Archangel's Consort / Page 51

Page 51


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“Anywhere.”

A jerky nod. Not saying another word, she flared out those wings of midnight and dawn, and they flew out toward Brooklyn, landing beside a quiet row of storage units. She’d come here with the Guild Director earlier, and now she came with him. When they’d first met, he may well have taken that choice as an insult. Now he understood that Elena needed her friendships if she was going to survive and thrive in this new life into which she’d been thrown. “I’ll do that.” He pushed up the door for her when she unsnapped the lock.

Taking a deep breath, she took a single step inside, and he could almost touch the conflicting emotions tearing at her. When she turned and held out her hand, he allowed her to tug him into the small space, nothing an angel would normally even countenance entering. And when she asked him to close the door, he did so without argument.

She switched on the single yellow bulb an instant later. “See this?” Her fingers lingered on a faded orange blanket. “It was my blankie.” A tremulous smile. “I wouldn’t go anywhere without it.” Sinking to the floor, she let her wings trail on the cold concrete.

He went down on his haunches beside her, listening and watching as she carefully folded the blanket, put it on her lap and opened a cardboard box overflowing with her childhood. She showed him drawings she’d made in school, toys she’d played with as a babe.

“We will keep this for our child,” he murmured, holding a solid wooden bee meant to be pulled along on wheels.

Elena gave a shaky laugh. “We’re having children are we?”

He’d never asked her before, but now, he raised his head. “Would you wish for a babe, Elena?”

“I’d be afraid for him or her all the time.” Nightmares whispered in her eyes. “I can’t imagine the terror.”

He thought of her childhood, thought of the blood that had christened her. However, when he would’ve spoken, she surprised him. “But you’re the one man I could see myself having rug rats with—you’re bad-ass enough to reassure me.”

Cupping her cheek as she rose to her feet, he rubbed a thumb over her cheekbone. “It will likely take a long time.” Angels were nowhere near as fertile as humans. “We will have a chance to get used to the idea.”

“I’ll practice on Zoe. Poor kid.” With that laughing comment, she walked to another box, opened it.

And froze.

Coming to stand by her side, he saw her lift up an intricately patterned quilt to her nose, breathe in deep. “If I think hard enough, I can still remember her scent as she used to kiss me goodnight.” A whisper so quiet, he almost missed it. “Gardenias stroked with a hint of a richer, more sensual fragrance.”

Reaching out, he touched the quilt, felt a quiet hum of power. “Elena.”

Elena looked up at the strange tone in Raphael’s voice, the heavy weight of memory easing for a fraction of a second. “What is it?”

His eyes turned a stunning cobalt as he rubbed his fingers across the soft old cotton. “There is power in this, the kind of power that comes only with blood.”

“This was on my bed,” she said with a frown. “Until Jeffrey packed away everything of my mother’s one winter while I was away at boarding school, this quilt covered my bed. Slater never went into that room. There can’t be blood on here.” She didn’t want the evil to have defiled this, too.

“No, not his blood.” Dropping his fingers from the quilt, he touched her wing. “It is the blood of the maker.”

Elena ran a finger over the fine stitching. “She created it by hand, probably pricked herself.” That scent was long gone, buried under the ghosts of the gardenias she wanted to keep fresh.

When Raphael said nothing, a warning sensation skittered up the back of her spine. “Archangel? Talk to me.”

“This kind of blood,” Raphael murmured, “this kind of lingering power ... it is not a mortal thing.”

“My mother was very much mortal.” Elena had seen her dead, her face bleached of color, those beautiful, laughing eyes turned forever dull.

Raphael closed his hand over her nape. “As a human, you once pushed me out of your mind. It should’ve been an impossible task.”

“Raphael, she wasn’t an angel, or a vampire. Only one thing left.”

“Not quite.” Eyes on the quilt, he said, “Vampires under two hundred years old can sire children. Those children are mortal.”

Elena blinked, stared at the quilt, back at him. Her life shifted on its axis with a grinding screech. “You’re saying I’m part vamp?”

“No, Elena. You were mortal before you became an angel. But your mother carried within her blood something powerful enough that it survived her passing. There is a vampire somewhere in your lineage.”

“I need to sit down.” But what she did was lean against Raphael, the quilt clutched to her chest. “My father ... he can’t know.” Jeffrey hated vampires, only put up with Beth’s Harrison because of business ties with Harry’s family. “I think it might break him.”

“There is no reason he should know.” Raphael stroked her hair off her face. “I would see more of your childhood—there is time enough for other things.”

“Yes.”

Then, as the most powerful being in the city, in the country, knelt by her side, one of his wings spreading over hers with heavy warmth, she showed him shining, laughing pieces of her life before Slater Patalis broke it into a thousand bloody pieces. Along the way, he told her how he’d run wild through the flower-lined streets of Amanat, how he’d been the pet of an entire city. “Tell me more,” she said, enchanted.

Raphael had never spoken of these memories to any living being, but he told Elena all she wanted to know. In turn, she shared with him the joy she’d found in being the third daughter of four, the one who was young enough to get away with everything, and old enough to be allowed privileges her youngest sister was denied.

Much later, as they stood on the cliffs by their home, looking across at the stark beauty of the Manhattan skyline after nightfall, she kissed his jaw and gave him another gift. “She lives, Raphael. There’s hope.”

Hope. Such a mortal concept. For you, Elena, I will accept that this hope might not be a foolish thing.

“Ah, you know us mortals—or recent-mortals—have a tendency to be foolish.” A heartbreaking smile. “It makes life interesting.”

“Then come, Guild Hunter.” Putting his arms around her, he lifted them into the crisp night air. It is time to make your life very interesting.

She laughed, played, and later sighed as he took them into the ocean. Knhebek, Raphael.

And he knew no matter what happened when the pale rays of dawn hit the earth, it would not defeat them. Knhebek, hbeebti.


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