Archangel's Shadows(4)

By: Nalini Singh

“Seriously, Sara,” she said, following the erratic flight path of an angel who appeared to be testing a lately injured wing, “you couldn’t find anything less dangerous? Like sending me to find a little old lady’s lost knitting needle?”

The Guild Director laughed, utterly unabashed. “Hey, you now hold the Guild record for the most stitches in one sitting—enjoy the time off.”

“I want a real hunt after this.” She scowled, but her hand was fisted as she silently urged on the unknown angel who was attempting to make a landing on a rooftop adjacent to the Tower. “Or I’m going to hunt Janvier on principle.” The damn vampire had been nice to her for weeks, ever since she got sliced up during the battle to hold New York against the invading force marshaled by the archangel Lijuan.

The angel who’d just made a good if shaky landing on that rooftop in the distance had no doubt been injured in the same battle.

“Excellent,” Sara said, as if Ashwini had just told her that unicorns not only existed but were currently granting wishes in Central Park. “Let me know when so I can buy tickets. Now go look at the canine mummy.”

“Grr.” She hung up after making the snarling sound she’d picked up from Naasir during the time she, Janvier, and Naasir had worked as a team behind enemy lines.

Walking into her bedroom, she pulled curtains of deep citrine across the sliding doors that led out onto her tiny balcony. That balcony was what had made Ellie recommend this apartment to her when she’d seen it go on the market—Ashwini had once told Ellie how much she liked the way Ellie’s balcony offered a sense of freedom even so high up in a skyscraper.

The block color of the curtains was vibrant against the crisp white walls Ashwini had left untouched, and a vivid contrast to the fuchsia pink of the throw pillows on her bed. The sheets were cream with fine pink stripes, the carpet a pale gold. A spiral sculpture of cerulean blue glass sat on a tall black wooden stool in one corner; she’d found the sculpture on the curb in Greenwich Village, after the previous owner threw it out just because the base was chipped. Their loss if they couldn’t see beauty in the fractured, the scarred.

The room might hold too much color for many, but after the genteel elegance of the place in which she’d spent five months of her fifteenth year of life, she couldn’t stand the stark or the minimalist. Texture, color, story, that was what she wanted around her, why she collected pieces others had discarded and gave them new life.

She, too, had once been considered too broken to be of any use.

Her fingers brushed the scar that diagonally bisected her chest as she pulled off her gray tee, the mark a reminder she’d almost been fatally broken. Opening up her closet door to reveal the tall mirror mounted on the other side, she took in the clean line that stated the skill of the vampire who’d wielded the sword. It was no longer raw and red, and it would eventually fade to the pale honey that was the shade of the other, smaller scars on her skin.

The memories, however, those would never fade.

“Don’t you go, Ash. Don’t you fucking go.”

Janvier’s voice had been the last thing Ashwini heard before blacking out, and the first after she woke. “It’s bad manners to snarl at the nice doctor, Ashblade.”

In truth, she’d been too weak to snarl, but she’d made her dislike of the institutional setting clear. So Janvier had brought her home, tucked her into her own bed, and made her soup. From scratch! Who did that? No one else ever had for her and she didn’t know how to handle the strange, lost feeling the memory aroused in her. So she just shut the door on it, as she’d been doing for the two weeks since she’d kicked him out, and focused on the scar.

Early on, she’d worried the wound had caused muscle damage that would limit her range of motion. A visit with the Guild’s senior medic a week prior, in concert with her increasing mobility, had erased that concern. Since she planned on keeping her recovery on track, she picked up the bottle of special oil Saki had given her. “Rub it in twice a day after the stitches dissolve,” the veteran hunter had said. “It’ll help with deep-tissue healing.”

Given Saki’s impressive record of injuries, Ashwini wasn’t about to argue.

The sweet-smelling oil rubbed in, she wove her hair into a loose braid, then took off her yoga pants to change into winter-appropriate jeans, hunting boots, a mohair turtleneck in vibrant orange over a thin, long-sleeved tee designed to retain body heat, and a thermal-lined black leather jacket that hit her at the hip. She found her gloves stuffed into the pockets of the jacket, so that saved her from hunting for them.

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