Archangel's Prophecy (Page 7)
On his left ring finger was a chunky platinum ring with a square piece of dark amber that had a heart of pure white fire. Her mark. Worn always by a being who’d lived a thousand five hundred years before she ever existed.
If the heat coming off the sinkhole was a pulse, Raphael’s power was a throb that beat deep in her bones.
He was deadly and he was beautiful.
Most of all, he was hers.
And he had enough heart in him not to crush that of a small boy.
Beside Elena, the boy’s eyes widened at being acknowledged, the silent connection more than enough to bring joy to his childish world. Beaming ear to ear, he ran back to his parents—who’d only belatedly realized he’d slipped away.
Elena walked over to join Raphael at the edge of the sinkhole, aware of the deathly quiet that had fallen behind them. People trying not to attract the attention of a lethal predator. All except for a small and bright-eyed little boy who was ignoring his desperate parents’ attempts to hush him; he wanted to tell them all about how the archangel had seen him!
“He is a strong one,” Raphael murmured, though his attention was on the lava hypnotic in its luxuriantly slow movements. “I will tell Dmitri to keep an eye on him as he grows.”
“Already thinking of recruiting him for the Tower?”
“An archangel’s work is never done.” He stretched his wings. One brushed across her back in a caress between lovers, between an archangel and his consort. “You are holding your wings with unusual rigidity.” Those piercing blue eyes formed of crushed sapphires and light caught the much more prosaic gray of her own gaze—prosaic but for the rim of silver that had appeared as she grew deeper into her immortality.
“I’ve wrenched the left one.” She made a face, reaching up with one hand to manipulate her shoulder in an effort to ease the discomfort. “I must’ve taken off at the wrong angle or something.” From the feel of it, she’d done a number on her poor wing. Hopefully the healers wouldn’t ground her while the wound healed.
But when Raphael frowned and began to raise his hand to her back, she shook her head. “Don’t waste your healing energy on me. I don’t want you at anything but full strength with all this going on.” She gestured to the deadly beauty of the hot, jeweled chasm in front of them. “Tower healers will fix me up.”
Frown not fading, Raphael nonetheless lowered his hand and returned his attention to the sinkhole. “I sense no aberrant energy from it.”
“Thank God.” She put her hands on her hips. “I can live with random lava, but I’d rather pass on zombies or other nasties crawling out.”
A whispering rustle, leaves shaking. The starlings rose en masse from the trees behind where the cabins had once stood, their tiny bodies a black cloud in the sky that swirled for a heartstopping moment into the shape of huge angelic wings. Then they were gone, scattering to all corners.
Elena looked to Raphael, saw his gaze remained skyward. Her own, however, locked onto the Legion mark on his right temple. The lines were complex, forming into the shape of a stylized dragon with no softness to it. It blazed a dangerous blue lit with searing white fire, an artifact of an ancient power that lived in Raphael.
Elena lifted her fingers to brush the mark. “It’s afire.”
The Cascade begins again. I wonder how long this cycle will last, and if it will be the final one before the cataclysmic crescendo the Legion warn us is coming. Raphael’s voice was the sea at its calmest while treacherous currents swirled underneath. “Look up.”
Elena shivered, not wanting to see whatever it was that had captured an archangel’s attention. Not wanting to know why Raphael’s skin was suddenly brushed with a light that held edges of crimson. At the same time, she had to see, had to know the threat looming on the horizon.
She looked up.
The sky boiled as red and angry as the lava at their feet.
And the rain, when it fell, was almost hot enough to burn. Minuscule bullets fired into the snow, creating tens of thousands of tiny tunnels and causing the survivors to run for the shade of the trees.
None of that, however, was as bad as the haunting and old, old voice in Elena’s head that wasn’t her own: Child of mortals, your time comes. For one must die for one to live. A sigh drenched with a terrible sadness. You must die.
Chilled to the bone in more ways than one, Elena barely made it to the Enclave house as night began to fall in a cold curtain bright with starlight that cut. Her wing was no worse than when she’d first injured it, but she was exhausted. Her muscles ached. Her back felt as if it had been pummeled by a prizefighter. And her boots had turned into heavy cement blocks while she hadn’t been looking.
“I think I’m getting the flu,” she said to Sara on the phone, after collapsing on her back on the enormous bed in her and Raphael’s bedroom.
“Immortals don’t get the flu.”
“I’m only a fledgling immortal.” She could swear her bones had begun to ache too; maybe it was growing pains, a kind of immortal puberty.
She made a face at the horrifying thought. Puberty had been bad enough the first time around—she didn’t need a redo. “Was the rain hot in the city?”
“Melted the snow right down. Which means it’s now turned to ice—I almost brained myself three times on the walk home from the subway.”
A higher-pitched voice in the background, excited and fast.
“Come on, then”—Sara’s tone held a love intense enough to burn—“say night-night to Auntie Ellie.”
“Hi, Auntie Ellie! I gotta go to bed.” Words heavy with disappointment. “I made you a crossbow. I’m gonna paint it red for danger.”
Elena grinned despite her fluey exhaustion. “I can’t wait to see it.” Zoe Elena might be a girl of barely seven and a half, but she’d been “helping” Sara’s husband, Deacon, in his workshop since before she could walk. Six months ago, she’d graduated from plastic toy tools to miniature actual tools. “Give your mom extra kisses for me tonight.”
“Mwah! Mwah! Mwah!” Each word was accompanied by a loud smacking sound and Sara’s delighted laughter.
“Good night, cuddle bug,” Elena heard through the line, followed by a deeper voice responding to Zoe’s animated tones. Then Sara said, “Ellie, give me a minute to go tuck her in with Deacon.”
A knock sounded on Elena’s door at almost the same instant.
Levering herself up into a seated position with a small groan, her wings spread out on the bed behind her, Elena said, “Come in.”
Montgomery, handsome and precise in his black suit, his black hair newly cut, and his white shirt spotless, entered with a tray. “The sire asked Sivya to prepare a high-energy bite for you,” he said in his English-accented voice.
Elena’s heart did that mushy thing it only ever did for Raphael. The first time they’d ever met, he’d forced her to close her hand over a knife blade, cut herself until her blood dripped to create a dark splatter at her feet. Life and love had changed them both, until she could barely remember the cold and pitiless archangel who’d once hired her for a hunt unlike any other.
“Thanks, Montgomery. It looks like I’ve turned into an eating machine again.” Her stomach rumbled on cue as he put the tray onto a small table, then moved the entire thing closer to the bed. “Can you ask Sivya to make her special energy bars?” Elena’s immortal development surged and ebbed like the Cascade, with her body demanding enormous amounts of fuel during each surge phase.