Archangel's Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11)

By: Nalini Singh

A raised middle finger before he turned back to the screens that flowed with data. “Come back when you’re ready to get massacred on the Scrabble board.”

Leaving the Tower’s tech hub with a final “You made up that word!”—to which Vivek called out, “Illiterate Luddite!”—she read the details of the job on her way to her and Raphael’s Tower suite. All she had on her were knives, and she liked to take a weapon with distance reach when on a retrieval.

Droplet of immortal strength or not, arrogance was a good way to get dead.

Just last week, Ransom had barely escaped being disemboweled by an aggressive vampire’s disgusting dirty claws. Some people had no sense of good hygiene. As it was, Ransom’s treasured leather jacket hadn’t escaped the attempted mauling unscathed.

He’d still be sulking over it if his wife hadn’t managed to source a near-identical jacket from who-knew-where: Librarians obviously had stellar research skills. And librarians married to guild hunters had nerves of steel. Per Ransom, his wife had told him to hose himself clean of the vampire blood before he set foot in their home.

Demarco had snorted when Ransom relayed that story, the shaggy blond of his hair in serious need of a cut. “I wouldn’t obey my wife’s orders like that—you gotta be the man in the relationship, wear the pants.”

“Sure,” Ransom had drawled, unperturbed. “I’ll pass your words of wisdom on to Nyree the next time she talks about inviting your sorry ass over for dinner. Enjoy the moldy bread in your fridge.”

Laughing at the memory of how Demarco had clutched at his heart and fallen off his chair, Elena entered the suite. She grabbed her crossbow first and strapped it to her left thigh. Lightweight, with the extra bolts carried in a new flat quiver she would strap to her other thigh, she treasured and babied it like it was “her precious.”

Ransom’s words.

Also true.

She decided against a gun; she kept up her training, but the crossbow combined with blades was more her thing. Today, she slid a long blade into the sheath that ran down her back. The near-white of her hair was already in a tight braid, and she had her chunky hunting knife in her boot, so all that was left for her to do was check that the knives she wore in her forearm sheaths were all snugly slotted in and she was done.

Striding across the thick carpet of the living area, she opened the doors that led out to a railingless balcony and stepped into the crisp white of a winter’s day.

The cold slapped her. Hard.

She gritted her teeth, grateful for her long-sleeved thermal black top. It had been designed especially for her, to provide a measure of protection at high altitudes. She had nowhere near ordinary angelic levels of cold toleration. The squadron with whom Raphael had gone out in the pre-dawn darkness were probably in sleeveless tunics.

Her teeth threatened to chatter.

“Screw looking tough,” she said to the disinterested pigeon that had stopped on the balcony. “I’d rather be warm.” Going back inside, she pulled on a form-fitted black jacket designed with slits for her wings, and fancy straps that held it tight to her body. Then she tugged on gloves for good measure—after first moving the forearm knife sheaths to on top of the jacket sleeves.

“Okay, now I’m ready.”

Shutting the balcony doors behind herself, because she had no desire to return to an arctic environment, she took a moment to enjoy the glittering spectacle of New York gearing up for the day after a long, cold night, then fell off the edge of the balcony, her wings spreading behind her in a snap of strength. Those wings were an extraordinary blend of colors, beginning as pure black on the inner curve, then flowing into indigo, deepest blue and the whispered shade of dawn.

Her primaries were a shimmering white-gold.

Beautiful wings, but they could’ve been dishwater brown and she’d have loved them as much, for they took her to the skies.

The air was razored glass in her lungs, it was so cold, but a cool yellow sun rode the sky today. The distant star wasn’t strong enough to melt the snow that blanketed the city, but it made that snow ignite with light and turned the ice that dripped off the edges of buildings into iridescent diamonds.

Beneath her, the Legion building lay draped in pristine white.

The greenery that covered its outsides in spring and summer slept under winter’s kiss, but Elena knew that should she fly inside, she’d be met with a blast of heat and the rich, earthy humidity of growing things. Green was the color of the Legion building on the inside—living green.

The beings who’d risen from the sea in response to the turbulence of the Cascade, their age unknown and their origins lost in time, had worked with two of the Tower engineers to create a method of heating for their building that didn’t put undue pressure on the city’s systems, but that kept their plants alive through the coldest months. At least ten of the Legion sat with gargoyle-perfect immobility on the roof, their bat-like wings folded to their backs.

Snow had collected on their motionless bodies, a coat they didn’t shrug off and never seemed to feel.

Elena. Elena. Elena.