Archangel's Consort / Page 39

Page 39


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This time, she came at him like a fury, sorrow shifting into the most lethal anger.

Dancing with her, their blades moving like streaks of white fire, he couldn’t stop the smile of pride from spreading across his face. “Magnificent,” he said as she almost grazed his wing with those short swords of hers.

Hissing out something under her breath, she sliced out her arm in a move he hadn’t taught her—he had to lunge out of the way or he’d have been nursing an impressive cut in his side. That is more like it. A kiss pressed to her cheek as he disarmed her left hand and moved out of range of her right.

Eyes narrowed, she used her foot to kick up her lost sword. Then she circled him, much like Venom had a way of doing. She learned, he thought, very, very fast. Now, she made a move he only avoided because he’d sparred with the vampire more than once. Even then, her blade passed a bare quarter of an inch from his nose.

But she’d left herself open. He was behind her, his knife held to her throat the next instant. “That was foolish,” he snapped, furious that she’d let anger drive her into making a move that left her exposed and vulnerable. “You’re now dead.”

Reaching up, she gripped his wrist. “You made me angry on purpose.”

He drew back. “But you fell into it too far.”

Elena turned, chest heaving. “Yeah, I did.” She rubbed her face with one hand. “I won’t make the same mistake again.”

Raphael gave a short nod. “We will finish this later. I’m needed at the Tower.”

As they walked side by side, their wings brushing, she drew in a long, steadying breath. “Any further intel on where your mother might be?” Picking up her cell phone from where she’d placed it while they were sparring, she saw that she had a text message.

“Not as yet.” Tense words. “If we do not rouse her before she is ready, she’ll wake on her own and at full strength.”

There was no need to spell out what would happen if she awakened as insane as when she lay down to Sleep.

“Will you tell me more about her?” Caliane’s disappearance had marked him as surely as she’d been marked by her own mother’s death.

“The memories are old, will surface in their own time.” He ran the back of his hand over her cheek. “What do you do today?”

“I’m going to visit the perfumer I mentioned to you earlier.” She had no intention of letting her archangel handle those memories alone when they did rise, but they’d both had a tough morning already, so she let it go for now. “Do you know how difficult it is to track down that particular black orchid? I asked him right after I got back from Boston, but he only just received it.” She held up her cell phone.

“Ah. You seek the essence.”

“I want to know all the notes, make sure I’m not missing anything,” she said as they cleaned and stowed their weapons in a locker at the back of the house. “Archangel?”

His eyes were a clear, crystalline blue when he turned to her. “What would you have of me, Guild Hunter?”

“A good-bye kiss.”

An hour and a half later, Elena walked out of the outwardly disreputable shop that housed the best perfumer in the city—the tiny vial of essence wrapped in multiple layers of cushioning material and packed into a small box—to find that half of New York suddenly had something to do in the Bronx. No one approached her as she walked down the street, but she could hear the whispers gathering like a shock wave behind her.

This was, she realized all at once, the first instance where she’d spent any extended amount of time on the streets. No wonder everyone was staring. The scrutiny discomfited her, but it was understandable—people needed time to get used to her, and she had to be visible for that to happen. As long as they kept their distance, she wasn’t too fussed.

However, she hadn’t factored one simple thing into the equation—the awe that kept most individuals from approaching an angel was muted almost to nonexistence in her case. She’d once been mortal, once been just like them. So they followed her, a growing press of humanity. “Damn,” she muttered under her breath.

You will call me. No hesitations, no thinking, no waiting until the last possible moment. If you’re in danger, you will call me.

She assessed the situation with her peripheral vision, saw the wonder on those shining faces, and knew no one meant her harm. But there were too many of them. If one tried to touch her wings, so would another and another and another. They’d stampede her to death in their eagerness. Archangel, she said, hoping Raphael would be able to hear her. I need you.

The wind and the rain against her senses. Where are you, Elena? When she gave him the location, he said, I’m only minutes from you.

An edgy mix of relief and frustration churned in her abdomen. I’m probably overreacting. This was her home, these were her people—she hated the realization that they both might be lost to her now. Even as that horrible, painful thought passed through her mind, she dropped a knife into her free hand and began to play it over and through her fingers in an apparently absentminded motion.

The crowd hesitated, fell back a step as light glinted off the steel.

Good, she thought. They needed to remember that she wasn’t simply a woman with wings. She was hunter-born, could handle vampires twice her size without blinking. The crowd might overpower her, but not before she took down a significant percentage of their number.

Noting that the walls of humanity had blocked all other traffic on both ends of the street, she walked to stand in the middle . . . and looked up at the sky. And there he was, his wingspan creating a massive shadow as he swept down to land in front of her. “Are you well, Consort?”

Silence held their audience in thrall, their awe now licked with dread.

“They’re only curious.” She saw the danger in his eyes, knew he had the capacity to execute every human on the street. “I should’ve considered it. I just ... forgot that nothing’s the same anymore.”

Raphael’s hair lifted in the wind as he put his hands on her hips. Sliding away her knife, she placed one hand on his shoulder, holding the box in her other arm. She expected him to rise, but instead he turned his head to run his gaze over the assembled crowd. From the whimpers and the rapid urge everyone had to disperse, she had a good idea of what they’d glimpsed.

When Raphael and Elena did lift, it was with a slow, powerful grace meant to stun.

Only when they were high in the air did she say, “This is going to sound so ungrateful—but I hate that you had to rescue me.” Her sense of loss was acid in her gut, harsh and corrosive. “I’m not a woman who needs rescue. That’s not who I am.” Not who he’d taken as his consort.

“I’ll speak to Illium—your vertical takeoff training must take priority over all else.” Pragmatic words, his hands warm on her. “Once you master that, it will be impossible to trap you in such a way.”

A painful burst of sensation inside her chest. Unable to say anything, she let him see her heart in her eyes. Thank you. Not just for giving her city, her home, back to her . . . but for stilling her hidden terror that he wouldn’t want her anymore.

The tender ferocity of Elena’s parting kiss imprinted in his skin, Raphael was on his way to the Tower when Dmitri’s mind touched his. Sire, Favashi wishes to speak to you. It was a toneless statement.

I’ll be there in a few minutes.

The Persian archangel’s face was on the view-screen when he entered, and for the first time, he glimpsed a crack in the serenity of her countenance. “Favashi. Does this concern Neha?”

“No. She appears busy within her own territory at present.” Favashi’s tone was distracted, her attention clearly on another topic. “We have a problem, Raphael.”

Unlike some of the others on the Cadre, he’d never underestimated the Archangel of Persia. Though she ruled with a velvet glove, there was still a steel hand within it. “Who?”

“Elijah. His behavior has turned erratic.”

That was a development he’d never expected. “How erratic?” Elijah was one of the most stable members of the Cadre.

“Reports are, he’s become violent. That would be no surprise with Charisemnon or Titus, but Elijah?”

Raphael frowned. “Has he harmed Hannah?” Elijah hurting Hannah was as impossible a thought as Raphael laying a hand on Elena. If the archangel had crossed that line, then Caliane had to be even closer to waking than anyone believed—her power, too, was stretching awake. The impact on the rest of the Cadre could be an unintended consequence, her immense abilities not yet under conscious control . . . or it could be an insane archangel’s vicious game.

“There are no reports of him touching Hannah,” Favashi said, her elegant voice breaking into his thoughts. “But all I have are rumors and innuendo. Your sources are better than mine.”

It was an implied request. “Jockeying for power, Favashi?”

“In all honesty, Raphael, I enjoy being queen of my territory. It’s large and I am treated as a goddess.” A thick fringe of lashes came down over her soft brown eyes as she shook her head. “More land would, at present, cause me nothing but problems.”

Raphael wasn’t certain he believed her, but he gave a small nod. “I’ll let you know if I hear anything of note about Elijah.” Ending the call, he turned to the vampire who’d stood out of sight in the corner. “What do you think?”

“I think she is sweet poison.” Dmitri stepped closer, his face set in brutal lines. “Power is what she is and what she knows.”

“You are hardly an impartial judge when it comes to Favashi.”

A tic beat in Dmitri’s jaw. “I was a young fool and she played me. But you can’t say I don’t learn my lessons.”

“She’s a beautiful woman. And apparently you are a great lover.”

The vampire shot him a dark glance. “I believe your hunter is rubbing off on you. It is not a compliment.”

Raphael felt his lips curve. “Find out if any of Jason’s people know what’s happening with Elijah.” Raphael intended to talk to the other archangel himself, but honorable as he seemed, Elijah was Cadre, well tutored in the art of deception.

Dmitri was already pulling out his cell phone. “Favashi . . . I once saw her rip a vampire’s still-beating heart out of his chest and hold it in front of him until he died because the male dared disobey an order. She’s no vulnerable princess, for all she likes to use that image to her advantage.”

“The vampire challenged her power, Dmitri. You know as well as I that she could not let it go.”

Dmitri’s phone rang at that moment, and he brought it to his ear. Like all men, the leader of his Seven had a past. Even Raphael did not know everything of what had passed between Favashi and the vampire just over five hundred years ago, centuries before Favashi became Cadre.

What he did know was that Dmitri had come to him with a request that he be released from Raphael’s service. Raphael, a new archangel himself, hadn’t been able to afford to lose him at that stage and had asked the male to wait another year. He had not decreed it so—Dmitri had earned what he asked for—but the vampire had been agreeable.


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