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|Adam(Nightwalkers #6) by Jacquelyn Frank|
She chuckled at him. “When I say something is hot, I mean it looks sexy on you. It’s a term we use a lot these days.” Jasmine glanced up when the lighting in the store flickered for what seemed like the tenth time since they’d gotten there. “Come on, let’s wrap this up. We have a bitch to hunt down, and these lights will start to burn out if you stay near them much longer.”
“Why did you purchase so many clothes?” he asked as they walked out of the store with bags full of clothing, including what he had originally worn into the store, since he had refused to give up what he was most used to. It was almost as if it were the last vestige of the things he had known and loved and he was loath to let them go.
“Because these days people change clothes every day. You will need the clothing since you have absolutely nothing. Now, let’s ditch this stuff at Noah’s and head out after Ruth. I want her so bad I can taste it.”
“We are only supposed to find her. We are not to engage.”
Adam didn’t have to be from the future to know she didn’t mean that. But he actually didn’t have a problem with her attitude. He could handle a corrupted Demon. It’s what he did every day of his life. He didn’t understand what Noah was so afraid of when it came to this female Demon. Between him and Jasmine they should be able to take her easily. He was just as eager for a fight as the Vampire was, so he saw no reason to rein Jasmine in.
They made it back to Noah’s castle in no time at all, and neither of them let on to the Demon King their secret thoughts on how they were going to deal with Ruth on their own. Adam didn’t have to be a genius to know Noah would disapprove of them going off on a private quest for vengeance.
At Noah’s direction, they took Adam’s new things to one of the guest rooms on the third floor. When Jasmine made herself busy hanging clothing, all he could do was sit on the bed and sigh wearily. She looked at him over a shoulder and tilted her head, the cloud of her hair looking beautiful across her shoulders and against her fair cheek.
“Feeling overwhelmed?” she asked him.
He simply nodded.
“It will pass,” she assured him. “Try to have fun with it. Take pleasure in all the new and wonderful things you see around you. Don’t dwell on what you can’t change.”
“Maybe that is easy for a coldhearted Vampire to do, but for those of us with deep-seated feelings, it is not so easy to dismiss certain things,” he said irritably.
She turned sharply to face him, her warm eyes suddenly alive with temper. “I have feelings, too, you know. Don’t make assumptions about me. Your mindset is based on a war that happened four centuries ago. If you even want to call it war. If the Vampires had wanted you all dead, you would have been dead. I think what’s happened recently proves that.”
“You mean Vampires like Nicodemous? If you have not noticed, he is dead. I killed him.”
“Maybe. Until we burn the body, I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”
“Then we should go from here. We have wasted enough time already.” Adam grabbed the leather jacket she had chosen for him, shrugging into the garment easily. He had to admit, he liked the clothing of this modern world. It was comfortable and well fitting. Granted, the fabrics and designs were a bit plainer than the cloth of gold, velvet, and bejeweled touches of his time, but he could live with that. Right then he had larger worries. Clearly this tainted Demon female was gunning for his baby brother and his family. That was unacceptable. What he didn’t understand was why Jacob hadn’t already dealt with her. He was supposed to be the Enforcer. She was the reason his job existed, a Demon gone awry.
To be fair, though, Adam had not sensed this rogue once since he had arrived. Perhaps she was too corrupted, too far from being a real Demon any longer to be sensed in the traditional manner. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t be tracked at all.
“Let us catch this wretch that plagues my brother,” he said to the Vampire as he reached to strap on his weapons belt as well. “The sooner I see it done, the more content I will be. Then perhaps I can focus on other things.”
“Such as?” She all but smirked at him. “You have to know you aren’t going to be able to go back in time. The young girl who brought you here no longer exists. In this world, she is barely five years old and hardly has a clue as to her power.”
“I am well aware of this,” Adam groused, irritated that she so easily saw into his thoughts and desires. He couldn’t help thinking ... maybe if he could get back to his own time, he could prevent the deaths awaiting his parents.
“Clearly you aren’t. If you were aware of it as you should be, you wouldn’t be thinking of ways you could change what we know history to be. I have no desire to disappear from the life I know and suddenly find myself dead or otherwise. All it takes is one thing changed and the future is destroyed. The good as well as the bad.”
“Then someone should have said as much to my niece before she kidnapped me from my life and brought me here!” he snapped at her. “I had a good life! I had loving parents and a brother who was not so bitter!”
She laughed at that, a hard barking sound. “Jacob bitter? Please. He’s so sugar sweet in love it’s sickening. He adores his family and has a very happy life. A life he won’t have if you go back and change things on him. Let’s suppose,” Jasmine said as she rounded the bed to face off with him, “that you do make it back. That alone would be a significant enough event to change everything. Your brother would no longer be Enforcer in your stead. That means he would not have been doing his job the night he met his mate. Therefore Kane and Jacob and Noah and every other person you supposedly care about would never know that they could find mates outside their species or the happiness they now experience.” She shrugged. “Granted, I wouldn’t mind it if a certain Lycanthrope biatch never crossed the path of my Prince, but you have to take the bad with the good, I suppose.”
“Damien has joined himself to a Lycanthrope?” Adam leaned in toward her. “You really do not seem pleased by this at all.”
“Yeah, well ...” She frowned darkly. “Their union is the reason why Vampires learned they could survive taking the blood of other Nightwalkers. That it brings them new power to do so. Previously they thought breaking the taboo would mean a horrible consequence—most likely death.”
“And you feel he should not have taken her to mate, that he should have made the sacrifice so that Vampires would never learn of the power they could achieve.”
“Exactly.” She shrugged. “But I’m not going to play shoulda woulda coulda with you. Things are what they are, there’s nothing to be done about it.”
“Who can say?” Adam gave her a sly little smile as he leaned in close to her. “Perhaps you would like the past to change more than you are willing to admit.”
Jasmine frowned. The last thing she needed was temptation from a Demon who barely had a clue about the modern world and all the many things a ripple in time could affect. She would readily admit to doing everything in her power to voice her displeasure in Damien’s choice of a bride—everything short of killing her, that is—but she wasn’t so selfish that she couldn’t see the bigger picture. She liked her life just the way it was, and she wasn’t going to risk changing it when she knew things could just as easily be so much worse.
But she had to give him credit for trying ... and for knowing just the right way to tempt a girl. It made for a very worthy opponent, and she found it beyond hot. Then again, he had been made to turn heads. Wearing the delicious and decadent designs of the modern world, he was enough to make even an elitist like her consider playing outside her species. But she wasn’t about to let him know any of that. It was safer to simply team up with him just long enough to kick Ruth’s ass and then they could each go along their merry way.
Of course, that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to have a little fun at his expense in the meantime.
“I think I like things just the way they are,” she said with a dip of one shoulder and a flirtatious swing of her body. “You and I going out to play together. We’ll track the big bad bitch and hand her her ass for dinner. Then I can go back to hunting rogue Vampires, and you ... you can do whatever you put your little mind to.”
“Rogue Vampires,” he echoed, his eyes dropping down over her body in increments ... breasts, waist, hips, thighs, and eventually her calves.
It was well into winter, and as a result she was clothed almost conservatively, if you could call tight low-rise jeans and a navel-baring sweater conservative. But she wished for her favorite shorts just then. Anything to torment the poor bastard. Still, she wouldn’t be worth much if she were only as good as the clothes she wore.
“Funny how that sounds. In my world you were all rogues.”
“Well, it’s a good thing we’re in my world now, isn’t it? Otherwise you’d want to cause me bodily harm, and I like my body just the way it is. Don’t you?” She ran a hand up her hip to her waist, watching his eyes follow the movement as if he were a compass and she were the North Pole.
She watched his generous mouth turn down into a full frown and his eyes shoot up to narrow on hers. “I see women have not changed much at all,” he noted coldly. “You still try to play with men for your own amusement and ends.”
Jasmine snorted out a laugh. “That’s rich, coming from a stereotypical Alpha male. If you can’t beat something up or screw around with it, it barely gets your interest.”
“Why are we having this conversation?” he demanded crossly, turning away from her and marching for the door.
“Because it’s fun?” she posited archly.
“For whom?” he muttered as he took to the hallway in huge, ground-eating strides, forcing Jasmine to double-time her pace if she wanted to continue to snap at his heels like an annoying, yappy little dog.
“You don’t agree that men are essentially base creatures driven by violence and sex?” she asked him.
“Not to the exclusion of all else, no. I most certainly do not agree with that.”
“All right then. Let’s test this theory out a little. Right now we are on our way to do violence, and from what I can see you look like you’re raring to go.”
“So are you,” he pointed out as they hit the stairs. “I have never met such a bloodthirsty woman. You are just as eager to have a piece of this Ruth.”
“True, but that’s because she tried to kill my Prince and held me captive while she prattled on endlessly about what a demented psychopath she is. Not a fun night, I assure you.”
“Held you captive?” Adam enjoyed the idea. “Poor you. How did she manage that? You do not strike me as an easy victim.”
“Screw you!” Jasmine bit out. “Ruth’s a powerful Mind Demon, more powerful mentally than I was at the time. She seized control of my mind, held me paralyzed in my own bedroom, spent the time until dawn raping my brain of information that ...” Jasmine gritted her teeth. “Once the sun rose and she knew I couldn’t give chase, she left me in order to wreak havoc, using that information.”
“How unfortunate for you.” He didn’t sound at all sympathetic. Clearly, he didn’t appreciate the magnitude of what had happened next. “I, however, have been doing some thinking. Seeing that girl, my niece, the way she looked at Jacob like she had never seen him before ... something tells me Nicodemous and Ruth killed him in that cavern. How the girl survived I cannot say, but Ruth was out to murder my family and would have succeeded if not for the child.”
“Leah. Your niece has a name. It’s Leah.”
That brought him up short in the middle of the stairs and he turned to look at her.
“Leah,” he echoed. “He named her after our grandmother on our father’s side.”
“Someone you admired?” she asked.
“Greatly so. She was a fine lady. A warrior. An artisan. Jacob has high aspirations for his daughter if he named her thus.”
“Well, she is a child of prophecy, after all. And she has accomplished much even for one so young. The girl who brought you here—she waited all those years until she was a teen before acting. It means she gave it a lot of thought. It also means she was willing to throw away life as she knew it in order to change what had to have been a life-altering event. Not just for her, but for everyone here. Jacob means a lot to a great many people. As does Bella. I don’t see any of them coping easily with their deaths if it went down that way.”
Adam thought for a long moment, the expression on his face troubled.
“You are right,” he said at last. “I must reconcile myself to things as they are. I have told myself this already, but I continue to resist.”
“That is really quite normal,” she assured him. “Even though going to ground is a Vampire’s way of moving through time, and our whole purpose in doing so is to wake in a different era, it is perhaps instinct to resist and rebel against all the changes we find upon awaking at first. Even though there is nothing to be done about it. And especially when we realize those we hold attachments to did not survive.”
He made a scoffing sound. “Vampires have attachments?”
Jasmine could have gotten angry at the thoughtless prejudice in his remark, but she couldn’t fault him for it. The truth was, Vampires had few attachments of any significant or emotional depth.
“There are those we grow close to over time. Familiar with. Companions who mean more to us than others. So yes, I would call that attachments. Maybe it is not the grand friendship and love you other races sputter on about, but it is our way and it is how we form affections. Just because it is different doesn’t make it any less valid.”