Archangel's Prophecy (Page 19)
He never ventured to the ground and kept his scarred face hooded even among friends. However he seemed to find fascination in sitting on the Tower balconies and watching the colorful life of the city, and he flew in the skies above New York. The violent archangelic energy that had burned him down to the bone had done catastrophic damage to his wings—but a long-overdue examination had found that enough of the crucial substructure remained to offer hope.
It turned out that Keir had, in his records, designs for pair upon pair of prosthetic wings that he’d worked on as a young man in an effort to find something to help his friend Jessamy take flight. None had proved suitable for the historian’s congenital malformation . . . but one pair, when modified, extended and supported Laric’s devastated wings enough to give him back the sky.
He couldn’t fly for long, but he could fly.
And from afar, his wings looked like any other angel’s.
“Can you make it to my sister’s home?” Elena asked, telling him the distance. “You’ll be dealing with a severely wounded vampire.” Laric was in training under Keir, with Nisia his tutor while he was in New York.
His hands flowed rapidly in the silent tongue he used nearly all the time and that Elena had learned after he came to the Tower. Most of the other senior staff already knew it, and the ones who didn’t had learned alongside Elena; Laric would not be isolated here as he’d been in the place where he’d spent more than a thousand years.
I have this knowledge, he was saying. Flight possible. A short pause before his hands formed another word. Witnesses?
“Only my father and sister will see you, and they know never to speak immortal secrets.” As with Jessamy, Laric was careful never to be really seen by mortals; humanity needed to believe angelkind too powerful to be hurt. It kept the balance of the world and stopped mortals from trying to pick fights with immortals they could never hope to win.
Nodding, Laric took a moment to grab his kit, then the two of them stepped off the closest balcony. Today, Elena didn’t see the glittering winter-draped beauty of her city, and she barely felt the ache in her left wing.
All she heard was that tone in her father’s voice.
Cold, controlled, clipped.
Harrison had to be critical.
Elena would never like her brother-in-law—he was a weak man, weak enough that he’d gotten himself Made into a vampire while Beth was still waiting to hear back if she’d been accepted. It turned out Elena’s younger sister was incompatible with the toxin that turned a mortal into a near-immortal. She couldn’t be Made. Harrison would have to watch his wife grow old and die. He might well have to bury his daughter, too.
But Beth loved him and that was what mattered.
“There!” She pointed out the house to Laric.
Landing on the pathway swept clear of snow, Elena dropped a knife into her palm before running into the house, Laric following . . . to be greeted by a scene of horror. A choking, gurgling sound filled the air, and on the sofa, Jeffrey had both hands clamped around Harrison’s neck. The wound was spurting blood, the dark red liquid flowing over her father’s hands, macabre ink that smelled of iron.
Red splattered Jeffrey’s wire-framed glasses.
More blood smeared the space on either side of Harrison’s mouth, and at first glance Elena thought his mouth was twisted into a rictus of a smile. But no—Christ—his assailant had slit open the sides of his mouth.
She took in the rest of the room in that same initial glance.
A gaily wrapped box lay on the fog-gray carpet, while Elena’s half sister, Eve, a petite Valkyrie, stood in an offensive posture, her eyes huge and her newly issued long blade held out with guild hunter precision.
Muddy boot prints led from the back of the sofa to the kitchen.
The strides were long. Running. Whoever had left those prints had been running.
“Ellie.” Eve lowered her arm, her breath a touch uneven but her stance solid. “I think we interrupted the robber. I was afraid they’d come back.”
Elena wasn’t sure this had anything to do with robbery, not when she could see Harrison’s wallet sitting right there where even a fleeing robber could’ve grabbed it. “You did good, Eve.” Striding to the kitchen door while Eve continued to stand guard in the living area, and Laric worked on Harrison, she nudged it open with care—if the assailant was a vampire in the throes of bloodlust, she couldn’t expect him to act rationally.
But the kitchen proved empty.
She swept the entire space inch by inch regardless, to make sure no one was hiding in a cupboard or under the island at the center.
The back door lock was broken.
After jury-rigging it with a piece of twine from Beth’s junk drawer then reinforcing that with a fork bent to block the mechanism, Elena returned to the living room and told Eve she was going to clear the rest of the house. “I’ll lock the front door on my way. Keep an eye on the entrance from the kitchen.”
Eve nodded jerkily as Elena left. She moved quickly and was able to confirm the house was free of intruders within minutes.
She returned to find Laric motioning for Jeffrey to remove his hands. Blood began to gush out the instant Jeffrey obeyed . . . only it was slow.
Harrison had lost most of the blood in his body. Replacing Jeffrey’s hands with his own, Laric began to do whatever it was that healers did to encourage healing in immortal and semi-immortal bodies. Keir had once told her it felt like coaxing a flame in the wind, or waking a sluggish sleeper.
Their job was to lead the body to heal itself.
It was wholly unlike Raphael’s ability to heal without any involvement from the injured’ s own body.
Laric’s hands were a stark and icy-white ridged with fine pink lines that quickly became streaked with viscous red. The lines had been much thicker when Elena had first met him, and Laric had said they were impossible to cut through.
Of course, buried as he’d been in the isolated stronghold of Lumia, he hadn’t ever tried lasers.
His body remained badly damaged within, but he was getting regular treatments to shave away the worst ridges so that he had better movement and flexibility.
“You must stop panicking and start trying to conserve your energy,” he said aloud; his voice was crushed gravel, so rough and broken and painful to the ear that it was rare for him to use it.
Aodhan had told Elena it actually hurt Laric to talk.
Shifting into Harrison’s line of sight, Elena took one of his hands so that Laric could get on with his work without having to deal with her brother-in-law’s desperate attempts to cover his wound with his own hands. Bloody and sticky, Harrison’s fingers gripped weakly at hers.
She squeezed back. Whatever Harrison’s faults, he didn’t deserve this. Beth and Maggie didn’t deserve this.
“If you’re going to survive,” she told him, “you need to stay calm and let Laric help you.” Beth’s husband was fewer than ten years old in vampiric terms. He couldn’t have survived even a partial decapitation. Thankfully, Eve and Jeffrey’s interruption had stopped the blade from transecting his spine. Add in the rapid arrival of a healer and he might have a fighting chance.
She damn well hoped so. Beth loved him, and, to Harrison’s credit, he treated both Beth and their daughter, Maggie, like princesses.
“Think of Beth.” It was the one topic guaranteed to get his attention. “You know what she’s like. If I tell her you’re bleeding out, she’ll have a panic attack. But if I tell her the healer has things under control and you’re handling it without worry, she’ll do fine.”