Archangel's Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11)

By: Nalini Singh

Elena nodded with equal solemnity. “An intriguing hypothesis, Professor Kapur. Perhaps you should apply for a VPA research grant.”

As Vivek cracked up at her reference to the Vampire Protection Authority—which seemed to exist to slap guild hunters with “excessive force” violations, usually while the hunters were still bleeding from vampire bites and clawings—Sara said, “If you two comedians are finished, I need you to haul ass, Ellie. Angel involved is very senior and very angry. Name’s Imani.”

Elena could’ve resigned from the Guild years ago. Being Consort to the Archangel of New York tended to tie up a woman’s time. But she’d clung to the Guild with her fingernails, being a hunter as much a part of her psyche as breathing. Even more so because she was hunter-born: a bloodhound with the capacity to track vampires by scent.

Rusted oak, champagne, sugar mixed with camphor, a cascade of flowers.

Just four scents among the millions in the world. Her brain had the capacity to narrow down a particular scent to a particular vampire. Vivek, for example, was cold and fresh river water and a vivid burst of aquamarine shards. She knew the latter wasn’t a scent, but it was the only way she’d found to describe what she picked up around her friend.

As for the angel-tracking ability she’d begun to develop after waking as an angel, that remained erratic at best and nonexistent at worst.

“I know Imani,” she said to Sara.

“I was hoping you’d say that. She’s . . . touchy.”

That was one word for the angel in question. “I’ll calm her down.”

“I’ve sent the details to your phone. You want a necklet?”

“No, I’ll be fine.” No point detouring to Guild HQ for the vampire immobilization device when she already had the advantage of wings as well as a droplet of immortal strength. Not much. Laughable when compared to angelkind, but she was now much harder to hurt than any other hunter in the Guild. “If I can’t haul back a runner on my own, I need to be put in Guild remedial school.”

As Vivek grinned, Sara said, “Come by tonight for a coffee. I want to talk to you about something.”

“I’ll be there.” Hanging up, Elena pointed a finger at Vivek. “I do not withdraw my challenge about your most recently created word.”

“Your funeral.” Vivek had on his Scrabble poker face. “I’ll save the game to continue the next time you’re in.” A beep sounded behind him in the surveillance control center.

Turning his wheelchair around using his hands, he went to check on the alert. After much anguish, he’d retired his previous high-tech and networked electronic chair—the manual chair gave him a way to exercise his upper body without having to spend even longer with the physiotherapists. He’d bulked up considerably in the past couple of years, his shoulders strong and his arm muscles defined.

“Ellie, hey, wait.” He flicked up an image onto one of his many screens. “Signs of seismic activity out by the Catskills.”

“Shit.” She stared at the jagged lines that danced across the screen, her stomach suddenly in knots and images of the sparrows blazing to the forefront of her mind. One word loomed large in her thoughts: “Cascade.”

A confluence of time and unknown critical events that had ignited a power surge in the archangels who ruled the world, with a side-helping of random cataclysmic occurrences, the Cascade had demonstrated a tendency to spike then flatline as it built toward an endgame none of them could predict. It had been two and a half years since the last resurgence—back during her and Raphael’s trip to Morocco—and she’d been hoping the damn thing would go from dormant to stone dead.

Elena was sick of fucking zombies, impossible diseases that struck angels from the sky, and storms and quakes that left scars in the earth. Oh, and let’s not forget the Hudson turning crimson, as if the city was bleeding. That had been just lovely. “How bad?”

“Too deep and too weak for humans to feel. And it looks like I have a report from the seismic people at the university.” He read the e-mail. “Movement tagged as standard settling of the land. Only picked up because they’re testing the super-sensitive new equipment the Tower helped finance.”

Stomach unknotting, Elena blew out a quiet breath. No Cascade-linked insanity, then. No need to put on her tinfoil hat and start yelling about the end of the world. Just a tiny—normal—tremor deep in the earth. “Ping me if you get any more alerts, and make sure Dmitri knows too. I better get going on this hunt.”

Vivek swiveled his wheelchair around. “Happy hunting.” In his eyes, dark and intense, lived a feral hunger. It was as if his transition to vampirism had splintered more than two decades of grim-willed control.

Because Vivek, too, was hunter-born, the hunt in his blood.

That he hadn’t gone mad long ago was a testament to his incredible resolve. Elena had used him as backup on two recent jobs where he could situate himself on a rooftop and cover her using a sniper’s rifle. A number of other hunters had pulled him in the same way. For now, that seemed to be enough to take the edge off. “You, too,” she said with a nod at his control center. “Say hi to your man-crush for me.”