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

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

Lips on hers, his mouth claiming everything she had. “There are,” he said, backing her against the wall, “other ways of revitalizing the self.”

Elena gasped as he lifted her, her legs locking around his waist to leave her intimately exposed.

He was hard and demanding that night, her archangel, his fury at the attack on his city a rage in his blood—but she was no fragile bird. Giving back kiss for passionate kiss, she took the pounding thrusts of his c**k and demanded more, until there was no more thought, only the most beautiful firestorm of sensation.

• • •

Raphael had thought only to hold Elena close as she slept on the thick carpet in front of the study fireplace, their bodies and wings entangled, but he must have been more tired than he’d understood, because all at once, he realized he wasn’t awake. Instead, he found himself on the forgotten field where Caliane had left him more than a thousand years ago, when he’d been a boy at the dawn of his existence.

A boy who’d thought to kill his mother before she became an even bigger monster than the one who had orchestrated the death of two thriving cities, the adults drowned, the children broken in ways even Keir, their greatest healer, couldn’t repair. No immortal would go to the ancient ruins of those cities even now. There was too piercing a silence, created of the pain of thousands of souls, such silence as Raphael would never forget, the pain of it an icy wind.

Today, as he stood draped in a quiet heavy with the echo of memory, he saw blood on the grass, the crimson liquid that had dripped out of him as he lay splintered on the earth underneath a crystalline sky so blue it hurt. Yet he wasn’t on his face on the grass as he’d been then, his wings torn and heavy on his body, parts of him missing. No, he stood on his feet and he was a man, an archangel, not that scared, determined, heartbroken boy.

Flexing his hands as if in readiness for battle, he took a step forward . . . and walked into a wall of whispers. Hundreds of voices, each one raspy and somehow unused, the words interlaced and incomprehensible. They came from every side, yet when he rose up into that sky of cutting clarity, he saw nothing but the gnarled bodies of the trees that surrounded the field, sentinels of such age that they had stood through eternity.

And still the voices whispered and murmured, pushing at him in waves that ebbed and flowed, until at last, he heard a single strong voice slice through the chaos. The other whispers died away, but did not fade altogether as that one voice asked him a question. “Who are you?”

Feet touching the grass once more, the dew wet on the very tips of his wings, he felt a roaring surge of anger. “Who are you to ask questions of an archangel?”

The murmurs rose again, the volume rising to a thunderous crescendo.

Archangel. Archangel. Archangel!

4

“Archangel.” Elena gripped Raphael’s shoulder, his skin strangely cool under her fingertips. “It’s time to get up.”

He always woke at her first touch, but today she had to call him a second time before his lashes lifted, the relentless blue of his eyes shadowed by a darkness that muted their vivid hue. “It’s daylight,” was the first thing he said, his gaze taking in the lacy streamers of light coming in through the study windows.

“You were in such a deep sleep, I thought I’d give you a few extra minutes.” It was the only gift she could give; to protect an archangel was an impossibility. “It’s barely dawn.” Watching him get to his feet, this magnificent and lethal male who was her own, she rose and pulled on her robe. “You had an angry look on your face at the end. Bad dream?”

“Not bad so much as strange.” He didn’t speak again until they’d both showered and begun to dress, their bedroom drenched in dawn sunshine from the skylight and open balcony doors. “I dreamed of the field where I fought Caliane.”

Tying off her braid, she busied herself checking her crossbow, though she saw nothing of the weapon, every ounce of her being concentrated on Raphael. He spoke rarely about that agonizing day, and she hadn’t pushed him, because the whole “time heals all wounds” thing? It was a load of bullshit. “Was your mother in the dream?”

“No.” Walking to the balcony, his upper body bare, he spread his wings as if soaking in the sun’s rays, the golden filaments hidden in the white sparking with a fire so brilliant, Elena found herself brushing her fingers along the living silk.

“What do you see, Elena?”

“There’s a kind of fire in your feathers now.” She almost expected to capture a piece of piercing white flame in her hand. “It’s incredibly beautiful.”

Raphael glanced at his wing, shrugged. “So long as they work.” Folding them in, he turned to pick up one of her throwing blades and slid it into the sheath on her left arm. “The dream was not . . . what it should be,” he said, as she made a minor fix to one of the sheath straps. “Of course, yesterday was no ordinary day. It’s not inexplicable that I should dream of violence.”

“It could be that simple.” Elena held out her right forearm, sheath in place, so he could slide in the other throwing blade. “But I’ve seen way too much freaky stuff since you first summoned me to do your bidding to take anything at face value.”

“You were abysmal at doing my bidding.” It was a cool reminder. “I thought you the most fascinating creature I had ever met.”

“You did not.” She pointed a gleaming knife at him before slotting it into a thigh sheath strapped over her slimline black leather pants, her clothing designed to reduce drag in the air. “You thought I was a nuisance you might have to throw off the side of the building in order to teach me manners.” As it was, he’d made her close her hand over a blade, her blood dripping to stain the roof, a being so terrifying she’d seen nothing of humanity in him. “You were kind of a bastard, if we’re being brutally honest.”

Lips curving, he picked up the long, thin blade she wore hidden along her back in a sheath built into her long-sleeved black top, the fabric tough enough to take the demands of a hunter’s life. “You,” he said, sliding the blade into place when she turned, “are the only individual who would ever say that to my face.”

“Remind me to tell you sometime about how I decided I should get Big Idiot tattooed on my forehead.” Facing him once more, she smoothed her hands over his gorgeous shoulders. “And what does it say about me that I thought you were fascinating and sexier than sin, even after you made me cut myself?”

“That you’re a warrior who knew she’d finally met her match.”

Elena snorted. “It says I’m a dumbo who doesn’t know when to be meek and subservient and save my ass, that’s what it says.”

Smile deepening until his cheeks creased with it, Raphael curved one hand around her nape, using the fingers of his other to caress the sensitive upper arch of her wing with long, firm strokes. “Had you been meek and subservient,” he murmured as her knees threatened to melt, “I would’ve never summoned you to do my bidding.”

His kiss threatened to finish what his strokes had begun. Licking her tongue against his, her br**sts crushed against the hard muscle of his chest, Elena wanted nothing more than to stay in this stolen minute, to forget the outside world, but the ugly reality that awaited couldn’t be ignored.

“I’ve been away from the Tower for over six hours,” Raphael said when they drew apart, his expression shifting in a way that reminded her he wasn’t simply her lover, wasn’t simply the man who wore her ring on his finger. No, he was an archangel, responsible for the lives of millions, mortals and immortals alike.

“Finish dressing.” Releasing him, she headed for the door. “I’ll bring up some food. You need to refuel after all the healing you did.”

By the time she returned, the transformation was complete, the Archangel of New York a grim-eyed power beside her as they ate standing on the balcony. He’d chosen to wear a simple black shirt and pants, the cut pristine, rather than the leather combat gear he often chose. All part of the illusion, she realized, an elegant “fuck you” to whoever had dared attack his city and harm his people.

Elena watched him slice through the biting cold of the wind only minutes later, the early morning sunlight sparking white fire off the altered filaments in his wings, and felt her heart tighten in a deep, chill fear. Never had she expected to find him, to fall so deeply, wildly, insanely in love—and sometimes, her soul-deep joy in their passionate entanglement terrified her, the fear of losing him as she’d lost her sisters, her mother, a stealthy intruder in her mind.

After yesterday, that intruder had forced its way to the forefront of her consciousness.

Fingernails digging into her palms, she returned to the bedroom to pick up her phone. She didn’t currently have an active assignment, but she could put in some time teaching a class at Guild Academy—not as high visibility as a hunt, but perfect in its utter normality. However, as part of her contribution to Raphael’s “fuck you,” she stopped at a rooftop coffee stand set up by a human shrewd enough to realize angels liked coffee, too.

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