Home > Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(11)

Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(11)
Author: Nalini Singh

“Watch the language,” he snapped, hands still in the pockets of his suit pants. “And my daughter is none of your concern.”

“She’s my sister, you bastard. Same blood, remember?” Voice vibrating with old anger that threatened to savage her intention to remain rational, she didn’t back down. “You made us, and you know what, I don’t even care anymore.” It was a lie she wished would become the truth. “But Eve, she cares. So grow a pair and be a man.”

“Elieanora!” Striding across the grass, he grabbed her shoulders and shook hard enough to make her teeth rattle. “I’m still your father and you will not talk to me that way. Marguerite taught you better than that.”

It was the first time in over a decade that she’d heard him say her mother’s name and for an instant, they both froze, before fury ignited in her blood. “Don’t you dare bring her into this! You chose to stop being my father a long time ago.”

Fingers digging into her shoulders, he ground out his next words. “I will always be your father . . . and I wish to God I wasn’t.”

Flinching at the vicious emotional blow, she finally remembered her hunter training and wrenched away, her wing smacking hard against his body as she twisted. “Yeah, me, too.” How could he do this every time? Cut her so deep? “But me and you, it doesn’t matter. Ancient history.”

The father who’d loved her had died with her mother, the shell left behind this cruel stranger capable of aiming a kick at a child’s soft heart. “You just think about whether you want to be having this same conversation with Eve ten years from now.”

She shouldn’t have done it, not with having already strained her wings once today, but she made a vertical takeoff, ignoring the words Jeffrey spoke as he reached for her. And when tears poured down her face, she told herself it was from the pain in her muscles. It wasn’t a total lie, her body screaming at the abuse.

Two minutes later, a tendon tore with an audible snap, and she realized she was now not only useless to Ransom, but that, in her unthinking fury, she might have made a fatal mistake.

7

She barely made it to the Tower, her knees slamming hard onto the concrete of the balcony outside the suite she’d left only twenty-five minutes earlier. When a tiny blue feather fluttered to the hard surface as she leaned on her palms in an attempt to fight the bright pain of the impact, she knew she wasn’t alone.

Illium landed beside her an instant later, his hands going to her shoulders and his wing sliding across her own. “Ellie, you’re hurt.”

She shrugged him off, still able to feel Jeffrey’s grip on her arms. “How long have you been following me?”

“Only a minute—it didn’t look like you were going to make the landing.”

“Well, I did, so go,” she said. “Go. Go!”

An instant after the words were out, she raised her head to apologize, but Illium was already dropping off the balcony. Hating herself for allowing Jeffrey to mess her up until she’d hurt one of her closest friends, she crawled and dragged herself into the living area of the suite, collapsing flat on her face the instant she was concealed from the windows, the carpet against her cheek and the crossbow digging into her hip. Reaching down, she managed to get it off, along with the miniature flamethrower, placing both on the left side of her body.

A whisper of sound not long afterward told her Illium hadn’t been offended—he’d simply gone for stronger weaponry. “Guild Hunter.” Words deadly and cool from the Archangel of New York. “You’ve hurt your wings.”

Fingers digging into the carpet, she admitted her mistake. “I did two hard vertical takeoffs today.”

“Lie still. I will attempt to fix the damage.”

“I’ll be fine,” she said through the screaming agony. “The others—”

“Will be bedbound for weeks or months, regardless of my actions. Your stupidity, meanwhile, I may be able to mend immediately.”

Lashed by his tone, she struck out. “I didn’t ask for your help!”

“No, instead you did your best to ensure I’d have to deal with a dead consort when you are meant to be helping to protect the city by evidencing your strength.”

Jaw clenched against the anger dammed up inside her, she didn’t say a word, and a bone-melting warmth invaded her wing muscles a second later, trickles of it reaching her knees, as if Raphael’s ability had sensed the fractures that cracked her kneecaps. The pain began to dim almost at once, and she realized he’d become far stronger than he’d been even a month before . . . but that didn’t alter the fact that, in stark contrast to the violent physical abilities manifesting in the rest of the Cadre, Raphael’s new power was a pacific one.

Ironically, his ability to heal might end up being a lethal weakness.

“There will be a war,” he’d predicted weeks earlier as they watched midnight come to their city, the night winds thrusting covetous fingers through his hair. “It’s inevitable during a Cascade—from all we know, one or more of the Cadre will either touch madness or gain a power that so eclipses the abilities of the others, he or she will seek to seize the world. I can’t afford to stagnate, to have only the strength that has always been at my command.”

“Your power negates Lijuan’s,” she’d pointed out. “And she’s the biggest threat.”

“A negative power won’t be enough to win, and, while she may be the biggest threat, she isn’t the only one.” The cold-eyed candor of a man who’d held his territory for half a millennium. “Neha creates fire and ice, Astaad is rumored to control the sea, and there are whispers Favashi holds the winds in the palm of her hand. For the Cadre to remain in balance, I cannot stand in place.”

Now, the guilt that had been gnawing at her since that conversation combined with her impotent anger at Jeffrey to create a caustic mess in her gut, corrosive and damaging. Raphael would never blame her, but it was Elena who’d made him a little bit mortal, a little bit weaker—exactly as Lijuan had once warned.

“You tore a tendon.” The ice in his tone hadn’t thawed. “Do that again and I’ll leave you to heal on your own. Perhaps then you’ll develop some respect for your body.”

“I was pissed off and I acted before I thought,” she said, giving him one truth even as she hid the more noxious one that continued to eat at her. “I know it was childish and dangerous—you don’t have to tell me.”

“Jeffrey?” Raphael said, allowing her to sit up, which she did without a twinge of pain.

“He hurt Eve.” Raphael knew her well enough to understand what that meant.

Chrome blue eyes flat with renewed fury. “Is she well?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” Twisting her braid in his fist with that single word, Raphael tugged back her head and took her mouth in a kiss that was hot red passion and the cool brush of an archangel’s anger. If you did not love him, he said into her mind, his hand closing possessively over her breast, I would sever this man from your life like the diseased limb that he is.

I’m not sure if I love him or hate him, she confessed as he took her down to the carpet once more, but Beth, Amy, Eve, they need him.

A gasp, her back arching; Raphael had burned away the laces that held her top together to bare her br**sts to the air. His mouth touched her sensitive flesh an instant later, his teeth grazing her nipple. Hissing out a breath, she dug her nails into his shoulders and tried to flip him using her legs, wanting the advantage . . . but her lover was an archangel, and he didn’t want to be moved.

He bit down deeper, until it skated the edge of hurt. When you decided to continue flying, did you think about the fact I might have to scrape you off the street? Releasing her breast with that angry question, he ravaged her mouth and, at the same time, ripped open the fly of the cargo pants she’d changed into a half hour earlier.

His fingers speared through her damp flesh, her panties who the hell knew where. “I’m sorry,” she gritted out as he rubbed his thumb deliberately hard against her clit, knowing it would send her over the edge . . . only to relax the pressure right when her body hovered on the brink of excruciating pleasure.

“Fuck.” Chest heaving, she stared into a masculine face that held more than a hint of cruelty right this instant. “That was mean.”

“I’m feeling mean, Guild Hunter.” He touched her again, thrusting two fingers inside her and using his thumb to play with her clitoris as he bent his head to her exposed breast once more, his teeth marking her soft flesh. Very mean.

Body quivering as he denied her an orgasm for the second time, Elena snarled and raked her nails down his back, tearing the fine black fabric of his shirt. Blood scented the air, Raphael’s head snapping up to reveal eyes gone incandescent, his wings glowing above her. Slamming his mouth down on her own, he tore open his pants and she felt the blunt hardness of his c**k pushing against her . . . but he didn’t thrust, clearly still in one hell of a mood.

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