Havily nodded. “What length would work the best, do you think?” It was so the wrong question to ask. She knew it as soon as the words left her mouth and she could feel the heat rise on her cheeks even before he answered.
Santiago chuckled, leaned back, then with just a hint of fangs offered his sexiest vampire grin, an easy thing to do with all his beauty. “I have a way to measure that would be perfection,” he said, casting his arms on the back of Jean-Pierre’s chair and Medichi’s to his left. She had no doubt exactly what he was referring to.
She might have drowned in embarrassment if she hadn’t at one time been engaged to a Militia Warrior. Instead she rolled her eyes.
The men guffawed.
“You’re dreaming again,” Jean-Pierre said.
“Of that?” He glanced at Santiago’s lap. “Bah.”
Havily sipped her wine then shook her head.
—Collected Proverbs, Beatrice of Fourth
A little after ten o’clock Kerrick held Alison in his arms and moved in a slow circle on one of the smaller rotunda floors in Endelle’s palace. “As Time Goes By” played on a top-of-the-line audio system, a classic song from an old movie he’d seen when it first came out, Casablanca, during Hollywood’s heyday.
He wished he had known Alison then. He would have taken her on a date to a theater, maybe even to Mortal Earth for the premiere. He knew she loved old movies. He’d been inside her head.
Endelle had provided a perfect dinner, an excellent celebration for Alison’s ascension, although Her Supremeness had not stayed long. After the dessert course, she had excused herself.
“All right, lame-asses,” she had said. “I’m back to work.”
She had withdrawn to her meditation room, where she mentally followed Greaves all over the planet preventing him from sending death vamps back to his Estrella Mountain compound. Word had it she did this by way of the darkening, that region of nether-space that allowed a person to be two places at once. Kerrick couldn’t begin to imagine either the power or the mental energy required to police the sonofabitch the way she did.
The rest of the warriors, with the exception of Marcus and Luken, were not far, just a few yards away, sitting on the terrace, smoking cigars, laughing, drinking. Marcus sulked by the bar. Luken danced with Havily. He had such a crush on her, poor bastard, but she wasn’t the least bit interested.
As he danced Alison in a slow circle, his gaze fell once more on Thorne. He sat turned away from the others, his phone to his ear—probably talking to Central. He swirled a glass of Ketel in his left hand.
Thorne, the one they all relied on.
Kerrick looked away. No doubt Central had just called. Of course. The warriors would have to go out anytime now. These were stolen hours, the hours of Alison’s ascension. Kerrick frowned. Usually the Commander would have sent squadrons to every Borderland long before this.
As far as that went, why hadn’t he made another attempt on Alison’s life? Well, too late now. Where Alison was concerned, the Commander was out of time. She’d completed her rite of ascension, which meant she had the same protection under the law as all Second Earth ascenders. Of course, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t attack the palace just as a general f**k you to Endelle and the Warriors of the Blood. Still, Alison was off limits now, unless Greaves wanted to face the courts again as well as the wrath of the warriors.
He glanced at all the open walls and doorways. The palace had a kick-ass security system that would scorch anything trying to fly in. As for materializing, he wasn’t so sure, but he knew Central kept a tight watch on the place.
“Something wrong?” Alison asked. “You just tensed up.”
He forced himself to relax. “By now I’d usually be out fighting. I’m not used to the quiet.” He released a sigh. “I’ll adjust.”
He slid his arms even tighter around Alison. She gave a murmur of approval. God, she felt so good against him, her arms around his waist, her head tilted against his shoulder, her lips lifted to him, teasing his neck. He loved that she was tall. She really did fit him, in every possible way.
And she had fangs now. He shuddered, anticipation sending little fireworks through his veins.
What? she sent.
You can take my blood now.
He felt a similar tremor pass through her. A resulting whorl of lavender rose up to torment him.
He would leave the basement now and she would share his bed. He’d even begun to think that maybe they should talk about completing the breh-hedden. She was powerful and her abilities could make a difference. Maybe.
She was pressed up flush against him and he was sure she could feel just how much he enjoyed this dance. When she shifted just a little so that her abdomen glided over his erection then at the same time she kissed his neck, yeah, she knew exactly where he wanted to be right now.
At the same time, he didn’t want the dance to end.
Was this really happening? He hadn’t had a woman in his life in so long, in two centuries. Would he be able to keep her safe? Would her proximity to him make her a new kind of target? Of course, the rules were different now and Greaves couldn’t go after her, not without repercussions. But would that stop Greaves at this point? What he didn’t know, what he couldn’t know, was just how much of a threat the Commander believed Alison to be. After all, he hadn’t made another attempt on her life within the allotted three days. He drew in a deep breath, his throat closing up. “Alison,” he whispered.
She drew back and looked up at him. His chest rose and fell. Her fingers worked the hair at his nape.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” he whispered.
She smiled. “So how soon can we leave?”
His answer reached the tip of his tongue until an unexpected frown entered her eyes. “What is it?” he asked.
“Not sure. I just feel … uneasy.” She stopped moving.
“Oh, shit. This cannot be good.”
“No, it isn’t.”
He looked around but saw nothing out of the ordinary.
“Would the Commander attack me now?” she asked, her eyes wide.
Kerrick shook his head. “He would be a fool to try it. You’ve completed your rite of ascension. If an attack were aimed at you, he’d be held accountable.”
“So he won’t attack?”
Kerrick looked down at her and an old fear hit him like a blast to the chest. When he considered the present gathering, he had a sudden awareness that this would be a perfect time for an attack, with all the warriors gathered under the same roof. “It wouldn’t be aimed at you,” he said, more to himself than to her. “We would be the target, the Warriors of the Blood.” He remembered the why of Helena’s death. She’d been married to a warrior. A chill went through him.