Archangel's Prophecy (Page 42)
“We like the winter. Many trees sleep, but they exist. And in the spring, new leaves are born fed by the energy of the leaves that sighed to the earth in fall.”
“Very philosophical.” Goose bumps broke out over Elena’s skin, an eerie sense of déjà vu thick in her mind. “Have we had this conversation before?”
“No. Perhaps we will have it in the future.”
Shaking off the chill, Elena flew on with the Legion silent and old yet paradoxically young.
She looked over. “What is it?”
The Primary’s pale eyes held hers. “We remembered a memory. It is old.”
Skin too hot, her internal thermostat malfunctioning today, Elena had to force herself to break the eye contact so she wouldn’t fly off-course. “Tell me.”
“A memory of white owls who sit with a woman with hair of lilac. She smiled before the Cascade of Terror changed her. Then she bled tears of dark red.”
Shivering at the reference to the last time the Legion had woken, during a war that had “unmade” angelic civilization and sent the battered survivors into an eons-long Sleep, Elena said, “Do you know her name?”
A shake of his head. “We remember only that the owls cried for her after she was gone.”
Elena found her phone and sent a message to Vivek with the description. Please make sure it gets to Jessamy, she wrote.
Sure, Ellie, was the response. Any more creepy things you’d like me to forward?
Tell Aodhan I’m waiting to rewatch Psycho until he gets back.
I’m so glad I’m not in your film club. Messages will be sent.
Putting away her phone, Elena flew on, the Legion keeping pace with her slow flight. When she landed in Andreas’s front yard, it was to find the angel out in the snow. He was dancing through a martial arts routine using dual swords, and he was good. Better than good. Intellectually, Elena had always known that Andreas was powerful, but despite his position as a squadron leader, she didn’t tend to think of him as a warrior.
Seeing him stripped to the waist, however, his muscles moving fluidly and his wings—a rich amber leavened with gray—held with warrior precision as he manipulated the swords at brutal speed, she remembered something Jessamy had once said to her: “An immortal has many facets, Ellie. Millennia of existence create myriad strands of personality.”
Andreas wasn’t only shirtless, he was also barefoot.
Elena looked down at her boots, told herself she didn’t need to show off. She’d rather keep her feet warm and frostbite-free in the nice thermal socks Sara had given her as a gift. They had vampire smiley faces on them.
Finishing up the kata on a suicidal whirl of blades, Andreas came to a halt on one knee, his dark hair falling around the aristocratic lines of his face.
He looked up with a glint in his eye, and for the first time since she’d met Andreas, she saw the man Raphael knew. A warrior who fit seamlessly into an archangel’s forces, a leader who’d have a squadron’s respect, and a fighter who’d throw back a beer while sweaty and dirty.
“Consort,” he said. “Thank you for waiting.”
“You’re a master with the blades.” Elena wanted to scowl as she spoke that grudging compliment.
Rising to his full height, Andreas flipped the blades and held them out hilt-first toward her.
She accepted the offer but took only one blade. As she’d expected, it was heavy. “The workmanship is exquisite.” While the hilt bore the soft patina of hundreds of years of handling, the blade itself gleamed razor sharp in the weak sunlight amplified by the snow into a stinging brightness.
“It was made by a famed angelic weapons-master who now Sleeps.” Andreas handed his other sword to one of his vampires who’d just walked out. Taking a bottle of water in return, he pointed up. “Does your escort require anything?”
“No, they’re happy crouching on your roof.” She handed the weapon back to Andreas using both hands to display it as a work that beautiful should be displayed. “Deacon would love to see this sword.”
He took the sword the same way she’d presented it, warrior to warrior, and passed it back to his vampiric assistant. “Deacon has already held it.” A sharp smile. “I have commissioned him to make me another pair for the dark future when his mortal existence is no more.”
It could’ve been an ugly statement dismissing the value of a human life, but startlingly, she heard a strong thread of regret in his voice. And she knew Andreas foresaw a future centuries ahead where he would one day show someone Deacon’s work and tell them of the gifted human whose life had run far too short.
“I’ll look forward to seeing what he creates,” she said, consciously stepping back from that pathway into a future unseen.
“Would you give me a moment to shower quickly and dress?”
“Of course.” Impatience sank its teeth into her, shook like a dog with a bone, but Andreas was an old-world angel. A gracious response would gain her far more than pushing at him to rush.
She walked to the house with him. Acres of glass and right angles dominated, the building designed by a living contemporary architect. It had always struck her as odd that such an old angel would have so modern a home until Illium pointed out that the Tower wasn’t exactly of a “colonnades and arches vintage.”
Point well made, Bluebell.
The vampire who waited in the doorway wore a simple gown that reached her ankles. “Sire. Consort.” She bowed and moved aside as they neared.
Once inside, Andreas gave a short nod and headed upstairs, while Elena followed the woman—who proved to be his housekeeper—to a contemporary living area decorated in tones of gray and black, with unexpected splashes of aquamarine. She was resigned to having to wait a half hour at the very least, but Andreas was true to his word and took fewer than five minutes to shower and return.
His slightly overlong hair—a deep brown-black—was still damp, and roughly combed, as if he’d run his fingers through it and considered it done. The amber gray of his feathers glimmered with the odd droplet of water. He was also dressed more casually than she’d ever seen him, wearing khaki pants and a simple white shirt with no buttons and an open tunic-style collar.
“I realize you’ve just returned home,” she said. “Thank you for fitting me in.”
His cheeks creased in a smile that reached his eyes, a pale greenish-hazel she’d always before found disturbing in their acute directness. “It is an honor to have the consort in my home.” Waving a hand at the sofas, he said, “Would you sit?”
“Actually, do you mind if we walk?” Despite her continuous low-level hunger and lack of sleep, she felt jumpy with energy, her skin burning from the inside out.
“If you do not mind the snow, there is a path through the back gardens.”
When they went out there, it was to find the path had already been swept clean. The gardens slept under a thick blanket of white, haunting in their simulacrum of death and burial. “This must be lovely when it’s in full bloom.” Ever since she’d discovered Andreas’s punishments included hanging vampires naked from the trees that surrounded his home, she tended to avoid overflying his property.
At least she knew no one was buried alive out there.
A small mercy.
But she still listened for distant screams.