Home > Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(4)

Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(4)
Author: Nalini Singh

Raphael, his wings glowing in a silent testament to his rage, continued to stare at a city that had gone eerily silent. No horns blew, no brakes screeched, no one fought, the events of this day so nightmarish as to erase the petty problems of life.

“Status?” he asked after several minutes.

“Three hundred and fourteen required emergency medical intervention as a result of life-threatening injuries,” Aodhan answered, “and will be down for months. The rest have broken bones, and most will need at least four weeks to recover.”

Despite explanations, Elena didn’t quite understand the drug used today, except that the closest human analog was epinephrine, though the two weren’t identical. According to Montgomery, the drug was a last-ditch option, because while it could kick-start the self-healing process in a badly injured angel—when that angel’s body might otherwise simply shut down—it had one very bad side effect: it extended the normal recovery time by months.

After seeing the stuff revive an angel who’d been all but decapitated, his head attached to his body by the gleaming wetness of his spinal column alone, and his lower body torn off to leave him a bloody stump, Elena didn’t have any argument with the drug.

“The Tower-based healers were able to speak to a number of the injured who regained consciousness,” Aodhan added, the world turning to twilight as the clouds succeeded in hiding the last rays of the sun. “They all report a sudden sense of dizziness, followed by unconsciousness before they could land.”

Glancing at Aodhan when Raphael didn’t respond, Elena spoke with her eyes. Unlike with Illium, her relationship with this member of Raphael’s Seven was new yet, but he was one of the most empathic angels she’d ever met. Now, he gave a small nod and disappeared inside the Tower.

“Are you subverting another one of my men, Elena?” Raphael said into the quiet.

She came to stand beside him, their wings touching. An instant later, the rain clouds released their store of water in an unexpected deluge. It would, Elena thought, wash away the blood on the streets and the buildings, but the trauma of this day would never be erased. “I think nothing on this earth is capable of subverting your men.” The Seven were as loyal to Raphael as hunters were to the Guild.

“But,” she said, blinking the rain from her eyes as Raphael’s wing rose over her in a protective curve, “I do have certain rights as your consort, including the right to stand with you against this thing, whatever it is.”

His arm sliding around her waist, Raphael brought her against his body, the midnight strands of his hair even darker with the rain.

“I’m sorry, Raphael,” she whispered, spreading the fingers of one hand over his heart, needing to feel the life of him as a ward against the awfulness of what had taken place. “I know an archangel can’t be seen to grieve, but I know you grieve for the people you lost.” Her own throat was thick, her eyes burning.

“They were under my protection,” he said and it was all that needed to be said.

Elena didn’t try to comfort him with words. She simply stood with him as the rain pounded over them both, cold and harsh as the death that had come so darkly to their city. Lightning burst in the distance, the roiling clouds turning the early evening into midnight. As if in defense, warm golden light began to flood the windows of every skyscraper within sight, but there was nothing eerie or “other” about this wild black storm. It was a simple, beautiful display of nature’s power.

“Have you ever flown in something like this?” she asked, protected from the ferocious wind by the shelter of his muscled body, his wings.

“Yes.” Raphael looked out over the downpour, the lights in the windows refracted by the hard rain coming in from the left. “It was above an island in what is now called the Pacific, the sky a rage of thunder, the lightning a violent dance. My friends and I, we made a game of dodging the strikes.”

She wanted to smile at the image, but the wounds of the day were too raw to permit it. “An immortal game of chicken?”

“Perhaps.” Blinking away the rain, he stepped back. “Come, we must see to the injured.”

They stopped in at their Tower suite only long enough to dry off and change, before heading down to the infirmary. It made no difference that she’d already seen the damage—it was as bad now as it had been the first time. An angel with wings patterned like a sparrow’s had lost most of his internal organs, his chest a gaping cavity, but at four hundred, he’d survived the damage and now slept in an induced coma that would help him heal.

Beside him was the near-decapitation victim, his life signs flickering. Kneeling beside the young male, Raphael placed his hand over the gruesome injury. Only Elena was close enough to see the faint blue glow that was an indication of Raphael’s growing but nascent healing ability. He couldn’t fix all the damage, but he could give the hurt man more of a fighting chance.

Two beds down lay an angel who’d lost both legs at the upper thigh and broken most of the remaining bones in his body, including those in his brutalized face. But whether through luck or through fate, his brain was still inside the cracked eggshell of his skull, his heart in his chest, his spine damaged but not fatally so—because Izak wouldn’t have survived otherwise, being far too young to heal such trauma.

“Sorry! Sorry! I just got out of the Refuge. I—” A gulp. “I wasn’t supposed to tell you that! Please don’t tell Raphael.”

Anger and worry combined into a knot in her throat at the memory of their first meeting. He’d been hanging upside down off the roof over the little balcony of her old apartment, all yellow curls and huge eyes as he tried to sneak a peek at a real-live hunter. To see someone so young and innocent lying broken and silent, his body a mass of bruised and torn flesh . . .

Elena wanted to do violence, make someone pay for this horror, but as of right now, they had no answers as to the origin of the nightmare, their enemy invisible.

3

It was well past the midnight hour when Raphael and his consort found their beds. He didn’t need rest as Elena did, but she slept better if he was in the bed with her. When she woke to find herself alone—and she almost always woke in the middle of the night if he wasn’t there—she came looking for him.

The first time it had happened, he’d thought she’d been wrenched from her rest by nightmare echoes of the horror that had ended her childhood, but she’d said she just missed him. Such simple words. Such powerful words. So now he slept with her, at least for certain critical hours of the night.

Tonight, though, neither one of them was ready to surrender to slumber. “Lijuan,” she said at last, her head against his shoulder. “Are you thinking the same?”

“The possibility had occurred to me.” The Archangel of China was rapidly becoming the Archangel of Death, her abilities touched with the putrefaction of a final ending that was without mercy or dignity, for all that she called herself a giver of eternal life.

Lijuan’s version of life was a horrific shambling shell fed of human flesh.

“But?” Elena raised herself on her elbow so she could look down at him, the near-white strands of her hair brushing over his skin, a thousand fleeting caresses.

He spread his fingers on the warmth of her lower back, stroked along the delicate arch of her spine. His tough hunter was still so vulnerable in countless ways, could well have been among the fallen today, for it was the youngest who’d borne the brunt of the damage, and Elena was the youngest angel in the city.

“Jason,” he said, crushing the thought before it could take damaging hold, “contacted me with a report an hour ago.” His spymaster was currently on the other side of the world, but he’d spun into action within seconds of the deadly events in New York. “As always, he has ways of gathering information unavailable to the rest of us.”

The fine rim of silver around Elena’s irises glowed in the dark of their bedroom, a silent indicator of her growing immortality, though that immortality was not yet set in stone in any way. “What did he say?”

“That he knows for a fact Lijuan was in her own territory during the entire span of the Falling.” Considering the certainty in his spymaster’s tone, he added, “I have a strong suspicion Jason may have attained the impossible and tracked Lijuan to her innermost lair.”

Elena sucked in a breath, and he saw she understood the danger. Should Jason be discovered, he wouldn’t make it out alive; Lijuan knew too well how loyal the Seven were to Raphael. But, Raphael thought, his spymaster would take no unnecessary risks, not now, when Jason knew his loss would be a fatal wound on the heart of the princess who awaited his return.

“If it wasn’t Lijuan”—dark realization in her eyes—“then . . .”

“Yes. The Cascade is apparently moving ahead with the speed of a—” He paused at Aodhan’s mental touch. A problem? he asked the angel who, with Illium, was currently in charge of Tower operations.

The Archangel Caliane has informed me she wishes to speak to you, Sire.

I’ll contact her from the house. Returning his attention to Elena, he touched the curve of her wing where the midnight feathers segued into indigo. “We might be about to get some answers,” he said, telling her of Caliane’s call. As the only Ancient who was awake and in the world, his mother knew much that had otherwise been lost to the pages of history.

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