Angels' BloodBy: Nalini Singh
Yes, he was beautiful, but it was the beauty of a warrior or a conqueror. This man had power stamped on every inch of his skin, every piece of his flesh. And that was before she took in the exquisite perfection of his wings. The feathers were a soft white and appeared dusted with gold. But when she concentrated, she saw the truth—each individual filament of each individual feather bore a golden tip.
“Yes, it’s beautiful up here,” he said, breaking into her fascination.
She blinked, then felt her face color, having no idea of how much time had passed. “Yes.”
His smile bore a hint of mockery, of male satisfaction . . . and of pure, lethal focus. “Let us have breakfast and talk.”
Furious at having allowed herself to be blindsided by his physical beauty, she bit the inside of her cheek in reprimand. She wasn’t going to fall into the same trap again. Raphael clearly knew how striking he was, and he knew the effect it had on unsuspecting mortals. Which made him an arrogant SOB she should have no trouble resisting.
Pulling out a chair, he waited. She halted a foot away, very conscious of his height and strength. She wasn’t used to feeling small. Or weak. That he could cause her to experience either sensation—and without any apparent effort—made her angry enough to chance reprisal. “I’m not comfortable with anyone standing behind me.”
A spark of surprise in those blue, blue eyes. “Shouldn’t it be me who fears a knife in the back? You’re the one carrying concealed weapons.”
The fact that he’d guessed at her weapons meant nothing. A hunter was always armed. “The difference is, I’ll die. You won’t.”
With a small, amused wave of his hand, he walked to the other side of the table, his wings brushing over the squeaky clean tiles to leave behind a shimmering trail of white gold. She was certain he’d done it on purpose. Angels didn’t always shed angel dust. When they did, it was immediately collected up by mortals and vampires alike. The price for a speck of the bright stuff was more than that for a flawlessly cut diamond.
But if Raphael thought she was going to get down on her knees and scrabble, he had another think coming.
“You don’t fear me,” he said now.
She wasn’t stupid enough to lie. “I’m petrified. But I figure you didn’t make me come all this way just so you could push me off the roof.”
His mouth curved, as if she’d said something funny. “Take a seat, Elena.” Her name sounded different on his lips. A binding. As if by speaking it, he’d gained power over her. “Like you said, I have no plans to kill you. Not today.”
She sat with the elevator cubicle at her back, aware of him waiting with old-world chivalry until she’d done so. His wings draped gracefully over the specially designed chair back as he followed suit. “How old are you?” she found herself asking before she could nip her curiosity in the bud.
He raised a perfectly arched eyebrow. “Do you have no sense of self-preservation?” It was a casual comment but she heard the steel beneath the surface.
Chill fingers trailed over her spine. “Some would say not—I am a vampire hunter.”
Something dark and exquisitely dangerous moved in the crystalline depths of those eyes no human would ever have. “A born hunter, not a trained one.”
“How many vampires have you captured or killed?”
“You know the number. It’s why I’m sitting here.”
Another gust of wind whipped across the roof, this one strong enough to rattle the cups and pull strands of hair from her twist. She didn’t try to pin them back, keeping her full attention on the archangel instead. He was watching her in turn, much as a large beast of prey might watch the rabbit it was eyeing for dinner.
“Tell me about your abilities.” It was nothing less than an order, his tone a blade that whispered warning. The archangel no longer found her entertaining.
Elena refused to look away, even as she dug her fingernails into her thighs to anchor herself. “I can scent vampires, differentiate one from the pack. That’s it.” A useless skill—unless one was a vampire hunter. It sort of made the term “career choice” an oxymoron.
“How old does the vampire have to be for you to sense his or her presence?”
It was an odd question and one she had to pause to consider. “Well, the youngest I’ve tracked was two months old. And he was the outer limits. Most vamps wait at least a year before trying anything funny.”
“So you’ve never had any contact with a younger vampire?”
Elena had no idea where he was going with this line of questioning. “Contact, sure. But not as a hunter. You’re an angel—you have to know they don’t exactly function well the first month or so after being Made.” It was that stage in their development that continued to fuel the myth about vampires being lifeless zombies given will.
They truly were creepy in the first few weeks. Eyes wide open but with nobody home, flesh pallid and wasted, movements uncoordinated. It was why the hate groups preferred to target new vamps. Most people found it far easier to mutilate and torture someone who looked like a walking corpse than someone who could be their best friend. Or brother-in-law, in Elena’s case. “That young, they can’t feed themselves, much less run away.”