Archangel's Legion

Page 47

“I wish that was so, azeeztee.” A word of gentle affection from a sun-drenched desert land Marguerite had never known. “I wasn’t strong, not like you, not like my mama.” Kissing Elena on both cheeks as she’d always done, her mother looked into her eyes. “Look after Beth. And look after my husband. A part of him died with me.”

Elena shook her head, gripping her mother’s wrists in a futile effort to hold her to the world. “He hates me.”

“No, Elena. He loves you too much.”

• • •

Elena woke with the echo of her mother’s words in her mind and the delicate notes of Marguerite’s favorite perfume in the air. Unwilling to lose the fragile link to the woman who had borne her, she lay prone on the bed, her wings painted by the early afternoon sunlight slanting in from the balcony and the idea of her father loving her as strange a thing as the Hudson turning to blood.

Oh, Jeffrey had once loved her as he’d loved all his daughters. She remembered the way he’d held her hand in the warm strength of his as he took her to see the bodies of her dead sisters, fighting against other family members in order to give Elena what she needed, the peace of knowing Ari and Belle were safe, that the monster hadn’t made them like him.

Jeffrey’s eyes had been wet when she looked up from saying good-bye, his strong face struggling against what she now knew must’ve been unbearable grief. It couldn’t have been easy for him to face the broken bodies of his two eldest girls, but he’d done it for a daughter who lived, paying the painful price and never making Elena feel wrong for her need.

“Don’t cry,” Elena had said, wiping away his tears when he bent down. “They’re not hurting anymore.”

That “Papa,” strong and loving and kind, had been lost to her long ago.

Touching her hands to her face, she imagined she could feel the imprint of her mother’s gentle kisses, a bittersweet ache inside. “I love you, Mama,” she whispered, and it was as true as her anger at the choice Marguerite had ultimately made.

It was hard to leave the moment and the final vestiges of memory, but a glance at the clock told her it was already past two. Staring into the mirror in the bathroom, she tried to see the shadow of her mother’s fingers, but the imprint was gone, faded into time. It hurt. Breath jagged, she washed off the tears she’d cried in sleep, dried off, then forced herself to keep her word to Montgomery.

The food choked down, she was strapping on her crossbow when her phone rang with a boy band ringtone her younger half sister had programmed in for herself. “Eve? I was just coming to see you.”

“It’s Amy,” was the surprising answer.

Elena’s fingers froze on the strap she’d been about to tug into place. Gwendolyn’s older daughter didn’t speak to Elena, likely out of loyalty to her mother—unlike Eve, Amy was old enough to understand that there was something wrong in her parents’ relationship, that her father didn’t love her mother as he should.

And yet, Amy loved her father, which left her with no one to blame. Elena didn’t mind giving the teenager a focus for her anger, not when she understood what it was to be that girl, confused and angry and sad at the same time. “What is it?” She knew it had to be bad for Amy to break her silence. “Has something happened to Eve?”

“We had a half day at school so we came home at lunch. After we ate, Father locked Eve in her room.” A rush of words, as if Amy had been holding them inside too long. “He says he’s shipping her off to boarding school in Europe in a few hours.”

“Where’s your mother?” Gwendolyn had fought for Eve’s right to stay in Manhattan and attend Guild Academy.

“Visiting Grandma.” Amy’s voice trembled. “I can’t get through—I’ve been trying and trying. Sometimes reception isn’t good where Grandma lives and it’s been raining there.”

Elena knew exactly what it was like to feel helpless to protect a sibling, and it enraged her that Jeffrey had put Amy in the same position. “I’ll take care of it.” She was already at the balcony doors, the snow below glinting under sunlight. “I’m on my way.”

“My windows aren’t big enough for you.”

“That’s okay.” Elena wasn’t planning to skulk into the Deveraux home; she was planning to slam headfirst through Jeffrey.

• • •

She shoved open the French doors to her father’s study less than ten minutes later, the glass vibrating as the doors slammed into the stops on either side. “You’re imprisoning children now?”

Jeffrey’s head jerked up from the papers on his desk. Pushing back his black leather executive chair, he rose to his feet, the sunlight glinting off his wire-framed spectacles. “Elieanora!”

“What? You want to lock me up, too?” So angry she could barely see straight, she braced herself with her hand on the right doorjamb. “What is wrong with you?” Fury and a plea combined. “Do you really want her to hate you like I do?”

“I want her to live!” he yelled, his voice stripped bare of the urbane sophistication he used so effectively as a weapon. “She came home with a black eye yesterday. Combat training. Combat training! For a child!”

“She needs that training!” Elena screamed back. “We’ve had this conversation! She’ll go mad without an outlet for her hunting abilities.”

“I’ve lost two daughters already! I won’t lose another!”

Stunned by the raw declaration, her mother’s words still fresh in her mind, she squeezed the doorjamb in an effort to find her lost sense of reason. “You’re doing this to protect her?”

Ripping off his glasses, Jeffrey dropped them on the desk, meeting her gaze with unshielded eyes of the same distinctive gray that marked her and Eve as blood. “Do you know what happened when you were sixteen?” he asked, his hands fisted to bloodlessness. “You went to the Academy in the holidays and returned to your boarding school with broken ribs. Three months later, it was a dislocated collarbone, six months after that a black eye and a fractured jaw.”

Elena hadn’t realized the boarding school had reported the injuries, much less that her father had kept track of them, he’d done such a good job of freezing out anything to do with the fact his daughter was hunter-born. “It was necessary,” she said through her shock.

The only reason she’d even been able to attend those intensive holiday classes was that the Guild had gone to bat for her, getting a judge to sign an order that did away with the need for Jeffrey’s consent. Like Eve, Elena would’ve gone mad without the outlet of those practice sessions where she could give her ability free rein; a hunter-born had to hunt, the need a compulsion.

But when she’d communicated with her father, it had been with her hunter skin locked away; a child hungry for his approval, she’d pretended to be the nice, normal, obedient daughter he wanted her to be. The fraught peace created by her silence, and his, had lasted until she turned eighteen and enrolled at the Academy full-time over his objections. Their bitter fight that night had left her emotionally bloodied, the resulting estrangement lasting a decade. “I had to become more skilled than the va—”

“Yes, because the monsters are so strong, they could tear off your head with their bare hands!” Stalking around the desk, he grabbed her by the upper arms and shook so hard that her teeth clattered. “Do you know what it’s like to watch a woman get her head torn off? The blood spurts hot and dark and it gets in your mouth, in your eyes, in your nose, until it’s the only thing you can see, all you can smell!”


Elena couldn’t move, even to break the bruising tightness of Jeffrey’s hold. She didn’t understand what he was saying, the words making no sense in the context of who he was: Jeffrey Parker Deveraux, his blood so blue, it was created from the foundations of the city. History, family, tradition, that was the Deveraux way. The blood and the death had come with Elena, Jeffrey’s “abomination” of a daughter.

“I was four,” he said, his breath hot on her face. “Playing under the covered bench where she cleaned her tools. She was agreeing how I’d make a great policeman, while I played with my trucks and she sharpened her blades”—eyes falling to the blades on her forearms, his fingers digging deeper into her flesh—“and that’s when they came for her. Three vampires who wanted vengeance for having been returned to their masters to face punishment.”

Elena started to tremble, her heart stuttering in her chest. As far as she knew, Jeffrey’s mother was alive and well and active on the boards of several major charitable organizations. Cecilia Deveraux was also not, and had never been, a hunter.

“When I tried to help her,” Jeffrey said, “they laughed and tossed me aside as if I weighed nothing.” Jagged words. “The fall broke my legs, one of my arms. I tried but couldn’t get to her. Instead I had to watch while they kicked my mother, beat her, breaking every bone in her body before they ripped off her head.”

“Papa.” It was the first time she’d called him that in an eon. “Papa, I’m sorry.” Sliding her arms around his chest, she held him, his body an icy rock. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Her father’s arms came around her, crushing her so tightly, she could barely draw breath. One hand cupping her head, the other around her upper back over her wings, he held her close to his heart, his breath choppy. When his body shuddered against her own, she thought he might be crying, but it was a thought her mind couldn’t accept.

Her father didn’t cry. The child in her confused and shaky, she just held on until his breathing evened out, his hand stroking over her hair with a gentleness she’d never again expected to experience from her father.

“I will always be your father . . . and I wish to God I wasn’t.”

The hateful words no longer hurt, not when she heard the fear she’d been too angry to hear the first time. Her father, this man who held her with such fierce tenderness, was afraid to watch his daughter die the same horrific death as his mother. It altered the bedrock of their relationship, left her without a mooring.

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