Archangel's Consort / Page 24

Page 24


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“Fuck,” he muttered tiredly as the drizzle soaked the blood farther into his clothing, no longer strong enough to wash him clean. “Call the cops.” He threw her his phone, and she redialed the number he’d used earlier.

That done, she sat down on the steps of one of the gracious old homes that lined this quiet stretch. All of them were now locked, lights blazing through every window. The word had apparently gone out in the media about a surge of bloodlust-ridden vamps, and anyone with a brain had hunkered down to wait out the violence.

To her surprise, Venom sat down beside her, leaving enough of a gap between them that he wouldn’t brush her wings by accident. She was sure it wasn’t a courtesy directed at her, but habit, given how much time he spent around angels. Still, she was grateful.

From Ransom, she’d accept that kind of contact. But Venom? They might work together, and he’d proven he had a heart behind those disturbing eyes when he’d put his life on the line to protect the children in the Medica not long ago, but when it came to her, he held far less charitable views. “Pity about your suit,” she said, glancing at the rolled-up sleeves of his bloodstained white shirt.

“It was one of my favorites.” Slitted green eyes looking directly at her.

But she’d learned her lesson. She shifted her gaze forward to Ransom. Venom’s laugh was soft, taunting, but she didn’t fall for the bait. If he entranced her, she’d be easy prey—and she wasn’t sure the creature that lived in Venom would be able to resist taking advantage. “Can I ask you a question?”

“You can ask.” He leaned back with his elbows on the step behind him as they watched Ransom check the victim and her killer for ID.

“Those eyes,” she said, “how long did they take to develop after you were Made?” Every vampire had once been human, even Venom.

A rippling shrug that made her aware of the fluid, muscular grace that lurked beneath those fancy suits he liked to wear. “Jury’s out on that. Neha says it began the moment of my Making, that she glimpsed the pupils start to change shape.”

Every hair on Elena’s body stood up straight at the sound of that name. The Archangel of India had never been Miss Con-geniality, but as the murders of Celia and Betsy evidenced, she was now one scary nightmare intent only on vengeance for the death of her daughter. “You don’t agree?” she asked, shaking off the reaction.

Venom looked up at the cloudy night sky, fine droplets of rain shimmering on his lashes. “I noticed a change perhaps a year after my Making. It was slight, but I could see that my irises were no longer true brown at the edges but were shifting to a dark, dark green.”

Elena wondered how that had affected the young male Venom must’ve been—she wanted to ask if he’d been scared, but knew he wouldn’t answer that. “How many years did the entire process take?” she asked instead, figuring he’d be far more liable to answer that question.

“Ten,” he said, continuing to stare up at the sky, the rain having all but ceased. “I remain the only one of Neha’s Making to show such an extreme change—I think she was disappointed it stopped with the eyes.”

Remembering the way he’d moved the one and only time they’d sparred with each other, she shook her head. “But it didn’t, did it?”

A lazy smile that she caught out of the corner of her eye.

“Ellie,” Ransom said at that moment, coming to lean against the decorative metal railing that ran alongside the steps. “You need a place to stay tonight?”

“No. Venom’s going to fly us back to New York.” To her archangel. Argument or not, she couldn’t deny that she missed him. For the first time in her life, she had someone who was hers, and somewhat to her surprise, she was discovering she was possessive as hell.

Ransom’s face lit up with wicked glee. “Living the high life, Ellie. You’ll be forgetting your friends soon.”

“I’ve already crossed you off my party invite list.”

He laughed, throwing back his head. “I can’t wait to see you as the hostess with the mostess.”

“You’ll be waiting an eternity.” The idea of being a hostess of any kind gave her hives.

“You are consort to an archangel,” Venom said, rising to his feet with a sensual grace that came from the same place as his eyes. “You’ll have to learn at least the rudiments of civilized behavior.”

Gripping the wet iron of the railing, she pulled herself up just as two cop cars turned the corner. “Yeah? Being a dick doesn’t seem to have stopped you from working for Raphael.”

Venom grinned, flashing those canines she’d seen weep poison. “I can be charming. Didn’t seem worth the effort with you.”

“Oh, he’s just asking for an ass-kicking,” Ransom drawled. “Too bad the bloodbath’s going to have to wait.” Turning, he headed toward the police officers, with Elena and Venom following.

It took only fifteen minutes to get the formalities sorted—the cops were ready to give them medals after the night the city had had—and then they were away. Ransom had left his bike near where they’d landed the chopper, and she hugged him as they reached it. “How’s your librarian?” she whispered in his ear.

His lips curved against the skin of her neck. “She makes my brain melt.”

Continuing to be amazed by the fact that Ransom was in a stable relationship, she pulled back. “When do I get to meet her?”

“I don’t want to scare her off just yet.” Joking words, but they held a grain of truth—hunters often had trouble holding on to the men and women they loved for the same reason as cops. The endless fear of picking up the phone or opening the door to the worst kind of news wore away at emotional ties until they were burned through.

Elena hugged him again. “If she’s stuck this long, I think the foundation is set.”

“Yeah, I like to think so.” Ransom squeezed her tight. “But I’m not taking us, or Nyree, for granted.”

She’d never heard him sound so serious about a woman. Hoping like hell this Nyree didn’t break his heart, she left him straddling the bike and headed over to the chopper, Venom at her side. It startled her to realize that not only had she and Venom had a fairly reasonable conversation tonight, they hadn’t threatened to kill each other once. Huh. Probably a side effect of the adrenaline, the camaraderie that came from being in a bloody bat—

The earth moved beneath her feet.

Hard.

She clamped her wings tight to her back as the movement threw her sideways onto the concrete ... on the same side where she’d gone down in front of the warehouse. More skin peeled off her face, her palms suffering further damage as well.

Hands clamping around her ankles.

Looking down, she saw that Venom had her in a powerful grip, his own feet braced against the base of the chopper. “What the—” Following the direction of his gaze, she felt the air whoosh out of her lungs. The other side of the concrete pier was just . . . gone, a gaping hole in the earth with jagged insides that would tear apart her wings—and she was a bare two inches from the edge. Nodding at Venom, she let him pull her toward him as the earth continued to roll.

In any other situation, it would’ve felt disturbingly intimate to have his hands on her calves, her thighs, her hips as he pulled her down until she could brace her own feet against their transport, her wings spread over them both. “The chopper might tip!” she said in his ear, fighting to be heard over the roar of the quake.

His hair whipped off his face. “I’ve been in other quakes! This one feels like it should be over soon!” Under her wing, his hand dug into her hip as another wave struck.

With it came a whisper of scent that was darkly familiar.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the quake was over, taking the scent with it before she could even begin to break it down. But she knew she’d sensed it above the Hudson.

Scrambling away as fast as she could—her wings were screaming with sensation—she got to her feet.

Venom flowed to a standing position with that strange reptilian grace an instant later, not commenting on her jerky escape. “We need to get away before another tremor strikes.” He was already reaching for the cockpit door.

“Wait.” Her blood turning cold, she was running even as she yelled out instructions over her shoulder. “Start the engine! I need to find Ransom!”

Venom was by her side before she finished speaking. She didn’t bother to curse. Following Ransom’s familiar scent, which though not as clear to her as a vampiric trail, was more so than it would’ve been to the majority of humans, she sprinted down the narrow lane he’d taken to get out onto the main road. “There!”

The bike lay smashed on the retaining wall opposite the lane, Ransom’s body unmoving in the street. Going down beside him, she checked for a pulse. “Thank God.”

Ransom groaned. “Ellie?”

“Can you move?” she asked, running her hands over his body. “Any broken bones, problems with your back?”

Fisting his hands he pushed himself up into a kneeling position. “I’m okay, just stunned. Wasn’t going very fast when the quake hit.” His eyes were dilated, huge in his face.

“You’re coming with us,” she said, pulling him to his feet, his arm slung over her shoulder.

“My bike.” Still dazed, he glanced back at his pride and joy.

Venom took Ransom’s other side. “I’ll call one of the local vampires once we’re in the air. He’ll store it for you.”

There were no more words as they half ran, half dragged Ransom back to the chopper. They’d barely gotten inside when the earth began to pitch and roll again. Not bothering to put on his headphones, Venom just said, “Hold on!” and lifted the bird.

They shook precariously under an insufficient amount of rotor action, but jaw locked and hands steady, Venom managed to get them airborne. Elena looked down as they rose. “My God.” The city was literally bucking under them, parts of the road rising up in a rolling wave, buildings crumbling into newly created canyons. The only good news was that instead of shaking Boston as a whole, the quake seemed oddly localized—to an approximately fifty-meter radius around the spot where they’d parked the chopper.

Hardly a natural phenomenon.

She is waking.

If this was what she could do while asleep ...

Having bullied Ransom into getting himself checked out at the hospital, Elena refused to leave until his librarian arrived. Nyree was a surprise—because Elena had had no idea what to expect. The woman couldn’t have cleared five feet two inches, and had curves so lethal the prim blue cardigan she wore buttoned up to her neck was probably an attempt at camouflage. It didn’t work, even paired with a full skirt straight out of the 1950s and simple flats, both in plain black.

As Nyree neared Ransom’s cubicle, Elena saw that her skin was a light brown, her features so unusual it was difficult to pinpoint ethnicity—but it was her eyes that stole the show. Huge and chocolate-dark, and overflowing with worry.


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