"That’s a lie, Elena." He brushed her cheekbone with his thumb. "You’d call Sara for help in a heartbeat."
"Sara’s been my friend since I was eighteen. She’s more my sister than my friend."
Reaching up, she put her hand over his. "I don’t know you like I know Sara."
"Then ask, Guild Hunter." An order from the Archangel of New York. "Ask what you would know."
Raphael was angry. But, Elena thought, this clean, bright anger, she could deal with.
When he became as he had earlier with Michaela, then she was fearful for his very soul.
"Tell me about your childhood," she said. "Tell me what it’s like to grow up a child in an angelic world."
"I will, but first, you’ll get into bed, and I’ll bring you something to eat."
Realizing that was one battle she didn’t particularly want to fight, she shucked off the towel as he went to the other room to get the food, and shimmied into one of Raphael’s shirts. The slots in the back flowed around her wings, but she could find nothing with which to secure them at the bottom. Deciding she couldn’t really be bothered searching for the illusive closures, she was sitting quietly in bed when he returned.
He halted for a second. "I’m surprised to find that you obeyed an order."
"I’m not unreasonable . . . so long as the order is reasonable."
A gleam of amusement lit the arctic blue as he placed the plate of bite-sized treats on the mattress between them, the glasses of water on the bedside table, and came to sit on the bed diagonally opposite her. They’d taken this position before, but that time, he’d been on her side of the bed.
Very conscious of the subtle distance, she picked up a tiny sandwich filled with what looked like thin slices of cucumber. "So?"
A long, long moment passed before he spoke. "Being a child among angels is a joy.
Children are petted and generally spoiled. Even Michaela wouldn’t harm a child’s heart."
Elena found that hard to believe. But then again, Michaela had once gotten out of bed to let what she’d believed was a trapped bird out of her room. The archangel wasn’t pure Wicked Witch of the West, for all that Elena would’ve liked to typecast her in that role.
"My childhood was ordinary, except that my father was Nadiel, my mother, Caliane."
The breath rushed out of her. "You’re the son of two archangels?"
"Yes." He turned, looking toward the mountains, but she knew it wasn’t the snow-capped peaks, the starlit sky, that he saw. "It’s not the gift it seems."
Elena stayed silent, waiting.
"Nadiel was a contemporary of Lijuan’s. Older by only a thousand years."
A thousand years. And Raphael spoke of it so very easily. How old did that make Lijuan? "He was one of your ancients."
"Yes." Raphael turned back to her. "I remember listening to him talk of sieges and battles long past, but mostly, I remember watching him die."
"And now you feel sorrow for me." Raphael shook his head. "It was at the dawn of my existence."
"But he was your father."
Tracing her eyes over that harshly masculine, impossibly beautiful face, she moved the tray of food to the floor. He watched, silent, as she pushed aside the blankets and came to sit in front of him, her hand braced on his thigh. "Fathers and mothers," she found herself saying, "leave their mark, no matter if we’ve known them a lifetime or only a day."
He raised his hand to her wings, stroking one hand down the sweep of black and indigo.
"Raphael." It came out husky, a censure.
"I haven’t spoken of my parents in centuries." Another lingering stroke along her wings.
"My mother executed my father."
The words cut through the haze of pleasure with ruthless precision. "Executed?" Images of broken, decaying bodies filled her mind as she was catapulted back into Uram’s depraved playground.
"No," Raphael said, "he didn’t turn bloodborn."
There was no scent of the wind, of the rain, in her mind. "How did you know?"
"The horror is painted across your face." His eyes shifted to a color that had no name, it was so heavy with memory. "Uram revered what my father was."
"Can you not guess, Elena?"
It wasn’t hard, not when she thought back to what she knew about Uram. "Your father thought angels should be worshipped as gods," she said slowly. "That mortals and vampires should bow down before you."
There was a knock on the balcony doors before she could formulate a reply. Glancing over, she saw only darkness. "Is it Jason?"
"Yes," Raphael said, rising off the bed, his expression grim. "And Naasir awaits below."
She watched him step out onto the balcony, and though she knew Jason was there, she still couldn’t make out anything of the black-winged angel’s form.
Elena, get dressed.
Caught by the urgency of the command, she got out of bed and pulled on a pair of cotton panties, ignoring the bruises that had already begun to turn a nice putrid purple on her back and thighs. Over the panties, she donned a pair of black pants made of some kind of tough, leatherlike material, and – after shedding the shirt – a top that wrapped around her in a complicated pattern of straps, but ended up covering her chest while leaving her arms and most of her back bare. The fit was snug, leaving her free to move without worrying about extraneous material getting in her way.
Having felt the approaching cold front, she slipped on long, tight sleeves that fit securely just below her shoulders – they’d provide warmth while ensuring her arms remained unrestricted. As she grabbed her boots, she arrowed her thoughts to Raphael, aware he was no longer on the balcony.Where?
Dmitri will escort you.
The vampire was waiting for her in the hallway, and for once, there was no hint of sex about him – unless you liked your sex lethal. Wearing black leather pants, a black T-shirt that hugged his leanly muscled frame, and a long black coat that swept around his ankles, he was death honed to a gleaming edge. Straps crisscrossed his chest and she recognized them as a dual holster.
"Weapons?" he asked.
"Gun and knives." The knives sat on either side of her thighs, but the gun she’d tucked into her boot after debating whether to put it in the curve of her lower back and deciding she wasn’t yet confident enough in terms of getting her wings out of the way fast enough.
"Let’s go." Dmitri was already walking.