Archangel's Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11)

By: Nalini Singh

Sara took a long time to speak. “Archer,” she said at last.

Elena’s muscles bunched. Putting down the savory muffin she’d picked up, she leaned forward with her forearms on her thighs. “I’m still having trouble getting my head around it.” Hunters lived dangerous lives, but for Archer to have gone out the way he had, it just seemed wrong. “I half expect to find a message from him in my e-mail even though I went to the funeral, even though I know he’ll never message me again.”

Quinton Archer had been the Guild’s Slayer, the hunter charged with tracking down and executing those of their own kind who’d turned murderous. Hunters were trained killers after all, and had the expertise to avoid or eliminate anyone who stood in their path.

It took a hunter to track a hunter. It took the Slayer.

Archer had been so good at remaining unseen by skilled hunters that they’d called him the phantom. He’d been the Guild’s Slayer since Deacon stepped down from the position, but Elena had only met him about two years ago—at a dinner at Sara’s. The two of them had stayed in touch since; Elena knew he’d only given himself permission to begin the friendship because she existed outside the Guild. He’d never be called upon to track and execute her.

“It was seven months ago today that he died,” Sara shared softly. “I think about what his final moments might’ve been like each night when I close my eyes.”

Elena’s fingers clenched on the phone. “Do you think . . . ?”

“I don’t know.” Her best friend’s voice held the weight of what it meant to be director. “Losing his wife one year then his daughter the next messed him up—especially after he’d managed to get her into rehab, but he was upbeat the last time I saw him, said he had plans for the future. And the police confirmed skid marks on the road. It was just an accident on a rainy night.”

Elena nodded; better to believe that than to think strong, dangerous Archer had suicided by crashing his car into a closed gas station one dark, desolate night. The resulting fireball had lit up the entire surrounding town. “You need to fill his position,” she said, realizing it wasn’t only Archer’s death that haunted Sara but what it meant.

“Deacon stepped in on an interim basis,” her friend said. “But he can’t keep on carrying the load. There’s a reason he stopped being Slayer when we got together.”

“Yes.” Deacon wasn’t the kind of man who was threatened by female power; he and Sara would’ve never lasted had that been the case. But Sara desperately needed Deacon to be her husband and lover, never her subordinate. With him, she could lay down the mantle of Guild director and just be Sara as he was Deacon.

Deacon had also forged a new career path for himself; he was now a weapons-maker whose work was coveted by mortals and immortals both—to ask him to abandon that work would be to ask a gifted artist to lay down his tools. “Who are you thinking of?”

“That’s just it, Ellie.” Sara sounded as if she was moving, pacing. “Who do I ask to take this on? It’s a lonely, heartbreaking role. You saw how Archer was. The Guild is family to the rest of us, but the Slayer has to live in the shadows outside it.”

Elena thought of how Archer had never accepted an invitation that included other mortal hunters, how he’d only ever had a drink with her when it was just her and Ashwini or Honor. All hunters now associated with the Tower and thus beyond the Slayer’s purview. “The new Slayer will have me, Ash, Honor, and of course you and Deacon.”

“I just . . . I worry about him, too.” Sara lowered her voice. “He left that life behind years ago, but he’s stepped back into the darkness for me.”

Elena would never know all of Deacon’s demons, but she could imagine the toll being Slayer took on a man. “I could act as his backup once my wing heals,” she offered.

“Ellie. That’s not why I wanted to talk—I just need to vent, and Deacon’s already handling so much.” A sense of Sara pausing. “I’d never ask you to go after another hunter.”

History was a whisper of evil and a race against time between them.

“It’s all right, Sara. I did what was needed.” Or Bill James would’ve gone on killing young boys. “I’ve made my peace with it—and if you appoint me Slayer, the Guild will never have to worry about appointing another one.”

The idea of executing rogue hunters through time had her stomach twisting violently, but evil had to be stopped. Even when it came from your own family. “I’m stronger than anyone else in the Guild,” she pointed out. “Less liable to get wounded during the hunt.”

But Sara wasn’t open to accepting her offer. What she wanted was Elena’s input on creating a shortlist. Elena gave it without withdrawing her candidacy for the difficult position. She also forced herself to continue eating. Her pants were already loose—if she kept losing weight at this rate, one of these days she’d flash all of New York when her pants fell right off.