Elena gripped the balcony railing and stared down at the gorge that fell away with jagged promise beneath. From here, the rocks looked like sharp teeth, ready to bite and tear and rip. She tightened her hold as the icy wind threatened to tumble her into the unforgiving jaws. "A year ago," she murmured, "I didn't know the Refuge existed, and today, here I stand."
A sprawling city of marble and glass spread out in every direction; its elegant lines exquisite under the razor-sharp burn of the sun. Dark-leafed trees provided soothing patches of green on both sides of the gorge that cut a massive divide through the city, while snow-capped mountains ruled the skyline. There were no roads, no high-rises, nothing to disturb the otherworldly grace of it.
Yet, for all its beauty, there was something alien about this place, a vague sense that darkness lurked beneath the gilded surface. Drawing in a breath laced with the biting freshness of the mountain winds, she looked up . . . at the angels. So many angels. Their wings filled the skies above this city that seemed to have grown out of the rock itself.
The angelstruck, those mortals who were literally enthralled by the sight of angelic wings, would weep to be in this place filled with the beings they worshipped. But Elena had seen an archangel laugh as he plucked the eyes out of a vampire's skull, as he pretended to eat, then crush the pulpy mass. This, she thought with a shiver, was not her idea of heaven.
A rustle of wings from behind her, a squeeze from the powerful hands on her hips.
"You're tiring, Elena. Come inside."
She held her position, though the feel of him - strong, dangerous, uncompromisingly masculine - against the sensitive surface of her wings made her want to shudder in ecstasy. "Do you think you have the right to give me orders now?"
The Archangel of New York, a creature so lethal that part of her feared him even now, lifted the hair off her nape, brushed his lips across her skin. "Of course. You are mine."
No hint of humor, nothing but stark possession.
"I don't think you've quite got the hang of this true love thing." He'd fed ambrosia into her mouth, changed her from mortal to immortal, given her wings - wings! - all because of love. For her, a hunter, a mortal . . . no longer mortal.
"Be that as it may, it's time you return to bed."
And then she was in his arms, though she had no memory of having released the railing - but she must have, because her hands were filling with blood again, her skin tight. It hurt. Even as she tried to ride out the slow, hot burn, Raphael carried her through the sliding doors and into the magnificent glass room that sat atop a fortress of marble and quartz, as solid and immoveable as the mountains around them.
Fury arced through her bloodstream. "Out of my mind, Raphael!"
"Because, as I've told you more than once, I'm not your puppet." She grit her teeth as he laid her on the cloud-soft bedding, the pillows lush. But the mattress held firm under her palms when she pulled herself up into a sitting position. "A lover" - God, she could still barely believe she'd gone and fallen for an archangel - "should be a partner, not a toy to manipulate."
Cobalt eyes in a face that turned humans into slaves, that sweep of night-dark hair framing a face of perfect grace . . . and more than a little cruelty. "You've been awake exactly three days after spending a year in a coma," he told her. "I've lived for more than a thousand years. You're no more my equal now than you were before I Made you immortal."
Anger was a wall of white noise in her ears. She wanted to shoot him as she'd done once before. Her mind cascaded with a waterfall of images on the heels of that thought - the wetly crimson spray of blood, a torn wing, Raphael's eyes glazed with shock. No . . . she wouldn't shoot him again, but he drove her to violence. "Then what am I?"
Was it wrong that sparks sizzled along her spine at hearing that, at seeing the utter possession in his voice, the dark passion on his face? Probably. But she didn't care. The only thing she cared about was the fact that she was now tied to an archangel who thought the ground rules had changed. "Yes," she agreed. "My heart is yours."
A flash of satisfaction in his eyes.
"But nothing else." She locked gazes with him, refusing to back down. "So, I'm a baby immortal. Fine - but I'm also still a hunter. One good enough that you hired me."
Annoyance replaced the passion. "You're an angel."
"With magic angel money?"
"Money is no object."