Angels' Flight

By: Nalini Singh

As he moved about the kitchen with an assurance that said he knew exactly what he was doing, Ashwini allowed herself to admire the male beauty of him. Janvier might be a perennial pain in her ass, but he was built like the sexiest dream she’d ever had—lean and long, his muscles that of a runner or a swimmer, all sleek lines and contained power. At six feet three, he topped her by a good five inches, carrying the height with the confidence of a man completely at ease with himself.

Then again, she thought, he’d had more than two hundred years to build that effortless arrogance. “I’m guessing you’re not bothered by sunlight,” she said, checking out the sloping skylight to the right. The bed was right below it—and as the clock ticked over eight in the morning, the sun’s rays stroked possessively over the tumbled sheets.

Her mind immediately supplied her with an exquisitely detailed image of Janvier’s long-limbed body tangled up in those sheets. The rush of blood in her ears almost drowned out his next words.

“Looking for weaknesses, hunter?” Walking over, he handed her a small cup filled with a creamy brew that smelled like no coffee she’d ever before had.

“What is this?” She took a suspicious sniff, felt her mouth water. “And of course. Then I could just push you into sunlight and watch you fry.”

His lips quirked, the upper one a little thin, the lower eminently bitable. “You’d miss me if I was gone.”

“Old age is giving you delusions.”

“That is café au lait made with a blend of coffee and chicory.” Watching as she chanced a sip, he nodded to the bed. “I love sunlight. Vampirism wouldn’t have been the least attractive if I’d had to spend my life in the dark.”

“You’d think with all the vampires walking around in daylight, that old rumor would die, but no, it keeps on chugging,” she said, soaking in the distinctive flavor of the coffee. “I like this stuff.”

“It suits you.”

“Bitter and strange?”

“Exotic and luscious.” He ran a finger down the bared skin of her arm. “Such beautiful skin you have, cher. Like the desert at sunset.”

She stepped out of reach. “Go put on a shirt and get your mind out of bed.”

“Impossible with you around.”

“Pretend I’m holding a rifle. In fact, pretend I have you in the crosshairs.”

Janvier sighed, rubbing at a jaw shadowed by morning stubble. “I love it when you talk dirty.”

“Then this should rock your world,” she said, ordering herself to stop thinking about what that stubble would feel like against her skin. “Blood, kidnapping, feud, hostage.”

Interest sparked in the moss green. “Tell me more.” He waved her toward the bed. “I apologize for the mess—I wasn’t expecting such exquisite company.”

Walking over to put her coffee on the counter, she hitched herself up on one of the bar stools instead. Janvier grinned and chose to sit on the bed, hands braced behind him, jean-clad legs crossed loosely at the ankles. Sunlight danced over his dark brown hair, picking up glints of pure copper that played beautifully against the burnished gold of his skin.

Vampires as old as Janvier were almost uniformly pretty, but she’d yet to meet one with the Cajun’s charisma—or his way of having friends in pretty much every city and town he’d ever traveled to. And that was why she needed him. “There’s a situation in Atlanta.”

“Atlanta?” The barest of pauses. “That’s Beaumont territory.”

Bingo. “How well do you know them?”

He gave her that loose-limbed shrug of his. “Well enough. They’re an old vampire family—not many of those around.”

Seduced by the scent, Ashwini took another sip of Janvier’s potent brand of coffee. “Makes sense. I heard the angels don’t discriminate along familial lines when it comes to choosing Candidates.” Of the many hundreds of thousands who applied to be Made almost-immortal every year, only a tiny fraction ever reached the Candidate stage.

“The Beaumonts buck the curve,” Janvier continued. “They’ve managed to get at least one family member Made in every generation. This time, it was two.”

“Monique and Frédéric. Brother and sister.”

A nod. “That kind of success makes them a powerhouse—with Monique and Frédéric, the Beaumonts now have ten living vampires connected by blood. The oldest is half a millennium old.”

“Antoine Beaumont.”

“Cutthroat bastard,” Janvier said in an almost affectionate tone. “Would probably sell his own children upriver if he thought he could profit from it.”

“A friend?”

“I saved his life once.” Lifting his face to the sun, Janvier soaked in the rays like some sybarite on a European coast far from the humid, earthy embrace of a Louisiana summer. “He sends me a bottle of his best Bordeaux every year—along with a proposal that I should consider marrying his daughter Jean.” Pronounced in the French way, the name sounded sensual and electric.