Burning Skies Page 42


Crace was about to speak, but the second snapping of the claw gave him pause. Greaves didn’t always sport the unnatural appendage, just when he wanted to remind his subjects of his inherent preternatural power.

“To what do I owe the honor of this summons,” the Commander said, his voice low and way too soft.

Crace felt the first inkling of his error by the way sweat popped out all over his forehead. The second inkling came from a wave of nausea. Jesus.

He wasn’t daunted, though. He had a mission—to acquire his blood donor no matter the cost. “Warrior Medichi’s villa should be our only priority. The women are there. I know it in my gut, but your servant, Rith, has staff as well as several squadrons of death vamps stationed at every property throughout the Sonoran Desert, even Tucson. I demand—” His voice broke off as Greaves’s large round eyes narrowed.

Crace hissed since within the space of a millisecond he found himself facedown on the rough patio pavers. He also felt a blade at his neck. His head was turned onto his right cheek so he could see his master’s fine Italian footwear moving from one end of the patio to the next, which meant that Greaves held him down and kept the knife at his neck by the sheer breadth of his personal power.

After what seemed like a century, the Commander seated himself opposite on a cement bench. He crossed his legs at the knee, the gentleman that he was.

Crace couldn’t turn his neck far enough to see anything more than the lowest button of the Commander’s coat. If he dared to move even one centimeter more, the blade, which had already broken skin, would slice deep, too deep. As it was he could feel the blood weep down both sides of his neck. His heart beat like a jackhammer.

Fuck. He had so many beautiful plans. Was he really going to die now?

He heard the heavy sigh. “What am I to do with you, my dear Crace?” Greaves’s long-suffering voice had split-resonance and at the same time rattled through Crace’s mind. He closed his eyes and moaned. Voice and mind-speak combined, especially weighted with resonance, caused so much searing pain, like knives whirling through his head and slicing the whole time.

“I fear you’ve gotten a little ahead of yourself here, especially with me. Since when do you decide, ever, that I must come to you?”

He wanted to bleat his apologies, to retract his words, his request for an audience, but he couldn’t make his lips move.

“So impatient. I thought you had grown a little at the end of our last adventure with ascender Wells, but I do believe you’ve actually regressed. I am so very disappointed, although this I believe is my fault. I should never have given you dying blood. And yet how could I have known you would take to it with such fervor?”

The blade disappeared, and Crace took his first normal breath. He remained, however, in the prone position.

“You may rise.”

As Crace pushed up from the patio, his arms shook. Christ, his powerful, muscled arms actually shook.

Even so, he wanted to argue, but as he rose to his height and looked down at his still-seated master, he felt very small and insignificant, a cockroach that the sleek Italian shoes could squish with just a thought.

“You will do as you are told, Crace. My servant, Mr. Rith, has done as I have asked him to and you will respect his position in relation to me. Are we in agreement?” The last phrase was spoken both aloud with resonance and telepathically, which meant the knives started whirling through his head again. Crace fell forward straight onto the pavers once more, his cheek yet again pressed into the rough cement-formed, terra-cotta surface.

He lay prostrate until, after several minutes, he realized he was also alone and he wasn’t held fast to his position.

He drew back to his knees. He took several deep breaths until his heart settled down, his head didn’t hurt quite so much, and his hands stopped shaking.

He tried to take Greaves’s rebuke to heart, he really did, but all he felt was enraged and the object of his rage had a wide forehead, a broad nose, black hair and came from somewhere east of the Caucasus. Bastard.

He gained his feet. He shifted his attention to the north. After all, from this position Medichi’s villa was only a few miles away. Greaves and Rith could go fuck themselves for all he cared. He knew Havily Morgan was there, waiting for him. Even if Endelle’s mist did protect the property from detection, GPS could at least put him at the boundaries, where he would wait.

Yes, goddammit, he’d wait, with three squadrons of death vampires. Then he’d take what he had already claimed for himself.

* * *

The only thing that ever really wearied Greaves was the moment a servant rebeled. Only then did he feel a sense of failure that very infrequently accompanied his efforts to subdue Second Earth. He did not mind a verbal battle with Endelle or even the effort to travel to various Territories through the night in order to secure new squads of death vampires to send to Phoenix Two. Nor did he mind the serious diplomatic twists and turns required to get a High Administrator to abandon Endelle’s administration and join his forces. He even tended to enjoy the farcical COPASS hearings.

But when one of those allied with him made these ridiculous power plays, like summoning him from other parts of the world, only then did he feel the desire to maim and kill.

He’d come close to taking Crace’s life, but for decades now he’d had a serious policy in place of always letting others do his dirty work. He needed his record clean, so clean it would be. Besides, he strongly suspected that Eldon Crace, despite his growth in surprising preternatural power as well as physical strength, would be his own undoing. If the vampire could get himself killed by stealing from the nest of a Warrior of the Blood, so much the better.

He folded back to Rio de Janeiro Two and begged the Brazilian High Administrator’s apologies for his lapse in manners at having to leave the negotiations so abruptly. He spoke Portuguese, of course. Fluently.

He had already maneuvered the woman from behind her desk, that seat of authority behind which he could not allow her to continue addressing her concerns. Some things were very simple when it came to managing a Coming Order.

She now sat in a chair and he stood in front of her. “As I was saying,” he said, noting again the large ruby she wore on the ring finger of her left hand, “I have a top-functioning mine in Burma near Mogok, which I would be only too happy to offer as a token of good faith. I want all my High Administrators to understand their importance to me personally as well as to my Geneva Round Table.” She was actually quite lovely and he sensed her … arousal. Very good.

He also saw the flash of light in her eye as he spoke of the ruby mine he owned. He shared that flash of light, of greed, of hunger, and he knew negotiations over the next few weeks, perhaps even days, would fare extremely well.

“You are most greatly generous,” she responded, her English less than perfect, but he appreciated the effort. His gaze drifted down the silk blouse she wore, unbuttoned at the third button. The signal was not lost to him, but he never mixed business with pleasure—unless of course he could put the High Administrator in thrall and slice her memories later, something he might just do. He was still irritated by the interview with Crace. A little relief would be welcome. She would find herself bruised afterward, inexplicably, but some things couldn’t be helped.

He tested her shields and was both stunned and pleased that, though she had many powers, shielding capacity was almost nonexistent. Well, it seemed he had just found a soothing balm for his recent encounter.

“May I sit down?” he asked.

She inclined her head. “Nothing would please me more.”

He smiled.

* * *

As Havily opened the door to the office, Marcus moved up the hall in her direction. He was a welcome sight after the usual harrowing encounter with Endelle.

She held the door for Alison and Parisa, the former talking in low tones to the ascendiate, her arm around her shoulders.

“How did it go?” Marcus asked, his hand touching her elbow.

“Oh, the usual,” Havily whispered. “But you should have seen Parisa. When Endelle punched at her from across the room with her powers, Parisa returned the favor and Endelle landed on her ass. I was shocked…”

The door opened. Oh. Shit. Preternatural hearing. She should have at least waited until she was back at the villa before she started gossiping about Endelle.

“Havily, tell me something,” Her Supremeness began.

She turned to face her employer. “Yes, Madame Endelle?” Could her voice get any higher?

“I’ve been thinking about this recent battle in Parisa’s courtyard, playing it over in my head. How the hell did Medichi know to show up exactly when he was needed? Thorne said he didn’t send him there. Do you know anything about that?”

Havily released a sigh of relief. She’d expected to get reamed because of what she’d been saying to Marcus. Instead, it was just about the courtyard incident. “That’s easy. I called him.” She tapped her forehead. “I have a link with Warrior Medichi. We set it up after I had the vision of Luken getting wounded. They were both concerned for my safety, and as it turned out they were right. That’s how Medichi … arrived … at the town house…” It struck Havily that Endelle would already have known all about this. And why was Endelle grinning?

When Endelle just lifted a brow then shut the door in her face, it took Havily a few seconds to realize exactly what Her Supremeness had meant by the whole thing and just how seriously Havily had erred.

She felt a rumbling beside her that quickly turned into a growl at her neck. Marcus’s hand found her nape and held her firmly. “Break that link now,” he cried.

She withheld a heavy sigh. If Endelle weren’t so damn powerful she’d plot how to get back at her, but the woman would probably know her plans before she could even form them.


Now, what to do about the jealous beast beside her.

Down the hall, Alison and Parisa stood close together conversing. Alison gestured with flutters of her hands and Parisa smiled. In a few minutes, Havily had another meeting with the various committee heads to finalize both the Ambassadors Reception and the Festival.

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