Ashes of Midnight (Chapter Thirty-Seven)

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND ONE WEEK LATER Reichen stood alone at the moonlit shore of Narragansett Bay, deep in a private meditation that had become his nightly ritual after he and Claire had left Boston. Behind him, the sounds of her soft piano music drifted down from the house. He let the soothing notes wash over him as he focused all of his mental energy on the bright orb of fire that he held suspended in the foot of space between his palms. The ball spun faster as he slowly brought his hands into a closer span. The light grew hotter, turning from the orange glow of flame to an intense whitish blue. And still Reichen squeezed it tighter, compressing the fire's power into a smaller and smaller area that was completely under his control. The pyrokinesis that had once coursed through his entire body like a savage brush fire was slowly coming to heel. Finally bending to his will, obeying his command. The exercise was exhausting, but each time he worked the fire he got better at it. Tonight he had held it for ten minutes straight– twice as long as he had only the night before. He was determined to shape his ability into a true talent, and he had Claire to thank for getting him this far. She was his grounding strength. Her blood kept him steady, and her love kept him whole.

He was finally coming to accept himself as he was–all that he was, including this part of him, which he'd tried for so long to deny. He'd gone three decades living a shallow existence, closing himself off from true emotion for fear that it would make him weak. Now he felt everything in exponentially greater measure. With Claire at his side, he was finally coming to embrace all that it meant to truly be alive. Distantly, as he honed the orb of fire into a smaller, brighter sphere, he registered that the music from inside the house had stopped. It took all of his focus to keep the ball spinning between his palms.

So much so that he didn't hear anyone approaching until a deep male voice muttered a vivid curse behind him. "It's all right, Tegan," Claire said, as Reichen slowly pivoted to face them. Her smile was amused, and not a little proud as she met her mate's gaze. "You're getting better at this. Last time you did it, the orb only got as small as an orange." Reichen quirked a brow at her as he crushed his hands together and extinguished the flames completely. His body was tired from the exertion it took to manage his talent, but his heart soared to see Claire's confidence in him. And he was glad to see his friend from Boston, too. "Tegan," he said, extending his hand to the warrior in greeting. The Gen One gave him a cautious nod as he clasped the hand that had just been lit with preternatural heat. "Impressive," he said, grinning now.

"Someone's obviously been eating his Wheaties." Reichen laughed. "I have something far better than that, my friend." Claire came over and wrapped her arm around him, nestling into his side. He would never tire of feeling her pressed close to him, and the past week they'd spent together in Newport had been the best rehabilitation he could have asked for. He was content beyond his wildest imaginings, but seeing Tegan now, he had to admit a growing itch to get back into the thick of the action with his friends in the Order. "Have there been any further leads on Dragos since we spoke a couple of days ago?" he asked, figuring the warrior hadn't come all the way down to Rhode Island just on a house call. "We're following up on a few things, but the son of a bitch seems to have cleared out of the area. He clearly knew we would be closing in on his location in Connecticut, and we're not discounting the fact that he might have established alternative locations long before now. Our best bet for the time being is to chase down his network of associates in the Enforcement Agency."

"Anything I can do to help," Reichen said. "Tell me where I am needed. You know I'm available to the Order." "You've been invaluable already, my man. Without you and Claire both, we might not have found Dragos's lab at all. Now many of our suspicions about his operation are confirmed. It's more critical than ever that we find Dragos, but we also need to find the Ancient he's been imprisoning all this time. No telling where he might have moved the creature, but the fact that it's out there somewhere is a disaster just waiting to happen." Reichen nodded soberly. "Sounds like the Order has its hands full, even more so now than before." "Yeah, we do," Tegan agreed. "Actually, Lucan and the rest of us in Boston agree that we could use an envoy to help us gather support among the European population.

Your reputation has been gold among the Darkhavens over there, as well as with the Enforcement Agency. We're going to need someone with a cool head and good instincts to help us gather our own alliances, and at the same time root out any possible alliances of Dragos's among those groups. Any chance you might be willing to leave your nice little love nest here in Newport to do some diplomatic work for us from time to time?"

Reichen glanced down to meet Claire's gaze. They had agreed to make the house in Newport their home, maybe even start a family of their own before too long. He was eager for the life they were planning together, but duty and loyalty to the Order tugged at him, as well. She understood that fact; he saw the acceptance in her eyes. She smiled and gave him a small nod. "At the rate you're going, by next week you'll have grown bored of juggling fire. You'll be looking for new challenges. Maybe we both will be. Maybe there is work enough for both of us with the Order," she said, turning a questioning look on Tegan. The warrior smiled. "We would be honored to count on you both." "I didn't exactly leave Germany on the best terms," Reichen murmured. "The Agency over there may view me as a fugitive, not a friend." "Actually" Tegan said, "for all intents and purposes, you're a dead man. You died last summer, in the fire that destroyed your Darkhaven. Now Roth and everyone in his circle are dead, too. To anyone else, you're a ghost, Reichen.

Which will give you even greater opportunity to get close to our targets over there and shore up covert alliances." "A spy for the Order?" Reichen said, liking the idea already. "I'm not saying it's going to be easy. It's going to be damned hard work at times. And it's going to be deadly dangerous, too." Tegan asked, "You think you can handle that?" Reichen looked to Claire again, feeling stronger than ever when he saw the faith and admiration shining back at him in her soft brown eyes. "Yes," he said. "I think I can handle that." With Claire beside him, loving him–believing in him–he could handle anything at all. About the Author

With family roots stretching back to the Mayflower, author Lara Adrian lives with her husband in coastal New England, surrounded by centuries-old graveyards, hip urban comforts, and the endless inspiration of the broody Atlantic Ocean. To learn more about Lara and her novels, and to sign up for her e-mail newsletter, please visit [].