Archangel's Consort / Page 2

Page 2


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“Of course, Guild Hunter.” He gave a small bow. “I was not sure if you would wish a meal, Sire, but I have sent a small tray up to your rooms.”

“That will be all for tonight, Montgomery.”

As the butler whispered away, Elena looked with growing suspicion at a large Chinese vase in one corner of the hall, opposite the stained-glass wall beside the door. It was decorated with a pattern of sunflowers that seemed oddly familiar. Letting go of Raphael’s hand, she stepped closer ... closer. Her eyes went wide. “This is mine!” Given as a gift by an angel in China after Elena completed a particularly dangerous hunt, one that had taken her into the bowels of the Shanghai underworld.

Raphael touched his fingers to the small of her back, a searing brand. “All of your things are here.” He waited until she looked up before saying, “They were moved to this house for safekeeping until your return.

“However,” he continued when she remained silent, her throat a knot of emotion, “it seems Montgomery could not help himself when it came to this vase. I’m afraid he has a weakness for beautiful things and has been known to relocate an item if he feels it is not being accorded the proper appreciation. Once, he ‘relocated’ an ancient sculpture from the home of another archangel.”

Elena stared down the corridor where the butler had disappeared in refined silence. “I don’t believe you. He’s too prim and proper.” It was easier to say that, to focus on the humor, than to accept the tightness in her chest, the feelings locking up her throat.

“You would be surprised.” Touching her lower back again, he nudged her down the hall and up a flight of stairs. “Come, you can look at your belongings in the morning.”

She dragged her feet at the top of the staircase. “No.”

Raphael measured her expression with those eyes no mortal would ever possess, a silent visual reminder that he had never been human, would never be anything close to mortal. “Such will.” Leading her to a room that flowed off what she knew to be the master bedroom, he opened the door.

Everything from her apartment lay neatly stacked, slipcovers over the furnishings, her knickknacks in boxes.

She froze on the doorstep, uncertain how she felt—relief and anger and joy all battled for space inside of her. She’d known she could never go back to the apartment that had been her haven and more, a furious rebuttal against her father’s abandonment. The place wasn’t built for a being with wings—but the loss had hurt. So much.

Now ... “Why?”

His hand closed around her nape with no attempt to hide the possession inherent in the act. “You are mine, Elena. If you choose to sleep in another bed, I will simply pick you up and bring you home.”

Arrogant words. But he was an archangel. And she’d made a claim of her own. “As long as you remember that goes both ways.”

Acknowledged, Guild Hunter. A kiss pressed to the curve of her shoulder, his fingers tightening on her nape just a fraction. Come to bed.

Arousal kicked her hard, her body knowing full well what pleasure awaited her at those strong, lethal hands. “So we can talk knives and sheaths?”

Sensual male laughter, another kiss, the caress of teeth. But he released his hold, watching in silence as she stepped into the room and lifted a slipcover to run her fingers over the delicately embroidered comforter on the bed that had been her own, then she moved to explore the vanity with its store of pretty glass bottles and brushes set tidily inside a small box. She felt like a child, wanting to reassure herself that everything was here, the need visceral enough to hurt.

As she gave in to the emotional hunger, her mind disgorged images of another homecoming, of the shock and humiliation that had burned her throat when she’d found her things piled up like so much garbage on the street. Nothing would ever erase that hurt, the pain of the knowledge that that was exactly what she was to her father, but tonight, Raphael had crushed the memory under the weight of a far more powerful act.

She had no illusions about her archangel, knew he’d done it in part precisely for the reason he’d given her—so she wouldn’t be tempted to treat her apartment as a bolt-hole. But had that been his sole motivation, he could as easily have sent her stuff to the dump. Instead, every single piece had been packed with care and moved here. Some of it had been exposed to the elements when her window shattered that night, and yet now everything looked pristine, speaking of meticulous restoration.

Heart aching at the wonder of being so cherished, she said, “We can go now.” She’d come back later, decide what to do with everything. “Raphael—thank you.”

The brush of his wing against her own was a silent tenderness as they entered the master suite. No one else ever saw this part of him, she thought, eyes on her archangel as he moved closer to the bed and began to strip without flicking on the lights. His shirt fell off his body, revealing that magnificent chest she’d kissed her way across more than once. Suddenly, the overwhelming weight of her emotions was gone, buried under an avalanche of gut-wrenching need.

Raphael looked up at that moment, his gaze glittering with an earthy hunger that said he’d sensed her arousal. Deciding to save the talking for later, she was raising her fingers to tug off her own top when rain—no, hail—hit the windows in staccato bullets that made her jump. She’d have ignored it, except the hard little pellets of ice kept smashing into the glass over and over again. “Must be a storm.” Dropping her hands, she walked to one of the windows after glancing over to ensure the French doors to the balcony were secure.

Lighting flashed in vicious spikes in front of her as savage winds began to pound the house with unremitting fury, the hail turning to torrential rain between one blink and the next. “I’ve never seen it come in this hard, this fast.”

Raphael walked to stand beside her, his naked upper body patterned with the image of the raindrops against the window. She looked up when he didn’t say anything, saw the shadows that had turned his gaze turbulent in an unexpected reflection of the storm. “What is it? What am I not seeing?” Because that look in his eyes ...

“What do you know of recent weather patterns across the world?”

Elena traced a raindrop with her gaze as it tunneled across the glass. “I caught a weather update while we were at the Tower. The reporter said a tsunami had just hit the east coast of New Zealand, and that the floods in China are getting worse.” Sri Lanka and the Maldives had apparently already been evacuated, but they were starting to run out of places to put people.

“Earthquakes have been rocking Elijah’s territory,” Raphael told her, speaking of the South American archangel, “and he fears that at least one major volcano is about to erupt. That is not all. Michaela tells me most of Europe is shuddering in the grip of an unseasonable ice storm so vicious, it threatens to kill thousands.”

Elena’s shoulder muscles went stiff at the mention of the most beautiful—and most venomous—of archangels. “The Middle East, at least,” she said, forcing herself to relax, “seems to have escaped major catastrophe from what I saw on the news.”

“Yes. Favashi is helping Neha deal with the disasters in her region.”

The Archangel of Persia and the Archangel of India, Elena knew, had worked together on previous occasions. And now, when Neha hated almost everyone else in the Cadre, she seemed to be able to tolerate Favashi—perhaps because the other archangel was so much younger. “It means something, doesn’t it?” she said, turning to place her hand on the wild heat of Raphael’s chest, the shadowy raindrops whispering over her skin. “All this extreme weather.”

“There is a legend,” Raphael murmured, his wings flaring out as he tugged her into the curve of his body—as if he would protect her. “That mountains will shake and rivers overflow, while ice creeps across the world and fields drown in rain.” He looked down her at, his eyes that impossible, inhuman chrome blue. “All this will come to pass ... when an Ancient awakens.”

The chill in his tone raised every hair on her body.

2

Shaking off the bone-deep cold, she said, “The ones who Sleep?” Raphael had told her about those of his race who were so old they grew weary of immortality. So they lay down and closed their eyes, falling into a deep slumber that would break only when something compelled them to consciousness.

“Yes.” A single word that held a thousand unsaid things.

She leaned deeper into him, sliding her arms around his waist. The backs of her hands brushed against the raw silk of his feathers, and it was a quiet, stunning intimacy between an archangel and a hunter. “This kind of a disruption can’t happen every time. There must be a few who Sleep?”

“Yes.” His voice grew distant in a way that was the mask of an immortal who’d lived centuries beyond a millennium. “What we may be witnessing is the rebirth of an archangel.”

She sucked in a breath, understanding flickering at the corners of her mind. “How many archangels Sleep?”

“No one knows, but there have been disappearances throughout our history. Antonicus, Qin, Zanaya. And . . .”

“Caliane,” she completed for him, shifting so that she could see his face without craning her neck. He was so good at hiding his emotions, her archangel, but she was learning to read the minute shifts in those eyes that had seen more dawns than she could ever imagine, witnessed the birth and fall of civilizations.

Now, her back against the glassy cold of the window, she didn’t protest as he leaned in to place one hand palm-down beside her head. Instead, she ran her fingers down the muscled planes of his chest to rest at his hips, anchoring him to the present, to her as she asked him about a nightmare. “Will you know if your mother wakes?”

“When I was a child”—skin touched with heat, but his eyes, they remained that inhuman metallic shade—“we had a mental bond. But it burned away as I grew, and as she fell into madness.” His gaze looked past her, to the pitch-black of the night.

Elena was used to fighting for what she needed, what she wanted. She’d had to become that way to survive. It had toughened her. But what she felt for this male, this archangel, it was a stronger, more powerful need, one that gave her an insight the hunter alone would’ve never had. “Stop it.”

A silent glance rimmed with a thin frost made up of the myriad dark echoes that lingered in an archangel’s memories.

“If you let the memory of her spoil this,” she said, refusing to back down, “spoil us, then it doesn’t matter if she is the Sleeper. The damage will have been done—by you.”

A long, still instant, but his attention was very much on her now. “You,” he said, his wings spreading out to block the rest of the room from her view, “manipulate me.”

“I take care of you,” she corrected. “Just like you took care of me by not letting me answer my father’s call earlier today.” At the time, she’d gotten snippy—because she’d been afraid. And she hated being afraid. Especially of the hurt that Jeffrey Deveraux meted out with such cruel ease. “That’s the deal, so learn to handle it.”


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