Archangel's Prophecy (Page 49)
Elena had been thinking the same. “Eric Acosta was a honey feed addict who sourced his own drugs. Could be he bought the rape drug for Simon Blakley, had his hand hacked off for his trouble.”
“Works,” Santiago said. “But I’ll tell you one other thing—there are flat-out insane vampire gangs in the Quarter. Crazy bastards don’t blink at disemboweling a man to make a point. Lee and Kumar could’ve been whacked for encroaching, same with Blakely and Acosta.”
“It feels too personal.” Elena went to drink the last of Nisia’s concoction but almost dropped the glass when her forearm spasmed.
Clenching her jaw to withhold her grunt of pain, she put the glass back down. “There’s also the timeline,” she managed to say. “Lee and Kumar were murdered two months ago, Blakely and Acosta only the night before the attempt on Harrison.”
“Serious escalation,” Santiago agreed. “Boy’s on a rampage. More bodies are gonna start turning up.”
They wouldn’t, Elena vowed, be of Beth or Maggie.
After hanging up on the call with Santiago, the detective having promised to talk to a few informants, Elena swallowed hard and pushed up the sleeve of her top. Her forearm was rigid, the muscles bunched tight, but nothing was translucent or lava-like. The good news ended there.
Because what she could see was a new crack in her skin. She brushed off the lint clinging to it. Where the hell was that stuff coming from? It must’ve been the tissue to end all tissues that had gotten in with her laundry.
With her skin clear, the discoloration around the break in her flesh was impossible to miss. Bruise-colored, it spread out from the cut in a strangely delicate bloom. That wasn’t the worst part. When she turned her arm to look at the underside, she found more breaks. Not only that, but her wrist protruded noticeably, and the ring she wore on her right pinky finger fell off in front of her eyes.
She’d lost more weight.
Curling her fingers into her palm, she decided against going to the infirmary. No one knew what was happening to her, Nisia couldn’t help her any more than she’d already done, and the threat to Beth and Maggie remained. She’d be smart, take several of the Legion with her in case of a sudden decline, but she had to keep moving on this. Time was falling away from her like water from a gushing tap.
Child of mortals. Vessel unawakened.
She jerked to her feet, her head swiveling to the balcony doors out of instinct. But no ghostly woman with lilac hair stood outside, her hand pressed to the window. No, it was a golden-eyed owl that sat on the edge of the balcony, its feathers whiter than the snow.
Don’t be afraid of the owls.
Mouth dry and heart thudding like a live creature trapped inside her ribcage, she walked to the doors and slid them open with quiet stealth. The owl just watched her, unperturbed. When she stepped out into the icy air, it turned its head and lifted a talon to preen its feathers.
Elena held her breath until her chest ached . . . and hunkered down to touch the bird.
Its feathers were luxuriantly soft under her palm, its body warm.
And it looked at her with its golden eyes suddenly fathomless, the gold holding the glow of an old, old power.
It is a sadness, child, to die. But it must be so. One must die for one to live.
You must die.
“Who the hell says so?” Elena growled, her hand tensing on the owl’s back.
The silence was . . . odd. As odd as the way the owl watched her. When it tipped its head to the side, she was reminded forcefully of the Legion.
It is written in time.
The earth will boil.
The marker will fall.
And the one to die will falter.
Elena’s wing threatened to drag as if in silent agreement. “F**k destiny and fate,” she said without care. “I will fight to my last f*****g breath.”
The owl looked at her again, its eyes endless and beautiful and strange. Under her hands, its warmth was a soft glow, and in her mind spoke the voice that wasn’t there. Child of love. Child of grief. Child of courage. Watch for the broken blade. Watch for the mourner. He is your death. A long sigh . . . and the owl spread its wings.
Unwilling to even attempt to cage the wonder and wildness of it, Elena removed her hand and watched the owl take flight. It went up into the sky . . . and was no longer there. She made herself look at the part of the balcony where it had sat.
No clawprints in the snow, no signs of disturbance at all.
She jumped up, her knives in her hands even as she turned. “Oh, it’s you.”
The Primary stared at her from his silent crouch on the far side of the balcony, his eyes a deeper blue today and his skin carrying a touch of gold. “Who did you speak to?”
Breath rough, Elena put away her knives. “Did you see the owl sitting there?”
“No.” Wind blowing back his hair. “We felt you reach for us. Will we fly again?”
Her phone rang before she could answer. “I’ll take this inside.” She was cold deep within her bones. “You want to come in?”
“I will watch the snow and remember it.”
Leaving the Primary to his unfathomable vigil, she stepped in, phone to her ear. “V, what is it?”
“You still in Raphael’s office? I’m patching in a call on his screen.”
The screen cleared to reveal a woman with curls of golden brown against skin the shade of rich honey. Her eyes were a clear brown with a burst of gold in the center, the wings that rose up behind her shoulders the evocative shade of bitter chocolate. “Andi.” Elena’s blood grew hot. “Did Jess put you on my research question?” Mated to Naasir, the young angel was Jessamy’s student and a nascent historian in her own right.
“The white owls.” Andromeda’s voice trembled. “Legend says they are Cassandra’s—she’s often described as having lilac hair and it’s said she clawed out her eyes to stop her visions.”
. . . tears of dark red.
“I think Jessamy mentioned her once.” Elena frowned, fighting to remember what her friend had told her. “She was an archangel long ago?”
“Cassandra is more myth than memory now. Many people think she never existed, the few of her prophecies that survived, nothing but the fantasies of a Sleeping poet.” Andromeda’s curls vibrated with her energy. “Ellie, the legends say she was kin to the Ancestors—the first ones of our kind, the angels said to Sleep under the Refuge.”
Elena staggered inside at the idea of an archangel of such enormous age. Cassandra had Slept a long time. “Is she waking now?” she asked, a rasp in her throat. “Is that why I see her owls?” Elena had spoken to Jessamy right after leaving Nisia, given the historian the necessary background to her request.
“Jessamy and I don’t know.” Andi hugged an old book with a battered leather cover. “We spoke to Caliane, and she says she dreamed in her Sleep. You may be part of Cassandra’s dream—she might not be conscious she’s woken enough to impact the world.”
Rubbing at her forehead, Elena tried to quiet the incipient headache. “Do you know anything else about her?”
“Not yet,” Andromeda said. “But I won’t stop hunting.”
After saying good-bye to the other woman, Elena got dressed for the weather then went outside and asked the Primary the same question she’d asked Andi.