Archangel's Prophecy (Page 33)
Illium went with her to the suite, where the two of them got busy preparing more sandwiches, as well as rolls. “You’re missing Aodhan, aren’t you?”
“I have to set him free.” Illium’s answer was quiet. “I finally figured that out. He’s doing what he didn’t do for two hundred years.” Eyes of aged gold held Elena’s. “Those years when he buried himself in the Refuge, I had a chance to grow and become who I am today. Now it’s his time.”
Elena ran her hand over his wing with the intimacy of long friendship; though the silver filaments glittered, the texture of his feathers was incredibly soft and silken. “That doesn’t mean you can’t miss him—especially after you waited two hundred years for him to emerge from the shadows.”
“I’m scared all the time,” he admitted, bracing his hands on the counter. “I know he’s powerful, I’ve seen him in battle, and yet the fear crushes me.”
“Of course it does.” Elena let her wing overlap his. “That’s what it means to love someone.” She gave him a lopsided smile. “I worry about Raphael and he’s an archangel. I’ve been known to warn him that if he gets hurt, I’d kill him dead.”
Illium’s laugh pierced the darkness around him to reveal her Bluebell who had so much light in his soul. “Let’s go watch your boring footage. I know how to program it to stop on movement, so we don’t have to keep it to a speed the eye can track.”
As it was, Illium had gone through half his sandwiches and she’d finished off her filled rolls and all they had was a big fat nothing. The only movement so far had come from a couple of prowling cats, two snowfalls, and a flying plastic bag. No indication of an intruder in Beth and Harrison’s yard.
“Assailant could’ve been hiding in a section the camera doesn’t cover.” Elena threw back more of Nisia’s mixture as the footage continued to run backward.
“He’d still have to enter the house,” Illium pointed out. “Only two options left if he didn’t use the back door. Either he was in the house for hours—and that doesn’t seem reasonable with how you’ve described the layout of your sister’s home—or he went in another way.”
Tapping her fingers on the table, Elena said, “They do have a large window on the other side of the house.” She rang the forensic team and asked if they’d picked up anything unusual near that window.
She groaned inwardly at the answer. “We could’ve saved ourselves the mind-numbing boredom,” she told Illium after she’d hung up. “The techs found shoe prints on the windowsill. Nothing in the snow outside, but depending on when it snowed, any footprints could’ve been buried.”
Illium dropped his wings in a dramatic slump. “Does this mean we can stop the visual torture?”
Elena went to nod then thought better of it. “No, let’s watch it through.” She scratched absently at the older cut on her forearm through the fabric of her long thermal tee; she’d long ago stripped off the jacket. “Harrison’s attacker must’ve scoped out the property at some point, and we’ve got two days of data.”
“I must really like you to subject myself to such punishment,” Illium said as they settled in to watch more of the same endless scene. Even at the speed they had it going, it seemed a static image.
The only break came when a giggling Maggie ran outside dressed up like a little polar bear—complete with bear ears on the hood of her snow jacket. Harrison stepped out after her, the two of them playing in the snow until Beth came to the doorway to call them back in. It was odd watching the entire scene in reverse, but one thing was clear.
“He’s a good dad.” For the first time, she saw a glimmer of what Beth must see in her husband. Saw the gentleness with which he swung Maggie up in his arms, the tenderness with which he stole a kiss from Beth while she tried to shoo husband and daughter out of the snow.
“Andreas likes him better these days,” Illium told her.
Had Elena not hauled Harrison back to his angel when she had, Andreas would’ve signed an execution order with Harrison’s name on it—a fact that Harrison hadn’t understood when he attempted to escape, or even in the aftermath of his punishment.
Angels didn’t play when it came to rogue young vampires.
After taking a drink of cola to swallow down another bite of sandwich, Illium said, “Last time I spoke to Andreas, he said your brother-in-law’s knuckled under and put his nose to the grindstone.”
“I think some of that has to do with Maggie.” She rubbed the back of her neck to ease the stiffness without taking her eyes off the endless snow-draped white of the footage. “I know motherhood’s changed Beth.”
“Your niece might be the making of her father,” Illium agreed. “Andreas can be harsh, but he doesn’t ruin the vampires who work under him.”
Elena thought of the punishments she knew the angel in question had meted out over the years: the precisely flayed skin and vicious whippings, the enclosure in coffin-sized boxes, the removal of a f*****g eye with a rusty blade. “Are you sure about that?”
“Vampires can be blood-hungry monsters, Ellie. Normal punishments mean nothing to them.”
In Elena’s mind ran the images from one particular hunt: she’d found her target with his face burrowed in the torn open body of a young woman, her viscera—slick and gleaming—clutched in his greedy fingers. He’d been so glutted on his victim’s blood that Elena’d had no trouble removing his head from his body.
His angel had sighed when she reported the circumstances and her decision to execute the vampire rather than bring him in. “I suppose I should be angry,” Nazarach had said, his piercing amber eyes lit from within and his power bruising her skin. “But Richard was eighty years old. If he could not maintain a hold on his blood hunger at such an age . . .”
Wings of burnished amber in her vision and the ebony of his skin taut over fluid muscle as he turned to walk to a large arched window that offered a view of his gracious and lush estate full of magnolia and cypress trees. “It is a shame to lose one of mine, but Richard chose to run rather than come to me with his unacceptable urges. He dug his own grave.” Age and death lived in Nazarach’s voice, ancient and cold as the darkness of a crypt.
To this day, Elena found Nazarach as disturbing as f**k. But Andreas wasn’t far behind Nazarach in the disturbing stakes. “What else have you heard about Harrison?” she asked Illium.
His shoulder brushing hers, he said, “Turns out he has a gift for administration. Andreas is training him to run a household.”
“Like Montgomery does ours?” The Enclave home would be a shambles without him; Elena certainly would have no idea what to do.
“No one will ever be a Montgomery,” Illium said, “but Harrison could deal with a more standard household. Trained that way and with Andreas as a reference once he finishes his Contract, he’ll never have to fear being out of work and unable to support his own household.”
But Beth would be gone by then, perhaps Maggie, too.
Her heart twisted.
“So if he hasn’t pissed off Andreas,” she said through the screaming wrench of it, “and he’s walking the straight and narrow, what could he have done that got him targeted for murder?”