Archangel's Prophecy (Page 65)
“Bull. S**t.” Elena pressed a finger into his chest. “This reminds me of when you went into the Quiet. Not that bad, but the same scary lack of emotion.”
He gripped her wrist. “I boil with emotion, Elena. You don’t want me to set it free.” Mercy would no longer live in him if he was forced to watch her die.
“Archangel.” A hard shake of her head. “Don’t let the Cascade steal who you are. Protect that little bit of mortality in your heart. Please.”
He made her no promises he might not keep should he lose her. Inside, his cells morphed under the fury of a power that was making him stronger, more deadly.
“Argh!” Elena clenched her hand but didn’t tug away her wrist. “You infuriate me at times.” Her kiss was a ravaging, but she smiled when she drew back. “You’re angry enough to make me afraid for you, but you still taste like my archangel.” Narrowed eyes when he didn’t respond, his anger at the world was so vast and deep. “I had another conversation with the voice in my head. Told it I didn’t believe in the predestination crap, and that I was going to change the future.”
The words reached him with their sheer impudence—only his Elena would argue with an archangel who was kin to the Ancestors. “What was the response?”
“I messed up the future timeline.” A tight, satisfied smile. “I’m going to keep messing it up until we’re on the other side.” Challenge in her voice. “Do you see?”
“Yes.” Resolve roared through him, and he wrenched the reshaping power back under his reign. “The prophecy is not set in stone. We will break it.”
Storm winds howled around them without warning.
Elena bared her teeth. “Looks like the Cascade doesn’t like that.”
“F**k the Cascade.” He kissed her laughter into his soul and stole some of her human warmth to heat the icy cold of the power that sought to alter him to a form that would not understand pain . . . or love.
When they spoke to Nisia, it was only to check if Elena could still fly.
The resulting scan showed a subtle weakness in the understructure of Elena’s wings.
“They’re weak but won’t collapse,” Nisia reassured Elena. “I will confirm with Keir, but this is likely what your wings looked like when you first took flight.”
Elena’s eyes locked with Raphael’s, and in her gaze lived the knowledge that one more step backward and she’d lose her wings, be earthbound once more. “I have to finish the investigation on Harrison,” she said with quiet determination once Nisia left the room, as if they had been in the middle of a conversation. “I need to know my sister and her child are safe.”
Even drenched in immortal power so violent that the small touch of human vulnerability in his heart threatened to be subsumed by it, Raphael understood her nightmares, understood why this was so important to her. Beth had lost nearly everyone she loved as a child. Only Elena and Jeffrey remained.
And Elena’s body was shedding its immortality.
“Finish it,” he said. “You have my wings and my hands. Use them and finish it.” Lightning crackled over Raphael’s skin as he curled his hands into fists. His skin split and closed in fine fractures.
His hunter walked to him. “Black clouds, darkness, it’s all gathering on the horizon.” A glance at the turbulence beyond the Tower windows. “If the omens were any more obvious, we’d be beating them off with a sharp stick.” She ran her hand firmly over the arch of his wing in a caress he’d permit no one else on this earth. “I know the promise we made, but I’m asking you not to keep it—if the worst happens, if I fall, you can’t fall with me.”
Raphael set his jaw. “You’d sentence me to eternity alone?” The lightning crackled over him again and again, the Legion mark on his temple brilliant with wildfire, until the space around them was blurred out by his power.
Elena stood unafraid in the midst of the storm. “You’re a burning sword, Raphael, a creature of endless light.” His energy twined up her arm, sparked in her hair, slid down the curve of her cheek. “If you fall, the world will stand no chance when Lijuan rises.”
A sudden, luminous gold in her eyes.
“Archangel of Death,” she whispered. “Goddess of Nightmare. Wraith without a shadow. Rise, rise, rise into your Reign of Death.”
Raphael’s power spiraled around her body.
“For your end will come.” Elena’s voice, Elena’s touch, but not Elena’s words. “Your end will come. At the hands of the new and of the old.” Tears shimmered in her eyes now. “An Archangel kissed by mortality.” Her lips pressing to his. “A silver-winged Sleeper who wakes before his Sleep is done. The broken dream with eyes of fire. Shatter. Shatter. Shatter.”
Elena’s breath on his skin, her eyes no longer unearthly gold. “This she saw,” she said, her voice a rasp. “The old one in my head. Cassandra. She saw this long, long ago.”
Seer of nightmares and dreams, haunted by visions.
“Do you see, Raphael?” Elena raised her head to meet his gaze. “Come what may, you must live until Lijuan is vanquished, or her reign will murder this world and rewrite it in her image. Death and horror, that’s what our world will become.”
Raphael gripped both her upper arms, nearly lifting her off her feet. “How can I be kissed by mortality if you are not with me? I feel the power fighting to change me already—without you, I’ll sink into the cold arms of immortality until the Raphael you know is gone forever.” He and his Elena, they had been together for a firefly flicker of time, at the bare edge of their immortality together. Not enough time. Never enough time.
“No.” A single firm word. “No matter what, you’ll stay my Raphael.” A war in every word. “You won’t let eternity or Lijuan steal the humanity in your heart. You will protect that part of me you carry in you. Promise me this, Raphael. Promise.”
“We will alter destiny and you will live, Elena,” he said flatly. “That is the only option.”
A jagged smile. “I’m not about to give up, Archangel, but I’m also not arrogant enough to think it’ll be a slam dunk against forces that wrenched Cassandra from her Sleep.” A kiss so wild that their wings became entangled, their breaths one, his hand buried in her hair, hers bunched in his tunic. “Promise me.”
“No.” Raphael would give Elena anything on this earth, but he would not promise to be whole should she fall. “It would be a lie. I will become a monster without you.” This new Cascade-born power was too huge to allow for anything else; he could see how Lijuan had fallen to its seduction. It made a man feel good, his mind a vastness untrammeled by the physical.
Elena was the heart of them, the one who reminded him to never surrender to the seduction. For to surrender would be to lose her, lose the piece of her he carried protected inside his own heart. But when she was gone, no one would love him so fiercely that it was a force larger than the Cascade. No one would anchor him to life with the wildfire of her own. No one would teach him to be human. “Better I break than I become as Lijuan.”
A shudder ran through her at his uncompromising words. “Then,” she said, spine going stiff and face stubborn, “we figure out how to give the Cascade an a*s-kicking.” Hauling him down with two hands bunched in his tunic, she said, “I am not leaving you to turn into a bad movie villain with a thwarted love in his past.”