Archangel's Prophecy (Page 66)
Raphael didn’t smile, couldn’t smile, the coldness in him the spaces between stars. “I will undo the universe for you.” Tear it to pieces, leave it as broken as his heart would be if he didn’t have Elena. “Tell Cassandra I don’t believe in the predestination crap, either.”
The geothermal field that shouldn’t exist erupted into life two minutes later.
“Destiny is fighting back,” Elena said when Dmitri briefed them on the showers of lava and heated rocks.
“It’s building,” Raphael’s second said, his tone dark. “The team on duty is attempting to contain it, but the energy is too catastrophic.”
Raphael’s hand fisted at his side. “It attempts to separate us,” he said to Elena, while Dmitri looked from one to the other with a frown.
“Maybe,” Elena said, “but neither one of us can just ignore this when our people are fighting for their lives.” She pressed her palm over his heart again. “I can’t come with you.” She was too weak, would be a liability. “And you’re too scary to come along with me anyway—my informants would expire on the spot.”
She had to ensure he didn’t start making the wrong choices, didn’t start falling into the chill of immortality devoid of a little human vulnerability. “Go, do what’s right. Save those who look to us for safety.” Lowering her voice, she added, “The final marker is the last feather to fall. I have a lot of feathers left. I can’t lose them all in a day.”
Raphael’s face was like granite.
“Raphael.” She shook her head. “We are who we are. What is the use of surviving if we become monsters?”
It was the echo of his own words that fractured the granite. He left her with a kiss that seared her with its love and admonished her with its fury, flying to contain a disaster that needed archangelic power. Her own task was smaller, more intimate, relating only to a single broken family, but she had to finish it.
After that, she’d worry about lava and ice storms and geothermal fields.
She took three of the Legion with her, her first destination a rooftop not far from the Tower. She landed near a familiar food cart—and when she saw strands of the white not-lint on the back of her hand, she rubbed it off with a single hard brush.
With the rooftop currently clear of customers, the owner of the cart grinned at her. “Cream cheese bagel?”
“I’ll never say no.” Her hunger had returned overnight, was an even more vicious gnawing than before.
“You lost weight. Getting too skinny.”
“You think these wings move themselves?” she said with an inner melancholy.
“Eat more bagels,” Piero said. “Imma gonna put extra cream cheese on this for you.”
Accepting the treat he held out, Elena bit in then walked with the short, solid man to take a seat on one of the wide benches placed near the right edge of the roof. “How are you?” she asked, because to help her sister, she had to be human.
“Can’t complain.” His black curls shiny with hair product atop a cleanly shaven face with cold-reddened cheeks, Piero waved off the money she dug out from her pocket. “Least I can do is spot you a bagel now and then when you gave me a loan after no one else would. My old lady can’t believe I’ve gone legit, become a real-deal businessman.”
Neither could Elena, but it appeared to be true. “You said you had something for me.”
“I put out my feelers, like.” After first offering to pour her a lidful, he took a swig from a thermos of hot coffee. “You know about those two vamp hookers whose brains went kapow?”
Same old sensitive Piero. “Uh-huh,” she said around the last of the bagel.
“Them two pros worked the Quarter exclusive-like, didn’t step out of it.” He screwed on the lid of his thermos after a satisfied belch. “I’ve got friends there. Most of ’em don’t see the appeal of going legit.” A shrug. “What can you do? I tell them to keep me out of the s**t, and we can stay on being friends.”
“What did your friends pass on?”
“Word in the low-bucks ‘vampire set,’” Piero said, “is that that Nishant Kumar dickweed had a hard-on for ‘nice’ young women—from good families, like. Once he had ’em, he liked to mess them up in the head until they started walking the streets.”
From his sour expression, Piero found that execrable behavior—probably because the reason for his turnaround from crook to cart owner was an orphaned eleven-year-old sister who had only Piero for family now. His “old ladies” tended to come and go. “Pros were to fill in the gaps if he couldn’t find a good girl who’d gone off the tracks.” A scowl. “Girls, you gotta work so hard to keep ’em safe.”
A faint tug at the back of Elena’s mind. She frowned, couldn’t quite grab hold of it. “You in debt for this intel?” Nothing was free in the gray underground.
A glint in Piero’s eye, but he resisted his inner thief. “Nah, fuckers gave me a freebie because they’re always coming up here and eating my bagels. Like bagels grow on trees.” Another grin. “Assholes are my friends, though, and they’re good to my kid sister, too. Bring her presents and s**t. So we’re square.”
“Your friends have any details of the girls he might’ve targeted?”
Piero shook his head. “No one pays attention to the chicks, you know. Revolving door in the Quarter.” His tone wasn’t uncaring, just practical. “But my buddies said there was this one father who went after another of your vics. Would’ve been like a year back.”
Elena frowned. “What?”
“Yeah, exactly what I said. Why go after this Blakely character when Kumar was the one aiming to turn good girls bad? Boys say it’s because Kumar passed on his girls to Blakely. He didn’t like them after they weren’t so shiny, but Blakely got off on chicks who were broken.”
Elena wanted to murder both men herself. If not for the threat against Beth and Maggie, she’d say good luck to the assailant and leave him be. “So one girl had a father who came after her?”
“Yeah, bashed Blakely up pretty good.” Sincere approval in Piero’s tone. “Man hauled his daughter out of there, too—parents who care don’t hardly show, so yeah, folks did notice.”
A jolt of adrenaline, the connections all falling into place . . . while something stayed stubbornly out of reach. What was she forgetting? A year ago, Piero had said. She knew something important that had happened a year ago.
“Girl’s dad was human.” Piero rubbed his hands together, his breath fogging the air. “Shocker, right? I mean, this Blakely prick was a vampire. Word is the girl’s father turned him into hamburger even though he had that druggie vamp friend of his around.”
Elena whistled through her teeth. “Anything else on the father?”
“One badass motherfucker, that’s what my friends told me. No one saw his face. He ambushed Blakely at night, while the creep was in bed with the girl.” Going a little green, he quickly unscrewed the lid of his thermos and took another gulp.
“Man, that had to be tough,” he said after the coffee hit. “I hope to God my sister doesn’t grow up to sleep with assholes.” He crossed his chest, the words a prayer. “I’d probably end up in prison for life.”