Archangel's Legion

Page 44

It had nothing to do with determination and everything to do with physiological fact.

Elena’s body simply hadn’t developed the necessary musculature, immortality yet growing into her cells, but he didn’t stop her headlong flight. Words would mean nothing, not when she was like this; no, she had to come face-to-face with the perilous risk she took without thought to the consequences.

And worse, this was the second time she’d done the same thing. A third could well be lethal.

If she fell from this height? It was doubtful she’d survive. Even if her luck held, she’d break every bone in her body, her organs collapsing from the impact. Young as she was, that would kill her—either the actual injuries or the inevitable drowning. Unlike him, she couldn’t yet survive without air.

Flying above her, high enough that she wouldn’t feel hunted, he knew the exact instant she realized the danger. Immediately sweeping left and around, she headed homeward, but her wings had begun to falter, her body dipping lower to the water in erratic drops before she stabilized herself. Only for the pattern to repeat, her body dropping faster and longer each time.

Still she didn’t ask for help.

Teeth gritted, he dropped close enough to assist, unable to allow her to cause herself harm, even to teach her a lesson. Are you planning to let your pride drag you to the bottom of the ocean?

Silence, her right wing so strained, he knew it could collapse at any instant. Winging his way in front of her in a burst of speed only another archangel could match, he turned and flew directly at her, grabbing her in his hold. He was careful to ensure his arms slid under her wings to avoid any further damage. “Close your wings.”

“No, let me go.” Jaw set, she shoved at his shoulders, her open wings causing significant drag. “I didn’t ask for your help.”

“The tendons on your right wing are about to go. Just like last time. Do you wish to cripple yourself?” He wanted to shake her. “Injure the same area over and over, and you’ll be grounded for years!”

“I’m fine.” Slamming fisted hands against his chest, she twisted, almost freeing herself because he hadn’t expected such an irrational move.

“Let me go or I swear to God I’ll—”

“Use one of your blades on me?” he asked, his arms steel around her. “Would you draw my blood in earnest, Guild Hunter?”

Fisted hands going still, she looked away, but folded in her wings at last. Her silence rasping against his senses, he gripped her chin with one hand, intending to tug her face toward him, force her to acknowledge his presence. She resisted . . . and then he felt a single hot droplet splash onto his hand.


Her tears shocked him; he’d seen his consort cry, but never during a fight between them. Such emotional manipulation was beyond her, and even now she dashed the wetness away, as if to refute their existence. “Are you in pain?” he asked, concerned she’d snapped a tendon before he caught her.

“No, I’m fine.”

Her answer infuriated him anew. “You’re clearly not fine.” His tone ice, he jerked up her chin. “Tell me—”

This time, it was Elena who interrupted. “Or what? You’ll take it from my mind?”

“You question my honor now? Is this the trust you have in me?”

Instead of looking shamefaced, she responded with unmasked fury. “I trust you more than anyone else in the universe! That’s the problem.”

“You find it a burden to give me your trust?” Fingers tightening on her chin, he spoke through white-hot anger. “You are mine, Elena. Your trust is my right.”

“Something is happening to you!” It was a scream, her fisted hands raining blows onto his shoulders and her eyes locked on the spreading line of darkest red along his temple.

“I am going nowhere,” he said, realizing the shape of the fear that had stalked her dreams.

“You can’t know that! We don’t know what’s happening.” Her fingers on his temple. “Every time you drop the glamour, I see how much further it’s spread, how much more of your skin it’s begun to cover.”

“I’m not dying.” It took conscious control to keep his rage at those who’d done this to her, seeded such a grave fear into her heart, out of his voice. Marguerite Deveraux, after all, was forever out of his reach. “I am an archangel.”

Chest heaving and cheeks red, she gritted out her reply. “I don’t need you to placate me with arrogance.”

“It’s not arrogance. It’s reality,” he said, holding her gaze so she’d hear him through the roar of her anger. “There are very, very few things on this earth that can kill an archangel, and disease is not one of them. Never in our history has an archangel succumbed to illness.”

“Vampires aren’t meant to die of disease, either,” she snapped back, but her fingers were gentle as she touched the blemish on his face again. “Every time I look at this, I get so scared. I thought I had a handle on it, but it’s like this constant icy fist around my heart. I can’t breathe, I can’t think.”

A thought and the mark was gone, erased with the illusion of glamour.

“Don’t! Don’t hide things from me!” Elena realized what she’d said as soon as the words left her mouth, her eyes locking with those of a hue so pure, it had no true parallel on this earth.

He was still angry at her, that much was clear, that heartbreaking blue kissed by an icily metallic edge. Yet even in his anger he held her safe, when she’d done her best to break every bone in her body with her reckless flight.

Not once. Twice.

“Shit,” she muttered, and when he raised an imperious eyebrow, said, “I’m sorry.” Her Guild trainers would’ve kicked her ass if she’d dared do something this lamebrained as a cadet. “I can’t believe I almost fucked things up so badly a second time.”

“Will there be a third?” The question snapped like a whip.

“No. Even a hardheaded hunter like me learns her lessons after two near-lethal mistakes.” If she didn’t, she’d have been long dead by now. “Thank you for the assist.”

“I’m glad to know I have some use.” A voice so cold, it was a wonder she didn’t have hypothermia.

“That’s not fair.” She might’ve been an idiot with the flight, but that didn’t mean he could walk all over her. “I’ve never been more intertwined with anyone my entire adult life!”

“And it makes you afraid.”

Her breath caught, and she wanted to say no, to remind him she was a blooded hunter, fear nothing but a tool. But what she said was, “Yes,” because this fear threatened to strangle the life out of her. “I haven’t been this afraid since I realized the monster was in our house.”

“Do you think I don’t understand?” Every muscle in his body went taut, his voice so rigidly controlled, she knew he battled brutal emotion. “Have you forgotten what I said?”

“I didn’t know fear until you, Elena. Use the power wisely.”

Shaking her head, she wrapped her arms tight around his neck. “I haven’t forgotten.” Lips against his, she reminded him of something, too. “I cut you some slack when you went all caveman. Cut me some here.”

“I didn’t almost kill myself when I went ‘caveman,’” he said, his kiss hard and hot and possessive, all of it spiced with molten anger. “I didn’t make you watch as I did my best to cause myself mortal harm.”


Her seriously pissed-off consort flew Elena almost the entire way home.

Now that the madness of the fear-laced anger had passed, she was damn well embarrassed. Not only that, but her wings felt like jelly where they weren’t threatening to (painfully) detach from her flesh. Still—“I can’t have you carrying me into Manhattan. If Ransom spots me on his high-powered telescope, he won’t stop teasing me until I’m at least eighty-seven.” The truth was, her returning home in Raphael’s arms might be seen as a sign of possible weakness by their enemies, should any be watching.

Raphael’s responding glance told her he knew the real reason for her request. “No lies, no half-truths. Can you deal with any flight?”

Elena took her time assessing her body. “Yes, as long as we keep it lazy, like we’re out for a stroll.” It would hurt like a bitch later if her archangel decided she should suffer for her sins and refuse to heal her—and she’d deserve it if he did—but a few extra minutes of gentle flight wouldn’t alter that for the worse.

“Be ready to open your wings.” Releasing her with care, Raphael positioned himself above her.

She knew it was so he could grab her if her wing snapped. Archangel?

Yes, Consort?

Yup, he was definitely still supremely pissed. I just wanted to tell you something I probably don’t say enough, she said, as they flew over the George Washington Bridge, her altitude low enough that she could see the late-night commuters. I love you.

That has never been in question.

His icy answer made her grin. Yes, the love had never been in question—on either side. I wonder if Montgomery has cake in the kitchen. Back when she’d been mortal, she’d sometimes wondered why no one ever saw an overweight angel. Now she knew exactly how much muscle strength it took to fly, energy burning off with each wingbeat. She was eating five times what she’d done as a hunter, and just barely managing to keep her weight at a healthy level. Do immortal bodies run at a higher metabolic rate?

No one has ever tested that to my knowledge, but yours is undoubtedly doing so as immortality grows deeper into your cells.

That made sense, she thought, just as the sky in the distance began to boil black and thunderous. “Raphael.”

Land on the closest surface. Now!

Looking down, she saw a passing barge and was down three seconds later, Raphael landing beside her. The crew stared slack jawed, but didn’t approach. “I have my cell phone,” she said, having stuffed it into a pocket from force of habit. “I can call Aodhan—”

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