Burning Skies Page 55

He kissed her again and oh, damn, his eyes were wet. “I know,” he murmured. “I’ve been inside your head, remember? I get it. We’re the same in that way.”

He was still connected to her, still inside her. Tears slipped from her eyes as well. “What are we going to do? This thing, this horrible breh-hedden, has me tied up in a knot. I can’t be with you but I can’t keep away from you and the longer I’m with you and the more times you give me such pleasure, the more I want you, crave you. Marcus, this has to stop.”

The only thing that stopped were her words because he kissed her again and pushed at her with his tongue until he was inside her mouth and plunging his tongue into her tender recesses.

She kissed him back, all her earlier fatigue replaced with a combination of her frustration and despair that for some absurd, ridiculous, and completely useless reason communicated all her need to the sensual nerves of her body.

Before she even understood, before she could react in a rational negating sense, Marcus once more moved his cock within her body and her body once more wept for him, surrounded him, loved him. Once more he was hard as a rock. Tears streamed down her face this time as he again took her to the pinnacle but the whole time he kept his mouth connected to hers.

When she came, when he was arching over her and filling her once more, making a complete mess of the sheets, she cried out, part frustration, part ecstasy.

Then, as she settled down once more, as he left the well of her body, as he climbed from bed, as he went into the bathroom then returned with a washcloth, as she jammed the terry between her legs, as he climbed back in bed but cursed the wet mess he’d made, as he drew close to her from behind and spooned her, as he surrounded her with his arms holding her fast, only then did she release a quavering sigh, falling asleep with the certain knowledge that she was 100 percent screwed … in every possible way.

* * *

Marcus didn’t fall sleep right away, though he knew Havily had.

He needed to think.

She had protested the breh-hedden at the precise moment that he’d had the worst epiphany of his life—he’d fallen in love with Havily Morgan, not a small kind of love, but the kind of love that made its way into sonnets and ballads, into pop songs and wedding rituals. He was in love with her. He loved her. Breh-hedden or no breh-hedden, he loved her.

Maybe he felt this way because he’d been inside her head and knew her basic generous nature, or maybe it was seeing her face off with Endelle, meeting her temper head-on by using the F-bomb, or maybe it was having her wake up and take care of him sexually that had pushed him over the edge of the cliff. Whatever it was, he was flying right now, so completely aware of this woman that for the longest moment, he didn’t ever want to be separated from her. He wanted to be attached to her side by a tether, keeping her close to his body, his mind, his protective sword.

As sleep began to dull his mind, however, an old memory grabbed hold, the time he had last seen his sister, Helena, two hundred years ago. She’d been dressed in a lavender cotton gown gathering flowers from her extensive garden, the one she had designed specifically for making arrangements for the house, a true cutting garden.

He had argued with her again about her safety. He wanted her to stop driving the carriage into town with the children to buy supplies. He wanted her to send the servants instead. Dammit, he wanted her safe.

She had caught his arm, looked into his eyes, and pinched his cheek. “Dearest brother, we all die even in this ascended world. Let me live as I choose. When my time comes, I am ready. Do you not ever feel that you and I have lived far too long as it is, perhaps on borrowed time?”


He had argued with her. He needed her and the children. They had been his saving grace, that which had made his warrior job tolerable each and every night.

“Marcus, you sometimes forget that I’m almost as old as you are and worse, I have lost children in this war, grown children. I have lost two husbands. Wedding Kerrick for me was the only thing I have wanted in the past thousand years. The only mistake I believe I made was not marrying again right after my last husband died. Life is for the living, and until I am committed to the earth I will live. I hope you will do the same.”

She had perished in an explosion two weeks later, a gift from that bastard Greaves.

She had been the last of his family, she and her children.

When they died rage had flooded him and all that anger had become focused on Kerrick, as irrational as it was. He’d had a choice to make—stay and kill his fellow Warrior of the Blood, his own brother-in-law, or seek refuge and exile on Mortal Earth. He’d chosen the latter.

Now he was back.

He reached toward Havily and touched the bed just short of her body. She moved slightly in her sleep. Maybe his thoughts were too loud.

Havily was the first woman he’d wanted, that he’d loved, in longer than a thousand years. But already his heart ached with the impossibility of it all.

He thought of her darkening abilities and something clicked in his brain, the meaning of it, maybe even the purpose and why those abilities had first surfaced in her desire to be with him. In an elemental sense, the breh-hedden was a demand for openness, commitment, belonging. Havily lacked all of these things just as he did.

In that intuitive aspect of ascended life, perhaps connected to basic clairvoyance—of a sense of knowing the future will be impacted by the issue at the moment—he knew that if Havily was to be safe, given the enemy’s drive toward her, he must help her, somehow, to engage her darkening abilities, which meant he needed to open himself to her, to truly loving her.

Endelle was right. From this point forward, Havily’s life depended on her ability to move in and out of the darkening at will—and even more important, to split into two realities, one self that could function in the darkening, while her other self rested in the real world.

When he had come back to Second Earth, returning to guard her, he had believed his job was to stay close and defend her with his sword. How strange to think that securing her safety meant he needed to love her better.

Only after he made this leap did he finally fall asleep.

The dawn illuminates change.

—Collected Proverbs, Beatrice of Fourth

Chapter 18

The next morning, Havily awoke on her side. Her gaze was fixed on the lace curtain of the window, the morning light having lit the eastern side of the White Tank Mountains in a glow. The sky above was a deep blue that would appear to fade during the day because of all the intense June sunlight. But for now, she saw one of the beauties of the desert world: the clear cloudless sky, the light, a sense of the expanse of the world.

Thoughts of what her day would be, of all her concerns for the success of the Ambassadors Reception, threatened to take over her mind. So for just this moment, before her day could steamroll her deepest thoughts, she blocked her responsibilities. She wanted time to think.

Marcus wasn’t in bed, the shower wasn’t running, and the room was quiet. Where he’d gone, she didn’t know, but her thoughts turned to him. She rubbed her lower lip with her forefinger and smiled. Shivers traveled over her bare shoulders. Marcus.

She drew in a deep breath, released a deep sigh.


She smiled and a soft chuckle broke from her throat as she remembered awakening after a post-orgasmic doze to the bed shaking and her vampire lover so aroused, yet so restrained, that all his repressed need had set his limbs to trembling. Yeah, it made her laugh but it also made her heart constrict as she considered his character. Dammit, the man was thoughtful. He had fully intended to let her sleep even though his need for her bordered on torture. How could a self-proclaimed hedonist and narcissistic empire-builder of Mortal Earth also be thoughtful?

This wasn’t helping her situation at all. She needed Marcus to be a prick so she could walk the hell away from him. Didn’t he get that? She needed him to live up to her opinion of him as a disloyal bastard so she could let the breh-hedden run out of steam. Then she’d tell him to go back to his small life on Mortal Earth and she’d be able to get on with her own dedication to Second Society.

The trouble was, every minute she was with him kept proving that his essential character was very different from what he projected. He wasn’t selfish; he was generous. He wasn’t self-involved; he was thoughtful. He wasn’t disinterested; he cared.

When Parisa had accidentally flown through the mist and Marcus had appeared in the air within seconds, in full-mount, ready to protect them both, her first thought had been, Thank God. Her second had been, Who is this man?

She released a heavy sigh. From the time she’d met him four months ago, during Alison’s ascension, she’d known she was in trouble. Her crazy attraction to him was simply overwhelming. Add to that a subsequent four months of having sex with him in the darkening, acknowledged or not, and connections had been forged between them that should never have been built in the first place.

And oh, God, could the man make love. She didn’t know if it was the breh-hedden or if it was just four thousand years of excellent practice or what, but damn he knew how to work her body. Desire rippled over her and resulted in a full-body shiver. She squeezed her eyes shut and for one ridiculous moment thought about calling Marcus back to bed. She moaned.

Okay, this was so not helping her time of reflection.

The trouble was … the trouble was … the longer she was with him, the more she enjoyed him, being with him, talking to him, sharing this difficult journey by his side, his sword drawn half the time, his body pinned to her the other half. She loved it so much, the connection, the physical oneness, the shared bed.

Yeah, she loved it all.

There was only one problem, the same issue she’d had from the beginning—she didn’t want to be in a relationship. She didn’t want her heart to swell with love and risk being punctured, deflated, obliterated by yet another death.

With the loss of her entire family so many years ago and later Eric’s death, she had learned to live a serene, unruffled, unemotional existence because she had determined in her heart that she would never be in love again, never be married again, never risk losing someone she loved. The pain had been too much, and her ensuing commitment to a solitary life had been profound and purposeful.

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