Archangel's Consort / Page 22

Page 22


Execution was an angel’s job.

However, since bloodlust was involved in this case, they’d been given the go-ahead to execute if retrieval proved too dangerous. “Ransom’s almost there but he’s got no backup.” She called the other hunter her “almost friend” because they had a tendency to irritate each other as often as they made one another laugh, but she’d spill blood for him in a heartbeat. As he would for her.

“I see.”

Elena set her jaw at that cool statement and finished strapping the miniature flamethrower to her other thigh. “I let it go before, but I can’t anymore.” Walking to the vanity, she began to plait her damp hair with practiced quickness so that it would stay out of her way. The fine, silky stuff had a tendency to escape even the tightest braid, but the damp should help keep it contained. “You took a hunter as your consort, Raphael.”

“That is no longer the only factor.” An answer made in the tone of an immortal used to getting what he wanted. “More than one archangel would like your head as a trophy.”

“Is it life if you live it in a cage?” A taut question as, braid done, she began to strap on her knife sheaths over her forearms. “I won’t live like that.”

Twisting her braid around his hand as he came to stand behind her, Raphael pressed his mouth to the exposed skin of her nape. “Take the chopper. You don’t have the endurance to fly that far.”

Emotionally vulnerable to him in a way that scared her at times like this, she pulled away, turned. “Who’ll be piloting the chopper?”


“That’s your final offer?”

When the archangel merely looked at her with those eyes of pitiless blue, she had her answer. “Fine.” Frustration turned her muscles rigid. “But make sure he keeps out of my way.”

Elena made a call to Sara once they were in the air, stiffly conscious of the vampire at the chopper controls beside her. God, she was so mad at Raphael. She’d known this fight was coming, but that made it no easier to handle—especially when Raphael simply refused to give ground.

No negotiation. Nothing but an archangel’s expectation of obedience.

If he thought that was the end of—

“Ellie?” Sara’s voice sounded as if it was coming from the moon. “Where are you?”

“Approximately halfway to Boston,” she said, then got straight to the reason why she’d called. “Why did you pull me in?” Not that she wasn’t happy to be back in the field, but the Guild had any number of hunters at its disposal.

Sara’s voice dropped out for a second, came back. “... all over the place. We need everyone we’ve got.”

“What?” Elena pressed on the headphones. “Repeat that.”

“Vampires breaking their Contracts all over the place,” Sara said. “It’s like some weird—” A crackle of noise and the call dropped completely. But Elena had heard enough—chaos on this scale could only be connected to one thing . . . only one being.



Ransom was waiting near the deserted concrete pier in Boston where he’d asked her and Venom to land when she’d made contact as they came into the city. Lifting her off her feet as soon as she reached him, he planted a smacking kiss on her laughing lips. “Ellie, those wings sure are sexy.”

God, it was good to see him. “Put me down, gorgeous.”

“Archangel the jealous type?” He continued to hold her, which argued to his strength—her muscle mass was high to begin with and her wings only added to that.

Pushing at his shoulders, she freed herself. “I thought we had a vampire to catch?”

“Yeah, come on.” His face—a stunning mix of Native American skin and bone structure, and eyes of Irish green—was suddenly all business. “The trail leads to a particular section of warehouses about five minutes away on foot. That’s why I asked you to land here.”

“If you’re so close,” she said, “why did you wait for me?” Pretty as he was, Ransom was also one of the Guild’s top hunters, someone she’d have at her back anytime.

“It’s not just one, Ellie.” He began to lead her past a huge boathouse and toward a number of warehouses she could see in the distance. “And they’re helping each other.”

“Shit.” It was rare, very rare, for vampires to hunt together—but when they did ... “What’s the body count?”

“Twenty-two, last I heard.” Ransom’s long hair, a sleek tail down his back, shifted in the breeze as he gave her the update. “But that was half an hour ago.”

“They can’t be feeding if they’re moving that fast.” Which meant they were killing for the hell of it, and that made them a plague. “You said they’re helping each other—are they acting like they’re thinking?”

“Not on a complex level, but someone’s definitely home upstairs. Weird, huh?”

Elena thought of Ignatius, wondered if Neha hadn’t gotten the message after all.

Iron in the air, thick, fresh.

Ransom brought up a hand at the same instant that she caught the scent.

Raising her wings and tucking them tight to her body—something she’d finally learned to do on command—she took a long, quiet breath.

Motor oil and fish.

Blood, rancid fat, effluent.

Blueberries bursting open, their juices staining the earth.

Any and all of them could be vampiric scents, but Ransom didn’t need her nose today. He needed good old-fashioned backup. Pulling out the weapon Deacon had designed for her, the one she’d taken to calling her “blade-bow,” she fell in behind him as the other hunter led her and Venom through the labyrinthine passageways between the warehouses.

The day had turned dull about an hour ago, clouds racing to cover the sun, and now, a fat pellet of rain hit Elena’s cheek. She bit back a curse. If the vampires decided to run, the rain would be their willing accomplice in washing away the trail. Which meant they had to neutralize the targets here—retrieval was simply not on the table, not if the vampires were hunting in a pack.

Her wing brushed against something sharp, snagged. She bit down on her lower lip to quiet her gasp and stopped just long enough to unhook her wing from the rusty nail. Blood darkened the midnight blue feathers near the center of her right wing, but she was more worried about tetanus. An instant later, she remembered she was no longer vulnerable to disease—she still wasn’t going to be punching corroded nails into her body anytime soon.

Continuing to hug one side of the thin alleyway as Ransom took the other, she glanced back at Venom. The vampire was sticking to her but keeping enough of a distance that he wouldn’t be a liability in a fight—in fact, given what she’d seen of his skills, he’d be an asset.

Blueberries, ripe, ripe blueberries.

She hissed under her breath at Ransom. When he turned, she motioned toward a warehouse about three down from where they currently stood. She saw him nod just before the skies opened and rain sleeted down like some great faucet had been turned on in the heavens.

“Fuck,” she muttered, and abandoning all ideas of subtlety, ran toward the back of the warehouse as Ransom circled around to the front. She was only two feet from the wooden door when she caught a hint of sharp, astringent mint in the air, and then she was being slammed down onto the wet asphalt. Skin tore off her cheek, and her right hand landed awkwardly enough that she might have broken her wrist if she hadn’t begun to half roll at the instant of contact. As it was, one of her wings crumpled under her with a searing pain that she hoped like hell didn’t mean she’d broken one of the fine bones within.

The weight on her back was gone the next moment, and she didn’t have to look to know that Venom was dealing with the vampire who’d attacked. She took one glance to make sure he had the upper hand—oh, yeah—before leaving him to it and closing the distance to the door. She could hear the hard, thudding sounds of fighting now, as well as a wave of eerie laughter from within, which meant they’d ambushed Ransom as well.

Her hand tightened on the blade-bow.

“Wait.” Venom’s breath at her ear, his hand on her arm. “Go up, come in through the roof—from the state of this place, it’s probably half rotten anyway.”

That would be a huge advantage but—“Can’t do a vertical takeoff.”

Venom went down on one knee, his eyes preternaturally vivid in the rain, his sunglasses having been lost in the fight. When he cupped his hands, she realized what he intended and slung the blade-bow over her shoulder. “Ready?” She put one foot in his cupped hands, rested her hands on his muscled shoulders. At his nod, she said, “Go.”

He lowered his hands and then he pushed. Vampires were fast and strong, but she’d never have expected the power he put behind his assist. Twisting in midair, she managed to grip the lip of the roof, feeling the metal cut into her palms deep enough that blood gushed warm and thick. But that mattered nothing while Ransom was down there alone.

Using the muscle that made her hunter-born, she managed to get herself over and onto the roof—and though one of her wings complained a little, it didn’t appear broken. It was obvious Venom had been right about the condition of the roof. Knowing Ransom didn’t have much time, she retrieved her bow, then ran across the cracked and rotting structure until she came to a part that caved in, taking her with it.

She allowed herself to fall, spreading out her wings to slow her momentum as she hit the warmer air inside the warehouse. Startled bloodstained faces lifted up to hers, male and female both, red swirling in those eyes. Bloodlust. That confirmed, she didn’t give them any warning, just started firing. The little spinning blades cut through necks, sliced through brains, blew through hearts ... Jesus, she thought. Deacon was good.

Feet hitting the floor with a jarring thump, she yelled, “Ransom!”

“Not dead yet!” came the response from within a tangle of vampires.

That was when she saw the eyes in the walls, the vampires crouching up on ledges, ready to pounce. She turned just in time to take out two behind her. Christ, how many of them were there? Then there was no more time to think—her wings made her so vulnerable on the ground that she couldn’t afford to let them get close. Using the blade-bow one-handedly, she began firing the miniature flamethrower with the other. Not so useful a weapon when in flight, but it did a hell of a job in close combat.

Screams, high and shrill, filled the warehouse as flesh sizzled and charred, the smell nauseatingly akin to a backyard barbeque. And it wasn’t only her and Ransom doing the damage. She glimpsed Venom with the wicked curved knives he liked—where in the blazes had he pulled those from?—slicing off vampiric heads with that reptilian speed that both repelled and fascinated her. Blood fountained as he executed a stacked blonde vampire about to claw at his face, spraying his cinnamon skin with ruby red droplets.

“Ransom, look out!” she yelled as she saw one of the crouchers go for her friend.

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