Burning Skies Page 69

The truly horrifying thought shot through her mind. Indefinitely. If Crace cared for her body well enough, she could serve as a supplier of her unique blood without end. She could even become the source of experiments if he wanted to go that direction. And why wouldn’t he? He was a death vampire. He had no conscience.

She remained very still.

She tried to recall how many times she had awakened and what happened each time. Oh, that’s right. Crace would walk over to a machine on her right, punch a button, and tell her nighty-night. Within seconds she’d black out.

That’s what she was struggling to remember, not to appear to wake up. She could do that.

She kept her breaths slow and even. Slow and even.

She set what was left of her mind to figuring out how to get herself out of this mess.

From what she had seen, she was in some kind of underground cavern, an enormous space probably blasted out of rock.

She stilled her mind and relaxed. Her body ached fiercely but she had to keep from moaning. If she moaned, more drugs.

Her mind drifted back to Crace’s appearance and the bomb.

Her thoughts became fixed on Marcus.

He couldn’t have survived that blast. He had turned to run but the bomb had gone off at the same moment that Crace folded her here to this place.

She took a breath. She had to face something here, something horrible—Marcus had probably died in the explosion. But he had run away from all those people, toward the lake. Her man, her warrior had died saving a host of ascenders.

The awareness that she had undoubtedly lost him sank in deep, taking her mind first, then dipping low to clutch her heart. Only with great effort did she keep from howling like a wounded animal. Tears dripped from her closed eyes. She only hoped Crace didn’t notice.

Marcus. Gone.

The words didn’t mesh in her mind. She rejected them even if they were probably true. Searing heartache rolled through her. Combined with the drugs in her system and the ache in her body, she must have passed out again.

When she came to, her thoughts immediately returned to Marcus. Again, she kept her breathing slow and even, her eyes closed. She regulated her mind. She ignored the pain.

She thought back on the past several days, then the past four months.

The big questions of life came to her: Why am I here, what is my purpose, why so much suffering?

A memory surfaced of her husband. The fever had caught him hard. Their little girls were already buried in the earth and she knew she’d soon have a grave to dig herself. She had wanted to die.

But when his death approached, he had somehow found the strength to clutch her hand and to look at her. “Live, my darling. Live. Live for all of us.” The words so faint, the last he had spoken.

An hour later, he was gone.

Live, my darling.


Live for all of us.

The words echoed through her head, fierce and strong as though something of his wonderful spirit remained within her.

That was a hundred years ago and a million tears later.

She thought of Eric. She had been willing to risk her heart with him, to try to live again, but Eric had died and with his death something in her had died as well, some willingness to press on. Yes, she worked … she worked hard. Yes, she was committed to making a difference in Endelle’s administration and in the war. But she had not been committed to life, to living. That was what Marcus had been trying to tell her, the reason he believed she couldn’t easily do a split-self. The only time she’d succeeded was when he’d held her in thrall and she’d been able to let go.

And now Marcus was dead.

Grief threatened her once more but this time she refused to let it come. It seemed to her that in this dark place, where she was imprisoned deep in the bowels of the earth, where the heat kept her sweating and she was chained to a wall, where she would no doubt be bled frequently for the properties of her blood, she had a choice to make here and now. Would she live or would she disappear behind the safety of her walls, of her half-lived life?

Live, my darling, live.

Sometimes choices came at the oddest times and the most impractical.

While chained to a wall, for the first time in a hundred years, she chose to live, to really live.

And in that choice came a powerful determination to somehow find her way out of this mess, this evil imprisonment. That no one had come before, not Endelle or any of the Warriors of the Blood, told her that Crace’s forge was shielded. If she wanted out, she’d have to be the one to get herself out.

Her mind, as weak as it was, flashed over one truth. If she could split into two selves, both parts corporeal, she could find Endelle in the darkening. If she found Endelle, they could work together to figure this out, how to bypass the shields, everything. But it was up to her.

* * *

Marcus was going out of his mind.

He had recovered fully. Three hours had passed from the time Horace had declared him healed. Three hours and they still hadn’t located Havily. He was pissed as hell! He’d eaten a whole cheese pizza and drunk a quart of fucking Gatorade, but Endelle, even with Parisa’s help, had been unable to get to Havily.

He moved restlessly, pacing the ground, his hand at his side as though clutching the hilt of a sword. The blast had destroyed his battle gear but he had backups, plenty of backups, and wore one now.

He was still surrounded by his warrior brothers, each armed with sword and dagger and patrolling the perimeter. Endelle was nearby, in a meditative state and hunting through the darkening, but his nerves were raw. She was convinced that all of Greaves’s underground military sites were cloaked with heavy shields so that even though Parisa sent a continuous stream of Havily’s location, Endelle still couldn’t get to her, still couldn’t find her.

At least Parisa kept letting him know that Havily was still alive.

Small fucking comfort.

At one point, Marcus had insisted that Parisa show him the voyeuristic vision, thinking perhaps his more profound connection to Havily would allow him to see her, then fold to her position. The sight of her had almost brought him to his knees. She was shackled to the wall just as Parisa had described, pale and unconscious. But as hard as he tried, as determined as he was, he found it impossible to fold to her.

So he relied on Endelle, and her haphazard hunt through the darkening. She was confident that once she found Havily by this means, she could bypass whatever shields were blocking the location and if nothing else pull Havily out of danger and into the darkening. She could keep Havily in the darkening indefinitely, but there was one problem: An individual had to exit the darkening at the point of entrance, which meant Havily would have to return to her place of incarceration before she could leave it.

The hope was that once Endelle found Havily in the darkening, she could bring Marcus in as well. In turn, Marcus could create a telepathic link with Havily and fold directly to her position in Crace’s forge. At least, that was the current plan.

Of course, if Havily hadn’t been drugged out of her mind she could have taken herself into the darkening, something Crace apparently knew, hence the drugs. Parisa had told him that more than once in the past three hours, anytime Havily appeared to be waking up, Crace would cross to her and push a button on the hospital equipment hooked up to her IV.

Too many moving pieces.


“Report,” he barked, pausing in his march to stare at Parisa, who remained sitting on Medichi’s lap. She was pale and obviously frightened but she kept her voyeur’s window open and for that he was grateful.

“She’s still unconscious,” Parisa said. “She’s still sitting on the low bench. She’s breathing and Crace isn’t near her.”

“Good,” he said, but, yeah, he was going out of his mind. He started pacing again. “We have to move this along. He won’t stay away from her.”

He felt helpless. He stared at Endelle and engaged the link he had with her. Anything? he sent.

Sorry, Warrior, but the darkening has limitations. If Havily could find a way to call to me, if she could do a split-self, I think I could get to her. She’s just so out of it. But we won’t stop till we bring our girl home. I promise you that.

He sighed. I know.

And that was why he loved Endelle. Why all the warriors loved her. She was a piece of work but at her core, she was all heart.

* * *

The droplet of sweat soaked into the gauze draped over Havily’s chest. She had been sweating profusely from the time she’d realized her only way out was to do a split-self and move her second self into the darkening. That had been hours ago. Creator help her!

Let go.

She was trying … so hard.

Let go.

She heard Crace moving around. He even hummed at times and occasionally laughed.

She had worked the problem of splitting-self in many different ways: relaxing her mind, trying to remember what Endelle had taught her, what it had felt like to complete the process when Marcus had held her in thrall.

She focused on that experience once more. When he’d put her there, what had been the truest part of her condition? She’d had no will, that much was true, but there was something else.

When the light came on, a single word shot through her head.


The word hit her mind like a sudden wind shear.

She grew dizzy. She knew now exactly what needed to be done.

But a pair of heavy battle sandals appeared below her nose and a hand grabbed her hair and lifted her head up. “So you’re awake. Good. I have need of you and I’m not referring to just your blood.”

He unwrapped the waist strap that kept her tied to the wall then popped her manacles. She was so weak that she tumbled forward right off the bench. Fear rippled over her as he tore both needles from her arms. He then rolled her onto her back, her head striking the stone. She was little more than a rag doll given the drugs still in her system.

“What can I say,” he cried. “Your blood fires me.”

Havily was too weak to do more than remain inert. But she closed her eyes and as he pushed her legs apart, she dropped her mental shields 100 percent … and what do you know, she split herself and found herself lying in a similar position in the darkening. Alone. In that space, however, her mind was perfectly clear. She could feel her primary self and Crace’s muscled knees that kept shoving at her inner thighs.

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