Archangel's Heart (Guild Hunter #9)(10)


by Nalini Singh

At Dmitri’s request, Raphael was the angel who’d Made Honor. She had the blood of an archangel running through her veins, just enough to make her stronger and more advanced in vampiric terms than she should’ve been for her age as an almost-immortal. Not that it had changed her except on the surface, honing her beauty to a luminous edge.

No, Honor was still Honor: a woman full of heart who loved history and languages and who was a hunter to the core. A number of former street kids owed their bright new futures to Honor’s deep capacity for love—and the other woman wasn’t resting on her laurels. She continued to work to save children who were lost and alone.

“Whoa!” Honor cried out as one of Elena’s blades almost clipped Raphael’s temple.

Elena grinned and spun out another blade before he could recover from his harsh swerve, but he was still too fast. He caught her final blade, spun it over, and threw it back. She slid it into her thigh sheath, then put away the others as he threw them back to her one by one. Several had embedded into the carpet and the walls after he moved out of the way, and Elena wondered what the Tower repair crew would make of the random knife holes that had appeared in this newly renovated hallway.

Probably shrug and mutter, “Business as usual.”

“So?” she asked as she sheathed the last of the blades, her heart thumping with the exhilaration and pure fun of what they’d just done.

Surprisingly, it was Honor who answered. “You’re faster,” she said definitively. “I remember watching you practice in the Guild ring a year ago, and while you were dangerously good, you could’ve never come that close to actually hitting Raphael.”

Dmitri’s gaze had softened when it landed on his wife, but by the time he returned his attention to Elena, those dark irises gleamed once again with taunting amusement. “It appears the Tower’s resident baby is now a toddler.”

“I’m going to carve out your heart one day, fry it with salsa sauce, then feed it to the crows,” Elena said conversationally. “Don’t worry, Honor. It’ll grow back. Unfortunately.”

Shaking her head, Honor walked over to stand beside her husband. He immediately put his arm around her shoulders. Unlike her usual casual office wear, Honor was dressed in hunting clothes today—leather pants, boots, a simple T-shirt, and a leather jacket that would protect against knife strikes or claws.

“You on a hunt?” Elena asked.

“Just got back,” Honor said with a roll of dramatic green eyes tilted up at the corners and set against skin of warm honey brushed with a shimmer of gold, the soft ebony of her curls pulled back in a ponytail. “A spoiled and frankly idiotic vampire decided to take off after a fight with his angelic master—who also happens to be his lover.”

She threw up her hands. “I mean, who thought that was a good idea? I found him ‘hiding out’ in a fancy hotel drinking expensive room-service blood, hauled him home, and left vampire and angel both looking at each other with equally sulky, pouty faces.”

Adding her own eye roll to Honor’s because, seriously, people were stupid sometimes. Even people who’d lived for centuries. “A job’s a job I guess—and we have to stay sharp.”

“That’s what I figured.” Honor shrugged. “But forget about me. When are you two going to be friends?” A pointed glance from Dmitri to Elena and back.

“Never,” Elena and Dmitri said in concert, then scowled at each other for that unintended agreement.

Honor laughed and reached up to run her lips over the hard line of Dmitri’s jaw, while Raphael’s amusement was quieter but no less potent.

“Nice of you to dress up for me, though,” Dmitri said to Elena.

“What?”

“You’re sparkling.”

“Oh, bite me,” she said, realizing her mistake a second too late.

The damn vampire bared his teeth, fangs flashing. But before he could say something designed to aggravate her, Honor pressed a finger over his lips. “Dmitri only bites his wife now,” she said before pointing at Elena. “Shoo. Go home so we can get some work done. Or my husband will spend all his time having fun by irritating you.”

Raphael was already by Elena’s side, his wing overlapping hers, his feathers a shimmering white gold against the midnight and dawn of her own. “I give the Tower and my territory into your keeping, Dmitri. Not simply for tonight, but until I return from Lumia.”

Dmitri straightened, his expression wiped of all humor and his skin taut over the bones of his face. “They’ve called a meeting?”

“Yes. We leave on the dawn.”

Suddenly, Dmitri wasn’t the infuriating vampire who messed with Elena just because he could, but very much Raphael’s second, his own strength such that certain angels had been known to warn Raphael to be careful, that he couldn’t trust a man with that much personal power. Those angels didn’t understand the bond between the two men. They weren’t simply sire and second. They were friends as close as brothers.

Dmitri would die for Raphael.

And difficult as it was for outsiders to understand, he would die for Elena, too.

Because you are his heart, Elena. A man with his heart torn out is a broken creature. I know.

Words he’d spoken to her once, when they’d been alone on a balcony one quiet midnight long before he’d found Honor. He’d made no attempt to hide the scars on him when he looked at her. And not for the first time, she’d realized that Dmitri had had a life before he became a vampire. A life that had involved a wife and children.

“Sire, you must take care.” The vampire’s body was all hard lines. “The rules have been—are—being broken. I don’t trust the others not to strike even within the sacrosanct halls of the Luminata’s innermost sanctum.”

“Have no fear, Dmitri. I have no intention of lowering my guard.” Raphael paused. “I thought to take Aodhan as our escort. He will enjoy seeing the art that is meant to line the walls of Lumia, and he is powerful enough that no one will consider him an easy mark.”

“But not as powerful as Illium.” Dmitri’s eyes narrowed before he nodded, his arm still around a silent Honor. “Illium might be seen as too confrontational. Of course, Aodhan doesn’t exactly blend in, so you’ll still be making a point.”

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