Archangel's Heart(8)

By: Nalini Singh

“I always knew I liked Titus.” Elena bared her teeth. “When do we leave?”

“Unless one of the Cadre refuses to attend, we go on the dawn.”

Implicit were the words that if someone did say no, it could set in motion a chain of immortal violence that would end with a devastated world. Because when archangels fought, people died and cities fell.

* * *

Two hours later, in the library of Elena and Raphael’s Enclave home, that danger was no longer a concern. According to Jessamy, who was in touch with the Luminata in her role as the angelic Historian, every single archangel had RSVP’d to the meeting. “Except Lijuan, of course,” Jessamy corrected, the other woman’s fine-boned face up on the screen placed on one wall of the library.

Elena’s blood began to pump a little faster. “That settles it then—we’ll be on the plane tomorrow morning.”

Raphael had already told their pilot to be on standby.

Had he been going alone, he would’ve probably flown on the wing, but Elena wasn’t strong enough or fast enough to do that over such a long distance. She was getting there, could now achieve a vertical takeoff nine times out of ten—though it always cost her. Her body simply wasn’t “old” enough in immortal terms, to have grown the necessary muscle strength. So when she forced a vertical takeoff, she did so knowing she’d have a shorter time in the air and could possibly rupture a tendon and be grounded until it healed.

In most cases, it made more sense for her to climb up someplace and take off from there, but at least she no longer faced being trapped on the ground if she couldn’t find a handy launching spot. And once in the air, she had far greater endurance than when she’d first woken up with wings. Though that wasn’t saying much, since she’d been about as graceful as a baby chicken on awakening.

“Has there been any word from Lijuan’s court at all?”

The Historian—and Elena’s friend—nodded at Raphael’s question, her features lit by the delicate golden light thrown by the old-fashioned blown glass lamp on her desk, the Refuge yet swathed in the deep blackness of very early morning. “Xi confirmed receipt of the Luminata’s request.”

Had it been any other man or woman, Elena had the feeling the rest of the Cadre would’ve already acted. However, the general was so utterly devoted to his “goddess” that no one had any fear he’d forget who and what he was and give in to delusions of power he simply did not possess. Xi wanted only to hold the territory for Lijuan.

The thought of the archangel who considered herself evolved beyond even the Ancients triggered another thought. Glancing at Raphael, she said, “Did the Luminata invite Alexander and Caliane as well?”

Alexander had quickly become an active member of the Cadre, while Caliane preferred to keep to her small territory, but both were Ancients who should’ve never been awake, should’ve never been in the Cadre during this time.

The Cascade, however, had other ideas.

“Yes,” Raphael answered.

“And,” Jessamy added, “since saying no to the Luminata is unacceptable, both will be attending the meeting.” The beautiful burnt sienna of her eyes lit with quiet humor. “I think Caliane might have a few words to say to the Luminata.”

Elena caught the emphasis. “Head guy?”

A nod from the other woman. “The members of the sect do have names, but the leader is referred to as the Luminata as a gesture of respect. In direct speech, archangels use the Luminata’s name—and so should you as consort.”

“Because an archangel will only bend so far,” Elena said dryly.

Similar to a guild hunter I know.

Grinning at the mental comment, one made in a very “Archangel of New York” tone, Elena leaned against Raphael’s side. “So, it looks like it’s going to be an unhappy reunion   of the Cadre.” She whistled at the implications of that. “Holy hell. Is Michaela coming, too?”

Jessamy’s nod was quick, her eyes bright.

“That should be interesting.” Unlike Lijuan, the most beautiful archangel in the world hadn’t done a disappearing act, but she’d become far less visible for the span of an entire year before returning once more to the limelight—though still nowhere near at the level she’d been at before her strangely reclusive year.

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