Home > Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(13)

Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(13)
Author: Nalini Singh

8

Ransom was sitting on his bike staring at a taped-up fold out map when she landed beside him only four minutes behind schedule. His black leather jacket undone to reveal a dark green tee, paired with leather pants and the heavy black boots he’d been wearing earlier, mirrored sunglasses hiding his vivid green eyes, he looked like an ad for the bike company, far too pretty to actually be dangerous.

Except, of course, for the guns strapped to his thighs, the blades and extra firepower he wore hidden underneath his jacket. “Anything from your sources?” she asked.

“Zip,” he said, without taking his eyes off the ancient map he refused to give up, even though, like every hunter, he had a Guild-issued smartphone with full GPS capability. “But at least we now know Darrell isn’t crawling around in the underground.”

Not in the mood to tease him today about his infamous map, she glanced around and forced herself to return the polite smile of the vampire who passed on the sidewalk, his cane and hat as dapper as the suit that encased his short, bowlegged form.

Copper dust and cinnamon spice, with an underlying hint of burnt oak.

Complex and interesting and unique.

“I always wanted to ask something,” she said in a deliberate attempt to get her mind off the repulsive nature of the attack against the city—and after Raphael’s comments about “softening up” a city, she had few doubts that that was exactly what it had been. “Do you scent the same things I do?”

Ransom made a face when she described what she’d picked up from the passing vamp. “Yeah, except I don’t say shit like ‘cinnamon spice with a hint of burnt oak.’ I say ‘dude smells like an electrified tree with a side of doughnut topping.’”

Choking on unexpected laughter, she leaned her arm on his shoulder and looked down at the map, aware of two stroller-pushing nannies stopping to sneak photos of them from the other side of the quiet street. “So who are we going to see?” A whiff of citrus, strong and clean. “Nice shampoo.”

“Lemons, smart-ass. My gran says it’s the best way to get rid of bad smells. Darrell’s grandmother, on the other hand, owns that building there”—a nod to the right—“and if Darrell is close to anyone, it’s likely to be his gran.”

“I didn’t realize you knew him.”

“I don’t, not really. We were on one hunt together three years ago.” Folding away the map, he gave it to her to slide into the daypack he wore. “He didn’t say much, but I picked up that his gran pretty much raised him—a quick online search gave me this address for her.”

“We still don’t have the background report?” With a hunt this time-critical, they needed the information yesterday. If Vivek had been in charge . . . but he wasn’t.

“Apparently”—a clenched jaw that told her he was about to deliver bad news—“there was some kind of computer meltdown. Guild’s working manually to put the report together.”

Frustration churning in her gut, she stepped back so he could swing off the bike, keeping her eyes open for any movement from behind the curtained windows of the regal old home that was their destination. Complete with fancy cornices marred by not a speck of city grit, the entire place was painted a gleaming white.

“Ms. Flaherty is indisposed,” a maid told them when they reached the door.

“This is about her grandson, Darrell.” Ransom showed the stately white-haired woman his Guild license. “I think she’d like to know.”

A hint of what looked like true concern on her face before she gestured them into a room off the hallway. “Please wait in the morning room.”

Wings just fitting through the doorways, Elena walked to stand in front of a window that overlooked the street, while Ransom prowled around the room after dropping his daypack on a chair upholstered in burgundy with swirls of gold, the arms and back carved of honey-colored wood.

They heard the quiet hum of what might’ve been an elevator several minutes later, then the maid wheeled Ms. Flaherty into the room. Darrell’s grandmother wore a peach-colored turban on her head, her body thin underneath a flowing caftan of soft violet, her mocha-colored skin papery thin. However, the hand she reached up to squeeze the maid’s appeared strong, her brown eyes alert and clear.

A face, Elena thought, that held as much strength and character as beauty. Not a woman who’d break under the troubling news of her grandson’s mental state—if she didn’t already know. Could be Darrell had come home to hole up, try to get his head on straight. It’d be the best possible outcome.

Folding her hands on her lap rug after the maid left, Ms. Flaherty looked straight at Elena. “Is my grandson dead?”

“As far as we know, he’s alive,” she said at once, because if Ms. Flaherty didn’t know of Darrell’s whereabouts, any other answer would be a torment.

The tiniest slump of her shoulders before the elderly lady took control of the situation. “Stop looming and sit.” She didn’t speak again until they’d both obeyed. “So, if he’s not dead, then he must be in trouble. How bad is it?”

“He hasn’t crossed the line yet.” Ransom had apparently come to the same conclusion as Elena about Darrell’s grandmother: she might appear weak but this lady wouldn’t thank them for pu**yfooting around. “We need to haul him in before he does something the Guild can’t fix.”

“He put an innocent vampire in the hospital,” Elena elaborated, when Ms. Flaherty turned to her. “The beating was merciless.”

“Lucky for him, he chose a vampire just out of his Contract, with dreams of cruising the world and no time for hassles with an official case.” Ransom leaned forward, arms braced on his thighs. “The Guild Director convinced him to accept a payout in lieu of laying charges, which means the Guild doesn’t have to officially suspend Darrell’s license, but he hurts anyone else and he’s done.”

“That’s not my boy.” Ms. Flaherty’s body vibrated with unhidden outrage. “Darrell does his job. He doesn’t abuse those he hunts.”

“The things we see in the course of the job?” Elena held the elderly lady’s sharp eyes. “It can cause cracks that don’t heal without intervention, and Darrell recently walked into a nightmare.”

Ms. Flaherty’s fingers trembled on the lap rug, but her voice didn’t crack when she spoke. “I haven’t seen or heard from him in a week, and he always calls me every couple of days, especially since I’ve had this dratted cold I can’t seem to shake.” A deep breath that caught, but she waved off their concern to point a finger at Ransom. “You find my boy before he comes to harm. Don’t you let him down—you’re his Guild. He always said you were like family.”

• • •

“We are family,” Ransom muttered once they returned to the bike, neither one of them of the opinion that Ms. Flaherty had lied. “Why didn’t the idiot just come in when he realized he was losing it? He knows no one would’ve blinked an eye if he needed more counseling—or, hell, if he wanted to get drunk every day for a week. We would’ve gone with him, carried him home from the f**king bar.”

“He’s in a bad place, not thinking straight.” Elena refused to fail at bringing Darrell home. Maybe she couldn’t halt an archangelic war, or make her father into a decent human being, but this one fracture she could and would mend. “Since we don’t have specifics, how about we start trying the usual Guild haunts?”

“That’s what I w—” Grabbing his phone at the chime, he gave her the thumbs-up. “Sara’s been talking to his friends, sent us a list of his other known hangouts. One of his buds already scoped the apartment, found it empty.” Sliding on his sunglasses, he e-mailed the list to her phone. “You take the top half, I’ll take the bottom, see if we can pick up a trail. If you think you have him, call me—with his head screwed up as it is, he might forget we’re family.”

“You call me, too.” Scanning her half of the list after getting his nod, Elena noted a gun shop, a clothing resupply store that catered to hunters and cops, an apartment that apparently housed a discreet pro, and the New York Public Library. “He must like to read.” Somehow, that small, unexpected fact made him more human, more real.

“Yeah. Always has a paperback in his back pocket.” Tugging on his helmet, Ransom straddled the bike, flicked up the kickstand with a boot, turned the key, and kick-started the engine. The machine roared to purring life. “Get on. I’ll run you over to a building you can use as a launchpad.”

“No, thanks. I’ll have to spread my wings to keep them off the street and next thing I know, I’ll be clipped by some cabbie in a bad mood.” Elena wasn’t going to flirt with being grounded again. Not to mention she’d then have to deal with one extremely pissed-off archangel.

Devil-may-care grin on his face, Ransom gunned the bike. “Come on, Ellie. I bet we stop traffic.”

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