Archangel's Legion

Page 16

Her spine curved off the bed at the first touch of his mouth on her most private flesh. As she knew her lover, he knew her. Every tiny, nerve-laden curve. Now, lifting her thighs up over the wide breadth of his shoulders, he cupped her buttocks in his hands and kissed her with an intimacy that stole her senses, making her feel delicious, decadent, beautiful.

Hands buried in his hair, she held on to him as her body shuddered again and again, the orgasm a slow, exquisite ride. He licked her to the end, stroking his hands over her thighs to shift her legs to either side of his body, his fingers lingering on the strap that held the knife to her thigh. “My warrior.” Another kiss to her navel before he rose up over her again, his arousal nudging at her pleasure-swollen dampness.

She gripped at his upper arms, muscle and tendon flexing under her touch as he clamped one hand over her hip, the other braced on her wing—an added pleasure—and thrust his cock inside her. Moaning at the erotic storm of sensation and needing him even closer, she drew him down to her mouth. He came, his hand sliding up her body to mold her breast as he stroked in and out of her in a deep, lazy rhythm that said he had nowhere else to be, his attention only and absolutely on her.

Her body sparked to new life under the relentless focus of her archangel to clasp him in sensual pulses. Breaking the kiss so she could watch him find his own pleasure, she caressed her fingers down the line of his throat, over his shoulders, and to the rising arch of his left wing. He shuddered and thrust home when her fingers closed over that arch. “Elena.”

Raphael’s pleasure, his kiss, sent her over a second time . . . and it wasn’t until they both stirred again that Raphael reached down and undid the strap of her knife sheath, putting it and the knife on the bedside table. “Beautiful as this sheath is,” he said, touching the leather, “I much prefer the one which holds my blade.”

Elena thumped a fisted hand on his shoulder, laughter bubbling in her veins and her body boneless. “I’m happy to know I beat leather that finely worked.”

“Always.” Lips curving in a smile that made her body tighten on the “blade” still inside her body, he bent his head to her lips.

And a certain blade and sheath once more proved their perfect fit.

• • •

Leaving Elena happily exhausted and asleep in their bed, Raphael flew not to the Tower but toward the house that belonged to Jeffrey Deveraux and his family. A single expertly timed burst of angelfire and he could eliminate the mortal male from the face of the planet, while leaving his wife and children unharmed.

Or he could simply fly down and thrust his hand through Jeffrey’s rib cage to tear out his shriveled, useless heart. It would be intensely more satisfying than spilling the other man’s blood from a distance.

Except taking either action would break Elena’s faith in him, while doing nothing to seal the gash Jeffrey had torn in her psyche. It’d continue to rip open at unexpected moments, as it had this morning. It had taken every ounce of his considerable control not to respond in anger when he’d realized the import of Elena’s question—and that it was the same thing she’d asked him in more subtle ways in the past months.

Anger would’ve bruised and confused her, for his consort didn’t recognize the fear that drove her to ask such questions, a fear that could be encapsulated in seven simple words that formed a vicious sentence: Will this flaw make you reject me?

What Jeffrey had done, it had scarred Elena on a level beyond the conscious. She knew she held Raphael’s heart, she knew, and yet a wary, wounded part of her worried he’d change his mind one day, find her no longer worthy of loving.

Raphael. It was a murmur half drugged with sleep. Why are you growling in my head?

Teeth gritted, he made the deliberate decision to turn away from the Deveraux house and toward the Tower, not confident he could hold to his resolve not to murder Jeffrey if he saw Elena’s father. My apologies, hbeebti. I didn’t realize you could sense it.

’S okay.

Sleep, he said, and because he couldn’t bear to think of her in pain: As you dream, know that you are loved.

’Course I am. I’m yours.

The sleepy mumble was enough to soothe his rage, telling him that despite the fears that haunted her, Elena understood the truth of who she was to him so deep within her, she remembered it even heavy with sleep. No more growling in your head, he promised, but she was already gone, lost in slumber.

Sire, said another voice an instant later.

Yes, Aodhan?

Augustus will reach the meeting point in an hour.

Thank you. He’d already met with Nazarach and Andreas, two of his angelic commanders—each in charge of running a particular section of his territory. Augustus would be the third. Step by quiet step, he was making certain every one of his commanders knew to prepare their regions for a long absence in the near future. He’d need them in New York when war screamed into being, a war that had been inevitable from the instant Lijuan created the first reborn.

Should her perversions of life be permitted to run free, they’d infect the world, turning it into a charnel house before it became a monument to death given flesh.

• • •

Seven hours later, after five hours of deep sleep, followed by an hour’s teaching at the Academy and some high-visibility flying around office buildings, Elena landed at the Tower to find Raphael wasn’t yet back from a meeting with one of his commanders. Aodhan, however, was in the office from where Dmitri had run Tower operations before he left the city with his wife.

Seeing her, the angel held out a paintbrush, its handle wrapped in a piece of paper.

She accepted it, mystified. “Thank you, but why?”

“The Sire asked me to make sure you received it.”

Tearing off the paper, Elena found seven simple words written on the slim wooden handle: Each consort has her own unique weapons.

God, she thought, her entire face a smile, her Archangel had serious moves.

Happy, plain old heart-deep happy, she stored the slender brush carefully in a zippered side pocket of her tight cargos, where it would be in no danger of falling out. Seeing Aodhan’s quizzical look, she realized she hadn’t had a real conversation with him since his transfer to the Tower, this angel who was beautiful in the most inhuman of ways. Fractures of light, that was Aodhan.

His eyes splintered outward from an obsidian pupil in shards of crystalline blue-green, his skin alabaster stroked with gold, his hair so pale as to be colorless . . . and yet so bright it was as if each strand had been coated in crushed diamonds. The illusion of light was echoed by his wings, until in sunlight, he dazzled the eye beyond the human ability to bear, his beauty a painful blade. Though Illium had wings of blue, and Venom the eyes of a viper, it was Aodhan who was the most “other” of Raphael’s Seven.

He was also the most remote, his unseen scars leaving him averse to any physical contact. Elena couldn’t imagine a life devoid of touch, yet Aodhan had lived an eon divorced from that simple, necessary sense of connection. It had to have been something beyond vicious to have scarred him in such a violent way, but that was Aodhan’s story to tell and he hadn’t chosen to tell it to her.

“How are you liking New York?” she asked.

Walking out onto the balcony with her, he stepped to the very edge to look down at the city below. “I’m not yet certain.” Wings glittering in the sunlight, he appeared to be watching the streams of yellow cabs below. “I’ve never before experienced a place such as this. The Sire’s domain was not thus the last time I was stationed here.”

Elena hadn’t realized Aodhan had ever before been stationed at the Tower, but of course it made sense, given that he was close to five hundred years old. “It’s certainly one-of- a-kind.” She loved the energetic chaos of the city, but knew it wasn’t for everyone; though since Aodhan had requested the transfer after centuries at Raphael’s Refuge stronghold, something in New York had resonated with him.

“Most people still don’t know you’re here.” It had surprised her when Aodhan’s arrival hadn’t made the splash she’d expected. Then she’d discovered he never flew at a height where he could be discerned by mortal eyes. Those who glimpsed the light sparking off him during the rare instances when he dropped below the cloud layer assumed it to be a trick of the light, or a stunning spark off the metal body of a passing aircraft.

“Illium enjoys dancing with the world. I prefer to watch it.”

“Don’t you want to explore the city, fly above the streets?” She could understand why he wouldn’t want to land where he might accidentally be touched, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t see New York up close and personal.

Aodhan gave her a searching look, those eyes of shattered glass refracting her face into a million fragments. “You are right, Consort. I should be seen in the city, especially at this time—there are those who have forgotten my power because I don’t choose to display it.”

Elena had no doubt Aodhan was as lethal as the rest of the Seven. “I wasn’t thinking about the politics of it. I’m more worried about you.” From what she knew, of the immortals in New York, he was close to Illium alone . . . but there, too, he maintained a painful distance.

“Even when we were young, Aodhan was serious where I was full of mischief, but he had laughter in his soul and enough wickedness to be my true friend in all things. I miss him.”


“No one,” she said now, the piercing sadness of Illium’s words echoing in her mind, “can go through life alone.” Not even a woman who, as a girl, had seen her mother’s high-heeled shoe on the hallway tile, and vowed never again to give anyone that much power over her heart. Sara alone had managed to break through, and that after years of trust.

Then had come an archangel as dangerous and as fascinating as the wild winds above a storm-darkened sea. “It isn’t only hurt you avoid by avoiding bonds”—she tried to make him see the truth it had taken her almost two decades to understand, this angel so haunting in his aloneness—“you also miss out on the painful joy that comes with throwing your heart wide open and going hell-for-leather.”

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