Archangel's Prophecy (Page 40)
“Those two would keel over stone-dead if they knew what I used to eat as a mortal at the end of a long day in the field,” she said as she put a full plate in the microwave. “This kind of a spread would’ve been beyond my wildest dreams.”
After the food was ready, she filled a second plate with cold items then came back to sit on the bed facing him, her right wing lying heavily on his thigh as he remained on his back in bed.
“Tell me about your day and I’ll tell you about Nisia’s warped sense of humor,” she traded.
“You are too late, hbeebti. I learned of Nisia’s leanings when she solemnly told my three-hundred-year-old self that I had a growth on my back that was for life but should cause me no harm. I spent days twisting around to try to find it.”
Elena paused with a slice of pie halfway to her mouth. “What was it?” Wide eyes.
“You have the same growth.”
Elena twisted instinctively before groaning. “Wings? She was messing with your head the whole time? God, she’s diabolical. What did you do to piss her off?”
“Broke my bones once too often trying to gorge-dive.” He’d been much younger, with weaker bones, the gorge that bisected the Refuge a massive crack in the mantle of the earth. “But I will tell you about my day and then you can tell me how you discovered Nisia’s sadistic streak.”
He plucked a grape off her cold plate, bit into the tart sweetness of it. “Jason found me before he left to return to his princess. We had a long discussion.”
“About Favashi, I’m guessing.” Finishing off her pie, Elena fed him another grape.
Raphael accepted the gift. “She appears to be gathering a much bigger standing army than she’s ever before had.”
“China’s bigger than her previous territory.” Getting up off the bed with hunter fluidity, Elena refilled her hot plate. “Maybe she thinks she needs more people?”
Her left wing was dragging on one side.
A primary feather, shimmering dawn and white-gold, floated to lie on the carpet as he watched.
His gut tensed. Losing a feather so significant for flight was not a common thing.
Elena’s gaze followed his when he didn’t respond, the bones in her face standing out against her skin. But when she looked to him, it was with challenge and a furious will to fight.
We are us, Raphael . . . The one thing we won’t do is surrender who we are to this menace.
Wrenching his eyes off the feather on the memory of her words, he spoke to her as his consort and the most integral piece of his existence.
“The problem,” he said, “is that Favashi’s army is not spread out across the country as it would be if she intended to use it to maintain order. It is gathered in one place, and though Jason has no specifics as yet, he’s heard whispers that she is thinking of conquest.”
Elena resettled on the bed. “Conquest?” Her voice rose. “She barely has China under control.”
Stroking his fingers over her thigh, he attempted to send more healing energy into her body, but the well had run dry. “I’m not saying any of this makes sense,” he said past the ball of cold rage in his chest. “Regardless, Dmitri spent much of the day ensuring there are no holes in our defenses. We will be ready, should she cast covetous eyes toward this territory.”
“Wouldn’t it be more logical for her to target the territory closest to her?” Biting into a small pastry that crumbled buttery flakes onto her plate, she made a humming sound in the back of her throat.
Even in the depths of the rage that surged past his resolution to search for a solution together with his consort, Raphael’s body stirred. “If Favashi dares look to India, she will have a war on her hands—you said it yourself, Neha can be a warrior goddess when necessary.” He brushed off a piece of soft white lint on her thigh.
“I can’t figure out where that’s coming from,” Elena muttered. “My clothes maybe got laundered with a tissue. Stuff’s everywhere.”
Keeping one hand on her thigh, Raphael folded his other arm behind his head. “Favashi will alienate the rest of the Cadre if she tries anything against another territory, no matter whose. She already has one of the biggest landmasses on the planet despite being the newest member of the Cadre.”
“You know,” Elena mused, “it’s like an ancient Egyptian curse”—wiggling her fingers as if casting a spell—“anyone who becomes Archangel of China will go batshit crazy.”
“The angels who ruled Egypt were often melodramatic, but yes, it appears so.” He hoped for Favashi’s sake that hers was a small madness brought on by the sudden ascension to such a huge territory—because there was no way she could win against the rest of the Cadre. She was no Lijuan, who had evolved into a truly immortal terror it appeared impossible to kill.
The war when Lijuan rose again would forever scar the world. She wouldn’t wake sane, as Caliane had done. No, Lijuan had gone to ground to bloat herself with power.
Her rising would augur a new Dark Age.
Perhaps the darkest since angelkind’s first death and the birth of vampires.
Favashi, however . . . she risked annihilation by her fellow archangels should she truly be planning to encroach on the territories held by the rest of the Cadre.
“Enough of Favashi’s descent into megalomania,” he said. “Tell me what you discovered today.” He understood the history that drove her to try to protect her sister by solving the mystery of Harrison Ling’s attempted murder, but still had to bite his tongue from telling her she needed to be concentrating on her health and the changes going on in her body.
Falling in love with Elena had taught him many things—not the least of which was the dubious art of patience. He would battle a thousand Lijuans to keep on learning such lessons.
Making a face, she said, “I caught a glimpse of the assailant, but there’s precious little to go on.”
As he listened, she took him through her day, focusing on the investigation. She didn’t linger on her ride with Ransom, nor the lift from Izak, but neither did she hide her concern about why those decisions had been necessary. His consort had always been strong; as a hunter-born, she’d been stronger than most ordinary men. And the instant she settled into her wings, she’d begun to learn how to utilize her new body.
She’d fought him for her freedom when he would’ve cocooned her in safety.
Weakness, helplessness, was her enemy, returning her to a childhood in which she hadn’t been able to stop a monster.
Later, once the food was gone and she lay in his arms, she said, “I’m afraid, Archangel. What’s happening to me?”
Rage tore through him all over again, and he knew that if he lost her this way, to an unseen assailant, he would become a monster himself. “I have no answers yet, Elena, but I will tear the world apart until I find one.”
Her fingers spread over his heart. “We,” she reminded him.
Closing his fingers over hers, he said, “We.”
Her body went soft and unguarded against him not long afterward. She slept . . . and dreamed. Her breath caught, her pulse increased, and a thin sheen of perspiration glimmered on her skin.
Speaking into her mind, he said, I am here, hunter-mine. Nothing can harm you.
A slow exhale, her breathing beginning to even out as she turned into his body and fell into a deep, restful sleep. Raphael didn’t sleep. He watched over her. The attack on Harrison entwined with the voice that spoke ominous things to her, and the changes in her, they were clearly stirring up the darkest memories of her childhood.