Angels' Blood

By: Nalini Singh


I would be pleased if you would join me for breakfast. 8 a.m.

Raphael





There was no address but she had no need of it. She looked up, able to see the light-filled column of the city’s Archangel Tower from the huge plate-glass window that had made this apartment so ridiculously expensive . . . and attractive. Being able to sit and watch the angels take wing from the high balconies of the Tower was her guiltiest pleasure.

At night, they appeared as soft, dark shadows. But in the daytime, their wings shimmered bright in the sun, their movements incredibly graceful. They came and went throughout the day, but sometimes she saw them simply sitting, high up on those balconies, their legs hanging over the sides. The younger angels, she’d guessed, though youth was a relative term.

Even knowing that most of them were decades older than she was, the sight always made her smile. It was the one and only time she’d ever glimpsed them acting in a way that could be described as normal. Usually, they were coolly remote, so far from the common humdrum of humanity as to be beyond their understanding.

Tomorrow she, too, was going to be up there in that tower of light and glass. But it wasn’t one of those younger maybe-approachable angels that she had to meet. No, tomorrow she was going to be sitting across from the archangel himself.

Raphael.

Elena bent over, sick to her stomach.





2

The first thing she did after recovering from the compulsion to throw up was call the Guild. “I need to speak to Sara,” she told the receptionist.

“I’m sorry. The director has left the office.”

Hanging up, Elena punched in the number to Sara’s home line.

The other woman picked up after barely half a ring. “Now, how did I know I was going to hear from you today?”

Elena’s hand clenched on the phone. “Sara, please tell me I’m having a delusion and you did not sign me up to work for an archangel.”

“Er . . . um . . .” Sara Haziz, Guild Director for the entire U.S. of A., and all-around tough-ass, suddenly sounded more like a nervous teenage girl. “Hell, Ellie, it’s not like I could say no.”

“What would he have done—killed you?”

“Probably,” Sara muttered. “His vampire lackey made it very clear that he wanted you. And that he is not used to being denied.”

“You tried to say no?”

“I am your best friend. Gimme a little credit, here.”


Slumping into the sofa cushions, Elena stared out at the Tower. “What’s the job?

“I don’t know.” Sara began to make soft cooing sounds. “Don’t worry—I’m not wasting my breath in a futile attempt to calm you down. The baby’s awake. Aren’t you, sweetie pie?” Kissing noises filled the air.

Elena still couldn’t believe Sara had gone and tied the knot. And had a baby to boot. “How’s Mini Me?” Sara had named her daughter Zoe Elena. Damn if Elena hadn’t sniffled like a baby herself when she found out. “Hope she’s giving you hell.”

“She loves her mommy.” More kissing noises. “And she said to tell you she’s gonna Mini Me you after she grows a few more feet. She and Slayer are a crack team.”

Elena laughed at the mention of the monster dog that lived to slobber on unsuspecting people. “Where’s your beloved? I thought Deacon liked doing the baby stuff.”

“He does.” Sara’s smile was apparent even through the telephone line and it made something inside Elena clench in the most vicious of ways. It wasn’t that she begrudged Sara her happiness, or that she wanted Deacon. No, it was something far deeper, a sense of time slipping through her fingers.

Over the past year, it had become increasingly obvious that her friends were moving on to the next stages of their lives, while she remained in limbo, a twenty-eight-year-old vampire hunter with no strings, no attachments. Sara had put down her bow and arrow—except for the odd urgent hunt—and taken on the most critical desk job in the Guild. Her lethally skilled tracker of a husband had gone into the business of manufacturing hunter tools (and changing diapers), with a slow grin that all but shouted contentment. Hell, even Ransom had had the same bed partner for the past two months.

“Hey, Ellie, you gone to sleep?” Sara asked over the baby’s happy squeals. “Having dreams about your archangel?”

“More like nightmares,” she muttered, squinting as she caught sight of an angel coming to land on the Tower roof. Her heart skipped a beat as his wings flared out to slow his descent. “You never finished telling me about Deacon. Why isn’t he on baby duty?”

“He’s gone to the store with Slayer to pick up some double-chocolate very-berry ice cream. I told him the cravings stick around for a while after birth.”

Sara’s delight in fooling her husband should have made Elena laugh, but she was too aware of the fear crawling up her spine. “Sara, did the vampire give you any hint of why he asked for me?”

“Sure. He said Raphael wanted the best.”





“I’m the best,” Elena muttered the next morning as she got out of the taxi in front of the magnificent creation that was Archangel Tower. “I’m the best.”

“Hey, lady, you gonna pay me or just talk to yourself?”