Angels' Flight

By: Nalini Singh

“Seems that way. Funny thing is, there are at least a couple of three-hundred-year-old vamps in the kiss, and one who might be approaching the four-century mark.”

“Not all vampires gain power with age.” Putting one foot on the outside of her stool, he flicked through the photos of the other vampires in the kiss. “Look at me. I’m still as weak as a babe.”

“Does that line ever work?” She took back her precious gadget when he started to go into her personal albums.

A slashing smile. “You’d be surprised at how many women just love to console poor, desolate me. Who’s the boy in that photo?”

Her heart twisted. That boy was now a man, a man who refused to see her as anyone but the mirage she’d once been. “None of your business.”

“Such pain.” Janvier’s fingers stopped for a second, before his hand curved over her upper arm. “How can you breathe past it, cher?”

Because when there was no other option, the mind learned to compensate… even if it could never forget. “You want to know more about this op or not?”

“One day,” Janvier said, shifting until the heat of him touched her in an aggressive masculine caress, “I will know your secrets.”

Part of her wanted to lean in, to be held. But that part was buried so deep, even she wasn’t sure if it would ever see the light. “Then you’d be bored.” Pushing at that chest that tempted her to jump straight into madness, she hopped off the stool. “Guild’s been hired by Nazarach.”

That got Janvier’s interest. “Angels usually let high-level vamps sort out their own feuds.”

“I have a meet with him tomorrow morning.” She moved aside the leg he’d braced on her stool, the muscle of his thigh flexing with strength. “Guess I’ll find out his motives then.”

All trace of charm left Janvier’s face, exposing the almost feral ruthlessness of his true self. “You will not go to him alone.” It was an order.

Intrigued—Janvier never used force when he could as easily persuade—she put one hand on her hip. “I know his rep.” Going into a hunt blind was just asking for death. Especially when it involved an angel who inspired as much whispered terror as Nazarach. “I’m not his type.”

“You’re wrong. Nazarach has always collected the unique and unattainable.” Stepping back, he walked to the wardrobe, the line of his back sleek with muscle. “Give me a moment to dress and pack.”

“I don’t need a bodyguard.”

“If you walk out of here alone, I’ll simply follow you.” Steel in those moss and shadow eyes. “Much easier to take me along.”

She shrugged. “You want to waste your time, that’s up to you.”

A pause as he studied her, cool intelligence rising past the hot burn of temper. “You intended to take me along all the time,” he said at last. “Now you try to play me. Shame on you, Ashwini.”

How the hell did he read her that way? “Guild says this is touchy,” she admitted. “I figured the fact that you know the players would provide a nice noncombative entrée into their world.”

“So you will use me.” Pulling on a white T-shirt, he covered up that body her fingers wanted to stroke, wanted to know, safe in the knowledge that it would be only Janvier under her fingertips, no ghosts, no echoes, nothing but the beautiful, infuriating vampire himself. “Perhaps I’ll ask you for recompense.”

“Half my fee.” Fair was fair—it’d be much faster and easier to get to Callan Fox with Janvier by her side.

“I don’t need money, cher.” Pulling out a duffel, he began to pack with almost military efficiency. “If I do this, you will owe me a favor.”

“Not to hunt you?” She shook her head. “I can’t promise that. The Guild would have my badge.”

He waved off her words with that wicked, wicked smile he seemed to save just for her. “Non, this favor will be between Ashwini and Janvier, no one else. It will be personal.”

The sensible thing would’ve been to walk away… but then, she’d never been big on sensible. “Deal.”

Nazarach ran Atlanta from a gracious old plantation house that had been converted for angelic inhabitants. “Very Southern,” Ashwini said as the limo glided down the drive. “Must admit, it’s not quite what I expected.”

Janvier stretched out his long legs as much as he could. “You’re used to Archangel Tower.”

“Hard not to be. It dominates Manhattan.” Raphael’s Tower, the place from which the archangel effectively ruled North America, had become as much a symbol of New York as the ubiquitous red apple. “Have you ever seen it at night? It’s like a knife of light, cutting through the sky.” Beauty and cruelty intertwined.

“Once or twice,” Janvier said. “I’ve never been close to Raphael, though. You?”