.”

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“Really good but it’s the weirdest feeling. I have to say, I’m a little giddy.”

“Dizzy?” Havily asked, concerned all over again.

“No, not at all, just really happy.”

Havily turned to him. “See what I mean? I noticed it earlier. Not even a hint of lethargy or anything.”

“Is there a problem?” Parisa asked.

“Not exactly. It’s just that you shouldn’t be able to handle being here, in this dimension, since you’re still unascended. Usually by now a mortal would feel exhausted, dizzy, sometimes nauseous.”

She shook her head. “I don’t feel any of those things. Is there something wrong with me?”

Havily smiled. “You’re an anomaly, that’s all.”

At that, Parisa grinned then rolled her eyes. “Oh, that’s all.”

Havily felt Marcus sway into her, just a slight lean, then he righted himself. She glanced at him, noting that his complexion was still a little pale. She turned once more to address Parisa. “I’m putting our savior here to bed then I’ll be back and we can talk. Okay?”

“Yes. That would be great.”

“If you feel like it, Warrior Medichi has some excellent red wine in the kitchen, in a tall rack at the end of one of the counters. I know he would want you to feel at home, so if you’re inclined…”

“Shall I pour two glasses?” Parisa asked.

“Perfect. I would like to sit with you for a while anyway just to make sure your overall incomprehensible comfort with Second Earth remains.”

“I’d like that,” Parisa responded.

When Marcus didn’t protest, didn’t demand, that she join him in bed, she knew she’d been right in her assessment of him. She took him in the direction of the guest rooms directly across from the library. She opened the door on the left. She thought he would appreciate the heavy masculine feel of this particular room, with the massive four-poster bed, a tapestry of a deer hunt hanging over a black-leather-encased headboard, and burgundy velvet falling to the floor from an enormous gold-leaf cornice high above the tapestry.

The rest of the furniture matched the bed—an antique armoire where she’d hung their clothes, a large chest of drawers opposite the bed in which she’d put miscellaneous articles, and three-foot-square end tables.

The window on the east wall overlooked a large stretch of sun-loving lawn, now shrouded in moonlight, and beyond that, rising in the distance, the White Tanks Mountains. Five miles away on the other side of the mountains, White Lake and at least a hundred hotels formed one of Second Earth’s premier spectacle sites.

Marcus headed for the en suite bathroom but paused at the doorway, planting a hand on the frame for support. He looked back at her, his brows slashed in concern once more. “You’ll let me know if we need to take Parisa back to Mortal Earth. We could stay at my place on Bainbridge. I’m sure Endelle would lend us her mist for the duration if needed.”

She smiled, “All right, Hercules. I’ll let you know.”

Marcus smiled, just a little crookedly off the side of his mouth. “That poser?” But he laughed and went into the bathroom.

Havily smiled. Marcus was Sumerian in origin. Of course he would disparage Greek or Roman mythological characters. Havily had seen the advent of electricity during her youth a few decades ago, but Sumer was credited with having developed the wheel. Her mind boggled.

Shaking her head, she left the bedroom then returned to Parisa. She once more asked the mortal how she felt.

“Just a little tired, but you have to remember, I worked all day at the library, then I released my wings … twice, which always fatigues me. After that, I kept running up the stairs and launching from the railing. I must have made two dozen flights if I count both times together.”

She smiled as she continued, “Oh, and then I met ascenders from another dimension, then I was almost attacked by a really crazed-looking, uh, vampire. And now I’m here. So, yes, I’m tired.” But she swirled her dark red wine in her goblet and her smile broadened. Medichi preferred Cabernet. She lifted the goblet. “This wine is excellent, by the way. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the label but I like the wings, nice touch.”

“That’s Antony’s label.” Havily shook her head, stunned by Parisa’s apparent immunity to the effects of Second Earth. “I have to say, you don’t seem to be experiencing any ill effects from being on Second, almost as though … well, it doesn’t matter.” She took the other goblet, a third full of the dark red wine. She sighed. “How wonderful this looks.”

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