Dark skye, p.46
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       Dark Skye, p.46

         Part #15 of Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole
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Chapter 45

  It was night in the Skye. With Thronos leading the way through the portal, he and Lanthe stepped onto a cobblestone path in the Air Territories. He didn’t release her hand. She’d asked him to go first—after all, she hadn’t had the best run of luck with portal directions. And she had to admit she still might be conflicted about this on some level. Though she’d never been so high up, her gaze was drawn even higher. The stars were sparkling brilliantly, arcing above them like a diadem. “Wow. ” “That’s how I feel right now. ” He squeezed her hand. She lowered her face to behold just as wondrous a sight: Thronos smiling down at her with starlight reflecting in his eyes. Just like that, the apprehension she’d felt at crossing that threshold began to fade. When she could drag her attention away from him, she observed her surroundings with interest. They were in a shallow, sandy vale, with treeless mounts and hills rising up on all sides. White, sun-bleached buildings covered those heights, connected squares or rectangles of various sizes—like one might see on a cliffside along the Mediterranean. Bordering the structures were cobblestone streets and walkways, all seeming to be straight and narrow, all leading down to this clearing. “What do you think?” he asked. “It’s certainly . . . uniform. ” And monochromatic. “How far are we from the edge of the island?” She’d expected her fear of heights would have kicked in by now, but she felt no different than if she were standing on terra firma. “We’re about in the center. ” “It truly is warm. ” “The climate extends for miles around the Territories. ” “Where is everyone?” Not a soul could be seen. “I believe it’s the middle of the night. Morning comes very early here. ” He pointed toward the largest building in the area, one elevated above all the rest. “That’s Skye Hall. ” “I never knew it was an actual hall. ” The seat of Vrekener power. The grand edifice was the only building with the slightest ornamentation; Corinthian columns fronted it, but like all the others, it apparently had no roof. What might be this island’s only trees grew around it. “The building was constructed against a ridge. The assembly rooms front the elevation, while the royal residence is above it. ” After all she and Thronos had been through, the prospect of entering that hall and facing Aristo left her queasy. “Can we wait till tomorrow to talk with him?” “Yes. We must be wed first,” Thronos said decisively. Shit just got real. “He might not even be in residence,” Thronos pointed out. “He often travels. ” Busy, busy Aristo. Wonder what he’s up to now . . . “Okay, then, show me your digs. ” Even if there was some kind of air mojo up here, she was getting dizzy from the altitude, having gone from miles below sea level to miles above it. “Don’t know what digs are, Melanthe. ” “Where’s your place?” “Our place. ” She knew the exact moment when he comprehended he was truly going to claim her—and soon. He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing, his piercing gaze sweeping over her body—as if he was deciding what he wanted to do with it first. He didn’t block his thoughts, but she didn’t delve. In a huskier voice, he said, “We live there. ” With his free hand, he pointed out another structure high on a cliffside, at the edge of the village. Though unconnected to the other structures, it wasn’t more than a hundred yards or so from them. “Hmm. ” They started toward it. “Hmm what?” “I guess I was expecting a palace or something. Our roofless house is really close to other roofless houses, huh?” How ’bout those wedding night sex acoustics? “We’re not without problems in our kingdom, Lanthe. We live immortal lives, yet our lands are finite. We face overpopulation. ” Interesting. “When we talk to Aristo, you can tell him we’re going to go found a Vrekener offshoot colony in a different realm. We’ll call it LantheLand. ” “As appealing as LantheLand sounds, I don’t see it happening. The Vrekeners will always live together. Our unity is our strength. ” Thronos stopped to gaze down at her. “So eager to leave? When you just got here?” “I fear things won’t turn out with your brother as you expect them to. ” “Maybe I don’t expect a resolution. Maybe I just need to say I tried. ” That she could accept. She nodded, and he continued leading her toward . . . their home. On the way, he pointed out a trio of obelisks of differing heights. “I learned to fly by dropping from those columns—the smallest one when I was but two or so. ” She imagined him as a toddler, fearlessly leaping into a parent’s arms, wearing the determined expression she knew so well; maybe that look had been born there. His wings would probably have been oversized for his little body. “I’ll bet you were absolutely adorable. ” A thought struck her. “Does your mother still live?” “Most Vrekeners don’t go on without their mates. ” So Sabine had essentially killed both of his parents. Were Lanthe and Thronos kidding themselves? He swiftly changed the subject. “On the other side of Skye Hall is the bastion, an area where we eat and socialize. It used to be a prison, but we had to reclaim the space. ” “Vrekeners socialize?” “Of course. There’s a gathering hall on each island. ” “How does that work, if you can’t drink or gamble? I’m guessing dancing is out?” “We have sporting events and contests. Those of a more studious bent gather to read and debate. ” Bully. When all the dust settled, Lanthe would be portaling to Rothkalina weekly, just to tie one on. She’d force Thronos to come with her. “I’m sure your people will be overjoyed to have someone like me living among them. ” “At first they might not know what to think. But they’ll come to see you as I have. It will happen. ” His utter certainty reassured her, his confidence proving contagious. They started up a steep walkway with a series of switchbacks. “I’m surprised you guys bother with steps. ” “We do have Sorceri who live here. And injuries occasionally happen to the wings of the young. ” A very generous way of putting the latter. He was doing everything possible to make her comfortable. “How many islands are there? How many Vrekeners?” “Tens and tens of thousands are spread over one hundred and seventy islands. ” She’d had no idea there were so many of them. But it made sense that an immortal faction would thrive in a hidden realm. “I’ll take you over the entire kingdom in the coming days,” he said as they reached the landing in front of his—their—place. The wooden door was of simple construction, with a rustic latch and no lock. He opened it, ushering her inside. Filled with curiosity about the man he’d become, she took in details. The best word to describe the area: spartan. The few pieces of furniture were no-frills—a table with a couple of backless benches, additional benches in a sitting area. Just as with the rest of the realm, there was no color. And no freaking roof. This lack had looked weird from the outside but was even weirder from within. The structure felt like a dollhouse, as if they were being watched from above. No wonder Vrekeners were so concerned with private behavior. Thronos led her along a hallway, past a study lined with books; she decided to come back later and investigate at her leisure. With limited space in his home, every tome he kept must be important. “Where’s the kitchen?” “We eat in the bastion. ” “So no servants?” “Not in the Skye. ” Ugh. Past a surprisingly modern-looking bathroom was a spacious bedroom, with just a nightstand, a chest of drawers, and an enormous bed. The mattress was larger than a king-size, probably because of wingspan considerations. When her steps teetered, he grabbed her elbow. “Lanthe?” “Sorry. I’m light-headed after coming from the bottom of the ocean. ” “You should lie down. ” He led her to the bed. She sat at the edge. “In the legendary Bed of Troth?” It’d been crafted of a dark wood and looked sturdy. In a head-on collision with a truck, this bed would dominate. The headboard and footboard were carved with mysterious Vrekener markings. “So this is where we’ll do the deed?” As if the words were pulled from him, he said, “I will wait until you feel better. I’ve waited this long. ” Since he’d been a teenager. Lifetimes of curiosity and building lust. “Thronos, I’ll be fine if you give me a few minutes to get used to the altitude. ” She could hear his pulse accelerate as he said, “So tonight, we’ll . . . ” All in, Lanthe? Accompanying him to heaven meant marriag
e. Marriage meant possible pregnancy. Which was a lot for any sorceress to have to decide in one night. Was she really going to take this step? She’d told him that if he ever gave her a loving expression like the one that Volar had sported, she’d consider giving it up. She regarded his face and found herself saying, “I figure I’ll go ahead and claim you. ” He grinned. “Then I need to retrieve something from the Hall. I’ll be right back. Make yourself at home—because it is your home. ” At the doorway, he turned back. “I’m reluctant to let you out my sight. I feel like I should be chasing you, or we should be saving each other from some calamity. ” “I’ll be here waiting for you. ” When he exited with a look of longing, she reclined to gaze at the stars. I’m in Thronos’s bed. Weird. How many times had he lain here and thought of her? He’d told her he’d dreamed of her for hundreds of thousands of nights. How many of those times had been in this bed? Now she began to get nervous. Because he was a virgin (her first and only virgin), she felt even more pressure to make this unforgettable. But how could the reality possibly measure up to five hundred years of fantasy?
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