Scorched Skies

Page 12


Charlie? Where was Charlie?
“Oh shit!
As if she’d conjured him, a leg swung above her head and the hands fell away from her arms. A strong, familiar hand wrapped around her and pulled her to her feet. She stumbled against Charlie’s wide chest. He looked down at her, his face strained with worry and exhaustion. His eyebrow was cut and he was covered in sweat and dirt. “You OK?”
She shook her head. “I need to learn how to fight.”
He glanced around at the bodies around them. “You did alright.”
“Alright isn’t good enough.”
Relief washed through Ari at the sound of Jai’s voice and she pulled away from Charlie to see Jai striding towards them. Four other bodies lay on the ground, including Jai’s original attacker. “Are you OK?” she stumbled towards him on adrenaline-shaky legs.
His stern face stopped her in her tracks. “I’m fine. A little dizzy, but fine. Their concoction needs tweaking. There wasn’t nearly enough strength in it to keep me placid for long.” He looked around them. “I don’t know what happened here but we’ve got to get back and call on The Red King. This was…”
“Weird?” Charlie offered, kicking aside one of the guy’s legs. “These guys were human. What were they doing coming after Ari?”
“One of them said something.” Ari peered down at the man whose nose she’d broken. Charlie must have rendered him unconscious too. Oh swell… didn’t that make her feel useless. “He said, ‘Master Dalí can’t wait to meet you.’”
Jai’s face darkened. “I’ve never heard of him. But the Master part, the fog…”
“Oh definitely. Charlie, give me a hand to get these guys off the road.”
Ari glowered as Charlie immediately bent to toss an unconscious guy over his shoulder, heading towards the thick woodland to dump him there. “Hey, I can help.”
Striding by her with his own unconscious attacker, Jai pointed at the car. “Get in the car. I’m pissed at you for getting out of it in the first place.”
Outrage lit through her. “Hey, I’m a big girl, I can make my own decisions.”
“Get in the car, Ari!” Charlie yelled now, his own eyes glittering with anger.
Her mouth fell open, her cheeks blazing with indignation as the two men in her life stared at her, their expressions implacable. She made a ‘pfft’ sound and whirled around, stomping like a child towards the car. “Too much testosterone, infuriating cavemen, need someone else to boss around, stupid jerks…” she kept muttering insults under her breath until Charlie and Jai had cleared the road. Charlie jumped into the passenger seat as Jai pressed a hand to the bonnet of the SUV. The engine immediately started and he walked around, pulling the driver’s door open, bristling with aggression. He was probably pissed because he let himself get incapacitated.
Neither of them said a word to one another. The drive back to the house was painful and Ari had to shake herself when she remembered she’d buried her dad today. It already felt like days ago. Time had been moving in a blurry mass of nothingness. Not anymore, Ari mused, thinking about her attackers and this new threat.
8 - Rain is Not Enough. I Want the Lightning
OK, so his father had been right about where the Seal was and about the guardian Jinn covering her ass. But he hadn’t mentioned anything about the unpracticed sorcerer. Unless The Gleaming King didn’t know anything about him. Dalí sighed, shaking the liquid harmal concoction in its test tube. He leaned back in his office chair and fought the urge to smash the damn thing against the wall. He’d thought he’d gotten the Jinn poison just right. Instead of repelling it was supposed to drug them, numb their system so they couldn’t move and couldn’t think. But that Ginnaye had come out of the dose too quickly. Back to the drawing board. The phone on his desk sat too quietly, taunting him into deeper exasperation. As soon as his team had come back from their failed ‘kidnap the Seal’ mission he’d had his healer and scientist head back down into the labs to work over two human-living Jinn. Patience had never been Dalí’s forte and the thought of someone like Ari Johnson just walking around out there with all that power drove him nuts. He had to have her.
The White King seemed to believe that controlling Ari was the only way to have use of the Seal. His uncle had his own reasons for wanting the Seal and Dalí had to wonder if it was more than what everyone else assumed. Yeah, yeah there was a ‘war’ going on and all but life for the Jinn Kings wasn’t so bad. Surely The White King could see that. And to brutalize and manipulate his own daughter for a chance at using her power? Dalí shook his head. He had to remember that not all of the kings were like his own father. His father was affectionate with him. Loving. Even when he was a bastard to everyone else. A Jinn King had to really want to have a child in order for one to be created. As far as Dalí was aware, he had only a handful of half-brothers and sisters out there, none of whom he had ever met. But he knew The Gleaming King loved all his children, that’s why he kept having them every century or so, and Dalí had to believe his father would not punish him for what he was attempting to do. And if he succeeded, his father would be too afraid to question him.
Dalí smiled at that, excitement rushing through his veins, the thirst for power tingling on his tongue. He touched a talisman around his neck and used the energy from the jet stone to conjure up a glass of water. Drinking it thirstily he wished it was Ari’s blood. Blood with all that power. He felt a stirring of lust and slammed his fist down on his desk. What was taking so long down in that lab? He had to get Ari. He had to get her now.
Son! The Gleaming King’s voice blasted into his head. I request your presence on Mount Qaf.
Many half-breed Jinn were not born with the ability to use telepathy. But as the son of a Jinn King, Dalí was more powerful than most. Perhaps that’s why he was so greedy for more. However, he’d always envied full-blooded Jinn like that damn Ginnaye who’d gummed up his kidnapping scheme, but there was one thing that Dalí was glad of. Half-breeds were much harder to trace. That missing piece of energy within them meant they blended in with the human world so much more easily. It was hard enough finding a Jinn who didn’t want to be found (unless they’d committed a crime against the Jinn laws) but finding someone like Dalí?
Call it foresight, but Dalí hadn’t confided his latest base of operations to his father. And it seemed The Gleaming King had somehow found out what he’d been up to. He shrugged off the guilt of not responding to his father’s request. When he had Ari, nothing else would matter. Not love. Not loyalty. Not guilt.
Only power.
9 - This Heart’s Already Broken. Find Another.
They ran into the house, a buzz of vibrant energy around them from the very temporary enchantment Jai had placed around all three of them until they were ‘safe’ inside. As soon as the door slammed shut behind them, they all exhaled in relief, slumping against the nearest wall. Ari threw Jai a worried look as he leaned against the door, his eyes closed, his chest rising and falling fast with exertion. He looked so pale and exhausted from using so much magic.
Before she could ask him if he was OK, the hair on her nape rose as she sensed another Jinn presence. She spun around and was unsurprised and relieved to find The Red King standing in her sitting room. Eyeing the room, Ari fought off an inappropriate bubble of amusement. He’d cleaned again. Her uncle was such a neat freak.
“Hey.” Ari nodded, still a little out of breath.
Her uncle frowned, his brilliant blue gaze moving from Ari to Jai to Charlie and then back to Jai. “I came to see how Ari was coping, but clearly something’s happened. What’s up?” he demanded of her guardian.
As if his tone had shot an extra surge of strength into him, Jai straightened and brushed past Ari (her shoulder tingled where they touched and she glowered) to stand before The Red King. “We were attacked by humans. Six of them. They wanted Ari.”
“What?” Her uncle’s eyes narrowed in confusion. He took a step back, his beautiful long red hair swaying with his movements. “Oh man this can’t be happening. We have enough problems.”
“We got a name,” Jai told him. “They referred to their Master as Master Dalí.”
The Red King spun around so fast Ari was surprised he didn’t give himself whiplash. He strode towards Jai, his steps aggressive, his face severe. “Are you sure?”
Jai glanced back at Ari. “That’s what he said, right?”
Annoyance at how Charlie and Jai had spoken to her back at the scene of the attack still choked her. Considering what she’d been through today she would have thought the jackasses could have treated her with a little more sensitivity. “Oh, am I allowed to speak now?”
Her guardian’s vivid green gaze darkened. “Ari,” he said in warning.
“What did I miss?” Her uncle asked, furrowing his brow at her.
“Oh just me being treated like a child. On a day I could really do without it.”
“I told you to stay in the car and you got out of the car. You disobeyed me,” Jai snapped, frustration evident in every nuance of his body.
At his choice of words, Ari felt flames lick across her skin, her heart pounding hard against her ribcage. “Disobeyed you?”
“My job is to protect you. If you don’t listen to me, I can’t do my job.”
“And what about him?” Ari yelled now, turning around to glare at Charlie. “Is that what you think too?”
Charlie held his hands up in defense. “I just wanted you in the car and out of danger.”
She felt mollycoddled, useless, impotent, and something unfurled from within her. Something that didn’t feel a part of her. It was dark and ugly and mad… and she couldn’t hold it back. “Do I need to remind you who has the power here? What I’m capable of?” she asked, the voice pulling out of her not hers, not her words, not her intentions, not her own. As if watching from a distance, she turned around very slowly, eyeing them all, feeling the spark of her great power at her fingertips and glorying in it. Their eyes widened as she looked at them one by one, but it was the glimpse of horror in Jai’s eyes that made her grab a hold of herself and shove herself back in control. She shuddered, feeling the darkness plunge back down to where it had unearthed from, her body feeling limp as she fell against the arm of her sofa.