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|Adam(Nightwalkers #6) by Jacquelyn Frank|
She had put forth the idea at the last meeting and met with a lot of disapproving resistance, and this even though a natural-born Witch was sitting amongst them. A Witch who had first come to them many months back and told them that humans who used black magic were redeemable. That she was one who had been led astray because no other option had been put in front of her once she realized she had been born to create magic. She had not realized there were magics that could and could not harm her. That there was even a difference. And by the time she had realized it, she was well into an addiction that had been almost impossible for her to break. It had taken everything she had to rip free of it. It had taken frightening experimentations to learn what was good magic, and what was not.
What if it was the same for these Vampires?
Windsong was willing to risk her life to test her theory.
“We’re going to take you away with us,” the second Vampire explained.
“How lovely. I am so pleased you are inviting me on this trip,” Windsong said. “Where will we be going?”
“Not far. The Demon has need of you. We don’t know why.”
Suddenly Windsong lost a bit of her calm. She took a breath, trying to regain it.
“You mean Ruth?” she asked.
“Yes, Ruth,” a third voice growled from behind her. He grabbed hold of the Siren, yanking her back into his body. Windsong’s knee-jerk response was to cry out a single, stunning note, her voice rising wildly into the clear, cool forest.
The Vampire’s grip on her went lax almost instantly, allowing her to stumble free of his grasp. She lost all interest in prying information from them. Vampires were one thing, Ruth entirely another. Windsong was not so arrogant as to think she would fare better with the demented Demon than others who had come away brutalized and viciously damaged, if they came away at all. She knew she was strong and powerful, but she wasn’t willing to test that strength against someone so corrupted. A wildcard that no one truly understood. And when one didn’t completely grasp one’s enemy, it was all but impossible to find their weaknesses and mount a proper defense.
Suddenly she was struggling to keep her fear under control. It was imperative that she do so. She could only control her attackers if she controlled herself. The Vampires were getting bolder. She could sense it on them, sense their mental strength. Had she been any other Mistral, they might have already had her captive.
She began to sing, no words, only clear, sharp notes, laying the groundwork to hold their minds and the minds of any others within hearing range. Her voice was powerful and resonant, cutting through the forest for unexpected distances. She doubted they would suspect she was capable of reaching so far. In moments her voice would burst into the cabin clearing where Harrier and the others were.
That was when a sudden, sharp sensation punched into the side of her neck. Startled, Windsong fell silent, her hand jerking up to the dart protruding from her throat. She looked numbly into the eyes of a Demon whose deeply tanned skin set her apart from the Vampires she accompanied. As the powerful sedative flooded quickly into Windsong’s blood, she swayed a little. The pretty black-and-gray-haired Demon tugged at a string near her ear, popping free the earplug in it, one of a pair in bright, obscene orange.
“They thought they were strong enough to resist you,” she said as she came closer. “I thought it was better to be safe than sorry.” She methodically reloaded the dart gun and took aim at Windsong.
“Wait ... please ...” Windsong rasped weakly, holding up a hand as she felt her vocal cords go numb along with the entire inside of her throat. The world swayed and weakness bled through her body.
“It’s not up to me,” the Demon said with a shrug. “What Ruth wants, Ruth gets. But trust me, my way of going about it is very much the better way.”
She shot Windsong again, this time hitting her in a less vital area. The first drug was a paralytic, the second a sedative. Windsong collapsed onto the ground, unable to do anything to protect herself or escape.
The Demon popped out the second earplug and rolled her eyes at the Vampires, who were just breaking free of the Siren’s spell.
“What a bunch of idiots,” she said.
But it was the other Vampires, the ones who were coming toward them, threading through the trees to look down on the unconscious Mistral, who had been the real danger.
Yes. Her way was very much the safer way.
Adam had tracked more than his share of Demons over the years, but he had always had that little sense inside him to help him pinpoint their location. The absence of Ruth’s presence on his internal grid made him just about useless when it came to hunting her. Or so he felt as he watched the Vampire track her from the caverns beneath the surface. Jasmine’s senses and skills as a huntress were utterly remarkable to him. Mind Demons were difficult to track, what with their ability to teleport with a thought from one spot to the next, but if one knew what to look for, it was not impossible. Jasmine impressed him as she quickly traced the Demon’s movements.
He had to confess to himself that watching her hunt was an incredible turn-on. His ineffectiveness left him with nothing to do but to watch her. Study her. Familiarize himself with every beautiful line of her features, the graceful length of her neck, and the curving arch of her back on into her rear end as she crouched down to study the signs she found and formulate her next plan of action.
“Must you stare at me so?” she asked with a put-upon sigh after a few hours of this.
Adam only smiled, unable to feel apologetic for being caught in the act. Too large a part of him wanted her to know he found her captivating.
“Cease being so fascinating and I will cease to stare,” he offered.
Jasmine couldn’t help smiling at that, looking up at him from her position close to the ground. He was standing there with his powerful legs braced hard apart and his thick arms folded across his chest. He looked as though he were the master of his universe, in spite of the fact that he had currently lost his definition within it. She found that to be impressive and intriguing. He could have floundered around, waiting for others to help him define himself.
But not Adam. Somewhere along the way he had come to grips with the fact that his world had changed, that he needed to face facts and adapt or find himself hopelessly lost. Perhaps it was the act of the hunt that had helped it happen. He was in his element, the process familiar to him. He was hardly as useless as he thought he was, his well-trained senses and his experience lending significant guidance. But he was used to taking the lead in these things, used to being the solitary hunter. He wasn’t used to following someone with better skills.
For the moment anyway. Had it been any other Demon they were hunting, Jasmine was certain Adam would have left her in the dust, but Jasmine had hunted Ruth before—knew what to look for, what she smelled like and what her tricks were. She supposed she could have enlightened him, taught him.
However, she was having far too much fun being ahead of him and leaving him with a great deal of time to simply watch her. There was something to be said for his regard. It was as if his eyes conveyed a physical touch. She felt them on her, felt exactly where they touched her at any given moment. She gave in to the temptation to bask in it. Unfortunately it was proving a huge distraction. A certain amount of heat came with his gaze, creating a steady sort of sizzle under her skin. It made her crave the time to do other things besides hunt the target she was seeking.
It was too much of a distraction. It had to stop.
“I have little else to do,” he said absently, continuing to contemplate the curve of her ass rather shamelessly. “And I have had worse pastimes.”
Jasmine stood up, smoothing her hands down her thighs and moving with a slow and sensual turn. She couldn’t help the urge she had to tempt him, always tempt him, step after step—always one inch farther than before. She knew she was inviting trouble, that it was a bad idea all around considering her own unexpected reactions to him thus far, but still she couldn’t seem to help herself.
He smiled, his knowing look telling her he was very aware of the purposeful way she toyed with him, and that he knew she did so in spite of her better judgment. He moved a little closer to her, close enough to touch, and even though he didn’t reach out for her, it was as though he was doing so with every fiber of his being.
“I have felt attractions in my lifetime. I have been besotted with a girl when I was younger. I remember that. How she fascinated me and everything about her seemed so flawless. But all of that pales compared to what I feel when I am looking at you, little Vamp. And I cannot for my life figure out why that is.”
“Perhaps it is just forbidden fruit?” she offered, brushing back her hair just so she could watch the way his eyes clung to the action, to the shift of the strands, to the way they resettled against her neck. She felt her heart fretting in her chest, the muscle wanting to beat despite its long-silent state. Beats and breath, so far he had inspired both. How was it he had the power to raise her dormant systems to life?
“Aye,” he said. “It is very possible. But only this particular fruit, I assure you. Only you, little Vamp.”
“Well, you have good taste, I’ll give you that,” she said with a smirk.
That made him laugh, a low rich sound, short-lived and yet beautifully male. It made her want to touch him so badly that she did. She was, after all, a sensualist. It was in the very core of her breed. It was how they tried to feel. So she reached out and drew a shaping hand over the powerful bulk of his shoulder and down the sinewy strength of his arm. An electric sensation jolted down the center of her body as she was forced to remember how he had felt above her, his strength and weight pressing into her, his heat penetrating her skin.
“Earlier, when I said you disappointed me ...” she said softly, barely above a whisper, as if in confession, “I didn’t mind the liberties you took with me. I only minded that you never followed up. I realize now that wasn’t your fault.”
“I could not have followed up in any event, Jasmine,” he said. “The world being what it was at the time. Although I ... I do not believe I would have been able to hold myself back. It would have taken others to do so.” He spared a glance up toward the sky, then looked directly into her eyes. “At the time it was Beltane. Now it is Samhain. Perhaps I am victim to both powerful moons. Perhaps I am throwing away my normal care because I am so disembodied from my former life. But I much prefer to think it has something to do with the fact that you are the most bewitching creature ever to walk the earth.” He took a breath, slowly, in through his nose, his eyes closing in obvious pleasure. “And you smell ...”
She did the same, her eyes drifting half closed as she took in the smell of him. It was such a primal scent, so male and dynamic. She found him to be by far the most tempting pleasure she had ever come across.
“You are quite enough to tempt me outside my species,” she admitted to him on a breathy voice. “I think, for the first time, I can appreciate the overwhelming attraction that Damien must feel for—”
She broke off, the words she was saying ringing sharp and yet discordant in her brain. She backed up a step, shaking her head. No. She would be damned if she would fall into the snare that currently held Damien in its grasp. To be so distracted that she would be willing to throw away everything that made sense?
No, she didn’t want that.
She turned away and shook off his stunning physical spell as best she could, trying to refocus on her hunt. She had a job to do. A responsibility to thousands of people, if not the entire world, when she thought on it. Ruth was a curse on every living thing, and she must be stopped. Jasmine couldn’t let anything get in the way of that. Too many of them had let their own personal distractions get in the way of destroying the Demon.
Adam sensed her withdrawal and knew it ought to feel like a slap in the face. One minute she was there, the next she was gone. But she wasn’t truly gone. Not ever gone, he realized slowly as he continued to feel her presence against his skin as surely as if she were leaning against him. He felt as though threads of energy were somehow strung between them, and with every passing moment they grew stronger. Instinct told him that touching her would make it happen all the more quickly. He didn’t understand how or why he knew these things. It wasn’t logical at all, it wasn’t some kind of learned information. It was purely intuition.
He reached for her hair, but his fingertips barely grazed her before she was leaping away into the air, moving to chase down her next lead.
Ah yes. The Demon. The traitor.
Jasmine had been regaling him with tales of Ruth’s history. How nearly every major player in the Nightwalker world had gone up against her. Some had achieved victory, but it had proved fleeting and temporary as she escaped final judgment and came back stronger and more tainted every time. As Adam hurried after the Vampire, he knew that he would not let Ruth escape. He would sacrifice his life first. Especially since it was clear she was gunning for his brother’s family. Adam could not allow that. It was his job, his life, to see no Demon harmed a human or Nightwalker. Catching Ruth was perhaps what he was most destined to do.
“Oh, how very lovely she is,” Ruth remarked as her Vampire minions laid their Mistral captive out on one of Ruth’s workbenches. “I had not expected her to be even prettier in person. They say Mistrals are as mousy in looks as they are beautiful in voice. Clearly that is not the case in this instance.”
“No, mistress,” agreed the petite black-and-gray-haired Demon who had followed the Vampires into the room. “She is heavily sedated,” she said apologetically. “I thought it the best way to bring her to you unharmed and”—she cast a look at the Vampires—“unbled. I wished her to be in as pristine condition for your needs as possible.”