Archangel's Prophecy (Page 23)
“Jean-Baptiste is a trained fighter,” Elena said. “It’s probably better if they stay with him and Majda until we figure out what’s going on. Majda can also look after Maggie when Beth visits Harrison at the Tower.”
Jeffrey didn’t point out that he had the capacity to hire round-the-clock bodyguards, and that Gwendolyn didn’t work outside the home and could also babysit Maggie. He knew as well as she did that Beth had bonded far deeper with her mother’s parents than she had to Jeffrey’s second wife.
There was no enmity between Gwendolyn and Beth, but Beth saw her mother in Majda’s face. She saw the same fine bones and small stature, the same darkly golden skin, the hair that could’ve been Marguerite’s under a waterfall of sunshine. And in Majda and Jean-Baptiste’s piercing love for one another, a love that had survived decades of torture and isolation, she saw an echo of Marguerite and Jeffrey.
Those were the very reasons Jeffrey couldn’t stand to look at Majda and Jean-Baptiste. Majda most of all. Elena knew that her grandmother and grandfather had reached out to Jeffrey many times. As far as she was aware, he’d rebuffed each and every approach, politely but firmly.
She wondered what he’d do today, but that he was coming with her was a good sign. Beth might’ve bonded to her grandparents, but she was still a daddy’s girl. Jeffrey’s presence would help her weather the shock.
Two little boys playing in the snow up ahead stared at Elena with huge eyes, their impressive snowballs forgotten in their hands. “Whoa,” one of them said as she passed. “Those real?”
Taking the chance to confirm everything was functional, Elena flared out her wings—and heard excited chatter behind them as the boys ran off to tell their parents they’d spotted an angel walking around the neighborhood. Poor kids probably wouldn’t be believed unless someone else snapped a pic and uploaded it online.
She closed her wings, using the excuse of avoiding a broken piece of fencing to glance back and check everything was where it should be. No drag. No obvious sign of weakness. She remained unable to feel her wing muscles.
Her stomach gnawed at her spine.
Elena couldn’t have felt less like eating, but she took out two energy bars and methodically finished them one by one. Eve didn’t pay much attention, her face set in a determined frown and her eyes looking straight ahead, but Jeffrey said, “You’re still transitioning?”
No one would ever call her father anything but sharply intelligent.
“Long process.” Which appeared to be going backward.
Bars eaten, she tucked the wrappers into a pocket then rubbed her fingertips gently over the worry lines on Eve’s brow. “She won’t believe us if you look so gloomy.”
Sniffing out a breath, Eve leaned a little into Elena.
And Jeffrey ran his hand over the raven black of his youngest daughter’s hair.
Then there it was, the pretty town house Elena’s grandparents had made their own, complete with a low-slung black sports car in the drive. Jean-Baptiste had taken to technology like the proverbial duck to water—not only had he quickly learned how to use phones, he loved driving. He especially loved driving the fast car he’d been assigned by the Tower after Dmitri caught him admiring the red Ferrari that was Dmitri’s pride and joy.
At first, Jean-Baptiste had been given the courtesy because he was Elena’s grandfather. Not that Elena couldn’t have bought him the car herself, as she could’ve bought her grandparents this home—the hunt that had ended her mortal existence had also left her a wealthy woman, and then she’d fallen into the blood-café business.
Money wasn’t a problem.
But the Tower had insisted on providing for the couple—and she’d realized Majda and Jean-Baptiste would be more likely to accept the help from their archangel than their child’s child. Especially as Jean-Baptiste, experienced and valued for his skill, was now a commander in charge of an infantry unit.
Even had Jean-Baptiste decided against such service, he and Majda would’ve been treated with the same courtesy.
“They are your grandparents,” Raphael had said as he and Elena lay tangled in bed one night, “and so they are mine, too.” A pause before he’d added, “I also do not feel the desire to murder them as I so often do your father.”
The door Jean-Baptiste had painted a bright pink at Majda’s request opened before she reached it. As with Beth’s home, this door was wide enough to allow Elena entry. And it was Beth whose smiling face filled the doorway. Jean-Baptiste must’ve spotted them coming and not stopped Beth. From the joy of her, he also hadn’t alarmed her with a warning about nebulous danger. Good.
Before Beth could say anything, a smaller body wriggled out from around her side and pelted down the walk. “Auntie Ellie! Grampa! Auntie Eve!”
Bending, Elena scooped Maggie’s body in her arms and snuggled her close. Her niece was dressed in pink jeans with pink snow boots and a white furry jacket that was open over a white top that had a sparkly design on it. Her head was bare, the shoulder-length strands of her silky black hair awry, but she’d no doubt be wearing her pink sparkly hat when she ventured out into the snow again.
Her eyes were a sweet brown, tilted up at the edges, and her light olive-toned skin held a brush of gold. In the cheekbones hidden beneath the little-girl softness, Elena saw the promise of dramatic beauty. Most of all, in Maggie’s tiny body, she saw myriad threads of their family—strands of Morocco, of France, of New York, of her other great-grandparents’ history in Hong Kong and India.
But Maggie’s smile was a reflection of the pretty woman with strawberry-blond hair who stood in the doorway, clad in skinny blue jeans and a fuzzy green sweater with threads of silver.
Beth’s face had lit up at seeing the three of them, but her smile began to fade at the edges almost before Maggie finished digging in Elena’s top jacket pocket for a treat. As Maggie knew her aunt often had a small sweet for her, Beth knew that Elena and Jeffrey didn’t go out for companionable walks in the snow. Her eyes zigzagged between them to finally land on Elena. “Ellie?” A shaky question.
Maggie kissed Elena on the cheek, even though all she’d found today were a couple of crumpled energy bar wrappers. The foil backing of the wrappers caught the snow-amplified sunlight when Elena passed her niece to Jeffrey. Then she gave Beth a hug and tugged her sister with her as she walked into their grandparents’ home.
Majda and Jean-Baptiste sat in front of the fire, cakes made from the colorful clay children used to form their dreams spread out in front of them. A plastic tea set sat nearby. Heartbreakingly young in appearance, Majda and Jean-Baptiste could’ve been two twentysomethings who might have a three- or four-year-old of their own, but Majda was more than eighty years old and had been trapped in hell for much of that time. Jean-Baptiste, muscular and golden-blond with a square jaw and eyes of silvery blue, was older than his wife by a hundred and forty-five years.
Majda’s face was solemn when she looked at Elena. Her eyes, a hauntingly clear turquoise identical to Beth’s, spoke to Elena without saying a word. Jean-Baptiste had told his wife of the threat alert.
Elena gave a small, barely perceptible nod.
Rising in a graceful move, Majda held out a hand. “Maggie, azeeztee. Would you like to help me ice the cookies we made?”