Burning Skies Page 40

Medichi shook his head. “You said she’d been here overnight. She can’t stay here. Marcus, you’ve got to get her back to Mortal Earth. Now. She only has twenty-fours and then she’s dead. How long has she been here anyway? Goddammit, Marcus, what have you been doing? Manscaping your pubes? Why haven’t you fucking secured her safety?”

“Easy, Antony. I’m not the enemy, and I promise you there are answers to your questions if you think you can hear me.”

Medichi took a deep breath, but his brows were pinned low on his forehead. He was one breath away from losing it again, and Marcus knew exactly how and why he felt the way he did. Maybe talking would help. “Parisa is still here because Endelle’s mist is the best possible protection. But beyond that, Parisa is unusual. She’s not feeling the effects of Second Earth like most ascendiates. She’s fine. Believe me, we keep checking.”

Medichi’s shoulders dropped, and his brow grew pinched like he was in pain. “Okay. I guess I can deal with that. But shit, I feel this ache to get to her, right here.” He punched his chest, between his pecs. “Just tell me, are you absolutely sure she’s safe? Even Alison felt dizzy at the two-hour mark when she was on Second Earth and not yet ascended and you know how fucking powerful she is.”

“Havily keeps asking Parisa but the ascendiate’s comments range from how at home she feels to sensations of euphoria. She’s fine.” He turned slightly in the direction of the door that led to the patio. “Of course, I’m not crazy that the women are out there without one of us guarding them.” He turned back to Medichi. “How about you go to bed, or do whatever you do after a night of fighting, and let me see to them?”

“You stay away from Parisa,” he barked.

Marcus could only laugh, which made Medichi glare and bunch his shoulders.

Marcus just lifted a brow.

Finally, the warrior huffed a heavy sigh, then turned on his heel and headed back the other direction. This of course allowed Marcus a second look at the warrior’s scars even with all that thick black hair hanging to the middle of his back. There wasn’t an inch of his skin unmarred. There was a possibility he couldn’t even mount wings.

Marcus wasn’t surprised when Medichi came to a halt and looked back at him, a stricken light in his eye. “Shit. No one knows. Please don’t say anything.”

“I give you my word,” Marcus said quietly, a fist to his chest. “And I’ll deep-shield the memory as well.”

“Thank you.” He didn’t say anything more but continued in the direction of his rooms in the southern wing.

* * *

Endelle scratched just below the halter’s hem. Damn. This kangaroo hide made her itch, but then she’d been warned, since she insisted on keeping the fur attached instead of having the hide tanned. Her snug suede pants had been dyed to imitate leopard print. They rocked.

Maybe she’d do some embroidered leather next. The idea appealed to her.

She knew everyone thought she was nuts, but she liked the way the various skins, furs, pelts, and feathers felt beneath her fingers. And … she really liked watching everyone go through the gyrations of initial disgust to forming expressions of proper blankness. It always made her day. That and the stuttered compliments.


She was in her office with three women opposite her: Morgan, Alison, and the mortal, the woman called Parisa. She had thought to deal with Morgan’s darkening ability today but apparently that would have to wait. Right now, she had a mystery to solve involving the mortal.

The women were each dressed differently. Alison wore the usual soft stretchy pants, her body already swelling. She had on a blue silk top that looked like water flowing in diagonals. Havily had on more formal office wear, pressed slacks in brown, three-inch heels, a solid cream blouse with some kind of ruffle in the front, and a beige silk jacket heavily embroidered at the hem. The one thing Endelle would say about her, she always looked like a million bucks and Marcus would like that, so good for her.

As for Parisa, she wore jeans and a red top that pulled way too tight across the breasts. Havily’s clothes, probably. Endelle nixed a plan to go back to the Peoria house. She didn’t want any of their lives risked just for a fucking change of clothes.

She leaned her ass on the front edge of her marble desk and stared at the latest ascendiate, whose current rite of ascension, if it could even be called that, was already a complete anomaly. For one thing Parisa Lovejoy hadn’t yet answered her call to ascension in any discernible manner. She hadn’t made her way to one of the Borderlands, nor had she demonstrated preternatural power, since mounting a pair of wings didn’t fall into that category.

Of course it didn’t help that Greaves had sent his minions, both Leto and that bastard, Eldon Crace, to attack the mortal in her home. If she had been in the middle of her call to ascension, how the hell would anyone know?

Thank fuck for Marcus, though. He’d made it possible for both women to get out safely even though Leto had all but gutted him. While she had the women in her care, Marcus had excused himself to do cleanup on his sword in his Bainbridge house. He’d be back in a while. In the meantime, there was no safer place on Second Earth for either Havily or Parisa than right here in her office.

She scanned the ascendiate now but for the life of her she couldn’t figure out what she was seeing. She addressed Havily. “So what the fuck is this, Morgan, some kind of joke?”

Havily actually looked shocked. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well,” she drawled, “first we get word about some kind of mortal-with-wings, and how critical she will be to the war, then you bring me this.” She waved an arm at the tall beauty with dark brown hair and amethyst eyes. “So I figure it must be some kind of joke.”

Havily narrowed her eyes and shook her head. “There is no joke here, Madame Endelle. I’d like you to meet ascendiate Parisa Lovejoy, lately of Peoria, Arizona, Mortal Earth. She’s a librari—”

“She’s a goddamn fucking ascender, you nitwit, but then why the hell should I have expected anything more from you than this kind of screwup?” She gestured with a flip of her hand to Parisa. “This woman is ascended.”

Havily shook her head. “I’m sorry to disagree with Your Supremeness, but no. She’s not.” Ooooh. Sarcasm. Havily dipped her chin as well, and her light green eyes flared. Now, that was one thing she liked about Havily, the woman could take it on the chin, repeatedly. If you were going to swim in the big pond, you’d better be prepared to get your ass-fins thrashed by bigger fish.

Alison stepped forward. “Take another look, Madame Endelle.” That empathic part of Alison swept over Endelle in a powerful wave of peace, which at first irritated the hell out of her then calmed her down. She had a real love–hate relationship with her new executive assistant. For one thing Alison wasn’t afraid of her at all and for another, she was right most of the goddamn time.

Endelle huffed a sigh, jammed her hands together behind her back, and struck the would-be ascendiate with a nice punch of power straight from her mind, which flung Parisa against the wall. Hard. Though Parisa cried out, Endelle wasn’t done. She slammed her thoughts into Parisa’s mind, intending to dive deep and bring about a confession, but the would-be ascendiate lifted her palm and sent a blast that flung Endelle up and over her desk and into the plate-glass window of the northern wall.


It all happened so fast. She’d almost flown through the glass, but at the last nanosecond Endelle released a burst of energy that kept the window from shattering on impact. She still landed on her ass, on the floor, behind her desk.

“What the fuck?” she cried.

She stood up, rounded her desk and, at a run, moved to stand in front of the fake-mortal. “So you have hand-blast capability? Who are you? Where have you come from? Why do you have shields I’m finding it damn hard to penetrate? Do you belong to the Commander? I’ll have answers or by God I’ll raise my hand and strike you dead right now.” She lifted her hand high, ready to follow through on her threat.

The woman with the violet eyes did the only sensible thing she could do. She dropped into a faint.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake. What did she go and do that for?”

Alison moved to stand next to Endelle then crossed her arms over her chest. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said. Alison, too, had learned some sarcasm. “Maybe because she is exactly who she claims to be and you’re a goddamn ill-tempered bitch who needs to be put in stocks for about a century?”

Havily, kneeling beside Parisa and stroking her cheek with her forefinger, called out, “I’ll volunteer to throw the rotten cabbages … or rotten tomatoes, cow pies, sheep intestine, really hard dirt clods would do. Hmmm, what else? Let me think.”

Endelle lifted her arms, preparing to hit both women with a hand-blast, but Alison just met her gaze. Then she smiled.

Oh, the depth of understanding in those lovely blue eyes rimmed with gold. Alison reminded Endelle of Thorne. Both had the kind of loyalty that shook her soul. In the same way she trusted Thorne with every atom of her being, she trusted Alison. Besides, that smile was as amused as it was instructive.

Endelle sighed. She was having one shitfest of a bad week. The Ambassadors Reception was about a breath away and she hated the idea of greeting all those fucking foreign dignitaries, Luken had gotten himself burned to a crisp out at the Superstitions and almost died, Havily had been attacked in her home by High Administrator Crace, who’d obviously gone to the darkest of the dark side, then Leto had issued a warning about the Ambassadors Festival. Leto, who might or might not be on her side, but whom Alison said was at least on the side of some Sixth ascender by the name of James.

So … shit!

Now she had to deal with this fake-mortal.

The thing was, Thorne had come to her the night before with word from his sister. He’d been adamant that one of the sisters with powerful Seer ability had had some kind of vision of Parisa while taking a little jaunt in the future streams. No details. Of course not. That would be way too easy. But the message had been that this fake-mortal, still lying unconscious on the floor with Havily petting her cheek and speaking in low tones to her, would make a difference in the war.

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