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|Adam(Nightwalkers #6) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“Yeah, handsome, and women have the vote, too,” Jasmine teased with a chuckle.
“Jas,” Noah scolded her. But she shrugged carelessly.
“Well, things are very different here than they were four hundred years ago, and he’d better get used to that if he’s going to be sticking around. Let’s start with the idea that none of the Nightwalkers are at war. The only exception being a few lawless Vampires. And there are those pesky necromancers and human hunters. But my point is, you can stop trying to kill me.”
“He tried to kill you?” Noah choked out.
“Among other things,” Jasmine said slyly, giving Adam a very naughty look over her shoulder.
Adam resisted the urge to flush with guilt, but only after a great amount of effort. He suddenly had the urge to wrap his hands back around that slender throat. War or no war, purity laws had to still be in existence. Sex with other species had to be illegal.
Adam looked at the sugar white blond human who was leaning intimately against the Demon King.
“Demons and Druids can be mated?” he asked carefully, trying to piece together the information he was learning. “And Druids are part human?”
“Yes. In fact, Demons can be mated to any Nightwalker species now. I know this was different in your time,” Noah said. “It is relatively new to us as well, believe me.”
Faster than he would have wished, Adam felt his gaze darting swiftly to meet the mischievous mink brown of the Vampire female’s.
Jasmine. Such a beautiful name, but far too clean and innocent for someone so wicked and skilled.
“I should like some examples of what you mean,” he said a bit numbly as he tried to absorb the shock of what he was hearing. The worst part about it, though, was that it took away the rein he kept so tenuously over his restraint. It removed the wall that should be there between himself and this Vampire female. He could feel possibilities and curiosity getting the better of him, just as they had done before he had found out it was no longer illegal to indulge in them. But it should still feel wrong to him! It had been forbidden for so long, why did the idea not repulse him?
Why did she not repulse him?
“Here is one. Elijah, your old friend. He is the mate of the Lycanthrope Queen.”
Adam’s jaw went slack with shock. Now he knew for certain that things had changed in ways he might never fully grasp. Elijah was mated? To anyone? Never mind a female not of his species. As reality sank in further, Adam found himself desperately missing those he had left behind. Mainly his parents, who were dead. And now he had an additional sibling and one little niece. Was there more? Just how much had he missed? How impossible was it going to be to catch up?
What was more, with Jacob and his wife as Enforcers, what purpose would he serve in this modern world? He was hopelessly redundant, and painfully unnecessary.
The thought that moved through Adam’s mind was so hurtfully strong that Jasmine couldn’t help overhearing it. She felt a moment of powerful empathy for him, knowing, as a Vampire who would go to ground and awaken in a completely different era, what it felt like to find loved ones changed or missing. Granted, she had never heard of a Vampire having slept four hundred years ...
“It’s all right,” she said softly. “Your disorientation and feelings of loss are to be expected, but they will fade with time. Focus on the new blessings in your life, not on what you think you have lost.”
“What blessings?” he snapped, sounding fatalistic and cold. “I have lost my parents, whom I love, my position in this world, which made me the Demon I am, and I have no concept of right and wrong under all of these changed laws. What blessing is there in that?”
“You have lost loved ones, but you have gained others,” she insisted, holding out a hand. “A beautiful and powerful niece who was willing to sacrifice everything she knew so you could save her father. She put all of her faith in you and was richly rewarded for it. You have a brother, whom you’ve never met. His wife as well. By all means, grieve for those you loved, but do not let grief swallow you, lest you miss out on the others around you.”
She was right. The understanding that his good father and beautiful mother were gone was painful, leaving a terrible hole in his heart, but here there were others he might never have known if not for the actions of a brave young girl. And had she not asked him, more than once, if he would trade away all he knew for the chance to save Jacob’s life? Had he been lying when he had said yes?
No, Adam thought. It had not even been close to a lie. He would have given everything in that moment to spare his brother.
And he had. This was the price he had said he would pay. He had to accept that. He had to know it was worth it, even if just for the well-being of one small girl child who clearly could not bear the loss of her father. And her mother, he recalled. More than just Jacob’s life had been saved this day. He must try to remember that.
He turned warm and grateful eyes on the Vampire female before him. Jasmine. Even as she stood there in immodestly skintight clothing and with that perpetually contemplative grin on her lips, he knew she was concerned for him. He knew she understood what he must be feeling. When he had first met her, she had said something about having been asleep for a long while. She must have felt the same as he did now. Out of touch. Confused and disoriented. Behind the times.
“How do you do it?” he asked her bluntly. “How do you simply awake hundreds of years later and assimilate the changes that have gone on around you?”
“Me?” She arched a brow and smiled slyly. “I just embrace the new world around me. The clothes, the food, the smells, and the feel of it all. I want to experience everything about it.” She hugged herself as she spoke, but then cocked her head at him. “You, however, don’t seem the type. You would probably be better off with a guide.”
“What do you mean, not the type?” he demanded, the fine hairs on the back of his neck ruffling with pique.
“Mine are the ways of a sensualist,” she told him as she sidled up to him, her tight body skimming against his, “and you don’t strike me as the sort to give in to your feelings.”
The remark was smug and teasing and he wished he could reach out and throttle her. Instead he found himself flushing at her boldness in front of his King and, apparently, his Queen. Or maybe it was because if she’d rubbed him just a little more firmly, he would have grabbed her and ended up giving her a lesson in sex even a centuries-old Vampire could use. That was how out of control he felt every time she came too close.
Hell, just setting eyes on her ...
“A guide is an excellent idea, Jasmine. I will take you as a volunteer?”
Jasmine’s body went stiff along the length of his, all her teasing washed away under what she saw as a threat to herself. That struck Adam curiously. Why would someone so bold and confident as she perceive a displaced Demon like him as a threat?
“I have more important things to do,” she said, her voice snapping cold like the sudden rush of winter. “His brother would be—”
“Jacob has to care for Bella and his daughter. Not to mention his duties as Enforcer. What is it you have to do?” Noah asked archly.
“What I always do. Maintain my connections with our circuit of guardians who are out there protecting Nightwalkers and humans alike from rogue Vampires, Demons, and others. I had actually planned on tracking Ruth. She needs to be dealt with now, before she grows any stronger. It may already be too late.”
“Ruth is not a creature you ought to be hunting on your own, Jasmine. No one faces Ruth one-on-one. It would be a death sentence. Between the magic she now uses so adroitly and the natural power of her Demon abilities, no one creature could confront her and expect to survive. Not even me or Damien. She has already killed Gideon.” Noah saw Adam react with a choke of sound, and he amended it. “We were lucky enough to get him back, thanks be to Destiny.”
“Clearly,” Adam said in a strangled voice.
“But she is on her own now. Nicodemous has been destroyed. It is just the opportunity we have needed, just the weakness we have wanted to exploit. And we must do it quickly, before she initiates someone else into Nico’s place.”
“This is also true,” Noah conceded. “So as I see it, you can best kill all your birds if you take Adam with you. As Enforcer, he can sense the Transformed, track them down. Ruth is always surrounded by them. It makes sense that he will lead you to her eventually. Also, he is an exceptional hunter and killer. He has proven that time and again. Being displaced out of time will not change his ability to fight. If you wish to hunt Ruth down, these are my conditions. Take Adam with you. While you search, use the time to introduce Adam to the world as it is now.”
“Oh brother,” she huffed with a sharp rolling of her eyes. She moved away from Adam, marching up to face off with the King, her body warmth instantly missed by a perturbed Water Demon. “I am not taking him! I do not work with a partner. You’re out of your mind if you think I’m going to babysit this anachronism for you!”
“I do not need a governess!” Adam boomed, his voice like a thunderstorm in the echoing Great Hall. “And I certainly do not need this saucy chit of a Vampire to show me around!”
“Quiet! Both of you!” Noah roared back, making both of them startle. Neither was used to Noah using that tone of voice. Noah had always been able to control his temper, always speaking moderately. Clearly the Demon King was losing patience with the tumult of his life in that moment. “Jasmine, either you work with Adam or I will assign a Mind Demon to your ass and have you teleported to Damien’s stronghold, where you will stay, like it or not! And Adam,” he said, turning to the bigger man, “you realize you need a guide, do you not? And I remember enough about you to know you will not be happy sitting still here in this castle learning about automobiles and computers. Ruth can and will kill you, given half a chance. She is much stronger than you know. I thought a challenge like that would be right up your alley.”
“Noah, it is too dangerous,” Jacob protested. “Even the two of them together would not have a chance.”
“I fear that, too,” Noah agreed. “That is why I only want them to find her. Then they can come and retrieve us and a sufficient fighting force. As we all know, just the act of finding her is dangerous enough. But she must be found. This cannot continue any longer. I will send other teams as well, spreading them out as fast and wide as I can.”
“Then let us go first,” Jasmine said quickly. “We’ll start at the caverns where she attacked Bella and Jacob and track her down from there. And give us a head start so others aren’t tromping over our path and confusing her trail. I want her, Noah. And I am done playing games.”
“You are just to find her, Jasmine,” Noah warned her as she turned to stride off with the long-legged grace of a gazelle. The perfection of her posture and the pent-up fury inside her was stunning to behold. Adam would have loved to continue watching her, but he realized he had to move or risk being left behind. “Adam, try to keep a rein on her,” Noah said wearily. “And remember she will trick you the first chance she gets if it suits her purpose.”
“I will remember that,” Adam said grimly. It just went to show that not much about Vampires had changed after all.
“Find me?” Ruth laughed, the amusement only for herself as it filled her room. “Oh, please do find me. I would love that. Love it!” Ruth dashed her hand into the bowl of scrying water she had been using, dissolving the images of Noah, Jacob, and the new male named Adam who had murdered her lover.
For the time being, anyway.
Ruth turned to her bed, a delicate float of silk following behind her as she moved in a flowing soft dress with a pretty rose coloring. She sat down beside her lover’s corpse, reaching to smooth back his hair as she slowly wrapped her free hand around the handle of the bejeweled dagger thrust through the back of his mouth. His body was rigid in death, so she had to struggle as she yanked hard to remove it. Luckily for her, unluckily for Nicodemous, the blade was kept very, very sharp. It only took a few tries before it ripped free of the skull and jaws of its victim.
Ruth waited for several beats. In the past when Nico had been wounded in a critical way, it had taken only the removal of the offending object before he had started to heal. Then he would return to life as usual.
But this time was different and she knew it. This time he’d been run through the back of his brain, the crucial connection that he couldn’t repair on his own.
But still she waited. She ignored the gruesomeness of his death mask, the coldness of his skin. He’d felt like cold death before when he’d been in need of a hunt. They’d even made love while all his extremities had felt like pure ice. It had been a chilling and erotic experience.
This was not. She had to find some way, some kind of miracle to bring him back, or he would stay dead forever. Now that she knew what Noah and his cohorts were up to, she could focus on finding that miracle for him.
Ruth hurried to the table filled with compendium after compendium of spells, some hundreds of years old, others she had handwritten herself. That was the beauty of magic, she had learned. If you couldn’t find the spell you wanted, you could make it up using components of other spells. It might not always work the way you wanted it to, but it was always fun to discover what a new spell would do. And sometimes it worked perfectly.
She opened to a death animation spell, but shook her head. Not just yet. It would do only if nothing else worked, but the spell had a time period of only forty-eight hours; then the corpse would burn up into dust never to be used again ... except perhaps as a component for other more complex spells.