Archangel's Prophecy (Page 5)
Twenty minutes later, the scent came to an abrupt halt. When she crouched down to dig lightly through the dirty snow that had been protected from the light morning snowfall by a heavy tree canopy, she spotted a drip of oil. “Smart guy.” She rose, walked out from under the canopy.
Bunching up her wings, she went to go airborne to see if the oil leak had left a trail . . . and felt an excruciating wrenching in her muscles.
Breathless, she froze then tried again.
She got airborne, but her shoulders and inner wing muscles hurt as they hadn’t since she’d first become strong enough to pull off vertical takeoffs. The pain throbbed through her like an infected tooth.
She must’ve inadvertently moved the wrong way and twisted or torn a tendon or muscle. Hopefully it was small enough that her body would heal on its own. Angelkind’s healers were gifted, but while they could help the healing process, they couldn’t magic away major injuries.
As for Elena’s own capacity to heal, it was more than she’d had as a mortal but nothing in comparison to even baby angels. No one knew how long her journey from post-mortal to immortal would take. Keir, a gifted healer respected by immortals, and Jessamy, their trusted historian and librarian, had been digging for information about the previous angels-Made, but so far all they had to show for their efforts were a lot of dust sneezes and reddened eyes.
The frustration was even worse because everyone knew those once-mortals had existed. They were the flesh and blood reality behind the legend that when an archangel loved true, his body would spontaneously produce a sweet, erotic golden substance called ambrosia. Raphael had kissed her with ambrosia as she fell, her back broken and the rest of her wounded beyond repair, and now she soared in the sky.
Ambrosia was accepted as a given among immortals. Researchers had even attempted to study it. Unfortunately, they were hampered by the lack of records—or an actual sample. It wasn’t as if Raphael had been in any condition to save them a drop; he’d given it all to Elena.
You must live.
Elena’s heart stretched on the echo of memory, of the raw determination in her archangel’s voice, of the piercing love that had marked them both. But what of the other lovers true who’d come before them? Where had they gone?
The prevailing theory was that the last angel-Made had been born so very long ago that the angel-Made and all those who knew his or her name were lost to deepest Sleep. Elena wondered at times about what it would be like to meet one of her predecessors, uncertain if she wanted the opportunity or not. What if those predecessors had lost their humanity after an eon of existence? What if she recognized nothing of mortality in them?
Today, she felt mortal down to the bone, but the pain in her wing had faded from pulsating abscess to throbbing bruise, so she decided to continue the hunt and swing by the infirmary when she got back.
There were no visible oil stains on the road, anything once there long erased by the passage of other cars. This hunt would have to be more technical. But when she asked Vivek to locate Damian Hale’s phone, he told her it was back in the general area of Imani’s mansion. “He probably hid it on the grounds, hoping to send everyone on a wild goose chase.”
A flock of starlings flew off the trees right in front of Elena. Hundreds of tiny bodies and sharp beaks and unblinking dark eyes. Thousands of wings hitting her skin. Endless shrills of sound bursting against her eardrums.
She dropped on a bitten-off sound, barely managing to catch herself before she fell too far.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” she muttered into the phone while the birds flew in a spiral around her before scattering to the winds. “Have there been any other seismic events since I left?”
“No, all calm.” Vivek’s voice was sharp. “You’re really okay?”
“Yes.” The Cascade might be stretching awake again after this latest bout of dormancy, but Elena wasn’t planning to dance to its tune. No one knew how long the power surge and accompanying chaos would last. It could be decades for all they knew. None of them could stop living their lives.
Today, Elena’s life included finding Damian Hale. “How about his car?”
“Guy’s got no vehicle registered to him,” Vivek replied without pause. “I called and talked to Imani’s majordomo vamp—he confirms none of their vehicles are missing.” A sudden pause. “Hold on. Our clever rabbit might’ve forgotten something.”
Elena stayed aloft while Vivek worked, her eyes sweeping the ground.
“A lot of the angelic homes have surveillance directed out to the road,” Vivek said in her ear, “and the Tower’s got access to those eyes in case of enemy threats. I picked up your runner’s face in a red sedan, and I’m tracking him using various cameras and toll points. Hacked those years ago, so it doesn’t even count.”
“Point me in the right direction, partner,” she said, her skin going burning hot then searingly cold. Every hair on her head felt electrified. “V,” she said before he could answer. “Is there a lightning storm on the horizon?”
“No, weather report says clear skies with limited chance of weirdness.” Shifting focus, he began to give her directions; he stayed with her all the way to a small cabin-style hotel at the foot of the Catskills. She ate three energy bars in the air as lunch, drank water from the slim water packet she kept in a lower pants pocket.
“I’ve got nothing beyond the cabi—” A quiet exhale on the other end of the line. “You know that small chance of weirdness?”
“Seismic report came from a sensor located near those cabins.”
“Of course it did,” Elena muttered even as her skin tingled as if a current were arcing through her cells. “I’m about to land. Call you after I have something.”
It took her two tries to zip up her phone in her pocket again, the sensation of electricity was so distracting and disorienting on her fingertips. Her cheeks felt burned with ice, the tips of her ears red-hot.
“Normal thoughts,” she ordered herself. “Normal thoughts.”
When the starlings surrounded her as she looked for the best spot to land, she ignored them . . . even when she could swear the birds were whispering to her. She couldn’t hear the words, the shape of them just out of hearing range, but the tone was a warning.
The birds flew up higher now and then to dance in intricate patterns that kept her airbound as she looked on in fascination, but they never went far from her side. A strange, murmuring escort.
That winged escort stayed in the sky when she did finally land—in the large area in front of the hotel that was probably full of wild grasses and flowers in summer; today, it was a sheet of white barely marked by life. A single draw of the bitingly cold air and vampiric scents touched her nose, each line clean and unentangled with others.
There, a brush of aspen and the juicy extravagance of ripe peaches.
Strong. Rich. Not just a residue. Damian Hale was here.
Taking another breath while trying not to notice the electric prickling on her face, Elena triangulated the source of the scent to a particular cabin. She’d just stepped foot in that direction when the electricity vanished. The birds stopped singing. The air froze.
And the earth trembled under her feet.
She came to a halt. An unknown sound made her look up. The starlings were circling in a constant wheel as they whispered their frantic and incomprehensible warning inside her skull.