Archangel's Legion

Page 55

The blue-winged angel’s eyes were bleak as he rose and brought down his sword across that fragile neck. “There was flesh caught between his teeth, under his fingernails.”

Rage and sadness burning in her gut, she got a lift from Raphael into the sky and began to sweep the river to make certain none of the bodies had washed downstream. All it would take to spark a deadly infestation was for one reborn to come back to the mockery of “life” that was Lijuan’s gift to her people.

• • •

After the unrelenting horror of the past few hours, Elena was in no mood to see stunning wings of silken copper in Raphael’s office. Needing to deal with an urgent situation in another part of the territory, he’d returned to the Tower thirty minutes earlier, while she’d remained behind with the team doing the final checks to make absolutely certain the reborn threat had been neutralized.

Tired and dirty, she wanted a shower, the arms of her consort, food, then sleep, in that order. Instead, she saw Tasha of the warrior’s blade and faux friendliness put her hand on Raphael’s arm as she leaned in close to Elena’s man, who was still in his bloodied combat leathers. Face uptilted and that glorious scarlet hair tumbling down her back, the other woman hung on Raphael’s every word.

Elena didn’t realize she had a throwing knife in her hand until the scent of the sea and the rain crashed into her mind. Getting blood out of white carpet is extremely difficult, hbeebti.

Fuck the carpet. Why are you allowing another woman to touch you?

I was attempting to be polite to an old friend, but clearly, that approach has failed. Lifting Tasha’s hand off his arm, he placed it by her side. “I’m afraid we won’t be able to accommodate you at the Enclave. There are, however, guest quarters in a skyscraper nearby.”

“Oh? I am disappointed, Raphael.” Tasha’s voice was musical even in her regret. “I truly believe I can offer assistance with what is happening in your territory.” A smile Elena could hear in her tone. “A sounding board as well as my sword.”

It was the last sentence that threw the switch on Elena’s temper from hot to cold. Bitch knows I’m here and she’s trying to provoke me. Why? So she can show herself to be the more cultured, civilized one? Does she think you’ll love me less if I lose my temper and act like an idiot? The absurdity of such an idea astounded her. Or that I’d turn tail and run, even if she humiliated me? Pride mattered nothing when it came to her love for Raphael—she’d crawl naked and bloodied over hot coals to get to him.

She has no comprehension of what we are to one another. A single, searing instant of eye contact that made her heart ache. Tasha thinks as many immortals do—in terms of political alliances.

“Tasha.” She waited for the other woman to turn, ersatz surprise in those slanted eyes of emerald green. “The old days might have been ‘saturated with joy,’” she said, quoting something Tasha had just been saying, “but time has moved on.”

“You are young, Elena.” If Tasha’s smile had had any more sugar in it, it’d need to come with a warning label from the dentist. “You cannot understand the bonds that tie together those of us who’ve known one another for a millennium and more.”

Oh, I’m soooo terribly, terribly wounded by that velvet arrow.

Laughter in her mind, the kiss of the sea. Velvet arrow? Your use of language is getting more creative by the day.

I can’t take credit for that one. It’s all Bluebell. Now be quiet so I can concentrate on not stabbing Ms. McHotpants through the heart to put her out of her misery.

“I may not understand the bonds of such a long shared past”—Elena relaxed against the doorjamb—“but I understand the present. And in the present, you’re attempting to seduce my consort. It cheapens you, Tasha.”

No smile now, tension in that flawless jawline. “You have no right to make judgments of me.”

“You gave me that right when you flew into my city and attempted to fly into the arms of my consort.” She folded her own arms, having secreted away her knife before first speaking to Tasha. “You should know the latter is an impossibility.”

“You’re very certain of yourself for a mortal.”

Elena didn’t correct her on the whole mortal issue. As far as she was concerned, it wasn’t an insult. “If I’m certain of one thing, it’s that I love Raphael and he loves me,” she said simply, that truth the very foundation of her life.

“Yes, there is that, isn’t there.” A dazzling smile. “I’m sorry if I’ve caused any discomfort. I’ll remain in the city to assist in any way I can in the coming battle.”

“One of my people will escort you to the guest quarters,” Raphael said.

“Thank you.” Stepping out with those quiet words, the other woman made a flawless takeoff into the midnight sky, a younger angel falling into flight with her.

“She thinks I’m ridiculous,” Elena said, eyes narrowed, “and that you’ll fall for her soon enough.”

“Do you believe the same, Guild Hunter?”

“I believe if Tasha continues sniffing around, I may get annoyed enough to slice off her wings—while smiling sweetly, of course.”

“Of course.” He opened his arms, and she walked into them without hesitation. “My beautiful, fierce, bloodthirsty Elena,” he murmured into her hair, a smile in his voice. “Tell me about these velvet arrows. I am quite fascinated.”

Laughter bubbling out of her, she rose on tiptoe to kiss that smiling mouth and knew that, as with the bloodstorm, Tasha and her ilk had no weapons that could ever sever the connection between her and her archangel.

• • •

The world was swathed in the heavy dark of early morning when Raphael went up to the Tower suite he shared with Elena, not tired, but wanting the touch of his consort, their kiss earlier the only contact they’d had. He needed more, needed to drench himself in the life and warmth of Elena, parts of him yet raw from the icy power that had sought to infiltrate his body.

He’d have fought the urge had his senior angels not all reported in to say they believed they’d contained the reborn threat in their regions, though they’d do further sweeps to make certain. Manhattan, too, was calm, and with three of his Seven at the Tower, he could be assured nothing would slip through the cracks should he step away for an hour or two. Right now, it was Aodhan who stood lead in the operations center–turned–war room, with Illium as backup.

Elena was asleep facing the center of the bed when he arrived. Stripping, he slid in and tucked her close. She sighed, threw her leg over him in an unconscious possessiveness that made his tension melt away, and didn’t stir again. Stroking the fluid muscle of her thigh, he was considering how most pleasurably to rouse her when there was a knock on the doorway of his mind.


Sliding out without disturbing his hunter, he pulled on a pair of black pants before walking out onto the balcony off the bedroom. His spymaster whispered out of the shadows, midnight wings folded tight to his back.

“I didn’t expect you until tomorrow.” He slid the mirrored door quietly shut behind him to block the cold from getting in, Elena’s body yet sensitive to the bitter temperatures.

“I find I am eager to return home.”

“Mahiya is now at the Tower.” Part of Raphael’s power came from his Seven, and Charisemnon was underhanded enough to attack that which each male held most dear in order to break them down. In Jason’s case, that position was occupied by the princess he’d brought home from Neha’s land. “I did it for her protection, but it’ll be more dangerous here very soon,” he pointed out. “I give you leave should you wish to move her to a safer location.”

“Our place is here,” Jason said without hesitation. “My Mahiya wouldn’t wish to be stowed out of harm’s way while her friends and family fought.”

Elena, Raphael remembered, had said exactly the same about Jason’s princess, his consort and the other woman having formed a budding friendship. “What news do you bring?” he asked, accepting his spymaster’s decision without question, for his Seven knew their own minds—and he was dead sure Jason spoke Mahiya’s true opinion. His spymaster and the princess had quickly become an impregnable unit.

“While Lijuan has always been treated as a demigoddess by her people,” Jason said, the swirls and curves of his facial tattoo barely visible in the dim light, “she now truly believes herself a god. Furthermore, she has begun to regard the others in the Cadre as lesser.”


“Her position on the Ancient remains unknown, but my instinct is that she plans to ignore your mother until she believes her power has developed to the point where she can kill Caliane in a single engagement. Though,” Jason added, “I have no doubt that you are right in your request of your mother—should Caliane leave Amanat vulnerable, Lijuan would strike at once and with vicious fury.”

Raphael nodded. “My ability to harm Lijuan threatens her delusion of godhood.” That understanding eliminated any hope of a peaceful resolution. “Her offensive forces?”

“On the verge of leaving her territory. If she uses both modern means and winged flight to get them here, she’ll be ready to strike within the next four to five days.”

“I think it’s time to recall Naasir.” His mother wouldn’t need the vampire while Amanat was safe under her shield, and Naasir was a berserker fighter on the ground. Then there were his more subtle talents, every one of which would be needed with so many of their winged fighters out of commission. “The question is, do I recall Galen and the Refuge squadron?” His weapons-master would be a lethal asset in combat, but it would leave Venom alone to protect Raphael’s Refuge stronghold.

“With her delusions of being a deity,” Jason pointed out, “Lijuan may not feel she needs to obey the rule that places the Refuge out of bounds of war. We can’t risk her viewing your stronghold as a weak target.”

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