Archangel's Blade (Guild Hunter #4)

Written By: Nalini Singh

Archangel's Blade (Guild Hunter #4)

Nalini Singh



Writing this book was a wonderful journey,

made more so by the amazing people around me.

Thank you, to each and every one of you.





Before Isis


“Papa! Papa!”

“Oomph, Misha.” Catching his son’s excited form as the little boy came running down the rough country drive, he settled Misha on his arm—browned, scarred, and muscled from working the fields—and said, “What has your mama been feeding you?”

A giggling laugh, his son secure in the knowledge that his father wouldn’t drop him. “Did you bring me a sweet?”

“I was hungry on the way home,” he teased. “I’m afraid I ate it.”

Misha’s brow furrowed, his dark eyes intent . . . and then he laughed again, a huge and deep laugh for such a small boy. “Papa!” He began to look in his father’s shirt pocket, gave a triumphant cry when he found the small wrapped package.

Smiling at his son’s joy, he looked up and saw her in the doorway. His wife. With their new daughter in her arms. His heart twisted into a knot that was almost painful. Sometimes, he thought he should be ashamed to love his wife and children so much, until the days when he went away to the markets were a rare anguish . . . but he could not bring himself to believe it.

When other men complained about their wives, he simply smiled and thought of the woman with the slanting eyes and wide mouth who waited for him. Ingrede hated her mouth, wanted a little bow like the wife of their neighbor across the plain, but he loved her smile, loved the crooked tooth in the front, and the way she began to lisp when he talked her into too much of the white fire brewed by the same neighbor’s son.

Now, setting down his bag on the doorstep, he cupped her cheek with his hand. “Hello, wife.”

“I missed you, Dmitri.”





1


Crouching on the concrete pier lit only by the dull yellow glow of a flickering streetlight several feet away, Dmitri tilted the severed head toward him with a grip in the dead male’s damp hair, not bothering with gloves. Elena, he thought, would not have approved of the breach in proper forensic protocol, but the hunter was currently in Japan and wouldn’t return to the city for three more days.

The victim’s head had been separated from his—as yet undiscovered—body with hacking slices, the weapon possibly some kind of a small ax. Not a neat job, but it had gotten things done. The skin, which appeared to have been either pink or white in life, was bloated and soft with water, but the river hadn’t had time to degrade it into slime.

“I was hoping,” he said to the blue-winged angel who stood on the other side of the grisly find, “for a quiet few weeks.” The reappearance of the archangel Caliane, thought dead for over a millennium, had rocked both the angels and the vampire population. The mortals, too, felt something, but they had no true knowledge of the staggering change in the power structure of the Cadre of Ten, the archangels who ruled the world.

Because Caliane wasn’t simply old, she was an Ancient.

“Quiet would bore you,” Illium said, playing a thin silver blade in and around his fingers. Having preceded Raphael and Elena home from Japan the previous day, he looked none the worse for wear after having been kidnapped and caught in the middle of a battle between archangels.

Dmitri felt his lips curve. Unfortunately, the angel with his wings of silver-kissed blue and eyes of gold was right. Dmitri hadn’t yet succumbed to the ennui that affected so many of the immortals for the simple reason that he never stayed still. Of course, some would say he was leaning too far in the other direction—in the company of those who lived only for the piercing pleasure of blood and pain, every other sensation having grown dull.

The thought should’ve concerned him. That it didn’t . . . that concerned him. But his inexorable descent into the seductive ruby red darkness had nothing to do with the current situation. “He has nascent fangs.” The small, immature canines appeared almost translucent. “But he’s not one of ours.” Dmitri knew the name and face of every vampire living in and around New York. “Neither does he fit the description of any of the Made who’ve gone missing across the wider territory.”

Illium balanced his blade on a fingertip, the yellow glow from the streetlight reflecting off it in an unexpected spark of color before he began to play it through his fingers once more. “He could’ve belonged to someone else, tried to escape his Contract, run into trouble.”

Since there were always idiots who tried to get out of their side of the deal—a hundred years of service to the angels in exchange for the gift of near-immortality—that was highly possible. Though why a vampire would come to New York when it was home to an archangel, and a powerful Guild of hunters dedicated to retrieving those who decided to run, wasn’t as explicable.

“Family ties,” Illium said, as if he’d read Dmitri’s thoughts. “Vampires that young tend to stay connected to their mortal roots.”

Dmitri thought of the broken burned-out shell of a house he’d visited day after day, night after night, until so many years had passed that there was no longer any sign of the small cottage that once stood there. Only the land, carpeted with wildflowers, remained, and it was Dmitri’s, would always be Dmitri’s. “We’ve been working together too long, Bluebell,” he said, his mind on that windswept plain where he had once danced a laughing woman in his arms while a bright-eyed boy clapped his hands.