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|Adam(Nightwalkers #6) by Jacquelyn Frank|
And with that offering, the strange Demon female disappeared in a pixilated rush of grays and blacks.
Adam followed Jasmine through the air as mist, sensing, as she no doubt did, that they were on the last leg of their hunt. They were very close to their quarry now.
And yet his mind was distracted from the imminent battle. All he could focus on, time and again, was the beautiful curve of a feminine cheek, the seductive length of denim-clad legs, and the way the wind whipped and twisted through her hair. He had come to know many things about her in just a few short hours, and somehow the new knowledge made his attraction to her all the more powerful. She was stubborn and dogged, beyond determined to see this Ruth come to an end. He was still fuzzy about whether it was personal or due to a deep-seated sense of right and wrong. She claimed it was because Ruth had detained her once, but he knew it had to be more than that. No one hunted with such passion because of what amounted to an inconvenience. And she was head of this Nightwalker law enforcement group. That didn’t sound like something one did just for amusement.
He could believe it was to satisfy her bloodthirsty nature. It was very obvious she had one. But there were any number of violent pastimes out there for a Vampire. She could just as easily have turned rogue to get her kicks. Yet she had not. She had come down on the right side of the law. A lawfulness that, to be honest, surprised him when he saw it in a Vampire.
He had to remind himself that Vampires had changed and, clearly, grown in maturity and responsibility. Most of them, anyway. She was a strong example of the way Damien now led his people. It was impressive, to say the least.
Especially to one such as he, who lived and breathed the law. Strange as it was to entertain the idea, she was ... very much like him. Close friend to a monarch. A powerful hunter. Employed to rein in those who needed reining in.
And all of this served to make their attraction toward one another all that much more powerful.
Damn it, he’s staring at my ass again. I can just feel it...
Adam drew up short as her voice lilted through his brain. Startled, he dropped to the closest surface he could find and snapped into solid form.
Oh brother. Now what?
There it was again. Quite clear, quite obviously Jasmine’s thoughts as she dropped down onto the stony outcropping where he had landed.
“Now what?” she demanded. “You know, Ruth isn’t going to sit around and wait for us to catch her. She’s very smart. She is very likely hauling up stakes as we speak and moving on. She’s going to assume we are hunting her!”
“Yes, about that,” he said a little numbly as he stared directly into her eyes. “It occurs to me we might be racing headlong into some manner of ambush.”
Well, shit. If you want to be all logical about it ...
“Perhaps. But I think she’ll be too busy packing up her shit and running away,” Jasmine said aloud.
Adam stared at her, slightly gape-mouthed. He had no doubt in his mind that somehow, for some inexplicable reason, he was hearing the gorgeous Vampire’s thoughts. But that knowledge didn’t startle him half so much as the understanding that she was actually being very honest with him whenever she answered him. She was, quite literally, speaking her mind.
“Are you as attracted to me as I am to you?” he blurted out before he could second-guess himself. Before he lost his nerve.
To say the question surprised her was understating things just a tad.
What in the hell is this all about? Talk about coming out of left field! But then after her surprise wore off, she leaned back ever so slightly, letting her eyes drift over him from head to toe.
“Wait. Before you say or ... or think anything,” Adam said with haste as his heart beat rapidly in his chest and chills of conscience walked his spine. “I think you ought to know that I am quite certain I can read your mind.”
“As if !” She laughed so hard she snorted a little bit. Adam was shocked to realize he thought it was terribly cute. “And I am not cute. Look at me! Seriously, what do you see in this whole package that comes off cute?” She flung an indicative hand down the length of her body and its provocatively tight clothing. “You aren’t a telepath,” she went on to say. “You’re just a Water Demon. And even if you were a telepath, I am probably the second most powerful telepath on the planet. My defenses are quite significant ...”
“Except when Ruth went ripping through your mind to gather information. You may as well have been a child, the way she pushed through you and mined you for information that proved harmful to the rest of the Nightwalkers.”
It was, nearly word for word, the guilty thought that raced through Jasmine’s brain right after her boast to him. He wasn’t saying it to rub salt in her wounds, but to prove a point.
“Oh my God, you’re reading my mind!” Jasmine looked at him in horror and shock. “How is that possible? You have to stop! I demand that you stop!”
“I do not know how. As you said, I am not a telepath.”
“But then ... how? What the hell ... ?”
Adam reached out to take firm hold of her arm, stopping her suddenly agitated body movements. The outcropping wasn’t big enough for her to pace across, and he didn’t want her falling off and flying away.
“Be easy,” he said as gently as he knew how. “First I would like to say that you are being somewhat unfair to yourself, as far as that encounter with Ruth is concerned.”
“What do you know about it?” she demanded irritably. “You were four hundred years away.”
“This is true,” he agreed with a nod of his dark head. “However, even in my short time in your era, it has been made clear to me that this Ruth is a formidable opponent. A Mind Demon without equal. You cannot expect yourself to be more powerful than all things. It would be an unreasonable expectation.”
She frowned, her eyes dropping down.
People died because I was so weak.
“People died because I was weak,” she said.
Adam’s lips lifted at the corners. Had he ever thought her to be duplicitous? Oh, he had no doubt that she was capable of it if her motivations were strong enough, but it would seem, at the moment, she did not see any reason to be so with him. It pleased him, giving him a sudden sense of intimacy with her. Again. It was so peculiar how that feeling crept up over him, seemingly out of nowhere, and so very strongly when it did.
“People died because someone wanted them dead. She would have gotten her information one way or another, Jasmine. You cannot fault yourself for Ruth’s sadistic motivations.”
“Says who?” she demanded petulantly. “I want to blame myself. I want to remind myself to do better. To get stronger. To never allow her to use me in such a way again.”
“I can appreciate that,” he told her. “But have a care. It is one thing to motivate yourself in such ways, and another to blind yourself with them.” He reached to touch two fingers to the bottom of her chin, lifting her gaze to his. He opened his mouth to speak, but the words came to a screaming halt in his brain. She blinked questioningly at him, with eyes as green as jade.
As green as his own.
The truth struck him down like a thundering avalanche, overwhelming him, freezing him in place and leaving him breathless. He felt caught up and compressed from all sides, as though he were asphyxiating from the weight of it all.
Sweet Destiny, the Imprinting, he thought loud and clear.
And she heard it. Perhaps because she was a Vampire and a telepath, but more probably because they were deep in the stages of an Imprinting, and Imprinted mates formed a private telepathic pathway between them. They took up residence in each other’s minds. All of their thoughts were constantly known to one another. The way it had been explained to him was that there was no real way to shut them out.
“As if!” she blurted out, her eyes wide with abrupt panic. “Vampires do not Imprint, and even if we could, I most certainly would not choose to Imprint with you! You are a dated, obstinate, Cro-Magnon, chest-thumping Alpha idiot and nothing about that appeals to me!”
For the most part, she thought. Well, perhaps a little.
Then her bright jade eyes widened as she recalled he could read her thoughts.
“Bloody freaking hell!”
Adam’s only further argument was to cup his hands in the air, right in front of her face, and shift them into water. It swirled into a dark oval pool and then he forced it to become completely still, darkening the rear of it until the surface became a perfectly reflective surface. He showed her her own face, showed her the stunning new green of her eyes.
“No way,” she uttered as she stared at herself. “No way am I going to let this happen. I am a Vampire! A Vampire!”
“So you keep saying,” he said quietly. “And this evening I woke up at war with you. But that has changed. Everything has changed.”
“You mean to tell me you are all right with this?” she asked incredulously. “You’re going to sit there and tell me you wish to have a Vampire for your mate?”
“Jasmine ...” He sighed and took a moment to rub at the painful ache knotting between his brows. “What I want is to be home, on the lands of my family, in the practice fields beneath my family standard with my mother harassing me to do this or that to keep me civil and respectable, instead of lost in this confusion of hunting and battle and one dire situation after another. I want to know the most stressful choice my brother needs to make is whether to chase after a Vampire for bounty or wrestle around with me in the practice ring. This is what I want. Or rather, ’tis what I wanted. What I thought I wanted.
“But I have learned in my lifetime that what we think we want and what is best for us may well be two separate things. I have also been raised to believe there is one absolute in the Demon world. One thing that cannot be questioned, cannot be changed, and cannot be fought. There have been those far better than you and I who tried to fight the inevitability of the Imprinting, and they were no more successful than either of us will be if we do the same.”
“Horseshit!” she ejected hotly. “None of them were Vampires. The Imprinting is all about love and passion and emotion, all of which you yourself have been quick to point out I am not capable of! Certainly not on the grand scale of your mushy, lovesick, disgusting Imprinting!”
Jasmine leapt away from him, turning and pushing off the outcropping, leaping into the whipping breezes.
In a wild act of instinct, Adam leapt right after her. He launched himself onto her back, circling her neck and waist with his massive arms, feeling the jolt of gravity as they began to fall toward earth. She was unable to adjust her flight to his weight because she was too busy indulging in her fury to compensate. She struggled against him, her strength quite remarkable.
But only moments before he was going to morph them both into mist, she reacted with an unexplainable instinct, her fangs stretching free and long just as she grabbed his wrist and sank her teeth into his forearm.
Adam roared in pain, reaching to grab her by her hair and thinking he was going to rip her free of him.
But then time drew long, ticking into slower and slower instants as their bodies fell toward the ground at breakneck speed. His fingers were full of her hair, but all desire to detach himself from her was gone by the time his fingertips touched her scalp. Just as her desire to flay his flesh apart with the savage rip of her teeth vanished the instant his blood washed over her tongue. Their joined minds locked as if in mutual seizure as she tasted what she could only describe as ambrosia, the food of the gods ... the most divine of forbidden fruits making good on its promise.
His blood, the essence of all that was Adam and all that was Adam’s power, slid to the back of her throat and she couldn’t even pretend to resist the urge to swallow. She groaned as the first mouthful burst down her throat as though she had swallowed fire, the overwhelming, sensuous burn rushing down the center of her body from throat to chest to belly and then onward into the lee of her hips and reproductive organs, burning a hot, wet path, it seemed, right back out of her body.
Water is my element. All that is liquid is mine to manipulate and harmonize with. Shall I tell you where you are wet, little Vamp?
Jasmine gasped for breath, removing her teeth from his flesh just before he was able to come to his senses enough to turn them into water, barely a second before they hit the ground. They dashed against the hard, cold earth, physics demanding their fluid forms spread far and fast over its surface.
But Adam defied those physics, instead rolling around with her and resolidifying their bodies once the initial danger of impact was past, sending them tumbling across the ground in a tangle of arms and legs. The Demon lay beneath the weight of the Vampire, both of them panting hard for breath. His blood was on her lips and he watched as a sensuous tongue came out to slowly bathe it away, felt his mind blossoming with pleasure as it exploded inside her senses. Her eyes rolled closed, her hands gripping his chest and shoulder where they lay. Her forehead dropped against him as if she didn’t have the strength to hold up her own head. And he realized it was because she was too weak with bliss.
Then the next moment her head snapped up, her eyes popping open like suddenly released window shades. Have her lashes always been so thick and so black? he found himself wondering. Was it his imagination, or was she growing more beautiful every time he laid eyes on her? The brown of her eyes had been so sultry and decadent, but now the green she had acquired seemed bottomless and seductively mysterious. And there was something satisfying, soul-deep satisfying, about seeing a part of himself in her.
She took a breath, lowered her head, and was suddenly gazing at him through her upper lashes like a prowling jaguar eyeing its prey.