The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1) (14 page)

BOOK: The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1)
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Chapter Twenty-Two

 

“Dammit,” I hissed to the shadows.

He’d slipped through the door and left me standing here as lookout. I pressed into the tiny alcove of the door and watched vigilantly. Thanks to the construction, we were hidden from the main road by the opaque fencing that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

I checked my watch. We’d lost three minutes from the time Tanner had taken off. I had no idea how long Clay had planned for each stage of the heist.

Nor could I believe that he’d walked in without a single weapon or tool. Clay was either incredibly stupid or incredibly talented, and I wasn’t sure which.

I knew the layout of the Renwick from our recon during the flight. The gift shop was on the main floor, just off the lobby. It was divided into two sections, a smaller one first that opened up into the larger one. The gallery we needed would be on the far end of that large one.

I leaned out and looked down the expanse of the building. All the windows were still dark. Not even the tiny flicker of a thief’s flashlight. I counted windows from where I stood, trying to remember how many spanned the gift shop. There was another gallery that ran the entire width of the building and butted up against our gallery on the far side. He was somewhere in the darkened space between here and there.

Nothing moved out on the street or in our little construction section. The scaffolding creaked and swayed as the occasional burst of wind blew down the street, but otherwise, the night was silent. I checked my watch after another two minutes and started to fidget. I’d never been on this end of a mission and I hated it. Every fluttering leaf, every swish of tires against pavement, every too-long silence stretched my nerves way past breaking.

Another four minutes. Shit. I paced to the fence and peered through the small crack. Nothing was moving on the far side. I looped the chain back over the gate so that anyone driving by wouldn’t see it dangling, though on close inspection the open padlock would have been obvious.

I scanned the perimeter, but we were still alone. No one had any idea we were in here.

It was too easy.

Back at the door, I pressed my ear close and listened, but everything was still silent on the other side. I checked my phone. Clay’s number was still there, glowing in the dusky darkness. I clicked save and entered him as the sole contact, not trusting my brain to remember his digits as strained as it had been over the last forty-eight hours.

I shoved the phone in my pocket and crossed my arms.

This shouldn’t have taken him this long. There wasn’t anything to deal with on the inside. He’d told me this was a simple smash-and-grab, so what the hell was going on in there? There were two other exits besides this one, the main one and another small access door on the opposite corner of the building. I’d trusted that Clay was going to bring the ring back to me for our agreed-upon payment. But inside, he could double-cross me and I’d have no idea until I finally got tired of standing out here like a moron.

I glanced at the windows, and froze as a shadow crossed the fourth one in. That should be our gallery…

The shadow moved away and I tensed, waiting for alarm bells or floodlights to flash on and illuminate this entire area. Two minutes left.

If he wasn’t out of there in thirty seconds, I was going in after—

The door opened behind me. “Go,” he hissed.

“Did you get it?” I looked him up and down, frantic to see the proof. He shoved me toward the gate. “Go. We’re out of time.”

“Yeah,” I shout-whispered. “Way to wait until the last minute.”

He opened the gate slowly and peered out onto the street, but it was deserted. With every successful step, my anxiety grew. After everything we’d gone through to get this relic, we couldn’t be ending on a simple note. Even Tanner trying to run us down in his golf cart would have been a welcome challenge.

He hurried me through and to the left, quickly latching the lock, and dropping an arm around my shoulders. I knew better, but I wanted to see it. At the corner we backtracked to the Metro station and Tanner blasted by, singing LFMAO horribly off-key. He waved and I tried not to look like an obvious thief as we crossed the street and headed down the stairs.

Clay was all business every step, and it wasn’t until we were on the plane that he relaxed. He poured us each a drink and dug around in his front pocket. “Here.”

My hands trembled as I took it from him, and I quickly stashed it in my bra, just as Mom had. I barely glanced at it, afraid to draw any attention. Even inside the plane, where we were alone.

I felt like a million invisible archangel eyes watched my every move and not all of them were pleased at what we’d done—the Holy and the Unholy. And of them, who was on our side besides Metatron?

I knew that Clay and I had made highly influential enemies tonight. And now that the ring was in my possession, I’d awakened whatever alarm system made it glow. I just hoped there wasn’t going to be an angel army of the unholy sort waiting for us when the plane landed. Or one that brought the plane down, for that matter.

The one bright and shining moment of the heist was that Clay hadn’t double-crossed me. He’d done as he promised and I was glad I’d trusted him. He was a better thief than I was and on our tight timeline, I’d have probably botched it. But I didn’t tell him any of that, too high-strung and twitchy.

We were tense and silent for the entire flight. Clay drank too much whiskey and I saw the tremor in his hand during the one-hour trip back home. Neither one of us were okay with how easy this had gone. We didn’t need to state it between each other. I knew it, and so did he.

Before I could come up with something to say, we’d landed and I was already stepping out of the car in front of my townhouse at 296 West and 92
nd
Street. Griffin had asked me how I could afford the place.

“My parents left it for me, and that was it.” I’d lied. 

“Nice building,” Clay said.

I nodded.

We’d managed to avoid our enemies, both old and new, but I still didn’t feel that relief once a job is over. If anything, it increased with every second that we weren’t attacked. At least now I was home, and I knew all my weaknesses and leaks when I was in my place and could effectively protect myself. Unlike every moment out here while we’d been exposed.

Clay climbed out behind me. “I’ll come up.”

I shook my head.

I still didn’t think we were out of danger. Nothing went that easy. Ever.

Clay felt it too. He hadn’t been his jovial self at any point. Even during the first try at Felt’s he’d teased and harassed me, but not tonight.

Now we were finally at my place where I could take a look at the ring and I wanted to hurry upstairs, lock myself in, and study it.

Alone.

He shut the door of the private town-car. I put my hands on my hips. It was sweet that he didn’t want to leave me, but I could protect myself. “You’re not coming up.”

“The hell I’m walking away with that payday still in your pocket.”

I took a step away, pissed at myself for misreading his intentions. We were both a mess. “You’ll get your money. I don’t have that kind of cash lying around.”

He moved to block the stairs and crossed his arms. “I’ll wait until you wire it.”

I reached out and put my hand on his. He was scared. Thieves don’t have the kind of enemies we’d made tonight. I didn’t want to force him to admit it. I could read it all over him. But I also wasn’t going to let him bully me.

“Look. I’m tired. You’re tired. We’ve had a hell of a day.” He didn’t soften, so I did. I took a step closer and lowered my voice. “I won’t stiff you. Not after everything we’ve been through. I couldn’t have done this without you and I’m just too exhausted to finish tonight, that’s all. Let’s meet later and tie up all these loose ends. Okay? Plus, you now know where I live.”

“I don’t have a good feeling about this.” His voice cracked and his gaze darted to every possible hiding place behind me.

“Me either, but not because of our deal. We’re good. I’m a little freaked out too, because this has been way too easy and we need to stay alert.” I let my hand drop and walked to the bottom step of the flight leading up to the building entrance. “Which is why we need some sleep. Real sleep.”

He nodded. “I’ll be here at noon.”

He melted into the shadows like the professional he was. We hadn’t been apart since he’d attacked me at the park, and now it felt odd not to have him poking and prodding me with his humor. I almost called him back.

Almost.

 

Chapter Twenty-Three

 

As expected, the walkway leading to my town-home was empty, but the silence dripped with a sinister darkness that I couldn’t shake. I hurried down the landscaped path and paused outside my door.

              “Just nerves. This is just nerves.”

I twisted my key in the lock, opened the door, and froze.

Never in my life had I used that cop-out. It was a bullshit one and I’d never distrusted myself that badly.

Nerves were what kept me alive.

I lifted my chin and squared my shoulders. I knew in my core—and those nerves that the very thing we’d been running from tonight was waiting inside for me. And I knew that I might not live to see the morning.

But there was no more running. I needed to end it now and whatever was coming couldn’t be stopped and I had to face it head on. I’d known, too, God dammit. I’d known from the moment we’d stepped off that plane in D.C. that this was how it was all going to play out, me facing my demons alone. But I’d ignored that voice, dismissed it foolishly as nerves.

I deserved what was waiting on me.

I eased inside and closed the door behind me, and scanned what I could see of my place. The floor plan was a fantastic one for keeping people in the foyer from seeing straight into my bedroom, but in this moment it was a horrible oversight. I had a line of sight into a third of the kitchen and about two feet of the living room. I might as well have stepped into a maze. I dropped my keys in the dish like nothing was wrong and grabbed a Sig Sauer from its concealed spot behind the table. I trusted the ring on my body more than I trusted my instinct to hide it somewhere, and hoped that wouldn’t be my second mistake of the night.

I flicked off the safety and held the weapon in front of me, scanning what I could see as it came into view. Maybe Metatron had come to congratulate me. I almost laughed at the impossibility of that. He wouldn’t be hiding.

I took another step and regretted my decision to let Clay go.

But only for a second. He was a thief, and while he was pretty good at taking my blows, we were headed straight for something that might even be over
my
capabilities. I wanted one of us to make it out alive. I should have given him the ring to hold until he got his payment, dammit. At least then it wouldn’t be on me for this unknown enemy to steal.

I scanned the kitchen and it was empty, then I pushed the door open to my bedroom and the bathroom. Both were clear. I swept into the living room and pulled up in the doorway.

Finally, I was face to face from what had chased me since we’d left London.

He sat in my recliner, back straight, one combat boot crossed over the knee of his fatigues. Age had whitened his hair, but not his attitude. He was still the crisp military leader who’d gunned down my mother.

I clenched my teeth and stepped into the room, weapon pointed between his eyes. My finger trembled on the trigger.

“I think you should come work for us,” he said, coolly, as if he’d just offered me a pharmaceutical sales job.

I laughed. “Come work for the angel of death? Really, that’s the best you can do?”

“Better than the alternative. What’s Metatron going to have you do, just hand over that relic?”

There wasn’t any point in denying that I had it. He wouldn’t believe me. If Ralph was right, and they were aware of me once it was in my possession and glowing, then this was just like when Mom found it.

I feathered the trigger. “I should just kill you right now.”

He shrugged. “You could. But I think you want answers. I think you’re the kind of woman who doesn’t trust what people tell you. I think you don’t take anything at face value, no matter the source. I think you’d like to trust Metatron, but the angels have never been forthcoming with information. It’s what pissed God off—when Azazel and his Watchers told men things that God didn’t think they should know, things God didn’t think men
worthy
of knowing.” He lifted a hand and studied his manicure, then set it carefully against the arm of the chair. “How much more then did he keep from you because you’re a
woman?

Both of those pinged me low in my belly. I’d rolled over those two points a lot since we’d started this. And he was right. I’d never been very good at accepting others at face value. Everyone always had an agenda—even angels. My big issue with Metatron was that he could have saved my mom from this monster, but he chose not to, bound by some covenant God had made with His people.

But I also understood the nature of covenants, I’d made my share—and kept them all, even the ones that hadn’t set well with me or my conscience.

I scanned him quickly for weapons, but his hands were free. He noticed my gaze and held his hands up, palms out, slowly. “I didn’t come here to kill you, Evangelina. I came to make you an offer?”

“Like the offer you made my mom?”

Fuck him.

Fuck him and his strategy. He wasn’t any better than anyone else, preying on fears, my doubts. One thing was absolutely without reprehension. He killed my mother, murdered her in cold blood.

“Yes. Precisely the offer I made your mother. Protection, knowledge … immortality.”

“Immortality?

I drew my weapon back up and sighted in on his heart. “I’ll show you fucking immortality. You killed her.”

He chuckled softly. “Is that what Metatron told you?”

“I saw you! I saw you do it!”

“Did you?”

The weapon was shaking so badly in my hand. I wanted to empty this clip right in his piece-of-shit face.

But the better part of me heard what he’d said.

Very slowly, I lowered my hand. “Say that again.”

He uncrossed his legs and stood, met me halfway across my living room. Four feet still separated us.

I could kill him from here.

With my bare hands.

And I would.

So help me God.

If he said the wrong thing, I would yank his larynx out through his throat. The gun trembled against my thigh. I swallowed and took a deep breath. “I saw you kill her.”

He shook his silvered head and stared at me with emerald green eyes. “Play it back, Evangeline. What did you see?”

“I saw you. Draw a weapon against an unarmed woman. I saw you scream at her. I saw her run for her life. I saw you draw a knife … against … her throat. You killed her.”

“No, no, Evangelina. What did you
see?”

“I couldn’t see anything, because you shot her.” Spit collected in my mouth and I couldn’t swallow it away. I was about to come unhinged. No training had prepared me for this. None. Nothing readied me for the moment when I faced my mother’s killer.

“Who shot her?” he asked again, like the answer would change. I knew what I saw.

“You shot her.”

“Who shot her? Did you see them? Or did you make assumptions? You of all people know better than that. You know that our mind fills in the blanks with what we
assume
is the right conclusion. Our minds bridge the gaps. Unless we’re trained otherwise, like you are. Don’t let your emotions about this death cloud what you saw.”

What was he telling me, then? Did he really think I’d believe that he wasn’t responsible? That he wasn’t the one who shot my mother down as she fled, not knowing what had happened to me, not knowing if she’d live to see the sunrise? I shook my head. “You’re lying.”

“What purpose would your mother’s death serve? She alone can locate precious relics. Relics that will save my master. Why then, would he want her exterminated before he had what he wanted? Your mother was no good to Azazel dead.” He took a step closer and extended a hand to me. “And neither are you.”

BOOK: The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1)
6.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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