Angels' Flight

By: Nalini Singh




Nazarach gave her a small smile, and perhaps there was warmth in it, but it was nothing human, nothing mortal. “As it is impossible to do anything but appreciate you, Guild Hunter.”



The tiny hairs at the back of her neck stood up in screaming warning. “I’m here to do a job and I’ll do it well. If you want to play games, I’m not your girl.”



Janvier stepped forward before Nazarach could reply to what was surely a highly impertinent statement. “Ashblade,” he said, using the nickname he was responsible for coining, “is good at what she does. She’s not so good at playing by the rules.”



“So”—Nazarach turned his attention to Janvier—“you’re not dead yet, Cajun?”



“Despite Ash’s best attempts.”



The angel laughed, and the shattering power of it swept around the room, crawled over her skin. Age, death, ecstasy, and agony, it was all in that laugh, in Nazarach’s past. It crushed her, threatened to cut off her breath, leaving her trapped forever in the terror-choked hell that had sought to claim her since childhood.





3




It was the fear that saved her. Fueled by the threat of being imprisoned inside her own mind, she wrenched herself out of the endless whirlpool and back into the present. As the rush of air receded from her ears, she heard Nazarach say, “Perhaps I’ll ask you to rejoin my court, Janvier.”

Janvier gave a perfect bow, and for an instant, she saw him in the clothes of a bygone era, a stranger who knew how to play politics with as much manipulative ease as he played cards. Her hand fisted in instinctive rejection, but the next moment he laughed that lazy, amused laugh, and he was the vampire she knew again. “I never was much good as a courtier if you recall.”



“But you provided the most intelligent conversation in the room.” Settling his wings close to his back, the angel walked to a gleaming mahogany table in one corner. “You aid the Guild Hunter?”



Ashwini let Janvier speak, using the time to study Nazarach, his power snapping a whip against her senses… a whip laced with broken glass.



“The idea of a kiss arouses my curiosity.” Janvier paused. “If I may—this situation between Antoine and Callan seems beneath your interest.”



“Antoine,” Nazarach said, his face turning expressionless in the way of the truly old ones, “has begun to overreach himself. He has come dangerously close to challenging my authority.”



“He’s changed, then.” Janvier shook his head. “The Antoine I knew was ambitious, but he also had a healthy regard for his own life.”



“It is the woman—Simone.” The angel passed a photograph to Ashwini, eyes of inhuman amber lingering on her own face a fraction too long. “Barely into her third century and yet she twists Antoine around her finger.”



“Why isn’t she dead?” Ashwini asked point-blank. Angels were a law unto themselves. There was no court on earth that would hold Nazarach to account if he decided to eliminate one of the Made.



Vampires chose their masters when they chose immortality.



The angel flared out his wings slightly, then snapped them shut. “It seems Antoine loves her.”



Ashwini nodded. “You kill her, he’ll turn against you.” And he’d die. Angels were not known for their benevolence.



“After being alive for seven hundred years,” Nazarach mused, speaking of centuries as if they were mere decades, “I find I’m loath to lose one of the few men—his recent mistakes aside—I actually respect.”



Returning the photo of the sultry brunette who was apparently making a very old vampire dance to her tune, Ashwini forced herself to meet Nazarach’s gaze—the amber acted as a lens, focusing the screams to piercing clarity. “How does this tie in with the kidnapping?” she asked, blocking the nightmare with everything she had.



“Callan Fox,” Nazarach said, “intrigues me. I don’t want him dead yet. And Antoine will kill the young pup to retrieve his granddaughter. Get Monique out and bring her to me.”



“You’re asking us to hand you a hostage to use against Antoine.” Ashwini shook her head, relief a cool brush down her spine. “The Guild doesn’t get involved in political disputes.”



“Between angels,” Nazarach corrected. “This is a… problem between an angel and the vampires under his control.”



“Even so,” she said, unable to stop her eyes from going to those wings of amber and light, unable to understand how such beauty could exist alongside the inhuman darkness that stained Nazarach from within, “if you want Monique, all you have to do is ask. Callan will hand her over.” The leader of the Fox kiss might be willing to take on Antoine Beaumont, but only a very stupid vampire would stand against an angel. And Callan Fox was not stupid. “You don’t need me.”



Nazarach gave her an inscrutable smile. “You will not mention my name to Callan. As for the rest—the Guild has already agreed to the terms.”