Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(11)

Written By: Nalini Singh

After yesterday, that intruder had forced its way to the forefront of her consciousness.

Fingernails digging into her palms, she returned to the bedroom to pick up her phone. She didn’t currently have an active assignment, but she could put in some time teaching a class at Guild Academy—not as high visibility as a hunt, but perfect in its utter normality. However, as part of her contribution to Raphael’s “f*ck you,” she stopped at a rooftop coffee stand set up by a human shrewd enough to realize angels liked coffee, too.

She made herself laugh at the barista’s joke, heard phone cameras clicking quietly as the businesspeople from the building took advantage of her proximity to update their social media pages. Take that and smoke it, she thought to the unknown enemy who’d caused such carnage and loss. You might have managed to kill five of us, but you haven’t come close to breaking this city.

Anger a rock in her throat as she thought of the biers even now on their way to the Refuge, she took off in a showy sweep that ignited more photo taking, the coffee held in hand.

The head trainer at Guild Academy was more than happy to have her take the advanced crossbow class, the staff used to adjusting the schedule to take advantage of active hunters who had some downtime.

Lesson complete, she’d just walked onto the roof in preparation for takeoff toward Guild HQ when her phone rang. “Eve,” she said with a smile, “I was just thinking we needed to talk.” Much to Jeffrey’s anger and disgust—the damn hypocrite—Elena’s youngest half sister was also hunter-born.

“E-Ellie, can you c-come now?” Sobs in Eve’s usually ebullient voice.

Smile fading, Elena said, “Are you at school?” Both Evelyn and her older sister, Amethyst, had been boarders at a private school upstate until the bloody events there this past spring. It was in the aftermath that Eve’s hunting abilities had come to light, leading to a transfer to a private school closer to Guild Academy. Amethyst had chosen to come with her.

Eve sniffed. “Y-yes. I’m hiding.”

“I’m on my way.”

Her sister must’ve been watching for Elena from her hiding place, because she ran from around the imposing redbrick building just as Elena landed on the manicured lawn out front.

Eve had turned eleven a week earlier, but she appeared much younger today, her face blotchy, her sobs deep and silent and heartbreaking. “Sweetheart,” Elena said, waving off a teacher who’d appeared on the front steps.

The suit-clad older man frowned but returned through the heavy wooden doors carved with some kind of a crest.

Gathering Eve’s school-uniform-clad body in her arms, Elena gritted her teeth and achieved a vertical takeoff through sheer strength of will. According to every known fact of angelic development, she shouldn’t have been capable of the maneuver yet, her body not having formed the necessary musculature, but the idea of being grounded and helpless was untenable—so she’d learned to lift. It wasn’t graceful, and it hurt, but she could do it.

She caught the excitement at the school’s windows as they passed. Good. No one would tease Eve for her tears now; the other students would be more interested in her stories of flight. “It’s okay,” she said when Eve, realizing her feet were no longer on the ground, clutched at her. “I’ve got you.”

A few more sniffles before her sister began to crane her neck to see around Elena’s wings, her hair whipping in the wind. By the time they landed at the Enclave house, her face was gleeful, cheeks happily windburned.

“If you’re going to play hooky,” Elena said, relieved to see Eve’s tough spirit rising to the surface, “do it in style.”

That got her a bright-eyed grin, the gray of Eve’s irises a stamp Jeffrey had put on them both. “Can we do that again?”

“After we have a snack. Come on.” Walking past the house, dead certain Montgomery wouldn’t let her down, she took Eve to her greenhouse.

“Oooh.” Eve touched her fingers to the petals of a wildly blooming daisy inside the heated enclosure. “Did you grow this?”

“Yep. You should see this one.”

It was only three minutes later that Montgomery proved her faith in him once again.

“Hot chocolate and cakes for your guest, Guild Hunter,” he said, placing the tray he carried on the little wrought-iron table Elena had situated in a cozy corner the first time Sara came to visit.

“Thank you,” she said, aware of Eve standing politely by her side, hands folded in front of her. “I don’t think you’ve met my youngest sister, Evelyn.” Of her three living sisters, only Beth had been to the Angel Enclave house and she’d been so overawed she hadn’t spoken a peep the entire time. “Eve, this is Montgomery.”

An elegant bow. “Miss Evelyn.”

Eyes wide, Eve stuck out her hand. “Hi.”

Elena had never seen Montgomery shake anyone’s hand. Expecting him to be scandalized by the idea, she found herself charmed instead at the solemnity with which he accepted Eve’s hand.

“If you need anything further,” he said, after the formalities were over, “I will be at the house.”

Wiggling into one of the chairs at the table after the door closed behind Montgomery, Eve leaned in close to whisper, “Was he a butler?”

“The best one you’ll ever meet.” Picking up the gorgeous little teapot, Elena poured hot chocolate into delicate cups she’d never before seen, the edges curlicued and the white china surface painted with tiny pink flowers.