Archangel's Prophecy (Page 69)
“Eric try to get it on with you when you visited her?”
“Eric?” A giggle. “No, he only liked guys. Mostly the big biker types with the beards and the chest hair and the leather.”
That was a piece of information no one else had shared. It fitted in neatly with his wounds: hand cut off for offering Lucy drugs, but genitals left intact because he’d never abused her sexually. “You okay talking about the night Lucy’s father came and got her?”
“Yes.” Jenessa’s hand shook as she topped up her coffee, but she walked into the past despite her fear. “It was cold that night, and I didn’t have enough money to use the heating at my place.” A haunted look beyond the balcony doors. “It’ll be exactly one year in a week.”
A shiver ran over Elena’s skin, a hitch of memory she couldn’t capture.
“So you came over to Simon and Eric’s to hang out, get warm,” she said past her frustration.
A jerky nod. “Even though Simon was a vampire, he usually had food in his apartment, and he didn’t mind if I took it. Once in a while he even put my favorite cookies in there.”
Drugs for one, Elena realized, food for the other. Simon Blakely and his friend had been a slick operation. Lining up Jenessa for when they were tired of Lucy? Sex with a damaged young woman for Blakely; honey feeds for Acosta.
“When I got there,” Jenessa said, “Eric had just had a honey feed from a boy who passed me on the stairs as I was coming up. Eric was wasted, told me Lucy and Simon were in the bedroom. I didn’t bother them, just made myself microwave ramen then sat on the couch and watched a comedy show on TV.”
“He sacked out on his mattress on the floor, kind of half watching, half sleeping like he did a lot after a honey feed. I’d almost finished my noodles when the front door smashed open, and this man came in yelling for Lucy. I thought for sure he’d hurt me, but he grabbed Eric around the throat and said, ‘Where the f**k is my daughter?’”
Jenessa had unconsciously mimicked the intruder’s deep growl.
“What happened next?”
“Eric had a baggie of coke on the coffee table, and I could tell it made the other man furious. His face went all red. The door to the bedroom opened right then and Lucy stumbled out dressed in just her panties and a tank top.”
Jenessa tucked her hair behind her ears. “She was screaming at the man, saying she wished he was dead instead of her mom. I could tell she was high, but he ignored her to smash his fist into Simon’s face.” A wince. “I was frightened Simon would kill him, but Lucy’s dad was fast and he had a weapon—a piece of heavy chain like people use on their biting dogs.”
“Did Eric try to help?”
“He used so much that he couldn’t move quick even on normal days. That night, he was half asleep. Lucy kept trying to jump on her dad, but he ignored her even when she was clinging to his back and clawing at his face. He never hurt her. I guess ’cause he was her dad and he loved her.” A wistfulness to her. “My dad left me with my stepbrother and never, ever came back. But Lucy’s dad came for her.”
“Is that when you ran?”
“I was screaming at Lucy to come with me, but she wouldn’t come—and one of the neighbors began yelling that she’d called the cops. That’s when I ran.” Her lower lip shook. “I never saw Lucy again.”
“Her father never hurt her even when she was attacking him,” Elena reminded the other woman.
Jenessa nodded, sinking her teeth into her lower lip again, her eyes wet. “Lucy had a dad who cared. Why didn’t she just go home when it got awful on the streets? Why did she let Nish and Terry do those things to her?”
“Can you describe Lucy’s father for me?”
“Dark eyes, dark hair—not black, brown like dark chocolate.” Lines on her forehead. “Tall and strong.” She held up a hand indicating the man had been several inches taller than Elena.
Jenessa couldn’t, however, pinpoint his race. She’d been in shock and the scene had been chaotic. She thought he might’ve been white and tanned, but he could’ve also been a light-skinned member of multiple other races.
“It’s strange,” Jenessa murmured. “I think of him and he just kind of disappears. Like he was real good at being ordinary.”
Elena’s blood went cold. And she remembered what she hadn’t before: roughly a year ago, she’d run into Archer and he’d had a number of bad gouges on his face. She’d commiserated with him about how vicious vampire claws could be, and he’d said, “I wish it were that simple, Ellie. My baby’s gotten into drugs—but I’ve entered her into a resident rehab program. Maybe I’ll get her back.”
Nausea churned in her gut.
Archer’s daughter had died of an overdose just under nine months ago. A daughter who’d had a dead mother. Archer had been called the phantom for his ability to hide in plain sight. He was also a good enough fighter to have demolished Blakely and Acosta, and smart enough to have remained unseen when he set the fire that took Kumar’s and Lee’s lives.
The broken blade. The mourner.
It all fit.
Elena shook her head, not ready to look at the final line of Cassandra’s warning. She needed more information. She couldn’t zero in on Archer when every piece of evidence they had said he was dead and buried. And when his daughter’s name hadn’t been Lucy. Samaria, that was it. Elena remembered thinking it was a pretty name when Archer mentioned it once.
After she left Jenessa, she updated Ashwini and Janvier then confirmed with Vivek that Hiraz was at the Tower. Landing on one of the balconies below Dmitri’s floor, she tracked the vampire down to an office where he stood arguing with another vamp.
When Elena poked in her head and said, “Can I borrow Hiraz for a second?” the man on the other side of the argument said, “Take him. Keep him for all I care.”
Hiraz narrowed his eyes at his enemy and pointed a finger. “I’ll get you for this.” Something in the threat said it was more for show than anything; the two were friends beneath it all.
Strange, but vampires and angels got like that. They lived long enough that they treasured their friendships, even when those friendships drove them crazy. Of course, Ransom often drove her nuts, and she’d be devastated if they stopped being friends, so maybe it wasn’t just an immortal thing.
“My apologies for the language, Consort,” Hiraz said to her in the hallway. Clean-shaven and dressed in a simple white shirt with black pants, his skin a light brown and his expertly cut hair black with red undertones, he had a sharp handsomeness.
“Trust me, I’ve heard far worse.” Guild hunters weren’t exactly blushing violets when it came to language. “Let’s talk on the balcony.” Once out in the crisp cold, she told him about her visit to Jenessa.
His shoulders stiffened. “She gets scared easily.”
“Jeni’s fine—we had cake and coffee and talked.”
Lips curving, he inclined his head in her direction. “I should’ve remembered that you are not like other immortals.” He slid his hands into the pockets of his pants while the chill wind rippled his shirt against the ridged planes of his body. “I’m overprotective, but I can’t forget how she was when I first met her. So skinny that her bones stuck out, bruises on that beautiful skin, her eyes endless pools in her face.”