Burning Skies Page 52

“One or both of these ladies have darkening capabilities.”

The moment the word was spoken, Crace knew it to be true. Shit. The darkening. Of course. Rith had even told him of the Seers’ prophecies. “Yes,” he said. “That fits the situation exactly. I should have thought of it.”

“Well, what do you know. No wonder the future streams have been all lit up about these women. Very, very interesting.” He nodded then said, “I expect you to continue your vigilant efforts to find the mortal-with-wings, but I think I want her alive in case she is the one with darkening abilities. Are we in agreement?”

Before Crace could reply, Greaves once more dove within his head, a torpedo of sensation that hurt like a bitch. The sweating started all over again. “Yes, master,” he cried. “I will see to everything.”

As quickly as it had begun the pressure released. He was left with a fucking migraine.

The Commander rose from his chair. “Excellent. Then I’ll leave you to it. Rith, you will come with me.” He lifted an arm and both men vanished, Rith folding away while in the middle of his most obsequious bow.

Darkening capabilities.

Coordinate Thorne’s assassination.


Crace leaned over the side of the chair he hated so much and threw up.

The teacher sometimes needs the lesson.

—Collected Proverbs, Beatrice of Fourth

Chapter 17

Havily always felt like she was facing a firing squad whenever she approached Endelle’s office. After Thorne had reported to Endelle on the attack at the villa, Her Supremeness had summoned her to the administrative offices even though the hour was now past nine o’clock.

Marcus had insisted on accompanying her while Alison remained with Parisa, to continue to counsel her. Havily knew Marcus didn’t like leaving the women alone, but Endelle had repaired the breach in the mist so they were once more under a cloak of safety. Also, because of Alison’s bond with Kerrick, the warrior would know instantly if the women were in trouble and could fold directly to his breh, without the assistance of Central or anyone else. In that way, both Parisa’s and Alison’s safety were ensured.

Havily knocked on the door, her heart an annoying thump in her chest. Endelle’s answering bark, “Come,” didn’t help.

She straightened her shoulders and gave the door a shove. She walked in with Marcus right at her back as he had been since the attack. She could even feel his breath on her neck, his left hand a light touch against her waist.

The attack had nerved up his warrior instincts, and he’d become a second skin. Damn her for liking it as much as she did. And seeing him in battle gear? Whoa. She was a sucker for a man in a kilt, always had been. Besides, the wing-serving weapons harness displayed his muscles to perfection.

She was still distressed by the whole thing, by having watched Parisa lose herself in the thrill of flight only to fly straight through the mist barrier and initiate a crisis. Dammit.

Now she was here, facing her personal firing squad, yet again.

She’d exchanged her flight suit for jeans and a light blue silk tank top. She wore lime-green heels as well for the simple reason that if she didn’t add the inches to her height, Endelle would tower over her. The last thing she needed with any interview in this office was an extreme disparity in height. It was really hard to stand up to someone who was a foot taller by means of her stilettos and your flats. So, yes, she wore heels.

She folded her arms over her chest and met Endelle’s gaze squarely. The woman wore the same outfit as earlier and scratched at the fur halter. She couldn’t figure out what kind of fur it was, only that it seemed to irritate Her Supremeness. Her suede pants were spotted like leopard.

She had no idea what fault Endelle intended to find with her tonight, but the bitch could kiss her ass on this one.

However, the wooded appearance of the Supreme High Administrator’s eyes somehow knocked sideways what little confidence she possessed. Havily couldn’t imagine having lived on Second Earth for nine thousand years. What had Endelle seen during that time? What had she been forced to endure as Supreme High Administrator of Second Earth?

Endelle said, “I wanted to let you both know that tomorrow I have a meeting with COPASS so we can figure out what to do with Parisa. I will insist on a ruling before I’ll ever allow her to return to Mortal Earth or whatever the hell she’s supposed to do next. I know those assholes won’t have the sense to discipline Greaves as he should be disciplined, like put his ass in a sling and keep it there. However, I intend to make public that some of Greaves’s high command have been after Parisa without cause.”

“Well,” Marcus said, nodding, “it’s at least a place to start.”

Havily frowned as she looked up at Marcus. He was being reasonable … again. She wished everything was different. This situation had started wearing on her, the powerful sexual nature of their current entanglement as well as all the ways this kind of intimacy reminded her of how much she’d loved being married and how much she’d lost.

And now here she was with Endelle and waiting for the other shoe to drop. She repressed a sigh.

Her Supremeness folded her arms over her chest and pursed her lips. She held Havily’s gaze and didn’t hold back her sigh. “Alison tells me you pulled Parisa into the darkening and saved her life.”

“Yes,” she responded, but she felt uneasy. “Crace was ready to … break her neck.” She described the event in detail. The whole time Endelle kept her eyes narrowed and nodded several times.

Endelle surprised her, however, because an odd expression overtook her face and she smiled. She smiled and nodded. “Well, ascender. This is a big fucking deal, you know. Darkening abilities are considered Third abilities. Even Alison can’t go into the darkening. Aren’t you just a little impressed with yourself? I know I am.”

Havily couldn’t have heard right. Endelle was impressed with her? Impossible. But even if she was, Havily didn’t exactly feel grateful. Instead, she lifted her chin and let a fair dose of sarcasm flavor her words. “Well, how nice that you actually think I might be worth something.”

But Endelle only laughed. “What the hell do you care what I think anyway? The warriors know the truth. The war stripped me of my humanity at least two millennia ago. You need thicker skin, Morgan. Now let’s get down to business. Take me into the darkening.”

Havily lifted a brow. “I have no idea how to do that.”

“How did you take Parisa?”

Havily shrugged. “I really don’t know.”

“Well, then,” Endelle murmured, her eyes narrowing. “Looks like I need to teach you, and we’re going to start right now.”

Havily did not like the look in the woman’s eye … at all. So that’s why she was here, to receive a darkening tutorial from the worst teacher in the world. Great.

The next moment, she stood in a space that resembled Endelle’s office in essentials. She could detect the presence of her massive marble-topped desk, the north and east walls constructed of plate-glass windows, the west wall bearing a rarely used fireplace, the south wall solid except for the door, but the edges of the space melted away to a thick darkness.

Havily planted her hands on her hips. She frowned. “I know now that this is the darkening, but where exactly are we?”

“Nether-space, like the Trough. This might even be a space between dimensions. Nobody really knows.” She huffed a breath. “All right, ascender, I brought us here. Now you take us back out.”

But all Havily could do was stare at her and once more shrug. She looked Endelle up and down and realized they were both standing with hands planted on hips.

“Well, that’s just fantastic,” Endelle drawled.

The next moment they were back, but Marcus stood in a different place, near Endelle now, and said, as though in mid-sentence, “… like tangerines. I think it’s the weirdest part of the whole process.”

Havily didn’t exactly understand but Endelle turned and winked at her. Then she understood. “You were in both places?” Havily cried. She took a step back, a big one. Because of Endelle’s regular use of obscenities and because she seemed so normal in ascended terms, she often forgot the level of her power.

Marcus glanced from Havily to Endelle. “You took Havily into the darkening and continued talking to me? You were in two places at one time? What the fuck?”

Endelle smiled at Marcus. “Did I seem very different to you? My speech patterns were pretty good, weren’t they? I can’t hold the position very long. Usually, to split-selves I have to recline, as I do in my meditation chamber, and the primary self remains quiet and relaxed.”

“Shit, Endelle,” he cried. “How long have you been capable of talking while in two different places?”

“About a century.” She turned her attention to Havily. “But I was able to do a split-self almost immediately after learning I had darkening abilities, and for whatever reason, Morgan, I need you to learn that and be quick about it. My ill-formed clairvoyant abilities are ringing right now. Apparently for you it’s a real matter of life and death that you learn to split-self, so let’s get on it.”

“Now? But it’s so late.”

“So the fuck what? Oh, that’s right. You need your goddamn beauty sleep. Well, princess, them days is ovuh. Get used to it.” Endelle then descended on her, both hands outstretched as though she meant to cup her face.

Havily batted them away. “What are you doing?” she cried. She also had a bit of prescience going on and she could suddenly see her future, bound ankle-and-wrist to Her Supremeness. The last thing she wanted was to get caught in that trap.

“Morgan,” Endelle growled. “Get your ass over here. All I’m going to do is download a couple of my experiences straight into your head. You have a disconnect between your gift and your rational mind.” Endelle lifted her hands, ready to place them on Havily’s head.

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