Archangel's Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11)

By: Nalini Singh

“I have prepared such an item of clothing.” Taizaki’s face was Japanese but his accent unbendingly French, as if he didn’t often lower himself to speak the barbaric language of English. “My mistress awaits you in the conservatory.”

Raphael, this is how much I love you, she muttered inside her mind.

The sea crashed into her again, the storm winds distant but present. How much?

Elena nearly jumped. You’re still in range?

Is that why you are muttering at me? Because you thought I would not hear? I am heartbroken.

Now the man was messing with her. Just pointing out hunting was faster when I was a nobody, she said darkly. None of this making nice with your angels.

Try not to stab anyone. It would be most difficult to attempt to explain that as an accident—especially given your stellar aim.

Her lips threatened to twitch. No promises.

Nodding at the majordomo to lead her inside, she stepped in behind him with a crisp stride. Taizaki picked up speed when he realized she wasn’t interested in strolling; she was sure she saw his spine go even stiffer in affront.

He was probably waiting for her uncivilized self to pee on the furniture.

Biting back a snort of laughter at the image, Elena walked on.

The conservatory was a large room at the very end of the building and to the right. Elena had been inside the crisply formal chamber with floor-to-ceiling windows once before, during an evening Imani had hosted to welcome Elena to her new position. The angel might be prickly and about as much fun as an undertaker at a funeral, but she was also scrupulous in following angelic social etiquette.

“Imani,” Elena said as she walked in, the majordomo fading away to leave them in privacy.

An angel who bore wings of white with scattered feathers of bronze and had glowing skin of tawny brown glanced over from her position at the window. “Consort.” Her hair was a mass of black curls braided fine and tight against the left side of her skull but otherwise left to fall in glossy perfection to her shoulders.

“I was not expecting the Guild to send you.” Imani’s gown of deep blue velvet moved like dark water as she shifted to fully face Elena.

“I like to keep my hand in, make sure my hunter skills don’t get rusty.”

Imani’s lush lips pressed into a thin line. She was stunning even for an angel: those lips that had no doubt spawned countless male fantasies, high cheekbones, skin so flawless it was ridiculous, that incredible hair, and eyes of cinnamon brown with a darker burst around the pupil. Add in her tall hourglass form, and the woman looked like an artist’s fever dream of regal but sensual angelic beauty.

The illusion held until she opened her mouth. Oh, her voice was as lovely as the rest of her—but like her mansion, Imani was a grande dame who had no time for anyone’s bullshit. She also had zero time for people who did not color between the lines. Needless to say, Elena was not her favorite person.

“I see,” she said now, in the tone of a woman who didn’t see at all. “It is most irregular to have to deal with a consort on such a matter.” A very pointed look. “However, I assume the Guild director has given you the details? I made certain to speak to her rather than her underlings—she is a most competent mortal.”

Making a note to pass on the compliment to Sara, Elena told herself to behave and act professional—even though tweaking the noses of stuffy old angels by upending their expectations of how a consort should behave gave her a wicked kind of satisfaction. “I have everything but Damian’s scent,” she said with commendable cool.

“My majordomo has that for you.” Imani opened then shut her wings with unusual sharpness before beginning to pace the room.

Elena shifted to keep the angel in her line of sight, the snow-draped gardens beyond the conservatory windows now at her back.

“I cannot believe the boy was foolish enough to do this.”

Damian Hale was thirty-four years old—or that was the age he’d been at his Making. He’d now stay thirty-four for hundreds upon hundreds of years. The one thing he wouldn’t do was become a boy. Of course, Imani was somewhere around eight thousand years old and had the crotchety grandmother thing down pat.

She’d probably needed smelling salts after learning that Raphael had chosen a mortal as his consort. Though, to be fair to Imani, she was trying in her own way. Discreetly gifting Elena a book on angelic protocol that she’d written herself had probably been meant as a gesture of kindness.

Raphael, the fiend, had taken great pleasure in reading the text aloud to her every night for a week, as she attempted to hide her head under a pillow while calling down curses on his head. But he’d also said, “Be patient with Imani, Guild Hunter. She is not cruel or unkind. What she is, is a very old angel who finds modern existence jarring—and you do not fit any of the neat boxes she uses to make sense of the world.”

With that in mind, Elena said, “Do you have any idea why Damian ran?”

Imani pursed her lips again. “He chafes at the bit.” She flicked a hand devoid of rings, though a thin diamond bracelet glittered around her wrist. “He was a leader among men before his Making—a thing called a CEO—and he is aggrieved at not being permitted to run my home.”