Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(2)

Written By: Nalini Singh

Complex, intelligent, once-insane, Raphael’s mother wasn’t a woman who could be put easily into any kind of a category. The Ancient had left her son broken and bloodied on a forsaken field an eon ago, but she’d also risen perilously early from a centuries-long Sleep to save the life of that same son. “When’s the ball?”

“In less than two weeks.”

“I’ll make sure my jewels are glittering and my nails done.”

Raphael’s lips curved again as she slid away the knife and held out her hands to display unpolished nails clipped hunter-short. The back of her left hand was bruised from a tussle with a recalcitrant vampire she’d retrieved for the Guild a few hours before, and her palms, when she flipped over her hands, proved to have a plethora of calluses.

Even her newly immortal body couldn’t erase those calluses, not when she worked constantly with weapons. “I don’t think a manicure is going to cut it.”

“Should you ever touch me with court-softened hands, I will know an imposter walks in your skin.”

Some women might’ve taken his words as an insult; they made Elena want to initiate a very public, very hot kiss. “So,” she said, promising herself she’d indulge that particular need as soon as they were alone, “what’s the other piece of news?”

“Perhaps I should take your weapons first.”

Elena tried to think of what could be worse than attending a ball with the most powerful, most vicious angels and vampires in the world, and came up with, “My father wants to have dinner with us?”

“No, it is not Jeffrey.” The suddenly brutal angle of his jawline made his opinion of her father clear. “Come, we cannot talk of this where we may be overheard.” Stepping a little away from her, his wing sliding off her own, he said, “Do you wish to attempt a vertical takeoff?”

Elena thought of the number of witnesses, pitted that fact against the straining effort it would take for her to get aloft. That teeth-gritting struggle would betray weakness in a way that would reflect not only on her, but on Raphael—and an archangel could never be seen as weak, for the sake of mortals and immortals alike.

In all probability, she’d have made a different choice even a few months ago, she’d been fighting so hard to retain her sense of self in the new world into which she’d been thrust. Now she understood far more about the intricacies of the balance of power in the world, understood, too, that while Raphael might occasionally frustrate her with his protectiveness, he had no desire to clip her wings.

“No, not here.” Walking into his arms, she folded back her wings, and he took them effortlessly into the air, his hold steel around her waist, his heartbeat strong and steady.

Crashing waves and the salt-laced sea, rain clean and bright, that was Raphael’s mental scent and it lingered in her every breath, made her body ache. Always, he made her ache. Shifting slightly in his hold, she pressed her lips to his throat, felt his pulse speed up.

“Would you dance with me above Manhattan?”

Her breath caught at the sensual murmur, the idea of their bodies and wings intertwined in the rawly sexual act pure adrenaline in her blood. “Not yet. I don’t think I’m that brave.” Raphael might possess the archangelic ability to shield them from all sight, but she would still be able to see the city below. “I like dancing with you above the sea.” Loved feeling the sheer power of him as they plummeted from lethal heights to hit the water. “Tonight?”

“I am seduced.” Easing his hold above the cloud layer, he claimed her mouth for a darkly passionate kiss that made her breasts tighten, her body eager for the wild promise of the night. “Ready?” he asked when their lips parted, his body hard against her own.

At her nod, he removed his arm from around her waist and she fell through the gossamer kiss of the clouds . . . to unfold her wings and circle up on an updraft, the exhilaration of flight in no way lessened by the fact that she’d had a year to get used to the astonishing wonder of it. Is it urgent? she asked. What we have to discuss?

Not so urgent that we cannot fly.

Looking up, she watched him wing his way higher and higher with breathtaking ease, until he was a faraway dot in the sky . . . then felt her heart stop as he dropped, a sleek arrow of white-gold that shot past her, accelerating until she could see people screaming in the park below. A second before what would’ve been terminal impact for a mortal, Raphael spread his wings and shot back up.

You terrified everyone. Her own pulse was in her mouth, her blood thunder in her ears.

Humans need to be terrified every so often. It keeps them from crossing lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

You ever think maybe archangels should be challenged once in a while? she countered. That it’d take care of the whole arrogance issue?

Anyone may challenge me.

When he executed a turn toward the Hudson, Elena followed, the river winds riffling through the strands of hair that had escaped her braid. How can people challenge you when they’re so afraid?

It didn’t stop you.

Well, he did have her there. But—I’ve always had a dash of crazy in me.

Flying wing to wing with him, she swept out over the water, following the river north, before turning to head to their house in the Angel Enclave. Situated along the cliffs on the opposite side of the Hudson from Manhattan, it was a magnificent building that offered sweeping views of the city, but for Elena, it was simply home.