Archangel's Legion

Page 64

Frowning, she tapped the reply button. “I’m fine, Dmitri. Pull some of the others.” Her mortal friends were showing worse signs of exhaustion—while she might be a baby immortal, she was still an immortal and it had an impact.

“You need to get back to the Tower.”

Ice trickled down her spine. “Understood.”

Flying directly to her and Raphael’s Tower suite after timing her flight to avoid the sporadic bursts of continued fighting, she entered through the locked balcony doors by using her palm print. “Raphael!”

She shoved the door closed because she knew he wouldn’t want anyone to see him like this and ran to go down on her knees by his side. For a second, she was afraid he was dead, but then she saw the rigid muscles of his arms, his hands fisted tight and his spine locked, and knew he fought a battle against Lijuan’s poison.

Not knowing what to do, she just stroked her hand through his hair over and over. “I’m here, my love. If you can hear me, reach for what you need inside me.”

She felt nothing, Raphael’s body locked in combat against a vicious enemy. The feeling of helplessness was terrifying, but she refused to surrender. Instead, she kept stroking his hair, her other hand closing over one of his fists, and swallowed the tears of rage at the pain of her mate.

Time passed at the pace of a snail’s crawl. Elena was barely aware of what was happening outside, but she felt the shudder as either Lijuan or one of her generals managed to hit the Tower. When it wasn’t repeated, she guessed it had been a general and that either Jason or Illium had managed to head him off. A while later, who knew how long, she heard Dmitri’s voice in her ear.

“If you can speak to the Sire, tell him Naasir and his team just successfully decapitated one of Lijuan’s strongest generals by stringing a wire across two buildings on their side of the line. He might not die, given his strength, but he’s out of the fight.”

Elena shared the news with Raphael, not knowing if he could hear her. “Those three lunatics are in the heart of enemy territory and they’re doing damage,” she said. “God, I bet Ash will have some stories to tell after this is over.” Leaning down, she pressed a kiss to his sweat-soaked temple, the dragon mark pulsing with a glow.

As if, she thought, it, too, fought the poison.

Another blow made the Tower shudder some time later. “Dmitri?” she asked, touching the communications device.

“A general we took down yesterday appears to have recovered. Aodhan has managed to shove him back and is keeping him busy for the time being.”

Elena frowned, thinking of the casualty lists she’d seen. “The general with the white wings, yellow primaries?”

“Yes. He shouldn’t have recovered after Illium’s blade cut him almost in half, but he is whole.”

Skin chilling at what that might mean, Elena decided to keep her silence on that piece of news until Raphael had fought this battle. “Come on, Archangel. The bitch can’t beat you—you’ve sent her scuttling off to lick her wounds time and time again.”

His body shuddered under her touch, his muscles going lax.

“Raphael?” she said, scared by the sudden change. “Archangel?”

Fists opening, he pressed his palms down on the carpet and turned over onto his back. His face was sharper, the bones of his face more prominent. His body, she thought, had burned itself up in an effort to fight the poison. “I’m here,” he said, chest rising and falling in harsh breaths, one of his hands reaching to intertwine with hers.

Bringing their clasped hands to her mouth, she pressed a kiss to the hot burn of his skin. “It’s gone?” she asked, seeing no obvious signs of the poison.

“Yes, but the wildfire is almost completely depleted.” He squeezed her hand. “In you, too, Elena. There are mere flickers in both of us now.”

“What about your capacity to create angelfire?”

“The sources from which I can draw are now farther and farther away—I could take it from the generators but it would mean the Tower going dead for a relatively small boost. My ability to generate power within myself is being hobbled by the fact my energy is constantly being redirected to heal.” His eyes held her own. “Lijuan retreats because she doesn’t like to be hurt, but there’s a good chance I won’t be able to cause her any real harm in our next engagement if I fight as I have been doing.”

A strange calm descended over Elena. They hadn’t spoken about this, but she’d always known it was on the table. “You have to get closer,” she said, even as, below the calm, horror clawed its way across her soul.

A nod. “If I can get close enough to grip any part of her, I can release every last flicker of angelfire and wildfire inside me. If a single fragment reaches her heart, I don’t think even Lijuan could survive it.”

All those words, but he was talking about blowing himself up. “I’m coming with you.” She pressed her fingers to his lips. “I have some wildfire left inside me, you said—we have to give it our best shot.”

His expression was gentle, the arms he held out to her strong. Going into them, her head on his shoulder, and his wing below her body, she lay in quiet with her archangel and she wasn’t afraid of the darkness that awaited. Whatever death held for her, she’d go into it with Raphael by her side.

Something slammed into the Tower moments later, blowing out the windows of their suite and covering them in a coat of splinters.

• • •

An hour later, and with dawn at least another sixty min-utes away, Raphael knew they had to move. The Tower had taken heavy structural damage despite their deflective efforts. Lijuan hadn’t risen, but her generals were all recovered and at full strength, while his strongest aerial fighters—Illium, Aodhan, Jason—were battling through crushing fatigue to repel the blasts.

Once more, Raphael had to fight his instincts to go out there, join in the effort. If he did, he’d lose what little strength he’d regained, and Lijuan would have no impediment to her next attack. As it was—“Naasir.” He jerked up his head as the vampire ran into the war room, bleeding from a massive wound on his face.

Elena ripped open a sterile packet from the first aid supplies and pressed the heavy cotton dressing to the vampire’s face to soak up the blood. Not pushing her away, which told Raphael how badly he was hurt, Naasir went to his knees, Elena beside him, but the vampire’s silver eyes were locked on Raphael. “Lijuan is absorbing power,” he said. “All her injuries are healed and she now works to bloat herself with energy. Come dawn, she’ll be as powerful as when she began the battle.”

“How?” Raphael asked, as Elena pulled the dressing off to expose a raw gash, a flap of skin hanging down over Naasir’s cheekbone, bone and muscle exposed.

As she grabbed the small butterfly bandages that would keep the flesh in place while Naasir healed, the vampire spoke of horror. “She has truly become an Archangel of Death. I saw her slit the throat of one of her fighters herself, to the point of near decapitation—she then thrust her face into the bleeding gash and seemed to feed.”

“Because she couldn’t get any more creepy.” Elena continued to pin Naasir’s flesh together, and it was only when she nudged the vampire forward a little that Raphael realized Naasir’s spine had almost been cleaved in two. The fact the vampire had been able to run, much less stand, spoke of his strength.

Now, he gave a feral grin, clearly amused by Elena’s words. “It takes her twenty minutes at least to drain the life out of one of her people. The fighter I saw was a mummified husk when she was done; that was when she moved on to the next volunteer, her face a mask of blood.” He growled without warning, eyes flashing.

“I’m sorry.” Elena continued to work at his back. “I need to pull the flesh together or your spine will be exposed to the air and it’ll take longer to heal.” Not stopping in her task despite the constant low-level growl, Naasir’s fingers claws, she said, “That’s how she’s been fixing her generals.”

Raphael nodded, considering why Lijuan hadn’t done this earlier. Likely because it, too, was a limited power, something she could only do once within a certain period. Not that it mattered—because the fact was, he couldn’t hope to defeat a full-strength Lijuan in ordinary combat, not after she’d worn him down to a threadbare edge.

Rising to his feet, his back held together by larger bandages that worked the same as the butterfly ones on his face, Naasir turned to offer Elena a hand. She took it and he hauled her up. Then, grabbing her around the waist, he lifted her up and brought her startled face close to his own.


He won’t hurt you.

Elena made a squeaking sound as Naasir nipped her sharply on the chin. “I’ve decided I won’t eat you,” he said, putting her down on her feet before turning to Raphael. “Lijuan’s forces have harried ours over the night hours, but most have rested. They will launch a major offensive with the dawn.”

“Thank you, Naasir. Go and feed—we’ll move very soon against the enemy.” He couldn’t afford to give Lijuan any more time to glut herself with power.

The vampire left with a curt nod for him and a grinning and unexpected snap of his teeth for Elena. Seeing the expression on her face, Raphael almost smiled. Naasir would’ve no doubt fascinated and confused her for some time to come, but his consort wouldn’t see the end of this day if they were to stop a monster. “It’s time, Elena.”

Should they succeed in their final act, Lijuan’s forces would still outnumber the Tower’s, but Raphael’s people were smart and they thought for themselves, while Lijuan’s were tied to her. If Raphael and Elena took her out of the equation, not only would her generals lose their power, the enemy’s entire command structure would collapse. He had every faith the members of his Seven would utilize that fracture to hold on and claim victory. “We can wait no longer.” And it wasn’t only New York at stake—fighting had broken out in the Refuge an hour past, and Raphael knew whatever happened in his city would end the battle in the Refuge, one way or another.

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