Burning Skies Page 6

Given his level of power, no doubt he would see her as fully formed. She didn’t know. She’d never bothered nor cared to ask him. The others, in their limited abilities, would only be able to perceive her as an apparition, a ghost.

Greaves stood before three squads of death vampires, three, and yeah, they had dark skin, growing lighter because of dying blood, and so beautiful, each one with glittering black eyes. She’d arrived just in time.

She cleared her throat and everyone turned in her direction. Of course they knew who she was. Every government institution in the capital city of each Territory had either a statue of her or an enormous oil painting in her likeness. And yes, she could be found on Second’s version of the Internet.

However, since the time that Greaves had begun his serious campaign fifteen years ago, when he had persuaded the first of her Territorial High Administrators to align with him, these Territories had been provided with new statues of the Commander, new portraits, new posters, new COMING ORDER buttons, coffee mugs, and mouse pads, the bastard. She didn’t even have mouse pads. What became of those edifices and paintings made in her image, she really didn’t want to know.

She cast a locked-down shield around the twelve night-feeders. She had control of them now. Greaves, thank you God, could not bust through these shields.

But for just a moment, as her gaze swept over the pretty-boys, she was struck again by their extraordinary beauty. What fucking irony that something so deadly would be so beautiful—but then that was the point, that a mortal would meet a death vampire and not comprehend the danger. The dark eyes, the porcelain, almost bluish skin, the features worthy of worship, all served to enthrall the mortal victim. A pair of fangs would strike, seeking one thing—the empowering effects that came only from dying blood.

“You’re early tonight,” he said. “How delightful.” But he didn’t wait to converse; he merely lifted an arm and vanished, on to his next appointment. Where he intended to go, however, was not something she could trace. It might take her three hours to discover, or three minutes. Hunting Greaves in the darkening was one long exercise in sheer luck combined with hours of mind-numbing effort.


The death vampires blinked. The interpreter wet himself and disappeared. The death vamps lifted arms to dematerialize but she had them pinned. She would keep the shield in place until the local Indian Militia Warriors arrived to finish off this group of bloodsucking bastards.

She called Central. “Hey, Jeannie. I’m transmitting the coordinates of twelve more assholes.”

“You go, girl,” Jeannie said. Endelle’s phone had GPS but even though she could call from nether-space, for whatever reason, she couldn’t get the GPS unit on the phone to transmit. So she sent the coordinates via telepathy, which Jeannie had no trouble receiving. At the same time, she heard tapping on the computer. A moment later Jeannie said, “That would be Mumbai. I’ll alert the local Chief Militia Officer that there are twelve to dispose of.”

“He’ll be celebrating for days on this one.”

“No shit.”

Endelle laughed. She actually liked Jeannie, but then she’d known her a goddamn long time. “Later.”

“Good hunting, Madame Supreme High Administrator.”

Endelle touched the phone then replaced it in the pocket of her meditation gown.

She was ready to continue on, to keep searching the world over for the silver tendrils of light, for the whisper of breathing that meant she was closing in on Greaves’s ass, but at that moment Thorne cut in. He was her second-in-command and shared a telepathic link with her, the only vampire on Second Earth to do so.

Come home now, his gravel voice rippled through her head.

She cursed the disruption. Once begun, she didn’t like to be distracted from her darkening duties. However, Thorne never intruded unless there was some kind of fucking crisis at home. So, yeah … shit.

She pulled away from India and began the long slide through the darkening all the way back to her meditation chamber. Once she arrived, she relaxed her mind, letting it pull down deep until all she saw was a well of darkness. Step by step she moved out of nether-space and back into her primary self. She took deep breaths.

After a minute, she opened her eyes. Despite the desperate nature of Thorne’s call, she smiled. For just this moment, during this small speck of time she had to herself, she looked up at the ceiling of her private retreat deep within her palace on the side of the McDowell Mountains. She was safe here. Even when Greaves and his death vampires had attacked four months ago, they had been unable to penetrate the layers of shields that kept her in complete safety in her womb-like meditation space.

Two dozen four-inch candles, all in white, sat at precise intervals on matching shelves all around the room. The shelves were set four feet above the floor and lit the small rotunda in a warm glow. Burgundy velvet drapes hung at intervals between the shelves, ceiling-to-floor, for no other purpose than to soften and color her space.

The meditations that kept her moving at light speed through nether-space always left her logy for a minute or two afterward, her mind too loose to function at top level. But Thorne needed her and she needed to get her ass moving.

She slid her legs over the side of the chaise longue. She leaned forward and took deep breaths. Dammit, she was too dizzy to move. She’d have to wait a few minutes. She had a lot of power, but even she had limits.

* * *

Thorne stood in Luken’s treatment room at the emergency clinic shaking his head back and forth. Havily was next to him but neither of them spoke, which was a good thing. As the leader of the Warriors of the Blood, the man in charge, the man who was supposed to have all the answers, he was shocked and having trouble concentrating. He’d been Endelle’s second-in-command for too many centuries to count. To say he was feeling it was to say red was red. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept two hours straight and right now he wanted his Ketel One neat and to-the-fucking-rim.

Jesus H. Christ.

What a big fucking nightmare. Incendiary bombs? At the Superstition Borderland? On Mortal Earth?

How was he supposed to deal with that? And he really didn’t want to think about what would have happened if Havily hadn’t called Central to warn him about Luken, which begged another big fucking mysterious question.

“I just don’t understand, Hav,” he said. “How did you know he’d been hurt?”

Luken was suspended in the air, facedown, in a contraption that looked like it had come from a circus. There was rhyme to the reason, however. The healers surrounded his back and were working on his wing-locks. Christ, what a mess.

Havily pressed her fingers to her lips, and her lovely light green eyes flooded with tears. She stared at the hospital bed across the room. “I guess I had some kind of vision.” Her voice trembled, new leaves shaking in a breeze. “I somehow found myself sitting in the desert looking up at him. I saw flames in the dark night sky and his wings on fire.” She rasped a breath. “Oh, God.”

Thorne put his arm around her and pulled her hard against him. She looked so vulnerable in her yellow T-shirt and rumpled red hair. Her jeans were dirty from having sat on the ground beside Luken. She was young by Second Earth standards, only a hundred years old. She certainly wasn’t used to seeing the violence he and his brother warriors saw every night of their fucking lives. He felt her relax against him and gave her shoulder a squeeze.

She had a right to be upset. Luken was the largest of the Warriors of the Blood, wearing muscle like a breeding bull. If Luken could get hurt, then they all could. The symbolism sliced deep.

Jesus. An incendiary bomb on Second Earth.

And Luken’s wings were gone. In addition, there was a lingering smell of burned feathers in the air.

Thank the Creator he was still unconscious as Horace and his team worked over every part of his skin. He looked better but it would be a few days before he recovered. The real question surfaced—would his wings renew or would scar tissue form over the apertures and make it impossible for him to fly again?

Such accidents were known to happen, especially among the flight-performance artists who worked the spectacle circuits. Disability insurance for these entities, which made liberal use of extensive and exotic fireworks displays, was exorbitant, like medical malpractice insurance on Mortal Earth.

Thorne shuddered, and Havily looked up at him. “Are you okay, Warrior Thorne? This has to be hard on you as well.”

He nodded, but damn his throat was tight. Havily shifted slightly and slipped her arm around his waist. In the past few months, ever since Warrior Marcus had blasted through their warrior world for his three days of service, Havily had drawn closer to all the Warriors of the Blood. She’d always been a favorite, but the events surrounding Alison Wells’s ascension, in which Havily had served as the woman’s Liaison Officer, had brought the ascender closer to them all. Lately, she’d been performing a wonderful kindness for them. At dawn, at the end of the warriors’ shifts, she’d meet with them at the Cave, the warriors’ private rec room.

She brought hot Starbucks and a couple of dozen maple scones and buttermilk doughnuts, which got devoured within minutes. But it was her presence that eased them all, her earnest expressions, her desire to help, and the knowledge that for the past several months she had made some really useful changes at Endelle’s administrative headquarters. Her enthusiasm and her service helped all of them, dammit. And tonight she’d just saved Luken’s life.

Yeah, his eyes burned and then some.

“Will he be all right?” she asked. She had a lovely voice, light, melodic, except when she got particularly adamant on a point. Then the tone evened out to something approaching strident—a necessary effect since she worked every day within twenty yards of Endelle.

“Of course he’ll be all right,” Thorne said, wondering if she could gauge the lack of truth in his voice.

“What about his wings?” she asked, her voice little more than a whisper.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

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