Archangel's Heart(7)

By: Nalini Singh



“Jason has been unable to confirm either way, but Xi did eliminate the kiss very quickly.” Raphael’s tone cooled. “He can’t keep it up, however. No one who is not Cadre can. And these incidents are only the start—let it go and the vampires will swarm a blood red infestation across China.” His voice was so cold that she found herself running her hand firmly down the edge of his wing in a silent reminder that he wasn’t only an archangel, distant and lethal; he was her lover, the man who owned her heart and whose own belonged to her.

Raphael’s expression didn’t change, his voice still chilly, but he moved his wing so she could caress more of it. “If Lijuan rises again, new decisions will be made, but for the time being, we must work on the assumption that she overextended her new abilities to the point that she caused herself significant damage.” He nodded in greeting at a passing squadron. “I do not believe her dead any more than you do, but I do think she may have chosen to Sleep.”

And when an angel chose to Sleep, it could be centuries or millennia before they awoke. Caliane had Slept for more than a thousand years, and that was barely a drop in the ocean. “I guess I better pack for the Refuge then.” Raphael’s earlier words had made it clear he wouldn’t be asking her to remain behind in New York, as he had more than once before.

At first, she’d fought the restraint, frustratingly conscious that he wanted her safe within the borders of his territory rather than in danger by his side. Later, she’d come to understand that, at certain times, Raphael needed his consort to be visible in the heart of his territory while he was gone. It settled people, because surely no archangel would leave his consort behind were the storm clouds of war gathering on the horizon?

“It’ll be nice to see Jessamy and Galen again,” she said. “Naasir and Andi, too.” Venom was also still at the Refuge, but Elena didn’t know the snake-eyed vampire as well as she did the others.

Raphael’s response was unexpected. “I’m afraid we will have to wait to see our people at the Refuge. This meeting will be held on neutral ground, with no access to any strongholds or armies. Each archangel can bring their consort should they have one, plus one other.”

Elena felt like she was racing to catch up. “I didn’t know there was any other neutral ground.” The world was sharply delineated into areas of archangelic control. The Refuge alone stood separate.

“There are a rare few small areas,” Raphael told her. “Mere acres in each case. In this particular circumstance, it is the land that was given over to the Luminata so long ago that no one knows the names of those on the Cadre that made the decree.”

“Where?”

“Lumia, the Luminata stronghold, stands in the land your grandmother called home.”

“Morocco?” Delight kicked her bloodstream. “I love Morocco!” Though she had no ties there, she’d passed through the country during her days as a single hunter, felt its heartbeat sync with her own, as if her blood recognized the hot, desert land filled with a stark, golden beauty.

“From the covert flyover I did when I was a youth,” Raphael told her with a smile, “Lumia is located on a hilly rise, an elegant stronghold that has stood for eons. There are no roads to break up the wilderness that surrounds it—to visit Lumia, you must have wings or you must brave a harsh trek made no less difficult by the high walls on the very edges of their land.”

Elena was about to ask him to tell her more when her brain finally clicked. “Hold on,” she said with a scowl, placing her hands on her hips again. “Yeah, people can’t bring armies but Charisemnon’s will be closer than anyone else’s.” The disease-causing and cowardly bastard responsible for the horror of the Falling, an event that had seen New York’s angels plummet to the earth in an agony of fear and suffering and death, was the Archangel of Northern Africa.

“Unfortunately, yes.” Raphael’s own anger was frost in the air. “But Titus will no doubt mass his army on Charisemnon’s border when he leaves for the meeting, forcing Charisemnon to do the same or leave his border open to Titus.”

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