Burning Skies Page 76

“Of course.”

Once more the tension between the ascendiate and Medichi thickened as she left the room. Medichi waited for a count of five, cursed, then followed in her wake. Havily had never seen him look more determined, nor more miserable.

“It will all work out,” Marcus said quietly as they disappeared into the adjoining sitting room.

“I know,” Havily whispered.

When their footsteps echoed across the planked floor of the foyer, Marcus squeezed her waist. “Ready?” he asked.

Havily felt the weight of the world in that one question. Was she ready?

Oh, God. Was this it? Was it possible they would decide right now to complete the breh-hedden?

She nodded, and the vibration began.

* * *

Marcus couldn’t let go of her hand. He had folded Havily to the tall glass entrance of his Bainbridge home, which faced the wooded part of the island. The hour, just half past seven so far north, in the state of Washington, meant that the sky would be held in a fading twilight for hours yet.

He glanced up through the skylight. “There,” he murmured. “Do you see it?”

Havily looked up as well and smiled. “Endelle may be a pain in the ass, but she makes the most beautiful mist.”

“Yes, she does, and you’ll be safe here, which is all I care about.”

He turned her toward him and took her in his arms. She fell against him with a whimper, her arms encircling his neck, her need apparently as great as his. He kissed her deeply, his tongue making a full sweep and tangling with hers. His chest was filled with fire.

Everything had changed. Every goddamn thing.

He had never expected to be in this place again because he could never for the life of him picture how it could work, how he could give himself to another woman and not be strangled by the fear of losing her.

Yet here he was, ready and willing, the events of the last few days having turned his soul inside out and forced him to accept one certain fact—he would rather be with Havily and risk losing her than face living his life without her. The process hadn’t been simple. Falling in love with her had been a necessary opener to the transformation of his closely held self. But he was ready now to make a commitment.

He drew back and took a deep breath. “I have something for you.”

“You do?”

He slid his arm down her back and took her hand in his once more. He led her past the open staircase and down a small set of stairs into the expansive living room. The windows offered a view of the sound and the emerging lights of Seattle across the broad stretch of water in between.

“Marcus, it’s so beautiful here,” she said, her gaze fixed toward the windows. “Only when I come back to the ocean, even to the sound, do I remember how much I loved the water, the smell of it, the humidity in the air, the solid weighty presence of it.”

“The light is different here as well.”

“Yes, but I’ve always loved this part of the world. I lived north of here, remember? I was born in Victoria.”

“I do remember. Vancouver Island.” His nerves hit him. Would she understand what he had done? Or would she think his gift invasive or insensitive?


She turned toward him. “What is it?”

“I’m not sure. I … well … here it is. If … if for some reason what I’ve done offends you, I’ll apologize right now. My motives were … well, I was thinking only of you.” He gestured to the coffee table.

She glanced down where he’d placed the long, silver-foil box, wrapped with a burgundy ribbon. She reached down and picked it up. “Should I open it?”

He nodded. “Please.” Were her hands trembling?

She pulled the ribbon apart and lifted the lid. She pushed back the dark gray tissue paper and stared at the photographs.

He felt sick, worried. Jesus, maybe he shouldn’t have done this.

She took the photos from the box. She blinked and the box tumbled to the floor. “This is … the farm … our farm … on Mortal Earth.” Tears welled in her eyes. She touched the photo. “My family is buried back there, all of them.” She gave a little cry and the tears flowed down her cheeks.

“Havily, I’m sorry.” He rushed his words. “I’ve made a mistake. I shouldn’t have done it. I meant well.”

She looked at him. “You went to Vancouver Island and took pictures of my farm? Why?”

“No. I mean yes. No, I didn’t just take pictures. I … I bought the property. I bought it for you. And then I went to Second Earth and bought the same piece of land, same exact acreage. It’s in a much more rustic form on Second, but I thought, maybe, if you wanted to, we could build a house there, together, you and me. Oh … shit … I have so fucked up.” He dropped to the leather sofa and buried his face in his hands. “I’m sorry. This was wrong. All wrong.” He had meant it for good but now it seemed so harsh, invasive, even cruel. Her daughters were buried there, for Christ’s sake. Her three little girls, all with red hair and ringlets. He’d seen them in her mind. Jesus H. Christ, could a man be more of an idiot?

He felt the sofa dip beside him. He felt her fingers on his as she pried his hands away from his face, the photos now on the coffee table, one teetering on the edge.

“Marcus,” she whispered. She kissed his cheek, but her lips were wet. Dammit, he’d made her cry. “Marcus. You’re wrong. This is the sweetest gift I’ve ever received, in my whole short one hundred years. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this means to me.”

He turned toward her and met her gaze, her green eyes full of light and warmth, even as tears poured from them. She shook her head back and forth. “You see, I’ve been saving for decades now to buy back my farm. That’s why I live in my little town house. I couldn’t save much each year, and then inflation would drive the Mortal Earth prices up and I would fall behind. I was so afraid someone would buy the property then dig up the graves. I…” She wept hard now, her own face buried in her hands.

He put his arms around her and held her close. His heart ached for her, with her. Then he’d done the right thing? “You’re not upset with me?” he asked.

“Upset? Oh, no, how could I be?” She looked up at him, wiping her face with her fingers. “Oh, Marcus. Thank you. Somehow you saw into my heart and gave me exactly what I desired most. Thank you.”

Still holding her in his arms, he pulled her onto his lap, turning her to lean against him so that his arms were around her shoulders. He smoothed back her hair and kissed her. He folded a tissue from the bathroom and wiped her face.

She smiled at him and searched his eyes. “I didn’t know how this would be between us, if this would become more than just an insane attraction. Marcus, are we completing the breh-hedden? Is that why you brought me here?”

“I want to, Havily, more than anything. I never expected to feel this way, to feel like I could make a commitment again. I didn’t think it was possible, especially after Helena died. She and her children were as much my world as they were Kerrick’s. When she died, I lost my mind. I lost my soul.”

She nodded. “Eric’s death had settled everything for me as well. I knew I would be alone forever. I wasn’t just resigned, I was resolved. I never wanted to hurt like that again, the same way I’d hurt when my babies died, my husband.

“Then you came along.” She stroked his face with her palm and ran her thumb over his lips. He kissed her thumb. “And even then, not until I was manacled in Crace’s forge, when I believed I had lost you forever, did my heart open enough to embrace love. Don’t you think that’s strange—because I truly believed you were dead? I didn’t think you could have survived that blast.”

“What are you saying?”

She drew in a breath and huffed a sigh. “I’m not explaining this well. I’m not even certain I understand all the meanings myself. Do you remember when we made love the last time and you took me to a place of really letting go because you enthralled me?”

He drew her closer. She was still seated on his lap and he loved it. He nuzzled her neck. “Yes.”

“Do you remember how you kept saying, Let go, let go?”

He drew back and looked into her eyes. He nodded.

“That’s what went through my mind when I was struggling to find a way out of the forge. I needed to let go, really let go. Everything changed for me in that moment. Everything. I knew you were dead and I was okay with it. I let go. I let go of all this grief that has held me as captive as I was manacled to that wall. I let go. That’s when I figured out how to split myself into two parts. I let go … of my shields, my mental shields. Within a whisper of a thought, I was in the darkening, found Endelle, then like this miracle, there you were, alive and ready to do battle.

“I’m still astonished when I think about it. And now here you are, alive, holding me, having given me a gift that my heart cried out for. Oh, Marcus, yes, I want to complete the breh-hedden with you, whatever that will mean for you and for me, whatever new barriers will need to be broken down. Yes, I want this.”

He stroked her hair, then kissed her hard, driving his tongue inside. She suckled and turned the heat up a notch.

But his soul was on fire as much as his body and like hell he was going to push this to a furious pace. There were things yet to be said.

He pulled back.

But she closed her eyes and her nostrils flared as she drew in a deep breath. “You smell like licorice and I swear I could lick you from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet and everywhere in between.”

Okay. That visual didn’t help at all.

He kissed her again, one full heavy kiss on her lips. “Hold that thought.”

She nodded but she was shedding honeysuckle from every pore of her body and his body thrummed with his need for her. He trembled then struggled to remember exactly what it was he wanted to say. He closed his eyes. Fortunately she remained very still.

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