Burning skies, p.1
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       Burning Skies, p.1

         Part #2 of Guardians of Ascension series by Caris Roane
 
Burning Skies


  Page 1

  Chapter 1

  Got a death wish, handsome?

  Marcus heard the woman’s voice in his head, but the sound was like gears grinding. He refused to respond.

  He hit the gas harder on his Harley, leaned, took the curve in the road with ease, felt the vibration up both arms and smiled.

  He wore sunglasses on a sunless Pacific Northwest day. Even in June, the weather could pile up overhead. It did today, so he took the mist and occasional rain in his face and still he smiled.

  The retro Harley had arrived a week ago, and he’d finally left his boardrooms long enough to take the hog over to the Olympic Peninsula. He cruised the coastal route, preferring views of the wild ocean waters to the depths of forest, at least today. Sometimes he liked disappearing into the narrow inland roads where the conifers towered overhead and an entire world lived in shadow.

  Hey, slow down, gorgeous. You aren’t that immortal.

  Go home, he sent, his mind to her mind. The answer is the same … no.

  Endelle, the Supreme High Administrator of Second Earth, was in his head again as she had been off and on for weeks now. He was tired of the same old, same old—Come back to Second Earth, return to the Warriors of the Blood, take up your sword, serve my sorry ass.

  She might not have said serve my sorry ass. Those were his words and like hell he was going to do that.

  He’d cut off his left nut first.

  Aw, Warrior, don’t be like that.

  Yeah, the bitch was back, somehow watching him, somehow reading his mind, somehow talking straight into his head and making another run at his sanity. She was one powerful vampire.

  She was also a piece of work. Endelle had served Second Earth as Supreme High Administrator for most of her nine thousand years and she’d lost her subtlety her first day on the job. He loved her and hated her. Right now she was a gnat in his head and he didn’t have the means to swat her away. He sighed. There was no way he’d be getting rid of her until she’d had her say.

  Whatever.

  He went faster, twisting the accelerator, pushing the bike to its limit, to that place where the wheels almost broke loose and threw him into a deadly spin. Almost.

  He used his preternatural senses to gauge the trajectory of each dip and turn in the wet road. He extended his hearing so he could determine what cars or trucks were headed in his direction and just how soon they’d pose a threat. See, he was being safe. Sort of.

  Endelle had one thing right: He wasn’t that immortal. No vampire was completely immune to death. If he slammed hard enough into a wall of rock, or got his head cut off in a sword fight, yeah he’d be dead.

  So just how much of a death wish was this?

  He wore black leather, the only time he did. Leather kept the cold out, the moisture out. As he pushed along the coast, he was on a high. He felt good, a sensation that escaped him most days … and nights. For a man with billions, God his life sucked.

  “I’ll ask you again,” Endelle said, only this time her breath was in his ear. “You got a death wish or what, Warrior?”

  “Endelle, what the fuck?” he shouted into the wind. Her body was now plastered against him from behind. “What are you doing here?” One slip of his control and the bike would slide away from him, do a few flips, send him barreling into oblivion.

  “You must be going eighty, ninety miles an hour. What gives?”

  He gritted his teeth. Words punched out of his mouth. “Get off my bike. ”

  “Mm. ” She wiggled her hips. “This feels good. And those vibrations … straight up my ass. I might just have to get me one of these. ”

  “What the hell do you want?” he cried.

  “You know why I’m here. ” She cuddled closer, her arms around his waist.

  “I’m not going back,” he cried.

  She fingered his hair. Who do you think you’re kidding? she responded, sending the words straight into his head. You’ve been letting your hair grow and we both know what that means. A few more months and you’ll have warrior hair.

  The hell I will and get out of my head. He didn’t ease back on the speed.

  He felt her sigh as she hugged him hard. “I need a man,” she shouted.

  “Not gonna be me,” he shouted back, dipping the bike as the road curved to the left.

  “Wasn’t asking, asshole. ”

  The arms disappeared. The warm press of body as well. Thank God.

  The next second, however, she materialized on his handlebars, her knees in his face. He had to lean a little to see the stretch of road in front of him. It was somewhat straight for at least a few hundred yards. Shit.

  “Dammit, Endelle! Get off my fucking bike!”

  She was dressed in black leather from head to foot except for the small red feathers that trimmed the V of her vest. Come back to us, she sent. We need you, Warrior.

  She leaned close and now he really couldn’t see the road, just the depth of her cleavage above a really low-cut leather vest, trimmed with red feathers. Her bare arms were wet from the rain and mist.

  Fuck.

  He had one of two choices—cliff leading to the ocean or mountain wall.

  Yeah, fuck.

  He swung to the right and went over the cliff. “You are such a bitch,” he shouted, hitting airspace.

  With preternatural speed and a bit of levitation, he folded off his black leather jacket and black T-shirt and, at almost the same time, mounted his wings midair. He turned into the wind and headed … down. He had power and he was fast, goddamn fast, but not faster than the gravity that took his bike down a slope of seaside cliff. His Harley bounced off a couple of trees, slid over stone outcroppings, then landed in a huge-ass fucking pile of driftwood about thirty yards from the surf.

  He let the obscenities fly.

  The gasoline in the tank did a nice pop-and-flare that turned to a pitiful stream of black smoke under the drenching mist and rain.

  He trained his wings into the offshore breeze so that he didn’t roll. He hovered above the wreck, his mouth still a tumble of profanity.

  “Aw. Too bad. ” Endelle now stood on the largest water-stripped log, looking down at the wreck, her arms folded over her leather-feather chest. She didn’t smile as she lifted her gaze to him. She just stared. Damn, her eyes looked ancient. He always forgot that about her. Vampire life gave longevity to muscle, skin, and bone, youth returned and savored, but the eyes never lied.

  She smiled. “You ready to stop playing spoiled-little-rich-boy? You ready to do some man’s work again?”

  He flipped her off as he drew in his wings, supporting himself in the air with old-fashioned levitation. As soon as the last of the feathers and connecting mesh support disappeared into his back, he folded to his house on Bainbridge Island, straight to the master bedroom. He thumped his way to the bathroom, shoulders hunched, fists so tight that both arms hurt. He stripped, got seven showerheads to steaming, then stepped into his shower.

  “Damn, Marcus, how much you been working out? You have the ass of a god. ”

  He turned to face her, and naturally her gaze fell to his jewels. She shook her head and sighed. “You warriors are so fucking hung and I really do need a man. ”

  “Get the hell out of my bathroom. Get the hell out of my house and get the hell out of my life. ” He turned to face the water, grabbed soap and lathered.

  “You don’t have a choice on this one. ”

  “The hell I don’t. You had one favor. You called it in. I served. We’re done. ”

  “That was four months ago. I’ve decided I get another one. You do a lot of squat-thrusts? Hey, what’s with the
mist? And do you really think I can’t see through that shit?” She snorted. “But if you’re feeling modest, mist away. ”

  Mist. He should have known better than to try. Mist was designed to confuse the mind, and a powerful mist could confuse the mind of mortals and ascenders alike—just not the leader of Second Earth. Endelle was too damn powerful. Still, it was his bathroom. Privacy would have been nice.

  He stopped talking. There was no point. Endelle was as stubborn as the rotation of the earth. But then, so was he. She ought to know that. He wasn’t four millennia for nothing.

  “Morgan’s not sleeping very well,” she said.

  At that, he stopped moving the soap around his chest. Endelle rarely called Havily by her first name.

  Havily Morgan.

  Oh. God. Havily. The woman meant for him. The one he craved. The one he fantasized about making love to every goddamn night.

  So the fuck what? he sent, the soap moving again.

  “She told me about the fennel, vampire. ”

  “What fennel?”

  “She smells you, Warrior. You know what that means. ”

  “Don’t call me Warrior. I’m a businessman and I’m not going back. Not for you. Not for Havily. Not for anyone. I belong here. I’m happy here. ” Sort of. Besides, he’d made one helluva life for himself on Mortal Earth and after seeing the war up close and personal again, he wasn’t having it, not any part of it.

  “Morgan drags in to work every morning now. You know anything about that?”

  He rinsed off, left the shower, pushed past her and grabbed a towel. He dried his hair first then worked his way down his body. Yeah, he knew something about why Havily might not be sleeping very well. It was his dirty little secret and the hell if he was going to share it with Endelle. What was going on between them was private, a word Endelle respected about as much as she respected his mental shields.

  “That’s what I thought,” she murmured. “You’ve been getting into her pants with no one the wiser. You enthralling her or what?”

  At that he rose up and glared, straight into her brown eyes. “You think so little of me that you believe I would enthrall her?”

  “No. I don’t. I just can’t figure out what’s going on because that little twat of yours has shields I have one helluva time bypassing. ”

  He glared a little more, then his gaze dropped to the red feathers. They were small, crimson, beautiful. “What are they and where are you getting them?” One of his corporations operated in the fashion industry. Yeah, he was a businessman first.

 
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