Archangel's Shadows(9)

By: Nalini Singh



Janvier revved the bike at that instant. “I’ll report back once I’ve checked out the abuse report.”

“I’ll be at the Tower.” Illium took off in a powerful beat of wild blue accented with silver.





4


Wondering if the Cajun would catch his dark-eyed hunter this time around, Illium rode the winter winds directly to the balcony outside Dmitri’s office. It was swept clear of snow, a task usually assigned to the youngest in the troop ranks, vampire or angel. Right now, with so many of the young injured, it was done by whoever had ten free minutes and didn’t mind a little manual labor.

From the damp in Dmitri’s hair where he stood behind his desk, his body clad in a simple black T-shirt and black cargo pants, Illium had the feeling Dmitri had cleared this himself. Not many who stood second to an archangel would do such a task, but this was why Dmitri was so trusted by Raphael’s men—despite his power, he was, and had always been, one of them.

Glancing up at Illium’s entry, his eyes having been on a map that showed the current position of Lijuan’s forces in China, Dmitri said, “Did you find it?”

“Trace did.” Illium had asked the slender vampire to follow the trail because most vampires outside the Tower had no idea he was Raphael’s man. “It’s called Umber.” He placed a tiny vial of a reddish brown substance on Dmitri’s desk, but while the color echoed the pigment for which it was named, the texture was unusual.

The contents glittered like tiny shards of glass—or crushed hard candy.

Dmitri picked it up, angled it to the light.

It was, Illium saw, oddly beautiful, despite the fact that light revealed the crystals to have an undertone of sickly yellow.

“Chewed?”

He nodded at Dmitri’s question. “That seems to be the preferred method of ingestion with the users Trace was able to pinpoint. The supplier is taking extreme care to keep this underground and available to only a select clientele.”

“Exclusivity makes it more valuable.” Dmitri put the vial back down. “Effects?”

“Sexual high and addictive with a single hit.” Trace had reported seeing the woman from whom he’d seduced the sample quivering in carnal pleasure after she ate a sliver, her hands cupping her breasts and her eyes heavy lidded. “Long-term effects are unknown—Trace was able to confirm the drug only hit the streets two days past. We were lucky to pick up on it.”

“No. We weren’t lucky; we were prepared.” Dmitri had begun to create a network of informants throughout the city during the lead-up to the battle, and it was those informants who had reported a rising excitement in the wealthy vampire populace. All of it related to a mysterious new high.

Many of these new informants were human and a number were blood donors, specifically genetically blessed donors who came into contact with older, more powerful vampires on a regular basis. The trick was that none of the informants knew they served the Tower. One set of exclusive donors, for example, reported to the woman who ran the city’s top vampire club, in return for the cachet of being in her inner circle.

The idea of the subtle but powerful network had come from Raphael.

“Elena,” the archangel had said, “has made me realize we’re not fully utilizing all our assets.”

They’d been standing on the Tower roof at the time, the wind a savage beast. When Raphael turned to Dmitri, midnight black strands of hair had whipped across his face. “The mortals see things we do not, pay attention to those we might otherwise dismiss.” Facing the wind once again, Raphael had continued. “We need that information, but I will not drag Elena’s friends too deeply into the immortal world.” An instant of piercing eye contact. “Such can end only badly for them.”

Dmitri knew Raphael was no longer talking about Elena’s friends, but about the horror of Dmitri’s own past. “I do not blame you, sire. I never have.” He blamed the vicious angel who had tortured them both. “Without you, I would’ve carved out my heart and been lying dead in a distant grave an eon ago.”

“I blame myself, Dmitri, and I would not have Elena feel the same. Set up the network using mortals who have freely chosen to linger on the fringes of the immortal world as the base.”

“Raphael.” When the archangel turned to look at him with those eyes that burned with power, Dmitri had extended his arm. “The past is past, and if there ever was a debt between us, it was wiped clean the day you Made Honor.” Those vampires Made by an archangel were stronger from day one, harder to injure or kill. “You are my liege, but you will always first be my friend.”

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