Archangel's Prophecy (Page 37)
A sad smile. “He never told me of his cheating ways—I got that from the wronged angels who knew he had been one of mine. From Simon, I got grand plans and even grander promises of what he would one day become.”
“You’ve given me a far clearer picture of him.” Elena’d work with Ashwini and Janvier to see if they could dig up more about Simon’s love life, any jealousies or spurned lovers capable of ruthless, brutal payback.
The problem was that motive left too many gaping holes unfilled. Acosta she could explain away as collateral damage for having been there at the time, but Harrison had been stalked. Also, Simon had only liked women, but the possible killer Elena had seen was male. Jealous husband, boyfriend, maybe?
A wash of wind, tendrils of her hair flying back in it, before Illium landed in front of her and Miuxu. Bowing with old-world grace, his wings flaring out in a showy display, he said, “My lovely Miuxu, it has been too long since I’ve heard you weave fever dreams with your fingers.”
Husky laughter from Miuxu. “You are as playful and as wicked as ever, I see.”
Elena caught the glances shared between the two and wondered . . . If so, Illium had excellent taste. Yet when Illium joined her and Miuxu, the two spoke only as intimate friends who had a cherished history between them, but no present entanglement.
Stopping at one of the large glass windows that allowed the curious to peer in, Elena watched the lava bubble and spike, forming and reforming into strange unearthly patterns. In front of her eyes formed the molten image of an owl. “It’s alive,” she murmured, scratching at that spot on her chest again.
Child of mortals.
Elena froze at the ethereal feminine voice in her head. You’re awake again.
A whispering sigh that held such exquisite tiredness. Child of mortals, the voice repeated. I will not awaken in time to see you. You are destined to fall.
Screw that. Elena glared at the lava. I’ll write my own destiny.
This is not destiny. This is a birth. You must end for the other to live.
Cold in her blood now. Raphael? A stiff whisper. Do I need to die to save Raphael? She’d do that without thought, without hesitation.
No answer, no sense of a presence, the sounds of Miuxu and Illium’s conversation filtering in past senses that had been locked in silence while she spoke to the being who wasn’t there. Except it was. Feminine. Old. So achingly old. Barely awake.
That was the imprint in Elena’s head.
An imprint that forespoke her death.
You must end for the other to live.
What the hell was she supposed to do with that? How the hell was she supposed to process it?
Illium gave her a discreet boost into the air when it was time for them to head homeward. He made it seem that they were just playing a game, that Elena was being tugged along for fun. She wondered that he wasn’t anchored down by the weight of the stone in her abdomen, her blood like lead.
They’d barely reached Manhattan when she felt the crash of the wind in her mind, the whisper of the sea. Hbeebti, I see you have been playing with your Bluebell in my absence.
Elena’s clenched heart slammed into thudding joy as she searched for her archangel. Where are you?
A sweep of air, Raphael soaring down from the night sky far above. Spotting Raphael, Illium lifted a hand in a wave before zooming off in another direction. Now look, Elena said with a mock scowl, you’ve scared him off.
Your Bluebell is made of sterner stuff. I’ve asked him to check a border line. Winging down then up, Raphael grabbed her by the waist.
Elena folded her wings instinctively to her back and locked her arms around his neck. You remember.
Old memories on his face, of a love between a young angel and a mortal woman, of an archangel forced to make a cruel decision. It is a hard thing to hurt a boy you’ve watched grow to manhood.
Elena couldn’t imagine the horror of that day, Raphael and Illium both caught by angelic law and left with no way out. If Illium’s lover hadn’t spoken . . . But she had, and in so doing, sealed both her and Illium’s fate. Did you keep him busy most of the day on purpose? Illium had run down his packed schedule for her as they tried to stave off boredom while watching the security footage.
It is the one gift I can give him on this day. Holding her with one arm around her waist, he cupped her jaw and cheek with the other. Dmitri intended to set him another task when he saw the two of you together in Vivek’s domain.
“I’m glad he didn’t interrupt. We ended up having fun.” Perhaps enough to take the edge off the painful anniversary. “Do we have to brace for a volcano?”
“Not just now. I have left a team behind to monitor the geothermal activity—it should not exist, but it is mild in the scheme of things.” The pad of his thumb brushing over her cheekbone. “Your face speaks of exhaustion and yet you fly in the darkest hours before dawn. Why are you not in bed asleep?”
Unable to hold her need back any longer, Elena turned to kiss his palm. “You’ve been gone so many hours.”
Raphael bent his head toward her own. “Did you miss me, Elena-mine?”
Like the air from my lungs, like the blood in my veins. No shields between her and her archangel, no secrets. “Will you dance with me?” she whispered with her lips against his, the second cut on her forearm a dull pulsation in the background that she ignored with ferocious focus. “I missed you so much today.”
“Hbeebti.” Flame-blue eyes burning with archangelic power, each obsidian eyelash defined against the crystalline clarity. “What darkness holds you in thrall? Are your wings causing you pain?”
“Later.” The rest could wait—inside her was a hunger to feel real, feel strong, feel Elena. “I need you.”
In answer, he rocketed them up into the sky with violent power. She screamed out her delight, knowing that no one could hear them, no one could see them. Raphael had wrapped her in glamour, that skin of invisibility that only the archangels could produce—and not even all of them.
“To the river or the sea?” Raphael murmured the question in her ear, his breath hot, his arms strong, and his body a powerful haven.
Elena knew he’d never let her fall.
From the moment he’d become hers, Raphael had been there for her in a way no one else had been her entire life. Not even her mother.
Marguerite’s betrayal had been the most hurtful of them all.
“The sea,” she said. “I’m too angry for the city today.”
“You are thinking of your mother again,” Raphael said as he took them high across Manhattan.
“I love her till it hurts, and I’m so angry with her.” In that strange, sad dream, she’d told Marguerite she wasn’t afraid, but what she hadn’t spoken of was the other emotion that was a scalding heat in her psyche. “Sometimes I think I’ve forgiven her, then I remember the loneliness and the fear and how I found her. I saw my mother’s body hanging from the ceiling! How could she do that to me, Raphael?”
His answer held a knowledge that not many people would ever possess. “Caliane asks herself the same question and she cannot divine an answer. It is a thing of madness that causes a mother to forget her child.”
“That’s exactly what makes me want to find her and shake her and shake her.” Elena’s voice was crushed stones and coarse sand. “Mama was so lost in her grief over Belle and Ari that she forgot me and Beth. She forgot Jeffrey.” Marguerite had been no trophy wife. She hadn’t even been the “right kind” of wife for a man of Jeffrey’s wealth and standing.