Burning Skies Page 72

“Where do you go from here?” Ennis asked. “You going to marry her?”

“Oh, I think I can do better than marriage.”

Ennis raised his brows, but Marcus knew there was nothing more to be said.

“You’ll need to tweak Jane’s memory of this visit,” he said, as he lifted his arm and dematerialized.

For himself, next stop, Vancouver Island.

* * *

The next day Havily stood in front of Endelle’s desk, and for the first time in her ascended vampire life, from the time she had first met Her Supremeness, she didn’t fear the woman. She was, however, uneasy, as though something wasn’t quite right, but she couldn’t place it.

For one thing, for Havily, everything had changed.

“You still dizzy?”

Havily shook her head. “No, not at all.”

Endelle glanced behind her. “Where the fuck is Marcus?”

“Not sure. He left yesterday.”

“What?” Endelle was on her feet, her eyes blazing as she planted her fists on the marble-topped desk in front of her. She leaned toward her. “So he returned to Mortal Earth? Are you telling me you couldn’t keep your goddamn man? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Havily smiled then laughed. “You know, you have about as much charm as a water moccasin.”

Endelle drew back, left the power position of her desk, and moved to the windows to pace. She wore a yellow mini skirt and halter of what looked like banana python skin. Havily shuddered.

In some ways she was like Endelle, but in others, especially when it came to fashion choices, they went their separate ways. Havily glanced down at her own zebra-striped shoes and white linen pants. She wore a black silk blouse smocked at the hips. Yep, totally separate ways.

After a long tense moment, Endelle said, “We need Marcus here.”

“I know that. But more important, he knows that.”

“Then why the hell did you let him go? He smells you, for fuck’s sake.”

“Yeah, he does.”

Endelle glared at her over her shoulder. “And would you stop with all this Zen-like bullshit that you’re at peace with the fucking world? It’s giving me the scratch.”

“I am at peace, for the moment, anyway. If it’s any help, he said he was coming back … permanently.”

At that, Endelle turned to face her. She scowled. “Why the hell didn’t you just say so? Aw, who the fuck cares. Marcus is coming back!” She clapped her hands together. “I’ll have eight Warriors of the Blood in the field. Now maybe we can get something done.” She glanced at Havily’s heels. “I like your shoes, by the way.”

Havily would have smiled since she stood next to one of the zebra-skin throw rugs that littered Endelle’s office floor, but the uneasiness she had felt earlier descended on her and now she knew why.

She took a deep breath. Endelle was really not going to like what she had to say next. “I don’t think Marcus should go back in the field, and I think it would be a huge mistake on your part if you forced the issue.”

Well … she might as well have detonated an atomic bomb.

If Havily had ever thought that Endelle raged before, she now witnessed some of the farthest reaches of the woman’s fierce temper.

Endelle moved around Havily like a tornado, pacing, fuming, screaming at her as though she’d just told her she had decided to defect to Greaves’s forces.

“We need him in the field and if you think just because you’re his goddamn fucking breh, you have the right to come in here and tell me how things are going to be, and if you think Warrior Marcus, yeah goddamn fucking Warrior Marcus, will be content not to go out every night and battle, then you are just plain out of your ever-loving fucking mind.” The woman’s eyes bulged.

Despite the tempest, Havily still wasn’t afraid. Maybe because she knew, she knew, in this one thing, she was right. “That’s just it, Madame Endelle. If you order Marcus to go, he’ll go.”

“Then what the fuck are you saying to me? Never mind. Marcus is rejoining the Warriors of the Blood and that’s final. We’re at war, Morgan, and we need him. EOS, goddammit.”

Havily felt so certain about what she needed to say that she didn’t even flinch as she straightened her shoulders and said, “Madame Endelle, you suck as an administrator.”

Well … Havily had been wrong. Now she’d detonated the atomic bomb.

Endelle moved with preternatural speed and built resonance upon resonance into her voice as she screamed.

Havily stood in the middle of the rising energy and simply strengthened her shields, the same shields that kept her from splitting-self. For a moment she did consider just slipping into the darkening until the rage-fest was over, but there was a good chance Endelle would follow her in.

So, she waited.

When at last Endelle stood panting an inch away from her face, Havily smiled. “Can I finish?”

Both of Endelle’s hands formed wicked cat’s claws, but she clenched her teeth and muttered, “Fine, but this had better be good.”

“As I was saying, you suck as an administrator. Will you at least admit that much … to me?”

“What the fuck is your point, Morgan? You know, you’ve always pissed the hell out of me.”

“I used to think it was because I disappointed you. Now I know differently. We’re similar in temperament. I learned that the day you tried to teach me how to split-self. I’ve never used profanity like that in my entire life.”

Endelle rolled her eyes. “This is the most useless conversation I’ve ever had.” She turned away and huffed a sigh. “We need Marcus in the field. An idiot could see that.”

Havily thought about how to explain her position. Finally, she said, “Do you know what it is Marcus does on Mortal Earth?”

“He has a successful import business.”

“Not exactly.”

“So exactly what does he do? Enlighten me.” Ooooh. Sarcasm.

“He runs an empire. He has nineteen or maybe twenty corporations that he manages personally, as in he heads the boards and generally directs operations. I’d say he functions at genius level, probably in part because he’s ascended. Does this give you any ideas?”

“You know damn well I don’t do cryptic.”

“You want me to spell it out?”


So Havily did. “You need to turn your administration over to Marcus.”

Endelle stared at her for a long time and for the longest time she didn’t even blink. After maybe three minutes, she moved behind her desk and sat down in her chair. Slumped, more like it, and Endelle never slumped.

Her head fell to the marble desk with a loud crack.

Havily moved closer to the desk. “You know, if you did this, you might even be able to get some sleep once in a while.”

Endelle, with her chin still fixed to the desk, looked up at her. Her ancient lined eyes looked so sad. “Sleep? What would that be like?”

Havily nodded. “Exactly.”

* * *

Marcus had all the legalities taken care of, and after three long days of working his way through the bureaucracies of two different dimensions, he finally changed into his business casual of short-sleeved silk shirt, medium gray this time, and tailored slacks. He folded back to Second Earth, not to Medichi’s villa, but to Kerrick’s mansion in Scottsdale Two.

His business with Havily wasn’t the only thing he needed settled.

If he was coming back, he had hatchets that needed burying.

He stood on the porch, his heart weighed down with guilt and remembered loss. He strove to shape the right words together to form an apology but God, how small that word sounded, not nearly large enough to encompass what he needed to say to Kerrick.

For a long time, he couldn’t bring himself to give the old-fashioned rapper a solid strike. So he waited as he rehearsed his speech. He would tell Kerrick of the suffering that had led him to speak so many unspeakable things to him two hundred years ago, he would talk about his love for Helena and the children, how his heart hadn’t been so much crushed as vaporized by their deaths, he would try to offer some form of apology. At least that was his intention, but his mind was mush.

Fuck. He didn’t know what he was going to say.

Finally, he just pounded on the door and closed his eyes. He ushered up a swift prayer to the Creator for wisdom and the right words. God help him.

But when Kerrick opened the door, wearing jeans and a damp T-shirt, his wet warrior hair hanging past his shoulders, his head shrouded in white terry cloth, words failed Marcus.

In a flash, the kind rumored to occur at the point of death, images flew through his mind, of meeting Kerrick some twelve hundred years ago when Kerrick was inducted into the Warriors of the Blood, of battling death vampires side by side with the brother, of a thousand conversations on every possible subject, of Kerrick having his back at the Blood and Bite and the other way around, of having stood up for him at his marriage to Helena, of having loved Kerrick like a brother, of having trusted him implicitly.

For all those reasons, yeah, words failed.

But his emotions didn’t. His goddamn eyes burned as he just stared at the man. He felt as though someone had driven a stake through his heart.

Kerrick pulled the towel from his head and the terry slipped to the floor. “Marcus.” His shoulders dropped. His head wagged from side to side. “Marcus,” he said again. And finally, “My brother.”

How he ended up in a powerful embrace with Kerrick, he didn’t know, nor did a single word of apology rise to his lips. All he could think to say was, “I loved my sister.”

“I loved her, too,” came back at him.

This was what had always bound them together. Helena.

“I was too angry to think straight,” Kerrick confessed. “And just as you blamed me, I blamed myself.”

Marcus nodded. “I loved her and losing her and the kids, it was too much. The fighting, too.”

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