Home > Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(18)

Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(18)
Author: Nalini Singh

Thank you. He’d already met with Nazarach and Andreas, two of his angelic commanders—each in charge of running a particular section of his territory. Augustus would be the third. Step by quiet step, he was making certain every one of his commanders knew to prepare their regions for a long absence in the near future. He’d need them in New York when war screamed into being, a war that had been inevitable from the instant Lijuan created the first reborn.

Should her perversions of life be permitted to run free, they’d infect the world, turning it into a charnel house before it became a monument to death given flesh.

• • •

Seven hours later, after five hours of deep sleep, followed by an hour’s teaching at the Academy and some high-visibility flying around office buildings, Elena landed at the Tower to find Raphael wasn’t yet back from a meeting with one of his commanders. Aodhan, however, was in the office from where Dmitri had run Tower operations before he left the city with his wife.

Seeing her, the angel held out a paintbrush, its handle wrapped in a piece of paper.

She accepted it, mystified. “Thank you, but why?”

“The Sire asked me to make sure you received it.”

Tearing off the paper, Elena found seven simple words written on the slim wooden handle: Each consort has her own unique weapons.

God, she thought, her entire face a smile, her Archangel had serious moves.

Happy, plain old heart-deep happy, she stored the slender brush carefully in a zippered side pocket of her tight cargos, where it would be in no danger of falling out. Seeing Aodhan’s quizzical look, she realized she hadn’t had a real conversation with him since his transfer to the Tower, this angel who was beautiful in the most inhuman of ways. Fractures of light, that was Aodhan.

His eyes splintered outward from an obsidian pupil in shards of crystalline blue-green, his skin alabaster stroked with gold, his hair so pale as to be colorless . . . and yet so bright it was as if each strand had been coated in crushed diamonds. The illusion of light was echoed by his wings, until in sunlight, he dazzled the eye beyond the human ability to bear, his beauty a painful blade. Though Illium had wings of blue, and Venom the eyes of a viper, it was Aodhan who was the most “other” of Raphael’s Seven.

He was also the most remote, his unseen scars leaving him averse to any physical contact. Elena couldn’t imagine a life devoid of touch, yet Aodhan had lived an eon divorced from that simple, necessary sense of connection. It had to have been something beyond vicious to have scarred him in such a violent way, but that was Aodhan’s story to tell and he hadn’t chosen to tell it to her.

“How are you liking New York?” she asked.

Walking out onto the balcony with her, he stepped to the very edge to look down at the city below. “I’m not yet certain.” Wings glittering in the sunlight, he appeared to be watching the streams of yellow cabs below. “I’ve never before experienced a place such as this. The Sire’s domain was not thus the last time I was stationed here.”

Elena hadn’t realized Aodhan had ever before been stationed at the Tower, but of course it made sense, given that he was close to five hundred years old. “It’s certainly one-of- a-kind.” She loved the energetic chaos of the city, but knew it wasn’t for everyone; though since Aodhan had requested the transfer after centuries at Raphael’s Refuge stronghold, something in New York had resonated with him.

“Most people still don’t know you’re here.” It had surprised her when Aodhan’s arrival hadn’t made the splash she’d expected. Then she’d discovered he never flew at a height where he could be discerned by mortal eyes. Those who glimpsed the light sparking off him during the rare instances when he dropped below the cloud layer assumed it to be a trick of the light, or a stunning spark off the metal body of a passing aircraft.

“Illium enjoys dancing with the world. I prefer to watch it.”

“Don’t you want to explore the city, fly above the streets?” She could understand why he wouldn’t want to land where he might accidentally be touched, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t see New York up close and personal.

Aodhan gave her a searching look, those eyes of shattered glass refracting her face into a million fragments. “You are right, Consort. I should be seen in the city, especially at this time—there are those who have forgotten my power because I don’t choose to display it.”

Elena had no doubt Aodhan was as lethal as the rest of the Seven. “I wasn’t thinking about the politics of it. I’m more worried about you.” From what she knew, of the immortals in New York, he was close to Illium alone . . . but there, too, he maintained a painful distance.

“Even when we were young, Aodhan was serious where I was full of mischief, but he had laughter in his soul and enough wickedness to be my true friend in all things. I miss him.”


“No one,” she said now, the piercing sadness of Illium’s words echoing in her mind, “can go through life alone.” Not even a woman who, as a girl, had seen her mother’s high-heeled shoe on the hallway tile, and vowed never again to give anyone that much power over her heart. Sara alone had managed to break through, and that after years of trust.

Then had come an archangel as dangerous and as fascinating as the wild winds above a storm-darkened sea. “It isn’t only hurt you avoid by avoiding bonds”—she tried to make him see the truth it had taken her almost two decades to understand, this angel so haunting in his aloneness—“you also miss out on the painful joy that comes with throwing your heart wide open and going hell-for-leather.”

A pause, then words that were stones thrown into the tranquil mirror of an unbroken lake. “Are you not afraid?”

“Terrified,” she admitted, thinking of the violent stab of vulnerability that had hit her just that morning. “But you know what? Fuck fear. I won’t allow it to steal my life from me—and you shouldn’t, either.” No, she didn’t understand the hell that had shaped Aodhan, but she’d been through her own hell, had firsthand knowledge of the cage such horror could create. “Fly hard and fast, Aodhan. You never know what you’ll see. And what’s the worst that could happen?”

Aodhan’s response was quiet and bloody. “I could crash to the earth, my wings broken and my body a fleshy pulp.”

“But imagine what you’d experience in the interim . . . and ask yourself if safe aloneness is all you ever wish to know.”

Leaving the solemn angel to his thoughts when he didn’t respond, she squared her shoulders and made her way back inside the Tower, and to the first of the strictly guarded floors that held the wounded angels. The majority remained in the healing comas Keir had induced, their bodies shattered into pieces, but the faces of those who were conscious lit up the instant she came into view.

Calling her “Consort,” they asked her for news of what was happening in the city and with their squadrons and apologized for being unable to rise from their beds. It was the first time she’d had real personal contact with many of the fighters who defended the Tower, and it humbled her that they saw her visit as an honor, for she was “consort to their liege.”

Thankful for Keir’s quiet whisper that so concisely explained a response she’d been struggling to understand, Elena settled in. As she spoke to the injured in the hours that followed, she began to comprehend another aspect of her responsibilities when it came to her position by Raphael’s side. She was no doubt the weakest angel in the room in terms of power, but that wasn’t who the men and women around her saw, wasn’t what they needed from her.

“Take a deep breath,” Keir murmured when she walked out to the corridor after seeing the brutal injuries done a dark-eyed angel who’d proudly shown her the sword he’d been given by Galen himself—a sign of the weapons-master’s respect for his skills. The angel’s left wing was nothing but tendon clinging to bone, his face pulped on one side, his arm severed at the shoulder.

Hands on her knees, she sucked in gulps of air and, when she could speak again, said, “Will he heal?”

“Yes, though it’ll mean months of hurt for him.” A gentle hand on her hair, a healer’s touch. “In the hours past, have you come to understand why they respond to you as they do?”

A lump of emotion in her throat, Elena rose to her full height, topping Keir by several inches. “I’m their conduit to Raphael.” She hadn’t understood until this instant that the general fighting troops had the same awe of Raphael as many mortals. Even among angelkind, an archangel was a being to be feared and respected.

Dmitri, Aodhan, Galen, Illium, all of the Seven, they were only a rung below the Cadre as far as the troops were concerned. The fighters would go to any one of them without hesitation when it came to issues to do with the Tower’s defenses, but would never think to bother them with anything else. “I’m meant to be the one who looks below the formal, structured surface and to the individuals beneath.” The one who kept her finger on the living heartbeat of the Tower, made certain people were happy.

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