Archangel's Prophecy (Page 61)
Taking her into his arms, he said, “Close your wings, hbeebti.”
She did so without hesitation, her trust a gift.
Holding her close, he lifted them both into the burn of light.
It cascaded into him in a thousand tiny lightning bolts that sparked through his skin and wings. Elena, though she was pressed against him, was touched by none of it. He was the lightning rod and the energy knew only to come to him.
His hunter traced a jagged crack in the skin of his upper arm. It was what had happened to Illium when the Cascade shoved him full of power too huge for his body. Unlike with the blue-winged angel, Raphael was in no danger of being overwhelmed or killed. “It causes me no pain.” As one fracture healed, another appeared. But his cells were absorbing the power as rapidly as it jolted out of the sky and into him.
He felt full to the very edges of his wings by the time the storm ended.
Elena stared at his face, her eyes a mirror of the incandescent light. “It’s beautiful in an eerie way,” she murmured. “Your face is covered with fine lightning-bolt cracks that glow with power.” She raised a hand to his skin but didn’t touch. As if afraid of hurting him.
He moved his face so that her fingers brushed his jaw. “There is no pain,” he repeated. “The power simply needs time to be absorbed into my flesh.”
When Elena drew away her hand, her fingertips glowed with light. Rather than seeking to sink into her, however, that light flew back to him, golden dandelions against the night. Undaunted, she brushed her fingers over his arm where the light glowed through the cracks in his skin. That light reached out and twined around her hand, crawled up her arm.
Raphael watched ready to intervene, but at no point did it merge into her skin.
Instead, after a moment, it drew back toward Raphael.
“This energy is too strong for you,” he told his hunter. “It is archangelic and it stretches my power to places unknown.” He could feel himself changing on the most basic level, his cells altering shape. It had happened once before, but this . . . it was bigger, the changes deeper.
A fine tension in Elena’s features. “So much power, Raphael.” She spread her fingers over his heart. “Promise me you won’t stop being a little bit mortal.”
Closing a hand alive with golden lightning over hers, he spoke an unalterable truth. “My heart will always be a little bit mortal, this I promise.” He could feel the wildfire born of them both concentrating around the organ, as if protecting it from the surge of Cascade-born power, protecting the small vulnerability Elena had introduced into his archangelic body.
“This new power will soon learn that some things are set in stone.” Right now, it was a thing without shape, unimprinted by any living being.
It was pure, raw energy.
Elena’s pupils flared. “The voice told me of a gift and that it wasn’t meant for me,” she whispered, her free hand caressing the side of his face. “It must’ve meant it could only be handled by an archangel.”
Cupping her cheek, Raphael lowered his head to claim a kiss that glowed with light. Her lips were rimmed with it when he drew back, but again, the energy returned to him after a moment.
He tried to funnel the energy into her through his healing ability.
“Raphael.” A gasp. “Pinpricks all over me. Sharp, hard.”
He stopped his attempt, coldly enraged at being given such power but being helpless to protect his warrior. “I was seeking to use the new power to fix the unknown problem with your feathers. This energy is pure; I should be able to reshape it as I wish.” Including changing it into a form that healed. “I wasn’t attempting to give you the pure power—that’s too violent, would kill you. I was filtering it through my ability to heal.”
“Oh,” Elena whispered. “This is the gift . . . and it’s not mine.” A crooked smile. “Don’t you see, Archangel? I’m too mortal now. My body can no longer absorb any immortal energy. Even Nisia failed this afternoon—digesting archangelic energy is far beyond my grasp.”
They stared at one another, the truth of her words a slap. “That is impossible,” Raphael ground out. “You have wings.”
“A slowly failing relic of my brush with immortality.” Somber knowledge on her face. “We can check with Lucius, but I know. I’m weaker again, my body is having trouble supporting the weight of wings, and I can’t heal even a hangnail.”
Raphael realized on a roar of rage that his new power could only hurt her, hurt the one being in all the universe whom he never wanted to hurt. Lightning cracked the sky again, his power threatening to break the universe.
Elena gripped his hair and hauled his face to her own, pulling him back from the edge of the abyss. “Don’t you dare give in to the darkness,” she ordered. “This energy is yours. Shape it to your will. Don’t let it shape you.”
And he saw at last what she already had—if he wasn’t careful, the Cascade surge would alter him to its own design. “No one,” he said coldly, “manipulates an archangel.”
Elena’s smile was fierce, his consort well aware he wasn’t speaking to her. “The voice said the second marker is a painful rebirth . . . and isn’t it strange, how the power surge occurred when Jessamy is in the city? Do you think this energy could heal her?”
“If it is a marker—”
Elena pressed her fingers to his lips. “We fight destiny other ways. We don’t attempt to nullify this marker . . . and it’s only a marker. Whether it takes place or not, events continue.”
Raphael fought his black rage to say, “I will wait for you and Jessamy to return.”
“Laric is in the city, too.” She frowned. “He qualifies as well as her, if I’m reading the prophecy right.”
“I’ll speak to him.”
“What about Vivek?” she asked, and he could feel her hope.
“This power is too strong. It would burn out a vampiric body.” Raphael tried to think of others, not only of her. “He will recover, Elena. Unlike with Laric and Jessamy, all Vivek needs is time.”
“Yes, you’re right.” She claimed a kiss, as was her right as his lover and consort. “See you soon, Archangel.” Grin wild, she brushed her hand over the mark on one side of his temple, the mark of the Legion. “And after, we’ll plot how to foil destiny and a prophecy spoken by an archangel who saw me at the dawn of time.”
A small cloud of light glowed through her own clothing before he could release her for flight. It came from the spot where she’d felt the pain in her chest, but this time, she didn’t collapse.
“Whoa.” Unzipping her jacket, she pulled up the top she wore underneath to expose that patch of skin. It was the merest pinprick of smudged light, and it settled into her skin even as they watched, but what it left behind was a small darkness in the shape of the Legion mark on his temple. But where his mark crackled with light, this one absorbed it.
“Huh.” Elena stared at it. “Ask the Legion if they know what this is.”
When Raphael did, the ancient beings said: A dark mirror. Whispers in his head, the Legion in conversation. Not our mark. Your mark. It is a mirror. A sense of a huge mind straining. Aeclari are . . . mirrors. They are more. But they are also mirrors.
Raphael’s heart accelerated. After sharing with Elena their first piece of concrete information about what aeclari meant, he asked, Is this as it should be?