Burning Skies Page 63

The word, so nearly spoken within her thoughts, had him drawing back and looking at her. His light brown eyes in the dim light of the room questioned what she meant to say, but she couldn’t continue because she didn’t know what the unspoken word meant.

She closed off the thoughts and he nodded as if he understood. He withdrew from her mind, which left a rubbery boomerang sensation within her head. Oh, she was alone again. Marcus eased out of her and his fluids rushed from her body. She caught them with a hastily folded wad of tissues. She looked down at her legs and noticed that she still had her heels and black thigh-high stockings on. She giggled then laughed. Well, he’d folded off most of her clothes.

She met Marcus’s gaze and a smile lit his eyes. “What can I say?” he said. “I have a thing for a woman in heels. Come on.” He picked her up. “Let’s get you to bed. You’ve had one helluva night.”

As he reached the door, with the music still playing, he turned and the music ended abruptly. He must have used his mind to shut the system down.

Havily leaned her head against his shoulder, the tissues still pressed between her legs. Everything about lovemaking was so wickedly personal, something that viewed from the outside must seem absurd, animalistic, without meaning, and yes, messy, but she loved it. She’d loved it with her husband, with Eric, and now with Marcus.

Yes, with Marcus.

The center of her chest lit with a warm glow, the heat spreading to envelop her heart.

This was love.

She didn’t want to admit it, but, yes, this was love.

Sweet love.

Sweet Love.

Could she do this? Could she be with Marcus? Have a relationship with him? Have a life with him?

Yes, of course she could. She’d saved Thorne’s life tonight. She could do anything.

But she sighed as anxiety rippled through her, a serpent in the garden. Who was she kidding? She had only to think about either Eric or Duncan and she lost heart. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy Marcus while their time together lasted.

“I’m going to fold us to our bedroom,” he said, “because the hell if I’m going to chance Medichi seeing you like this.”

Havily kissed his cheek as together they dematerialized.

* * *

Marcus knew a bureaucratic farce when he saw one. He’d dealt with committees on Mortal Earth like this, a growing majority of the members tied to special interests, deals done behind closed doors, alliances formed, the original purpose of the institution mired in rules and regulations, bribes and more bribes.

The greater trouble with COPASS, however, stemmed from something more insidious than just greed. According to Endelle, at least a third of the members were addicted to dying blood, having been seduced to the experience by Greaves, who provided an antidote. But then, apparently, the Commander also provided the dying blood to sustain the addiction. How many deaths were required to feed these heinous appetites?

And this committee was to decide Parisa’s fate?

Over his dead fucking body.

He glanced at Medichi. He noted the tense line of his jaw and the unblinking stare fixed on the back of Greaves’s head.

Over Medichi’s dead body as well. The warrior stood close to Parisa, almost touching her. Marcus knew exactly what that instinct felt like.

He turned and looked at Havily who was, yeah, about two inches away from him. Maybe one and a half. She wore a conservative two-piece in navy silk, the jacket shaped with attractive pleats and a slight flare at the hem. As always, dynamite.

She smiled at him and he felt that tug, that need, the draw she had on him, that made him think of the bed they shared and getting her back there. He’d awakened this morning with her on top of him and not in the darkening, just on top of him in a really basic way.

And because it was morning, he’d been ready for her. What he hadn’t expected was how she’d gone for his neck. He still ached a little from how profoundly she’d drawn from his vein. Something about that made him wonder just how far down this road she’d progressed. He’d already gone the distance. He knew what he wanted: Nothing less would suffice than to complete the breh-hedden with her. He almost talked to her about it this morning, but Parisa had called to her, distressed about the upcoming hearing.

So here they all were confronting the enemy, this time in a judicial setting. Even his former warrior brothers were in attendance, all of them in battle-scarred flight gear because, as Jean-Pierre had said, these COPASS bastards needed to remember exactly what the Warriors of the Blood did each and every fucking night. Santiago stood next to him, his expression dark and brooding. He didn’t carry his sword, but he had his jewel-encrusted dagger with him, which he flipped in his right hand over and over, also making his point.

Zacharius stood at a little distance talking quietly with … Kerrick.

Marcus watched his former brother-in-law for a long moment. Surprise. Ever since Havily had invaded Marcus’s life, his hatred for Kerrick had diminished in stages, though he wasn’t certain of the why of it. Four months ago, Medichi had told Marcus it was time to move on, to get over the rage that had forced him to leave Second Earth in the first place.

Kerrick caught his gaze, his expression somber. He knew what Kerrick wanted … forgiveness. But could Marcus do that, really go the distance? On the other hand, what kind of hypocrite did it make Marcus to be intent on keeping Havily in his life but being unwilling to forgive Kerrick for having married Helena.

Marcus looked away. The trouble was, they had something in common now. They both had brehs, women for whom they would each, without question, lay down their lives. Neither of them had asked for this to happen, but here they were, bonded to powerful women, their lives apparently changed forever. And now Medichi was headed down the same path.

The committee chamber was a long stone building, structured like an old English church, complete with fan vaulting and stained-glass windows, depicting the rule of law or a thriving society in the colored glass. Marcus thought it one big fucking sham, at least at this point in time. Maybe at the inception of the committee, things had been different, but you give one depraved man enough time, a man with all the gloss of a saint and even a bedrock of granite could be blown all to hell.

In the center of the chamber, side by side but at two separate podiums, Endelle and Greaves prepared to do verbal battle. Greaves looked his usual elegant self in fine-pressed wool. Endelle, on the other hand, wore green suede pants and some kind of white feathery halter made up of ostrich feathers, maybe. Her black hair was dressed in a tornado of curls. She looked like she’d been out clubbing all night … or turning tricks.

“Chairman Harding,” Commander Greaves began, his resonant voice as always silky smooth. With him in the gallery to his right were, again, his generals, including Leto. “With all due respect to my esteemed rival, the Supreme High Administrator had no right under existing law to offer a shield of mist to the ascendiate. Madame Endelle has violated several rules of ascension and I hereby demand the redress of unrestricted and solitary access to the ascendiate for a similar period of time.”

A general violent hiss erupted from the Warriors of the Blood, not unexpected. Parisa would be dead within minutes of being locked up in Greaves’s world.

Endelle had no problem chiming in. “With all due respect to my most revered rival—” Here she turned toward Greaves slightly and flipped him off out of the view of the committee members. “—Commander Greaves had two of his most powerful warriors breaching the ascendiate’s home on Mortal Earth before she had even answered her call to ascension.”

“Not true,” the Commander responded in his even tone.

The committee comprised ninety-eight members and one chairperson, the chair to serve as a tiebreaker. A simple majority was needed for any resolution to pass. The members sat facing one another, and the chairman sat at the head of the room on a throne-like chair. Harding wore white robes as though he were a god. Fucking hypocrite. Was there a soul in this exalted building who didn’t know he belonged to Greaves?

Harding spoke now. “The matter before us is not simplistic in nature, but I think everyone can agree that the most basic purpose of the committee is to establish order between the opposing sides of our society. That order must be upheld. I think we can also agree that given Madame Endelle’s breach of our established ascension rules, Commander Greaves has a right to exclusive time with the ascendiate.”

The warriors booed him one and all.

“It’s a death sentence,” Santiago cried out. “And you know it.”

Harding slammed an old-fashioned gavel down hard on a block of wood. “I will have order from the galleries or we will make this a closed hearing. Do we understand each other, Warrior Santiago?”

Endelle turned around and gave Santiago the look, as in he’d better shut it or she’d have him by the short hairs.

What Marcus didn’t know was how the hell this was going to end well for Parisa.

Alison stepped up to the podium and whispered something in Endelle’s ear. Endelle nodded. Alison withdrew.

“Mr. Chairman, I believe we’ve overlooked something.”

“What would that be, Madame Endelle?” He had already motioned for Greaves’s generals to apprehend the ascendiate.

Endelle took a deep breath. “Parisa Lovejoy never formally answered her call to ascension. She was never given the opportunity. The attack on her home took place before she had the chance to reach a Borderland, and as you know answering a call to ascension must always include a demonstration of power at a Borderland.”

Pandemonium broke out as those who needed to support Greaves began shouting their objections while everyone still aligned with Endelle gave a rousing cheer.

Marcus smiled. Well, didn’t that shift things in the right direction.

“I hereby suggest,” Endelle called out in a loud voice, settling the committee members down, “that Greaves’s claims on her are not valid and I have been acting as I would toward any guest on Second Earth—I have been assuring her safety since she was attacked not only at her home on Mortal Earth but at Warrior Medichi’s villa as well. Unless of course Commander Greaves has evidence to the contrary.”

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