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Authors: Rhenna Morgan

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BOOK: Healing Eden
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If it meant keeping her in his life he’d do it again. Repeatedly. Still, if he wanted to protect the throne, he’d have to find a convincing argument for his ellan.

Galena rubbed her hands together and checked the doors behind her.

A brush of intuition fanned along his shoulders. “Something up?”

She hesitated and glanced at Lexi, buried in her book. “I know it’s not a good time, but…” She bit her lower lip and gripped her hands tight enough her knuckles turned white. “…Reese is ready to talk.”

Lexi straightened and shut her book.

Eryx leaned his elbows on his desk and tried to rein in a surge of adrenaline. If Reese knew even half as much as they hoped about Maxis, they had a decent chance of tracking Lexi’s still-missing friend, Ian.

“Wait.” He shoved from the desk and the beads holding his braids in place clicked around his shoulders. “Why are you the one telling me this? Ramsay said Reese was healed, but not willing to talk. He wanted to let him stew a while in zeolite and see if it changed his attitude.”

Galena’s lips snapped together tight, and she lifted her chin. “I went to check on him this morning. He indicated he was ready to share what he knows.”

“And where was Ramsay?”

“I have no idea.”

He crossed his arms and firmed his stance. If he couldn’t intimidate her, at least he’d be far enough away he couldn’t choke her. “So you went there alone.”

The corner of her mouth quirked and she mirrored his stance, stubborn as the day she’d been born one hundred and twenty-one years ago.

“Um, hello.” Lexi waved as though trying to stop two idiots from stepping in a heaping pile of shit. “Does it matter? She’s here. She’s fine. Reese wants to talk. I say we go hear what he has to say.”

She had a point. Still, undercutting Ramsay’s authority didn’t sit well. And while he might be the most powerful of his race, he couldn’t make the library search itself. “Ramsay’s running the search for Maxis and Ian. We’ve got more than enough to handle on this end.” He poked a stern finger in his sister’s direction. “You. Stay the hell out of Reese’s cell.”

He sat back down and tugged the over-sized tome closer.

Galena planted her hands on his desk and leaned in, more determined than he seen since she’d demanded he sentence a bully at school for picking on someone half their size. “I think you should talk to Reese. Ramsay’s temper is all over the place. He’d just as soon beat Reese than listen to what he has to say.”

“Reese fought for a group of people who think human slaves are a good idea. What do you care what Ramsay does to him?”

“Are you out of your mind?” Lexi got side-by-side with Galena and glared at Eryx. “She’s healed the guy twice
And thank God for that if he’s willing to talk. I’d say she’s got a right to care. You think she wants to do it a third time?”

Well, now. This was interesting. Eryx reclined into the high, cushioned chair and laced his hands behind his head. The leather groaned as he stretched his booted feet out in front of him, crossed at the ankles. The two made quite the unexpected tag team. Sure they’d come a long way at developing a bond in a short period of time, but enough to have Lexi jump to her defense? Over a man she knew nothing about?

Lexi’s gift. That had to be it. As an emotional empath, she’d pick up on the slightest tweak to Galena’s feelings. And, Lexi being Lexi, she’d jump to Galena’s defense in a heartbeat. Lucky for him, he carried the sum of all Myren gifts. Maybe not as fine-tuned as Lexi’s, but enough to sneak a peek for himself.

“Stop.” Galena pushed away from the desk and took two shaky steps back. Her cheeks flushed bright red. “Don’t think you can brush around on my emotions without me noticing. I’m your sister, not some stranger off the street. I’ve felt your nosy prodding since I was twelve. When I want you to know what I’m feeling, I’ll tell you.”

She pushed back her shoulders and lifted her chin, the tail end of her tirade hanging in the air. “Now, are you coming with me or not?”

* * * *

Maxis landed near the center of a residential square in the most exclusive part of Cush and let out a delighted chuckle. Such finery. Elaborate mansions loomed on every side of him, as though they jostled to make the most impressive statement.

He’d never visited this area. Never wanted to. For the last seventy-plus years, he’d been far too busy in Asshur and Brasia, building the infrastructure for his grand plans, and expanding the meager gifts The Great One had failed to grant him at birth.

Pride radiated warm beneath his sternum. Everyone thought the malran and his brother were the only ones capable of stripping another’s gifts, but they were wrong. He’d found a way. Granted, the contributing Myrens didn’t come out breathing on the other end with his method, but that wasn’t his problem. His secrets had burned alongside the dead men’s bodies.

A fine mist dusted across the side of his face. The high marble fountain at his right gurgled and whooshed in a roar too potent to be peaceful, a monolith of wealth that screamed for attention.

The same taupe and gold-flecked stone paved the roads here as along the main thoroughfare, but the walkways leading to the grand homes were closer to ivory. Eight manors formed the square, two on every side. Intimidating for the average man.

He wasn’t an average man.

Serena’s bold yellow link pulsed in his mind’s eye, luring him toward the two residences on the left. One was crafted in the standard Myren architecture, rounded rooftops and arched windows with walls of mocha stucco. The other held a more ornate feel, somewhere between Baroque and Renaissance with its dark roof, pointed spires, and intricate details.

He closed his eyes and fine-tuned her location. His laughter spilled out into the early afternoon air, a brash intrusion against the quiet lawns. He should have known her family’s home would be the ornate one. Something about its outspokenness matched her personality
a trait he imagined ran rampant in her clan.

He strode across the square and up the walk, a low-line iron fence guarding the plush green grass on either side. The rhythm of his heart mirrored each step, and his muscles hummed with an anticipation he hadn’t felt since the day he’d found Reese.

On reflex, he reached for his strategos’ link and slammed against the mental equivalent of a marble wall. He stopped at the massive Blackwood entry with its opaque glass insets, and tucked his chin tight to his chest. Now wasn’t the time to look back. As surreal as Falon’s visit might have been, his message was likely accurate. Reese was dead. Better to focus on his future, the key to which lay on the other side of these doors.

He lifted his hand to knock, then hesitated. Angus might be a short-tempered politician, but his warning had merit. He might be unrecognizable to most after so many years out of the public eye, but servants were a gossiping lot and no one else would answer the door. He reached out through his link to Serena.
“You have a lovely home. Are you going to continue the cold shoulder? Or come open your door and welcome me inside?”

No answer. If anything a chill pushed down the link to sting the back of his head, but her presence hustled within the house.

He tucked his hands into the pockets of his black overcoat and waited. Not one soul wandered the courtyard, the pretty details locked in place like some landscape on a wall.

The door jerked opened and the knocker at its center clattered against the wood.

“Are you crazy?” Serena grasped him by the forearm and glanced over her shoulder. She tugged him past the entry and through a black and white marble foyer to a receiving room off to one side. “Warriors are all over the place looking for you and they’ve got a damned good rendering to go with it.”

She strode to an end table situated between two wingback chairs covered in a pale plum fabric and flicked her hand toward the door, shutting it with a mental push. With quick fingers, she sorted a stack of papers and thrust one in his direction. “Whoever drew it is surprisingly good. See for yourself.”

The paper wavered from the tremor in her hand.

“You’re worried about me?” He strolled forward. It was a comfortable room, easy and warm with its creams and purple accents. Serena fit right in with her loose, flowing pants and tunic. The dusky rose color matched the slight flush on her cheeks.

She thrust the parchment toward him again. “Worried about my connection
you is more like it. If I’m nothing more than a fuck, I’d prefer to keep my distance.”

He took the drawing. The hair was certainly right
Past his shoulders and sporting the waves he hated. They’d nailed the angles of his face and the color of his eyes, but they’d gone a bit overboard with the maniacal expression.

No, his identity was no longer a secret. Not with this floating around. And he’d definitely dug a hole for himself with Serena. She pulsed with a nearly tangible energy, the lines of her neck so taut it looked painful. If he wanted to lure her across party lines and solidify her beside him and the rebellion, he’d have to do something big. Something he’d never done before.

He sat the flyer atop a haphazard stack of papers. He stepped closer, not enough to touch, but enough to enter her space. “I was wrong.” He held her stare, the taste of his words foreign and uncomfortable on his tongue.

Quiet settled, broken only by muffled movements and voices in the rooms beyond. The scent of citrus and crisp linens hung in the air, more noticeable in the stillness. The nerves along his spine bristled and the urge to pace beat at his feet.

He waited.

And waited.

She met him eye to eye without a quaver. An iron will behind a deceptively beautiful woman. Few men could hold themselves with such dignity. The only woman he’d known to match her strength was his grandmother. Maybe he’d been wrong in his assessment of Serena.

Sharp footsteps sounded on the tiles beyond.

Serena’s head snapped toward the door and her gaze sharpened. “Stay to the far corner of the room and mask yourself.”

Maxis heeded her directive and spread his senses along the home’s perimeter. The patterns were the same
The courtyard was bare, the same number of bodies moving at a steady pace around the house.

Serena situated herself in one of the chairs and picked up the drawing, making an overblown act of studying Maxis’ image.

The door opened.

“Put those down.” The terse command came from a tall, slender man with shoulder-length salt and pepper hair tied back in a formal queue. He strode to the table and plucked the drawing from her fingers. “You know better than to meddle in my affairs.”

Serena looked up, eyes wide with sickening innocence.

Maxis stifled a cough.

“I’m sorry, father.” Not the least bit of hesitation, not even a flinch. “I only stopped to study the image. Who is it?”

“No one you need to know about.” Her father tucked the stack of papers into a leather satchel, one worn enough to indicate a life of actual work. If his trousers, boots and overcoat were any indicator, he worked as a merchant, and a pretty successful one at that.

“Is he dangerous? I’ve never seen the malran post such a warning.”

“It’s nothing to concern yourself with. Just a political matter you wouldn’t understand.” He turned for the door. “Tell your mother to arrange for dinner at the customary time. Your brother and I will be bringing home a few contacts from work.”

The door clacked shut behind him, rattling the frame.

Selena held her place, back straight and frowning.

Maxis dropped his mask. “You handled that well.”

His voice seemed to shake whatever haze held her. She shrugged and pushed from her seat. “He’s a busy man.”

“He’s a fool.” Maxis prowled across the thick gray carpets, the glimpse into Serena’s life brewing an urge he couldn’t quite wrap his head around. As if he needed to shield her, or at least snap something
or someone
in two. “He has no clue of the intellect behind your pretty face, does he?”

For the first time since he’d met her, the cool facade faltered. “No.” Her expression hardened and she pierced him with her startling blue stare. “And neither, apparently, do you. Now go.”

Maxis shook his head, stepped in close, and cupped the back of her neck. “I told you I was wrong.” He teased the hair at the top of her spine. “I came to make amends. To offer you something you’ll never find within these walls.”

Goosebumps lifted along her exposed shoulders and her breath shallowed. “What could you possibly give me I don’t already have?”

She couldn’t have handed him a more perfect invitation, a prime opening to lure his future mate. His heart surged and his muscles tightened. “Power.”



Chapter 7


Reese sat on the edge of his cot, elbows planted on his knees, and hung his head. The space between his temples throbbed, slow and heavy. Too much thinking, too little sleep, and a fat zero on what he should do next.

“Use your own light to guide Maxis’ soul.”

Right. Like his “light” cast a big enough glow to work with. Kind of hard for anything bright to get through all the hate he felt for Maxis.

He massaged the tight muscles around his healing wound and circled his arm to loosen the stiff joint. What was he missing? How could the spiritu possibly think he had any influence
where the malran was concerned?

A rumble sounded beyond the door, and heavy, confident footsteps clipped against the stone.

Reese stood. He pumped his fists, open and shut, over and over. His heart worked double rhythm, but his gut was steady, braced for whatever lay ahead. This was it. Ready or not, he’d face Ramsay and give him the truth. His old friend deserved that much.

The latch echoed and the cell door opened. Ramsay’s shadowed form filled the entry.

The back of Reese’s neck tightened to the point of pain, but he snapped to attention. “Ramsay.”

“Wrong brother.” Eryx stepped from the darkness, the cell’s candlelight glinting off the royal torc at his neck and the metal beads holding his braids in place.

BOOK: Healing Eden
5.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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