“Whoever or whatever it is that controls the Cascade, that’s who I’m talking to.” She leaned back into Raphael. The position trapped her wings in between, but with Raphael, she could be vulnerable, she could be weaponless, and still be safe. Not that she wasn’t armed to the teeth, but that was habit and none of it would ever be turned against Raphael except when they sparred—or when he pushed her buttons a little too hard.
Her archangel hadn’t quite got the hang of the fact he wasn’t lord and master over his consort. He tried but a thousand-five-hundred-years-plus of power had a way of messing with his attempts at seeing his once-mortal lover as an equal when it came to their personal relationship.
Elena cut him some slack every so often. “Some” being the operative word.
Today, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders from behind, his jaw brushing her hair as the two of them looked out over their city from their vantage point on the cloud-piercing form of Archangel Tower. New York. Brash and messy and noisy and full of color and energy and life. So much life. Elena could hear it on the busy streets far, far below, sense it with every beat of her heart, taste it in the myriad scents that clashed and fought and yet somehow made their peace.
Her blood hummed in awareness.
“I have news,” Raphael murmured. “It may inject a little excitement into your currently mundane life.”
Elena snorted. “I don’t need any more excitement. I just need the damn Cascade off Pause so we can get it done.” Her hand twitched to go for the lightweight crossbow strapped to her thigh.
Unfortunately, she didn’t have anyone or anything to shoot at right now.
Raphael’s chuckle vibrated against her. “You sound a little tense, Consort.”
Elena would’ve elbowed him if her wings hadn’t been in the way. “Why are you in such a good mood?” The past two years had been as tautly tense for him as they’d been for her. All the archangels had stayed within the borders of their own territories—but for a few secret trips here and there—in preparation for further Cascade madness.
Only the unpredictable worldwide phenomenon that caused dangerous power fluctuations in the archangels as well as some angels, along with tumult across the earth in the form of storms, quakes, and floods, seemed to have decided it was finished. But of course, they all knew it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. Even Elena could feel the thunderous portent in the air, just hanging there, waiting to unleash itself.
“My good mood is because something has at last broken the stalemate of the past two years.”
“I’m not going to like this, am I?” Elena said darkly.
“Such a suspicious mind.”
“Yes. It keeps me alive.” She watched an angel with wings of an astonishing, haunting blue edged with silver rise up over a skyscraper in the distance, Illium’s physical strength back to what it should be for his age and development. There had been no other vicious and possibly deadly surges that threatened to tear his body apart from the inside out.
Even better, he was laughing again, was once more the playful angel who’d become her first friend in this immortal world. “Bluebell’s about to do a dive,” she predicted from the way Illium was soaring up into the crystalline sky.
And then he was turning and falling, a sleek bullet whose laughter she could almost hear.
“I bet you he’s planning to go low enough to freak out the pedestrians.” New Yorkers were used to angels in their city, turned up their noses at the tourists who gawped up at the sky, but angelic acrobatics could still make them jump. Especially acrobatics done by an angel as fast and as quick to maneuver as Illium.
“That is no bet,” Raphael answered. “He’s been playing such tricks as long as I’ve known him.”
And Raphael, Elena thought, had known Illium since the other angel was a child.
She reached up to close her hands over the arms he’d wrapped around her. Illium meant a great deal to her archangel; that was a truth most people didn’t comprehend. All of Raphael’s Seven meant far more to him than simply the positions they filled in his Tower or in his Refuge stronghold.
They weren’t just his most trusted warriors—the Seven were family.
Rubbing his jaw against her temple in a silent response to her touch, he said, “We are about to leave New York.”
Elena blinked; she couldn’t have been more surprised if he’d told her he wanted her to strip naked then and there and start chanting to invisible sky gods. “What happened to batten down the hatches and watch for an attack? All our enemies are still out there.”
“The Cadre has been called to meet.”
Rubbing at her face, Elena turned and took a step back so she could face Raphael, her wings a familiar weight at her back and the wind tugging lightly at her feathers as if in invitation for flight. The almost cruel masculine beauty of his face hit her hard, as it sometimes did when she looked at him after glancing away. All clean lines and skin brushed with finest gold, he had eyes so shatteringly blue they had no equal on this earth, his hair a black beyond midnight and his lips shaped with a sensuality that hinted at passion and power both, wings of white gold arching over his shoulders.
Already, he’d been magnificent, but the Legion mark on his right temple—the violent, vivid blue and hidden white fire of it shaped like the primal manifestation of a dragon—added a wildness to his beauty that made him beyond beautiful, beyond magnificent. He was Raphael, Archangel of New York, and the man she loved so much that sometimes she couldn’t breathe from the force of it.