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|Adam(Nightwalkers #6) by Jacquelyn Frank|
The Enforcer slid a hungry hand up the lean curves of her side until soft flesh overflowed his palm and the cage of his fingers. Disregarding the barrier of her thin, clinging shirt, he angled her breast and its crest toward his mouth. At first all he did was tease her with the ghostly rubbing of his lips, but it only took a moment for him to realize he had uncovered one of the treasures she had challenged him with. He could feel, on a rushing thrill of excitement, a hard circlet of metal and the two tiny balls accompanying it.
Through with fascinated exploration, Adam shot his hand beneath her shirt and peeled back the skin-hugging fabric. He felt her free hand gripping tightly into the curls of his hair, as though she was undecided about whether to draw him closer or push him away. But all it took was a single glimpse of the silver piercing through the very tip of a turgid nipple the shade of a flushed rose, and he couldn’t have forced himself to stop his next impulse for all his worth in the world. He reached out with the tip of his tongue to hook the inviting ring. With an experimental tug and a quickly followed draw into his mouth, Adam was delighted when she arched her back and all but clutched his head to her in sudden encouragement. She gasped softly, her fingernails dragging down out of his hair and along the cheek that went concave beneath her touch as he took the liberty of toying with her fascinatingly bejeweled body.
The scent of her emanated from her skin in sweet waves of sexual invitation. She made a low, trilling sound of enticement to him, her legs sliding restlessly in renewed temptation. Adam tested her tolerance at the sensitive point, catching the ring and tugging strongly on it until she exhaled a sound of response.
Adam’s entire body was raging with need, and he knew he had never wanted a woman with such a sense of sheer insanity. The only exception would have been that moment when she herself had elicited the same strong response from him in what was now the very distant past.
The thought was a highly sobering one. His situation in life was reeling out of his control, nothing making sense and no resolution in sight, and yet here he was with this female, and somehow he felt more grounded than he ever had before. Even though it was wrong to be with her. Or was it? He had no idea what was right and what was wrong in this confusing world he found himself in, and it was making him feel like he had no center. He needed to know the rules. The law. It was how he had always lived his life, and he wasn’t going to stop now.
Adam pushed away from the temptation lying in the grass, backing off from her even though very visceral parts of himself protested the act quite violently. He gained his feet and his composure and watched as she slowly sat up and smoothed her hands down over her stimulated body. She touched her mouth with elegant fingers, wiping away the moisture he’d left behind with a pair of sensual little strokes that made his chest ache with longing once again.
“Until next time.” She snickered as she rose up from the ground in an easy levitation.
“There will be no next time,” he grumbled darkly.
“Sure there won’t.” Her disbelief was more than obvious.
She headed for Noah’s, flying barely four inches above the path as she skimmed along her way. Adam cursed, still unwilling to take her word that the war was over and hurrying quickly after her in case he needed to protect Noah’s household.
She entered the Great Hall without knocking, just as she always did, completely aware that the big Demon male was hot on her tail. Jasmine might be acting cool and incidentally flirtatious about their encounter, but she was feeling anything but calm. In fact, her whole body was hot with response and eager curiosity. She couldn’t remember when she had last come up against a male who had been so confident and outrageously bold, a male she was also attracted to. And the fact that he wasn’t a Vampire simply floored her.
Then again, she hadn’t found anyone in her breed to play with in a very long time. They all bored her or were obnoxiously cocky. This Demon male was strong and self-assured, but she could feel the moments of doubt and confusion in him. He was most certainly a puzzle. Why was it she had not laid eyes on him in four centuries? And why was it every time she did see him, they seemed to stick together like irrepressible magnets?
“Noah!” Adam barked out as he reached to grab the Vampire hard around her arm. “She says she knows you. Is this Vampire welcome in your home?”
Jasmine smiled at the way he said “Vampire.” As if she were something truly dirty. Well, when she was around him she felt dirty. Very dirty.
“Jasmine!” Noah stood, pushing his wife off his lap and coming up to meet them. He was frowning, just as Adam was frowning as he tried to understand how humans could have become mates to Demons. “Yes, Adam, she is very welcome here. Jasmine, forgive Adam, he has been out of touch with current issues. Adam, she is an important attaché to the Vampire Prince. There is peace between Vampires and Demons ... for the most part.”
“For the most part?” Adam echoed.
“There are some Vampires who have turned to lawless behavior. They endanger us all. Like the one you killed.”
“Killed a Vampire, did we?” Jasmine asked, arching a brow at him. He could almost hear her mocking the feat.
“Nicodemous,” Noah informed her.
Adam watched with a bit of amazement as she went very still, absorbing the information nonchalantly when all of his senses told him she was quite shocked.
“You killed Nico,” she said a bit breathlessly. And there was something primeval in her understanding of that. The way she met his eyes, Adam could almost taste the arousal and excitement the information sent spinning through her. It was as though he could read her mind, rather than the reverse. But surely his own addled brain was making it up. Why would she take pleasure in the death of her own? Then again, who could ever understand what drove a Vampire?
“I ran him through the brain stem. Last I checked, next to beheading, that is the quickest method of killing a Vampire.”
And why did he think the fact that he knew more ways to kill her kind than most turned her on a little? It couldn’t possibly be because of that little smile she was giving him, could it?
“Well, he’s quite dead, then,” she agreed. “I confess I am impressed, Adam. Even your King shied from going head-to-head with Nico or Ruth. I don’t know whether to consider you brave or incredibly foolhardy.”
“I would do anything to save my brother’s life. And as Enforcer I would not hesitate to hunt the perverted Demon female either. It is a wonder Jacob has not already managed her.” Adam pressed his lips together to keep from speaking his theories on that. It was clear Jacob was too distracted by his wife and child to be doing his job effectively. There was a reason Enforcers resigned if they became Imprinted. In his opinion, this situation illustrated that reason.
“As Enforcer? You?”
Jasmine realized a moment after she laughed that it was a bad idea to scoff about this particular notion. The Demon’s lip curled and his big body bristled in offense.
Jasmine held up her palms and shrugged a shoulder, trying to ward off whatever faux pas she’d made. Normally she couldn’t care less who she ticked off, but she wasn’t really all that eager to ruffle this Demon’s feathers. When he got ruffled, he started doing things to her that ended up ruffling her. And she hadn’t decided yet if she liked that or not.
She didn’t think she ought to.
But then again ... her body was still humming with his last attack on her senses, her mouth still feeling full of his flavor and his heat. She felt as though she had been branded in a way. It took her back four hundred years to the first time they had met, when he had become water and attacked her body in its entirety. She had never forgotten that moment, that incredible sensation. She had never forgotten it because no one since had ever lived up to its potential. It had been an unfulfilled promise, had lasted less than a minute, to be sure, and yet no sexual escapade she could dream up or dabble in had struck her quite as powerfully.
Not that she would ever admit that to him.
“There are two Enforcers, and you are not one of them.”
“Ouch,” Jasmine whispered a bit loudly as she turned to look at the Enforcer she was more familiar with. Jacob walked deeper into the Great Hall, looking like he’d been dragged through the bowels of hell and was none too steady for it. Noah moved toward Jacob with concern etched in his features, but Jacob held up a hand to keep him at bay.
“I need to attend to my wife and child, but they are safe for now and this is more pressing,” Jacob said as he advanced on his brother, standing toe-to-toe with him for the first time in centuries. “You are not an illusion. You are not some figment of magic sent to trick us. I can see that. I can sense that in my soul. You are my brother. And yet ...” He looked at Noah. “I would never raise my daughter to act in a manner that could have so much potential for harm and negative consequences. I held her and touched her, I looked into her eyes, and it was Leah ... but how could I have so failed her as a parent that she would think this was an acceptable thing to do? To steal someone out of his life like this? To rob him of his own Destiny and to alter the Destiny of so many others in the process?”
“Maybe you did not,” Noah said softly. “Jacob, have you considered what would have happened to you and Bella and Leah if Adam had not shown up in that cavern when he did?”
Jacob did consider it now. He blanched as Noah’s point sank in.
“But if that is the truth, if Nico would have killed me, how would Leah ever survive when Isabella was incapacitated?”
“Maybe Ruth would have let them live, Jacob. Contemplate, for a minute, what that would mean. You die, but she lets Bella survive. Lets Leah survive.”
“Bella could not survive without me. You know that.”
“So does Ruth. And forcing Leah to bear witness would make it all the worse. You and I both know that sick bitch is more than capable of it.”
“So you are saying ... you are saying that Leah survived watching her father get murdered ... and her mother ...” He cleared the hoarseness in his throat that his thoughts caused.
“Can you imagine what that would do to a child?” Noah said. “A child who grew up with all of us living in the aftermath of something like that? The thought of it alone devastates me, Jacob. It makes so much sense that she would use her power to find a way to come back to change the past, find a way to save you both.”
“By going into the distant past to steal my brother to help her? You are telling me this is why he disappeared all those centuries ago? Because my daughter stole him away so he could come and protect me in the future? And if that is so, why did she leave? Why did she not stay and explain all of this to me?”
“You must imagine that the paradoxes are endless, Jacob. That the moment Adam saved you, that Leah must have ceased to exist. The future and time line that she had existed in had to come to a crashing halt, had to disintegrate, because it was all based on that one moment in time she had just changed.”
“The moment of his death,” Adam said suddenly.
“Exactly. Her actions have left you and Bella safe and alive, and Adam stranded here with no way of getting back until perhaps years from now, when Leah is old enough to control her power. But clearly she does not take him back, or you would never have noticed his absence. You would never have become Enforcer. You would never have met Bella or fathered her life. It has to end this way, and begin anew from here. Adam can never go back because if he does, Leah can never exist to take him in the first place.”
“My head hurts just listening to that explanation.” Jacob said. “But I think I am following you just the same.”
“You mean I have no choice? I must stay here in the future? Or rather, this present?”
“It is a house of cards, Adam,” Noah warned him. “If you go back, you change everything. You might destroy all chance of happiness for your brothers. For all of the Demon people. Jacob was the first to find and fall in love with a Druid. If that never happens, then I would never find my wife. Your brother Kane would never find his. Elijah—”
“My brother Kane?” Adam echoed incredulously.
“Kane was born after you disappeared,” Jacob informed him.
Jacob now realized he had no right to be angry with his brother for all of the things he had railed at him for earlier. All of this time Jacob had felt inexplicably abandoned, and so much had happened to change his life because of Adam’s disappearance. But now he realized it wasn’t Adam’s fault.
It was Leah’s.
I love you, Daddy.
Yes. There was no doubt in his mind that it had been Leah. His beautiful daughter, all grown up. And yet, how full of tragedy and pain that single hug had been. She had held onto him as if holding onto someone she had not seen in a long, long time; someone who had been torn away from her. When Jacob thought of what his child must have originally witnessed this day in her history, it made him want to go to her side and scoop her up, hold her so tightly to his chest that she would never need to hold him so desperately again.
“Jacob, how does Bella fare?”
“Legna is with her now,” Jacob said. “She is numb and all but comatose with the poison she took into herself. I fear she ...” He didn’t say what he feared, but he didn’t have to. Noah knew very well what was at stake.
“So let me be clear,” Adam said carefully. “Vampires and Demons are not at war.”
Noah shook his head.
“And Nightwalkers can use magic?” he asked.
“Those who choose to go down that dark path,” Noah agreed.
“And there are two Enforcers? A male and a female.”