Archangel's Prophecy (Page 77)
“I’m not hiding,” he said, his voice cold. “I’m hunting.” He swung out with the sword.
Elena danced back . . . and almost tripped on a limp wing. Managing to catch herself at the last moment, she held her feet while blocking his blow. Careful, Ellie, she reminded herself as Archer moved back. Use your knives and Ash’s stars.
She threw the first star . . . and a sudden wind ripped it off course. Skin cold, she realized it would be a sword fight.
Her opponent had the advantage of not just the tight space but a slightly longer reach. Elena threw knives and two of the remaining stars without warning. The wind interrupted again—but one knife got through.
Hissing at the pain, Archer ripped out the blade she’d embedded in his bicep and threw it aside, but he kept his distance from her. His eyes flicked to the Dumpster that hid Ashwini’s body. “She’s one of them, too,” he said. “Vampire sympathizers don’t deserve mercy.”
“I’m not going to argue that Eric Acosta, Simon Blakely, Nishant Kumar, and Terence Lee didn’t deserve their punishment.”
Archer’s eyes narrowed. “Then why are you standing in my way?”
“Because you’re punishing people who did nothing wrong. Harrison didn’t set Samaria up. He didn’t bring her to the Quarter, didn’t abuse her. As the pawn shop owners didn’t steal her jewelry—she chose to pawn it for money.”
Color flushed his cheeks, rage glittering in his eyes. “She would’ve never been in that position if it wasn’t for the blood-sucking monsters who prey on girls like her. Monsters and their cattle who lead others to slaughter.”
Elena realized with shock that he was talking about Jenessa, whose only crime had been in clinging to Samaria/Lucy as a friend. “Your rules are changing.” Elena was having trouble moving, numbness at her toes and at the very tips of her hands. “You’re going after people who never laid a finger on your daughter.”
Archer lowered himself into a fighting stance. “I guess your brother-in-law sleeps well at night because he doesn’t think feeding the monsters equals being a monster himself. My girl, my sweet Samaria would still be alive and breathing instead of rotting in the ground if he’d driven her home that night!”
“She was an adult, Archer! Harrison couldn’t drag her away from the bar!”
“You know nothing about her.” Archer began to advance again, flashing out with his sword and moving at lethal speed. Elena should’ve backed off to give herself more room, but she couldn’t do so without exposing Ashwini. Archer’s sword, she knew, would slice through Ash’s neck like a hot knife through butter.
She began throwing knives with one hand, peppering the air with metal, while she used the slender blade of her sword to slam up against his. The vibration rang down her quivering arm, but the weapon held.
A sudden assault she pulled out of nowhere as her heart strained. Archer lost enough ground to give her breathing room and hope that the other two Legion fighters were up and on their way. Elena capitalized on her advantage by spinning a blade star toward him. The wind changed its trajectory enough that the lethal edge just grazed the side of his neck.
Giving a bloodthirsty yell, Archer came at her, sword raised. The wind dropped to dead calm, giving him no resistance. Out of throwing knives and stars, Elena went to evade him, her intent to slide out her legs and trip him . . . but her body failed her. Something snapped in her leg, causing her to stumble clumsily . . . and Archer thrust his sword through her stomach.
She looked down at the razor-sharp metal buried in her abdomen, the point coming out her back, and she thought of her archangel. No. F**k destiny. But her rebellious thoughts were hazy at the edges, her blood running down to pool in the dirty snow.
Archer drew back his sword.
As she crumpled to her knees in the cold, she saw that the sword was red.
Raphael didn’t bother to waste words on the man whose sword dripped with Elena’s blood. A single surge of power and that man was ash. Raphael cared nothing for who he was or his motivation in harming Elena. He cared only for the hunter with hair of near-white who knelt in the bloody snow, her hands clamped over the gushing wound in her stomach and her eyes watching him land.
A soft smile on her face when he reached her. “You are magnificent in flight.” It was a whisper almost without sound. “Ash . . .”
“Help comes.” He’d alerted Janvier and every other vampire and angel he trusted in the vicinity when the ghostly owls had appeared around him, warning him to go to Elena.
But no one had found his heart, his Elena, in time.
The owls had led him here on white wings while Raphael pushed his immortal body to the limit, his wings of white fire repudiating his attempts at preternatural speed. He was sweat-soaked, his heartbeat a roar, but the owls were unchanged. They sat silent and solemn around Elena’s mortally wounded body.
A motorcycle crashed to the road as Janvier ran down the dark lane to his wife.
“Your friend is safe,” Raphael told his hunter, because he knew that mattered to her.
A sigh. “Sorry . . .” Blood coughed out of her mouth. “Had . . . so many feathers left . . . when I started. Thought . . . could fight fate.”
Cradling her in his arms, his wings solid and aglow, Raphael lifted up into the air as two Legion fighters rose from the dead. He told them to stay with Janvier and Ashwini.
“F**k fate,” he said in response to her words. “We’ll write our own future.” And in that future, Raphael would not have a dead consort.
Child of the flames.
To be called a “child” by anyone but his mother was a strange thing for Raphael, but Cassandra was older than an Ancient. To her, he was barely formed. Cassandra, he said, I thank you for the warning.
It had not come soon enough, but he’d found Elena while she yet had life in her body. Now he flew his consort not to the Tower but to their home. He’d already ordered Nisia to meet him there. Elena would not want to be seen this way by those in the Tower. She was a warrior, her strength her armor.
Fate realigns. She must die for the other to live.
Jaw hard, Raphael landed on the snow outside their home.
“Raphael.” Elena’s voice, so thin now. “My wings . . .”
Raphael’s skin burned with golden lightning. “They will heal.” He’d fight the Cascade itself to make that happen.
“No.” Shallow breaths, her hazy eyes finding his. “Cut them off. They’re dead.”
Rage tore through him because she was right; her wings were nothing but heavy protrusions pulling at her spine, limp and without strength. And yet, to strip his Elena of her wings? “Hbeebti?” It was a plea.
“I’m sorry, Archangel.” Her body swaying into his. “Please.”
She could’ve shot him again and again and it would’ve hurt less.
He shifted her in his embrace so that she was “standing” against him. Her blood dripped to the snow. Barely able to see through his angry grief, he used his power to cleanly excise both wings from her back, searing the wound shut as he went. They fell bloody and broken to the snow.
A burst of power and her wings were ash.
He would not have Elena see her amputated wings. Cradling her against his chest again, he ran into the house.
Montgomery’s face was a study in horror, but his butler snapped to action. “I will bring supplies to help with the wounds.”