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|Adam(Nightwalkers #6) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“You are your father’s daughter,” Gideon said gently to her. “He was a man of practical logic. It was one of his greatest strengths.”
Leah very often heard about how she looked, talked, or sounded like one of her parents, but this was something very different. She had never heard Gideon say anything like it before, and there was a peculiar intimacy to the speech that made it exceptional.
“Your father’s approach to being Enforcer was very different from his predecessor’s. And it changed even more when your mother came on the scene. It was softened, you might say. When your mother became an Enforcer, she made many efforts and changes to see that it became less of a shameful process to be enforced. Your mother was not a part of your father’s life when he enforced me. His approach then was very like a—”
“Jacob enforced you?” Seth blurted out in utter shock, tacking on a laugh.
Gideon raised a brow at his son’s outburst, and somehow it was a completely different expression from the one he had given Leah. Seth immediately closed his mouth and lowered his eyes.
“Very like a parent drawing his wayward child in line,” Gideon finished. “Adam, Jacob’s immediate predecessor as Enforcer, was more like a brutal taskmaster. He was powerful, sometimes tempestuous. Like Kane and Jacob, he was not even an Elder yet when he inherited the mantle of Enforcer. But make no mistake, he was good at what he did. He was a warrior like no other I have seen. Perhaps if Elijah had less of an ego, your Siddah might admit that Adam was a better warrior than he.”
“Better than Elijah?” Leah breathed. “Wow.” Then she remembered herself. “So what exactly happened to him? And when did it happen?”
“I think it was about ... well, 1601. Samhain. No, wait ... it was Beltane. He just failed to report in one night and that was the end of it.”
“Are you sure it was Beltane?” Leah pressed.
“Yes. Your father refused to step into his brother’s shoes at first, searching high and low for him. Grieving terribly. He did not accept the mantle of Enforcer until Samhain so I mistook the dates, using your father’s ascension to Enforcer as the time of Adam’s disappearance. But I am quite positive it was Beltane.”
“And no one knows what happened to him?”
“It was assumed he was Summoned. When a Demon is Summoned by a necromancer, pulled out of his life and held prisoner in a pentagram until he is Transformed into a monster, it is often an unwitnessed event. The unexplained disappearance of a Demon is not uncommon. Though perhaps it is felt more sharply when it is a high-standing member of our society.”
“I bet an Enforcer like Adam would have caught and destroyed Ruth long ago,” Leah said bitterly, her fists clenching in anger.
“Actually, that is not an unfair statement,” Gideon mused. “Your father was much distracted by other things while Ruth was growing in power and wickedness. Adam was far more dogged in his ways. He would have taken all manner of risks to attain victory.”
“Do you think he was better than Daddy was?” she asked quietly.
Gideon immediately shook his head. “Jacob had wisdom and age and the power that comes with both on his side. There has never been a more powerful Enforcer than your father, Leah.” He took a breath. “But I would hesitate to pick sides in a head-to-head battle of the brothers.”
Leah hurried away from Gideon and Legna’s quarters, Seth scurrying along in her wake.
“I know what you’re planning to do!”
Leah came to a screeching halt and about-faced, glaring at Seth and shushing him fiercely. She grabbed him by his shirtfront and yanked him into the privacy of a nearby alcove, hoping to cut their conversation away from the natural echo of the caverns.
“You don’t know anything! Just keep your mouth shut!”
“You’re insane, Leah. You don’t even have the power to do it. So what, so you accidentally were able to jump through time once. You were two years old! It was a raging accident. Since then what have you been able to do? Send a stopwatch five minutes into the future?” Seth scoffed at the feat. “The great and magnificent child of Time, ladies and gentlemen!”
“You don’t know anything!” she hissed at him again. “I’m so sick of you thinking you know so much and being such a jerk to me because I have powers and you don’t. The great and magnificent child of Space, ladies and gentlemen, who can—gee, what can you do besides whine like a little brat?”
“Shut up! Why don’t you just give it up, Leah? Your parents got their asses kicked and now they’re dead. Dead, dead, dead! And there’s nothing you can do about it!”
Leah swung out her hand and smacked him right across the mouth. The action shocked them both. Leah nursed her smarting hand and Seth nursed his bruised lip. Leah felt the need to cry stinging across her sinuses and burning in her eyes. She felt unable to contain the painful emotions flooding over her. She refused to let Seth have the satisfaction of seeing her hurt, so she ran. She kept running until she couldn’t see her way anymore and couldn’t breathe. Finally she fell to a stop beside an underground pool, one of many in the castle and the caverns. She knelt down and grabbed up a handful of the always cold water, splashing it over her face. Slowly she got herself under control, drew her sobs in until they were hard sniffles. She swiped at her eyes, blinked and looked up to see a beautiful brunette standing next to her. Her hair was loose, a black cape all around her shoulders that reminded Leah of her mother. Her legs were encased in shiny tights of an opaque white and a short black miniskirt that barely covered her butt. Her pierced navel was exposed by the short navy blue tank she was wearing. It was her boots that dominated her outfit, though. They were soft black leather with brass buttons climbing the backs of her legs in a nice steady row all the way up to her thighs. It was as though they alone were announcing her presence, and they were saying she was way too fine to mess with.
Leah had only glimpsed her from a distance over the past ten years, but she would never forget who the Vampire was. It immediately disturbed Leah that Jasmine should see her like this. Weak and out of sorts. She didn’t know why it should matter, but it did.
She stood up and faced the Vampire, smoothing her own simple T-shirt down over her favorite pair of jeans. Still, she suddenly felt like it wasn’t enough. Like she ought to be wearing something better. Like she ought to be something more. It was a moment Seth must experience every single day he woke up to his father’s magnificence and stood in his shadow without anything to show for her parents’ expectations of him.
Leah supposed it was because this woman had been her rescuer. Her hero, really. Jasmine was strong and powerful, had a real reputation for being a badass, and dressed with such confidence and panache. You couldn’t miss her if you tried.
But there was something in her eyes right then, something Leah would never have thought to attribute to Jasmine.
“Can you do it?” Jasmine asked.
“C-can I do what?”
“You know what!” she said impatiently. She reached out and took hold of Leah’s face by her chin. “If I could go back in time and change one thing, I would see to it that Prince Damien never met the Princess Syreena.” She took a deep breath and closed her eyes as she slowly exhaled. “But that would be a selfish thing. A thing designed only to help him and myself. Perhaps even her as well, when you think about it. But you ...” Jasmine stared hard into Leah’s eyes, and Leah felt the soft coaxing power of the Vampire’s influence. It felt like being wrapped in a strange sort of warmth, something safe and caring. “Can you do this thing? Do you have the power?”
Leah simply nodded in reply.
“No,” Jasmine breathed, an expression of unbelievable pain lancing across her features. “The past must stay in the past where it belongs. Do you understand me, little half-breed? You cannot play with time in such ways! You will destroy people and you will torment others. You could make things a thousand times worse than they are now! Do not meddle with the past!”
Leah was afraid as the powerful Vampire raged fiercely at her. This was no moralistic scolding like her other mentors had given. They had frequently hammered at her about the massive responsibilities that would come with her element. There was no other Demon of Time in the world and had never been one in history. She was the groundbreaker. But Elijah was very fond of telling her that just because she could do something didn’t mean that she should. He told her he could become a category four hurricane that would destroy everything around him, but that didn’t mean he should do it. In fact, the damage path would be a very obvious reason why he shouldn’t.
Messing with Time could potentially create horrible damage paths. Some would be immediately visible, and others would not show themselves for years.
“I just thought ...” Leah argued weakly. “Maybe if I could borrow ... for just a minute ...”
The young girl teared up and immediately tried to hide her weakness from Jasmine. The Vampire softened a little, understanding very clearly why the teenaged Demon would want to change her history. As Jasmine herself had said, there were things she wished she could change as well, people she would save—people she would protect. But it wasn’t her place to try to go back to fashion the world in a way she thought it ought to be.
“There is danger in the idea that we can create a designer life for ourselves by manipulating this thing or that thing in our past,” Jasmine said gently. “You might save your parents with one act, but that same act could end up killing Elijah, destroying the political stability of the Nightwalkers, or—I don’t know—any number of variables. I understand you have been given these powers for a reason, and perhaps that reason is to alter moments in time to create a better future, but you are too young to be making these decisions now. And you certainly shouldn’t be making them on your own. Your power is new yet. You don’t know all of what you will be able to do one day. At the very least I must beg you to wait. See how time unfolds. Have patience.”
It wasn’t an unreasonable request.
Just an unbearable one.
Leah nodded in agreement, her face full of color and tracked with tears. Jasmine could feel the young girl’s frustration. It eddied into her psychically like a powerful, stormy ocean tide. It churned wildly with her emotions as all of the plans Leah had been forming were now suddenly dashed upon the rocks of responsibility and morality.
Strange that it had been Jasmine to lecture about restraint and responsibility. Vampires were not known for coloring inside the lines and fully behaving themselves. But Jasmine had seen too much damage done with out-of-control Nightwalker power. The rogue members of her own society who thought they could go around picking up powers by drinking the blood of innocent Nightwalkers disgusted her. It was one thing to dance along the edges of morality and quite something else to dive over the line again and again, leaving a path of damage. This young girl was a prime example of the harm that could be done when power wasn’t properly tempered or respectfully held in check.
“I promise I ... I won’t do anything ... unless I know for certain ...” Leah stammered around her words, and Jasmine could appreciate how hard it was for her to rein herself in.
“Look, kiddo, only you can know in your heart what is right and what is wrong, what is selfishly motivated and what is truly for the greater good.” Jasmine rolled her eyes. “Great, now I sound like Noah and Damien. But if you really want the best guidance around, go see Noah. He has walked both edges of the line you are teetering on. And he used you to do it. Ask him how he feels about it. Ask him why he hasn’t thought about doing what you want to do.” Jasmine lifted a shoulder. “Or better yet, ask him why he has thought about it but never approached you with the idea, because I promise you, the first person this would have occurred to is Noah.”
With that instruction and a gentle tug on a curl at Leah’s temple, Jasmine turned to leave the young girl to her own conscience and devices. But at the last moment, the girl grabbed her by the hand and made her turn back. She waited until their eyes met, her gaze earnest and fierce.
“Is that true? What you said? Is the moment Damien met Syreena truly the one moment you would change if you could? Is that where you think all of this went wrong?” She opened a hand to indicate the screwed-up world they were living in.
“If Damien had never met her ... or if he had never followed her the night she’d been kidnapped ... Vampires would not be drinking the blood of Nightwalkers. Before the moment Damien drank Syreena’s blood, the act had been taboo—” Jasmine stopped, took a breath. “But I lie. Because the Exchange, the act of taking other Nightwalker blood and then those Nightwalkers taking our blood, was in books in the library we discovered after Elijah mated with Siena. We would have discovered it eventually. So perhaps I would go further back and keep the library from ever being found. That would perhaps mean keeping Ruth from looking for it, which drew our attention to it. So perhaps it’s all about Ruth.” Jasmine shook her head. “You see? You see how I could play this game? How do you choose? What gives you the right to choose? You believe in Destiny, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Leah said quietly.
“Then you have to believe that things happen for a reason, and even if you change something, Destiny will find a way to fulfill her needs.”
“You mean that even if I kept my parents from dying in that cavern, Destiny would find a way to claim their lives regardless?”
“Possibly. Like I said, talk to Noah. He defied Destiny to take his mate. See what he says about the whole thing.”