Burning Skies Page 75

The truth of her words was visible in every expression of clenched jaw, exasperated sigh, or flexing of sword arm at the table.

She continued, “When I spoke with Madame Endelle two days ago about Warrior Marcus’s future, when I suggested that Warrior Marcus should do anything other than serve as a Warrior of the Blood, only my mental shields kept me from being consumed by the blast of her fury.”

Luken shifted in his seat and glanced at Endelle. Thorne grunted. Kerrick nodded.

“Fuck,” Jean-Pierre murmured.

Havily continued, “So you were not alone in your initial reactions to what essentially was my proposal to Madame Endelle.

“I’d also like to say that I resented the hell out of the breh-hedden when it hit me as it did four months ago. I despised the man sitting next to me for having deserted the Warriors of the Blood two hundred years ago. For that, I considered him less than a man because … because of my love for all of you and for the terrible sacrifices you have made, especially in your personal lives.” She put a hand to her chest and took a couple of deep breaths. “But sometimes the incomprehensible decisions we make in earlier parts of our lives come forward to show us the way to the future. Marcus built an empire on Second Earth during the last two centuries and knows more about waging an administrative and propaganda war, one that involves building loyalty and service among employees, than anyone sitting at this table.”

“Except for you, Hav,” Zacharius called out. “Look at what you’ve accomplished in the last four months. Look at the success of the Ambassadors Festival. You could serve as High Administrator. I’d give you my vote.”

Havily smiled. “Thank you, Zach, that means a lot to me. However—” She paused and met Endelle’s gaze. Once more Her Supremeness surprised her with an ancient, knowing look of sympathy and support.

Havily continued, “Actually, I’ll be taking up a new position soon, a very different kind of work.” Oh, God. The words she was about to speak had weight, heavy, burdensome, shoulder-sagging weight. She felt her future blast in her direction so powerfully that she staggered a little on her feet. Tears flashed to her eyes and for a moment she could only swallow hard, her gaze fixed to the table.

When at last she composed herself, she said, “I’ve agreed to become apprenticed to Madame Endelle in darkening work, to assist her nightly efforts as best I can in order to prevent Commander Greaves from overloading the Valley with death vampires.”

Once again, momentous silence captured the room.

“Darkening work,” Santiago whispered, penetrating the awful quiet. He flipped his dagger in his hand.

“Holy fuck,” Kerrick murmured.

Luken shook his head back and forth. “Havily, this is some crazy-ass shit.”

Havily suddenly felt uncomfortable. “I have a lot to learn, of course,” came out in a rush. “But I’ve told you this by way of answering Zach’s question. I have other duties now. As for Warrior Marcus, what I wanted to say is that we need someone to begin waging war as Greaves has been waging war, attacking his efforts where the High Administrators are concerned as well as the ongoing propaganda war. For all these reasons, I asked Madame Endelle to consider the possibility that Marcus would be of greater value and use to the war effort in an administrative position rather than in the field.”

She looked down at Marcus. “I believe with all my heart, knowing you as well as I do, that Second Earth needs you to serve in this capacity. But the decision must be yours and”—here she met the gaze of each of the warriors one by one—“the decision of the warriors as well.”

Lastly, she met Endelle’s gaze. There was approval in the Amazon’s eyes. Havily gave a curt nod then sat down.

Endelle rose to her feet. “I agree with everything Havily has just said. Most particularly, that the Warriors of the Blood must have a say. This should be a joint decision and Marcus, I say this to you most of all, whatever you decide will be perfectly acceptable to me as I know it will be to Havily.” Endelle glanced at her once more. “And as much as I’ve given you shit, I admire you, Morgan. You’ve got balls, that’s for sure. And I know that if Marcus decides he must fight, you won’t stop him.”

“No, of course not. Never.” A murmur of approval went around the table.

When Endelle sat down, Thorne stood up and addressed his men, his gravel voice restating both cases, the need for another warrior and yet the critical need for someone with executive ability to combat all the other fronts on which Greaves operated, all those ways he was currently winning his bid for world domination.

The discussion lasted a good long hour as Marcus answered numerous questions about his financial empire, how he’d built it, his basic philosophies, and if he felt he could make a significant contribution as a High Administrator. The second hour involved even more discussion about just what kinds of measures Marcus would take if he were to become a High Administrator.

When the subject wore itself out, when there were no more comments to be made, pro or con, Medichi served up a massive strawberry cake as well as glasses of Dom Perignon.

When the last of the cake had been devoured and the last drop of champagne swallowed, Endelle rose to her feet once more. “Well, boys, I have darkening work to get to. As for you, Marcus, don’t wear your woman out tonight. Come to my offices tomorrow about nine. Thorne, you as well. We’ll discuss this situation further. Agreed?”

Both men nodded.

She wasn’t an easy woman, Madame Supreme High Administrator, but she was the right woman to command the Warriors of the Blood. She lifted a hand, flipped them all off, then dematerialized. Laughter and a shaking of heads traveled around the table.

Thorne called the meeting and birthday celebration to a conclusion by saying, “Well, men, we have some blue skin to off. Everyone to the Blood and Bite … at will.”

One by one, the warriors came to Marcus and clapped him on the shoulder, or grabbed his palm, afterward folding away.

Luken was next to last and shoved Marcus’s palm away in order to torment him by grabbing Havily up in a hug. Havily laughed. She held on to Luken a little longer than she normally would have. She felt sad suddenly, knowing how Luken felt. The warrior was so deserving.

He let her go first, met her gaze for a long meaningful moment, then lifted his arm. He offered a wink as he disappeared. She had the strangest thought that she would miss him, really miss him, and not just because she was now with Marcus or because a lot of her time would be spent with Endelle in the darkening. The future blew over her, chilling her. She shivered, but then a moment later, the sensation disappeared.

Okay, that was weird.

Marcus leaned close. “You okay?”

She nodded and smiled. She gave herself a shake. “I’m fine. Really.”


Kerrick approached last, with Alison on his arm. The two men just stared at each other for a long hard moment. Simultaneously, as Marcus raised his hand, Kerrick’s palm slapped hard against his, then he drew him in for a tight man-hug. “Welcome home, my brother.”

Marcus nodded as though everything had already been settled between them, but when and how?

Alison met Havily’s gaze, and her eyes were misty as she smiled. “Marcus stopped by earlier,” she explained.

“Oh,” Havily whispered. She glanced at Marcus and couldn’t help the tears that filled her eyes as well.

Kerrick released Marcus. “Come over in a week or so, to the house. There’s something I’d like to show you.” He shifted his gaze to Havily. “We’d love it if you both came.”

The time and date were set. Alison settled her head on Kerrick’s shoulder and, as he slung an arm around his breh, the pair vanished.

Only Parisa and Medichi remained. They stood at opposite corners of the table not looking at each other. Parisa stared at the table and ran her finger around the rim of her champagne glass. Medichi had his back to her, looking out the window to the front yard, his expression resolute.

Marcus slid an arm around Havily’s waist. In a quiet voice, he asked, “Will you come with me to Bainbridge? I asked Madame Endelle to prep the house for us.”

Havily met his gaze. He seemed … strained, even uneasy. “Prepped?” she asked.


“Oh.” She tilted her head and leaned close. She whispered, “That’s where we…”

His smile was crooked as he nodded. “Yeah. For four months.”

Her cheeks warmed up.

“There’s something I need to say to you, Havily, and I want to say it there, where so much of this, between us, began. Will you come with me?”

There was no question in her mind. “Of course.”

He nodded, and his smiled broadened. “Good.” He turned to Medichi and asked, “You okay with us taking off tonight?”

The tall warrior turned to look at him. His eyes had a haunted look, which sliced to Parisa then back. “Go,” he said. “I’ve got things here.”

Parisa stepped forward, her hips hitting the table. “When will you come back?” she asked quickly.

Havily glanced at Marcus, but she made the decision by herself. She could see the panic rising in Parisa’s eyes. “I’ll be here by eight in the morning. Would you like to come to the office with me? We have a library on the second floor of the admin building you might be interested in seeing.”

Parisa smiled, but her lips trembled. “That would be great. Yes. Yes. I would like that.”

Havily knew exactly what she was feeling right now because she’d been in that place four months ago, overwhelmed with all these new, improbable sensations and yearnings. All of it made worse, of course, because Parisa had arrived on Second Earth only a handful of days ago, so, yeah, the breh-hedden was taking one heavy toll.

Parisa then turned to Medichi and, with her shoulders squared and her chin up, she said, “If it would be all right with you, I’d like to study in your library again.”

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