Archangel's Shadows(7)

By: Nalini Singh

His use of the language she’d learned at her grandmother’s knee didn’t surprise her; he had served out his hundred-year Contract in Neha’s court, after all. “Chaque hibou aime son bébé,” she said in return, having discovered the quirky saying online while trying to figure out something he’d said to her.

A sinful grin that lit up his eyes and made her stomach somersault. “I protest at being labeled an owl—I haven’t eaten any mice lately. But I do love this beast. Come, let me give you a ride.”

Accepting the helmet despite her reservations, she put it on, scowled when he remained bareheaded. “Vampirism doesn’t protect against no-brain syndrome.” She rapped her knuckles lightly against the back of his head. “You better have another helmet.”

“Just checking if you still care.” He retrieved a second helmet from where he’d apparently left it hooked somewhere on the part of the bike not in her line of sight. The man really wanted to get his stuff stolen. Then again, she thought, her eyes landing on the small set of black wings on the glossy red paintwork of the side panel, it’d be a stupid thief who took property marked as belonging to the Tower.

“Junkies don’t care,” she said, pointing at the emblem. “Their wiring is too scrambled.”

“That’s why I asked the doorman to keep an eye on it.” He winked at her for having jerked her chain this long, his lashes thick and curling slightly at the ends. “Where do you want to go? I am but your loyal steed today.”

Swinging over behind him, she put one gloved hand on his shoulder and told him the address of the veterinary clinic. He smelled even more delicious up close, the dangerous bite of him layered with an earthy undertone that echoed his personality: Janvier could pull off sophisticated, of that she had no doubt, but his real skin was full of sexily rough edges.

The motorbike came to life with a throaty roar that vibrated between her legs. Sucking in a breath, she grabbed his wrist when he would’ve reached back to stroke her thigh. “Hands and eyes front.”

Chuckling, he put his hands back where they should be after tugging on his gloves. “Hold on.”

Ashwini controlled her position with her thighs as he slipped into the heavy traffic, keeping just the one hand on his shoulder to balance herself. His beaten-up leather jacket did nothing to insulate her from the intimacy of feeling his body move, muscle and tendon and bone shifting under her touch as he maneuvered the bike through the sea of cars.

When an angel swept down to skim over the vehicles, the distinctive blue of his wings causing motorists to slow down in a wonder that never faded, Janvier raised a hand in casual acknowledgment. Rather than returning the salute, Illium pointed to the curb and Janvier immediately slid the bike out of the flow of traffic and to another illegal parking spot in front of a fire hydrant.

Illium landed on the sidewalk at almost the same instant, folding in his wings in a susurrous whisper of sound. Golden eyed with ink black hair dipped in blue and flawless bone structure, he was one of the most astonishingly beautiful angels Ashwini had ever seen. Yet he did nothing for her, might as well have been a marble sculpture created by a master.

It was only Janvier who’d penetrated the wary steel of her defenses, made himself at home. As he had on her couch two and a half weeks back, his arm wrapped around her while they stretched out to watch an old black-and-white movie. When she’d started to fall asleep, her body not yet at full strength, he’d tucked her in with a kiss on the forehead she could feel even now.

“Ash,” Illium said, a distinct glint in the gold. “I thought for certain I’d be organizing Janvier’s funeral when he said he was planning to beard you in your den. I even called an undertaker.”

She pushed up the visor of her helmet. “Keep the number. It might be useful one of these days.”

“How you keep wounding me.” Janvier slapped a hand dramatically over his heart before flipping up the visor of his own helmet. “Why did you pull us aside, sweet Bluebell? Can you not see that I’m acting as my Ashblade’s chauffeur?”

Illium thrust a hand through his hair, pushing back the overlong strands that had fallen across his face. “Give me one of your blades,” he demanded. “I need to cut this before it blinds me.”

“You do it here and there’ll be a stampede to get the discards,” Janvier pointed out. “Not to mention the distress such barbarity will cause in the tender hearts of all those who worship your fine form.”

Illium muttered something uncomplimentary about Cajuns who should be dropped off buildings that did nothing to dim Janvier’s amusement. His hair brushed his nape, too, but he was comfortable with that length, and Ashwini liked it on him. Too much. Running her fingers through the heavy silk of it was a bone-deep pleasure she’d indulged in only a rare few times, all too aware it could become an addiction.

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