Angels' Flight

By: Nalini Singh


“This is a surprise, cher,” Janvier said in that lazy drawl of his, one hand braced on the doorjamb of his Louisiana apartment. “Far as I know, I don’t have a hit out on me.”

“I’m not an assassin.” Folding her arms, Ashwini leaned into the wall opposite the door—sleep-rumpled and half-dressed, Janvier was deliciously sexy. He was also a two-hundred-and-forty-five-year-old vampire capable of ripping out her throat with minimal effort. “Though it might come in handy with you.”

A slow smile crept over his face that was a little too long, a little too saturnine, for true beauty. And yet… Janvier was the man every woman in a bar would turn to look at, his appeal as rawly earthy as the unhidden interest in eyes the shade of bayou moss, all sunlight and shadows over green. “You wound me. I thought we were friends, non?”

“Non.” She raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to let me in?”

He shrugged, the muscles of his chest rippling with a strength most people would never guess at from the way he moved, pure liquid grace and charm. But Ashwini knew exactly how fast and tough he was—she’d hunted him three times in the past two years, and he’d led her on a merry dance all three times.

“Depends,” he said, taking a leisurely survey of her body. “You here to beat up on me again?”

“Eyes up.”

Laughter in that wicked gaze as it met hers. “You’re no fun, sugar.”

Only with Janvier did she end up the practical side of the unit. Everyone else thought she was way over on the east side of crazy. “This was a bad idea.” Turning on her heel, she flicked a hand his way. “See you the next time you piss off an angel.” In the normal run of things, the Guild existed to retrieve those vampires who broke their Contracts—to serve the angels for a hundred years in exchange for immortality—and then there was Janvier… “Try not to do it this week. I’m busy.”

His hand closed over the back of her neck, a warm, oddly gentle touch. “Don’t be like that, now. Come in. I’ll make you coffee the way it’s meant to be made.”

She should have pulled away, should have gone as far as humanly possible. But Janvier had a way of getting under her skin. She hesitated a fraction too long, and the heat of him seeped into her, a vivid bright thing that defied the ice of his immortality. “No touching.” It was as much an order to herself as to him.

A squeeze of his fingers. “You’re the one who’s always trying to get her hands on me.”

“And one of these days, you won’t dance fast enough to escape.” Janvier had the habit of annoying angels enough to end up on the Guild’s hunt list. But that wasn’t the worst part—right when Ashwini almost had him, when she could all but smell the collar, he’d somehow make up with whoever it was he’d offended. Last time, she’d nearly shot him on principle.

A brush of laughter, his thumb sweeping along her skin in a languid caress. “You should thank me,” he said. “Because of me, you’re guaranteed a healthy pay packet at least twice a year.”

“I’m guaranteed that pay packet because I’m good,” she said, twisting out of his hold so she could face him. “You ready to talk?”

He swept out an arm. “Step into my lair, Guild Hunter.”

Ashwini wasn’t much for allowing vampires at her back, but she and Janvier had an understanding after three hunts. If it ever came down to it, it would be face-to-face. Some of her hunter brethren might call her a fool for trusting a man she had hunted, but she’d always made up her own mind about people. She had no illusions, knew Janvier could be as lethal as an unsheathed blade, but she also knew he’d been born in a time when a man’s word was all he had. Immortality hadn’t yet stolen that sense of honor from him.

Now she squeezed past him, aware he’d deliberately turned his body to ensure a tight fit. She didn’t mind as much as she should have. That was the problem—because vampires were off-limits. The Guild had no rule forbidding such relationships and a number of her hunter friends had vampire lovers, but Ashwini agreed with fellow hunter Elena on this. The other woman had once said that vampires were almost-immortals, after all—to them, humans were nothing but toys, fleeting pleasures, easily tasted, easily forgotten.

Ashwini wasn’t going to be a snack for any man—vampire, human, or angel. Not that the angels would ever lower themselves enough to consort with a mortal. She’d be very surprised if the effective rulers of the world considered most humans as anything but an afterthought.

“Not what I expected,” she said, walking into the stylish converted loft. Light dominated and had been infused into the décor—the colors of sunset echoed in the bright throws that lay over the earth-toned sofa, the Navajo rugs on the floor, the lonely desert vistas painted on the walls.

“I love the bayou,” Janvier murmured, closing the door behind him and padding over to the kitchen area, “but to appreciate glory, one must sometimes go to the opposite extreme.”