Dark Hunger


Page 24



“When it puts shadows under your eyes and makes you swallow your words?” He strode across to grip her jaw. “No. You’re hurting and I will know why.”


“But I didn’t and he could not help me once others learned of my transgression.”


Illium’s words dashed cold water on the heat of her self-protective response. She couldn’t do the same to Raphael, couldn’t make him helpless in the face of her pain. Taking a shaky breath, she placed a fisted hand on his chest and knew it was time to stop hiding from the damage she’d done.


• • •


About to tell Elena that they wouldn’t leave this balcony until she told him the truth, Raphael was silenced by the light weight of her fist against his chest.


“In the Refuge,” she began, “I heard what they said: that you were the most powerful youth anyone had ever seen.” Her voice was raw emotion, her features bleak. “You became Cadre at the end of your first millennium—it makes you extraordinary. And now . . .”


He saw it then, the torture she’d been inflicting on herself, and had to willfully temper his anger that she’d do this, cause herself harm in such an insidious way. Releasing his grip on her chin so he wouldn’t inadvertently hurt her, he ended the statement she’d begun, not bothering to conceal his fury. “Now others are gaining vicious powers, while I appear to have gained only a negative ability.”


Stubborn as always, his consort held his gaze. “It’s true and it’s because of me.” Visceral pain. “I’m your assassin—no one else!”


16


Elena could push him to the edge faster than any other, but Raphael fought his rising anger to say what she’d forgotten. “My ability is the only one that has had any impact on Lijuan.” The Archangel of China had been stunned that he’d managed to cause her physical harm.


“Yes, but we both know it won’t be enough.” Skin pale from the way she held herself, all taut muscle and tendon, Elena dropped her hands to her sides. “Not against Lijuan’s reborn and not against Neha’s ability to create fire and ice, just to name two of the others. You said it yourself.”


He’d never meant for her to take his words as an indictment. Even more, he’d never expected Elena, brash and honest, to hold such damaging thoughts within . . . but he should have. His hunter, after all, had held the horrific loss of her family inside herself for nearly two decades, keeping it even from her trusted best friend.


“I,” he said, infuriated with her even as he wanted to bring Slater Patalis back to life so he could send him to a torturous death, “do not make a habit of hiding accusations behind the words I speak to my consort.” That she may have believed such of him had rage lacing a film of red across his vision. “And I will not tolerate you concealing your thoughts from me in this way.”


A glint in his consort’s eye. “I told you—don’t speak to me like I’m some soldier you’re disciplining.”


“I would break every bone in the body of any soldier who dared lie to me.” Elena had never held her tongue around him, even when it might’ve been the smarter option, and he had no intention of allowing that to change.


Violence in those eyes of silver-gray. “You’re making me want to go for a blade.”


He raised an eyebrow, well aware she’d read it as a taunt.


Releasing a hissing breath, she thrust her hands into his hair and, tugging down his head, pressed her lips to his instead of slicing cold steel across his flesh.


He took the kiss, demanded more, demanded everything. Even angry and on edge, she was his, would always be his. Wrapping his arms around her as their tongues lashed against each other, their bodies primed for a furious intimate battle, he said, Tighten your wings, and took her into the air, spreading his glamour to cover her, until they were invisible to the world.


• • •


Chest heaving, Elena broke the kiss to see that Raphael was flying them across the river toward Manhattan. “Let me go. I have my own damn wings.” And she was pissed with him for the way he’d spoken to her.


“Not yet.” He kissed her this time, the hand he thrust into her hair unraveling her braid as he used the grip to hold her mouth to his own.


She could’ve escaped if she’d truly wanted to, her training as a hunter as well as that under Galen having given her more than one dirty trick, but she wanted to fight with him. So she bit at his lower lip and when he responded by deepening the kiss, his arms steel around her, his tongue licking at the roof of her mouth, had to battle her body’s instinctive response, the place between her thighs slick.


Wrenching away her head, she glanced down . . . and saw he’d taken them high, high above Manhattan, to an altitude she couldn’t yet reach on her own. Her eyes widened. “No.” She glared at him. “I told you I will not dance with you above the—” Her words ended in a scream as he flipped them so their heads pointed toward the city . . . and closed his wings.


“Raphael!” The wind was a roar in her ears as they plummeted like a bullet shot from the sky. “I’m going to kill you if we survive this!”


His laughter dark and dangerous and sexy, he snapped out his wings to shoot them through the narrow space between two high-rises, the early morning skies almost empty. “Almost” being the operative word. “Home, now!” she ordered, but he took them back up into the sky, his body hard and muscled and flexing against her in ways that made her breasts swell, her entire body an erotic zone.


Baring her teeth, she gripped his hair once again and forced him to meet her gaze. “Home, or we’re never, ever having sex again.”


An arrogant smile as he shifted her so his rigid cock pushed against her soft slickness, the clothing between them no barrier to the sexual heat. “Could you resist me?”


“Push me and find out.” She narrowed her eyes as they shot through the clouds and higher. Higher. And then—“God damn it!” Hair streaming down her back, she stared down at the skyscrapers getting closer at violent speed . . . and felt the adrenaline junkie in her take over, the dangerous pleasure a drug.


When she demanded another kiss, Raphael’s response was hot and hard. But he broke the connection far too soon. “Hold on.”


Elena had thought she’d seen Raphael fly. She hadn’t.


Skimming down the side of a high-rise, he flipped them backward in a spiral that had her gritting her teeth to hold back a scream of exhilaration. Just when they would’ve kissed pavement, he snapped out his wings and swept back up, slicing through a gap so narrow that his wings brushed the edges of the buildings on either side, the early risers inside having no idea the Archangel of New York was giving his consort one hell of a ride.


That was nothing in comparison to the way he spiraled around the Tower, so fast she thought they’d smash through the glass more than once, then punched into the sky in a burst of incredible speed. “Raphael, watch out for the plane!” They were on a direct collision course with a commuter jet.


Raphael’s smile was lethal. Shooting past the nose of the plane with inches to spare, he brought them down light as a feather until her feet touched one of the metal wings, the thin film of precipitation slippery. “Careful.”


Wobbly for a second until her boots gained traction, she said, “Got it.”


Releasing her, he flew over and across to the other wing, so the plane wouldn’t unbalance. The young ones sometimes do this—they call it jet surfing.


Elena laughed, her arms spread to hold her balance against the roaring wind that caught at her wings. I read a report once in a newspaper, but I figured someone had had a few too many margaritas on a flight.


It’s highly discouraged, but I look the other way every so often.


“Whoa!” She almost slid off when the plane banked, and Raphael was there, his arms locking around her as he lifted off before she could be sucked into the engines. Strong and protective against her, he was her everything and, all at once, she’d had enough playing. Kissing his throat, she whispered, “No more.”


No response, but less than a minute of breathtaking speed later, they were in the privacy of their bedroom. Tugging off her clothes as he kissed her, Elena then pulled at his own until he got rid of the impediments to her touch, his body heat rough against her own. Hushed whispers and hungry caresses, their language that of lovers who know each other’s every pleasure point, they moved together with raw intimacy.


Holding himself inside her toward the end, his thickness stretching her flesh, Raphael held her gaze. “Eternity would mean nothing without you. For no power on this earth would I trade my Elena.”


Heart splintering at the piercing tenderness of his words, she touched trembling fingers to his lips and hoped his choice wouldn’t doom him, this man whom she loved until she couldn’t breathe.


• • •


With the donor blood coming into Blood-for-Less being tested around the clock, they had a hit on the tainted donor at three the following morning. Getting out of bed, Elena was dressed and at the blood café within fifteen minutes, Raphael by her side. He hadn’t slept, having escorted a fuming but compliant Michaela out of the territory, then returned to speak to Galen and Venom via a visual link to the Refuge.


Landing at the back of Blood-for-Less so as not to alarm its customers, they met Marcia in the shadows. When the woman couldn’t get a word out at the sight of Raphael, her fear so potent that Elena saw Raphael’s expression alter in subtle anger, she took over the questioning.


She’s probably never been near an archangel. Cut her a break.


It’s not Ms. Blue who is the target of my anger. My angels are instructed to be brutal if necessary to keep their vampires under control, but this one’s record is clean.


Elena hadn’t realized he’d checked Marcia’s file. You think she was abused? Given the violence and cruelty she’d seen in the immortal world, she hadn’t thought vamps doing their hundred had any rights.



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