Archangel's Legion

Page 57

Unable to bear passing over the deserted silence of Times Square, she angled to land at one of the air defense stations, the anti-wing guns primed and ready. Not far from her stood Dmitri, his attention on whatever was being said by a pair of vampires who were experts in using the weapon.

Raphael’s second looked no different from before he’d left the city, his presence darkly sexual with an undertone of deadly violence. But he’d come back with a hunter wife now at work as part of the combined Guild-Tower operations team—Honor wasn’t yet at full strength, but neither was she an ordinary new-Made vampire, her skin brushed with a shimmer of gold, her eyes a luminous jewel green, her mortal beauty honed as sharp as a blade.

The other hunter had laughed at Elena’s flabbergasted expression when they first came face-to-face. “I know, I know. It was a bit of a shock to me, too.” A deep smile, Honor still Honor. “But hey, I was Made by an archangel and feed solely from a dangerously sexy thousand-year-old vampire.”

“Is it weird?” The question was one Elena had only felt comfortable asking because Honor was a friend. “The blood drinking?”

Honor’s honey gold skin had turned a fascinating shade of pink. “Oh, um, no.”

“Oh, um, no?” Elena had teased, delighted to see Honor so happy after the horror the other woman had survived. “Dmitri clearly gives good . . . blood.”

“My husband,” a still pink but laughing Honor had said, her words holding an adorable possessiveness, “gives phenomenal . . . blood.”

Now, the husband in question finished his conversation with the two gunners and strode over. Even dressed in scuffed black boots, jeans of the same black, and a black T-shirt, his attention totally focused on the city’s defenses, no time for the insidious scent games he usually liked to play, there was something about Dmitri that whispered of sex—the bloody, painful kind.

“Are you free?”

She nodded at the curt question, having just finished her duties with the team assigned to make absolutely sure all the hospitals had been evacuated. “You have a job for me?” Dmitri would never be her friend, and she’d never see in him whatever it was that Honor saw, but when it came to protecting their city, they had no arguments.

“The Guild teams need a winged consult.” He pointed out another high-rise. “The two team leaders are up there.”

Demarco and Ransom looked up at the wash of wind generated by her wings. “I hear you guys asked for a consult,” she said, meeting Demarco’s light brown eyes first, because she didn’t want to see the coolness in Ransom’s.

“Ellie.” The rangy hunter grinned, streaky blond hair ruffled by the wind and long legs folded in a crouch in front of what appeared to be a chalk outline of the defensive perimeter. “Our own personal hunter angel.” Shifting, he showed her the front of his oatmeal-colored T-shirt. “Didjya know they’re selling these in Times Square?”

Groaning at the solid black silhouette of a gun and crossbow-toting female with wings, the name Elena emblazoned above the figure, and the words Hunter Angel below, she rubbed at her eyes. “God damn it, get rid of that monstrosity before I go blind.”

Demarco just grinned as she dropped her hands from her face to walk over and crouch between the two men. Then, when she couldn’t avoid it any longer, she dared look up at Ransom.

His expression as tentative as she felt, he gave her a lopsided smile. “Hey.”

“Hey,” she said, painfully relieved he wasn’t holding a grudge.

“Why are you two acting like moobs on a first date?” Demarco asked in open confusion. “Did you dump the librarian and the archangel and rub your naughty bits together? Man, it must’ve really sucked eggs if you’re avoiding eye contact.”

“Demarco,” Elena and Ransom growled together.

“And awkward moment over.” Demarco winked, his usual laid-back grin on his face. “Let’s talk angels, crossbows, and bullets.”

They spent the next ten minutes in a discussion of optimal positioning, after which the focus shifted on how the shooters—crossbow wielders and those with specialized anti-angel guns—could do the most damage with the least effort.

Elena’s advice was simple. “Aim for the wings.” It was highly unlikely either weapon could kill immortals of the age and strength as those in Lijuan’s army, but if the Guild team could keep wounding the enemy fighters long enough, the immortals on their side might be able to finish the task.

“We have crossbow users like you who have precision aim,” Demarco countered, his careless charm discarded to reveal hard-eyed intensity. “You can get bolts through the neck. It’ll disable the enemy fighters for longer.”

“It’ll take longer to get off a shot.” Elena thought of the intricate timing that’d be required and shook her head. “We can take out more with the wing hits.”

“Yeah, but the ones with injured wings will rise faster, too.”

They both looked to Ransom. Frowning, the other hunter said, “We have approximately twenty-five precision bowmen. We can embed them with the ones aiming for the wings, so the enemy doesn’t know who to take out and the shooters have time to aim under the cover provided by the others.”

“Works for me.” Demarco glanced at Elena, and when she nodded in agreement, said, “Okay, positions.”

They spent the next few hours making sure all the shooters knew where they were supposed to be once the shit hit the fan. When Ransom and Demarco were satisfied with that aspect of things, Elena rounded up a crew of junior angels and did flyovers so the hunters could practice aiming at a moving, winged target. The gunmen used blanks, the crossbow users blunted bolts.

When they called the exercise to a halt, Elena spent a quarter of an hour discussing possible refinements with Demarco and Ransom, before taking off again, her intent to head to Raphael. He was at a higher elevation, working out something with Illium and Jason that periodically cracked black lightning across the sky.

She’d just swept around to begin the climb when it happened.

The Hudson altered color in a rolling wave. This time it wasn’t the shade of blood, but a deep, vibrant blue electric with a luminous white fire. Angels who’d been nearby hovered above the water, but Elena saw the gulls dive in and out with no ill effects, the shimmering blue glittering on their feathers until it drained off.

“An interesting development,” Raphael said, having dropped down to hover beside her. “Astaad is rumored to have a certain control over the sea—but it may well extend to domination over water in general.”

“Maybe, but those are your colors.” That heartbreaking blue, more pure than any gemstone on this earth, existed only in the eyes of her archangel and the woman who’d given birth to him; never had she seen it in any other circumstance. Until now.

“The day I ascended to the Cadre,” Raphael murmured, “the skies rained such a hue and the waters of the world became my eyes. I did not have you in my heart then; there was no dawnlight.”

Elena glanced at the purity of his profile, the deep red mark on his temple hidden behind glamour. “Could it be a sign? Of further evolution?” She couldn’t help but remember the astonishing beauty of the white fire on his wings that he’d said must’ve been an illusion created by a pulse of power that ignited a glow.

It sounded right . . . except her gut insisted that what she’d seen had been real, that if she’d reached up and touched his primaries at that instant, she’d have caught a flame on her fingertip.

“If this is a sign of evolution,” Raphael said, “it’s not one I can sense, as I sensed my ascension from angel to archangel.” Angling his wings, he swept down to the water.

Elena followed as close as she could get, close enough to see him run his fingers through it. The water, he said, tastes of the same power that attempted to push its way into me.

Get away from it, she ordered, her heart stuttering at the sensory memory of the terrible cold that had come with the bloody rain.

There is no chill beyond that of a winter river today, he said, but flicked off the water and rose to her side.

The color began to retreat at almost the same instant.

“Regardless of what this portends,” he said, expression brutally pragmatic, “we can’t permit it to distract us, not when Lijuan’s winged fleet has been spotted less than two days’ flight from making landfall.” His hand closed over hers. “Omens and signs are worthless when we’re about to go into battle against a flesh-and-blood army.”

Some mysteries, Elena thought, as the masculine heat of him reassured her the water had had no ill effects, would have to remain unsolved. The lives of millions were at stake. Because if Lijuan defeated Raphael in battle, it’d mean the death of the only being in the world with a proven ability to cause the Archangel of China any significant harm. Left unchecked, Elena had no doubt Lijuan would soon turn the planet into a festering graveyard peopled by her reborn.

A court of rotting corpses to worship at the feet of the Goddess of Death.


The Tower’s satellites got clear eyes on Lijuan’s forces the next day, the heavy clouds that had been blocking their view dissipating under piercing sunlight.

“Impossible,” Jason said at the sight of the incredible mass. “That army is at least three times the size of the one that left her region. Even if she brought all her winged fighters, leaving only her vampire troops to defend her territory, she has too many squadrons.”

Raphael had always known they were going into this war at a disadvantage, but if all those men and women were experienced fighters, the scales had tipped so severely in Lijuan’s favor that every one of their plans would have to be reevaluated. “We need to know exactly what we face.” He turned to the fastest flyer in his squadrons, some said the fastest flyer in all of angelkind. “Go.”

Illium left at once, taking a small recording device with him.

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