Archangel's Prophecy (Page 76)
Fighting her primal need to assure Beth’s and Maggie’s safety herself, she said, “You have the lead,” to Ash. “You want the sword?”
“No, I have my stars.” Razor-sharp edges glinting in her hand, Ashwini moved forward with slow caution, using the nearest Dumpster for cover. Elena watched her back, her crossbow held at the ready as they crept down into the dark. The last remaining member of the Legion took position atop the wall at the end of this accessway.
It was inevitable they’d be exposed at certain points. Their target had hunkered down, while they had to keep on moving.
Ashwini angled her head toward a graffiti-splattered door on the left. Elena turned that way at the same time, but they were both too late. The Slayer fired through the wood.
Elena slammed back to the wall and out of the way, saw Ashwini move to do the same . . . But the other woman crumpled instead, blood blooming on the muddy snow.
“Ash!” Twisting to slam multiple crossbow bolts through the door in rapid progression, the powerful bolts splintering the door to find home on the other side, Elena ran to her fallen friend. The Legion fighter landed in front of them, a crossbow in his hand.
“He got me in the leg,” Ashwini said with a painful wince. She had her hand clamped over the wound. “It’s not a major artery. Prop me up behind the Dumpster and go after him—Archer’s lost his f*****g mind.”
Elena hauled Ashwini to safety and made sure the other woman had her weapon. “See if you can hail down help.” Even if Cassandra’s owls had gone to Raphael, it had only been a short time ago. He was unlikely to make it here in the next few minutes—Elena wasn’t going to count on the startling burst of speed that had brought him to her when she collapsed.
The Cascade was never that obliging.
“I know the people around here,” Ashwini assured her through a grimace, her hand continuing to clamp down on her wound. “No one will hurt me. Go.”
Elena looked at the destroyed door and knew she couldn’t fit through. Her wings were too wide. Then she realized . . . her wings were already dead. Numb. She was shedding feathers at a phenomenal rate. Several lay in the snow around them. She couldn’t slice off the wings without causing open, bleeding wounds on her back, but she also no longer had to worry about damage.
“Elena.” The Legion fighter moved in front of her. “You are wounded.”
“This must be done—and you are my Legion.”
“Yes.” He turned. “I will go first.”
“Agreed.” The Legion could fight like berserkers.
She angled her body through the door after him. The jagged edges gouged into her abused wings, more feathers torn off to lie against the rucked-up snow outside. Inside, the closed restaurant smelled of garlic and tomatoes and cleaning solution.
Good to know they had excellent hygiene.
Too bad about the blood she’d streak on the floors as she walked through with her wings dragging behind her. She or the Guild would send the owners a check for the cleanup and the door.
Her stomach twisted on itself, hunger striking at the worst moment.
Ignoring it, she unsheathed her sword with soundless grace. She’d chosen a scabbard lined with softness for this very reason. No point getting that glorious unsheathing sound if it put you in the crosshairs. She padded across the large kitchen space . . . just as a door banged against a wall.
Her eyes snapped forward.
This restaurant spanned not one but two properties. Archer had exited out a second door she’d assumed belonged to another restaurant. He was in the back accessway with Ashwini . . . and Elena didn’t trust Archer to remember that Ash was a friend.
“Go! Go! Go!”
The Legion fighter rushed in Archer’s wake, while she raced back the way she’d come. Dragging herself through the splintered doorway, she slammed her booted feet onto the ground before Archer was halfway down the accessway, Ash safely hidden by the bulk of a Dumpster to her back right. Elena was poised to move in an attempt to avoid bullets, but the former Slayer was already turning to shoot behind him.
Elena went to scream a warning, but the Legion fighter had learned from watching his brethren fall. He used his sword to deflect the bullets. Ducking, Elena realized she risked being hit by a deflection if she went any closer—and the fighter didn’t need her help.
But she reached to reload her crossbow anyway. Her forearm sheath proved empty of bolts, so she went for the one on her thigh . . . to find it gone. Torn or fallen off at some point. Likely when the Legion fighter fell out of the sky and hit her on the side.
She still had knives—plenty of them—and the sword.
“Ash, you have a gun?”
“Yeah,” Ashwini said, “but it’s jammed.”
F*****g Cascade. It was bullying hands on her back shoving her toward a destiny she DID NOT CHOOSE!
Elena took four stars from her friend and fellow hunter, and only then noticed Ashwini’s paleness. “Ash?”
“Lost too much blood.” Her lids lowered. “Vamp. Will survive. Janvier will have heard from stree . . .”
The world went silent, Archer out of bullets. For a searing instant of relief, she thought this was it: Archer’s end and the end of the prophecy. But she should’ve remembered he was a Slayer.
Throwing aside the gun, he used his other hand to release a spin of razor-sharp blade stars even as the Legion fighter’s sword whistled down toward Archer’s neck. Two blade stars stuck in the Legion fighter’s eyes, blinding him.
Ocular fluid ran down his cheeks.
Archer had his sword out and had beheaded the fighter before Elena could throw her own blade stars. Her vision had become blurry at the edges at the critical instinct, refused to clear. But she stood facing Archer, not willing to let him escape.
“No spare gun?” she said, her chest heaving. All she had to do was keep him talking. The two Legion fighters who’d gone down first would soon appear. “Oversight, huh?”
Avoiding the knives she’d launched his way under the cover of conversation, Archer pulled out the sword he wore in a scabbard down the side of his pants. His brown hair was disordered, his upper body clad in a thick but ragged sweater he must’ve grabbed during his escape—maybe from that raving homeless man—and from his dark pants wafted the scent of sugared doughnuts and cold air.
Old blood invisible against the black.
His eyes were hyper-focused. “You’re one of them now, Ellie,” he said, dead calm. “You think immortal life gives you the right to treat mortals like disposable dolls.”
“Not sure if you’ve noticed, Archer,” Elena said, “but I’m not exactly immortal.” Her wings were dragging weights at her back, and she could see streaks of blood on the sharp edges of the doorway into the restaurant.
“You’ll heal.” No anger in his tone, just that same inexorable calm as he moved his sword in a stance of readiness.
Elena brought up her own sword. She was better with a crossbow than a sword, but she was no novice swordswoman. The real problem was that Archer’s sword was much heavier. Hers wouldn’t last long against his, but it didn’t need to last long. Elena wasn’t here for a swordfight. She was here to end this however she could.
“It’s over,” she said to the seasoned hunter in front of her. “You know it’s over. There’s no way you can hide now.”