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Archangel's Heart(Guild Hunter,book 9)(13) by Nalini Singh
I’m not ready for you to go.
Memories of the awful day when Illium had threatened to burn up alive, power cracking him open from the inside, awoke without warning at the sight of the two of them flying so close. If Raphael and Dmitri were friends before being sire and second, Raphael and Illium’s relationship was more the latter—but with a familial element. Illium had sounded so young that day when everyone had believed he might be ascending to archangelic power.
Had it been true, he’d have had to leave Raphael’s territory.
He was too young for that, and when the blue-winged angel had told Raphael he didn’t want to go, Elena had seen a shaken youth asking for reassurance from someone he respected and trusted.
Naasir treated Dmitri like a father.
It was only in that moment when Illium said he wasn’t ready to leave that Elena realized Illium saw Raphael in the same light. Not quite, not exactly, but close enough.
Elena had never asked what had happened to Illium’s actual father. She could have—Illium remained her closest immortal friend—but his face was so sad when he talked about his mother, the broken Hummingbird, that she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Instinct told her there was a reason the Hummingbird was the way she was, and there was a good chance it was tied to Illium’s father.
Raphael would’ve told her, too, but it felt dishonest to go behind Illium’s back. If Illium ever wanted to talk about his family, he would. Right now, he was back to his usual form, his spirit irrepressible.
No one knew what would happen when the Cascade kicked back into gear but Illium wasn’t allowing that uncertainty to dictate his choices. “I’ll worry about that when it happens,” he’d said to her. “I’m not going to waste a minute when I can be me free from any Cascade effects.”
She thought about it. When they raced, he gave her a considerable head start as a handicap and it was fun to try to push past her best. “Not today,” she said at last. “I don’t want to accidentally strain a muscle or tendon.” She needed to be at peak strength when they reached Lumia.
Flipping over onto his back, Illium dropped before twisting around to return to her. Raphael, meanwhile, had swept up and over them, his shadow a kiss against Elena’s senses. Is Illium coming to dinner with us? she asked.
I thought you’d wish to see your Bluebell before we leave. Sparkle will join us, too.
Lips twitching, Elena said, You know Aodhan hates that nickname.
Ah, but it is so appropriate. Raphael dropped down beside her just as Illium spoke from her other side.
“Um, Ellie. You’re shimmering.”
She pointed a finger at the blue-winged angel with the wickedly dancing eyes. “Be quiet.” Turning to a Raphael who wasn’t doing much to hide his amusement, she tapped a mirror-shiny blade on her nose before angling it in his direction. “I’m going to get you for that. Right when you think you’re safe, boom, you’ll be covered in whipped cream . . . or tomato sauce if I’m feeling extra evil.”
“I am forewarned.” He dipped his wing, nodded at Illium. “First to the Enclave. Go.”
Whooping, Illium turned into a sleek bullet as he dived to build up speed for the race. Raphael stayed high but he was as fast, even though it didn’t appear his wings were beating with any more momentum. Elena enjoyed watching him move—he was magnificent in flight. So she had her eyes on him when his wings turned aflame, and suddenly, even sleek, fast Bluebell didn’t stand a chance of defeating him.
Her stomach clenched.
The other shoe had dropped.
The Cascade was no longer on Pause.