Burning Skies Page 80

Rith knew the property well. It belonged to Warrior Medichi.

He drew out of the future streams. His heart beat rapidly. The time was nearing in which he would play a critical role for the Coming Order, and apparently he needed to apply for employment at Second Earth Merry Ascenders.

* * *

More than a week had passed since the Ambassadors Festival. Parisa struggled to find the right words to tell Medichi of her decision. She would make him unhappy, but it must be done.

Life had settled down at the villa so much so that a cleaning crew had arrived and ejected both Parisa and Medichi from the main house.

So she walked the olive grove now, but with a heavy heart. Warrior Medichi stood thirty yards away, watching her, always watching her, guarding her, even though a dome of mist shielded the property from powerful intruders.

He was so tall and so handsome and even at that distance a faint trace of sage touched the air. He wore jeans and his black T-shirt pulled across his muscular shoulders, shoulders she had leaned on at the spectacle disaster. His long black hair was still damp from a recent shower and drawn back in the ritual cadroen.

Her heart hurt as she watched him, his head lowered as he spoke into his phone. It was strange to think of him as a vampire, a creature with fangs who could take her blood. Yet how many times had she fantasized that very thing?

None of those fantasies would happen now. She’d made her decision.

Second Earth was not for her and she would not be ascending. She’d seen too much, been through too much, and despite the fact that she was more normal in this world than in her birth-world, she’d had enough.

She might have wings, the ability to throw a hand-blast, and she might even be a preternatural voyeur, but she was not built for war. She knew that. She wanted the world of her library back. She’d called in sick for over a week now so she was due back at work. Besides, she longed for the quiet and order of books and computers and a building that smelled of ink and print.

When Medichi turned away from her slightly, still talking into his phone, she caught sight of one of the estate workers waving to her, a pleasant-looking man with somewhat Asian features. He had a wide forehead and a broad nose. He wore white cotton trousers and a loose white cotton shirt. He must work in the olive press. He smiled and waved her forward.

A sense of ease came over her, even happiness as she moved toward him. “Do you work in the press?” she called out.

He shrugged and shook his head. It was possible he didn’t speak English. With the ability to dematerialize, she supposed he could have come from anywhere on Second Earth to work on the estate.

Only when she drew within two yards of him did the hairs on the nape of her neck rise and give warning, but she didn’t know what it meant. She thought perhaps this poor man was in danger. She looked around, hunting for a death vampire that somehow had made its way onto the property. But that was when a lean arm surrounded her, choking her, and she felt the needle prick her neck.

She had just enough consciousness to turn her head and see that the only adversary present was the man with the wide forehead and broad nose.

How strange …

Antony, she called out softly within her mind, something she did when she needed comfort.

Antony. Then … nothing.

* * *

Medichi heard his name within his head, Antony. Parisa? She must have telepathic abilities and still not know it. He turned toward her, sliding his phone back into the pocket of his black cargoes.

The hour was one in the afternoon and Parisa was some twenty or so yards away, not far from the building that housed the olive press. Had she spoken his name within his mind? Or had he imagined it?

She was turned away from him as though she was watching something very intently. She was even smiling.

She looked so pretty today in a pink-flowered sundress. She wore her dark brown hair in loose curls on top of her head against the climbing June heat. He ached to go to her and take her in his arms.

Then the hairs on the nape of his neck rose.

Oh, shit.

He didn’t wait, but folded his sword into his hand.

He turned in a circle and looked for the enemy but found nothing. The cleaning service was in his home doing the usual. This particular service had careful employment screening procedures.

He scanned his property carefully, turning, turning.

Still nothing.


He’d just gotten off the phone with Thorne, who informed him that Marcus intended to serve in the field with the warriors two nights a week, in addition to taking on the duties of High Administrator of Desert Southwest Two. Medichi liked the arrangement. The moment Havily had stood up during Zach’s birthday celebration and made her plea for the shift in Marcus’s duties, he’d been on board. Marcus had what it took to administer a Territory and yeah, Endelle sucked at it.

He started moving in Parisa’s direction. He was about to fold his sword away when the hairs on his nape fluttered once more. Something was wrong. He could feel it. Parisa remained in the same position, standing very still, which suddenly struck him as odd.

“Parisa?” he called out, his feet moving faster.

When she didn’t respond, he called out her name again. She didn’t turn toward him or in any way indicate that she’d even heard him. What the hell was going on?

He started running. A dust devil kicked up and moved through the grove, passing near her. Leaves blew in circles, but the summery pink-flowered sundress didn’t move, not even a little around the hem.

Then he understood.

“No,” he cried out.

What he had thought was Parisa rippled then disappeared … a time-delayed hologram.

She was gone. His woman was gone.

He fell to his knees and roared to the heavens.

Two hours later, with a hundred Militia Warriors combing his estate, with all the Warriors of the Blood surrounding him, with his villa and the guesthouse turned upside down, he had to accept the fact that Parisa was gone. Taken. But how and by whom?

He sat on the ground where Parisa had disappeared.

Marcus and Havily materialized in front of him. Marcus had his arm around Havily’s waist. She extended a sheet of paper to him.

“We had the cleaning service investigated,” Marcus said. “This man was new, the one pictured here. The service checked him out thoroughly. He passed all their stringent tests, but Colonel Seriffe knows him as a servant of Greaves’s by the name of Rith Do’onwa.”

Antony stared at the face of his enemy. The rage he felt was too powerful to give expression to. It lived in him now, a reflection of the day when he had first learned of his preternatural powers and had slain his enemies. He had raged then. He raged now. The woman meant for him was gone, taken by a man who he vowed would one day die by his hands.

* * *

A week later, Havily dressed with care and as quietly as she could. She didn’t want to disturb Marcus. He had fallen asleep after making love to her, but he was exhausted. He had battled through the night, beside Warrior Medichi, slaying death vampires at the Superstitions.

His routine was demanding but he could handle it. She’d given him some of her blood, which always strengthened him, so he would rest until about one, then come into the administration building to fulfill his new duties.

Endelle had begun the process of having him confirmed as her High Administrator of the Southwest Desert Territory. The committee wouldn’t oppose Marcus because Endelle had agreed to accept the surrender of four death vampires as payment for the incendiary bomb attack at the Ambassadors Festival. Everyone knew that other, more powerful vampires were to blame, but without proof, pursuing the matter was useless.

Wearing a light green cotton skirt, white ruffled blouse, and four-inch heels, she crossed the room to Marcus and, as was her habit, she put her hand on his forehead. I love you, she sent.

Usually he offered a smile but didn’t wake up. This morning his eyes opened and he released a heavy sigh. “Tend to Medichi, please.”

“You know I will.” She leaned down and kissed him on the lips.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you, too, sooo much.”

He nodded, smiled, then closed his eyes. He released a deep sigh.

She smiled at the expression, kissed him again, then went in search of Medichi.

She found him in the olive grove. She crossed to him and slid her arm around his waist. He accepted her presence and rested his muscled arm loosely across her shoulders. He had showered and wore white cotton against the oppressive summer heat. It was now July and the humidity was rising, a promise of the forthcoming summer monsoons. His damp hair hung halfway down his back.

“She was here, in this very spot,” he said. “Now she’s gone.”

“Antony,” she said softly. She was not going to cry.

He released a ragged sigh. “What am I going to do? I failed her, just as I failed my wife, and our unborn son, all those centuries ago. How could I have let this happen? Dammit, I know better.”

She hugged him. There was nothing she could say. The enemy was powerful and for whatever reason, in this situation, he’d gotten the upper hand. So now Medichi suffered as all the warriors suffered when their loved ones were impacted by the war. “We’ll find her. We’re all looking for her. We’ll find her. Endelle has permitted me to hunt for her in the darkening.”

He uttered no response except the lengthening of his breaths as he strove to contain himself.

If she could undo this, she would. If she could spare him, she would. “Tell me, what can I do for you, my friend?” she asked.

He looked down at her and his expression softened. “Love your warrior, while you can. Love him with all your heart. Be with him because in a breath it can all disappear.”

“I know,” she whispered. “I know.”

* * *

Marcus held Havily’s hand in too firm a grasp, but he couldn’t seem to do less than that right now. He walked with his breh beside Kerrick and Alison. As a group, they were crossing the rolling lawn of Kerrick’s mansion in Scottsdale Two, heading in the direction of the great mounds of honeysuckle that topped the stone walls at the back of his property.

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