Burning Skies Page 70

Oh, God.

She screamed Endelle’s name.

Three seconds later Endelle was right there, standing in front of her, almost blinding in the golden glow of her aura.

“Marcus,” Endelle cried. She waved a hand and there he was. Alive. Marcus was alive? He was alive!

He grabbed hold of her arms.

She had to act fast. “The manacles are off but Crace has me pinned on the floor. I’m still drugged.” How easily she could move and talk in her split-self.

He drew in a ragged breath. He put his hands on her face. “Show me.” She closed her eyes and focused. She streamed the location to him, the visceral heat of the forge, the hard stone floor, the humid air.

He kissed her. “I will be with you in seconds now.” He turned to Endelle. “Send me back to the Festival grounds. From there, I can fold to her.”

Endelle nodded and he was gone.

Endelle stared at her. “Return to your primary self. Do all that you can to stay alive, to get both of you out alive when Marcus shows up. Crace is powerful. Marcus will need you, otherwise I’d bring you back into the darkening. Do you understand?”

“Yes.” Havily closed her eyes and returned to her body.

She opened her eyes and Marcus stood god-like over Crace, a hand reaching down to grab the monster by his long hair and haul him to his feet.

* * *

Marcus didn’t have time to fold his sword to him. Instead he jerked the bastard away from Havily. Marcus pulled back his fist and struck him as hard as he could, one heavy right hook that connected with Crace’s jaw. Crace’s head snapped back. Though he stumbled, he caught himself and sent his own fist flying in Marcus’s direction.

Marcus shifted just enough so that the blow glanced off his shoulder, which took Crace and all his momentum forward a few more stumbling steps.

Marcus caught him by the arm and once more drew him upright. He slammed a fist into his ribs and heard a nice crack, but Crace only grunted a little. He had blood around his mouth. Marcus could guess the source, especially since Crace had a maniacal light in his eye and apparently was feeling no pain.

Shit. Crace had taken Havily’s blood. Shit.

* * *

Havily watched the battle. She rolled on her side and worked at dragging herself backward, toward the wall, toward the bench and the shackles, trying to get out of the way. She was so weak and had a hard time focusing.

She wanted to help but what could she do? She couldn’t even lift her arm and the effort it had taken her to do a split-self had left her even more lethargic than before.

She tracked the battle in front of her, but they were just two large shapes moving back and forth. She heard deep grunts and the sounds of fists hitting flesh.

The men landed close to her.

Crace was on top and throwing punches into Marcus’s face. She could hear them, one after the other, like wet sliding slaps without end.

She blinked. The hitting had stopped and Marcus was flat on his back, pinned down with Crace on top of him. The bastard was smiling, sweat pouring off his porcelain complexion, his muscles flexing, his fangs long and sharp.

Reality finally toughened her mind.

Marcus was going to die.

Crace slapped him across the face. Marcus’s eyes were swollen and bleeding. “Havily,” he whispered through thick bloody lips. “I’m … sorry.”

Havily knew what she had to do and she had to do it fast.

She let go once more, lowering her shields all the way. She swished into the darkening and called again for Endelle.

Endelle and her brilliant golden aura reached her within two seconds. Havily explained the situation. Endelle told her to wait. A few more seconds and Luken appeared in the darkening.

“Show me,” he cried, his blue eyes glowing.

Havily put her hands on Luken’s face and, as she had done with Marcus, streamed the location of the forge. He smiled. “I’ve got him. Don’t worry. Now get back to your primary self and let’s get you out of there.”

Havily swished back into her primary self, dizziness engulfing her mind. Crace still had Marcus pinned down, still smiling.

But a second later, behind him, Luken appeared, sword in hand. She had never seen such a beautiful sight.

This time, Havily smiled.

“Hey, asshole,” Luken called out.

Crace rose off Marcus as though he were floating. Marcus rose up as well, at least to a sitting position. He shifted toward her. “Havily,” he croaked.

But Havily couldn’t turn away from the other sight of Luken as he faced off with Crace.

Luken’s sword began to whirl almost magically. He was the biggest of the warriors and a good match for Crace. Luken’s face flamed as his sword whipped in circles. How was Luken doing that?

Crace lowered his head and shoulders. He folded a sword into his hand as well. He even laughed, but he misjudged his opponent. Luken moved with preternatural speed and the whirling sword flew in an arc and glided through Crace’s neck as though he’d been cutting through air.

Havily looked away. She didn’t need to see the rest. It was bad enough she heard the thump of Crace’s head as it struck the stone floor.

Marcus rose unsteadily to his feet in front of her. The next moment, arms embraced her and she was lifted up. She smelled fennel, wonderful, glorious fennel. “I’ve got you,” he said. He turned her toward his brother warrior. “We’ve got you.”

She felt the fold. The next moment she was back at the spectacle site. Luken appeared to the right of Marcus. She reached her hand out to him. “Thank you,” she murmured. He caught her hand. Tears tracked down his cheeks.

She heard sobbing and turned to her left. Parisa, held in Medichi’s arms, was weeping against his chest. Alison had her hand on Parisa’s head. Kerrick stood nearby, sword in hand, guarding all three of them. The rest of the Warriors of the Blood were stationed all around the perimeter, swords still in hand. Endelle steadied herself with a hand on Kerrick. Darkening work took a toll.

“There’s just one thing I want to know,” Endelle cried. “Is that bastard dead? Did you get him?” Her gaze shifted between Marcus and Luken, back and forth.

Marcus jerked his head in Luken’s direction. “He got him. Crace won’t be causing any more problems.” Marcus drew in a deep breath. “Thank you, Luken.”

“Good,” Endelle barked. She looked around. “Okay. Enough of this shit. We’re getting the hell out of here.” She lifted an arm and the next thing Havily knew, the entire group was on Medichi’s front lawn beneath the ever-present dome of mist.

Havily felt Marcus’s arms lower her to the grass, but she wasn’t certain why. Her mind swam left, then right. In some vague recess of her head, she knew she was clothed only in a thin covering of gauzy fabric but somehow she didn’t care.

Marcus knelt beside her and held her up with one arm around her shoulders. Using his free hand he felt down her arms and over her wrists. He worked down her thighs, her calves, over her feet. He put his hands on her head, her cheeks, her jaw, her neck. “You’re okay. You’re alive. You’re recovering. You’re okay. Did he—?”

Marcus had done something similar before. He’d come to her the day after Crace had attacked her in her town house and fired a bunch of questions at her, Are you all right, are you hurt, did he touch you. That moment had been the beginning for them. She had gone to him willingly, now he was here … again. And he was alive! God, how she loved him.

“I’m fine,” she murmured, her tongue dry and thick in her mouth. He took her in his arms and pulled her against him once more. He rocked her back and forth. His arms trembled.

“I thought … you were dead,” she whispered against his neck. Her arms were so weak. She wanted to put them around his neck but couldn’t make them move.

“I’m not.” He drew in a shuddering breath.

“You came for me.”

“Yes, all of us. We all came for you.”

Havily looked around, her head wagging when she didn’t want it to. They were all there, Endelle, Parisa and Alison, and the Warriors of the Blood, every last one of them. Medichi still held Parisa close. Kerrick had his arms around his breh. Luken stared at Havily with such affection yet sorrow in his eyes. The rest of the warriors remained at a distance, probably because she was almost naked, in just the strips of gauze fabric. She didn’t care about her nakedness, though, not even a little. She was just grateful, so grateful to be alive, to be unharmed.

Marcus pulled away from. “How did you do it, Havily? How did you manage a split-self?”

She smiled … crookedly … and finally managed to lift her hand enough to touch his cheek. His face was swollen, bruised, bleeding in places, but he’d never looked more handsome. “It was my shields,” she said, her tongue still way too thick and unwieldy from the drugs. She spoke slowly. “My greatest strength … was my greatest weakness. I had to let … my guard down completely … in order to find my way into the darkening.” She drew a breath. “How’s that … for irony?”

“Beautiful,” he said, one hand pressed to his chest, the other tightening around her shoulder. “I think it’s goddamn beautiful.”

Love defies our deepest fears.

—Collected Proverbs, Beatrice of Fourth

Chapter 23

Havily stared up at the ceiling in the bedroom she shared with Marcus, the coffered ceiling with the beautiful wood beams. She sighed. Three days had passed at Medichi’s villa. Between the drugs in her system and her loss of blood, she had been in a weakened state and recovery had been slow, even for a vampire.

Right now she wore one of Marcus’s soft T-shirts, something he said he only wore on Bainbridge. Nothing else would do, not even her La Perla nightgowns, not because they weren’t soft but because they didn’t carry Marcus’s fennel scent embedded in every thread.

For the first two days she had slept around the clock, waking only at intervals and crying out. But each time, Marcus pulled her close, stroked her back, and whispered his comfort to her.

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