Archangel's Prophecy (Page 22)
The three of them walked out of the house in silence. It was only then that she noticed the gleaming black sedan that sat at the curb in front of the equally dark van with opaque windows belonging to the Tower team. “You want to drive?” she asked her father.
“No, it’s close enough to walk. Let me get my coat.” A glance at Eve, his gaze penetrating behind the lenses of his spectacles. “I’ll get yours, too, Evelyn.”
Elena put a gentle hand on her sister’s upper back once Jeffrey was out of earshot, Eve much shorter than her. “Sheathe the long blade, Evie.” She couldn’t walk around the city flashing the weapon.
Cheeks coloring, Eve whispered, “You won’t tell my team leader, will you?”
“Your secret’s safe with me.” She watched to make sure her sister’s hand was steady as she slid the blade home in the sheath she wore down the side of her leather pants. Those pants weren’t an affectation but a necessity for new hunters. Sewn with a protective inner layer, they were harder to cut through.
Elena had once almost stabbed herself in the arm while putting away her own blade. Ransom had laughed at her—then promptly speared a hole through his pants. There was a reason baby hunters were issued weapons with only fifty percent sharpness.
Her blade safely stored, Eve took the jacket that Jeffrey had retrieved for her. It was a puffy thing, dark green in color and with fake brown fur around the hood that suited Eve’s face with its soft layer of baby fat that was already being honed to adult sharpness by age and the strenuous training regime at Guild Academy.
Jeffrey’s coat couldn’t have been more different; tailored black, it reached halfway down his calves.
He held out something to Elena.
Startled, she took it, unraveling the soft gray fabric to realize he’d handed her a scarf. She knew it was his the instant she put it around her neck. The scent of his aftershave lingered in the woven strands, bringing with it a thousand childhood memories.
Of being held against his chest when she got too tired to walk.
Of laughing wildly with him as they played a game of tag.
Of watching him dance with Belle and Marguerite in the living room while Ari took photographs on her new camera and Beth played with her dolls.
Of walking in on a kiss in the kitchen between Jeffrey and Marguerite and feeling her heart squeeze so hard in happiness.
Shattered pieces of a mirror with jagged edges, memories of a life forever destroyed.
Part of her wanted to tear off the scarf, tear off this resonance of yesterday, but she didn’t reject the offer. With her and Jeffrey, it was a tightrope, a fragile balance that could be upended with a single word.
They began to walk the five blocks to Majda and Jean-Baptiste’s home.
It was three minutes later that Eve said, “Ellie, psst.”
Following her sister’s gaze, Elena saw that Eve was pointing to where Elena’s left wing dragged through the snow. A chill filled Elena’s blood, and it had nothing to do with the winter white that blanketed the world and made her breath create small, icy clouds as it left her mouth.
She hadn’t felt the slack in her wing muscles.
Neither had she felt the wet cold of the snow.
“Thanks.” Winking conspiratorially, she lifted both wings to the correct position . . . while keeping a surreptitious eye on the one that had dropped.
The muscles responded to her commands, but she couldn’t feel them. And though her right wing appeared fine, it wasn’t. It might not have weakened far enough to drag, but there was too much slack in it.
Rocks in her abdomen, hard black weights that crushed and scraped.
But Beth came first; she’d deal with this later.
It took tight and conscious control to keep her wings from dragging as they walked the rest of the short distance. Her grandparents had chosen their house because it was close to Beth and Maggie.
They loved Elena and Beth for being “children of their child,” but it was Marguerite “Maggie” Aribelle Deveraux-Ling who’d so totally stolen their hearts. Beth’s chubby, pretty baby had turned into an energetic and sweet little girl who laughed as often as not.
Cherished and protected and loved, Maggie would have a far different life than either Elena or Beth. She’d probably end up a little spoiled, but far better that than the bone-deep sorrow that had led an adult Beth to sob in Elena’s arms.
Beth, the baby of their original family, had wanted Marguerite when she fell pregnant herself, wanted to learn how to be a mother from her own. But Marguerite had left them long ago, so broken inside that she’d forgotten it was one of her surviving daughters who might find her body.
A single high-heeled shoe lying on the tile.
A burst of hope that Marguerite was getting better.
The gently swinging shadow.
Eve’s gloved hand wove through Elena’s right then, tugging her from a past too full of pain to bear. Another baby of the family. The youngest of the six daughters Jeffrey had fathered. Holding onto her big sister even though she was fifteen now and far too sophisticated to act like a child.
Elena curled her fingers tight around Eve’s.
“Will Harrison be all right?” her sister asked solemnly.
As solidly practical as Maggie was carefree, Eve reminded Elena fiercely of Ari at times. Jeffrey’s second-eldest daughter had been pragmatic and solid, too, a point of calm in the madness—and the most like their father. Elena remembered how the two of them would escape the chaos together at times, fishing rod and camera, respectively, in hand.
Today, Jeffrey walked silently on Eve’s other side, but Elena could tell he was listening.
“Harrison has Jason’s blood in his system now,” she said after a cough to clear her throat—the memories were haunting her today. “It gives him a far higher chance of survival.”
Eve shivered. “I’ve met lots of angels because of you, but he made all the hairs on my arms stand up—like he carries a storm with him.”
Pragmatic and perceptive, that was Eve. “Jason’s one of Raphael’s Seven.” And an angel who could create black lightning that broke the sky, his power a dark storm.
Her wing dropped again.
Having caught the motion out of the corner of her eye, she managed to pull it up before her sister or father noticed.
“What do we tell Beth?” Jeffrey’s tone held no wrenching emotion, but that was the thing with her father—he hadn’t cried when they’d discovered Marguerite, and he’d stood stone-faced at her funeral. Two days later, Elena had woken from a nightmare and walked down the hall to see Jeffrey crumpled on the floor of his study, sobs wracking his frame. An empty whiskey bottle had lain on its side beside him.
Elena had gone in even though the two of them were already broken by then, and she’d hugged him and they’d cried together.
That was their terrible history. Pain and love entwined in equal measures.
“We tell her the truth,” she said as a prickling sensation ran over the back of her hand, “but we lead with Harrison being alive and in excellent hands. She needs to know what’s happening to take precautions to protect herself and Maggie.”
“I don’t think we should tell her about all the blood in her lounge, though,” Eve suggested. “Father—”
“I’ll organize a cleaner,” Jeffrey said. “In the interim, and for her and Maggie’s safety, she needs to stay with either myself and Gwendolyn or Maggie’s great-grandparents.”