Home > Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(8)

Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(8)
Author: Nalini Singh

5

“No,” Elena said, answering the question she could, “it means someone in his family was, and he carries the genes for it.” A fact he’d consciously hidden from Elena until the emergence of Eve’s ability had thrown a grenade onto that particular secret. “But the ability isn’t active in him, like it is in me and you. Do you understand?”

A thoughtful nod, frown lines marring the creamy skin Eve had inherited from Jeffrey’s second wife, Gwendolyn. “Like he’s asleep and we’re awake.”

“Yes.” Elena got to her feet, spreading her wings in a light stretch that had the white-gold primaries grazing a pot of chrysanthemums in bloom. “I think that’s a good way to put it.” However, their father couldn’t keep on being asleep, continue his willful, damaging blindness. Elena would not allow him to hurt Eve as he’d hurt her.

“He might never understand, right, Ellie?” Eve said with her customary openness of nature a few minutes later, as they got ready to leave. “That’s why he’s always so mad at you.”

Elena squeezed her sister’s hand, her calluses encountering the ones just beginning to form on Eve’s soft palms. “Jeffrey and I,” she said, “have other problems.”

Slater Patalis had been drawn to their suburban home because of Elena. Until that awful, cruel day a lifetime ago, they’d been a family of six. Jeffrey, Marguerite, and their four girls. Mirabelle, with her hot blood and wild affection. Ariel, even tempered and bossy and protective. Elena, who wanted to do everything her older sisters did, and Beth, too young to truly remember now who they’d been together before Slater Patalis walked through the kitchen door.

Where the murderous vampire had butchered Ari and Belle in a horrifying reign of blood, tortured their mother over and over . . . tortured the woman who was, and would always be, Jeffrey’s greatest love. Beth hadn’t been home, but Elena had. And though it was all her fault, she was the one who’d survived.

“He loves you,” Elena said, as the memories bruised her from within, hoping she wasn’t about to lie to her sister. “It might take him time, but he’ll accept your hunting.”

Dropping Eve back at school and taking responsibility for her absence, Elena flew straight to the tony brownstone Jeffrey used as a private office, only to find it closed, his assistant nowhere in evidence. Figuring her father would call her soon enough, Elena didn’t bother to slide a note under the door and headed toward Guild HQ. Once again, her phone rang before she made it there. Answering in the air, she found Sara on the other end.

“Ellie, I know you probably can’t take this with what happened yesterday, but—”

“I’m actually on my way to see you, wanted to ask if you had a hunt for me.”

“Good, because we have a serious problem.” Taking an audible breath, she said, “One of our hunters has gone off the rails. We might be talking murder if we don’t stop him.”

Elena landed on a nearby roof, her pulse suddenly in her mouth, her palms clammy, Sara’s words having unlocked a hidden vault: Bill James had been a celebrated hunter, Elena’s mentor . . . and a serial killer. One so good at hiding his crumbling psyche that none of his friends had realized what was happening until the first dead child. “Who?” she asked, throat raw.

“Darrell Vance.” Relief that it wasn’t a friend had Elena lifting a trembling hand to her face. Perhaps it wasn’t fair or right to feel this way, but she’d already had to execute one friend, would never forget the look of betrayal in Bill’s eyes as he died in her arms, his blood hot on her skin.

“Ellie.” Confusion in his voice. “Why, Ellie?”

Sara’s voice broke into a memory that still woke her up some nights, mouth full of cotton wool and the words “I’m sorry” on her lips.

“Darrell had a hunt go seriously bad,” Sara told her. “Vamp had second thoughts after being Made, went back to the mortal family he’d left, only to find his wife had remarried and another man was now raising his son.”

Elena had seen this script before. “He killed the husband.”

“No, that would’ve been bad, but—” When Sara had to pause as if girding herself for what was to come, dread began to crawl up Elena’s spine. “He tore out the husband’s throat, then tied up his son and wife, wrapped them in his arms, and set himself on fire.”

Oh, Jesus.

“Darrell found them while they were still burning, tried to put out the flames, but you know how vamps burn. It’s like they’re doused in petrol.”

Elena had once witnessed a vampire burn as a result of a hate crime. It had been horrific, the smell of roasting meat threatening to make her retch as she tried frantically to beat out the flames. But to find a woman and child in the mix? Her stomach twisted. “Darrell’s fallen off the radar?”

“Yes. The way this went down wasn’t his fault—he did the track in record time—but his head’s probably so messed up, he can’t see that. As it is, he attacked an innocent vampire and put him in the hospital two nights ago; a couple more punches and he’d have fatally damaged the heart. I found out a half hour ago when the vamp woke up.”

Vampires might be strong, but an average untrained one didn’t stand a chance against a member of the Guild. “Have you contacted the Slayer?” Elena asked, referring to the often anonymous hunter whose task it was to hunt those of the Guild gone bad.

“She took a bad injury in a recent situation, is out of commission. This one we’ll have to handle without her—Ransom is lead; he has the sketchy details we have so far, and I know he wants you as his backup.” An unspoken acknowledgment of the bond that had formed between them the day Bill died. “As it is, he’s just come across something that’ll probably need to be referred to the Tower, so you’ll be doing double duty.”

• • •

Raphael glanced at the mortal news channel running on one wall of his Tower office and smiled. It wasn’t a smile of humor, but of pride. His consort had done exactly as he’d asked, the media mystified by the apparent nonchalance with which she’d bought a cup of coffee that morning. Pundits who’d the previous day termed the Falling a catastrophic disaster were now beginning to question their judgment. More and more often, he heard it being termed an accident of some kind that had “fortunately not caused lasting harm.”

“Elena certainly knows how to leave an impression,” Dmitri said on the other end of the phone, having been watching the same news feed.

Raphael’s second and his consort had never seen eye to eye, for to Dmitri, Elena was a lethal chink in Raphael’s armor, but today he heard grim admiration in the vampire’s tone. “If we can continue to manipulate the media,” he said, switching the screen to silent, “and maintain a stranglehold on any news that leaves the Tower, we can convince the enemy that the five we lost represent the only real damage.” Those five would be halfway home by now, crossing over the blue-green span of a mercurial sea.

“Acknowledge a few serious injuries, or allow that information to leak.” Dmitri spoke with the icy intelligence that made him a master strategist. “It’ll take care of the images already out there of angels who fell into traffic or were otherwise publicly injured, and it’ll explain the healers. Illium’s very good at whispering the right words in the right ears.”

Raphael sent the instruction to the blue-winged angel as he continued to speak to Dmitri, his eyes on the glittering steel and glass metropolis that was Manhattan. “We need to quietly bring in troops from outlying areas.” No enemy who wanted to be taken seriously in the immortal world would launch an attack at any target but the Tower—in the game of archangels, to conquer was to strike at one another’s base of power.

“I need you to assist Aodhan in organizing that shift.” Aodhan was yet new to the territory, having previously been Galen’s right hand in the Refuge. “I have Illium focusing on creating new working squadrons.” With so many angels down, the current squadrons had become unbalanced in critical areas.

“Sire, do you wish me to return to the city?”

“No,” Raphael said, conscious Dmitri’s wife was still regaining her strength after her transformation from mortal to vampire. “Your continued absence serves my purpose for the time being.” Everyone knew Dmitri was the oldest of Raphael’s Seven, the one Raphael considered a friend. “When the war breaks, I’ll want you by my side, but that time isn’t now.”

Not quite yet.

• • •

Elena landed in front of an old-fashioned two-story villa set in the middle of a derelict street twenty minutes after her call from Sara and stared. Surrounded by tall weeds and smothered in ivy on one side, the building in front of her could’ve stood in as the prototypical haunted house; in point of fact, the entire street had escaped any attempt at modernization. Even the streetlamps were wrought iron, the frames rusted, the glass cracked to splinter the pavement, not a single electrical or telephone wire in sight.

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