Archangel's Prophecy (Page 21)
The door closed behind Jason seconds later.
When she looked to her father again, she saw Jeffrey had already finished cleaning his hands and was now polishing the glass of his spectacles using a handkerchief he must’ve pulled from his pocket.
She put her used dish towel onto the coffee table, then caught Jeffrey’s eyes, angling her head. He, Elena, and Eve moved closer to the front door, leaving Laric to work in peace. There probably wasn’t much more he could do at this stage. Vampires were creatures of blood, and Jason’s blood was the biggest piece of first aid that could’ve been offered.
“Tell me how this happened,” she said to the man who’d once blown bubbles with her in a sunny backyard. The same man who had thrown her out of the family home when she’d been only eighteen.
For a long time, she’d believed he hated her because she was the reason the monster had come to their door. It had taken her more than ten years to understand that in her sophisticated, intelligent father lived both a forever broken-hearted man who loved his children too much . . . and a scared four-year-old boy.
“Do you know what it’s like to watch a woman get her head torn off? The blood spurts hot and dark and it gets in your mouth, in your eyes, in your nose, until it’s the only thing you can see, all you can smell!”
Jeffrey Parker Deveraux had lost too many loves. He was never going to be whole again, never going to be her playful papa again.
It was Eve who spoke first.
“I wanted to drop off my gift for Beth’s birthday,” she said, her hand clenched to bone-white tightness around the hilt of the long blade. “I’m going away tomorrow for two weeks for that out-of-town Guild training session. I won’t be here for her actual birthday.”
Elena broke contact with the gray of Jeffrey’s eyes, eyes he’d bequeathed her and Eve both. “Yes, I remember.” The two-week camp would teach her sister tactics she couldn’t learn in the city.
It would also be a time of friendship and freedom.
She half expected Jeffrey to comment on Eve’s plans—their father could barely deal with having one hunter for a daughter, and in a few short years he’d have two. But all he said was, “I have a key to this home.” He pulled the key out of the right pocket of his suit pants then slid it back in. “When Evelyn received no response to her knock, I decided we should leave the gift inside. That way, even if we were unable to track Beth down, she’d have the gift and card.”
That sounded like her father: decisive and coolly rational. He’d always been that way, except when it came to the butterfly of a woman who’d been his first wife—and the four daughters she’d given him.
Only Elena truly remembered Marguerite’s Jeffrey. Beth had been so young when they buried Belle and Ari. What they hadn’t known until it was too late was that they were also burying Marguerite. Jeffrey’s butterfly and Elena’s beloved mama, the lovely, soft-spoken woman who’d kissed Beth’s chubby cheeks until she giggled and giggled, had never come back from the hell of so horrifically losing two of her babies.
“I heard the back door slam as we came in, like someone had left in a rush,” Eve added, her voice mingling with that of a sunlit childhood that had lasted only a few short years. “I pulled my blade out before we walked into the living room.”
“Clearly,” Jeffrey said, his voice as calm as if they were talking about a business deal, “we interrupted an intruder in the act of violently assaulting Harrison.”
Elena looked over at Laric, who was swathing her brother-in-law’s throat with bandages. “I’m pretty sure he’d be dead if you hadn’t arrived when you did.” A little deeper on the cut and Jason’s blood would’ve come too late.
“Beth can’t walk into this.” Jeffrey held her eyes.
“No.” Beth hadn’t been home the day Slater Patalis turned their family home into an abattoir. Neither had she seen their mother’s body swinging from the ceiling, a painful shadow that lived forever on the wall of Elena’s mind. Elena had been able to grab Beth and get her out of the house before her baby sister came far enough inside to see the end of their fractured family.
Beth had the terrible sorrow of having lost her mother and two of her sisters, but no horror stained her memories of them. Elena wanted to keep it that way. It was enough that Elena carried the blood and the death and the nightmares. It was enough that Jeffrey carried the same. That was their dark bond, the viciousness and the pain that connected the two of them and that would probably always hold them apart.
“It’s okay, Ellie.” Jeffrey’s big hand stroked her hair as they stood in the morgue beside Ariel and Mirabelle’s bodies, tears thick in his voice. “There’s no more pain where they are now.”
The memory broke her with its glimpse of who Jeffrey had once been. A father who’d fought to give her the closure she needed—to show her that Slater Patalis hadn’t turned her sisters into monsters like him. Jeffrey had held her hand and kept her safe, a tall, strong bulwark against the darkness.
“We should go to Maggie’s great-grandparents’,” he said now. “Break the news before Beth hears it in some other way.”
Never my parents-in-law.
Never, ever Marguerite’s parents.
Elena wondered if he’d even spoken to Majda and Jean-Baptiste Etienne. They’d been in the city two and a half years, but Jeffrey was very good at drawing a line in the sand and holding to it.
Eve jerked at the quiet knock on the front door.
Putting one hand on her sister’s shoulder, and aware of their father’s eyes going hyperalert, Elena opened the door after a glance through the peephole. “Tower vampires,” she told Eve and Jeffrey before pulling it open.
The more senior of the two, his black hair tightly curled to his skull and his night-dark skin a stark contrast to the snowy background against which he stood, said, “Dmitri sent us,” in a voice that held the formal intonation of many of the old vampires.
Relieved she could go to Beth without leaving Laric unprotected, Elena pointed to the living room. “Help Laric transfer Harrison wherever he needs to go.”
“We brought a van.” The other member of the team, shorter and freckled, with floppy hair of pale brown paired with a broad Midwestern accent, jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Big enough for wings. Dmitri figured the healer would want to accompany his patient to the infirmary.”
It would also, Elena realized, excuse Laric from having to fly again.
Every so often, Dmitri acted human and she almost liked him. Then he’d play his scent games with her, trapping her in a seduction of fur and champagne and decadent chocolate, and she’d remember why the two of them would never braid each other’s hair while singing camp songs around a bonfire.
After speaking to Laric to ensure he was happy supervising the transfer, Elena nodded at Jeffrey and Eve. “Let’s go see Beth.”
Jeffrey put his spectacles back on. “Shouldn’t we call the authorities?”
“The Tower will deal with that. It has forensic teams that’ll come in and sweep for clues. Given that Harrison is my brother-in-law, we have to treat this as an immortal crime until we have evidence otherwise.”
No barbed response from Jeffrey about how she’d put Harrison in danger.