Home > Archangel's Storm (Guild Hunter #5)(7)

Archangel's Storm (Guild Hunter #5)(7)
Author: Nalini Singh

“Are you willing to stake your life on that?”

“Yes.” Jason had watched Neha for centuries, as he watched every member of the Cadre, so he knew that she wasn’t an archangel who used a heavy hand when more subtle methods would suffice. “Neha is more apt to attempt to turn me against you or to entice me to change camps.”

Raphael met his gaze. “It will be a dangerous game of patience and power.”

“A short one.” Jason already had his ideas about Eris’s death. “We state the vow is to be considered fulfilled the instant I unearth the murderer.” Neha would expect the stipulation. “There’s nothing in the custom that bars me from continuing with my other duties, so long as I don’t betray Neha for the duration.”

Eyes inscrutable, Raphael said, “It remains a bad bargain . . . unless you want to get inside Neha’s court for reasons of your own.”

“There is something happening within,” he acknowledged. “Samira was unable to get close to it—I’m near certain Neha knew she was one of mine.” Permitting a certain level of spying, mostly so they could seed false information, was an amusing diversion to some of the archangels.

“The vow,” he continued, “will get me deep inside the fort, and as I wish only to observe, not interfere in this other matter, I do not risk a breach of the vow.” He wouldn’t be able to use any of what he discovered, not unless he could verify the same information through another source, but it would at least confirm that he was on the right trail.

“A fine line.”

“I can walk it.”

Raphael’s next words were pragmatic. “She will not give you free reign. This Mahiya is apt to be your shadow.”

“It matters little.” Jason was skilled at disappearing in the midst of a crowd, at remaining unseen even when he stood right in front of a person. “She’s comparatively young, and to my knowledge, has never been beyond the borders of Neha’s palaces.” Surely schooled in the art of court intrigues, there was a high chance she was no “trinket”—but she couldn’t hope to match a man who’d spent a lifetime learning how to become kin to the dark, until the night was his natural home.

“I’ve never tied your hands,” Raphael said, “and I won’t do so now. It’s your choice.” He frowned. “As for Mahiya—I recall you had doubts about the rumors of her paternity since the whispers of Eris’s infidelity were never proven. Nivriti was also apparently executed for another crime months before the newborn child appeared at Neha’s court. Why are you now so certain she is Eris’s get?”

“She wears her lineage on her face.” It was Mahiya’s highly distinctive eyes that gave away her parentage to anyone not blinded by fear of an archangel’s wrath. “I’ve also heard enough fragments from my spies over the centuries to confirm the evidence of my sight.”

Raphael’s nod was thoughtful. “Neha has a reputation for not harming children, mortal or immortal, so I can see her adopting the child even in this circumstance.” Glancing up, he said, “I leave the choice to you, Jason. And who knows? Perhaps this Mahiya will prove to be your downfall—they say the intimacy of a blood vow is powerful indeed.”

Jason said nothing, but they both knew it to be an impossible thing. Jason had never loved anyone after he dug a grave under a tropical sun, no longer understood the emotion; the boy he’d once been was a faraway mirage in his mind. The closest he came was in his loyalty to Raphael, but he knew from watching Dmitri with his wife, Raphael with Elena, Galen with Jessamy, and long ago, Illium with his mortal, that it was not the same thing at all. “I’ll leave within the hour.”

“Remember,” Raphael said in a quiet tone that cut through the air like a blade, “she is not only the Queen of Snakes, but the Queen of Poisons.”

And Jason was about to walk into her lair.


She wears my ring.

Dmitri watched Honor’s face light up as she laughed at something her clever friend Ashwini had whispered to her. With her sly wit and eyes that saw too much, the other hunter had been a good friend to Honor, and so Dmitri would’ve been inclined to like her, even if she hadn’t provided him with a source of amusement—the game of cat and mouse she and Janvier had played for over two years was as inexplicable as it was fascinating.

Honor’s eyes turned in his direction, her face holding an unasked question.

“I’m looking at my wife,” he murmured for her ears only, running his fingers over her nape as he told himself he really should behave since they were in public. “My beautiful wife, whom I’d like to peel out of her dress and set na**d on my lap so I can do debauched things to her sexy body.” He never had been much good at behaving.

A faint shiver. “You shouldn’t be let out to torment women.”

Smiling with a slow deliberation that brought slumberous heat into those eyes of haunting green, he leaned in close, his next words a purr against the shell of her ear. “I only plan to torment one woman for the rest of eternity.”

Her pulse thudded in her throat, the call of her blood an erotic siren song. He drew in a deep breath, took her scent within, but he wasn’t about to rush. Not today. “Shall I tell you what I intend to do to you for your wedding night gift?” He wrapped her up in tendrils of chocolate and a sensual promise rich and decadent.

“No.” It was a laughing refusal, her husky voice entangling him in chains he had no intention of ever breaking. “Or I’ll tell you what I’m wearing under this dress.”

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