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|Adam(Nightwalkers #6) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“You are so thoughtful,” Ruth praised her. “Would you like to see the spell I am working on, as a reward for bringing me its most crucial component?”
“Very much so.”
Ruth impatiently shooed away the Vampires who were sniffing at the unconscious Mistral.
“Go, go! You’ll have your fun later,” Ruth assured them. “Come closer, dear. You see?” She drew close her papers, artfully interpreted pages of the hieroglyph spell of earlier. “It’s very close to a spell I used just a few years ago.” Ruth paused for a private chuckle with herself. “Idiots. They still have not realized they have been cursed. But this spell, unlike that one, can never be reversed. Even if they kill me, it will work its way through once the components have been meshed and the phrases spoken.”
“What will it do?” the Demon asked curiously.
“The other spell was a barrenness spell. But that would not work here because the Queen of Demons is already quite barren. This precious bit of work will be much louder. More active. With this spell she will simply go mad. No medic, not even Gideon, will be able to cure her. And because of its nature, they will quickly come to understand who is behind it. They will know it was me. That is why it is important that the spell be irreversible even should I die. Just in case they hunt me successfully, I want to reach out beyond my grave and make them suffer.”
“It is quite a clever vengeance.”
“It is a brilliant vengeance!” Ruth corrected her. “Now tell me, how goes the hunt for Corrine?”
“I do not know. Shall I find out for you?”
“If you can. But this takes precedence,” Ruth said, indicating her preparations for her spell. “When will the sedative wear off?”
“You have several hours.”
“Oh.” She looked disappointed. “No matter. It gives me time to double-check all my preparations.”
“I will leave you to it,” the Demon said with a respectful inclination of her head. “I will seek news of Corrine. If the hunt is not proceeding to my satisfaction, I will see to it for you.”
“No doubt.” Ruth smiled at her. “You have proved to be an eager and loyal pupil. I am so glad you joined us.”
“There is no place I would rather be,” the Demon assured her softly.
Then she made another bow and excused herself from Ruth’s presence.
Damien bent over the back of the couch and pressed a soft kiss against his wife’s temple. She leaned into the touch of affection, a smile warming her features.
“Where are the children?” Syreena asked.
“Playing in the garden. Annalise is watching them,” he said. Siena, Syreena’s sister, had come to visit, bringing the Demon children Seth and Leah with her. With all that Leah had been through that evening, Siena had thought that a change of scene was called for. That perhaps putting some distance between Leah and the ailing Isabella would benefit them both.
“I don’t believe Seth has ever been here before,” Syreena noted. “He’s such a handsome little boy. Those curls of his are too adorable. His parents treasure him a great deal. He is a very lucky boy.”
“Because he is a child of prophecy?”
She scoffed at that. “As someone who was raised with great expectations, I can assure you that is the least special thing he will have in his life. He will no doubt spend a great deal of time wishing he was ‘normal.’ But he has close and extended family that will love and protect him at every turn, so I have faith it will not be too terrible a burden for him, unlike the way it was for me. I meant only that he was lucky to have his family. I barely knew mine. Siena and I have only grown close over these past two decades. I imagine sometimes how much better my life might have been if only we had been allowed to be sisters together while growing up.”
“Everything happens in its own way at its own time for a reason. Imagine if that were true, that one simple change in the fabric of history. You would have been a very different Syreena and would have acted in very different ways. Perhaps you would not have shown restraint and would have killed me the first time you laid eyes on me as I entered your vulnerable sister’s sickroom. Then I would be dead, and you would be ever so lonely without me.”
He smiled and kissed her on the corner of her mouth as she gently scoffed at him.
“You think so much of yourself,” she teased him. “I could very easily walk this world without the great Prince of Vampires.”
“Liar,” he said knowingly. “You would be lost without me just as I would be lost without you.”
Her charcoal eyes with their multicolored flecks lifted to meet his. She saw the truth in irises of deep midnight blue. But she did not need to see it to know it. She knew they were meant for one another. They could never part ways. Bond or no Bond, they were connected deeply beyond words, ceremonies, and the blood they had shared. Sometimes still shared, she thought with a sly smile.
“Ah, there it is.” Damien took a deep breath, smelling of his wife slowly and sensuously. “I knew it was coming, but it is thoughts like those that make it clear you will be in heat any day now.”
“I suspect I am always in heat as far as you are concerned,” she said. “Perhaps I should have a snack prepared for the children.” She stood up and moved away, very obviously putting distance and furniture between them. Damien narrowed his eyes on her and followed her quickly.
“You are many things, my love,” he said as he caught her arm and turned her toward him, “but an artful topic changer is not one of them. You are horribly obvious. And it is the third time you have done so when I have mentioned your breeding cycle. What is wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong,” she said with a shrug and eyes that hunted for stray bits of lint on his shoulders.
He caught her chin in his hand and made her lift her gaze to his.
She sighed in resignation.
“I’ve grown tired of this breeding carousel. My heat comes and I become a desperate little fiend demanding sex and frantically fretting over my fertility. I want a child so badly ...”
“As do I,” he said.
“Do you?” she asked. “I can’t help wondering if I haven’t just been dragging you into this maelstrom of mine and that you put up with it only because you wish to see me happy.”
“Syreena,” he said sternly, “one does not become Prince of the Vampires because he is easily swept away by the desires of others.”
“This is different,” she said with a small stamp of her foot. “Our connection makes it different.”
“True. And yes, you do become a tad desperate during your cycle.” At her stern look he edited himself. “Very well, quite desperate. But it all levels out afterward, leading me to believe that drive and desperation are probably a part of your breeding cycle and the hormones you are being subjected to at the time.”
“Then why doesn’t my sister behave likewise?” she wanted to know.
“Your sister is not you. And as you mentioned earlier, you are not like any other Lycanthrope. You are very much apart from others. Perhaps your dual animal aspects magnify your heat by two.”
Syreena thought about it and gave a reluctant nod.
Damien turned sharply at the intrusive address. His Vampires knew better than to intrude on his private time with his mate, but this was no Vampire.
Suddenly he could sense her, feel the wrongness of her. He thrust his wife protectively behind himself and hissed at the female. He mentally shouted for his guards, wondering how they had ever let such a creature get so close to him.
“Be at ease, I mean you no harm.”
He did not believe her. She was a stranger and she reeked of foul magic, the stench of it emanating off her like a twisted perfume. She was a Demon, he realized, when he saw her with his infrared vision and deduced she was several degrees cooler than a human or Lycanthrope. The black-and-gray swirl of her hair was caught in a loose braid that snaked over her shoulder. A white scarf hung around her neck and shoulders, but the rest of her was clothed in sweeps of black fabric.
“You will forgive me if I do not take your word for it,” he said as Vampires began to move swiftly into the room.
“I will be gone before any of you can touch me,” she promised him softly. “Force me to leave, and I cannot give you the help you and all the Nightwalkers need.”
“Wait.” Syreena touched her husband on his biceps, moving to his side in a way that made him bristle. He did not like her being in the line of sight of this unknown threat. “Who are you?” she asked the delicate-looking Demon.
The Demon looked at them with the strangest eyes, the indiscernible color seeming to constantly shift across the grayscale spectrum.
“That is not important. I am not what matters. What matters is what I have done.” And in an instant she was gone, disappearing in a strange pixilation of black, gray, and white, just out of the reach of a suddenly grasping guard. “I will not say this again,” she said, suddenly behind them and forcing them into an about-face. “Waste your time on me and Ruth will slip free, gaining power you cannot imagine. This could be your last opportunity to stop her. Your last chance to live safe and happy.” The female Demon fixed her gaze on Syreena. “Ignore me, chase me away, and you and your Prince will know nothing but sadness in the future.”
“Speak, Demon. Quickly,” Syreena encouraged. “My husband is impatient to have your head for daring to come so close to his loved ones with nothing but danger dripping off your tongue.”
“Tonight I have kidnapped Windsong, the Mistral Siren, and delivered her to Ruth. She is safe and alive at present, but this will not last for long. You must find her and rescue her before Ruth can carry out her spell against the Demon King’s mate. The spell requires the death of the Siren, and once cast, it will be unbreakable, even if the caster dies. Kestra will suffer and so will Noah. The Demons will lose their leader. The Nightwalkers will begin to lose the war against necromancers and the Vampire rogues. Your peace will dissolve. Your lives will unravel like a poorly crafted tapestry.
“The child of Time has saved you all from one fateful time line by sparing the lives of her parents, but by doing so she opened up an equally traumatic one. But this can be avoided if you save Windsong’s life and defeat Ruth once and for all.”
“If you knew taking Windsong to Ruth was going to lead to such terrible things, why did you do it?” Syreena demanded. She owed her very existence to Windsong. This news touched her close to home on so many levels. Yet instinct told her to listen carefully to this girl. This creature, spoiled with black arts as she might be, held crucial truths to Syreena’s future. She could sense it.
“It is a trap. One of Ruth’s tricks,” Damien said dismissively when he heard the bent of his wife’s thoughts.
“I captured her safely,” the Demon injected, “because otherwise she would have been taken by a nest of powerful Vampires. In their victory they would have feasted on the blood of the most powerful Mistral alive today. That would have given them unspeakable power.” She shook her head, seeming to be momentarily speechless. But after that moment passed, she continued. “By capturing her and tainting her blood with paralytics and sedatives, I managed to put them off their feast. Again, this will not last long. No doubt Ruth will let them at her as soon as Windsong regains consciousness and the drugs have left her system ... provided it doesn’t interfere with her spell. I cannot say. This I cannot see. I have already altered one thing, so what once was written has already been changed.”
“Time,” Syreena breathed. “She’s come to change history as she knows it to be. You’re from the future.”
“One future. One possibility. One that still exists, I believe. If it didn’t, then I would cease to exist.”
“You are a Demon of Time?” Damien asked.
“No. I am ... something else. And I cannot say more than that. All you need to know is that I have infiltrated Ruth’s nest of rebel Nightwalkers. I have used magic, soiling myself as they are soiled in order to gain their trust. Just so I could be here for this moment. So I could protect Windsong for just a few hours. So I could come to you.”
“And why should we believe any of this?” Damien wanted to know.
The Demon cocked a brow and inclined her head.
“In an act of vengeance, two years ago, Ruth cast a spell on Syreena so she could never conceive. That spell can only be broken with the death of the caster. You will never have a child so long as Ruth draws breath. Believe me or not, do as you will. But are you willing to take that chance?” The Demon turned up one side of her mouth in a smile that was not really a smile. “Also, your companion Jasmine and her would-be mate are about to stumble into Ruth’s nest, not realizing that she has fortified her ranks with rogue Vampires and rebel Nightwalkers. Demons. Lycanthropes. Even Mistrals. Those who have been lured by Ruth’s promises of power through black magic. She spins a very convincing argument, makes for a compelling leader when she wishes to. With a little more time, she will not be just a nuisance. She will foment civil war in your ranks. It will be the beginning of the end of peaceable life as you know it.”
Damien scoffed. “Jasmine will never have a mate.”
“You are correct. Because he will die when they fall upon this nest. And she will never be the same, I promise you. Think you she was melancholy before? Just try to keep her aboveground once he is lost.” Again she gave them that smile. “These might just be words to you. But are you willing to take such a chance?”