Dark Skye Read online
The brightest sunlight Lanthe had ever encountered blazed down on her. The harsh light of day—and she had zero regrets. Still, she grumbled, “I feel like Private Benjamin!” “Don’t know who that is, Lanthe. ” She could hear the grin in his voice. “Turn off the light!” “I can’t turn off the sun. ” She cracked her eyes open to find him sitting at the edge of the bed, looking like a boss. “Well, aren’t you happy with yourself?” His smile was brilliant against his crisp linen shirt. Glorious male. He nodded. “I woke this morning, disoriented, convinced last night had been a reverie. Then I gazed down and your head was upon my chest. I comprehended that we are wed. ” He gazed deeply into her eyes. “There has never been a better morning. ” This was a world away from her typical morning-after scenarios. “How long have you been sitting there?” “Couple of hours. I enjoy watching you sleep. ” With anyone else, Lanthe would have found that creepy, but not with her new husband. In any case, she couldn’t talk since she’d mooned over his relaxed, sleepy face until she’d dozed off. Then she’d been out like the dead. No nightmares. No restlessness. “Come, I’m eager to introduce you to our people. ” Bully. “We’ll find you a grand breakfast. Apple tartlets, maybe? Or honey bread?” She was hungry. “Okay, okay. I need a shower first. ” When she rose and knotted her hair above her head, his gaze fell on her breasts, his brows drawn tight. As she padded into the bathroom, she knew he was ogling her ass so she put an extra spring in her step. His growl made her grin. She’d wager she wasn’t leaving this house before he took her again. She checked her appearance in the mirror. Her eyes were bright, her cheeks pinkened. She felt a tinge of regret to see that his claiming mark had healed. In the shower, she called, “Hey, can we get the hot water fixed?” She’d turned the single lever all the way right, but the water never approached warm. “In the Territories, there is no hot water for showers,” he called back. To herself, she muttered, “You’ve got to be shitting me. ” She sucked in a breath and stepped under, screeching, “This isn’t right—I didn’t join the army!” He came to gloat, leaning against the doorway with a barely checked grin. “We Vrekeners find cold water’s good for the mind and body. ” “Oh? That’s a shame—because hot water’s good for morning sex. ” His eyes flickered. “I’ll warm you up. . . . ” Some time later, when they emerged, Lanthe was a cold-water convert. Now she was grinning like a boss. After she dried off, she reached for her clothes from the night before. Full regalia. Including the mask. The beauty of metal and leather garments? Easy cleaning. She tugged on her skirt. “Shall I find you some gowns?” he asked as he dressed again. She studied his face. “You can, but I won’t wear them until I have them altered. ” Lanthe had lived through the Victorian age; out of necessity, she’d learned how to transform a high-necked, floor-length, long-sleeved gown into a proper sleeveless minidress. Or, rather, to give directions for someone else to. “I’ll feel more comfortable in my own clothes. ” He parted his lips, hesitated, then said, “Very well. ” Good man, she thought again. “I feared we were about to have our first married fight. ” She slipped on her top. As far as Sorceri clothing went, the outfit wasn’t even that provocative. Her hemline almost reached her knees. Her boots did, so little of her legs would be exposed. “I know how much you compromised to come here with me,” he said. “I want to meet you halfway. Besides, if you scream at me, it should only be because you’re about to erupt/explode/die with ecstasy. ” “In other words, later today?” She reached forward to cup him between the legs, loving how he rocked on his toes to her hand. When he groaned, she released him with an affectionate pat. She donned her boots and gauntlets, then did a quick job braiding her hair. Thronos watched her every movement with undisguised fascination. “Grab my necklace?” He hastened to get it, returning to lace it over her head. “I kick myself for not giving you this sooner. ” “Well, we were a mite preoccupied with dragons and demons and pests and all. I treasure it as if you presented it to me—since you put your life at risk to retrieve it. Even if it weren’t silisk gold, it would always be my favorite. ” “Sorceri exchange rings with marriage, do they not?” She whirled around. “Yes, I want a ring! A gold one, with extra gold. ” His lips curled. “When my mate sets her heart on something, who am I to deny her?” With an answering grin, she slipped on her mask. “Okay, then, let’s go get this over with. ” He offered his hand; she proudly took it. The moment they walked out the door, a Vrekener male greeted them, as if he’d been loitering just outside. Tall and broad-shouldered, with a rangy build like Thronos’s, he had olive-green eyes and sandy brown hair tied in a queue. Lanthe stiffened when she saw his silvered talons. A knight. She wondered how many Sorceri he’d killed. Or neutered? “Greetings, Jasen!” Thronos said. “I didn’t think anyone knew we’d arrived. ” Lanthe frowned at Jasen’s reaction to Thronos; the male’s pensive expression had turned to one of abject relief, the way one might look when handing over a ponderous weight—or a rabid animal. “Melanthe, this is Jasen,” he said, introducing the man to her first, showing her deference. “Jasen, this is Princess Melanthe, my bride. ” “You . . . you have her. ” Lanthe didn’t offer her hand. Because it was glimmering blue behind her back. After a moment, Jasen appeared to shake away his shock at this development. He turned to Thronos. “My liege, the knights have assembled in the Hall for an important security meeting. Will you attend?” “Is my brother here?” “No, my liege, I’m afraid he’s not. ” Thronos was calm and cool on the outside, but now that she knew him better she could see that his scars were a touch lighter, which meant his face was tense. —I’m sorry, Thronos. I know you’d wanted to get something settled with Aristo. — —Gods only know what he’s up to out in the worlds. — To Jasen, he said, “Melanthe and I will attend. ” Hand in hand, they followed the knight down the steps to the sandy vale. —In this assembly, I will not tolerate disrespect to you. Remember that you are their princess. — Talk about a trial by fire! She drew her sorcery close. —I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to go. What if the meeting is about my presence here? What if I’m in danger?— He glanced at the power swirling around her. —You can take care of yourself. Just try not to hurt anybody. — —Ha. — —You know I’d slay them all before I let them touch a hair on your head. — On the hills above them, Vrekeners stopped their daily routines to stare down at her. What would Sabine do in this situation? Her sister would put her shoulders back and never let anyone forget she was a noble daughter of the Sorceri. Lanthe would do no less. To those who stared the most boldly, she inclined her head with a regal air. Of course, she could understand their interest. Her garments must shock them, plus she had sorcery around her. Not to mention her one-of-a-kind, priceless necklace. She defied any female not to secretly pine for it. The Vrekener males all wore white lawn shirts and leather breeches. Each female’s dress was drab and baggy, revealing only her face and hands. Their wings were pinned so tightly, one would think the Vrekeners were embarrassed by them. These people absolutely looked like they had quiet, boring sex. They were the anti-Sorceri. But then, Thronos had once been too—before she’d gotten ahold of him. These Vrekeners had no idea that Hurricane Lanthe had just made landfall in the Skye. —Are Vrekeners always so somber?— If she didn’t know better, she might have thought someone had ensorcelled their land with misery. To be fair, she would’ve expected shrieks as mothers shoved their kids back into their weird roofless houses. But the people were steady and unflinching. Unsmiling. —Not usually this tense. I’m keen to find out what’s going on. — The moment he’d come within sight of his people, Thronos had clenched his jaw and worked not to limp, which must be killing him. She had used her powers on him last night; maybe she could try to help with his pain. But pain obliteration was a command that could seriously backfire. As she debated the pros and cons, she realized what was missing from this picture. —Where are the Sorceri?— —Good question.