Savaging the archangel’s heart in the process.
“And,” Hannah had said with a smile, “now is the best time to build your Guard, when you are at the same level as your people. They will become strong by your side, your friendships forged into iron over time. It will be far more difficult to gather people you trust once you are influential in any sense—then you’ll first wonder if they are truly loyal to you, or if they hunger to be attached to a woman with power.”
Elena knew she already had a certain level of power by dint of being Raphael’s consort, but she also knew that mattered little to the people in her Guard. Ashwini had been a trusted fellow hunter and friend for years. Her mate, Janvier, adored Ash with such open delight that Elena knew he’d never betray anyone Ash called a friend—quite aside from the fact that Janvier was also fiercely loyal to Raphael.
Izak was . . . well, he was adorable.
She wanted to smile every time she thought of the young angel who had such a big crush on her. His soul was honest and sweet and out there for the world to see.
As for Vivek, he’d saved her life so many times that she’d lost count. The Guild’s former head of intelligence was now a vampire but he was still Vivek, as acerbic and as cuttingly intelligent as always. Placed on the Tower’s intelligence team after his Making, he’d proved so capable that he’d become Jason’s right-hand man when it came to intelligence gathering.
Not that the Vivek whom Elena had always known wasn’t a little different these days. She’d become friends with a brilliant hunter-born man who’d been paralyzed below the shoulders in a childhood accident. But while Vivek remained in a wheelchair, he’d regained feeling above the waist, had full control of his arms and torso.
Vivek’s probably going to leave my Guard and his position in the Tower at some point, she said to Raphael as they swept through the darkening sky above a city ramping up for the night to come.
He flew beside her, his wings glowing in the faint, last rays of the sunset—but they were solid. The wings of rippling white fire she’d seen the day he rescued Illium—when the other angel suffered a catastrophic incident in the sky—hadn’t reappeared since; all she’d caught in the past two years had been rare flickers of that pristine flame, flickers that disappeared as quickly as they appeared.
Yes, Raphael answered. Vivek Kapur was forced into certain choices because of his accident. He will need to explore in freedom before he decides if he wants to return to the life and the work he has made for himself.
It’s going to happen sooner than anyone predicted. Vivek was healing at a speed even Keir hadn’t foreseen—likely because Vivek had been Made a vampire by Aodhan, with Keir’s assistance. He’s still going to be under Contract. A hundred years to serve in return for the gift of near-immortality.
Elena, you know he is yours. I will not hold him to the Contract. Eyes of searing blue meeting her gaze. But you should—he is your friend but he will still be a young vampire with violently strong urges. He must have a firm hand on him until he regains his human control once more.
The idea of restraining Vivek in any way was abhorrent to Elena, though she knew Raphael was right. Maybe I can ask Jason to oversee him. She’d never thought to witness Vivek in awe of anyone but he was definitely in awe of Raphael’s spymaster. I think he’d listen to Jason in a way he’d never listen to me. I’m pretty sure he wants to be Jason when he grows up. She and Vivek were contemporaries, equals, while Jason occupied a whole different category. What do you think?
I think you know your Guard well. Raphael’s wings glinted as he swept down to glide over wings of silver blue.
Illium immediately changed direction to fall in line with Raphael.
I’m not ready to go.
I’m not ready for you to go.
Memories of the awful day when Illium had threatened to burn up alive, power cracking him open from the inside, awoke without warning at the sight of the two of them flying so close. If Raphael and Dmitri were friends before being sire and second, Raphael and Illium’s relationship was more the latter—but with a familial element. Illium had sounded so young that day when everyone had believed he might be ascending to archangelic power.
Had it been true, he’d have had to leave Raphael’s territory.
He was too young for that, and when the blue-winged angel had told Raphael he didn’t want to go, Elena had seen a shaken youth asking for reassurance from someone he respected and trusted.
Naasir treated Dmitri like a father.
It was only in that moment when Illium said he wasn’t ready to leave that Elena realized Illium saw Raphael in the same light. Not quite, not exactly, but close enough.
Elena had never asked what had happened to Illium’s actual father. She could have—Illium remained her closest immortal friend—but his face was so sad when he talked about his mother, the broken Hummingbird, that she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Instinct told her there was a reason the Hummingbird was the way she was, and there was a good chance it was tied to Illium’s father.
Raphael would’ve told her, too, but it felt dishonest to go behind Illium’s back. If Illium ever wanted to talk about his family, he would. Right now, he was back to his usual form, his spirit irrepressible.
No one knew what would happen when the Cascade kicked back into gear but Illium wasn’t allowing that uncertainty to dictate his choices. “I’ll worry about that when it happens,” he’d said to her. “I’m not going to waste a minute when I can be me free from any Cascade effects.”