Archangel's Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11)

By: Nalini Singh

Elena. Salt and the sea, a crashing wave of violent power as familiar to her as her own breath. The ocean is turbulent and rising as a result of the recent earth tremor. Get away from the coast if you’re near it.

So, the quake hadn’t been localized to this region. I’m at the foot of the Catskills—and there’s a sinkhole filled with lovely bubbling lava in front of me.

The minutest pause. Guild Hunter, we must discuss your penchant for finding danger. I am on my way.

Any damage in the city? It was full of people she loved.

Wait. Thirty seconds later. Dmitri says no damage reported. The tremor was widespread but minor except by the mountains near where you stand.

The tightness in her chest easing, Elena rose from her crouch and had to fight back a wince—damn, she must’ve hurt her wing more than she’d realized. She took care to make sure she was holding it in the right position before she walked over to the survivors.

No point exacerbating the injury with messy muscle control.

Among the huddle of mortals and young vampires on vacation was a sandy-haired vamp with a laptop under his arm; he wore a brown polo shirt with a graphic logo on one side that looked vaguely like a set of cabins against a mountain backdrop. “You’re staff?” Elena asked the man who smelled like torn paper and crushed mint.

“Manager,” he said, the whites of his eyes yet showing and his glazed attention on the spot where the cabins had once taken center stage. His freckles stood out like islands against the bloodless hue of his tanned skin.

“I don’t suppose you have the guest list on that laptop?”

He stared blankly at her for a long second before blinking and jerking his head up and down like a broken marionette. But the action seemed to jolt him out of his shock, and he opened up the laptop without further nudging on her part. While he did a roll call, she responded to Vivek’s message asking if she was all right, then returned her attention to the roll call.

The only person who didn’t reply to their name was “John Smith.” Not rocket science to figure that had been Damian Hale, but Elena got a description out of the manager to be certain. It didn’t take much prompting—Hale had only recently checked in, and the manager even remembered the small scar on his eyebrow that Elena had noticed in the images she’d been sent of her target.

The marker in time.

Shaking off a shiver that threatened to crawl over her at the memory of that otherworldly voice in her head, Elena spread then tightened her wings to her back. It was an automatic action, one she often did when on the ground for long periods. It felt good to stretch out her wings.

Not today.

Stabbing twinges through her back. Razors shaped into long needles.

She sucked in a breath, breathed past the pain. At least she had no trouble keeping the survivors away from the lava sinkhole. No one wanted to end up with their flesh melted from their bones, the aural stain of Damian Hale’s chilling screams too recent to be ignored. When the manager offered to organize a bus to take his guests to temporary lodgings in the city, no one hesitated in agreeing.

Raphael arrived before the transport.

Elena heard a whimper from the knot of survivors as the magnificent spread of his wings came into view. Sunlight sparked off the white-gold filaments within his feathers, the midnight of his hair blowing back in the wind generated by his landing to reveal the clean lines of a face brutal in its masculine beauty.

“Archangel.” A soft whisper, an equally soft hand slipping into Elena’s.

Startled, she looked down to find a boy of maybe five standing there with a rapturous smile on his face. His coppery brown skin glowed, the wide and high bones beneath the baby fat of his face reminding her of a photo Ransom had shown her of his Cherokee great-grandfather. Of course it would be a child who wasn’t afraid; children never were of Raphael. You have an admirer, Archangel.

Raphael closed his wings to his back with warrior efficiency before turning to nod in greeting at the child. His eyes were a blue so pure that it nearly hurt to look at him, his skin sun-golden. He wore leathers today, a beaten-down brown that bore the nicks of past battles and sparring sessions. The tunic left his arms bare, revealing the sculptured muscle of his biceps. He had been a warrior before he became an archangel and a warrior he’d always stay.

On his left ring finger was a chunky platinum ring with a square piece of dark amber that had a heart of pure white fire. Her mark. Worn always by a being who’d lived a thousand five hundred years before she ever existed.

If the heat coming off the sinkhole was a pulse, Raphael’s power was a throb that beat deep in her bones.

He was deadly and he was beautiful.

Most of all, he was hers.

And he had enough heart in him not to crush that of a small boy.

Beside Elena, the boy’s eyes widened at being acknowledged, the silent connection more than enough to bring joy to his childish world. Beaming ear to ear, he ran back to his parents—who’d only belatedly realized he’d slipped away.

Elena walked over to join Raphael at the edge of the sinkhole, aware of the deathly quiet that had fallen behind them. People trying not to attract the attention of a lethal predator. All except for a small and bright-eyed little boy who was ignoring his desperate parents’ attempts to hush him; he wanted to tell them all about how the archangel had seen him!