Burning Skies Page 53

But Havily blocked her again, striking at her forearms and once more backing up. “Hell, no,” she cried. “You’ll fry my circuits.”

At that, Endelle laughed. “I’m not an idiot. I’ll go slow. Oh, and just so you know, you don’t have a fucking choice. I don’t run a goddamn fucking democracy, remember?”

Havily released a punchy sigh. She knew better than to argue with Endelle. The woman had a bee in her bonnet and the truth was Havily could also sense her need to learn this skill as quickly as possible.

“Fine,” she said. She huffed another sigh and closed her eyes. She really didn’t want to be looking into the ancient eyes of her Supreme High Administrator while the woman shunted memories into her head. God help her.

Endelle’s hands were warm on her face, and the warmth increased. Release your shields drifted through her mind. How strangely gentle the tenor of the words were, not the usual thing for Endelle.

Havily sighed again and let the mental shields back away, like a big piece of machinery in reverse.

Nice, Endelle murmured, again, inside her head. The memories will come at you fast. Just keep your mind loose. Don’t fight and don’t try to make sense of it. Got it?

Yes, she sent. She sort of understood. Maybe.

Basically, she stopped thinking, and before she knew it Endelle withdrew from her head.

She stared into the bark-lined eyes once more. She stared and weaved a little on her feet. She felt the strange whooshing sensation and she was in the darkening alone. She had taken herself there because she had Endelle’s memory of how to do it. She thought the thought and allowed the whooshing sensation to return. She faced Endelle once more.

Endelle nodded. “Good. Now put your shields in place and do it again.”

Havily searched her mind. “They are in place,” she said.

“No shit. Well, that’s excellent then. Do it again.”

Havily repeated the exercise several times until it felt really natural. “This is awesome,” she cried on about the fifth try.

“Now see if you can do a split-self. This is the really critical part about darkening work. When you can split yourself, you can travel all over the globe. Taking yourself or someone else into the darkening is a one-place-only kind of deal. You can’t move around. So I want to help you figure this out right now. You ready?”

No. God, no. “Yes,” but it came out on a whisper.

Endelle rolled her eyes. “Way to commit.”

The next few hours hurt. There was never anything easy about Endelle anyway, but being under her tutelage was like picking up big armloads of cactus and carrying them around just for fun.

By midnight Havily could barely stand, and though she could easily take herself or Endelle into the darkening, she’d never once been able to do a split-self. Which meant, of course, that Endelle’s temper had just gotten better and better.

* * *

Marcus smiled. He sat on a couch by the east window, his arms stretched out across the back cushions, just enjoying the show. Only a good dark beer and maybe some popcorn would make this better.

The two women had long since forgotten he was in the same room, and after this many hours it was like watching two whirlwinds face off against each other.

He’d never seen this side of Havily before and he was pretty damn sure she didn’t know who she was … yet.

He knew one part of her from being inside her head while making love to her, but this part of her had surprised him and, fuck, aroused the hell out of him for reasons he couldn’t exactly explain.

From the time he’d met Havily, she moved around people, even him, with a high degree of uncertainty, as though not quite belonging or maybe not wanting to get too close, he wasn’t sure. This uncertainty had translated into weakness, but there was nothing weak about the woman standing opposite Endelle, her shoulders hunched, her hands fisted, as she glared at Her Supremeness. If anything, he saw a profound resemblance to the woman she battled and because he’d always admired the hell out of Endelle, despite her scorpion temper, he was damn pleased with what he now saw in Havily.

He wasn’t sure if she was transforming into a different person or if this was who she’d always been. He suspected the latter.

“Well, you gonna stand there, ascender, and just pick your nose? Or are you going to show me something? You were always such a sniveling twat.”

Havily’s eyes flared. “Oh, shut the fuck up, Endelle!”

Marcus’s brows rose, but Endelle wasn’t mad, she looked hopeful.

“Try it again, dipshit!”

“Fuck you!” But Havily closed her eyes and focused, her brows drawn together.

When nothing happened, Endelle lifted her hands as though to send a hand-blast.

Marcus thought the time had come to intervene.

“Ladies,” he called out in a sharp voice.

Both women, at the exact same moment, turned to him, eyes flaring, as they shouted in unison, “What?” The plate-glass window behind him rattled.

He grinned. “I think we’re done. It’s that or I can see blood all over these walls next. Whadya think?”

Endelle frowned slightly then looked at her hands lifted in aggression. “Shit,” she murmured.

The color rose on Havily’s cheek. She put her fingers against her mouth, her eyes wide as she turned back to Endelle. “I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to speak to you that way.”

“Shut the hell up, Morgan. Goddammit, it’s after midnight. Oh, shit. All right, I have to get to the darkening and get some real work done.” She glared at Havily. “I hope you’ll take the time to do some practicing. Maybe let Marcus get you on your back and worked up. Given your history with him, I’ll bet you can do a split-self then. He seems to be one of your triggers. Of course, if sex does it then your warrior’s just going to have to keep his dick handy. Hah.”

Marcus shook his head but he laughed. “Endelle. Enough. You’re making me blush.”

Endelle rolled her eyes, lifted her arm, then vanished.

As soon as she was gone, Havily stumbled sideways. He moved with preternatural speed and caught her before she toppled over and twisted an ankle on her heels.

“That woman makes me crazy,” she cried.

“Yeah. She has that effect on all of us.”

“I’m so tired. I can barely stand.”

“I’ve got you.” He put his arms around her. She sighed and rested her head on his shoulder. But her head jerked upright as she asked, “Did I actually tell her to fuck off?”

“Yes. Beautifully.”

“Oh, God.”

“Forget about it. I’m sure she already has. She probably even respects you a little more because of it.”

“She’s a monster.”

“Yep. But she’s on the side of right so it’s okay.”

“Take me home,” she whispered. He liked how she had both arms around his neck.

He kissed her forehead then folded them both back to Medichi’s villa.

When Marcus materialized in the foyer with Havily in his arms, Alison waited near the Monet. She looked a little bleary-eyed but none the worse for wear.

“How’s Parisa?” Havily asked. She kept her arms locked around his neck and her head still rested on his shoulder. He loved it.

Alison lifted a brow as she met Havily’s gaze. “She’s fine. She went to bed around ten. I see Endelle worked you over.”

“Understatement. She tried to teach me a darkening skill but I just couldn’t get the hang of it.”

“I’m putting her to bed,” Marcus murmured. “She’s done in.”

Alison smiled. “I’m not surprised. It’s the usual result of spending that many hours together with Her Supremeness.”

Marcus chuckled then asked, “You okay?”

Her hand went to her bump. “I’m fine but I’m ready for bed so I’ll say good night.”

Marcus nodded. “Good night.”

Havily contributed a soft “Night.”

Alison lifted an arm then disappeared. He stared at the empty space and marveled that the woman had been able to do that before her ascension while still a mortal. He tried to recall when he’d developed the ability to dematerialize. Was it a decade after he ascended or a couple of centuries? Well, that was one problem with living a long time—the memories really got muddled.

With his arm holding Havily around her waist and her head still leaning into the well of his shoulder, and with his complete unwillingness to move her even a millimeter away from him, he walked her slowly in the direction of their bedroom.

He had a small problem. Watching his woman for hours had given him a profound need for her—but she was exhausted. So what the hell was he supposed to do?

He knew the answer and sighed. Only a cold shower would do, but the idea irritated the hell out of him.

After a trip down the hall that took much longer than usual, he guided her to the right then to the door of their room.

“Is something wrong?” she asked, as he shoved the door open. He turned sideways to get them both inside without losing contact. “You seem really tense.”

“No, nothing,” he murmured. “I’m tired, worried, whatever.”

He felt her sigh against him. “Me, too. I should shower.”

“Just get in bed. You can shower tomorrow.”

She pushed away from him. “No. Must shower. Now.” Her eyes were at half-mast as she kicked off her heels then stumbled into the bathroom.

“Fuck,” he murmured. He could hear her stripping her clothes off.

He grabbed a robe. He hunted in the south rooms for another bathroom. Finding one in a second suite of guest rooms, he folded off his clothes, turned the shower lever, and stepped into an icy spray of water. He shivered as he stared down at his ready-for-anything hard-on. Even the cold water wasn’t helping, which was in itself some kind of cruel joke.

Whatever. He wanted Havily. He wanted her now. He shut the water off then smoothed over all his goose bumps with a towel. Jesus, he was still hard.

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