Home > Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(14)

Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(14)
Author: Nalini Singh

That was hardly surprising in a city filled with angels and vampires, not all of whom embraced change. If, however, this place belonged to an immortal or almost-immortal, it had been permitted to fall into remarkable disrepair. The older ones who liked to keep things the way they’d been at some point in the past, took great pride in maintaining the historical detail and beauty of their properties.

It didn’t appear anyone had touched this house for decades.

The paint, which might’ve once been white, was peeling and blackened from the dust of the city streets, the windows shattered, the eaves hung with cobwebs thick and sticky, the curtains within rotten shreds from what she could see from her position on the street. The wood itself was warped out of shape, until the house couldn’t be in any way weather-tight—and an unusually tall tree had fallen onto part of the roof, caving in one side of the house.

“What the hell is this place?” she said to Ransom when he appeared from the other side of the porch.

Green eyes vivid against skin of copper-gold, he raised an eyebrow. “Are you talking about this multimillion-dollar piece of real estate?”

“Seriously?”

“When’s the last time land went for sale in Manhattan?” he asked, shrugging wide shoulders hugged by the battered black leather of his motorcycle jacket, his legs encased in old blue jeans over scuffed heavy-duty boots. “This entire street is one parcel. Developers have f**king public orgasms dreaming about getting their paws on it.”

Elena whistled. “Someone’s sitting on a gold mine.”

“He was. Now he’s dead.”

Heart slamming against her ribs, she jerked her attention from the rotting house next door. “Not—”

“No, it wasn’t Darrell, but it’s someone the Tower’s going to be interested in.” Ransom’s blade-sharp cheekbones cut against his skin as he said, “We need to clear this fast and continue with the hunt.”

Agreeing, she walked gingerly up the front steps, not trusting them not to collapse and dump her on her ass. “How do we get in?” Front door was boarded up, the nails corroded and the wood obscene with graffiti.

Angling his head to the left, the glossy black tail of his hair tied at the nape of his neck with a strip of rawhide, Ransom led her around the house. “Your angel friends okay? That young blond one who follows you around like a big, goofy puppy?”

Stabbing pains in her stomach, her mind rebelling against the brutal images of Izak’s torn-off legs, his flayed skin. “He’s hurt bad.”

“Shit. He’s just a kid.”

Elena’s throat knotted as she thought of the other young soldier who hadn’t survived, whose family even now held vigil for the return of his body. “The angel you rescued from in front of the truck?” she said, forcing herself not to give in to useless anger. “It’ll take time, but she’ll heal.”

Ransom blew out a jagged breath. “I didn’t think she’d make it. She was . . .” He shook his head. “I had to collect her arm from under the tires, Ellie.” Gesturing for her to take care over a broken board, he said, “What I found today? It’s going to add to the shitpile.”

Fuck. The city didn’t need any further problems. “You tracked Darrell here?”

“Darrell didn’t go loco right after that clusterfuck with the mother and the kid,” was the surprising answer. “He came in, had counseling, said all the right things, and was assigned a slam-dunk retrieval to ease him back into things.”

Reading between the lines, Elena realized the counselor had known something was off and asked for Darrell to be kept within reach.

“Vamp who owned this place was his assigned target.” Ransom drew his guns from the shoulder holsters he wore under his jacket, the action deadly silent. “I figured I might as well use him as a starting point for the track, since Darrell did send in a report to say he was on the guy’s trail.”

Elena had her throwing blades in hand when they turned the corner. Half of the back wall was just gone, leaving a gaping entrance filled with street detritus, dead leaves, discarded hypodermic needles, and other things she didn’t want to think about too deeply. Trying to keep her wings from trailing in the crap, she took a step inside . . . and a rat as big as a goddamn cat scurried over her boot.

Biting back her instinctive scream, she glared at Ransom—who was very conspicuously not grinning. “You couldn’t warn me?”

“You’re a tough-ass hunter who gets na**d with a freaking archangel, has a miniature flamethrower—which, by the way, you should leave to me in your will—and a crossbow, all within easy reach.” His cheeks creased, eyes glinting. “Rats quiver at your presence.”

“Now I remember why you’re only an almost-friend.”

“Oh, Ellie, you wound me.” He paused. “Did you stop and get the masks?”

“Yeah.” Reaching into a side pocket of her pants, she passed him a collapsible mask. Like her, he was hunter-born, his sense of smell acute.

“Thanks.” He pulled it on over his mouth and nose, tightened the elastic band. “Smell’s worse upstairs.”

Since it reeked down here—a disgusting miasma of droppings, spoiled food, and urine—Elena didn’t waste any time following his lead. Tugging out a pair of latex gloves from another pocket as Ransom did the same, she nodded at him to lead, and they skirted past what looked like the mummified body of a feral cat, and out of the kitchen.

 

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