Angels' Blood

By: Nalini Singh



“Nevertheless, we will do a test.” The archangel picked up the glass of juice beside his plate and took a drink. “Eat.”

“I’m not hungry.”

He put down the glass. “It’s a blood insult to refuse an archangel’s table.”

Elena had never before heard the term, but if it involved blood, it couldn’t be anything good. “I ate before coming here.” A flat-out lie. She hadn’t been able to keep down much more than water, and that with effort.

“Then drink.” It was an instruction so absolute, she knew he expected instant obedience.

Something snapped inside her. “Or else?”

The wind stopped. Even the clouds seemed to freeze.

Death whispered in her ear.





3

Elena’s instincts were screaming at her to grab the knife in her boot, do some damage, and get the hell out, but she forced herself to stay in place. The truth was, she wouldn’t make it more than two feet before Raphael broke every single bone in her body.

It was exactly what he’d done to a vampire who’d thought to betray him.

That vampire had been found in the center of Times Square. He’d still been alive. And he’d still been trying to scream—“No! Raphael, no!” But his voice had been a rasp by then, his jaw hanging on by stringlike tendons, his flesh missing in places.

Elena—out of the country on a hunt—had seen the news footage after the event. She knew the vamp had lain there in agony for three hours before being picked up by a pair of angels. Everyone in New York, hell, everyone in the country, had known he was there, but no one had dared help him, not with Raphael’s mark blazing on his forehead. The archangel had wanted the punishment witnessed, wanted to remind people of who and what he was. It had worked. Now the mere mention of his name evoked visceral fear.

But Elena wouldn’t crawl, not for anyone. It was a choice she’d made the night her father had told her to get on her knees and beg, and maybe, maybe, he’d accept her back into the family.

Elena hadn’t spoken to her father in a decade.

“You should have a care,” Raphael said into the unnatural silence.

She didn’t collapse in relief—the air continued to hang heavy with the promise of menace. “I don’t like to play games.”

“Learn.” He settled back in his chair. “You will live a very short life if you expect only honesty.”

Sensing the danger had passed—for now—she unclenched her fingers with an effort of will. The force of the blood rushing back into them was painful in its extremity. “I didn’t say I expected honesty. People lie. Vampires lie. Even—” She caught herself.

“Surely you’re not going to practice discretion now?” The amusement was back but it was tempered with an edge that stroked like a razor across her skin.

She looked into that perfect face and knew she’d never met a more deadly being in her life. If she displeased him, Raphael would kill her as easily as she might swat a fly. She’d be smart to remember that, no matter how the knowledge infuriated her. “You said I had to do a test?”

His wings moved slightly at that instant, drawing her attention. They truly were beautiful and she couldn’t help but covet them. To be able to fly . . . what an amazing gift.

Raphael’s eyes shifted to look at something over her left shoulder. “Less a test than an experiment.”

She didn’t twist around, had no need to. “There’s a vampire behind me.”

“Are you sure?” His expression remained unchanged.


She fought the urge to turn. “Yes.”

He nodded. “Look.”

Wondering which was worse—having her back to an enigmatic and highly unpredictable archangel, or to an unknown vampire—she hesitated. In the end, her curiosity won out. There was a distinctly satisfied expression on Raphael’s face and she wanted to know what had put it there.

Shifting, she turned sideways with her whole body, the position allowing her to keep Raphael in her peripheral vision. Then she looked at the two . . . creatures who stood behind her. “Jesus.”

“You may go.” Raphael’s voice was a command that awakened abject terror in the eyes of the one who looked vaguely human. The other scuttled away like the animal it was.

She watched them leave through the glass door and swallowed. “How old was . . .” She couldn’t call that thing a vampire. Neither had it been human.

“Erik was Made yesterday.”

“I didn’t know they could walk at that age.” It was an attempt to sound professional though she was creeped out to her toes.

“He had a little help.” Raphael’s tone made it clear that that was all the answer she was going to get. “Bernal is . . . a fraction older.”

She reached for the juice she’d rejected earlier and took a drink, trying to wash away the stink that had seeped into her pores. The older vamps didn’t have that ick factor. They—except for the unusual ones like the doorvamp—simply smelled of vampire, like she smelled human. But the very young ones, they had a certain rotten-cabbage/putrid-flesh smell that she always had to scrub three times over to get rid of. It was why she’d begun collecting the body washes and perfumes. After her initial contact with one of the newly Made, she’d thought she’d never get the smell out of her head.