Archangel's Prophecy (Page 71)
“This isn’t like high-resolution photography, Ellie. All I got was the date and the knowledge it was our girl in the ground.” Ashwini carried on. “Janvier managed to dig up that she appeared on the streets maybe three months before her father found her. She was new, so our informants noticed—fresh meat.”
The echo of Jeni’s description of herself made the hairs prickle on the back of Elena’s neck. Nothing unusual about that in a conversation with Ashwini—the other hunter had a way of existing just out of time.
“She was already experimenting with drugs by then, and word on the street is that Nishant Kumar supplied her to get her on-camera.” Edgy words. “One of our informants kept a clip from one of the recordings on his phone. He pirated it off a porn site. ‘Degrading’ is the word I’d use. Wasn’t about the sex but about humiliation. Real hard-core, brutal humiliation. Janvier had to stop me from beheading our informant. Then he turned around and nearly tore off the fucker’s head. Lost that informant for sure. Oh, well.”
“Harrison was friends with these assholes.” Elena kicked at the snow on the balcony, careful to do it away from the owls. “I have him in a photo with them and Lucy before she began to look like a junkie.”
“I’ve got bubkes on your brother-in-law so far. Call you back if we unearth more.”
Elena put away her phone and bent to pick up the three feathers she’d lost earlier. Walking through the phalanx of owls, she dropped those feathers plus the poor black one she’d crushed, over the edge of the balcony in her own personal good-bye. Two more lost primaries wouldn’t ground her, but at the rate they were shedding, she’d lose her ability to fly by the end of the day.
Tiredness was already beginning to infiltrate her bones, her back aching. Mind strangely clear, she decided that if this was to be her last day with wings, she’d fly her heart out. She’d be careful, not fly alone and land the instant it became dangerous, but she’d wring every last drop of wonder out of her dream of flight.
Streamers of white over the back of her hand, her bones shoving up in jagged peaks against her skin. Elena pushed off the visible filaments and rubbed at her face to ensure nothing was sticking there. Her palms came away with fine white strands. “Great.” She scowled at the owls. “Now I’m going to grow a beard?”
Spreading their wings, they flew off into the heavy gray-blue sky, fading into nothingness in front of her eyes as the spot on her chest, the dark mirror, began to pulse like a second heartbeat.
You could stop now, lower the chances of meeting the broken blade, the mourner.
Elena discarded that thought as soon as it arose. If she flinched and left Beth and Maggie in danger, she’d die inside anyway. Elena Deveraux was no coward; she’d face her reckoning head-on. “Archangel,” she murmured, searching the skies for him, though she’d sent him away herself.
A black fear crept insidiously through her veins.
“The last feather to fall,” she reminded herself, glancing back. “Yep, got plenty yet.” Spreading her wings, she prepared to take off.
Her phone rang.
It was Dmitri on the other end. “Harrison’s awake. Talk to him before he starts thinking about trying to cover his a*s.”
“Have you heard from Raphael?”
“Geothermal field is unstable, but he’s close to achieving containment.”
“Ten dead, double that wounded. Without Raphael, it would’ve been in the hundreds.”
Saddened at the loss of life but relieved her archangel was safe, Elena ran to the infirmary, found Nisia with her brother-in-law. The healer was bent over him, her attention on his no-longer-bandaged neck wound. It appeared a macabre mouth, the flesh red and wet and the skin around it dark.
“How bad is it?” Harrison croaked, his gaze on Elena.
“You won’t win any beauty contests,” she said, “but you’ll live.”
Exhaling, her brother-in-law closed his eyes for a long moment before opening them again and saying, “I need to talk to her.” Halting but determined words directed at Nisia.
The healer looked between the two of them. “Five minutes,” she said firmly. “Talk fast.”
Elena shut the door behind Nisia then came to sit on the chair beside Harrison’s bed. “You heard her. We only have five minutes. You need to tell me what you’re involved in, Harrison. No bullshit.”
“Beth, she was here?” Dread skittered in his eyes. “I didn’t imagine it? Maggie is safe?”
“Both Beth and Maggie are fine.” It was obvious he wouldn’t be able to talk about anything until he was satisfied on that point. “Maggie never saw you like this—she thinks you’re away for work.”
Shuddering, Harrison croaked, “Eve? Is she okay?”
“Eve is tough.” Though she had to like Harrison for being worried about her. “Does this have to do with a girl called Lucy?”
Harrison’s pupils dilated, his breath escalating in speed. “I never hurt her,” he said. “I never touched her, and—”
“This isn’t about blame.” Elena fought to keep her tone curt and businesslike. “I just want to protect Beth and Maggie.” And get justice for Lucy. “Tell me all of it,” she ordered Harrison. “If you love them, don’t try to cover your a*s, and just give it to me straight.”
“I met Lucy in a bar,” he rasped “It’s not what you think. I wasn’t on the prowl.” A tremor of breath. “I was meeting friends for a drink and they were late and she came up and started talking to me. I told her I was married and in love with my wife and little girl, and she said I might be her perfect man.”
Elena fed him chips of ice from the cup on the bedside table.
Melting the ice on his tongue, Harrison swallowed. “I laughed and flirted with her a little. I was flattered she’d hit on me but I never crossed any lines.” Desperate eyes clinging to Elena’s. “I knew I was going home to Beth and I wasn’t going to f**k that up. Then Nishant and Terence arrived, and I introduced her to them. I was the reason she met them.”
“I literally said, ‘Lucy, these are my friends Nish and Terry.’ After, Nish bought her a drink, and the four of us chatted for a few minutes. Lucy was open about having a thing for vampires and wanting a vampire boyfriend.” He licked his dry lips. “I never knew so many women were into that until I was Made.”
Vamp groupies lived for the thrill of danger that came with fangs in the throat. “Was this bar known to be popular with vampires?”
Harrison nodded. “Najat’s not a ‘get drunk’ bar. More a ‘have a drink with friends after work’ kind of place.” He gratefully accepted more ice chips. “Eric and Simon came in about ten minutes after,” he said when he could speak again.
“I didn’t know them except in passing, but Nish and Terry did. All four were post-Contract and older, and I could tell Lucy was attracted to that. She asked the barmaid to take a photo of us all maybe half an hour later. Andreas called me in for some unexpected work right after, and I left the bar.”
Another quick inhale. “I swear on Maggie’s life that I didn’t do anything but introduce Lucy to people I thought were friends. I knew they were into drugs, but I thought it was a hit now and then. Recreational. And Lucy was smart, nicely dressed, confident talking with them. I didn’t worry she couldn’t handle herself.”