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|Adam(Nightwalkers #6) by Jacquelyn Frank|
But the chit couldn’t be a day over sixteen. That was a great deal of ambition for one so young. Though humans tended to push their females into their sexuality quite young.
“Would you like to have your fortune read, Adam?” she asked before he could formulate some kind of warning to deter the strange child from pursuing his brother.
“I am not interested in your games, girl,” he told her firmly. “Nor will my brother be.”
She looked back at Jacob, who had long since begun to cross the field and was moving steadily away from them.
“I am not engaging in a game, Adam. I merely see things in your future of great importance and thought you would like to know what they are. If you prefer to remain in ignorance, I will graciously accept your choice.”
Adam sensed that it was not as easy for her as she was trying to make it seem. The creases in her young brow were far too serious, and there was something about the stiffness of her body as she made herself turn away that belied her words.
Adam was confused.
“I suppose you will tell me there is a woman in my future, and she may even look a lot like you,” he taunted her dryly.
To his chagrin, she laughed at him, as if it were honestly the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard.
“I wouldn’t know about that.” She turned back slightly, giving him a shadowy view of her profile. “But I do see danger. Danger you must be prepared for, because it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen or experienced before.”
“That is a fair guess. We all see danger in these times.”
She actually smiled at his sarcasm. It was a cold smile, however, and it chilled straight through to his spine. There should never be an expression such as that on one so young, no matter how hard life might be.
“The danger does not come for you, Adam, but for your brother.”
Adam felt almost as frozen as the breath he exhaled sharply into the air.
“You dare to threaten my brother?” he hissed, reaching for her arm until he was gripping the slim limb painfully.
“I’m only trying to warn you about the future,” she snapped, her anger adding a sudden life to her that her shy and demure act had diminished. “Your brother will die at the hands of a traitor. Someone will murder him while his back is turned, his attention focused on something else. You, however, are nowhere to be seen when he needs you most. Why is that, Adam, the eldest son? Perhaps it’s because you didn’t listen to a simple girl who wished only to help!”
She jerked her arm away with surprising strength and turned as if to go. Adam did not want to be pulled in if this was some sort of ploy, but the Gypsy people had proven to have a history of strong precognition. Then again, there were those who believed them Witches, the sort who would become necromancers if given half a chance and the spells to do it with.
But despite his fears and doubts about the origins of her fortune-telling, she had struck him on the chord of his deepest vulnerability.
Jacob meant the world to him. What was more, he meant the world to their mother and father. If something were to happen to him, it would be a devastating blow to their family.
“Let us assume I believe you,” he said suddenly, halting her withdrawal. “What is it you expect to enable me to do? Jacob is far more capable of protecting himself than a little female like you would ever understand. He would not die easily.”
“I understand more than you think I do. You are correct, however. Jacob is more than capable of protecting himself.”
“But,” she interrupted, “say he was not protecting himself. What if he endangers himself for the family he loves?”
Now that, Adam realized with painful dread, was very much like Jacob and even a real possibility. Adam’s brother would use his own life in trade for those of his family in a heartbeat if it were the only choice left to him.
“I have had enough of your cryptic stories,” Adam barked at her, the force of his statement ruined by his apprehensive glance for the brother who had disappeared from his sight. “When will this danger occur that you speak of? Surely one so full of insights can tell me that.”
“It will occur today. Tomorrow. Any time you choose it to occur.”
Adam instantly came to the end of his temper. His hand shot out and closed around her delicate throat, which he used to drag her back into total darkness. Her back hit the trunk of an enormous oak, but her heart barely picked up a beat and she did not make a single sound under the physical manhandling. He leaned in close to her ear, using the bulk of his body to trap her.
“I am finished with your games, girl. You will tell me how to protect my brother and when, and you will do it this instant.”
The Gypsy girl flicked up an unsympathetic gaze in the darkness and her eyes suddenly caught the moonlight. For the first time he realized they were a beautiful violet color.
“Will you give your life for him? Will you trade away everything you know and love to save your brother?” she demanded of him.
“Answer my question or kill me, Adam. Those are your choices.”
She still had the upper hand, he realized. Even though he held her very life between his fingers, her apparent inability to feel fear in this situation gave her power over him and would keep him forever on the defensive. Adam realized he had no choice but to concede to her demands.
“I would,” he hissed. “I would sacrifice everything I have in this world to keep my brother safe.”
“This very moment, with no preparation? No goodbyes? No promises that you will not die along with him?”
“I said yes! Now tell me what you know!”
“I prefer to show you,” she whispered quickly.
Her hands suddenly shot out and hit his chest. The moment she made contact with him, Adam felt his entire body burst with heat. Every autonomic system contained within his skin seemed to flip into overdrive, picking up into a double-time beat before tripling again, quadrupling quickly after. He felt the stress on his systems with the sensation of impending doom. He had no time to react or act or even think beyond that.
The world around him disappeared.
Isabella skidded to a halt, shoving her daughter behind herself so suddenly that Leah’s dress hit the dirt once more.
Bella and Jacob squared off to face the traitorous Demon Ruth.
Jacob knew instantly that this was the worst scenario he could ever be trapped in. His family was his one true vulnerability, even though at the same time it was his most powerful strength. Perhaps if it had only been Ruth, he would not have been so worried, but he immediately recognized the Vampire named Nicodemous, who had joined her in her destructive causes a couple of years back, tripling her access to power and advantage over those she considered her enemies.
Jacob felt Bella’s knee-jerk reactions as they flew through her mind, just as she felt his; she knew how dire he understood the situation to be. Even though their enemies’ minions were out of reach, that would not last very long if Ruth was given a moment to concentrate. She would begin to teleport them down into the caverns any second now.
We’re in trouble, Bella thought frantically, her glance back at their vulnerable child a luxury he did not have with two such powerful enemies in front of them.
I know, little flower. But we will not fail. We cannot fail.
Jacob, I have to do it ...
The Enforcer knew what his wife meant. She intended to dampen the abilities of the Nightwalkers before them, stealing their power and making it her own on a temporary basis. The problems behind that plan rushed through him. Ruth and Nico’s powers were tainted with blackness and evil. To take something like that inside herself could destroy everything about her that he loved and knew, everything that she was. She had dampened the powers of necromancers before, but nothing like this. Nothing had ever been like this. As Isabella’s power had grown, they had realized she always took something away from her victims when she did this. A part of them would live inside her forever, plaguing her with premonitions or who knew what else. Ruth was one of a kind. So was the Vampire who had been altered because he had drunk her tainted Nightwalker blood and now shared in the blackness of her magical spell casting. In an ideal situation, Jacob would have rather done anything else than allow Bella to risk herself in such a way.
His wife, however, was just as stubborn and protective of her family as he was. Nothing he said or did would stop her once she made up her mind.
So all he could do was quietly resign himself to supporting her.
The Druid released the tight rein she always kept on her ability to dampen the power of any Nightwalker who walked the earth. Damn the painful consequences she might suffer in the future; there was no holding back when it came to her family.
Jacob felt his mate scream in horror long before she actually found the voice for it.
Purely by instinct, he whirled to catch her in a single strong arm as she lurched in a back-arching seizure. She did find voice at last, her shrill screech of pain and poisoned terror echoing off every wall of his heart, as well as the cavern. He eased his beloved wife to the ground as gently as he could, considering the violent contortions of her body.
That was all the time it took for the enemy behind him to strike.
Jacob felt overwhelmed as he realized his exposure in the next heartbeat. Before the thought could even complete itself, however, the Vampire moved with the preternatural speed that his breed had been imbued with.
Jacob heard the strike, and then felt the repercussion of it in the air around him.
He jerked around, his wife still clutched to his chest, and looked up at a long, strong male figure that no amount of time could erase from his memory. He met the eyes of a man he had not seen in over four hundred years.
His brother was holding the wrist of the Vampire in one powerful fist, crushing it with a stunning grip until the iron spike that had been headed for Jacob’s back finally fell with a clatter to the floor.
Adam had no time to ask questions.
He had felt himself resolving back into solid form one second, and had seen the threat to his brother the next. It only took him milliseconds to focus on the image of his brother doing the inconceivable: turning his back on an enemy to catch the falling figure of a diminutive, raven-haired woman. Jacob lowered the female to the floor with no regard for the threat at his back, concern and tenderness radiating from every last inch of his being.
That left Adam to deal with the fang-flashing Vampire reaching into his jacket for what he knew without a doubt was a weapon. Jacob’s elder brother moved with the speed of evaporated water through the air, transforming into a dense mist that arrowed the remaining few yards before he could solidify and come between weapon and target. The Water Demon coalesced so suddenly that the female Demon who stood beside the Vampire gasped in shocked surprise. Adam caught the Vampire’s wrist, understanding instantly that the Gypsy had been right, there was a strength and malevolence within these two the likes of which he had never seen before.
How Jacob had ended up in this place, in this situation, with these strangers, Adam had no idea. Neither did he care. The Gypsy had spoken the truth of the matter. His brother was in danger of losing his life to this threat, and Adam was there to see it stop.
As the spike clanked to the floor, Adam met the disbelieving eyes of his younger sibling. Jacob stared up at him as if he were seeing a ghost, still clutching that little woman as if she were his one true security in life. Adam only had time to narrow his eyes on the possessive grip for a minute, understanding that the woman was human and that Jacob’s behavior was nowhere near that of an innocent savior.
That was a problem that would wait for later, Adam thought, dismissing the Enforcer within himself for the moment. He had other justice to dispense.
The Vampire reacted to Adam’s interference violently. He snarled, fangs sprouting viciously and with gnashing threat that could not be mistaken. Adam understood this threat. What he could not understand was the Demon woman who stood beside the Vampire, reaching for his arm in a clinging manner as she screamed at him to finish Adam off so they could continue with Jacob’s destruction.
The Gypsy had warned about a Demon traitor, and by the foul smell of her, the corrupted blonde was all that and more. The whys and hows would wait for later as well. Adam was instantly drawn off his feet and into battle against the Vampire’s incredible prowess.
Nicodemous tried to throw the Demon into the stone floor with the hopes of crushing a few of the meddler’s bones in the process. To his shock, however, he found himself plunging, arms first, through water where flesh should have been. The deluge dashed to the floor, backsplash sluicing over the hostile couple even as it gathered with blinding speed into the shape of the intruding Demon. Water flew off the curling ends of the Demon’s black hair as he back-spun a kick into the dead center of the Vampire’s chest.
Adam’s metamorphosis had disoriented Nicodemous’s balance, so when the Water Demon struck, it took the Vampire clean off his feet. He crashed to the ground on his back, kicking up a cloud of dirt and dust as a satisfactory cracking of bone echoed through the cavern.
At last, Jacob left his preoccupation over the human female to join in the effort to save his own life. He flew at the female Demon with no hesitation for her sex or seeming fragility. Adam was surprised. It had always been one of Jacob’s worst weaknesses, his inability to attack a woman. When had he overcome it? The older brother had no idea. But then again, he had not known about Jacob’s apparent obsession with a human female either.
Adam took out his confusion and frustration on the Vampire, leaping onto him and beginning to beat the bastard with his bare fists with a pummeling force that could have cracked rock. Jacob’s hands were around the throat of the Demon female, but he was too late to stop the string of foreign words she spat out.