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|Damien(Nightwalkers #4) by Jacquelyn Frank|
However, very little in nature was perfectly universal. There were diseases that changed and mutated so fast that many antibodies would be obsolete almost instantly. Which meant there were things that even Vampires could not cure. Then there was the matter of what was nourishment, what was benign, what was deadly, and what was a great unknown when it came to the blood supply itself.
It was widely known in the Vampire world that Lycanthropes could not benefit from the cure of Vampire antibodies. What was not as clearly known was what taking Lycanthrope blood would do to a Vampire. Nightwalkers were taboo to Vampires, like sugar to diabetics-they could eat it, perhaps even survive it, but there was no telling what they would suffer for it.
This was Damien's dilemma of the moment.
As exhausted as he was from all he had done that night, he was not afraid to pit his power against whatever negative effects the introduction of Nightwalker blood would have on him. He had far more of a chance of surviving that than Syreena had at this moment of surviving without his aid.
The aid she needed was within his body, in the form of the injectable clotting factors that came into play after he had fed from a victim. In their mystical way, they would rush to all sites of open wounds and work their magic. He would have to take Syreena's blood, however, in order to trigger the coagulants she so desperately needed. One could not be stimulated without the other, just as a meal stimulus or something of the like was needed to trigger the injection of insulin into the human digestive system. A human could not simply think it into happening. Neither could any Vampire trigger his own injection response.
There was then the fact that she had lost so much blood already. To take more could kill her before it cured her. And after all those considerations, there was no guarantee the clotting agents would be compatible with her chemistry. It was very likely, but not a definite.
Damien suddenly grew tired of the frustration of his indecision. He no longer had time for the luxury of it.
He slid one arm beneath her shoulders, lifting her limp torso up from the ground. He slid her forward onto his thighs, the chill of her body penetrating him quickly as he drew her tightly to his chest. Gently, with a sense of reverence he did not understand the origin of, he brushed back what remained of the gray hair on the slope of her right shoulder. His dark gaze fell onto the artery that pulsed so weakly in her throat and he closed his eyes for a moment, exhaling as he said a quick mental prayer for her benefit and safety. When he looked at her again, he allowed himself to feel his incredible hunger for the first time in hours.
And he prayed for himself.
He was not prepared for how awesome it would be. The hunger was blinding, a sensation like no other, and he swayed under the power of it. It was dark and deep, insidious as it made itself known, telling him how long the actual craving had been creeping around in his subconscious and his veins. Only then did he realize how much self-censure and control he had been using all of this time.
Fangs erupted violently in his mouth, demanding their target ferociously. Need slammed through him in waves, erotic like the night, a mystery ready to be exposed. Without any hesitation, he struck at her with the speed of a biting cobra.
A second before he made contact, Syreena's eyes flew open. Something inside the female Nightwalker had known she was about to be attacked and had forced her into consciousness in the hopes that she could fight off any further harm. Like going into shock, it was her body's last-ditch effort to try and save itself.
So she was conscious when the fast and pointed piercing of Damien's canines struck her throat. However, she was too weak to do anything but gasp in surprise. Not because it hurt-the break through her skin was too quick and sharp to cause any prolonged pain. His mouth, however, was hot, like fierce fire compared to the deathly chill of her skin and body, and this was what shocked the sound out of her laboring lungs.
Syreena was aware that his strike was exactly that, a rapid piercing in and out directly over her carotid artery. She had always thought that a Vampire used the bite of his fangs like a straw or a needle, using them to suck blood directly from the main access point.
In fact, he simply used them to create the two wide initial holes he required. That had to be the case, because she felt nothing of his teeth a moment later as his lips, so warm and so damp, closed to make a perfect seal around the wound he had created. His tongue first slid over her skin, the burning velvet caress making her shudder hard in his hold. Then there was suction, increasing moment by moment with a surreal and erotic intensity.
Damien felt the violent tremor of her body. He was hugging her tightly to his chest, breast to breast, so the vibration of it made him quake in time with the aggressive shudder. He was dimly aware of her consciousness as her blood burst into his mouth. The heat of it intensely defied the chill of her body. That was his final coherent thought as the first taste of her flowed over his tongue. When the hot liquid slid down his throat, she burned him like a potent whiskey.
It could only be described as ambrosia. He had tasted the blood of human women thousands upon thousands of times, and always the pheromone content of it went straight to his head, filling him with a sense of sensuality and pleasure that was very akin to sexual desire. Syreena's blood was like nothing he could have ever hoped to encounter, even in his enormous lifetime. She was full of power, the layers in the bouquet of it like strong barbiturates that numbed in ever-increasing intensity. Unlike those drugs, however, he soared into an astounding high, rather than a relaxing, coma-like state.
He fell off his knees, sitting down hard in the wet grass and leaves, dragging her with him every inch of the way. He tried to think, tried to remember everything that was so crucial for him to keep aware of, but all he knew was her blood, the feel of her body, and the long, low groan she was releasing against his neck. Her hands slid up his back, her long fingers finding the path of his spine, following it up to his shoulders where they spread like wings to hold him.
The rasp of his name on her lips sang through him like a high note. His body reacted with ultimate need and lightning-sharp arousal.
This was no pheromone-induced shadow of excitement, either. There was no mistaking the difference. His body burned, hardened with a violence of need that made him groan low in his throat. It was an oppressive weight, strangled by his clothing and his conscience. He should not be feeling this. Not when so much was at stake.
He could not have helped it, even if he had truly wanted to. And he could not make himself honestly want to. She was a sensualist's perfect fantasy. As she sustained him, bled into his body, he felt his senses expanding to accommodate the overriding sensations and pleasures she was providing. Her scent, her luscious flavor, and the slow, slinky writhing of her body against his. His hands clenched into tight fists, balling up the fabric of her simple cashmere dress.
Leave her! Leave her now! his conscience screamed, completely in contrast to everything he actually wanted. What he wanted. Wanted. Craved. Syreena.
That was the moment her grasping hands went limp and fell away from his body. The hastening feeling of loss sent a note of warning and clarity into the haze of satiation and pleasure he was drowning in. Damien's eyes flew open as reality set in with its cold, demanding way. He suddenly recalled his purpose and that the life he held in his arms was in terrible threat.
The last thing Syreena felt before she drifted away into welcoming blackness was the second piercing of his teeth, followed quickly by a vicious burning sensation that began to spread across her neck and into her body.
Damien fell onto his back, gasping for air he did not even need, her slight weight falling over the top of his body. Freezing cold and moisture soaked into his clothing, but he was completely unaware of it. He could not move, could not think. He was nothing but a rush of feelings and sensations that the exterior conditions of the world simply could not touch.
He had succumbed to the immeasurable high of her inside him. Muscles and circulatory pathways contracted, shuddering and quivering in pleasure and the feelings of being beyond alive, beyond his own spiritual ties to that planet and that point in time. All he could do was stare up at the trees thrusting up all around him in an intensely distorted three-dimensional perspective. The stars in the dark night sky were spinning around the heavens, a blur of bright white light on a velvet black background. They streaked tails of light, as if his eyes were the lens of a camera left with an open aperture as the world turned on its axis.
He closed his eyes, feeling a little nauseated by it, trying to tell himself that it was just a mild hallucination.
What he could not so easily think away was the heavy ache of his aroused body. He felt as if molten steel had been poured into him, hardening him into an inviolable state. It was somehow sacrosanct, and his power was pure nothingness in the face of it.
He was dimly aware of her breath in the cradle of his neck. It meant she had survived him, and he was grateful for that. As they lay together in the night, she began to warm up against him.
"'Hours to go before I sleep,'" he murmured to the forest, the quote coming to his mind as reminder that he could not afford to waste any more time in this way that exposed them both to incredible danger.
But he could not make himself move. It was as if he had been given a paralytic drug. It kept him from moving, yet still allowed him to feel.
And that was when the pain came.
Damien cried out when it burst through him with sudden brutality. He could not help it. The wrenching sound echoed into the night, bouncing off the trees, a long, deep-timbreed roar of agony. He suddenly felt as if his veins and arteries were being stripped from his body, tearing clean through muscle, sinew, and skin. He convulsed beneath the charge, so hard that he heard a bone somewhere in his body snap in his sub-vocal hearing. He was aware, somehow, that he was being brutalized on an atomic level. With the altering of his body came the altering of his mind. He imagined, for a single, horrifying moment, that his chest was exploding, making way for the leaping escape of the dolphin that had somehow become trapped within. As the beast writhed into the air, it changed form into a falcon. From a falcon, it burst into the shape of a dove.
The soft little mourning dove floated on delicate wings to land beside his head. He blinked his eyes, and the next moment he was looking at small, bare feet.
Numbly, he followed the line of ankle and calf until he was looking up at the entire figure of a beautiful young woman he could swear he had seen once before.
Windsong knelt beside the Vampire Prince quickly, touching his skin to test the warmth of his body. It was the only way to tell if a Vampire was alive or not, provided they were not beheaded or burnt to ash. Those deaths were pretty much self-identifying.
Even in the darkness she could make out the blood still on his lips. Considering the matching wounds on the Lycanthrope's throat, Windsong was easily able to add up the evidence before her, immediately understanding what Damien had done and why he had been forced into such a terrible decision. The sacrifice he had made to save the vulnerable Lycanthrope Princess touched the sensitive Mistral far too deeply, and she had to blink back the sudden moisture in her eyes.
The flutter of bird's wings drew her attention up to the small lark lighting on the ground beside her. With a ruffle of feathers, the bird began to transform. In a minute's time, it became the petite form of Windsong's apprentice.
"Lyric, we must fashion litters and take them home as soon as possible. They need healing and protection."
"How can we protect ones such as these?" Lyric questioned nervously, even as she knelt to help Windsong turn the Lycanthrope Princess off the Vampire Prince, laying her out next to him.
"Just as we protect ourselves, dearest. With our voices and our wisdom and our hearts. Hurry now, there is no time to waste."
"Are they close to death?"
"I am not sure. However, I am positive they are being pursued. Move quickly, child."
Lyric did not ask another question. She hurried off to gather some strong branches together. She would not go far, Windsong knew, because she would be too afraid to. That was for the best, the Mistral thought, because for the next few moments she would not be able to keep any of her attention on her young charge.
Instead, she sat down on the chill forest debris, folding her legs beneath herself gracefully, her knees close to the side-by-side heads of the unconscious outsiders.
Windsong closed her eyes and took two long, deep breaths. Then, softly, she began to sing. The song was one of protection, and it was a powerful one. It would buffer the three of them from detection and harm once it had spread about them in a circle of comfort. That widening circle was only a matter of Windsong's exquisite voice warming up and expanding in exponential force. It only took a moment for the forest to begin to ring with the echoes of the notes, sung over scales that were sometimes perceptible only to animal ears. The eddy of the painfully sweet music drifted out, bewitching and confusing the senses of anything within its circumference, or anything trying to enter it.
"Syreena," Siena hissed softly.
She let the bloodied snow fall through her fingers, turning sharply to face the female Vampire.
"You believe Damien has tracked after her?"
"Since it is unlikely he would attack her, that is the only logical alternative," Jasmine responded matter-of-factly. "His scent leads to this place, then disappears just as your sister's does. Unless you think they are holding a caucus or trysting while your sister is wounded…"
"Syreena does not tryst," the Lycanthrope Queen snapped at the smaller female. "Why do I think you are seeing this as some sort of amusement?"
"Siena…" Elijah warned gently.
"Very likely because my species is easily taken in by a good intrigue. Lucky you, for that is no doubt why Damien followed the Princess."