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|Damien(Nightwalkers #4) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Syreena's heart skipped a beat. "Do you know what this will do to him? Will he live?"
"I think so. He did last time. He is a powerful being, not to be underestimated. Besides, Lyric and I have brought you both quite far in a short while."
Syreena looked down at her hand, which was absently stroking the sleeping adolescent's head. So much for her first bid at independent choice, she thought painfully, blinking her eyes in an attempt to escape the burn in them. She refused to sit around and weep like a child. It would do no good.
Syreena laughed a bit hysterically as Damien's earlier words filtered into her thoughts. If only he'd known what he had been setting himself up for.
I do know. And I would not trade away a minute of it.
Syreena gasped when she realized it truly was his voice she was hearing in her thoughts. She fought off Windsong's enchanting command and struggled to get out of bed. She pushed past the bewildered Mistral and fell onto Damien's bed.
"Damien? Can you hear me?"
She could tell what Windsong had meant immediately. Damien was hot to the touch, feeling almost feverish, if such a thing were possible in his kind. She pressed her hands to his chest, feeling his heated skin and taking it in as an affirmation that he was indeed alive.
"Shh!" The Princess hushed the Mistral sharply.
"Damien! Damien, why did you do it if it was going to hurt you? Why didn't you tell me?"
Stop worrying. I will be okay in time. I am grateful that you are not harmed. I was worried I had hurt you badly.
"No. No, I am okay. Just tired."
Windsong was baffled. For a minute she thought the Princess had gone straight around the bend, but after a moment of listening to the one-way conversation, she began to get a sense of what Syreena was hearing in her own head.
Of course. Vampires were capable of speaking to the minds of others. Usually it was images and illusions, she mused, but she supposed a conversation would not be such a stretch. She watched with fascination as Syreena leaned close to the Prince, who looked like he was in a sound and peaceful sleep. Apparently he was, but only in body. His thoughts were quite alert, it seemed, and eager to check on the Princess.
Bemused, Windsong stood up and moved to leave the room for a moment. She would give them only a minute, and then she would command them both into sleep. Whether they liked it or not.
The elder Mistral went into the kitchen to check the blue dress that was soaking in the sink. She had been forced to replace the bloodstained garment with a night rail on the Princess, since the dress Syreena had arrived in had been beyond reclamation. She was not worried because she knew the right combination of herbs and agents needed to remove the red staining.
Satisfied with its progress, she immediately returned to the bedroom.
She stopped short on the threshold of the door and pressed her fingers to her lips to keep herself from smiling.
The Princess had crawled into bed next to the Vampire, her head pillowed on his chest and her hands wrapped tightly around one of his as if she were afraid he would escape while she wasn't paying attention. She was so exhausted that she had immediately fallen asleep the moment she was certain he was safe.
Windsong decided to let her sleep.
She crossed the room and nudged Lyric into the vacant bed, rolling the young girl over until she was faced away from the sleeping duo. Then, glancing at the clock that indicated it was far past noon, she left the room and retired to the couch in the little living room of the cottage.
It was an hour into the dark by the time Elijah and Jasmine finally set their feet onto Windsong's property.
There had been no trail; everything was a jumble of confusing paths and directions. In fact, it was too much of a jumble. Elijah and Jasmine had agreed that someone was trying to hide something, and it had not taken Elijah long to add up the pieces of the puzzle that was relatively rudimentary, provided you knew all the players involved. There was history between Syreena and Windsong. Damien had known Windsong for centuries. It only made sense that she would be the one he would turn to if Syreena was wounded.
Elijah turned to look at Jasmine. Her eyes were closed and she was concentrating. Her smooth brow furrowed as she tried to piece together what she was sensing.
"I think…I think they are here. Can you detect them? Usually if I am this close to Damien…"
She shook her head, very obviously vexed by her confusion.
"I have a better idea," Elijah said, lifting a brow as he strode quickly up to the door.
"How…succinct of you," Jasmine said dryly.
"Whatever works," he said with a shrug.
Windsong answered her door immediately and without any caution. It was as if she was expecting them.
The Mistral did not speak, a courtesy to the Demon who would not be able to circumvent the thrall of her voice. Instead she used a gesture of her hand to usher them inside and across the main rooms. Knowing exactly why they were there, she cracked open the bedroom door and let them both have a momentary peek at Damien and Syreena.
Jasmine gasped when she saw the Prince was not awake and moving about by that hour. She knew Damien chafed to be up and about come the night. Instead, he was sleeping peacefully well beyond darkness, and he was using a diminutive Lycanthrope female for a blanket, his arm settled securely around her shoulders as he held her to his chest.
When Jasmine went to move into the room, Windsong immediately stepped into her path. The sharp look she gave the Vampire female was coldly pointed and clearly nonnegotiable.
For Elijah's part, he was satisfied that Syreena appeared to be alive, somewhat well, and in relatively one piece. Through the bonding he shared with Siena, the moment he knew these things, she knew them. For the first time in days, they both were able to sigh in relief.
"Siena thanks you," he said in earnest to his hostess a heartbeat later. "She says that if you ever need anything-"
Windsong raised a hand to silence him. She knew how far and in what ways Siena's gratitude could serve her, just as Elijah knew there would probably come a day when the favor would be called in. The warrior was content. He immediately took a comfortable seat in the little living room that made him seem even more of a giant than he normally appeared to be to those around him.
Jasmine was not so easily satisfied, but she did not see that she had much of a choice.
Personally, she would not be happy until she saw Damien walking and talking like normal. She did not like the idea of him behaving out of the norm. Not that he could be called predictable, but she just knew him so well.
She supposed his protective behaviors had rubbed off on her after all.
Jasmine folded her arms tightly to her midriff and stepped away so the Mistral named Windsong could close the door. She was flooded with questions and the need to know what had been happening all of this time. For a moment, she resented the warrior's presence. Were he not there, she would be able to speak to the Mistral and get the answers she craved.
And what she wanted to know, more than anything else, was how she could be standing a room away from Damien and yet still feel like he was not even there.
Syreena felt a tickle along the ends of her hair, and it stirred her out of her deep sleep.
She opened her eyes, a long exhale shuddering out of her as the tickle caused a chill to steal down the back of her neck. She tilted her face upward and looked into midnight blue eyes and a half-cocked smile. Damien had her hair wrapped softly around one finger, the tickle she had felt, and was absently running his thumb over it. When he noticed her looking at him, his smile grew exponentially.
"Hello," he greeted her amiably.
"Hello?" She lifted her head and her eyes widened incredulously. "Is that all you have to say to me? Hello?"
"It is a traditional start," he pointed out.
She growled at him in a pique of temper, shoving herself off him and the bed so she could stand and glare at him with her hands curled into fists.
"Damien! What in the world is wrong with you?" she demanded to know. "Do you have a death wish or something? Why didn't you tell me…Why did you let me…"
The serene lift of his brow only infuriated her further.
"You are a total psycho, do you know that? You're just like those crazy humans who play with snakes they know could strike them dead in a heartbeat!"
"Don't you Syreena me! Don't lie there with that obnoxious patience of yours and act like I am getting hysterical as if I was some…some frail, missish thing who saw a mouse scurry across the floor! Damn you, Damien, you need a keeper!"
Damien stopped trying to speak. She was not going to let him do so, and he could actually understand her fear-driven outrage. The Prince could not defend his misactions any more than she could, and she was probably right in any event. It had been a very stupid thing to do. But it had been his fault and his responsibility from beginning to end, and he would not let her take any part of the blame.
Syreena suddenly stopped scolding him, her head cocking with that certain sharp attentiveness that he was so familiar with.
He turned his attention to what she was sensing.
"Oh, this is just great!" Syreena threw up her hands and they landed back at her sides with a slap on each thigh.
"Did you expect your sister to just sit and wait for you to reappear?" he asked.
She told him quite succinctly what he could do with his logical remark.
She crossed over to the empty bed, ignoring him completely from that moment on. She stripped off the nightgown she was wearing, giving Damien's appreciative eyes an excellent rear view of her athletic little body. The next moment, she hid it again, this time under the borrowed blue dress.
She turned back to face him as she gingerly freed her hair from the neckline of the dress.
"I don't want Siena to know about this. Do you understand?" She put her hand to her throat, fidgeting with the slim gold and moonstone choker that indicated her rank in the royal household. Between twisting out the kinks in that and carefully arranging her hair, she was able to conceal the marks on her neck caused by his most recent taste of her. The others had already faded to small pink dots of freshly healed skin. "There are rules in our society, taboos and laws and superstitions, and we have broken so many of them it makes me dizzy."
"Blood loss makes you dizzy, Syreena. Breaking the rules scares you to death."
"I'll tell you this much," she snapped back. "You could use a healthy dose of fear, Damien! You are a menace to yourself. I'm just glad I am going to be very far away while you trot off somewhere else and self-destruct."
With that, the Lycanthrope Princess marched out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
"Kitten, you are wearing a hole in the carpet."
Siena stopped pacing back and forth and looked at her husband, who was lounging in their bed looking like he did not have a care in the world. It made her want to smack him in the head.
"I heard that," he warned her, chuckling.
"Are you sure? I mean really sure?" she asked for the tenth time that night.
"Oh, I know," she said with a frustrated sigh and a wave of her hands. "What I want to know is how she does it. How does that conniving little bitch just slip away into nothingness? Our best hunters have tried tracking Ruth, mine, yours and Damien's, and none of them can seem to hold her trail. Not even Jacob! He is your Enforcer, designed to hunt down renegades from your species, and even he is baffled! I want to know how she does it!"
"She does it with her considerable power," Elijah reminded her gently. "We could be standing on her head, but she can manipulate our minds into thinking she's a thousand miles away. I'll tell you exactly who will be able to catch her one day."
"Who?" the Queen asked, sounding terribly eager and avaricious in spite of herself. Siena had reached the end of her infinite tolerance. Ruth had attacked her family once too often, and like the fierce lioness that she was, Sienna would protect her family with her own life if need be.
"My money lies on Damien or Magdelegna. Legna is the only Mind Demon powerful enough to beat Ruth at her own tricks." He sighed in tandem with his wife as she finally climbed into bed with him. "But she cannot risk a hunt until after she gives birth."
"What of Damien?"
"Damien is…Damien is immune to her trickery when he is paying attention for it. He is also the best damned hunter I have ever seen, next to Jacob."
"And yet he has had no luck in the year since this all began. The closest he got to her was when he rescued Syreena. Damn, I wish I had sent more people with you. They could have at least tried to track her."
Elijah encircled his wife's shoulders, drawing her delightful body very close to his. He kissed the curling hair at the arch of her forehead with affection. "You know they would not have had any luck. Don't fret, Siena. I promise you, Ruth's days are numbered. She will turn up again."
"That is what I am afraid of. She is up to something. Something to do with the Library and now being in Mistral lands. I don't like it. It gives me a chill thinking she is running around loose out there." Siena snuggled deeper against him, trying to ease the chill in her body that had nothing to do with the cold of the cavern castle bedroom they shared. "It is you she hates, Elijah. In her twisted mind, she believes you killed her child. I am afraid of her catching you unprepared and hurting you like she did-"
"Siena, that is not going to happen. Not again. I made a mistake, I know, and nearly got killed for it. But you can bet there won't ever be a repeat. Don't be afraid of her. That is what she wants. She wants you to be afraid for me, afraid for Syreena."