Archangel's Prophecy

By: Nalini Singh

A time of death

A time of life

The drinker of blood lost

The agony of rebirth

The last feather to fall

Such eyes of wild fire, Such broken dreams

One must die for one to live

And the birds, ah, the birds always know



—Archangel Cassandra, Ancient among Ancients, lost to an eons-long Sleep





1



Elena noticed the sparrows with the periphery of her mind.

The small birds were dipping and dancing beyond the Tower windows, their wings nearly brushing the glass. For a second, she felt a chill on the back of her neck, but then the sparrows flew off to do sparrow business and she realized she was being paranoid. Just because the city’s birds had gone all creepy and otherworldly once didn’t mean every sparrow was a harbinger.

Sometimes a bird was just a bird.

She returned to her Scrabble death match with Vivek.

Ten minutes later, the two of them were taking an insane amount of pleasure in arguing over a word when Sara called to ask her to track a young vampire who thought he could skip out on his Contract. “Why?” she said to both Sara and Vivek, after putting the conversation on speaker.

“Because you’re a Guild Hunter, and we find and haul back runaway vampires,” was Sara’s dry response. “If you don’t know that by now, Ellie, there’s no hope for you.”

“No.” Elena leaned back in her chair across from Vivek. “Why do a certain percentage of baby vamps think that (a) all the nasty, terrible things they’ve heard about the old angels aren’t true, and (b)—after discovering that, in fact, all the previous knowledge they had is true, why do they think they’ll be the one wet-behind-the-ears idiot who’ll make it to freedom?”

Both of those things made zero sense to Elena. You’d have to be blind, deaf, and mentally unhinged not to realize that angelkind was not human in any way, shape, or form. To a being who had lived a thousand years, what were mortals and new-Made vampires but bugs to be crushed? Nothing but fragile fireflies. Pretty perhaps, if your tastes ran that way, but gone and forgotten in mere heartbeats.

That Elena was now the consort of the most powerful immortal in North America didn’t change her bone-deep understanding of that searing truth. Raphael was learning to act with more humanity because of the bond of love that tied them together, but he wasn’t human, and he never would be; it’d be like asking a ferocious tiger to turn tame. An impossibility—and a destruction.

Raphael was a glorious fury, a power.

As Elena was a newborn angel with a heart that would always be mortal, even should she live ten thousand years.

“I have an answer.” Vivek raised his hand, his sharply handsome face bearing a cheek-creasing grin, and the rich brown of his skin lit with good humor.

It had been a long time since Elena had seen any sign of the petulance and pettiness that had once been as much a part of him as his striking intellect. Then Vivek had controlled the Cellars, the hidey hole the Guild kept for hunters who needed to lie low for a while—such as a wayward hunter who might’ve slit the throat of a vampire so brutally powerful he was an archangel’s second.

Elena still wasn’t sorry about that. Dmitri had deserved to feel the lethal edge of her knife and more. And it wasn’t as if he’d been at any risk of dying. The arrogant fuck had blown her a kiss while his shirt was wet with darkest crimson, the blood loss nothing to a vampire that strong.

Not that his lack of injuries and twisted delight in the violent interaction had stopped him from stalking Elena—hence her need to disappear into the Cellars. In that underground world, Vivek had been king, and he’d relished his power. Piss him off and you’d say good-bye to air-conditioning, your room a sauna—and forget about fresh coffee. These days, however, the Cellars were someone else’s domain; and, like her, Vivek was growing into a strange new skin.

In the five years since he’d been Made a vampire, the formerly tetraplegic guild hunter had regained the use of his arms and most of his upper body. Even though his lower body remained numb to sensation and offered no way for him to get out of the wheelchair he’d been in since childhood, Vivek wasn’t complaining.