Archangel's Prophecy (Page 11)
Caliane had left him bloody and broken on a forgotten field far from civilization when he’d yet been a youth and she’d been a creature of madness. She’d come back from her long Sleep changed. Sane. And willing to take on any enemy for Raphael.
He remained uncertain how he felt about that—his mother had a way of seeing in him the child she’d left behind. She could not see that the cold loneliness of that grassy field bejeweled with blood rubies had forever ended the final tattered remnants of his childhood. Despite that, he accepted that her loyalty was limitless.
“Favashi’s always been one of the more human members of the Cadre.” Elena dug her fingers into soil to plant another seedling. “I mean, she’s still very much an archangel and distant with it. You’re the only one of the Cadre who’s been foolish enough to fall in love with a mortal and become a little bit human.”
Her words stirred a memory, of Lijuan telling him he must murder Elena, for she would make him a little bit mortal. At the time, he’d thought it well-meaning but misguided advice. For even then, he could’ve never hurt his hunter. Only later had he come to realize that the millennia-old archangel had understood that Elena could foster in him a power unlike any he’d ever before known.
Their wildfire was a weapon of searing life. Anathema to an archangel like Lijuan, who reveled in death, her power feeding on the life force of others to leave them dried-out husks.
“I am quite content with my choice,” he said, walking to stand behind his consort. She tucked her wings neatly against her back so he could put his hands on the bench on either side of her as he kissed her neck, the silken weight of her wings trapped in between their bodies.
Last night, she’d fallen asleep on his left wing, his right her blanket and his palm on her naked hip. Such intimacies were theirs alone. No one else had the right to touch Elena in such a way. Now, she shivered and turned her head. “Raphael.”
Their kiss was an erotic dance, a languid brush, and a possessive brand. The latter came from both of them, each as bad as the other when it came to claiming their own. Their tongues stroked, played, their bodies both hungry for more and deeply sated at the proximity.
Breaking the kiss on a rough sigh, Elena pressed her lips to his jaw before turning back to her bench. “My hands are filthy,” she said, “or they’d be all over you right now.” She wiggled dirt-covered fingers in his direction.
“I see you’ve been using your gloves again.” Frowning as she laughed, he ran his finger over a cut on her forearm, visible because she’d pushed up the sleeves of her top. “How did you do this?”
“Probably from the edge of a pot. It’ll heal quick enough.” Shrugging off the minor wound, she carried on with her potting. “Thanks to you, I’m no longer in danger of dying because of some weird bacteria that I picked up from the soil.”
Raphael went to heal the cut, but his healing energy had flatlined. Teeth gritted together, he tightened his grip on her bench. Elena was a blooded hunter who’d helped bring a mad and murderous archangel to justice. Wounds were a part of her life—but he didn’t like the look of that cut. It was too raw and deep, as if it had been newly taken; however, she hadn’t done it since his arrival.
Which meant it should’ve begun to heal at the very edges at least. Because while Elena was an infant in immortal terms, she’d already developed better healing abilities than a mortal.
Yet as he watched, she accidentally stretched the wound while reaching for a seedling on the far side of the bench . . . and a fine droplet of blood welled out over the edge.
“Elena, we must clean this cut.” Raphael didn’t wait for her to respond, instead tugging her to the tap she’d had installed in one corner of the greenhouse, on the far edge of the as yet unplanted garden she’d filled with rich black soil.
“Do you remember when you might’ve cut it?” he asked as the water washed off the blood, the light pinkness of it soon disappearing into the soil of her garden.
“No.” Elena stared at the small wound. “It looks too fresh.” Scowling on the heels of her words, she shook her head. “We’re probably just being paranoid because of the Cascade restart.” She pulled her sleeve down over it. “Let’s check it again when we go inside.”
Raphael wanted to order a healer to fly here at once, but Elena was correct. It was only a cut. A thing shrugged off by even the smallest mortals day after day.
Elena had returned to her bench, Raphael standing a short distance away, when the door to the greenhouse opened.
Illium’s golden eyes took in the tableau, and he hesitated on the doorstep. Conscious of the turbulence that held the younger angel in thrall, Raphael said, Come, Illium, at the same time that Elena glared. “In, and shut the door, or you’ll let out all the warmth. Then I’d have to murderize you for killing my plants.”
“You break my heart, Ellie.” The silver that edged the blue of Illium’s wings glinted in the light as he walked over to the tray and poured himself half a mug of coffee. There were extra drinking vessels, of course. Montgomery knew far too well that Elena’s greenhouse was a beacon that called to many far and wide.
“I’ve just returned from the sinkhole,” the angel said after throwing back the coffee and putting the mug aside with a sigh of satisfaction. “No change.”
While the report was appropriate and welcome, Raphael knew the real reason Illium had flown here rather than to his home in the Tower. Elena’s Bluebell adored her, and it was to her that he would speak things he wouldn’t speak even to Raphael. And tonight was the one-year anniversary of Aodhan’s return to the Refuge.
The angel who was Illium’s closest friend had asked to be resettled at the Refuge for a short period in the aftermath of his sister’s giving birth. The pregnancy had been a shock to the entire angelic community—angelic births were rare in the extreme, and Aodhan’s sister was young, comparatively speaking. The shock had been magnified when two other angels fell pregnant three months and six months later, respectively.
But after the shock had come a great celebration, the children to come even more cherished in the face of the battle losses resulting from Raphael’s fight against Lijuan, as well as the piercing loss of five angels in the prime of their lives due to Charisemnon’s plague. Angels had fallen from the skies that day, to smash into buildings and onto streets, the horror of the Falling one no immortal would ever forget.
Aodhan’s sister had given birth to a healthy baby boy.
Though Aodhan wasn’t close to his sibling—she’d been seven hundred years of age when he was born—he’d wanted to be there for her as she and her lover settled into their new lives as parents. “I think I would like to be an uncle,” he’d confessed. “My sister feels the same. She does not wish me to be a stranger to her child as she and I are to one another.”
In turning his wings toward the Refuge and the infant angel of his familial bloodline, Aodhan had left behind a city he loved, and a blue-winged angel with whom his relationship had undergone a seismic shift in the years since he first came to New York.
“I spoke to Aodhan before the earth tremor,” Illium said at that instant. “He was babysitting his nephew while his sister and her mate had time alone.”