Archangel's Prophecy (Page 3)
Elena. Elena. Elena.
No movement from the gargoyles, but their whispers echoed inside her head, the Legion’s voice both singular and a multitude.
Waving a quick hello, she carried on toward the Hudson River. It had begun to freeze at the edges, shards of ice spearing across its surface in a jagged painting, but that ice was an illusion. It wouldn’t hold if she landed on it—a frigid truth two younger angels had learned yesterday.
Regardless, the beauty of it stole her breath.
Maybe that was why it took her a second to notice the sparrows.
Elena wasn’t strong enough to hold a proper hover, but she could do a short approximation using delicate wing movements. What she saw had her throat going dry. Raphael? It was instinct to reach out to her archangel even though she knew he was probably out of range—after completing a set of training maneuvers with the squadron, he’d left to meet with a senior angel in another state.
But the wind and the salt-lashed rain, it crashed into her mind in a welcome storm. Hunter-mine.
The birds are being weird again.
Describe it for me.
Elena swept around to watch the hypnotic mass movement again. They’re dancing all together. Thousands and thousands of them. This giant spiral that moves and sways and sweeps like a choreographed chorus line.
Storm winds in her mind, the scent of ozone sharp and unmistakable, Raphael’s presence powerful even at so far a distance. You are witnessing a murmuration. Are you close enough to recognize the birds?
Elena went to say “sparrows” then realized she was wrong. Starlings. She slapped a hand on her forehead. A starling murmuration. Unusual but a natural phenomenon. Blowing out a breath, she said, Go back to flying to your meeting. My paranoia and I are going to continue heading to the Enclave to track a rogue vamp—and if you tell anyone I nearly lost my mind over a bunch of birds doing bird things, I will spike your cognac with chili peppers.
His laughter was a feeling more than a sound. I will see you tonight, hbeebti.
Shaking her head at her jumpiness this morning—next, she’d start imagining heavily armed enemy angels in the sky—she reached the other side of the perfectly normal-colored Hudson River to sweep over her and Raphael’s home. No footsteps broke up the glimmering layer of fresh snow that had fallen after she left, but she knew that, inside, the house would be humming with quiet efficiency.
Montgomery, butler beyond compare, would permit nothing less.
Angling inward from the cliffs and trying not to listen to her yet-elevated heartbeat, she flew deeper into the exclusive neighborhood populated almost entirely with angelic homes. The only exceptions were a rare few old vampires—and Janvier. The comparatively young Cajun vampire had been given the house by an angel in thanks for a task where Janvier had gone above and beyond.
He’d never lived in it until Ashwini and he became a pair.
No mortal called the Enclave home, and as an ex-mortal, Elena figured that was probably better for their health. Old immortals weren’t always rational in their behavior—they might be sorry for decapitating an annoying neighbor, but said neighbor would still be deader than dead.
Flying on, she considered the facts of this job. Vampire concerned was one Damian Hale. The easiest place to start would be his room at Imani’s residence; that he was suspected to have run the previous night, his disappearance not noticed until this morning shouldn’t matter to her bloodhound nose.
Neither was the weather a problem.
After many winter hunts since she’d first joined the Guild, Elena could scent-track through snow so long as the scent wasn’t buried too deep. Since it had snowed only a little this morning, she should be fine.
Spotting the correct home—though “mansion” was the better word for the stately edifice that occupied its surroundings like a grand dame who had no time for anyone’s bullshit—Elena winged down to land on the snow-covered lawn.
It had been churned up by multiple pairs of feet.
Elena winced, her nose assaulted by a chaos of scents tangled together in a great big knot; if Damian Hale’s was in there, it’d be a pain in the posterior to dig it out.
“Consort.” The vampire waiting in the doorway wore a white bow tie and old-fashioned black tails over a pristine white shirt, his pants pressed to razor sharpness and his shoes polished to a shine. He bowed his stilt-tall body in her direction, the action as precise as the stiffly combed and pomaded strands of his black hair.
Elena nearly expected him to creak.
“Good morning, Taizaki,” she managed to say while squirming inside. This deference, it wasn’t earned; the old vampires and angels did it out of respect for Raphael while waiting for the former mortal to fall on her face.
It was enough to give any sensible woman a complex.
Since Elena had fallen madly in love with an archangel who could snap her spine without straining his pinky finger, she was clearly in no danger of being hit with the sensible stick.
“I need Damian Hale’s scent,” she said the instant Imani’s majordomo rose to his full height. “A piece of his clothing that hasn’t yet been washed would be best, but I can also pick it up from his living quarters.”
“I have prepared such an item of clothing.” Taizaki’s face was Japanese but his accent unbendingly French, as if he didn’t often lower himself to speak the barbaric language of English. “My mistress awaits you in the conservatory.”
Raphael, this is how much I love you, she muttered inside her mind.
The sea crashed into her again, the storm winds distant but present. How much?
Elena nearly jumped. You’re still in range?
Is that why you are muttering at me? Because you thought I would not hear? I am heartbroken.
Now the man was messing with her. Just pointing out hunting was faster when I was a nobody, she said darkly. None of this making nice with your angels.
Try not to stab anyone. It would be most difficult to attempt to explain that as an accident—especially given your stellar aim.
Her lips threatened to twitch. No promises.
Nodding at the majordomo to lead her inside, she stepped in behind him with a crisp stride. Taizaki picked up speed when he realized she wasn’t interested in strolling; she was sure she saw his spine go even stiffer in affront.
He was probably waiting for her uncivilized self to pee on the furniture.
Biting back a snort of laughter at the image, Elena walked on.
The conservatory was a large room at the very end of the building and to the right. Elena had been inside the crisply formal chamber with floor-to-ceiling windows once before, during an evening Imani had hosted to welcome Elena to her new position. The angel might be prickly and about as much fun as an undertaker at a funeral, but she was also scrupulous in following angelic social etiquette.
“Imani,” Elena said as she walked in, the majordomo fading away to leave them in privacy.
An angel who bore wings of white with scattered feathers of bronze and had glowing skin of tawny brown glanced over from her position at the window. “Consort.” Her hair was a mass of black curls braided fine and tight against the left side of her skull but otherwise left to fall in glossy perfection to her shoulders.
“I was not expecting the Guild to send you.” Imani’s gown of deep blue velvet moved like dark water as she shifted to fully face Elena.
“I like to keep my hand in, make sure my hunter skills don’t get rusty.”
Imani’s lush lips pressed into a thin line. She was stunning even for an angel: those lips that had no doubt spawned countless male fantasies, high cheekbones, skin so flawless it was ridiculous, that incredible hair, and eyes of cinnamon brown with a darker burst around the pupil. Add in her tall hourglass form, and the woman looked like an artist’s fever dream of regal but sensual angelic beauty.