Archangel's Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11)

By: Nalini Singh

“Good night, cuddle bug,” Elena heard through the line, followed by a deeper voice responding to Zoe’s animated tones. Then Sara said, “Ellie, give me a minute to go tuck her in with Deacon.”

A knock sounded on Elena’s door at almost the same instant.

Levering herself up into a seated position with a small groan, her wings spread out on the bed behind her, Elena said, “Come in.”

Montgomery, handsome and precise in his black suit, his black hair newly cut, and his white shirt spotless, entered with a tray. “The sire asked Sivya to prepare a high-energy bite for you,” he said in his English-accented voice.

Elena’s heart did that mushy thing it only ever did for Raphael. The first time they’d ever met, he’d forced her to close her hand over a knife blade, cut herself until her blood dripped to create a dark splatter at her feet. Life and love had changed them both, until she could barely remember the cold and pitiless archangel who’d once hired her for a hunt unlike any other.

“Thanks, Montgomery. It looks like I’ve turned into an eating machine again.” Her stomach rumbled on cue as he put the tray onto a small table, then moved the entire thing closer to the bed. “Can you ask Sivya to make her special energy bars?” Elena’s immortal development surged and ebbed like the Cascade, with her body demanding enormous amounts of fuel during each surge phase.

“She begins even now,” Montgomery assured her.

Mouth already full of a delicious cheesy thing, Elena mumbled her appreciation. Montgomery’s eyes were smiling when he withdrew, closing the door behind himself. Elena put her phone on speaker then dug in.

“Ellie, you there?” Sara’s voice.

“Uh-huh,” Elena got out past the bite she’d just taken.

“Zoe will stretch things out for another half hour,” Elena’s best friend said affectionately. “Extra bedtime stories, bathroom visit, a glass of water—our little scam artist’s got every trick in the book down pat.”

“That’s my girl.” Elena took a drink of the vitamin-infused water on the tray. “I actually called to say I won’t make it for coffee tonight.”

“I figured that after I heard about the sinkhole. Is it bad?”

“One fatality.” She’d made the notification personally on her way home, hurt wing or not. Imani’s sadness had been all the more affecting for being so contained.

“Foolish boy,” she’d said quietly as the two of them stood in the midst of the eerily blooming rose garden. “Now he will never have a chance to gain wisdom.” Her lovely, sad eyes had met Elena’s. “You are tired and yet you offer me the respect of words spoken from your own lips.” An incline of her head. “I will not forget, Consort.”

Behind her, the roses stirred in a cold wind, petals falling to the snow.

Drops of blood red against pristine white.

Elena had left unsettled, the roses as unnerving as the unearthly voice in her head. That voice hadn’t spoken again after telling her she was going to die, and she hoped it’d stay silent forever. No one sane heard predictions of her own death from inside her own skull.

Talking to Sara was exactly the antidote she needed. After bringing her friend up to speed on the sinkhole, she said, “I managed to tear a muscle in my wing.” The increasing pain was why she’d returned ahead of Raphael—there was no point being in the field if she became a liability. “Senior healer did some work on it, slathered my shoulder in ointment then grounded me for the night.”

“How did you injure it?” Sara demanded, her tone curt in that way it got when she was worried. “Shouldn’t you be beyond that?”

Scowling, Elena told her best friend the worst of it. “Nisia said she’d only seen this injury on baby angels—actual babies—who were trying to do tricks before their bones hardened enough.” Needless to say, being compared to angelic infants who flew like drunk bumblebees had been excellent for Elena’s ego. “She thinks I must’ve been ‘too enthusiastic’ with my vertical takeoff this morning.”

“So it’ll heal?”

Elena swallowed her current mouthful before replying. “Within the week, but good news is I’m allowed to fly again come morning.” To lose the sky after gaining the beauty of flight would be a nightmare. “No verticals, but glides and low-speed wing movements are fine.”

Sara chuckled. “Remember that time you tore your hamstring jumping off a building on your first hunt?”

“Jeez, Jameisha tore a strip off me.” The now-retired Guild medic had been ancient even then, but they’d all been petrified of her wrath. “What’s she up to these days?”

“According to her last message, whatever the hell she damn well feels like,” Sara said in an excellent approximation of Jameisha’s croaky chain-smoker’s voice. “You should go rest,” she added afterward. “We can talk later.”

“No, I could use the company.” Grounded as she was, she’d just be eating and waiting for Raphael to get home otherwise. “What did you want to talk about?”