Practically bowled over at the door with hospitality and swamped, the Covenant finally made their way inside the new compound, each assessing the scene in their own quiet way with a private chuckle. Those clerics who were allowed to be hugged were practically swept off their feet. Those who weren't received endless bows and verbal accolades un til they blushed. Before they could get their bags to the room, they'd been swept into a whirlwind tour.

Carlos glimpsed Damali from the corner of his eye, re laxed, relieved, and oh so glad he got his petition in first. More important, he was able to update them on the plan and debrief them on the issues they'd been dealing with. He told all, left no stone unturned -

especially the part about the fawn hybrid and information he'd received from a nameless source regarding Lilith's worry that had to be Nod. The only disclosure he didn't give up was Yonnie's role and contribu tion to the cause, but did give each cleric a mental picture of his friend, lest they be caught in a firefight and aim for the wrong entity. Father Pat knew him, and although he wasn't comfortable, gave the stay order not to shoot unless ab

solutely necessary.

But as they passed the huge, industrial laundry room, Carlos noticed his wife lagging behind the group. As everyone moved around, giving the clerics the lay of the land, Carlos slipped his arm around Damali's waist as they walked. It was a loose, easy, natural embrace, a warm pull of energies touching. She rested her head on his shoulder when they came to a stop outside the technology room.

"I had to let 'em know what was up ... they'll wanna talk about the fawn hybrid and what it means after dinner," he said quietly.

"I know," she murmured, "although, right now, let's just live in the present. Everybody seems so happy."

He nodded and kissed her hair. "You happy?"


* * *

With daylight as her cover, and the only member of the Vampire Council who was of Level Seven origin, Lilith made her way topside to find the shadow wall - the weakened section of universal fabric that separated Nod from the earth plane. On the other side, in the dank, forbidden alley where hybrids stole away to seek traces of earth plane sensations, she called out to old Cain loyalists - now her followers - whispering to the

rubbery surface until their faces strained against it.

"The time is nigh, be ready for my call. My scientists are back at work, undoing Ausar's shields. He cannot hold the fabric between worlds together indefinitely with his resources so severely strained, like mine. Wait for me near Masada... near the original lands that the foolish humans deemed holy. Just like the Romans finally overran them there, my heir and your numbers shall spill out of the banishment zone in a place where the Neterus will not want to fight, will hesitate to take a stand ... the very location itself will inspire fear. But I will have at my disposal human troops on both sides, as well as any of their allies, to manipulate as always in any human confrontation."

She chuckled as gaping mouths and contorted faces and bodies pressed against the rubbery surface. Seeking hands tried to push through to touch her and she opened her arms and leaned against the moaning, yearning forms. "Soon, there will be nothing to separate us," she promised, then was gone.

* * *

Lorelei fell out of bed as she awoke with a start to see Lilith reclining next to her with a wicked smile. She immediately went down on her knees and cowered.

"I hope I have not displeased you, Your Majesty. I did find him, Yolando went to a coven in Tijuana, and they're so territorial there, that they blocked my sightline to him." Lilith sat up with a bored sigh and stood. "Yes. We sensed him. A new councilman indulging his topside passions. I should have known." She smiled thinking of Fallen Nuit and Sebastian's jealousy that only Yonnie seemed to be able to move about in the earth gray zone that they dearly missed, unafraid of Neteru reprisal. It quietly gave her pause, but she'd never reveal her hesitation to Lorelei.

"I was able to pick up a detail he left floating in the breeze when he made contact with the seduced Guardian," Lorelei said quickly, trying to appease her ruling entity. "The Neteru Guardians are resource challenged and are going to try to host a worldwide concert. They want to call all their Guardian units to a summit, have a message for them in the last days, and may use our airwaves to broadcast simultaneous images. It was at the forefront of Yolando's mind before he sought to indulge himself across the border."

"Make it impossible for them to get a worthy venue!" Lilith railed. " Crush their attempt to get word out to their own kind and monitor anything they send via any form of airwave we own. I want their music crushed, their message lost, and only violent, foul, and lewd images from our realm to blot out whatever the Neterus have to communicate." She hissed. "I will tell Sebastian to invoke Rasputin for this!"

"We can block her access to all the best venues, sway the radio stations, television stations to not broadcast her event. We can even block her getting those best locations by tying up the process through haggling unfavorable terms... but in hot, passionate bursts. In one lithe move he'd stepped out of the tub blindly and pressed the length of their bodies to

gether with a deep groan. When he broke away from her mouth again to catch his breath, she watched his eyes cross beneath his lids as he flattened his palm in the dip of her spine and made her pelvis collide with his. She knew where he was at; his body demanded friction, even more urgently, penetration, but she wanted to take him to a transcendent place in his mind ... the only problem was, he'd begun to unravel hers. His palms slid down into the dip in her spine to capture the rise in both halves of her

behind, and the heat he applied there made her want to climb up his body the way her Sankofa tattoo was climbing up her back. Soon she could see liquid, shimmering hue from her aura spilling off of her skin onto his, something only he'd been able to see on her before. As his energy essence commingled with hers, the unanticipated sensation made them both cry out.

She threw her head back, holding on to his shoulders, nearly faint as the urge to draw him inside her reached a fever-pitch just from their heated embrace. His hands were wreaking havoc with her chakras, hot sweeps delivering spon taneous tactical charge, sending hard contractions throughout her canal, quaking her womb, and releasing choked gasps just from his touch. Somehow the oil of Hathor had become her ruin, too. Carlos's hands slid up her spine and caressed her shoulder blades where her wings normally crested, but his touch created agony, his will able to forestall them from presenting and making her crazy. It was as though she couldn't get enough of his skin to touch hers at one time. His labored bursts of warm breaths against her neck drove her hand between their bodies to stroke him, but he wouldn't let her. Instead he quickly cap tured her wrist, brought her palm to his mouth, and placed a deep kiss in the center of it until she practically dissolved like another puddle on the floor.

Every sensitive point on her was on fire and had made her nearly insane with need. All she could do was rub her body against his, allow her breasts and her belly and fevered mound to graze his hard burning surface, trying to capture jus mouth again while on her tiptoes. She loved this man so much she couldn't breathe.

The moment he put his hands in her hair, her locks ignited with a blue-white erotic charge that buckled her body to a near orgasm. But rather than allow it to run its normal course, he caught it in his fist, drew it from the crown of her head, down through her body in agonizing increments, and finally pulled it out of the base of her spine so slowly she wept.

"Your eyes are silver," he said in an awed, satisfied murmur. "I've never seen that happen before."

She grasped his biceps hard as she turned her head and looked away. She squeezed her eyes shut. Her nails had begun to score his skin. "Please ... let it go," she whispered hoarsely, unable to move as she stood trembling, waiting, needing him to release what he'd captured inside a small, pure silver energy orb.

"I will in a minute, tesoro. After all you've given me, let me give you back something, beyond all twelve of the planets ... Oh, baby, you showed me creation point with oil of Hathor as a catalyst before," he murmured quickly in her ear, sending heat chills through her as his voice hit a low decibel that clenched her stomach. "Let me show you the outer limits..."

She felt her legs give way and his arms were suddenly under them. There was no resistance, no argument, no dissension whatsoever. It felt like her mind was turning into liquid quicksilver and threatening to run out of her ear, he'd made her so hot. The outer limits? Damali closed her eyes and crushed her face against his chest. Her husband was insane. He'd walked her into the bedroom so swiftly with so much energy wafting off him that every candle went out the second he neared the bed.

Carlos sprawled her across the bed, just let her spill from his arms onto the butter-cream bedsheets, and the pale blue-white wash of light that came from his silver stare and the moon made her do the only thing she could - reach for him. But rather than immediately

come to her, he opened his palm at the side of the bed and let the orb he'd been grasping float toward her. She didn't know what to do, had no frame of reference for where he would take her. Instinct made her open her hand to accept it and she closed her fin gers around it. Yet the instant she did that, the shell of it shattered, and sparkling, confetti-like energy glitter rushed out, floated up and then slowly floated back down like an iri

descent, gentle rain.

She didn't understand why he'd stepped back. Curiosity made her lift herself up on her elbows and stare at him through a heavy-lidded gaze, and then she looked up at the sparkling dust that was backlit by the moon and stars that were peering through the skylight.

"I love you, baby," he murmured, and watched with utter satisfaction as the sparkling particles began to touch her. "Experience the galaxy ... then I'll join you." At first, all she could do was open her mouth and clutch the sheets, so blown away that no sound exited her lungs. Every infinitesimal place a glittering speck hit her sent or gasm trauma through her skin, her hair, her breasts, over her shoulders and belly, and down to her toes. Her skin was cov ered with the shimmering substance that continued to pelt her gently until she fell back against the bed, spent. But as long as it coated her, it continued to send climaxes through her 'til she shrieked.

Prone, then arching, a wail so deep and filled with pre cious agony opened her mouth, making her taste the shim mering energy, swallow it, letting it turn her inside out as it coated her insides and pulled her up in hard jerks from in side her belly. It was all over her, everywhere, and her plea sure sobs turned into a bleating refrain of Carlos's name, reaching for him. He had to get deep inside her, touch the one place that the shimmering energy missed before she went insane. Acute need demanded it. When he blanketed her, she lost what was left of her mind. His sudden weight was just a tease, something that had made her eagerly lift her hips in frustration to claim him. But just as quickly as he'd covered her with his hard body, his shaft pulsing against her thigh like a promise, he took back his wondrous body heat She almost screamed as he just pulled all that phenomenal maleness down her torso by increments until he opened her with his tongue, inviting more energy flecks to sprinkle her there and join his ardent kisses. Pleasure had sent her away from herself, out of body, out of mind, out of breath, to an outer limit where ecstasy could exist in a sliver of universal fabric between one solar system and the next - a void, when a holler was an open-mouthed, silent scream, a breath truncated to gulp nothing but tongue, to a place where it seemed like one was floating but was moving at incredible speeds yet unmeasured by mortal man. When he entered her she saw Light, a brilliant nova's edge of a place that left the sparkling flecks and the void behind.

Her voice bounced off the walls, her flat palm slapped the sheets, his back, his shoulder, turning her legs into a vise as pleasure hysteria lifted her up, wrung her out, had her speaking in tongues begging him for what, she wasn't sure. Her mind couldn't even process her own request, just burst with the hollered litany, "Please! Oh, God, please!" The bite he delivered broke the last of her down, made her lose contact with her mothership of reason, separated her from her body, thrust her onto her own astral plane in a hot, slick, wet slide of skin against skin, perfectly fitted bodies made one for the other, his pure piston energy about to spontaneously combust with every holler, so crazy,

temporarily losing orbit with one another in a hard roll that collided with wood and an unseen barrier - her blunt-edged bite making him see stars inside her head, the line between Ws and her body pure vapor, impossible to judge as his voice bit a crescendo, then bottomed out and became distant thunder. Ka-boom. He was stardust, too -

subatomic pleasure particles, a meteor shower of hot molten rock threatening to give them both heart attacks in bed.

His palm connected with an oak post - something, anything, he had to stay grounded and stop the charge. Her wet, spasming canal felt so good he'd almost swallowed his tongue... had only been a mad scientist experimenting with raw power, didn't know the outcome, had been talking shit, playing -  oh, damn, it felt so good. All his plans for the evening had gone up in flames with reentry. He couldn't pull out, stop to taste her, or anoint the bathroom rocks with her wails, not tonight. Not after her energy hit his energy and he'd blanketed her too soon, mistake. Falling flecks of orgasmic release coated his back, absorbed into his chakras and spine, her furtive sweeps down his back, maddening, her breasts crushing the air from his lungs - a hard roll was the only way to save her wings.

Pinned down at the shoulders, her full weight and energy demanding recompense, with her head thrown back, silver tears streaming, she rode him so hard he was catching cramps in his quads. But stop, how? While snorting blue flames? Oh, hell yeah, she'd watered her warhorse 'til he was sweating gold lacquer, her hands rubbing silver sparkles into it through his chest.

His heart was in arrhythmia. Every convulsion that dredged his sac on each upthrust felt so damned good that his rib cage seized with his breaths, her down-strokes like a CPR hit necessary to save his life. He could barely watch her, his sight blurred by silver-gold tears, her hair wild, wings spread, skin slicked silver from her Neteru sweat, beautiful eyes shut, luscious mouth open gulping air, breasts bouncing, knees bent, thighs clenching his hips, riding him bareback, no hands, her stomach a network of flexible muscle that made a grown man cry.

He could feel her dragging him somewhere so fast so deep into her universe that he released the post, sat up, and wrapped his arms around her waist and hid his face against her breasts. Blackout. There was no sound. Blackout. There were no heartbeats. Blackout. There was no light. Blackout. The darkness gave way to blinding light. Then he felt it all. Oh...shit...

Her name fractured in two like his sanity -  'Mali! Release convulsions kicked his ass for playing with the unknown, messing with her mind, got all inside his, curled his toes, made his pants shallow, fast, and hard, tore his voice up from the roots and twisted it around her name three times  -  Da-Ma-Li! Oh, shit, it was so good, don't stop, but make it end, dear God. He was only human, she was only human, this time maybe he'd gone too far. "Please, baby, ground the charge!"

They both reached out at the same time, each lunging toward opposite sides of the bed without breaking their physical connection. She touched the headboard, he'd grabbed a post. Neither said a word as the final orgasm crested and slowly ebbed away. She dropped like a stone against his chest. Gold-splattered feathers were everywhere, so were minor traces of blood from his bite. They lay like that for a long time, her sprawled on top of him, him spread-eagle under her, both of them gulping air.

When he could focus, he opened his eyes and stared up at the stars through the skylight and studied the moon, catching his breath - now philosophical, a respecter of gravity.

"Don't ever do that again," she said, breathing hard and laughing softly. "At least not without warning me."

He shook his head, still in discovery shock. 'Trust me, baby. I won't."

* * *

"They killed it," Lorelei wept with a shaking voice, engaging her crystal ball.

"What did the Neterus kill?" Lilith's voice hissed.

"They killed my dissension demon ... it was conjured up with such a wonderful spell." Lilith didn't immediately answer. If the Neterus had detected something as deeply embedded and insidious as a dissension demon, then what else had they discovered? She needed to speed up her strategy. Her nerves were wire-taut-nothing could make her plan fail. Almost half a month had passed; one full moon had come and gone. If she didn't get to her secreted-away heir in Nod before the next full moon and bring it to where it could be given a creation pulse to grow, then she would have again failed her husband - an unacceptable consequence.

"You passed it to them through Yolando, where is he now?" Lilith asked, prying for information without divulging her hidden plans to the other high-ranking vampires that surrounded her. "We must ensure his safety. They could have found out that he was a carrier, and might have also begun to question his adherence to the team - what if his infiltration strategies have not worked?"

"I lost track of him in the mountains ... there are a lot of ancient Native American sacred grounds near where he'd been that create interference sometimes," Lorelei said, sounding unsure. "I'll find him, though."

"We will put out a call," Lilith said crisply. "We must also be sure he is still with us at all times."

* * *

She was in no shape to meet the Covenant this morning, much less to go meet the Neteru Queens in order to check on the status of her oracle. About the best she could do was possibly hobble down to the kitchen with Carlos holding her up to eat breakfast. Damali looked at Carlos, and he glanced at her and winced, trying to lift his leg into his jeans.

"This don't make no sense," he said, finally laughing and falling back on the bed. "You've gotta heal a brother, for real."

"Me?" she said, aghast. "You were the one just playing with - "

"I know, I know, my bad," he said, chuckling with his eyes closed, sprawled out. "But, maaan, was it good."

"My voice is still hoarse," she said. "I need some herbal tea or I'll be sooo embarrassed when the clerics get here, Carlos - why do you do this kinda stuff to me all the time?" He leaned up with effort and offered her a big grin. "If I have to tell you that, then I guess it's worse than I think... I'm losing my touch."

* * *

hugs and warm welcomes passed through the new compound, otherwise known as the house. It was far from a house - part dorm, part base station, part studio; it was truly a citadel just missing visible cannons. But this morning, be fore the Covenant arrived, it was home.

Damali smiled and tried not to talk so much. Her body aches had been healed in a long, solo, Epsom salt bath, much to Carlos's dismay, but the team - even if the clerics didn't -

would have to know there was only one reason she sounded like a bullfrog. It didn't matter that the rooms were reinforced against sound for privacy's sake. The night before she'd sounded normal at dinner, and all the pollen in the world wouldn't account for the vocal loss. Her attempts to heal herself hadn't worked, and the fact that Carlos found it to be a badge of honor simply got on her last nerve.

The vibe radiating off the kitchen was so white-hot, she had to check to see if the oven had been left on. She was not about to inquire and was just glad to see that Inez's mood was so buoyant that the chile was practically skipping -  which meant the grub would be off the hook for the visit.

Dan and Heather had even braved coming into Inez's world to teach her how to separate various foods and kitchen equipment out properly to keep certain dishes kosher for Rabbi Zeitloff. To her surprise her normally prickly girl friend was in such a good mood that she took it all in stride. Inez even let Marlene and Marjorie come in there to help, while Krissy, Jasmine, and Heather set the table, with Tara and Juanita on detail to bring fresh flowers in.

At loose ends, she saved her voice by prepping rooms, making sure guests would have linens and towels, and watching the male squad racing around trying to get the last of the boxes unpacked and furniture in place. Why every body was so hyped about the Covenant's stay, she wasn't sure. But in the absence of parents, and regular neighbors and such, she figured it all had to do with the semblance of normalcy thing... and having good vibes and blessings cover one's union didn't hurt at all.

The vibe in the house from the tactical squad was so pow erfully positive and uplifting that furniture kept levitating a few inches off the floor when one of them passed. Coffee table books, magazines, vases, silverware, nothing would stay put as they walked by. Finally they got sent to ground their energy in the earth outside. Murmurs of "My bad" and swallowed smiles just made Damali shake her head.

The seers were no better and were making her eyeballs hurt. Their auras were neon and when they walked across the floor humming they left multi-hued footprints for a second. The trackers were the worst. Every few minutes Jose and Rider would stop whatever they were doing, close their eyes, inhale deeply, and release it with a shudder and a sigh. If they could just get through the meal, do the meeting, and show the clerics guest quarters, then maybe, just maybe, she could pass out for an hour or two and then summon the energy to go have a talk with her Queens.

he was glad he'd been sent alone to go collect the clerics from the safe house to bring them home. It gave him time to think, time to keep his mellow groove shielded from chaotic house details.

Carlos gripped the wheel of the rented SUV. Home. He'd finally set up a place that, for real, felt like home... felt per manent. He allowed the concept to sink in and filter through him like a good clean rain. Every man in the house felt it. The evidence that every brother

in the house had christened his home was seen in their relaxed swaggers and easy smiles, everybody so chill they were practically liquefied.

He also understood why there was so much frenetic activity around the visits, every brother up in the joint, including him, was hoping for a one-on-one. Their wives obviously were, too, pulling out the stops like no warriors normally would. They were breaking out holiday silver, good plates, the whole nine like polishing brass for a Vatican inspection. Everyone clearly wanted a verse said over their loved one's head from the real McCoy, prayers walked across the floor while they saw it done, their bedrooms sealed against entry, hands placed on heads from old men of the cloth ... just to be on the safe side, and keeping it very real.

As Carlos turned into the inconspicuous block and began to slow down to find the house, he had to admit that, yeah, he wanted to get whatever blessings, absolution, whatever was possible to keep his woman safe, too.

There was no faking it, no denying he wanted Father Pat to give him one of those old, gruff stares that said it would be cool. He wanted assurances, despite knowing better, knowing such things didn't exist. But if the old man had insight, a special direct SAT

phone to On High, he wanted to get a message through that if his lady got pregnant again, please, God, let it be normal, make sure the kid would be his and safe ... no matter that he'd seen all he'd seen and knew what he knew.

Last night changed everything for all of them, he was sure. But he could only speak for himself. To his mind, he'd made love to his wife for the first time in their own first home. They'd put down roots and the next steps were imminent, regardless of their job descriptions. Little ones were on the way - it was in the air, thick. The procreation imperative had put down roots, too, like a redwood. And if having clerics physically reside in the house and send good vibes through it would help the cause, superstition or not, he was down. Because last he'd heard, there was no bargaining with On High - you took your lot and lived with it in peace ... and while not a single soldier was trying to fly in the face of such absolute power, given their job risks, it was only human to want to even the odds.

Father Patrick opened the front door as Carlos pulled into the driveway. He smiled. True to form, the old man was reading his mind. Carlos tried to be cool and get out of the vehicle, taking his time, but still found himself rushing, de spite it all. A broad smile spread across the elderly cleric's face and Carlos took the steps two at a time to greet him. Not a word passed between them as that familiar hug got ex changed. A rough slap on the back felt like a slice of heaven. When they both pulled away they nodded, chuckling, and trying not to sniff too hard.

"You look good, Father," Carlos said, relieved to see him healthy and hale.

"You look like married life is treating you very well," Father Patrick said with a merry twinkle in his eye.

"It's aw'ight," Carlos said, laughing and rubbing his jaw. Father Patrick smiled and then nodded. "Yes, son, it is. It is going to be all right." There was nothing else to say as the others began to gather at the door and warm greetings were exchanged. He'd gotten his answer, direct from the source... sent down through channels from the man who'd saved his life, saved his soul, brought him to a safe house when he was dead to the world. After all was said and done, it was gonna be all


Tags: L.A. Banks Vampire Huntress Legend Vampires