Archangel's Shadows(3)By: Nalini Singh
Her limbs were so heavy, her blood dripping over her skin to soak the waistband of her jeans, but she managed to link her arms around his neck. “Window?”
“No, my entrance route will have been plugged by now. We’re going down.” Using a rope he must’ve anchored to the railing when he arrived, he swung over the side and slid down at breathtaking speed.
Shouts and screams came from above, but all Ashwini could think was that he wasn’t wearing a glove.
A slamming halt as he swung them to a stop on a lower floor, below their pursuers but not home free. It was perfectly timed: she heard the rope slither past a heartbeat later, having been severed from above. Janvier was already racing down the steps, Ashwini once more cradled against his chest.
They rocketed past the first floor and down into the garage. A vampire with hair of metallic silver and eyes of the same startling shade against skin of rich, strokable brown was waiting for them, the door held open. Shoving it shut behind them, Naasir mangled the opening mechanism by bending part of it with brute strength. “Go! I’ll take care of any pursuit!”
A small boom reverberated through the building at that instant, dust falling onto her face from the concrete of the garage ceiling. “We did it,” she tried to whisper, but her throat wouldn’t work . . . and her heartbeat, it was a sluggish crawl. As if her body no longer had blood to pump.
Janvier’s voice was the last thing she heard before the lights went out.
A fetid breath on the back of the neck.
A chill of bones. A cold whisper in the darkness.
There are those things that should not exist, should not walk, should not breathe, should not be named.
There are those nightmares that, once given form, can never be put back into the dreamscape.
—Scroll of the Unknown Ancient, Refuge Library
There had been a war. Archangel against archangel. Squadrons of angels in the air and troops of vampires on the ground. He’d told it that when he returned. The being who no longer remembered its name, who no longer knew if it lived or was caught in endless purgatory, had heard the fighting. But it didn’t care. That war existed on another world, not in the small darkness that was its own.
Here, it fought its own war, screaming at the faint sound of the dragging scrape-shuffle that announced the monster’s approaching footsteps. But even as it screamed through a throat cracked and raw, it knew it was making no sound, its chest painful from a lack of air. Panic had clamped its cruel hand around its throat and now it squeezed, squeezed.
“No, no, no,” the trapped creature whimpered inside its skull, mouth remaining locked in that silent scream.
Part of who it had once been understood that its mind was broken and would never recover. That part was a tiny kernel hidden in a distant part of its psyche. The rest of it was clawing horror and fear . . . and sadness. Tears rolled down its face, caught in its ravaged throat, but the haunting sense of despair was soon crushed under the suffocating weight of naked fear.
Then light hit the eyes that must be its own in an agonizing blindness and its pulse froze.
The monster was here.
Three weeks after losing most of the blood in her body, Ashwini was considering painting one of her living room walls pink with purple polka dots when her phone began to buzz. Grabbing it from the exquisitely scarred wooden coffee table she’d restored the previous year, she answered to find Sara on the other end.
The Guild Director had a job for her. “Something weird’s been happening in the Vampire Quarter,” she said. “Dogs and cats disappearing. First report was postbattle, but it could’ve been going on for longer with the strays no one tracks.” Faint rustling sounds, pages being turned. “A canine body finally turned up in a sewer drain and reports are that it’s desiccated. ‘Like a mummy,’ according to the vet who called me. I want you to check it out.”
“You want me to investigate a mummified dog?” Ashwini loved animals, would have a big slobbering pup of her own if she didn’t live in an apartment in Manhattan, but this was hardly her area of expertise. “I’m no Egyptologist. I also don’t like sewers.”
“Dog’s not in the sewer anymore, so you’re safe,” Sara said without missing a beat. “Could be we have a crazy vampire feeding off pets. Just check it out.”
Narrowing her eyes, Ashwini glared at the view of the city’s cloud-piercing Archangel Tower through the reinforced glass of the living room wall opposite the one she’d been considering earlier, the oil-paint orange of the late afternoon sunlight brushing the angelic wings in her line of sight in shades of auburn and sienna. It was Ellie who’d told her about this building—the other hunter had had an apartment in a similar building next door before she fell in love with the bone-chillingly dangerous male who controlled North America from that Tower.