Archangel's Legion

Page 15

“Otherwise known as unadulterated terror.” Hannah’s tone was dry. “What,” she said to Elena, “would be your reaction if one sunny morning, you walked, blissfully unknowing into the greenhouse you told me of, and found a family of pumas had settled in overnight?” Hannah nodded at Elena’s wide-eyed look. “Yes, that’s exactly what I found in my studio.”

Raphael looked to Elijah. “You can speak to animals?”

“I don’t know about speak, but I can certainly make cats large and small attend my commands. My first command, of course, was that they vacate my consort’s studio and stop snarling at her.” Hannah’s gentle laughter filled the air before he added, “I can also command birds of prey. They are now sentinels in my territory.”

Big cats and birds of prey? Elena knew South America had plenty of those, thanks to the expansive sanctuaries sponsored by Elijah, a point that once again proved the archangels’ new abilities had their roots in who each member of the Cadre was as an individual. That’s an army on its own.


“Neither one of us, it is clear,” Raphael said aloud, “is defenseless against an attack. But”—his eyes locked with Elijah’s golden brown gaze—“we’d be stronger together.”

Elijah’s response was solemn. “Your friendship is one I welcome. I have no desire to live in a world overrun by Lijuan’s monstrosities.”

“Or,” Hannah whispered, her hand sliding into Elijah’s, “in one where angels fall from the sky.”

• • •

The other couple didn’t leave till dawn, the information shared as the city slumbered and Montgomery slipped unobtrusively in and out with wine, then coffee, and finally orange juice, going far beyond what either couple had expected, the birth of a trust that had Elijah telling them what he’d discovered about Titus.

“It appears he has gained power over the earth—my man says Titus can now cause earth tremors. If his ability continues to develop in the same vein, he may one day soon be able to collapse the ground under the feet of an invading army.”

In turn, Raphael shared Jason’s information about Astaad’s domination over the sea, and possibly other bodies of water. “There are also rumors Favashi can control the winds,” he added, “though I have no confirmation. Michaela and Charisemnon remain a mystery.”

“I, too, have been unable to discover what they may have gained,” Elijah said, skin taut over the bones of his face and jaw tight. “But knowing what I do of Charisemnon’s appetites and Michaela’s cruelty, it can be nothing good.”

Raphael could do nothing but agree, his distaste for Charisemnon deeply hewn. The other archangel took girls barely budded to his bed, having somehow convinced his people that such was an honor to the children chosen. As for Michaela, he was deadly certain she’d egged Uram on when it came to making the fateful decision that had turned the other man into a blood-soaked monster, her effect that of the spider that eats its mate.

“I’ll share anything further I learn of the others if you’ll do the same,” Elijah said when they walked out onto the lawn, offering his arm to seal the pact.

Raphael accepted the offer, his hand closing over the top of Elijah’s forearm and the other man’s over his, theirs the clasp of warriors. “It is done.”

“This might’ve been my first official gig as your consort at our home”—Elena hid a yawn behind an open palm as they watched Elijah and Hannah fly high into the sky—“but I call that an unqualified success.”

“Elijah’s cooperation causes me concern.” Sliding an arm around her waist, he drew her to his chest. “No archangel shares so readily.”

“Readily?” Mouth falling open, Elena cupped his face in her hands. “It took you two six hours to get to the point. It was like watching a couple of tigers circling each other, deciding whether to be friends or to bite.”

“First a courtship, now tigers?” He ran his hand down her spine, and when she yawned once again, drew her toward the house, her wing brushing the underside of his arm. “You must rest. Hannah may be able to take a night without sleep, but you are a babe in immortal terms.”

“I shouldn’t be this tired,” she muttered. “I pulled all-nighters at Guild Academy, for crying out loud, then aced my exams the next day.”

Spreading his hand on the silken curve of her hip, he leaned down to kiss her scowling mouth. “You are becoming immortal, Elena. Not a single cell in your body ever truly rests.”

A pause, her feet halting on the grass. “Doesn’t it ever bother you?”

Surprised at the piercing vulnerability of the question, he tilted up her chin so he could see her eyes. “That my consort needs sleep?”

Elena realized he hadn’t understood her question. “Yes,” she said, “and the fact that she will for a long time yet.” As a human, she’d been stronger than most; it made her weakness as an immortal even more difficult to accept. “Right now, Hannah, with her lack of offensive skills, could beat me in a fight, simply by holding on until I was too tired and weak to go on.”

Raphael raised an eyebrow. “No, she could not, because should it come to a fight to the death, you would slice off her head in the first ten seconds, cut out her heart in the next twenty, then burn her body to make sure she’d never again rise.”

Blinking at the cold-blooded response, she stared. “You really think I’m capable of that?”

“If Hannah should prove a threat to me or the others you love, yes.” A faint smile, his kiss a flagrantly sexual branding, his fingers thrusting into her hair to send pins scattering to the grass, his body all hard ridges and heat against her own. “Your love is a fierce thing, Elena, a thing with claws and teeth when it comes to protecting those you claim.”

He was right; she’d take on that batshit crazy Lijuan herself if it meant saving the lives of the people she loved. “Does that bother you? That I’m so bloodthirsty?”

Laughing, he reached down and swung her into his arms with an easy strength that made her feel like a gently reared Southern belle out of a period drama. “I’ll answer that upstairs. After I see your knife sheath.”

Oh, God, he sounded like he was purring. “Sleep is overrated,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing the delicious slope of it. “I’d much rather get naked with my man.”

The instant they were behind the closed doors of their bedroom, he threw her on the bed and divested her of her dress and shoes, leaving her wearing only the slim knife strapped to her thigh. When she reached down to get rid of it, he shook his head and, holding her gaze, stripped off his own formal clothes to reveal a body that made her whimper before he got on top of her.

A kiss to her hip, his tongue flicking out to taste her skin; his fingers tracing the strap of the sheath; his wings spreading; the exotic, erotic taste of angel dust on her lips; her breath locked in her throat.

Then his mouth was a heated dampness on her navel.

“Raphael.” His name came out a caress as she tangled her hands in the midnight silk of his hair to hold him to her, her love for him a huge thing inside her.

He kissed her hip again, licking out at the bone in a light flick that made her tremble. A very male, very Raphael smile against her skin. When he shifted up over her, she was ready for his kiss . . . but she was never truly ready for Raphael’s kiss. He made her burn, the pleasure a hot, liquid burst that shimmered over her skin in rolling waves. “I could kiss you forever,” she murmured against his lips, sucking at the lower one, playing with the upper, his body weight a luscious pressure. “I love feeling you against me.”

“You say such things, Elena. You will make me your slave.” Wings spreading wider above her, he cupped the side of her face and leaned into the kiss, deepening it until their tongues tangled in sweet, hot battle, Elena’s breath lost. Gasping in just enough air to continue, she stroked her hands against the taut muscle of him, and returned to the kiss.

More? It was an intimate question between lovers.

“Yes,” she whispered. “More.”

One arm braced above her head, he gave her what she wanted, continuing to kiss her while caressing the highly sensitive upper arch of her wing with his free hand. She shivered, sliding her own hands to his nape, then down, her fingers brushing his wings. He loved it when she kissed her way down the inner arches where his wings grew out of his back, and she loved that she knew that about him, about her lover.

“Stop that, hbeebti,” he said, their lips parting on a wet kiss of sound.

She smiled, her nipples flush against the hard wall of his chest. “You like it.”

“Too much. And today, I wish to pleasure my consort.” Pressing his thumb down on her jaw to part her lips, he kissed her again, angel dust glittering in the air.

“Mmm.” She rubbed against him. “Did you make a change to your special blend?” Angel dust, he’d told her, was normally rich and exquisite, but not sexual. Elena had only ever tasted Raphael’s blend, and it was always oh-so-sexual—today, it also held a dangerous bite.

Kisses down her throat. “I wouldn’t wish my consort to suffer ennui.”

“Oh!” It took some time for her brain cells to unscramble after he took one of her nipples into his mouth, rolling it over on his tongue like it was a plump berry, then turning his attention to the other. Chest heaving when he lifted his head to lave a kiss just below her breasts, she managed to say, “Ennui, yes, that’s exactly what I feel right now.”

His eyes glinted. “So, my consort challenges me. Very well.”

Shivering, because his voice . . . it was fur over her senses, across her tight, damp nipples, along her lips, she watched him dip his head, place a wet kiss on her navel. He blew a breath over the wet, kept going past her renewed shiver. “Now,” he purred, “it is my turn to be intoxicated.”

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