Burning Skies Page 59

Havily was proud of her. Unlike almost everyone present, she knew what it cost Endelle to sit still, to nod formally, and above all to keep her temper.

Thorne stood behind Endelle and to her right. He wore formal Warrior of the Blood ceremonial dress: a black leather tunic, streamlined leather battle sandals and shin guards, a brass breastplate, and a purple cape flung over one shoulder. His sandy-colored hair was slicked back and held tight in the cadroen, which accentuated his high cheekbones. His gaze traveled over the crowd in a slow continuous motion. He may have been at Endelle’s back for official reasons, but the leader of the warriors was working tonight. More than once Colonel Seriffe, head of security for the evening, approached him for a quiet consult.

Warm hands moved around her waist from behind her. Marcus. She drew in a deep breath and smiled. Ordinarily she would have discouraged this possessive display of affection, but she stood in the shadows of a massive grouping of palms.

She covered his arms with her hands.

“Everything is in perfect order,” he whispered. “You’ve done beautifully here.”

“My teams have done beautifully.”

“And exactly how many hours did it take you to assemble your teams?”

“About a gazillion.”

He chuckled then kissed her neck. “I want to take you home.”

At that she turned to look at him over her shoulder. “Hang tough, Warrior. It’s only ten. This won’t be over for at least another three hours.”

“I want you naked and in our bed.”

“I’m getting that, O fennel-master. Calm the hell down.”

“How can I when you look like a goddess this evening?”

Havily wanted nothing more than to fold out of the hotel straight to the villa and oblige him. She opened her mouth to say something, when a terrible prickling sensation moved across her neck.

Marcus stepped away from her because no doubt he felt it as well. But she whirled on him and held up a hand. “No swords. Not here.”

He lowered his chin. “Not yet,” he growled.

“Fine.” She turned back to the crowd, her gaze shifting back and forth. He drew close once more, a hand on her waist.

She remained in the shadows. “I can sense something, but nothing looks different. What do you think is going on?”

“We’ll soon know.”

She scanned the assembly. And there it was, a shimmering in the center of the room, not far from the multicolored robes, gowns, and costumes of the receiving line.

“Oh, shit,” Marcus cried. He stepped away from her again. She didn’t try to stop him this time as he drew his sword into his hand.

Greaves had arrived along with several of his generals, including Warrior Leto.

Marcus resumed his place next to Havily, but she held him back with a lifted hand. “This part is for show. I’m sure of it. What do you think?”

“Looks like it.”

She watched her security team move into place surrounding the intruders, more than two dozen well-trained Militia Warriors, a sword in each hand.

A ripple of tension moved through the line of ambassadors as feet shifted, as costumes got plucked with nervous fingers, as anxious glances landed on Greaves and his entourage. Colonel Seriffe motioned to the orchestra conductor, and the music stopped.

Havily glanced at Endelle. The woman met her gaze and jerked her head in the direction of the ambassadors’ line, which meant Endelle had her own instincts firing off.

She leaned close to Marcus. “Did you see Endelle?”


Endelle rose up from her throne, her gaze now fixed in the direction of Greaves. Thorne drew up next to her. The ambassador from the Argentina-Chile Territory, who had been kneeling at the base of the steps, rose to his feet and moved aside to give her room.

Endelle was an imposing figure, at least six-ten in her stilettos, and so beautiful, something Havily often forgot given the prickly nature of the woman’s temperament. She looked like a princess from the Middle East.

She closed in on her enemy, moving within five yards of Greaves. Power shimmered in waves around her. She had set up an iridescent shield around herself. Havily thought it a thing of beauty.

“Why are you here?” Endelle asked in a carrying voice, her gaze fixed on Greaves.

“To congratulate you on a very fine event,” the Commander responded, his voice cool, even.

“You were not invited.”

He lifted a graceful hand and clucked his tongue. “Then my invitation did not merely get lost in the mail?” A couple of his generals snickered.

Havily experienced a profound sense of dread, her stomach sinking hard. Greaves defined charisma. Certainly he had a warrior’s physique. He was tall and powerfully built, the size of his chest and arms evident even beneath a well-crafted tux. His bald head gleamed beneath the massive chandelier high overhead.

She wished the light fixture would fall on him.

At the very moment that her thought turned to the absurd, he shifted in her direction and his gaze found hers, as if by design.

He was in her head?

She could not have been more shocked. She began systematically building up her shields, like slamming steel doors one after the other. The Commander’s lips parted and his eyes narrowed. She kept slamming until … there … she knew she had just shoved him out.

The bastard inclined his head. She would have felt a sense of triumph had she not been so distressed by the fact that, without her knowing, he’d been in her mind searching her memories.

Marcus leaned close. “What’s wrong?” he whispered. “What did he just do?”

She turned to him, met his gaze. “He was in my head.”

“Who? Greaves? Fuck.”

“He’s gone,” she said, overlaying his arm with her hand. She felt his muscles twitch beneath her touch. He still held his sword, gripping it hard.

Endelle told Greaves to take himself and his party home. An argument ensued but Havily didn’t listen. Her instincts clanged in a different direction as the hairs on the back of her neck rose once more. Again she turned her gaze to the line of ambassadors.

“Do you feel that?” she whispered.

Marcus murmured, “Yes. I think this whole thing has been staged as a diversion.”

* * *

Parisa had fallen asleep curled up in her chair but she jerked awake because something had given her a mental tap, some danger.

She awoke and glanced around the room. Was she under attack again? She had the worst feeling and her neck felt like all the little hairs were standing up perfectly straight. Medichi stood by the window.

“Antony,” she said softly.

He shot his gaze her direction. “What’s wrong?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know. Something.” Her thoughts turned toward Havily and once more she felt uneasy.

He drew near and looked down at her from his formidable height. But she didn’t meet his gaze. Instead she turned inward, thought of Havily, and opened up her voyeur’s window. Havily came into view, with Marcus beside her. Both of them looked very intent, as though something was wrong. She panned back and the huge ballroom came into view as well as a long line of notables in a variety of cultural costumes and ceremonial dress.

She could see Endelle, looking magnificent in purple. She stood across from a number of men in black-and-maroon uniforms headed by Commander Greaves. Some argument was in progress.

But that didn’t hold her attention. She was all for Havily and Warrior Marcus. They stood off to the side opposite the line of what must be the Territory ambassadors.

To Medichi, she said, “Commander Greaves is at the Ambassadors Reception. I remember him from the arena battle. He’s brought some of his generals with him, including Warrior Leto. Havily and Marcus seem distressed but I don’t think it’s focused on Commander Greaves or his entourage.”

“You can see all this?” His voice was sharp, worried.

She didn’t look at him. She felt the need to keep searching, a profound impulse that caused her to pan left and to move her window backward several steps so that she could view more of the room. There. A death vampire cloaked in mist. She would know one anywhere, the porcelain bluish complexion, the extraordinary beauty. He moved steadily, hidden by the line of ambassadors. He drew closer to Madame Endelle and Warrior Thorne.

“Antony,” she said. “Can you fold me directly to Havily? I have to warn her. I can see a death vampire not far from Madame Endelle. I can see him near the line of ambassadors hidden by mist.”

She put her hand on his arm and relayed the vision to him as well as Havily’s location.

He did not hesitate because the next moment she stood beside Havily. Medichi had his hand on her arm, supporting her.

* * *

Havily jumped at the sudden presence of Parisa and Medichi next to her. She gasped and put her hand to her chest. “What are you doing here?”

Parisa didn’t say a word. She just planted both her hands on the sides of Havily’s face and, with the same ability that Endelle possessed, imparted what she knew.

Havily gasped and watched the replay of some sort of vision, one of Parisa’s visions. She saw the death vampire, disguised by mist, moving up along the far side of the ambassadors’ reception line. He was almost opposite Endelle and Thorne.

The death vampire slipped through a break in the line. He was focused on Thorne. He lifted his arm and metal flashed.

Havily didn’t hesitate. Even from the distance of several yards, she concentrated on Thorne. Just as the death vamp drew his arm up and back, she took Thorne straight into the darkening.

Thorne weaved on his feet, looked around, and drew his sword into his hand all at the same time. His gaze landed on Havily. “What the fuck?” he cried. “What have you done? Where the hell are we? Shit. Is this the darkening?”



“Death vampire and a very sharp dagger aimed straight at you. Do you trust me?”

Thorne shook his head, clearly stunned, but he cried, “Hell, yeah.”

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