Archangel's Prophecy (Page 63)
Power enough to shatter the night and he wasn’t overwhelmed. No wonder Cassandra said he was changed—but he was guiding that change now, shaping it to his will. Yet Elena still felt a jagged rock in her gut . . . because what if the worst happened? Would Raphael fight the Cascade forces then? Or would he allow those forces to shape him into a cold and ruthless immortal untouched by mortal vulnerability?
Jessamy turned to Galen and put her free hand on his chest. Elena and Raphael both stepped away as the couple spoke in low voices tense with withheld emotion.
“What if we’re doing the wrong thing, Archangel?” Elena asked out of earshot of the other couple, suddenly afraid. Not only would a failure hurt Jessamy, it would be another darkness whispering to Raphael.
Eyes inhuman with power held hers, and when he spoke, his voice was different. Heavy with archangelic power. He sounded more like the archangel she’d first met than he had in years. But the words he spoke, they were her Raphael’s. “Hunter-mine. To not make the attempt would be a disservice to Jessamy. Especially after I could do nothing the first time we attempted to ease the malformation so it would not ache.”
Until then, Elena hadn’t known that Jessamy’s wing caused her physical discomfort. Not on a daily basis, and the pain was a dull throb rather than a sharp stab that made her cry out, but the muscles did spasm and lock up at times. The historian had described it as a bad cramp—to Elena, that would be an awful pain, but Jessamy had become accustomed to it over the centuries and centuries of her existence.
She didn’t seem to understand what that said about her strength, this slender woman who was no warrior and who, to this day, tried to avoid the fighting lessons Galen gave her so she would never be helpless against an opponent.
“Sire.” Stiff but resigned, Galen’s voice split the heavy silence. “Jessamy wishes to try.”
Raphael moved around to Jessamy’s back without further discussion—and that, too, was different. The Raphael she loved would’ve said something to reassure his weapons-master. Or maybe she was just jumpy and Raphael was too concerned with reigning in this wild power to waste his energies on anything that wasn’t strictly necessary.
“I need you to spread your wings as far as possible,” he ordered Jessamy.
One strong wing whispered out in a glow of delicate magenta and luscious cream against the pale sky-blue of Jessamy’s gown. The other stayed close to her back, the bones, muscles and tendons formed wrong and unable to stretch outward.
Elena and Galen both moved so they could see what Raphael was doing, one on his left, the other on his right.
“Describe it to me,” Jessamy said with the frustration of a historian missing out on what might be the making of a piece of angelic history.
“The sire is staring at your back,” Galen muttered bad-temperedly. “If I didn’t know that he was madly in love with Elena, I’d have to thump him for looking at you with such intensity.”
Jessamy’s laughter was a warm, gentle thing.
“His hands are full of light now,” Elena murmured. “It’s like the lightning we saw from Sara’s roof, not the blue of his usual healing energy.” Her heart thundered at seeing the violence of it, quite unlike the delicate dandelions that had floated back to him. “Archangel?”
“Sire, that is archangelic energy meant to level cities and battle others of the Cadre,” Galen said harshly at the same time.
“Yes,” Raphael said in a distant tone, “but it is also mine to mold.”
In front of them, the lightning became shot with streaks of healing blue. Elena shuddered inwardly at the sign that he continued to carry a touch of mortality, a touch of humanity. He’d always said that his ability to heal came from his love for her and how it had changed him on a fundamental level.
“Someone tell me what’s happening.”
Elena responded to Jessamy’s demand. Galen was too focused on Raphael’s hands, his big body all but vibrating in readiness. And Elena knew that if he thought Raphael was hurting Jessamy, he’d unsheathe his broadsword and take on an archangel himself.
“The light coming off Raphael is almost too much to look through now.” Elena’s eyes teared even though she’d narrowed them as much as she could without totally cutting off her sight. “He’s moving his hands closer to your wing.” She blinked away the tears. “The energy’s touching you. Small lightning bolts arcing against your wing.”
“I can’t feel the touch,” Jessamy said, attempting to look over her shoulder.
Jessamy went motionless at the command, and Raphael—
Everything blurred in an incandescence of overwhelming gold, light sparking behind Elena’s lids as she instinctively closed her eyes. When she opened them back up a millisecond later, the light was retracting back into Raphael, sucked in until it no longer lay like a second skin on his arms and his hair and his eyes.
The breaks in his skin sealed up in front of her gaze.
Elena jerked her attention to Jessamy’s wing. Disappointment slammed her in the gut, an ugly two-fisted blow. It was exactly as it had been, and she saw from the angry sadness on Galen’s face that he was an inch away from punching Raphael.
About to tug away her archangel so the weapons-master could focus on his beloved Jessamy, she halted at a keen of sound from the angelic historian. “It hurts.”
Galen moved in a burst of raw strength, cradling her trembling form against his chest. “Where?” His voice was like stone, murder in the pale green of his eyes.
But Jessamy pushed back from his chest, her hands braced against it and her nails digging into his shirt. Another animalistic keen of pain, a helpless creature with its limb caught in a trap.
“Sire, you must fix this,” Galen demanded.
“It is an old and tight muscle,” Raphael said with unnatural calm, his gaze yet intent on Jessamy’s wing. “It has not been stretched in nearly three thousand years.”
“Jesus.” Elena saw it then, saw what was happening. “Galen, look at her wing.”
Keeping one arm around Jessamy’s waist, his features set in brutal, unforgiving lines, the weapons-master came around Jessamy’s other side so that he could look at her back. The twisted part of Jessamy’s wing was moving. The motion was slight, but it was there.
“Has it ever moved before?” Elena asked both Jessamy and Galen. “Jess, have you ever been able to manipulate that part of your wing?”
Gripping hard at Galen’s forearm, Jessamy shook her head. “I can feel it now.” Her words were breathless, pain dripping from each one. “Before, it was a knot. It didn’t hurt except for the odd cramp, but there was no flexibility in it, either. This . . . it is the most horrifying agony I’ve ever experienced.”
Breaking unwritten angelic law, Elena pressed a hand against Jessamy’s wing on that sensitive upper section. “Stop.”
“Elena,” Raphael warned, even as Galen’s hand rose toward her.
Elena broke contact. “Jess, really, stop.” She fought for the words to explain. “We need to get one of Vivek’s physiotherapists in here. Regardless of your final range of movement, we’re talking about the rehabilitation of a part of your body that hasn’t been used for close to three thousand years.”