Archangel's Legion

Page 38


The water began to crash and froth even as he spoke. Managing to hover beside Raphael as he halted at the river’s edge, Elena glanced to the right . . . and that was when she saw it, the wave of red. Rich and dark, it rolled down the river in an eerie tide that made the hairs rise on the back of her neck, the scent of living iron pungent in the air. “Is that blood?”

“There’s only one way to find out.” He swept down to the water, hovering lower than she could manage with her current wing strength, until his fingertips skimmed the red stain.

Bringing his fingers to his nose, he shook off the wet and rose to her side. “Blood,” he confirmed. “But it’s weakening.”

As they watched, the water turned rose red, then pink, then blush, until it was the murky brown of a churned-up Hudson again, the unmistakable scent gone as if it had never existed. That was when the snow began to fall, airy flakes that whispered over her wings and face to settle on the city, a caress of whiteness to erase the blood.

“What we just saw”—she stared at the water—“should’ve been impossible.”

“Did Jessamy not say something about blood raining from the skies during the Cascade? This would seem to fall along the same continuum.”

“And the archangels were not who they should be, and bodies rotted in the streets and blood rained from the skies as empires burned.”

“Jesus, Raphael,” Elena said, as the historian’s words rang in her mind, “this is really happening.” And it wasn’t just going to be a war. “It’s going to be an event that changes the face of our world.” Her brain could barely comprehend the scale of what was coming.

Raphael’s eyes met hers, the snow continuing to drift from a crystalline sky. “In the hours I spent with Caliane, she told me more of the last Cascade.” Shadows of terrible darkness in the intense, impossible blue of his eyes.

“I almost don’t want to know,” she whispered, all the while aware this was a truth that couldn’t be avoided.

Her archangel angled his wings toward the Tower, and she did a wider sweep to follow. “You are consort to an archangel. You no longer have a choice.”


Aodhan was waiting for them on the Tower balcony outside Raphael’s office. “Sire, I’ve sent out people to keep watch for any signs of unrest caused by the event.”

The event.

Elena guessed there really was no other way to describe a river turning to blood.

“Panic has been stifled before it could take root.” Aodhan’s eyes reflected splinters of Manhattan as he looked toward the water. “However, members of the public no doubt captured live footage of the event and the Tower will need to issue an explanation.”

“No.” Raphael’s tone was autocratic, his face stripped of all traces of “humanity.” “There are to be no explanations. Say only that it is Cadre business and if anyone insists on further information, tell them to contact me directly.”

Anyone stupid enough to take him up on that offer, Elena thought, deserved what they got. Most mortals never came near an archangel for a reason—the power differential was so vast it created a gulf that couldn’t be crossed from either side except in the most extraordinary of circumstances. The longer she spent in the immortal world, the more she understood that that gulf was a safety net; anything else would lead only to death for countless humans.

Still—“People will be scared.” She had to speak for the humans and the ordinary vampires, because Raphael simply didn’t understand that kind of helplessness. He’d never been weak, not even as a child. “If we don’t do something to reduce their fear, the morale of the city could dip to dangerous levels, and it’s already shaky after the Falling.”

“Illium is of the same opinion,” Raphael said, his skin glowing with a fine undertone of power she’d never before seen. It defined his bones even more sharply, his eyes such violent flames it was difficult to look at them. “He requests your assistance in creating a diversion.”

Elena hesitated. Raphael, you’re doing the scary archangel thing. The really scary one.

Resettling his wings to shrug off the snow, he touched his fingers to her jaw as Aodhan disappeared into the Tower. The touch made her skin tingle, her heart thud against her ribs, because the power of him was a pulse in her blood. “You’ve become stronger,” she whispered, her relief intermingled with worry, because while this was good news, she didn’t like the sudden cold remoteness of him.

This man, she thought, would never taunt her in a fight or take her dancing through the skyscrapers. He was too distant, too inhuman. He was also hers and she wouldn’t surrender him to anything or anyone. Raising her own hand on that fierce vow, she placed her palm against his cheek, the power seeping into her potent enough to steal her breath. “Raphael.”

“It’s a storm inside my skin.” His voice echoed with the same whispers she’d heard in their shared dream.

Her mind shuddered, reminded of the screams she’d heard in Lijuan’s voice . . . but this, it was different. It made her skin chill in a way that had nothing to do with the falling snow, yet there was no instinctive revulsion, no horror, no sense of evil. No, all she sensed was power, of a kind she’d never touched, even after coming in contact with the Cadre. “The storm came with the blood river?”

“Yes. I felt it form as the tide rolled in, grow stronger when my fingers touched the water.” The whispers still there, he kissed her and she felt the ice of his newfound power seep into her bones, the cold bitterly painful. But she held on, her hands spread on his chest and her love for him a passionate fire.

“Such fear I feel in you, Elena,” he murmured, his eyes on her mouth before he kissed her again, the cold blade of him searing her flesh. “Do you think I’ll cause you harm?”

“No.” Breath harsh from the bands of ice that crushed her rib cage, she wrapped her arms around his neck and spoke against his lips. “I’m worried about you.”

“There is no need.”

“No offense,” she said with a scowl, “but it’s hard to accept that when your skin is glowing and I’m about to turn into a freaking icicle!”

He laughed, the breeze playing through his hair and the snow caught on his eyelashes. “I’m digesting the power, for lack of a better word.” Another kiss, this one rawly sexual. “Is that better, hbeebti?” It was a private whisper, his hand on her breast in the cocoon created by his wings.

She shuddered, her breast seeming to swell to fill his palm. “One way to heat a woman up.” The ice of his new strength remained, but she could feel his cock against her abdomen, sense her Raphael beneath the power-laced skin of the archangel. “I want to take you home and lock us in our bedroom until you’re no longer so cold.”

A squeeze of her breast, another demanding kiss before he dropped his hand and folded back his wings. “Later. For now you must go and help Illium calm the populace.”

Not wanting to leave him when he was still not quite right, but conscious they had to get the mood of the city under control, she kissed him again before flying off. If you get the sudden urge to raise flesh-eating dead, she said from the air, let me know so I can come snap you out of it.

You have my promise.

Still not sure she was happy about the whole river-of-blood/strange-influx-of-power situation, she landed on a rooftop not far from the river’s edge just as the snow stopped falling, the sun’s rays refracted off a city covered in a fine, featherlight blanket of white. The rooftop had a direct line of sight to the river, and she could see swarms of people on the piers, gesticulating wildly as they gathered around camera phones that had no doubt caught the weirdness.

Blue feathers with glittering silver filaments filled her vision a second later, followed by the wings of an angel with eyes of gold abundant in their mischief. “Come on, Ellie.” He threw her a baseball mitt, his own left hand already gloved, a ball in his right. “Let’s go play catch above the Hudson.”

Elena stared. “That’s your grand plan for managing people’s fear?”

“You ever seen angels playing catch?” A raised eyebrow. “Exactly.”

Figuring what the hell, she followed him to the river, where they were joined by three other angels from the Tower, all of whom grinned and saluted her before calling out to Illium to stop delaying and prepare to get his ass kicked. Illium shot back a colorful insult . . . and then they played catch, angel-style.

“Holy hell!” She dived and rose as the ball went in every possible direction, the players attempting to beat one another to it and/or stop it from hitting the water. Elena wasn’t anywhere near as fast as Illium or the others, but she held her own by using her brain to calculate angles, even making a couple of surprise intercepts that put her on the points table.

Less than two minutes after they began, the people on the bank stopped staring at the Hudson and started cheering for their favorite player. Factions formed, an enterprising group finding a blue scarf to wave for Illium. The idea quickly picked up steam, and soon there were five different scarves for the five players, Elena’s a distinctive hunter gold.

Had to be someone from the Guild down there, she thought with a grin.

Elena wasn’t the least surprised when a media chopper appeared in the sky, a harness-bound cameraman hanging out the side, though the crew stayed at a respectful distance. Funny how they’d been doing that since Illium made it clear that in a chopper-versus-angel fight, the chopper would come out worse. Much worse.

“Got it!” Managing to catch a throw that would’ve otherwise hit the center of the cheering crowd, she fired it high and to the left . . . where it was intercepted by an angel with eyes of splintered green and wings of icy sunlight. When he rocketed the ball toward Illium using his left hand, the blue-winged angel tumbled head over feet from the force of the powerful missile before thrusting up his hand with a grin, ball firmly in his grasp.

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