Burning Skies Page 48

But more often than not, his gaze was fixed to Havily, whether she was in flight showing Parisa the basic movements of the wings or steadying the ascendiate with one hand while Parisa practiced a downward flap. It was like watching someone beginning to swim, learning which movements kept you afloat instead of sending you to the depths, which kept you from rolling or pitching left or right.

For the most part Havily kept the mortal just a few feet off the ground.

Yeah, she was a good teacher, patient, encouraging. How many times had she clapped her hands at something Parisa did? Fuck. His admiration for Havily was growing. That’s all he needed, to admire the hell out of her. Great.

Parisa was an interesting woman to watch as well, despite that occasionally his gaze drifted to her … yeah, well, he was trying not to be such a guy. When he was able to keep his attention elsewhere, the woman’s concentration was so fierce she barely blinked, as though she wanted to learn everything about working the air in the next three minutes.

He’d ascended such a goddamn long time ago that he’d forgotten the wonder of it all, the pleasure of flight, of wings, of soaring through the air high above the earth. The sight of Parisa’s sheer joy at the process warmed his heart, his ascended heart, that part of him that belonged here on Second Earth.

His gaze drifted up to the shield of mist over the property. He frowned. He thought he saw something. Yep. There it was. He sat forward as shadows passed straight overhead. He sharpened and lengthened his vision. Shit. Squads of death vampires, already in the air, hunting no doubt for the mortal-with-wings. Which of course meant that Greaves had a legion of his warriors out searching for her.

He eased back and forced himself to relax. Both Parisa and Havily were completely safe beneath Endelle’s monumental creation of mist.

He thought back to the attack on Parisa’s home. If Marcus understood the workings of that bureaucratic mess called, appropriately, COPASS, Endelle had to file a complaint with the committee about the attack. Leto and Crace showing up, armed, had to be a major violation. But like any good bureaucracy, filing complaints, then having those complaints acted upon took time, usually lots of it and rarely with an acceptable outcome.

There was only one crime on Second Earth that COPASS acted upon with speed—assassination. Justice was always served within hours. Unfortunately, assassination was narrowly defined as the taking of a life whose designation involved an official, government capacity. The mere slaying of an ascender by a death vampire was considered a homicide, which in turn would take months going through the process of Second Earth’s criminal justice system, not too different from Mortal Earth.

Marcus had always preferred warrior justice—a sword straight through the neck, the head separated from the body samurai-style.

Oh … yeah.

Shadows once more moved beyond the mist.

“Havily,” he called out as she took Parisa higher into the air.

Havily took Parisa’s hand and steadied her, both women flapping their wings in a slow movement and hanging suspended in the air. She called down to Marcus. “What is it? Everything okay?”

“Don’t go beyond the mist.”

“We won’t.”

When he saw Parisa nod, he relaxed and released a deep breath.

Okay. The women were safe.

That was good.


* * *

Medichi held a hot plate of pasta in his hand and from the vantage of the steps leading to the front lawns from the pool side of the estate, he watched the women flying. He was grateful for the distance. He needed the distance.

Parisa’s wings had stopped him dead in his tracks. In all his thirteen hundred years, he’d only seen wings like them once. They were very, very familiar and he didn’t know what to make of it, or if there even was any significance to the similarity.


Damn, but this was good pasta. He’d have to thank whoever had cooked it—probably Havily, who was comfortable in his kitchen.

He lifted a goblet of Cabernet from off the stone handrailing then sipped. The bottle had been left on the dark soapstone counter to breathe. Good wine, good pasta, and one helluva fine view.

He sharpened his vision, preternatural-style, and had a good clear look at … his breh. Jesus H. Christ, even saying the word in his head gave him the shakes. He returned the glass to the stone rail and picked up his fork again.

Parisa was beautiful, tall, with dark brown hair. And her eyes, violet and so intense.

And her body … the fork stopped just short of his parted lips. She had a narrow waist he wanted his hands around and full breasts that made his jeans shrink.

He put the fork in his mouth and dropped his gaze to the plate.

Even at that distance, her exotic tangerine scent reached him, small wafts of scent meant just for him, which plucked at the sensitive nerves all along the insides of his thighs.

The call on his body was ridiculously strong and resulted at the very least in the incessant pounding of his heart. Parisa Lovejoy—even her name got to him—was a pull on his soul that felt like strong fingers working in his chest, kneading and tugging. He wanted more than anything in the world to be right next to her.

Suddenly she cried out.

His gaze shifted. He watched her tumble high in the sky a few feet from the dome of mist. He dropped his plate to the cement step at his feet, and the jerk of his arm knocked the goblet off the railing.

He was ready to sprint forward, his wing-locks humming, but Havily caught her hand and give her a quick, skilled jerk and the tumbling ceased. As practiced, Parisa made scoops of her wings and floated back to earth. She drew her wings in close-mount and, as she had done earlier, she leaned over, no doubt calming her heart and catching her breath.

He bent over the railing, also catching his breath. He retrieved the goblet, which had fallen on a spread of natal plum and wasn’t even chipped. He rose up and looked at the shattered dark blue stoneware. There were clumps of pasta here and there that would leave oil stains. The resident ants in his garden would be all over it within the next few hours.

He picked up the fork and the broken bits of his plate, fully aware that his hands shook. He scooped the leftover pasta onto the largest pieces. He headed back to the kitchen. He didn’t think he wanted to keep watching the flight training, for several reasons, least of which was that he never mounted his wings in front of other people and the only way he’d be able to be of use to Parisa was if he did. So … shit.

The sun was setting and he’d be assigned to one of the Borderlands in just a little while to do the usual. Right now, no doubt the rest of his brothers were at the Blood and Bite, enjoying a final drink and taking a romp in the red velvet booths, all except Kerrick of course. He’d be at his mansion, with his breh, doing exactly what Medichi wanted to be doing with Parisa.


When he’d disposed of the pieces of stoneware, he put the fork in the dishwasher and washed and rinsed the goblet. Afterward, he moved in the direction of his rooms at the south end of the villa.

As he walked down the central corridor and glanced through the windows that faced the front lawn, he caught glimpses of the fliers. Parisa, despite the recent near-miss, was back in the skies. He liked that a lot. The woman was tenacious. She’d already moved past at least two minor traumas and gotten back on the horse. Good for her.

But when he heard her laughter, dammit his heart hurt.

He turned away from the sound and moved with preternatural speed the rest of the distance to his bedroom. He shut the door a little too hard. The frame rattled in protest.


He folded off his jeans and T-shirt. He walked into the expansive master bath, all glossy black marble. He stared at himself in the mirror, not looking into his eyes. He knew what he’d see there, the great loss of his life, too enormous to permit another love to pierce his past failures.

Now she was here, the woman meant for him in the second dimension, the one he had never believed existed, not even after Kerrick had been hit with the breh-hedden, not even after he’d dragged a crazed Marcus off Havily four months ago. But she was here and his soul cried out for her.

But the reality of his life, of his history, was much more powerful than any bizarre warrior myth. The last thing he could ever do was allow Parisa into his life.

He turned slightly so that he could see the scars that crisscrossed his back, the hundred slices of leather whipped over his skin, cutting him while he heard not his screams but those of his wife, raped at his feet, her belly full of a child that died within her womb as she died. No, the breh-hedden was nothing to these truths.

But despite this reality, he felt the cramping of his wing-locks. He hadn’t released his wings in almost two weeks, so the need had grown profound. For whatever reason, wings needed to be mounted on a regular basis.

He had hoped the scar tissue would in time disappear in his ascended life, but it hadn’t. His wing-locks, however, had made all the necessary adjustments, and a year after his ascension he’d mounted his wings for the first time. He allowed his wings to release now. They were enormous, a match for his considerable height, almost as expansive as Endelle’s, the apex reaching to the fifteen-foot ceiling above.

They were cream in color, the same as Parisa’s wings.

They had three bands at the tips, just like Parisa’s.

And just like the ascendiate’s, the bands were gold, violet, and black.

So, yeah, he had royle wings, just like Parisa.

So, shit.

The bands meant that both he and Parisa, however much they were separated by centuries, had some connection with ancient ascenders, in particular with the first ascender, Luchianne. He knew of the myths surrounding royle wings, but in his opinion that’s all they were, myths, children’s stories of how royle wings could bring peace to a land, to all of Second Earth. Was it significant that he and Parisa shared identical wings? He didn’t know except that it was extremely rare in the vampire world. Right now he chose to think of it as a coincidence, nothing more.

He remained still for a few minutes to give his wings a chance to breathe and to relax. He flew regularly, usually on his estate beneath a cloak of mist. He kept in practice in the same way he worked out with weights and on treadmills. He may never have mounted his wings in front of his warrior brothers, or anyone else, but he had always thought, somewhere in the back of his mind, that he should be capable of flight no matter what.

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