Archangel's Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11)By: Nalini Singh
Elena raised an eyebrow. “Arrogant?”
“A foolish child who believes himself a big man.” Imani compressed her lips until her mouth was a prune. “I wished to talk to you prior to the hunt because we have just discovered that he took weapons.”
Snapping to full attention, Elena said, “Which ones?”
“Walk with me. I will have my majordomo report to us.” Despite her words, Imani paused in place. “How strange,” she said softly in a voice that was suddenly full of the dark and haunting potency that was age.
Elena didn’t want to follow Imani’s gaze out the window. Her blood was suddenly cold, her pulse staccato. And in her ears thundered a roar of sound.
Birds, she thought, she’d see birds out there doing inexplicable, unearthly things.
It wasn’t birds. It was worse.
Imani’s roses were blooming.
Roses that had been buried under two feet of snow when Elena walked into the conservatory.
Roses that should’ve stayed asleep until the green breath of spring.
Roses that were a fucking harbinger of fucking doom.
Elena cleared her throat. “Do you always only plant red roses?” An endless sea of crimson, like a certain river had once become.
What the hell was it with the Cascade and the shade of blood?
“A small indulgence,” Imani said softly. “More important, it appears change is coming once more.” A sigh. “I do so dislike change.”
Staring out at the roses, Elena decided not to bother Raphael again. It wasn’t as if the roses were going to grow legs and attack New York. It was only the Cascade screwing with the natural order of things. “You know, Imani,” she muttered. “I agree with you on the change thing.”
For once in harmony, the two of them turned their backs to the blooming that should not be and met Taizaki in Damian Hale’s room. It turned out the ex-CEO had taken two guns and a crossbow. Imani confirmed Hale had enough of a facility with both types of weapons that Elena would have to take care.
That done, the angel left to walk in her creepy rose garden. “Change is disruptive,” she said when Elena arched her eyebrows. “But such dark beauty will not long survive the ice. Not even an immortal can stop the rot of time.”
Elena stared after the angel for long moments. A shiver rippled down her spine.
Shaking it off, she called Vivek and got him to remotely hack into Damian Hale’s computer—which the vampire had left passcode-protected. Vivek discovered evidence of multiple international airline tickets all booked for the same time and day. The most interesting find, however, was that Hale had managed to gain access to the household account and siphon off a significant cushion of money.
“He’s no ordinary runner.” Elena’s blood heated, her pulse faster. “I don’t think he’ll be on the planes, either. He left this trail for us to find.”
“I’m on it.” An exhilaration in Vivek’s voice that justified her decision to call him rather than the Guild’s own tech team.
She was by the mansion’s front door with Taizaki when Vivek confirmed her hunch. Damian Hale hadn’t boarded any of the ticketed flights. “I’ve set up a notification alert across every possible system. Anything else pops up, I’ll let you know.”
“Thanks, V.” Elena secured her phone in a zippered pocket, then opened the bag that held the exemplar of Hale’s scent and took a deep breath. “The brush of aspen trees entwined with a hint of ripe peach.”
Taizaki blanched at her murmur.
Elena shrugged. “Vampiric scents often have nothing to do with the strength or dangerousness of a vampire.” She decided not to tell the snooty majordomo that he smelled of burnt sugar candy and curdled milk.
See, she was being all political and nice even though Taizaki had curled his lip the first time she’d ever met him. As if mortality was catching. Montgomery would’ve never been so tacky as to betray his personal feelings. The first time she’d met Raphael’s butler, she’d been a rough-and-tumble mortal hunter, but he’d offered her tea or coffee with utmost politeness.
But, she admitted, Montgomery was the gold standard. Every other butler—or majordomo—was going to suffer by comparison. Poor Imani would be mortified if she ever realized Taizaki’s lapse.
Handing the exemplar back to the majordomo, she turned to begin the hunt in earnest.
Roses, opulent and intoxicating and hella-creeptastic.
Elena gritted her teeth against the overwhelming perfume that stained the air and shouted omen, omen, omen! She began to walk out from the mansion in increasingly large semi-circles and finally caught Hale’s scent about fifty yards out from the front door, heading into the trees that surrounded the property.
Twenty minutes later, the scent came to an abrupt halt. When she crouched down to dig lightly through the dirty snow that had been protected from the light morning snowfall by a heavy tree canopy, she spotted a drip of oil. “Smart guy.” She rose, walked out from under the canopy.
Bunching up her wings, she went to go airborne to see if the oil leak had left a trail . . . and felt an excruciating wrenching in her muscles.