Burning Skies Page 58

That he’d been assigned as her guardian sure as hell didn’t help since it now increased the time he would have to be with her.

She glanced up at him quickly. Her nostrils flared. Great. She could smell his desire for her.

She buried her nose back in the book, her hand on her cheek. He detected an answering wave of tangerine, but her body language told him to back off. Fine. Good. Great. Wonderful. Shit.

“I came to tell you that I’ve been assigned as your Guardian of Ascension.”

She nodded, looking up at him again. “I know. Endelle told us at lunch today.”

“I would change this if I could.”

“It’s for the best,” she said.

“And how is that?” Okay, so there was an edge of hostility to his voice. He moved to his chair, wondering if he should sit down. He remained standing.

She leaned back and looked up at him, closing the book over her left hand, holding her place among the pages. “Obviously, we have to learn to be around each other despite this … this thing between us. Like you, I have no interest in it. I think a warrior’s life is … unmanageable.” She huffed a sigh, then dipped her head once more to the book and let the pages flop back open.

Well, how do you like that? She was dismissing him and she’d called his life unmanageable. Which it was, but that wasn’t the point. He was a goddamn Warrior of the Blood. He’d had women chase him all hours of the day and night for centuries. He could have any woman he wanted. He was revered in their society and she wasn’t even ascended, dammit.

Unable to contain his absurd reaction, he turned on his heel and left what had always been his sanctuary.

Antony, came softly, so softly inside his head, he wasn’t certain he’d heard her, but it was Parisa’s voice. Did the ascendiate have telepathic abilities as well? Great.

He listened, but nothing followed. He thought about responding but what for?

Instead he went into the kitchen and opened a bottle of Cabernet. He poured two glasses. He knew she liked his label. He felt damn sad as he returned to the library carrying both goblets.

He set one at her elbow. “I’m sorry to invade your space like this,” he stated in as formal a voice as he could muster, “but because of the recent attack, I have to stick close. I’ll try not to disturb you.”

He turned his back to her and took up his favorite chair opposite the window that overlooked the front lawn. He stretched out his long legs. He brooded.

Antony entered his mind once more. He glanced at her. Was she trying to communicate telepathically? Could she even do that? But she didn’t lift her gaze. He frowned. She sighed. Yeah, he was probably imagining it because his name on her lips, aloud or in his mind, was exactly what he craved.

He pulled a book from his stack of must-reads. He opened The Good Earth. He lost himself in a completely different world, or at least he tried to.

Honoring the traditions of a culture

Casts a brilliant light over the world.

—Collected Proverbs, Beatrice of Fourth

Chapter 19

Marcus stood in the southern hall, waiting for Havily to emerge from their bedroom. He had showered and shaved in one of the other guest rooms, leaving her alone to dress in private. He’d donned his favorite tux, a kick-ass piece of workmanship by Tom Ford. He had his hands in his pockets and felt like a teenager. All he lacked was a set of keys to jangle.

He was wound up for several reasons, not least of which was because his breh was dressing in a nearby room, which meant for part of that time she had to be naked. How he kept from busting the door down, he didn’t know.

So, there was that.

His mind kept going to the future and whether or not they would have a future together. If not, exactly what would the future look like living apart from her? Would he always feel this way about her? Would the insane attraction to her, the need to be right by her side at all times, ever dim? If it didn’t, how the hell would he be able to stay away from her? Or worse, how the hell would he ever bear the sight of her with another man?


So, there was that.

But probably what kept his nerves feeling like they’d been stuck with cactus spines had to do with the Ambassadors Reception. He didn’t like the idea of being in a large exposed room, with hundreds of people milling around. Anything could happen. A vampire with sufficient power could wreck the place.

So, yeah, he was in a state.

He glanced in the direction of Medichi’s private quarters then turned and let his gaze ramble all the way to the northern reaches, at least as far as his eye could travel. The entrance from the massive dining room to the kitchen was offset and not visible from where he stood.

But what an elegant stretch of rooms, not quite a palace, so yeah, villa was exactly the right word. He hadn’t had time to explore the outlying property yet, which apparently went on for miles north, south, and east. The west boundary stretched only as far as the White Tanks Wildlife Refuge. The estate supported an olive grove and press as well as a good-sized vineyard and winery. Whatever Antony’s life had been on Mortal Earth so many centuries ago, he’d made a real place for himself on Second Earth, something that resonated with Medichi’s history in old Italy.

Marcus shook his head. So what exactly was an ascender out of Sumer in 2000 BC supposed to create on Second Earth that would make sense of four thousand years of living? Dammit, he hated this feeling that nothing in his life was settled. Even the texts he received from Ennis let him know he should be on Mortal Earth taking care of business.

“Hey.” The word floated toward him from the direction of his shared bedroom. A wave of honeysuckle followed and his skin tingled from the assault. He flared his nostrils and drank the fragrance in as he turned toward his woman.

But it was the sight of Havily that took all those tingles and turned them into a goddamn roaring fire over his entire body. “Holy shit,” he murmured.

What she wore looked like couture because the strapless black silk was sculpted to her body and flared toward the floor in gentle waves. She must have had on very tall heels because she could almost meet him eye-to-eye, which for him was a couple of major turn-ons; first because he loved women in heels and second, with her height, holding her in his arms would be incredible.

Her makeup, flawless. Her hair, a work of art that traveled in careful waves down the back of her head. But the best part of the whole look was the snug fit of her gown and the long keyhole that exposed her beautiful cleavage. Damn, he wanted his tongue right there, right now. She was so his kind of woman in every goddamn respect.

Pure desire rampaged through him. He was hard as rock all over again, as he so often was when she was near.

He watched her stagger a little on her feet and she put her hands out as though balancing herself. He moved swiftly to her side and steadied her.

“Fennel,” she murmured. A heavy bout of honeysuckle slammed over him in response.

He didn’t wait but turned into her and took her in his arms. He slanted his lips over hers and kissed her, a full wet kiss. He lifted her off her feet, pushed her back quickly, and pressed her against the wall next to the door of their bedroom. She panted over his mouth.

This is ridiculous, she sent. You could take me right now and I wouldn’t even protest, even though it took me an hour to do my hair. Oh … Marcus … shiiiiiit.

The last word, so unlike Havily’s usual choice of word or phrase, made him laugh. Damn, he was weak in his gut and at his knees. This did not bode well for exactly how the evening would progress. He’d be aching in his lower extremities before the clock struck midnight and this was just the sort of affair destined to last way, way, way too long.

He panted against her neck and hoped to hell he hadn’t wrecked the fall of red waves down her back. “Let’s get you to White Lake,” he muttered.

* * *

Of all the reasons Havily had to be grateful for the success of the Ambassadors Reception, she had not expected one of those reasons to involve keeping her from feeling so darn much where Marcus was concerned.

They’d barely been able to leave the villa without doing a quick wall workout. What was it with them and walls. Honestly!

However, her teams worked together like magic so that Endelle, to whom the ambassadors paid homage, was able to meet and greet each of her Territory representatives.

The costumes alone were a pleasure to view. In the ascended world, all traditions were welcomed and honored, especially as reflected by the costumes of meaningful rituals, religions, and societal customs throughout the ages.

Cries of appreciation and rounds of applause accompanied the most intricate traditional garb as one by one the ambassadors, supported by their individual security details, administrative support, and significant others, approached Endelle’s seat of rule.

The Bredstone Hotel had the most elegant rooms, this one with expensive Italian white marble on the floor. The unique gleam of gold leaf shone everywhere.

The tall domed ceilings were painted with historic and mythological scenes from every country around the globe. Looking up, she could see a Japanese shogun in what looked like full battle regalia. The Bredstone had definitely been the right place for the Reception.

To her right, on a raised platform in the very center of the room, a small orchestra played Mozart, the classical structure designed to keep the rational brain at the fore and the Reception on an even keel.

She stood off to the side, opposite the ambassadors’ line, in order to monitor the flow of the room. The team leaders had been instructed not to approach her except in an emergency so that essentially no one knew she was in charge. She preferred it that way. Endelle and the ambassadors were what mattered. Period.

She had chosen a position in the room about ten yards from Endelle. Her protocol team worked the line, speaking with interpreters, answering questions, offering guidance.

Her gaze drifted to Endelle who sat in regal splendor on what amounted to a throne, her expression impassive, respectful, a unique state for the prickly administrator. Havily smiled. She even wore silk instead of hide, also a unique state.

Her gown of deep purple flowed in the ancient Greco-Roman style with gold bands encasing her narrow waist. Her long black hair was a masterpiece of loops and at least six more gold bands. For once she actually looked like the ruler of Second Earth.

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