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.
“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.”
The point being that Raphael’s Seven was made up of extraordinary men; Elena had come to realize the oldest three could’ve all been an archangel’s second. Each and every one was strong, intelligent, and honed enough to hold a position at an archangel’s side. Yet they chose to serve one archangel, chose to work with one another instead of in competition.
“Can I take my Guard?” Elena asked, wanting to give Raphael as much firepower as he was “legally” permitted.
While she still wasn’t really sure what to do with the Guard she’d somehow acquired, they were all capable fighters. A couple of them—namely Ashwini and Janvier—were also excellent at being smartly sneaky, using that to offset the disadvantage of their relatively young ages.
But Raphael shook his head. “In this situation, you are coming as my consort, and as such, if you take your Guard, it would be seen as an admission that I don’t believe I can protect you.”
“I hate angelic politics.” She ran a hand through her hair. “So, it’ll be me, you, and Aodhan. Dmitri and Illium will watch the city?” The two could definitely handle it, but it’d be hard going with little time for rest.
“Venom will be back in New York in the next twenty-four hours. Galen has authorized his return.” He spoke to her and Dmitri both. “Naasir and Galen will hold the Refuge territory safe, while Jason will do what he does.”
In other words, she thought as the two of them flew off the Tower after a short good-bye, Jason would provide any and all intel the others needed to do their jobs. Elena’s Guard, meanwhile, would be co-opted by Dmitri. It was how they’d set it up. Those in her Guard were being trained under Dmitri’s guidance because, while she could say many things about Raphael’s second, the one thing she couldn’t say was that he was bad at his job.
The setup worked for all of them—Elena wasn’t yet ready to take full control of her Guard, not when she was still learning herself. She’d only ended up with a Guard by accident anyway. It was Elijah’s consort, Hannah, who’d convinced her to give it serious attention.
“As you grow in power and age,” the other consort had said, “you’ll come to be seen less as a curiosity and more as a threat.” Hannah’s dark eyes had held a quiet wisdom, her ebony skin exquisitely without flaw and her jet-black curls woven into an intricate knot at her nape, her wings a lush and luxuriant cream with a caress of peach on the primaries. “Never forget that while archangels are extremely difficult to kill, consorts like you and I aren’t so difficult.”