Archangel's Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11)

By: Nalini Singh

“Next time you will not have a chance to argue with me. I will do what must be done to care for my consort.”

“Come, Your Archangelness.” Laughter in the curve of her lips as she teased him, a fading of the lines around her eyes. “Montgomery brought me more goodies to feed my bottomless pit of a stomach.” Scrunching up her nose at the demands her body placed on her as it grew deeper into immortality, she said, “I haven’t got any alcohol out here, so I’ll fix you a coffee and you can tell me about what’s happening at the sinkhole.”

“As in the old movie we saw where the wife waits for her husband with a hot meal and perfectly groomed hair?”

“Don’t forget the pink frilly apron,” said the woman whose hair was escaping her braid in curling tendrils around a face that bore a smudge of dirt—and whose body generally bristled with knives.

Far more at home with such a welcome, Raphael ran his hand down the glory of her wing as she moved to the part of her workbench that held the trays of food and drink. “We’ve finished erecting the fence around the sinkhole.” Raphael had assisted in shifting the necessary building materials—an archangel could fly with considerably more than even his most senior angels.

The construction itself had been done by a mix of human and vampiric firms. The line between mortals, and vampires and angels remained, must remain; but Raphael’s city functioned great deal more cohesively than most. The battle with Lijuan followed by the rebuilding process had forged certain ties of loyalty and cooperation.

“You built in the windows I suggested?”

“Do not worry, Elena, your curious cats will not pay a fatal price.” Smash-proof, the viewing panels had been placed at a number of points around the fence. “Angelic guards will prevent others from overflying the lava.” While the furious burst of unknown energy had pushed Elena out of danger, that could’ve been nothing but luck.

And the idea of her life hanging on such a slim thread was enough to freeze Raphael’s breath in his lungs. “Honor spoke with a number of scholars who study the earth.” Dmitri’s wife was a scholar of growing renown in her own field of ancient cultures and languages. “All agree there should be no lava at that location and depth. It is not a thing of nature.”

Pouring coffee into a mug, Elena knit her brow. “It sounds suspiciously like how Naasir and Andromeda described finding Alexander.”

“Alexander has a gift for metals. He deliberately created a barrier that would protect his Sleeping body.”

After passing him the coffee, Elena began to pluck the browned leaves off one of her plants. “Is there a chance we’ve got a Sleeping archangel or Ancient below your territory?”

“If an Ancient chose to Sleep in this place before it became mine, I would have no way of knowing.” Even the most powerful immortals gave off no energy while they Slept, the reason why they could rest without being interrupted.

Putting the potted plant back in its hanging basket, Elena moved on to the next one on her bench. “It’d be bad, wouldn’t it?” She met him with those eyes of penetrating gray that had become more and more true silver as her immortality advanced. “If another archangel woke up.”

“It would fracture the fragile balance of the world.” Lijuan’s disappearance had alleviated the rising pressure that had resulted from eleven archangels being awake at once. The Cadre of Ten had run at a lower number at times during angelic history, but never at a higher one. The world was not big enough to separate out that many devastating powers.

“If another archangel does wake,” he said, “we cannot guarantee that their demands will be like my mother’s.” Caliane hadn’t insisted on a large territory upon waking, content with a small part of Japan. Alexander, by contrast, had wanted all his former territory.

“Just having that many archangels awake . . .”

“Yes.” Too many archangels too close together led inevitably to war and death and destruction. Even Raphael’s parents had not been able to stay together always. Love, deep and perhaps a touch mad, had softened the edges of Caliane’s and Nadiel’s power against each other, but it hadn’t erased it.

“Catch.” Elena threw him a flower that had gone a spotted brown, its petals crumpled inward.

Plucking it out of the air, he closed his hand around it. When he opened it again, on his palm lay a blush-pink rose with edges of gold.

Elena’s smile made him feel a proud youth who had pleased his equally young lover. “I can’t get over how you do that.” Taking the bloom from his hand, she brought it to her nose and breathed deep, her eyelashes lowering, luxuriant fans far darker than her hair. Then, the scent in her lungs, she tucked the rose behind her ear.

“It is a parlor trick.” Raphael flexed his hand. “I’d be more pleased if my ability to heal had not stagnated since the previous Cascade surge. At times it seems as if it is becoming less potent.”

“What about the other archangels?” Elena bit off part of a homemade energy bar, and he thought her wrist looked too thin. “Do you know if any of them have developed stronger powers over the course of this pause?”