Home > Archangel's Light (Guild Hunter #14)

Archangel's Light (Guild Hunter #14)
Author: Nalini Singh





   “Look, Illium.” Sharine, the Hummingbird, squeezed her toddler son’s hand.

   He was so very small, his wings no more than suggestions of what they would one day become, but he insisted on walking. Aegaeon was proud of him for his stubborn determination, boasted that Illium had inherited his will.

   What Sharine knew was that her son had more strength in his small body than she could’ve ever imagined when she cradled his infant form. He’d been such a fragile, tiny baby that the healer had worried, and Aegaeon had scowled. “How can I have fathered such a runt?” he’d said, offense in every line of his large and muscular body. “I am an archangel!”

   Aegaeon had long forgotten his initial reaction, the memory overridden by the relentless drive of this small boy who was the center of Sharine’s world.

   “Look over there.” She pointed out the similarly-sized child who played in a patch of wildflowers on the cold mountain plateau on which they walked.

   Sharine’s parents hadn’t often allowed her such unstructured play, wanting her to be controlled and disciplined . . . and quiet, always quiet, but she allowed her son all the play he wanted, no matter how dirty it made him or how out of control it became. Yesterday, she’d discovered him climbing the kitchen pantry so he could get at the sweets she’d hidden at the very top. He’d been naked, a wild creature at home in his skin.

   And such mischief he’d had in his eyes when she caught him with one pudgy hand clasped around a sweet far too big for his little body. He’d giggled when she took hold of him with a stern admonishment about the rules. Oh, but then she’d laughed, too, because his laughter was a thing infectious.

   Sharine knew that was a bad way to teach a child not to be naughty. Aegaeon, for one, wasn’t pleased by her gentleness with their son. Sharine, however, had no fears about who Illium would one day become. Her boy had a good heart. He’d never be cruel. If he ended up a little spoiled, well, that wasn’t a bad thing, was it? Not if it was tempered by a kind heart and a generous spirit.

   Now, he babbled up at her, the dark gold of his eyes shining.

   Old eyes he had, her baby. Perhaps because she was such an old angel. She worried about that at times, that she was the wrong kind of mother for a bright, lively boy—too old and bruised and a little broken. But he laughed often, her Illium, so she must be doing something right.

   “Shall we go say hello?” She didn’t recognize the extremely fair-haired angel with wings of palest, palest gold who watched over the other little boy; she might be someone who worked often outside the Refuge. Or it might be that she and the boy lived on the far side of the Refuge and Sharine’s path had just never crossed with theirs. Sharine knew she could be insular, content with a small circle of those she loved.

   Illium tugged at her hand, trying to run on his wobbly little legs.

   Laughing, she speeded up, and soon, wildflowers brushed their legs. Sharine inhaled sharply at her first true look at the unknown child. He seemed a touch younger than Illium, and was a dazzlingly bright creature, as if every part of him had been designed to capture, then fracture light. His hair was delicate strands of diamonds, every filament of his nascent feathers akin to glass that had been formed into something soft and welcoming that drew light.

   And his gaze, when he looked up from his seated position among the riot of indigo and pink, yellow and white blooms, was a fracture of blue and green that erupted outward from jet-black irises. But he wasn’t looking at Sharine. He was staring at Illium, a tiny flower held in a soft baby hand.

   A moment later, he smiled, this child of light, and held out the flower to Illium.

   Sharine’s boy smiled back, babbled happily, and took the flower before plopping down across from the other child. Sharine looked from the child of light to the green-eyed woman behind him, and said, “I think, our children will be friends.”




   A month before today

   Elena slid her throwing blade into a forearm sheath as she strode onto the Tower roof on the hunt for her archangel. And there he was, silhouetted against the lush red-orange glow of the early evening sunlight, the golden filaments in the white of his feathers ablaze.

   He turned toward her the instant she stepped out onto the rooftop, and though they had been lovers through a Cascade of change, their lives entwined since they met, the incandescent blue of his eyes stole her breath.

   Dangerous and beautiful, the Archangel of New York owned her heart.

   For an instant, she thought the Legion mark on his temple glittered, but then it was gone, nothing but an illusion caused by the setting sun. Her chest ached. She couldn’t stop looking for that spark of life, couldn’t stop hoping that the strange, ancient warriors who’d sacrificed their lives to protect the world from a reign of death would one day return.

   Taking the hand that Raphael held out, she joined him on the edge of the highest rooftop in Manhattan, both of them looking out at their city. Almost a year after the war and it was still being rebuilt, construction equipment a familiar sight and cranes multiplying like overly fertile birds, while four city blocks near the East River remained black and barren despite their best efforts—but New York’s heart had rebounded, unbroken. It beat with the dogged will of its people, mortal and immortal, human, vampire, and angel.

   As in front of them thrived the verdant green of the Legion building. “I kept my promise,” she said, a knot in her throat.

   “You did, hbeebti.” A kiss pressed to the top of her head. “You have kept their home alive.”

   Neither one of them spoke aloud the fear that haunted Elena: that the Legion’s green home would remain forever empty, an echoing cavern devoid of the beautifully eerie presence of the seven hundred and seventy-seven beings who’d called it home.

   The Legion, however, weren’t the only ones Elena missed with feral desperation. “Tell me Aodhan will be coming home soon.” He’d stood by Suyin’s side as her second ever since her sudden ascension to an archangel on the far edge of the war.

   Elena liked Suyin and didn’t envy her the job she’d taken on as Archangel of China, but she wanted Aodhan home, surrounded by those who loved him. Aodhan trusted so few people, leaned on an even smaller number—and that trust had been years in the making.

   She hated the idea of him being so far from all of that small group.

   “Not just yet,” Raphael said, his wing spreading in a caress behind her as the blazing rays of the sun set fire to the midnight strands of his hair. “That is why I’m out here. I’ve just had a meeting with Jason.”

   Elena hadn’t realized the spymaster had returned from his latest trip. Hardly a surprise. The black-winged angel took pride slipping in and out of places. “He was in China?”

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