Archangel's Prophecy (Page 26)
Ignoring her muttered aside with the ease of an angel who dealt with warriors all day, many of them snarly, Nisia said, “It’s highly possible if this growth spurt is a larger one than the others. I’ll speak with your household staff about increasing your energy intake.” The healer considered things for a moment. “I’ll also personally prepare a liquid supplement for you that you need to drink every hour. One full glass.”
Elena thought of the owls and the voice in her head that predicted death—and told both otherworldly manifestations to stuff it. “Full glass every hour,” she promised.
After Nisia bustled off to prepare her supplement, Raphael turned and lifted up the arm with the cut.
“I had another heart attack, I’m healing at the rate of a mortal, and I keep seeing the owls,” Elena said, because keeping secrets from her archangel was a no-go zone.
Raphael’s jaw worked. “We’ve beaten far more dangerous foes than this.”
“Yeah—but this enemy isn’t playing fair. How can we fight what we can’t see?” Frowning, she said, “Ashwini told me not to be afraid of the owls, that they’re just messengers of a messenger.”
A chill whisper across her skin, an old, old voice on the far edge of her hearing.
“What do you hear, hbeebti?” Raphael’s voice was cold with power, his eyes liquid flame again. “Lijuan could be unseen, and we brought her down. An invisible enemy cannot conquer us.”
Elena scowled. “You’re right.” But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t capture the words spoken . . . then they faded altogether. “It’s gone. Like . . . someone moving in a dream.”
Elena and Raphael met with Dmitri, Ashwini, and Janvier later that afternoon, when the winter sky was already giving up its fight against the dark. Added to which, a thick fog-colored blanket made the world smaller and more claustrophobic, and dampened even New York’s vibrant spirit. People were picking grocery store shelves bare in anticipation of deadly blizzards.
“Or maybe a volcano,” Ash said with a shrug when Elena voiced her thoughts. “It’d make as much sense as a lava sinkhole.”
Everyone stared at the hunter turned vampire.
She threw up her hands. “That was just me mouthing off, not a prediction.”
Elena exhaled quietly, while Dmitri scowled at Ash, and Raphael’s expression remained unreadable to anyone but Elena. He wasn’t brushing off Ash’s mad forecast, despite the other woman’s disclaimer. He was probably already thinking of an evacuation plan—just in case.
The ongoing monsoon rains that had hit Africa’s deserts less than an hour earlier had everyone jumpy. According to early media reports, the Sahara was already so wet it had begun to turn into a river of orange sludge while the Kalahari’s drenching had people fearing catastrophic “flooding” from the sand. Desert residents all over the continent had begun to evacuate their homes, taking only what they could carry.
The situation was bad enough that Charisemnon and Titus, neighboring archangels and mortal enemies, had laid down their arms and were cooperating to move large numbers of people out of danger. Charisemnon was a sick b*****d who preyed on impressionable young mortals in his territory and had everyone convinced he was all but a god—Elena figured he was helping so he didn’t end up with too few acolytes.
Titus, in contrast, was one of her favorite archangels, a hugely powerful being with a warm heart who was beloved by his people. And by the women he favored with his smile. He loved and he left and no one was angry with him. Women sighed and bit their lower lips and melted when reminiscing about their time with the Archangel of Southern Africa.
Raphael had spoken to both Titus and Charisemnon when news of the rains hit the world. The latter was no ally of his—not after the horror of the Falling—but he’d offered help if needed regardless. Because in some matters, the Cadre laid down all enmities and got on with saving the world. The two archangels had acknowledged the offer but held off from accepting it.
Titus had said, “We do not know what disasters may yet come, my friend. We must all husband our strength.”
Charisemnon had been even blunter. “I may need you when the plagues of locusts and snakes descend. I’m no longer so sure all of Mad Cassandra’s prophecies were so mad.”
So now, the five of them focused on a problem that had hit much closer to home.
Playing a blade restlessly through her fingers, Elena laid out the facts of Harrison’s attempted murder. “He wasn’t stabbed,” she said to Ashwini, “but the forensic team that took images of his throat wound say it looks like it was made by the same weapon as that used to decapitate your Quarter victims.”
To say the connection had come as a shock would be a gross understatement.
“Well, s**t.” Arms folded, Ashwini braced her back against the wall nearest the door. “We just cleared our only suspect.”
Raphael’s wings whispered as he resettled them, white fire dancing along the edges of his primaries and his presence holding a razored edge. Her archangel was not taking the changes in her well. Neither was Elena. She wanted answers, but all she had were questions and—strapped to one thigh—a bottle of Nisia’s energy drink that tasted like chocolate and fruit at the same time.
Might as well embrace the silver linings where she could find them.
“Tell us what you discovered at your scene,” Dmitri said to Janvier and Ashwini. Raphael’s deadly second was wearing a black T-shirt and black jeans, as he so often did, the bronzed color of his skin unchanged even in the heart of winter and the weapons on his body so cleverly hidden that Elena could spot only one.
“Two dead vampires in the same apartment,” Janvier said in his deceptively lazy Cajun accent, his body holding up the wall beside Ashwini. “Simon Blakely and Eric Acosta. Acosta looks to have been lying on the sofa. My brilliant Ashblade”—a slow smile at Ashwini—“tracked down the addict from whom he took a honey feed about six hours before the bodies were discovered.”
Honey feeds were the vampiric equivalent of shooting up. A mortal junkie would take a drug of the vampire’s choice and then, while that junkie was high, the vampire would sink his or her fangs into one of the junkie’s remaining uncollapsed veins. Actual inhalation, injection, drinking, or eating of drugs stood no chance against the vampiric metabolism, but a honey feed high lasted long enough to make it worthwhile.
Rich vampire junkies often “kept” human junkies as pets. The vamps supplied the drugs, and in return, the junkie was the resident source of a honey feed high. Sex was often but not always part of the bargain—the ones who wanted sex during a feed made sure to keep their pet junkies healthy and pretty. Less well-off vampires did deals with junkies on the street.
“Our honey feed connoisseur made good money as a bouncer for one of the high-end clubs,” Ashwini continued. “But, from what I got on the streets, he blew most of that on feeding his addiction. Preferred junkies on crystal meth. Said it made their blood taste like acid.”
“Appetizing.” Dmitri’s voice said he’d seen it all before.
“He used so much that he’d have been a meth zombie if he didn’t have the vampiric metabolism,” Ashwini added. “According to our users, he tended to zone out on the crash, hallucinate, nobody much home upstairs for a while.”