Burning Skies Page 38

What was this place she had come to?

Second Earth. A new dimension. A place where wings were normal, which meant she was normal.

Lace curtains covered the window. A thick lawn spread out to a considerable distance. If she understood where the villa was located, she was looking at the eastern slopes of the White Tank Mountains. Same earth. Different dimensions. Even the place-names were kept the same to avoid confusion.

Her brows rose as she crossed to the window. She pushed back the curtain and found a deer on the lawn, long neck extended, munching happily. On earth—Mortal Earth—she knew that deer lived in the White Tanks. Therefore, that would also be true here on Second Earth.

But how out of place the animal looked on a manicured lawn. And what a lawn! Very few homes in Phoenix had lawns like this anymore, water being the scarce commodity it was, despite the underground rivers. Maybe resources were apportioned differently on Second Earth.

The doe lifted her head, her ears swiveling. Something had disturbed her and she bounded away, in the direction of the mountains.

Parisa felt like that, ready to run. She was torn about her experience so far. In one sense, she knew she belonged here, despite evidence of a serious war. But another part of her, so used to earth, longed to go home, to live in the comfort and safety of her known life. She wondered how soon she could go back to her house, when it would be safe for her.

She sighed. What was she even doing here?

In strong contrast with her deliberations and confusion, her stomach rumbled. She put her hand to it and smiled. “Well, at least you always know what you want.”

* * *

After the night’s fighting and a brief conversation with Thorne at the Cave, Medichi folded directly to his personal suite of rooms at the southernmost end of his villa. Thorne had informed him that he had guests—Marcus, Havily, and the mortal-with-wings, a woman by the name of Parisa Lovejoy. He thought he’d get cleaned up in case the women were around. They really didn’t need to see him covered in a night’s worth of blood spatter.

He had delivered Leto’s message to an incredulous Thorne. Trouble at the Ambassadors Festival in three days. Actually, two now. So, shit.

What he didn’t understand was what Leto meant by giving them a warning. Could he be trusted? Who the hell knew? He would leave it to Endelle and Thorne to figure this one out.

The only thing he really did understand about Leto’s warning was that he had to keep a lid on it, as in a deep mental shield so that anytime a powerful entity—like that prick-of-all-pricks, Greaves—decided to do a mind-dive without Medichi’s knowledge, he wouldn’t find out the truth, at least not from him. If for some reason Leto was having second thoughts about his defection, or if his conscience had returned, Endelle’s administration could use all the help it could get.

As he folded his battle gear straight to Murphy’s Laundry on Union Hills and Cave Creek, Second Earth, the fine establishment that kept his uniforms in top shape, he moved into the shower. Ten years ago, when he’d seen the bathroom overhaul in Kerrick’s basement, he’d hired the same contractor to outfit his shower with a similar fine array of eight heads. Damn, he liked a good shower.

He turned all of them on full blast.


Fucking heaven.

He turned in a slow circle, letting the water beat on him from every possible angle, which brought a heavy sigh rumbling out of his chest. The resulting intake of air, straight through flared nostrils, however, popped his eyes open.

What the hell was that scent? He’d been through citrus groves that smelled similar, especially if you took an orange, punctured and peeled the skin, then sucked at a juicy wedge.

Only it wasn’t the scent of an orange exactly. He breathed in again. Nope, not oranges. More like tangerines.

He laughed. Why the hell would his house smell like tangerines?

He had a cleaning service on call, the Merry Ascenders, but they wouldn’t have installed Air Wicks without letting him know. Although the smell pleased him so much he might just make a phone call and see if the company made a tangerine scent. He laughed again.

He laughed until, as he continued to breathe the fragrance in, over and over, he started getting aroused. What the fuck?


He shrugged, palmed his cock, and stroked a couple of times. He really liked the sensation, especially coupled with the tangerine fragrance. Talk about erotic. Then he remembered that he had guests in his house and somehow jacking off in the shower then greeting everyone bugged the shit out of him. Even then, he wasn’t sure why.

Pressure formed in his chest and a deep profound longing ensued, the way he’d started feeling when Havily was around.

Goddamn, he needed a woman. What he wanted was someone he could bang on a regular basis without any emotional commitment, date on a casual basis, someone he could get to know but not care too much about. This showing up at the Blood and Bite in the evenings and chasing a piece of mortal tail around hoping to take some of the edge off had gotten about as thrilling as plucking nose hairs.

He shampooed his long warrior hair and used a crème rinse, which made him less than a man in his opinion, but if he didn’t, his ritual long hair was a bitch to keep in the equally ritual cadroen. He had thick hair, and yeah, he had to work to keep it in shape.

Every once in a while, though, the scent of tangerines struck his nostrils and yeah, each time, his cock responded as though hit with punch of Viagra.

Sonofabitch, what was that?

He needed to find the source and get rid of it. Otherwise he’d be walking around with a hard-on and scaring his guests.

He released a heavy breath and turned in a circle, letting all that beautiful water pound on his skin. Finally, he hit the lever. He stretched his hearing to see if anyone was up and about. In the distance, two women talked and laughed together.

“Do you smell that?” the unknown female said, the mortal, no doubt. Parisa. She had a confident way of speaking, and something about the tone of her voice eased the pressure in his chest. “It’s stronger now. I mean really strong.”

“That sage scent you were smelling last night?”

“Yes. The one all throughout the house. The chair I sat in was drenched with it.”

“Is that why you sat there? Oh, now you’re blushing.”

The women laughed together.

“And now your cheeks are bright red.”

“Stop, Havily.”

“So you’re smelling sage?”

“Yes. Isn’t that strange?”

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

Havily still served every once in a while as a Liaison Officer, though less often because of her increasing duties as an executive in Endelle’s administration. Medichi smiled. The pitch of a woman’s voice was higher and lighter than a man’s. Yeah, he had forgotten how much the sound pleased him.

* * *

Marcus awoke to the sound of feminine laughter and not close by, but in some distant part of this big-ass house … villa … whatever.

What do you know? He’d dropped off to sleep after making love to Havily. The last thing he remembered, she was in the shower.

Ah. Making love to Havily. He folded his arms behind his head and smiled up at the ceiling, carved beams in a coffered pattern of the same heavy wood as the bed. He liked this room. Of course it helped that he still had Havily’s scent in his nose, thick this time, rich with sex. He licked his lips and tasted his blood on his mouth because she’d kissed him right after she’d taken his vein. Oh … yeah.

He slid a hand from in back of his head and touched his neck. Not even a bump. He would have preferred to wear the red burn as a badge this morning, to see it in the mirror, to see Havily’s gaze drop to the results of her penetration, to watch her eyes flare as she remembered.

Those thoughts brought a sudden new arousal and, if they’d been alone in the house, he’d have called Havily back to bed. Yeah, that’s exactly what he would have done.

He touched his side where Leto had stuck him with the blade. Not even a fucking twinge. He ought to send Horace flowers or something. What a gift the man had.

But the healed wound sent his thoughts flowing in the direction of the death vampire known as Crace. Havily had been right, he was big like Luken. The thought that he had been at Havily’s neck balled his hands into fists. He wanted the vampire dead and he wanted him dead now.

So who was he exactly? Endelle had said he was a High Administrator aligned with the Commander but apparently he was operating in Phoenix now and had a new passion in the form of securing blood donors. The next question was simple: Had he come to Parisa’s home for her or for Havily? Could he have even known Havily was there?

Thank God Crace had been unable to trace to the villa. The women wouldn’t be alive otherwise. Shit, this whole situation was setting his teeth on edge. He knew how Havily’s blood made him feel, which meant that Crace had experienced the same damn sensations. A long line of obscenities possessed his mind, swirling around until his head pounded. If he were in Crace’s shoes, he’d want more of Havily’s blood because, based on all the reports he’d ever heard about dying blood, Havily’s blood was a fucking match.

Jesus H. Christ.

He rolled out of bed. Though Medichi’s home had the best possible covering of mist, in addition to COPASS’s protection under the law of Second Society, he felt a profound need to be near Havily right now, to keep his guard up, to watch the skies.

He went into the bathroom and found his shaving gear lined up against the mirror. Havily’s doing. He smiled but shook his head as he picked up a can of shaving cream and squirted foam into his hand. She was a woman of detail. He liked that. He was a detail man himself. But those thoughts led him down a different path, and though his fingers were now covered with shaving cream all he could do was stare at the white cloud.

Havily had been right. What the hell were they doing getting so involved when neither of them had the heart for it? He sure as hell didn’t. He loved being with her for obvious reasons but right now, his chest felt weighed down when he thought of the next day and the next. He couldn’t give something to this woman that he didn’t have to give. Four thousand years of living, of losing those closest to him, had ripped his heart from his chest.

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