Archangel's Prophecy (Page 67)
Bagel finished and her stomach quiet for the moment, Elena stared into the distance, trying to catch that whisper at the back of her mind, but it remained elusive. “That all?” she asked Piero.
“Nah, I wouldn’t call you over unless I had solid stuff.” Rich brown eyes gleamed as he dropped his voice. “Word is there was another girl in the apartment the night the father came looking for his daughter. She did a runner when the human went psycho on Blakely Sack O’ S**t and his druggie roommate.”
Elena sat up straight. “Tell me you have a name for her.”
Piero beamed so hard his face would crack if he wasn’t careful. “China. On account of her skin being like that fancy stuff they use to make teacups and s**t.” He twisted up his face. “I can’t see it, not in the Quarter. Even vamps show damage, and this girl’s human. But my one buddy swore to it on his dear departed ma’s life. Says China’s got perfect skin and big blue eyes, black hair cut like this.” He scissored his fingers across his forehead. “Real doll-like.”
“You know where she is now?”
He pulled out a wrinkled piece of notepaper from his pocket and handed it to her. “Never say Piero doesn’t pay his debts.”
“Consider this month’s loan repayment done.”
A gleeful rub of his hands. “Pleasure doing business with you.”
Not in a mood to smile, Elena memorized the address before shoving the paper into her pocket.
“Hey, wow, can I take those?” Peiro sounded like he was going to explode.
A knot in her gut, Elena didn’t want to look down, didn’t want to see.
Three of her feathers lay on the fine layer of snow that glittered on the roof. Shimmering indigo fading into dawn. Deepest black. A charcoal gray with indigo edges she hadn’t even realized she had in her wings. No primaries, but three large feathers at once was bad.
“Yeah,” she said, her voice rough. “Sure. Try to sell the three together—collection will get you more than if you separate them out.” Especially since she wasn’t going to have any soon.
“You want a cut? Forty to me, sixty to you?”
“They’re all yours, Piero.” Then feeling as if she might as well do something good with her decline, she took the crushed bagel wrapper, grabbed the pen from his pocket, and, smoothing out the wrapper, wrote: I certify these feathers are mine.–Elena Deveraux. “That should double the value.”
“I’m gonna buy a lottery ticket today,” Piero said as he scooped up the feathers, tears in his eyes. “It’s my lucky day! And you got free bagels for life!” he called out after her as she swept off the roof.
Her wings were so heavy. Her shoulders ached. Pushing the sensations to the back of her mind, she called Vivek and asked him to run a search on the address Piero had given her. “Place belongs to a senior Tower vampire,” he said mere seconds later. “Hiraz Weir.”
Elena frowned; she knew Hiraz. There could be nothing whatsoever suspicious in the unexpected Tower connection, or there could be something extremely suspicious. “Thanks, V.” Phone safely stored, she and her Legion escort turned in the direction of Weir’s residence. It proved to be the dual-level penthouse suite in a hotel that also catered to those who wished to live in serviced apartments.
After circling the modern gray brick building with large windows, Elena came to a landing on the wide balcony outside the top floor of the penthouse. The sliding glass doors were closed. Beyond them was a lounge. A woman sat on a deep blue sofa reading some type of a document.
Elena’s knock made her jump, the printed pages sliding to the floor.
Huge blue eyes stared at her in frozen silence before the woman flushed and scrambled up. Her mid-thigh-length black kimono was printed with a huge tropical bird on one side; it flapped around her legs as she slid open the door. Below the kimono, she wore a thin black slip from what looked like the same collection Elena had been intending to plunder before her world went to hell.
Despite the nightwear, however, the young woman was in full makeup, her eyelashes curled to within an inch of their lives, and her lips outlined plump and red. Door open, she twisted her hands together. “He isn’t home,” she whispered. “I think he’s at the Tower.”
“I’ve come to see you, China.”
The other woman paled impossibly further under the creamy white of skin so flawless it could’ve been that of the doll Piero had called her. The impression was solidified by the blunt fringe that framed her face, the rest of her thick hair cut in a short and silky bob with wispy edges that suited the softness of her features.
Her body was as sensually soft, with heavy breasts, and hips that curved. A Rubens painting come to life with a modern haircut and dark green nail polish on her toes. “Am I in trouble?” Her lower lip trembled, her eyes beginning to fill with tears.
Elena couldn’t tell if any of it was real, needed more time to learn China’s reactions. “I only want to ask you some questions about when you lived in the Quarter.”
“I don’t go there anymore. Hiraz doesn’t like it.” She hugged her arms around herself. “He’s so nice to me. I don’t want to lose him.” Another tremor, perhaps an act, perhaps because Hiraz was cruel, or perhaps because she was afraid of losing her new life.
“I’ll talk to Hiraz myself,” Elena reassured her. “Trust me, he won’t be angry at you for helping me.”
China exhaled shakily but nodded. “He’s real proud of working at the Tower.” She waved at the sofa. “Would you like to take a seat?” The words came out a touch hesitant, as if she were parroting words she’d never actually spoken before.
Real, Elena decided at that instant, China’s reactions were real. That of a girl who’d been pulled off a hard life on the streets and into a penthouse dream, but who wasn’t sure quite how to behave in this rarefied environment. “How about we walk to the kitchen and you make me a cup of coffee?”
China’s face glowed from within. “Oh, sure.” Wiping off the remnants of her scared tears, she bustled to the kitchen. “I love coffee.” She blushed and bit down on her lower lip as she cinched the kimono tighter. “Sorry about how I’m dressed. We had a late night.”
“Perils of having a vampire boyfriend.”
“Exactly.” A dimpled smile. “But it’s so fun going out with him at night. No one gives me disgusting looks or tries to grab me or even whistle at me, and I can have fun without worrying.” She shivered, but this time it was accompanied by a delighted little smile. “Hiraz is scary, and that protects me.”
“He is scary,” Elena agreed, though Hiraz was tame in comparison to Dmitri and Venom. Of course, Tower-tame equaled deadly on the streets.
“He’s so sweet to me, though,” China said as she put together not only fresh coffee but a plate of small cakes from a white box on the counter. “He got me these cakes this morning because he knows how much I like them. I almost don’t want to become a vampire because I won’t be able to eat as many cakes.”
“Have you been accepted?” Elena took a cake when China held out the plate.
“Yes, I got the acceptance letter a week ago.” She drew in a deep breath. “I’m so scared of serving the angels,” she confided, “but Hiraz asked Dmitri if he could see me during my time under Contract, and Dmitri said that we could even live together.” The joyous words were whispered. “I only have to live in my angel’s household for a while, until I can discipline what Hiraz calls the blood urge.”