Archangel's Consort / Page 26

Page 26


Strong, wet hands on her waist. “How much does it hurt?” Sensual lips, eyes full of a dark male promise, but his expression made it clear they’d be doing nothing interesting until she came clean.

Blowing out a breath, she pointed to a rib. “That one hurts but not so much that it bothered me while we were engaging in gymnastics in the bedroom.” The near-painful hunger to touch, to take and be taken had wiped out every other sensation, every other need. “My left wing is tender—I might’ve strained something.” She held up her palms. “The cuts seem to be healing.”

Raphael raised his hand, blue fire licking over his palm. Her stomach went taut at the reminder of the sheer power he carried within. But this flame, it was nothing that would harm. When he placed his hand against her ribs, all she felt was a warmth so deep it infiltrated her very bones.

“Oh!” The soft cry escaped her lips as the sensation spread in a burst of electric heat, arrowing to the places where she hurt the most—but a hint of it pulsed in every vein and artery ... and there was a whisper of sex to it that had nothing to do with healing. “Archangel, if you make everyone feel like this when you heal,” she said in a husky tone, “I’m going to have a problem with it.”

His lips didn’t curve, and yet there was a sinful amusement in the voice that came into her mind. It is a special blend, Elena. For you.

The last time he’d said that to her, he’d covered her in angel-dust. Erotic, exotic, and designed to kiss every inch of her skin with shimmering arousal. “Good,” she replied, leaning forward to nip at his lower lip. “Then you may heal others.”

I appreciate the permission.

Her lips kicked up at the solemn statement paired with the wicked sensuality she glimpsed in his gaze. That look ... it was still new. Raphael didn’t often allow the young angel he’d once been—reckless and wild and cocky—to rise to the surface. But when he did . . . “Are you done?” she murmured against his mouth.

His answer was to slide his hands to her hips and tug her forward, over the steely hunger of his body. “Come, hunter,” he said, using his teeth on the sensitive curve where her neck flowed into her shoulder, “take me.”

And she did.

Elena wandered into the dining room the next morning to find it set with a delicious array from which to choose. Grabbing two croissants and a large cup of black coffee, she walked out into the crisp air, following her instincts until she found Raphael standing on the very edge of the cliff that plunged down into the Hudson. “Here,” she said, passing over a croissant. “Eat or Montgomery’s feelings will be hurt.”

He took the offering but didn’t put it to his lips. “Look at the water, Elena. What do you see?”

Glancing down at the river that had been, in one way or another, a part of her life since she was born, she saw churned up silt, sullen waves. “It’s in a bad mood today.”

“Yes.” He stole her coffee, took a sip. “It appears water is in a bad mood across the world. A massive tsunami just hit the east coast of Africa, with no apparent link to an earthquake.”

Stealing back her coffee, she bit into her croissant, savored the buttery texture before swallowing. “Any definite word yet on where she might be Sleeping?”

“No. However, Lijuan may have something—we will see.” Finishing off the croissant she’d given him, he took the coffee. “You visit your father again today.”

The food she’d eaten curdled in her stomach. “No, not him. I visit my sister, Eve. She needs me.” She would not allow Jeffrey to treat Evelyn as he’d treated Elena—as something ugly, something worthless. “I still can’t believe he lied to me for so long about the hunting bloodline.” It had been a lie of omission, but that made it no less terrible.

“Your father has never been a man who values honesty.” A cutting denunciation before he turned to her. “Five days hence, your presence is required here. Tell the Guild you will be unavailable.”

Spine stiffening at what was unquestionably an order, she grabbed her coffee from him, not amused to find it all gone. “Do I get to know the reason for the royal summons?”

A raised eyebrow, her archangel’s night black hair whipping off his face in the breeze coming off the churning waters of the Hudson. “The Hummingbird has asked to meet my consort.”

All her snippiness disappeared under a surge of near-painful emotion. After Beijing, when she’d been forced to rest so her body could recover, she’d often curled up in an armchair in Raphael’s office at the Refuge. But instead of reading the history books Jessamy had assigned her, she’d ended up speaking to him about so many things.

Sometime during that period, he’d told her pieces of what Illium’s mother had done for him when he’d been at his most vulnerable. As a result, Elena felt a deep sense of allegiance toward the angel she’d never met. “I’ve wondered—is that why you took Illium into your service?” she asked. “Because he was hers?”

“At first, yes.” He closed his fingers over the back of her neck, tugging her to him. “The Hummingbird has my loyalty, and it was a small thing to accept her son into the ranks of my people when he came of age.”

In spite of everything he’d shared, Elena had always had the feeling that she was missing a vital detail when Raphael spoke of the Hummingbird, and today was no different. There was something in his tone, a hidden shadow she couldn’t quite discern—added to Illium’s subdued presence the day before yesterday, it made her wonder ... but some secrets, she’d learned, belonged to others.

“However, Illium soon proved himself,” Raphael continued. “Now, my bond with the Hummingbird is a separate thing.”

Having seen Illium in action, Elena could well believe that. “I’ll be home. Do I need to dress up?”

“Yes. The Hummingbird is an angel of old.”

“How old?”

“She knew my mother. She knew Caliane.”

The waves at their feet rose up, crashing in savage fury, as if Caliane was attempting once more to claim her son.

Half an hour later, Elena found herself watching Raphael fly out over the Hudson to Archangel Tower to begin what was surely going to be one hell of a complicated day.

“The angels across my territory have been ordered to send in reports of all recent disturbances and losses,” he’d told her before he rose into the sky. “Boston was neither the first, nor the only casualty, simply the biggest.”

“Anything I can do to help?”

“Not today, but I have a feeling we’ll need your skills again before long.”

It was an ominous prediction, but since worrying would get her nowhere, and this was the first real lull—for her at least—since her arrival in New York, Elena decided to use some of the time to settle in. The first place she headed to was the greenhouse, the glass sparkling under the blade-sharp sunlight today.

Waterfalls of color and fragrance filled the glass enclosure, so many things to explore, but she headed to the corner occupied by her favorite begonias. A twinge of sadness pinched her as she touched her finger to one perfect red gold blossom, thinking of the plants at her former apartment, all of which had no doubt perished after she fell broken and bloody into an archangel’s embrace. “But plants grow again,” she murmured, focusing on the verdant beauty around her. “They put down new roots, create room for themselves in foreign soil.”

And so would she.

Feeling good about making a conscious choice, she picked out the smallest, weakest begonia plant, took her time repotting it in richer soil, then cradled the pot carefully in her hands as she walked back to the house. Montgomery gave her a smile when she entered through the front door. “The solar on the third floor gets the best sunlight,” he said.

They had a solar? “Thanks.” Walking up the stairs, she wandered around the second floor until she found the neatly concealed flight to the third, and began climbing.

Her breath escaped in a hush of sound the instant she entered the room at the end of the corridor. Light poured in through two glass walls and a huge skylight to drench the room in sunshine. One of those walls, she realized, seeing the window seat, was actually latched. “Of course.” An angel wouldn’t worry about the danger of falling from such a height. And, the hunter in her murmured, it would also act as another exit, ensuring she’d never be trapped.

There wasn’t much in the room in terms of furnishings. A rug in a rich cream patterned with tiny golden leaves; a delicate little wooden table, its legs carved in graceful commas; a number of jewel-toned silk cushions on the window seat, that was it. Placing her plant on the ledge above the seat, she made her way down to the second floor. “Montgomery,” she called out over the railing when she spotted him below.

The butler glanced up, doing his best not to appear scandalized by the fact that she was acting in a most uncivilized fashion. “Guild Hunter?”

“Does the solar belong to anyone?”

“I believe you have just claimed it.”

Grinning, she blew him a kiss and was almost sure he blushed. She was about to head back upstairs when she frowned, catching the unexpected caress of fur and chocolate and all things a little bit bad. “Why is Dmitri here?”

The vampire materialized out of the woodwork at the mention of his name, dressed in a black suit paired with a deep emerald green shirt, a sheaf of papers in hand. “No time to play today, Elena.” Yet a tendril of smoke and champagne wrapped around her. “I have to get back to the Tower.”

Seeing that Montgomery had left, Elena fought the urge to bury a dagger in the wall by Dmitri’s head, quite certain he was provoking her on purpose. “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

That tendril of smoke whispered into places it had no business going. “If you want to confirm the scent of Neha’s assassin,” he said, “they’re holding the body as is in the morgue till eleven.”

The kiss of musk on her senses, thick and drugging.

“Fuck!” The scent snapped off as Dmitri stared at the thin, silver knife that quivered in the wooden wall a bare centimeter from that sensual face with its Slavic cheekbones. Then, unexpectedly, he began to laugh, and it was perhaps the first time she’d heard the genuine thing from him.

It was potent. More sexy than any of his scent tricks.

Looking up, he gave her a strangely old-world bow, laughter still creasing his cheeks. “I go now, Guild Hunter.” But he stopped at the door, his expression turning solemn. “I left a copy of the latest report on Holly Chang in the library.”

Elena clenched her hand on the railing at the mention of the only one of Uram’s victims to have survived. The woman—girl really—had been tainted by the dead archangel’s toxic blood ... an innocent, who in the ultimate insult, might turn monstrous. “How is she?” The last time Elena had seen Holly, the girl had been naked and covered in the blood of Uram’s other victims, her mind broken.

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