Angels' Flight

By: Nalini Singh

Shivers threatened at the idea of what Nazarach wanted from her. “So you’ll anger him.”

“He likes me too much to kill me for such a small transgression.” Still, he didn’t move. “Why are there so many shadows in your eyes, Ashwini?”

It startled her each time he used her given name—as if every utterance bound them tighter on a level she couldn’t see. “Why are there so many secrets in yours?”

“I’ve lived over two hundred years,” he said, his voice as sensual as the magnolia-scented night. “I’ve done many things, not all of which I’m proud of.”

“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.”

He didn’t smile, didn’t even breathe, still, so still. “Talk to me, my Blade.”

“No.” Not yet.

“I’m very patient.”

“We’ll see.” Even as she spoke, she knew she was laying down a challenge, one Janvier wouldn’t be able to resist.

He leaned in close enough that their lips could’ve touched, his breath a hot burn, his almost-immortality a living beacon in his eyes. “Yes. We will.”

Stepping into the shower, Ashwini turned it to freezing. “Yikes!” Her libido sufficiently dampened by the ice-cold shock, she switched it to superhot.

As her skin sizzled under the delicious heat, she supposed she should’ve been giving serious thought to the lunacy of what she was doing playing with a vampire, who was, for all his charm, as lethal as a stiletto across the throat. But then again, most of her friends already thought she was half a nut short of a fruitcake. Why disappoint?

She grinned against the pounding spray.

Rules and regs, the intricacies of living an “ordinary” life—she’d tried it for the first nineteen years of her existence, and had almost paid with not only her sanity, but her life itself.

A flash of memory and she was in that white-on-white room again, the straps biting into her arms, cutting into her flesh. The smell of disinfectant, the soft hush of rubber-soled shoes… and always, always, the screams—screams only she could hear. Later, them sitting there, judging her, as if they were gods.

“The drugs keep her lucid.”

“Are you sure she’ll stay on them once we release her?”

“She’s going out on her brother’s recognizance. And Dr. Taj is, as we all know, a most well-regarded physician.”

“Ashwini, can you hear us? We need you to answer some questions.”

She’d answered their questions, said what she knew they wanted to hear. It had been the last day she’d ever pretended to be “normal.” So they’d let her out, let her go. “Never again,” she whispered.

And the hell of it was, people still liked her.

Her hand fisted. Not everyone. Dr. Taj wanted only the sister he’d known before, the rising star whose glitter matched his own. Who the hell cared if that star had been dying piece by slow piece as she tried desperately to hang on to a sky she’d never quite understood?

It was the heat that wrenched her out of the abyss, her skin beginning to protest its treatment. Flicking off the water with a grateful sigh, she rubbed herself down using the fluffy peach-colored towel that went with the elegant décor of the room. It would’ve been normal to head out into the bedroom in the matching robe hung on the back of the door, but Ashwini was a hunter. And, within the Guild, paranoia was not only accepted but encouraged.

It was as well. Because when she walked out—barefoot, but otherwise dressed, her gun hidden in the curve of her lower back—it was to find the most dangerous being in Atlanta waiting for her.

“Nazarach,” she said, stopping in the bathroom doorway. “This is a surprise.”

The angel stepped out onto the balcony. “Come.”

Sensing it would be suicidal to refuse, she followed him out into the summer air, the night heavy with the warm scents of the flowers that ringed the estate. “Janvier?”

“I know his tastes well.”

Ashwini’s hands clenched on the railing—a courtesy for guests, one she hadn’t expected. “Why am I here?” Why are you?

Nazarach leaned his elbows on the railing, his wings relaxed but no less magnificent. “I asked for you on this hunt. Do you know why?”

“I’ve done previous work in tracking down kidnap victims.” In most cases, those vampires had been taken by some hate group that planned to torture the “sin” of vampirism out of them. “I intended to do some background work on Monique tonight.”

“Leave it. She’ll stay alive and unharmed until Callan gets what he wants.”

“You sound very certain.”

The angel smiled and it was like no smile she’d ever seen, heavy with age, with the shadows of death that twisted around her senses like razor-sharp thorns.

“Callan,” Nazarach said, “didn’t survive my court by being without wit. He knows that while now Antoine plays politics, the oldest Beaumont will find a way to kill him if he harms Monique. So long as Antoine lives, Monique will, too.”