Angels' BloodBy: Nalini Singh
The head guard—all four had followed her inside—looked her up and down with eyes the startling shade of robin’s eggs. “No injuries. Impressive.” He handed over an envelope. “The transfer has been made to your Guild account, as agreed.”
Elena checked the confirmation slip. Her eyebrows rose. “Mr. Ebose has been generous.”
“A bonus for early and unharmed capture of the target. Mr. Ebose has plans for him. Old Jerry was his favorite secretary.”
Elena winced. The problem with being basically immortal was that you could have a lot of things done to you and not die. She’d once seen a vampire who’d had every one of his limbs amputated . . . without anesthetic. By the time the Guild rescue squad liberated him from the clutches of the hate group that had kidnapped him, he’d been beyond reason or coherence. But there had been a video. That was how they knew the tortured man had remained conscious throughout. She bet the angels didn’t show that video to the petitioners who came in their droves, hoping to be Made.
Then again, maybe they did.
The angels only Made about a thousand vamps a year. And from what Elena had seen, the hopeful outnumbered that by the hundreds of thousands. She had no idea why. As far as she was concerned, the cost of immortality was far too high. Better to live free and turn to dust when the time came than end up locked in a wooden box while you waited for your master to decide your fate.
Distaste an acrid film on her tongue, she slid both the confirmation slip and the envelope into a pants pocket. “Please thank Mr. Ebose for his generosity.”
The bodyguard inclined his head and she glimpsed the edges of what she guessed to be a raven tattooed on his shaved head. He was too tall to see for sure but the others were shorter and all bore that unique mark.
“I see you’re unattached.” He glanced pointedly at the plain silver hoops in her ears. No married gold. No entangled amber. But she didn’t make the mistake of assuming he wanted a date. The guards of the Wing Brotherhood practiced celibacy while on the job. Since the punishment for failure was the removal of a body part—Elena had never quite managed to discover which—she figured she wasn’t temptation enough.
“Yes. I’m free workwise, too.” She preferred to complete one job before lining up the next. There were always more vamps to chase down. “Mr. Ebose want me to track another renegade?”
“No. He has a friend who requires your services.” The guard passed over a second envelope, this one sealed. “The appointment is for eight a.m. tomorrow. Please ensure you attend—it’s been cleared with your Guild, the deposit paid.”
If the Guild had signed off, that meant it was a legitimate hunt. “Sure. Where’s the meet?”
Elena’s soul went ice cold. For only one angel would that single word suffice as enough of a direction. Even the angels had a pecking order and she knew very well who was at the top. But, fast as it had swept over her, the fear passed. Mr. Ebose, while powerful, was hardly likely to know an archangel, one of the Cadre of Ten that decided who would be Made and who would do the Making.
“Is there a problem?”
Her head snapped up at the guard’s quiet comment. “No, of course not.” She made a show of checking her watch. “I better be going. Please give my regards to Mr. Ebose.” With that, she exited the lush confines of the private jet and the pungent fear-stink of the cargo.
She’d never been able to figure out why so many morons got Made. Perhaps, she thought, they went in okay but turned into pricks after a few years of drinking blood. Who knew what the hell that stuff did to your brain. But that theory didn’t explain her latest catch—he was two years old max.
Shrugging, she got into the car. And because she wanted to tear open the sealed envelope with her teeth, she waited until she was home in her beautiful nest of an apartment in lower Manhattan. Given how much time they spent chasing shit, most hunters tended to make their homes into havens. Elena was no exception.
Entering, she kicked off her boots and headed toward the luxurious bath and shower unit. Usually, she made a ritual out of washing off the grime and slathering on the creams and perfumes she collected. Ransom thought her girly tendencies the funniest thing ever, constantly teased her over them, but the last time he’d opened his big mouth, she’d got her own back by pointing out that his long black hair sure did look well conditioned.
However, tonight she had neither the patience nor the inclination to pamper herself. Stripping, she made quick work of scrubbing away the reek of shit-scared vampire before slipping into a pair of cotton pajamas and running a brush through her hair as she put on some coffee. Soon as it was done, she took a full mug to the coffee table, set it down carefully on a coaster . . . then gave in to the demands of her rabid curiosity and tore open the envelope in one second flat.
The paper was thick, the watermark elegant . . . and the name at the bottom of the page terrifying enough to make her want to pack her bags and run. To the farthest, tiniest hole she could find.
Disbelieving, she ran her eyes over the page a second time. The words hadn’t changed.