Burning Skies Page 71

So she slept, then slept some more.

When she finally knew she wouldn’t be going back to sleep, that she was up for the day, Marcus had kissed her once and promised her a meal. If she understood correctly, he was doing the cooking himself. She wasn’t sure what to think about that.

She smiled at the thought that Marcus, Warrior Marcus, head of a multibillion-dollar Mortal Earth financial empire and former Warrior of the Blood, was preparing dinner for her, Havily Morgan. Who was she—an occasional Liaison Officer, a current executive in Endelle’s administration, a vampire whose blood had some of the qualities of dying blood, and an ascender with the ability to split-self and move a second corporeal self into the darkening.

She was calmer now. Sleep had helped, and the heavy sedative had finally left her system. Her mind had therefore started making sense of all that had happened.

She could feel that she had changed but she couldn’t seem to define the next step in her life. Something needed to be different, but what?

Some part of her, an old useless part of her, had died in Crace’s forge.

She was made new, but in what way and which direction should she go now?

She had never expected to see Marcus again. She had been so sure he had perished that none of her new thoughts had included him and yet her life, in some bizarre, breh-hedden, elemental way, belonged to Marcus.

But to continue as they had been seemed impossible.

Tears dampened her hair and trickled into her ears. She didn’t even know why she was crying.

The door opened and Marcus appeared with a tray in hand. Her eye was drawn to a really tall red rose standing in a short bud vase. The flower flopped around as he moved. The whole thing looked ready to fall over.

She smiled and her heart swelled.

Then love swallowed her whole. She couldn’t speak as she looked at him. Mostly she was afraid she was glowing with the sensations passing through her, over her, around her. She loved him. Oh, my God, how she loved him.

Then she understood what had changed, what had transformed within her … her ability to love had just expanded to embrace the entire universe. She no longer feared losing Marcus. She had already lost him. But that wasn’t even the point. Life required this kind of love, from the heart, from the soul, from every molecule of the body, fully present, 100 percent engaged, willing to risk, even if that love would never be returned.

“Are you all right?” he asked, rounding the bed. “Your skin looks flushed. Do you have a fever?” Fevers were rare in ascended life so he looked astonished as he asked the question.

She pushed herself up to a sitting position and shoved a pillow behind her back. “I’m fine,” she said, the words a miracle of understatement. Yet she had no other words to speak, even though her heart felt full to overflowing.

He looked like a million bucks since he was dressed in a business suit, black wool, tailored to every muscular curve. But then no one dressed like that in June in Phoenix. Her heart sank. Where was he going? Was it possible he was leaving Second Earth?

She sighed as he settled the tray over her lap. Funny little odors reached her nose and she worked not to grimace. The toast was badly burned on one side and the coffee—grainy looking—had sloshed onto the saucer. The eggs had brown streaks. “This looks wonderful,” she said, her gaze again skating over the suit. She knew he preferred Tom Ford and she could see why. But … where was he going, when, and why? Her heart ached.

He glanced down at the tray and grimaced. “I made everything myself and for that I apologize.”

She looked up at him. She reached for his hand. “Thank you, but you’ll stay, won’t you, right now, and talk to me?”

“Actually, I have to leave.”

So, there it was. Havily’s heart constricted and she only barely restrained a gasp. “So soon?” Over before it had really begun?

He dropped to his knees beside the bed and took her hand. “I should be back within a day or two. Don’t worry.”

Why did two days suddenly seem like the razor edge of eternity? She nodded.

He pushed his longish hair away from his face. “I have business to take care of on Mortal Earth. My CEO has been blasting me with urgent texts. Decisions have to be made. A lot of decisions.”

She nodded. “Absolutely.” Decisions had to be made.

Choices. More of them. Big choices.

She piled some egg on the toast and crunched a bite. She took a sip of gritty lukewarm coffee to wash it down. She smiled. It was the best dinner-breakfast she’d ever eaten.

“Havily, I’m coming back,” he said. “Permanently. I need you to know that.”

Tears rushed to her eyes. She crunched another bite and nodded over her breakfast. “Uh-huh,” she said, blowing bits of dry crust out of her mouth. She sipped more coffee. She chewed and swallowed. Okay, a little more coffee.

She looked at him again. He was frowning at the breakfast. “I can’t cook worth shit. You should know that about me.”

“I do all right but I’m very fond of restaurants.”

At that he looked at her and smiled. He took her hand, drew the fork from her grip, then kissed her fingers. “I have many things I want to say to you, but not today, not like this, and certainly not over burned toast.”

“You should go,” she said. She drank more coffee until the crumbs got swept down her throat.

He touched a tear that rolled down her cheek. He nodded then leaned close and kissed her on the mouth. He kissed her for a very long time, not penetrating, just his lips to her lips. She felt his promise in that kiss, everything that he was, and her heart swelled all over again.

She breathed his fennel scent and savored. Part of her feared that this would be the last time she ever saw him, but the new part, the part that seemed to understand, let it all go, every damn expectation that life would turn out the way she wanted.

So, yeah, she let him go.

He drew back and stood up. “I’ve asked Alison to check in on you. She also said to call her day or night if you needed her. Parisa’s also staying in the villa until Endelle figures out what to do with her. Medichi will be checking on you as well.

“Parisa hasn’t said anything, but I think she’s hoping for another flying lesson.” His expression softened. “You’ll call Alison if you need her, right? Because I’m not happy about leaving you like this.”

“I’ll be fine. You need to go so you should go.”

He leaned down and kissed her once more. He held her gaze for a good long moment. Then he rose back up to his considerable height. He smiled, lifted his arm, and he was gone.

She brushed another tear away then looked at the meal, at the cold brown eggs and black toast. She chuckled. Well, protein was protein and whatever else this experience had been, she needed to eat. Besides, eggs had iron and she still felt weak, dizzy. That bastard had taken a lot of her blood.

* * *

Marcus folded to his home on Bainbridge Island. The house seemed dark. Of course. Phoenix had brighter sunlight and lots of it. Although June in the Seattle area was a beautiful month, still, he missed all that light.

He walked through the rooms. He wanted Havily here, if he could make it safe enough for her. Yeah, he wanted her here. He’d talk to Endelle and see if she’d lend him one of her mist domes for at least one night. But would Havily come with him? He was pretty sure she would, but shit, anything could happen and he didn’t know if her low opinion of him had altered sufficiently yet, or if she could ever really trust him.

To that end, he’d come back to Mortal Earth. If Havily was going to go the distance with him, then he had some proving to do.

He went to the safe in his library and spun the combination until the right tumblers fell into place. He opened the door. He’d had the safe for fifty years. They were old friends.

He pulled out the folder containing the transfer documents, everything Ennis would need to take over Sumer Enterprises. Funny. He’d had these documents drawn up about three and a half months ago, as though he’d known even then that the moment he’d caught Havily’s scent his life had changed, permanently.

He closed the safe and spun the dial.

He had jewels in the safe, beautiful necklaces and bracelets he’d bought for the future women he’d screw. He wouldn’t think of offering even one of them to Havily. At some point, he’d donate them to a charity auction, raise money for a good cause.

For Havily, he had something very different in mind.

He gave Ennis a call and arranged to meet him in Seattle.

An hour later, he said hi to Jane then walked into his office.

Ennis sat in the big executive chair behind the enormous glass desk. His legs were crossed at the knees, his elbows planted on the arms of the chair, and his fingers steepled over his lap. He swiveled lazily back and forth. He smirked and wore a crooked smile that reached to his eyes. Ennis always laughed with his eyes.

“Bastard,” Marcus said, also smiling.

“Well, have you got something for me to sign, or what?”

Marcus threw the documents on the four-inch-thick glass. “You sure you want this?”

“Hell, yeah. I have for the last century or didn’t you notice?”

“I noticed.”

Ennis spread the documents out and started to sign. He didn’t pause. He didn’t even read.

“You’re not going over these with the usual magnifying glass?”

At that, his pen froze and he looked up at his new business partner. “Marcus, of all the vampires I’ve known in the last five hundred years, I know your fucked-up soul the best. So the day I need to read your agreements, when we’ve already discussed the details, is the day I drink dying blood. Got it?”

Marcus smiled then grinned. “Sumer is yours. I’ll see you in six months.”

It wasn’t a sale, just a shift in responsibility and an increased percentage of profit. Marcus would see enough wealth from the empire he’d built to last him a few millennia. He’d check in every six months just to see if Ennis needed him for any reason. But knowing Ennis, they’d share a drink, play a game of who-has-the-bigger-dick, then he’d head back to Second Earth.

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