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|Adam(Nightwalkers #6) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Disturbing females. The encounter still clung to him, like a mist hugging low and damp to the ground. The form of the sensual little female Vampire seemed burned into his mind like the sun burned itself into a man’s eyes after he had stared at it too long. He needed a healthy distraction, although he couldn’t imagine why hunting had not been enough to do the trick. Usually the focus he devoted to his craft was all-consuming and burned away all of life’s minutiae. He had been frustrated to discover that was not the case in this instance. Those dark, damnable eyes had dogged his thoughts with unending stubbornness.
Adam turned his attention to his immediate surroundings once again. The tents were open, fires were warm and inviting, and almost everywhere there were gaily dressed young women singing and dancing. Soothsayers were setting up areas where they could read runes, tarot, or other fortune-telling devices for whoever paid a bit of coin in exchange. The men were gambling or peddling, the children running madly about as if there were not a care or danger to be found in all of the world. It was a jolly and exotic atmosphere, one that truly delighted him.
As he moved away from the encampment and into the forest, Adam felt his senses clearing of the clutter of stimuli the Gypsies provided. He began to settle into a peaceful place within himself.
The soft snap of a twig came from above him and he looked up sharply. All of a sudden he could sense the presence of another being. Just the water content in the blood was enough to attract his attention, but it was the sudden appearance of a pale and beautiful face amidst a cloud of ebony hair that really grabbed hold of him.
She was wearing clothes this time. After a fashion. They clung to her womanly figure in most places, or flowed in careless drapes away from her in others. The rich satins and velvets were all tawny and gold in color, emphasizing the brown beauty of her eyes, and it was clear she had no interest in wearing her clothing in a fully conventional manner. But she was laced up into a corset, the snugness of it accentuating the thrust of her breasts over a low, curved neckline.
“Vampire,” he growled out, the roughness of his tone making sure she knew it wasn’t a greeting and she was not welcome. He was still ashamed of himself for the way he had lost control with her, and he could still remember the divinity of her skin and how it had felt as he had moved over it in a flowing rush.
Just the memory stimulated his mind and body, rousing his interest and piquing his libido. He did not want to be attracted to her like this, but it didn’t change the fact that he was. No matter how offensive the idea of taking a woman outside his species, she had a power over this part of him that was hard to control and fight off. It was as if he could feel the Beltane moon burning against his back like a full and glorious sun. It was poisoning him, making him think and feel in ways he should find offensive and off-putting.
The Vampire leapt from the thick branch she’d roosted on and dropped to her feet right in front of him. She rose up to her full height, her posture accentuated by the shining fabric she wore, her heavy skirts swirling into place against her hips and legs. She looked like a richly wrapped gift.
Adam’s knee-jerk reaction was to grab for the dagger at his waist, but it wasn’t until his hand came up empty that he recalled he had lost it the last time he’d met with her.
“Looking for this?” She held up the intricately made weapon, twirling it expertly against her palm before catching it and waving it under his nose. “I am almost tempted to keep it as a gift,” she said, her smile wily, “a sort of fair trade. You took liberties with me, and I can take liberties with this.”
Adam was stone silent as she taunted him with his dagger. He tensed from head to toe when she stepped up even closer to him. Close enough that he could feel heat radiating from her. She must have fed very recently to feel so warm. He tried to use that knowledge to harden his will against her, but it was difficult when he could smell the richness of the earth and forest on every clean inch of her. She smelled like a woman should, with all the complexity of her sex hovering right there for the senses to pick up.
“You take chances,” he said gruffly, “coming among my people. You will be perceived as a threat, and they will kill you for this trespass.” He knew even as he said it that the words were meant more as a warning than a threat. He reached out to snag hold of her hand where it was wrapped around his dagger.
“You would kill me because I am coming to return your property to you?” she asked archly, refusing to open her hand or relinquish the weapon.
“I did not mean me,” he admitted roughly.
“Good.” Her smile was sly and her eyes everything sultry as she reached out with her free hand to grab hold of the empty sheath on his belt. He let go of her hand when she turned the dagger toward his body. It should have been the last thing he did. Why would he ever let an armed Vampire get so deadly close to his vulnerable belly?
But he saw no vicious intent in those dark and troublesome eyes of hers. All he saw was her desire to taunt and tease him. He felt her tug hard at his weapons belt, and she finally turned the dagger and slid it slowly into the sheath. She pushed down hard and firm, the action bringing them together, chest to breast. She was right under his nose now. He could feel the sensuality rolling off her in interesting waves. She even tilted her head back and raised her mouth to within a breath of his.
Just like that he felt himself flooding full of hardening heat, blood rushing to stiffen his body in reaction to her allure. Adam wanted to curse her for it, to curse himself, but he was too busy being captivated by the suggestive way she stared at his mouth. Everything about her was begging for a kiss, and everything about him wanted to give it to her. He wanted to forget who he was and who she was and simply indulge in the chemistry that was flaring so hotly between them.
But the fact remained that she was a Vampire, and Vampires were not to be trusted. Moreover, to kiss her would be to break the law. He also had to consider that she was likely making sport of him, simply amusing herself at his expense.
“You’ve returned my weapon,” he said roughly. “Now you should go before you are discovered or before I change my mind and kill you myself.”
The idea made her smile, a slow curling of her lips on one side.
“You want to thrust your dagger deep inside me, Demon?” she asked.
There was no mistaking her suggestiveness. There was no mistaking it because his heart began to race with the very idea of it, the heat in his belly sinking low and hard within him.
“Would that it were a different world,” he heard himself murmur to her, dipping his head helplessly to brush his lips over hers. Such magnetism! He’d never felt anything like it! It was electric as it burst across his senses. He simply could not comprehend how he could feel so much need for a creature so very unlike himself. “But it is not,” he noted as he drew away from her.
He stepped back, breaking apart from her clingy little body. This made her laugh, her eyes dancing with her merriment.
“Leave it to a staid and elitist Demon to thumb his nose at such an outrageous attraction,” she taunted him.
“And if I said yes to you, little tease? If I let my instincts loose upon your person and took the physical as far as I could?” He huffed out a breath of air like a bull becoming more and more irritable. “You would not have me. To play the consummate tease is one thing, but to sully yourself with the enemy would be quite another for you.”
“Damn.” She pouted, her warm eyes full of mischief. “You have found me out.” She withdrew, and with a simple stretch of her arms, she levitated off the ground and slowly began to climb a distance into the air. “Until next time, then?”
“Who are you?” he demanded suddenly, not knowing why he should care.
“I will let you figure that out. Perhaps you and I will meet again in a world much different than this one is now, eh? Would that not be intriguing?”
With that speculation, she flew off, up above the treetops, speeding away toward her home territory. Feeling a bit disoriented, Adam closed a fist around the bejeweled dagger she had seen fit to return. He wondered why she would bother to go so far out of her way.
But then again, he’d been a huge amusement to her as well.
She’d played him like a clumsy instrument in the hands of a skilled musician. She’d come expressly for the purpose of disturbing his equilibrium. And she’d succeeded. The brat.
Well, she’d best not think she could return to toy with him again, because next time he would set her straight.
Just the same, he found he was smiling as he made his way back to his parents’ holdings.
“You are something of an ass,” Jacob decreed as he dropped hard into the dirt, his body exploding apart and becoming a part of the dust he was falling into. The dust cloud quickly reformed, twisted up into a six-foot column, and in a blink snapped into Jacob’s usual shape and features. He made a show of going to dust himself off, but affected surprise when there was no dust to be found. He made a diligent search of himself for a speck, but there would never be any. The Earth Demon grinned at his brother.
“And I am honored you feel such a need to emulate your elder brother,” Adam shot back.
He launched himself at Jacob, his body thrusting into a pressured stream of water that dashed hard against his brother, thoroughly drenching him as he took Jacob straight off his feet, yet again, and sent him sprawling in the dirt.
“Son of a—” Jacob spluttered as he scrambled to regain his feet.
“Do not dare disparage our mother, Jake,” Adam warned him as he stepped to stand close to his brother. “I will not hesitate to tell her and Father what you have said.”
Jacob’s reply was to send a fist made of limestone into his brother’s face. The coarse rock hit hard and caught Adam off guard. His head ringing and his face burning from the sting of the blow, he staggered back.
“Damn me, that was a fair shot,” he praised his brother. Jacob was getting more and more creative when they sparred. If there were any two elements on the planet that made for a difficult fight, Adam imagined Earth and Water would be the ones. Fire and Water might seem the most directly opposite, but the nature of their ability to cancel one another out made for a strangely simplistic fight. He ought to know, he had sparred with Noah many times. The Fire Demon King was very close to him in age and so they were reasonably similar in their strength and the maturity of their powers. It made sense, growing up as they had together, that they would have trained on how best to defeat each other, how best to defeat the polar opposite element should they have to face it down.
But it was still quite straightforward in its way.
Fighting Jacob was something entirely different, and far more creative. Their mother liked to joke that the two of them together made for a mess of mud, and she had seen them make enough of it to know the truth. But his younger brother had developed his power at a uniquely young age. He had been fostered out very young because of it. Luckily it was Noah’s father and mother who had been his Siddah. The three boys had never been too far apart, because Noah’s parents’ lands were adjacent to Adam and Jacob’s, and they had formed something of a powerful triad, three of the most powerful elements in their masculine form, each constantly challenging the other to greater heights.
Jacob had learned very well. That’s why, in spite of the crushing pain in his jaw, Adam spat out blood and smiled at his baby brother.
“Now, that was a good hit,” he praised him.
“I used that on a Vampire last week. Only I did not pull the strike like I just did,” he had to add smugly.
Adam let it slide and gave Jacob a nod. “I believe you, Jake. You could have taken my head off just then. One day you could make an excellent Enforcer.”
That made Jacob pull back, his body language quickly becoming defensive.
“I will never be Enforcer,” he swore sharply. “You will pass the role to your heirs. I will be content to hunt Vampires for bounty.”
“The war is losing power,” Adam pointed out. “I think it is obvious Damien will draw it to a close soon, and you know Noah opts for peace when possible. There will be no Vampires to hunt. Then what will you do with yourself? Come now, you must face facts. We have seen too many of our ancestors die in this job not to understand that I may never live to see those heirs you are anticipating.”
“I refuse to speak of it, Adam. You want me to discuss your death blithely? I utterly refuse.” It was rare for Jacob to show true anger, but he was showing it now, his dark eyes on fire with growing rage.
“David was Enforcer barely a quarter of a century before he was killed,” Adam reminded Jacob gently. Their uncle and Adam’s predecessor had been killed in the line of duty. He had been forced to kill the Fire Demon he was enforcing, and had died in the process of the battle. Normally the role of Enforcer would have been passed brother to brother or father to heir, but David had had no children, and their uncle Ariel had already resigned from the role of Enforcer according to Demon law and tradition when he had found himself Imprinted on his mate, Sarah. Asher, Jacob and Adam’s father, was not suited to the role of a fighter. He was too much a scholar, having spent all of his life chasing knowledge and knowing only enough of fighting tactics to defend himself if necessary.
But Adam was a born warrior, and the enforcing trait was strong in his makeup.
It was strong in Jacob, too. Whether he wished to address the topic or not, Jacob was the most logical choice to fill Adam’s shoes should something happen to the present Enforcer.
Adam wasn’t trying to upset his brother, and normally he wouldn’t have pushed the topic on him like this, but after the way he had been behaving around that Vampire tease last evening, he felt it was important to make Jacob aware of certain responsibilities that might fall on him.