Angels' Flight

By: Nalini Singh




Her fingers tightened on the hand-painted coffee cup. “Poor woman.”



He turned his face back to her, devilment in his eyes. “On the contrary, Jean is quite keen on the match. Last winter, she invited me to keep her warm in a most beautiful cabin in Aspen.”



Ashwini knew when she was being played. She also knew Janvier was fully capable of spinning a tale to keep her here—purely for his own amusement. “I can bet you Jean isn’t thinking of Aspen right now. In fact, it’s a good bet she’s thinking only of murder.”



“The situation?” And there was that quicksilver intelligence again, the thing that kept drawing her back to him in spite of her every vow to the contrary.



“Monique is what, Jean’s great-granddaughter times nine?”



Janvier took a moment to think about it. “Perhaps ten, but it matters little. Jean dotes on the child. Antoine calls both Monique and Frédéric his grandchildren.”



“The woman’s twenty-six,” she pointed out, “hardly a child. And her brother’s thirty.”



“Everyone under a hundred is a child to me.”



“Funny.”



“I do not talk of you, cherie.” His smile slid away to expose a darker edge, one that had seen centuries pass. “You carry too much knowledge in your eyes. If I did not know you were human, I’d think you, too, had lived as long as I.”



Sometimes, she felt as if she had. But the demons that clawed into her mind night and day had no place in this discussion. Breaking Janvier’s too-perceptive gaze, she said, “Monique’s been kidnapped.”



“Who’d dare rise against the Beaumonts?” Open shock.



“Not only are they a power in their own right, but the angel who controls Atlanta holds them in high favor.”



“He did,” she said, turning her eyes back to him, enjoying the play of sunlight on his body. It was a simple pleasure with a potent kick—even the demons couldn’t hold up against the sensual temptation that lapped against her senses. “But seems like your buddy Antoine’s managed to piss Nazarach off.”



Janvier rose to his feet, brow furrowed. “But even so, to take on Antoine is to slit your own throat.”



“The Fox kiss doesn’t think so.”



“A kiss?” Shaking his head, he walked to stand in front of her, one hand braced on the counter. “You’re speaking in the truest sense of the word—a group of vampires banding together for a common purpose?”



“Yep.”



“I haven’t heard of a formal kiss of vampires for over a century.”



“Some guy named Callan Fox apparently decided to revive the idea.” Curious, compelled, she ran her fingers along a curving scar on Janvier’s chest, just above his left nipple. “I didn’t give you this.”



“If only,” he murmured, playing along. “I would be honored to carry your marks.”



“Too bad vampires heal so quickly.” She found herself tracing the scar, seeing something familiar in it. But unlike with every other person she knew, there was no pulse of memory, no unwanted invasion into her mind as her gift, her curse, pulled her into Janvier’s past. Instead of seeing his secrets, knowing his nightmares, all she felt was warm, silken skin, a little imperfect, and all the more intriguing for it.



“Was this made by a knife?” she asked.



“Of a kind—a sword.” Closing his fingers over her wrist, he brought her hand to his mouth, pressing lingering kisses along the knuckles. “Will you tease me this way forever, Ashwini?”





2




Only a few more decades,” she said, feeling her stomach tense, her toes curl. “Then it’ll be time for a new hunter to chase you.”

She expected some amusing comeback, but Janvier’s face grew still, so very, very still. “Do not speak of your death with such ease.”



“Since I’m not about to sign a Contract giving over a hundred years of my almost-immortal life,” she said, one hand remaining pressed against him, the other in his grasp, “death is a certainty.”



“Nothing is certain.” He released her hand to tug at strands of her unbound hair, eyes warming from within. “But we’ll discuss your humanity another time. I find myself intrigued by the idea of this Fox kiss.”



Reaching into her back pocket, she brought out the nifty PDA that Ransom, another of the hunters working out of the New York Guild, had given her as a Christmas present. “This is Callan Fox.” She flicked to a picture of the tall, heavily muscled blond. “According to my info, he turned two hundred this year.”



“I recognize that face.” A frown, as if he were sifting through layers of memory. “Now I remember—I met him in Nazarach’s court when he was serving out his Contract. The other vampires in the court misjudged him then, thought him slow.”



“And you?”



Fingers trailing up her arm, playful and light. “I saw an almost brutal intelligence, coupled with ambition. It doesn’t surprise me that Callan has managed to put together a kiss and at such a young age. Do the other vampires in the group look to their founder for leadership?”