Dark Hunger

Page 2

Humans need to be terrified every so often. It keeps them from crossing lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

You ever think maybe archangels should be challenged once in a while? she countered. That it’d take care of the whole arrogance issue?

Anyone may challenge me.

When he executed a turn toward the Hudson, Elena followed, the river winds riffling through the strands of hair that had escaped her braid. How can people challenge you when they’re so afraid?

It didn’t stop you.

Well, he did have her there. But—I’ve always had a dash of crazy in me.

Flying wing to wing with him, she swept out over the water, following the river north, before turning to head to their house in the Angel Enclave. Situated along the cliffs on the opposite side of the Hudson from Manhattan, it was a magnificent building that offered sweeping views of the city, but for Elena, it was simply home.

Montgomery has prepared something special for you. Do not break his heart.

Elena grinned at the thought of the butler. You know Montgomery and I have a mutual love affair. Coming down on her feet on the still-green grass of the lawn that ended in a steep drop into the Hudson, she watched Raphael land, his wingspan incredible.

“A storm,” he murmured, his eyes on the clouds that had begun to boil over Manhattan. “It grew quickly.”

So quickly that she hadn’t noticed anything while in the air. “It’s not another Ancient waking up, is it?” she asked, the tiny hairs on her arms standing up at the memory of the last time the city had suffered inclement weather.

“No,” Raphael said to her relief. “It’d be an extraordinary thing for two to rise within the span of a year—this is likely nothing but the first lash of winter. Still, we will watch to make certain. We cannot forget that the Cascade is in full effect.”

“Yeah, and it’s not exactly a flowers-and-butterflies kind of thing.” The Cascade, according to everything they’d been able to discover, was a confluence of time and certain critical events that led to a surge of power in the Cadre. All of the archangels would grow in strength, some might be touched with madness, but none would remain the same. Neither would the world, for the archangels were part of its very fabric.

“Does the second thing you want to discuss have to do with the Cascade?”

“No.” Those eyes of endless blue met her own. “Michaela has asked permission to remain for an extended period in my territory.”

Elena’s jaw dropped. “Oh, hell no.” The female archangel had made it clear she considered Elena something lesser, a bug to be ground beneath her designer boot. “What makes her think I’d want her in my city?”

“I do not believe Michaela thought of you at all.” Brutal words from her archangel, but Elena knew the anger wasn’t directed at her.

“Michaela,” he continued, his tone as cold as a scalpel slicing across the throat, “would’ve had a better chance of receiving my assistance had she not insulted my consort in the asking.”

“The fact we’re discussing this means you’re considering her request.”

“She wishes sanctuary because she is with child.”

Shock rooted Elena to the spot. It suddenly made sense, why the woman many considered the most beautiful in the world hadn’t been spotted in the media for at least two months, when she’d always loved that kind of attention. “What about the father of her child?” she asked at last. “I assume it’s Dahariel?” At Raphael’s nod, she said, “He’s a powerful angel in his own right, second to an archangel.”

“Michaela might’ve slept with Dahariel, but she doesn’t trust him not to stab her in the back while she is vulnerable.”

Elena couldn’t imagine such a situation. She knew Raphael would fight to the death to protect her if and when they decided to try for a child. “Will she be? Vulnerable?” Michaela wasn’t an archangel simply in name—she had the blinding power to go with it.

“Yes.” Raphael’s eyes followed a squadron of angels coming in to land at the Tower, their bodies angled to slice through the rising wind. “Pregnancy can be difficult for archangels. Michaela’s power will remain, but her hold on it may become erratic. It is why a consort is so necessary during this time.”

“She can’t have mine,” Elena said, well aware Michaela was cunning enough to use her condition to further her aim of gaining Raphael for a lover. “Won’t Dahariel consider it an insult if she chooses your protection?”

“No. He isn’t yet her consort.”

Much as she disliked Michaela, Elena couldn’t help but think of the anguish she’d once witnessed on the other woman’s face, the unutterable pain of a mother who’d lost a child. “We can’t say no, can we?”

Raphael cupped her cheek, brushing his thumb over her cheekbone. “Your heart is too soft, Guild Hunter. I can and will say no if that is needed.” His eyes glowed incandescent, the flames lightning blue. “I have not forgotten that she has attempted to hurt you more than once.”

Instinct urged Elena to push him to decide exactly that; nothing good could come of having Michaela nearby. However, this wasn’t only about the female archangel and her machinations, but about the innocent she carried in her womb. “I would never forgive myself if we said no and then she lost the child in an attack.”

“Were the situations reversed, you know she would leave you in the streets to starve.”

“I’m not Michaela.” It was a line in the sand, one she would not cross.

“No, you’re far more than she will ever be.” He dropped his hand with a single hard kiss, his eyes returning to the gathering storm. “I’ll consider her request—and I’ll consider the rules should I grant it.”

“I definitely don’t want her in the house next door.” There was a difference between showing compassion for a vulnerable woman, and stupidity. “If—”

Something soft slammed to the ground in front of them.

Startled, Elena looked down to see a bloodied pigeon. “Poor thing.” From what she could see when she crouched down, its neck had snapped in a sudden, violent death. “It must’ve suffered damage to its wings in the air, been unable to stay aloft.”

“I do not think it is that simple,” Raphael said, as she was thinking they should bury the dead bird in the woods that bordered the house on either side.

Looking up, she followed Raphael’s gaze to see hundreds of tiny splashes in the Hudson, the air above dark with a swirling cloud that had become fat and black. Another bird landed on the very edge of the cliff, its wing lifting limply before it slipped off the rocks and into the water.

“This storm,” Raphael said softly on the heels of a third bird hitting the ground at Elena’s feet, its tiny body broken, feathers matted a dull red from the crushing impact, “is not so ordinary after all.”


Elena stood inside their home, staring out at the world through the sliding glass doors of the library. That world had gone insane. Birds continued to fall from the sky, the “cloud” created of thousands upon thousands of their tiny forms. Elena’s instincts urged her to do something, stop the terrible rain, but there was nothing she could do.

The river had quickly emptied where the birds circled, and Elena hoped most people caught under the edge of the massive cloud that now encompassed part of Manhattan would have the good sense to duck under shelter, or into the subways to escape the bombardment.

“Have you ever heard of anything like this?” she asked the archangel beside her.

“No. I—” Words slicing off in midthought, he slid open the doors. “Stay here.”

“Where are you—” Her question caught in her throat as she realized the wings above and crashing into the Hudson were suddenly far bigger than those of the dying birds.

Angels were falling from the skies.

Though the urge to follow Raphael as he dove off toward the water filled with broken wings was a drumbeat in her skull, Elena forced herself to use her brain. The birds were falling at speeds akin to a fastball, complete with sharp beaks that would shred wings if they hit at the wrong angle, and she wasn’t powerful enough to survive many of those hits in the air, nor agile enough in flight to avoid them. She’d only be a liability out there.

But she could be an asset here. “Montgomery!” she cried, running out of the library.

The butler ran out into the central core of the house just as she reached it. “Guild Hunter?” He was dressed in his usual impeccable black suit, but his eyes held the same disbelief that was ice in Elena’s blood.

“We need to set up an infirmary,” she said. “Raphael is closer to this side of the river and likely to bring the fallen here.” She looked around the central core—it was huge by any measure, but angelic wings took up space, and they had no way of knowing the number of injured about to come in. “We’ll start here, but we might also have to rig up something in the yard. It’ll have to be strong enough to block the birds.”

“I’ll get things under way.” The butler disappeared in a startling rush of speed that was a silent reminder that beneath his dignity and plummy British accent, Montgomery was deadlier than any vamp she’d ever hunted.

Her cell phone rang as she was about to make her way to the cliffs—if she could help haul the injured inside, then Raphael could focus on rescue. Glancing at the screen as she ran to the doors, she saw it was her best friend. “Sara?”

“Ellie, we have angels hitting the streets.” Stark shock, but below that was the steely strength that made Sara head of a guild formed of some of the most lethal men and women in the country. “Our people are rendering aid where they can, but I have reports of angels hanging broken off gargoyles on skyscrapers and stuck on church steeples.”

Elena blew out a shuddering breath at the horrendous images. “Call the Tower.” She rattled off a number that’d give Sara direct access to Aodhan. “If he’s out of action”—dear God—“someone else will be there to cover.”

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