|Home > Jacquelyn Frank > Nightwalkers > Damien (Page 18)|
|Damien(Nightwalkers #4) by Jacquelyn Frank|
"Because there is something I need to get back to. Not tomorrow, not a week from now. This very instant."
"You mean the Lycanthrope Princess, I take it," she said softly, not believing what she was hearing. "Damien, she means nothing to you."
"Are you so certain of that?"
Jasmine lifted her head to look into his eyes with surprise.
"I am no longer certain of anything about you anymore, I am discovering. Who is she to you? Just tell me what happened. I want to understand. I cannot support you if I do not understand. And believe me, if you are thinking what I think you are, you are going to need my support."
Damien paused for several beats, the fingers of the hand around her back stroking against her shoulder absently as he reconciled his thoughts for her.
"Do you know why we do not wed for life, Jasmine?"
The question seemed out of left field, but she played along. "Because we need variety too much. Because we do not believe in silly old practices of that kind like Demons and Lycanthropes do."
"Or because we do not do what we need to in order to find that type of partner."
"I do not understand you," she confessed.
"I am the longest-lived member of our species, Jas. In all that time, I have never seen a Vampire fall in love, wed, or mate for life. I think I have figured out why."
"Because we do not feed from Nightwalkers."
She laughed out loud. "I do not understand what that has to do with-"
"Perhaps," he interrupted her, "we will find something about it in the Library. The Library goes much further back in joint Nightwalker history than even we have conceived of. Perhaps it will know the truth about why we forbid ourselves to drink the blood of Nightwalkers. Think about it, Jas. Think of how we are, of all that is missing. Why don't you love me, for instance?"
"Damien, that is a ridiculous question."
"Is it? We have known each other all of your life. You became a part of my household five hundred years ago. We are very likely the two closest Vampires on this planet. I have never met anyone with our friendship, our companionability, in our culture. So, though we have lived side by side and, as you pointed out, been the best of friends, why did love not follow? I mean outside of my clear regard for you."
"Because love does not work in such ways," she reasoned.
"Then how does it work, Jasmine? Have you ever been in love? How can every other intangible feeling and state of being that exists for every other species, Nightwalker and human, exist for us, except love? And do not tell me love does not exist, because I have seen proof with my own eyes that it does." He reached for her chin and made sure she met his gaze as it bored into her. "Do you know any Vampire capable of being in love?"
"No, Damien. We are too selfish for-"
"How convenient we make that excuse," he argued irritably. "What a pat little rationale for walking away from those grapes we cannot reach. Even humans, who think they are in love and change their perception of it later on, thought they were in it. We never even mistake it. We simply say we are not cut out for it." He shook his head. "You said just a moment ago that I never loved Dawn. As if, were it someone else, you thought it was possible. Yet now you say it is not possible. Which is it?"
"You are confusing me, Damien, and talking yourself in circles. Are you trying to justify your desire to go back to the shapechanger?"
"If it were just desire, I could ignore it, you know that. It is obsession. I think of nothing else. I want for nothing else. My mind repeats certain incidents I shared with her over and over again."
"That sounds like infatuation."
"A convenient adjective those who are afraid to feel with this kind of passion use to justify themselves and their behaviors!" Damien could not sit a minute longer. He stood up and paced away from Jasmine before turning back. "But I have felt infatuation. I know what it is. It is not what this is."
"Then what is this?"
Damien halted, turning to look at her. His hands, which always moved in gesture with his speech, settled onto his waist.
"This is what happens when a Vampire takes the blood of a Lycanthrope into his body."
"And what is it? Love?" She laughed in spite of herself. "Do you know how ludicrous this sounds?"
"Can you be so quick to argue me otherwise? For Demons, all it takes is a touch to turn on that connection to their soul mate. For Lycanthropes, it is the act of lovemaking. Even Mistrals and Shadowdwellers have comparable triggers. What is it for us?"
"So you think it is taking the blood of a Nightwalker? But we do. We drink of each other. The strong who bring blood to the ill from within themselves, mothers who bring to their young, and, of course, during certain levels of sex."
"But never from other Nightwalkers. Never. None of us. Even the most reprobate, reckless, and feckless of us have always seen that as the ultimate taboo, the line even they will not cross. But not because we are afraid it will kill us like the black poison of magic user blood will. So where is the fear? How was it bred into us?"
"You are asking all these questions for a reason, Damien. What is your point?"
"I am not sure. I have no proof, no logic. Only supposition." He turned to face the cold wind blowing off the ocean, letting it sweep over him, as if to cleanse himself, for a very long minute. "I only know of two ways we can find out."
"I have a feeling one requires you to pursue a certain Nightwalker Princess."
"I do not deny that." He cocked his head back in her direction. "She has become a part of me, you know. I have fed from others, and yet her blood remains deep inside of my systems. This I have proof of, at least."
He reached for her hand, pulling her to her feet and drawing her close. He laid her head on his shoulder with the pressure of a gentle hand. "Tell me what you notice," he whispered to her.
Jasmine closed her eyes and reached out into him with her every natural and supernatural sense. She had been wanting to do so for too long to refuse the invitation.
Her eyes flew open in shock a second later.
She could smell the scent of the Princess on him. No. Not on him. Inside him. He was actually still there, that strong woodsy, male scent that was so uniquely Damien and as compelling as he was. However, she had spent three days tracking them both, so she knew the fingerprint of the Lycanthrope just as well.
"How is this possible? We never carry the mark of prey. They carry the mark of us."
"Who preys on the predator, Jasmine? Who are we in danger from?" He laughed as he let her step away. "I think it is different for everyone. For me, I think it is a female with eyes of different colors half the world away from here."
"Did it never occur to you that it is just because she is a mutation? She's abnormal, Damien. She is poison to you! I saw you when we arrived at the Mistral's home. I have never seen you so ill. I am stronger than you were then even when I have fallen into torpor."
"Necromancers are poison to us. Poison is something that kills. I am yet alive."
"Merely a different sort of snake," she insisted. "Some just kill you off a little at a time with necrosis."
"What of that which makes us stronger, Jasmine?"
"In what way are you stronger? I see only insecurity, fancy, and weakness, and so will everyone else! I warn you, Damien, there are those who will kill you if they hear you speaking in such ways."
"I think not."
The sentence was left hanging in the air between them as, right before Jasmine's eyes, Damien winked out of existence.
She gasped, horrified and frightened for a moment. Then she felt something fall against her cheek. She snatched it up and turned toward the moonlight.
Lying on the tips of her fingers was the feather of a raven.
That was when she heard the beating of wings.
She whipped around just as the raven soared over her head and came in for a clumsy landing on the bench behind her. Again, there was a shift in her sight, and Damien sat in place of the bird.
"My landings leave something to be desired," he said softly, "but I believe with time and practice it will change."
"That…that is not possible! That is a Mistral's trick!"
"Or the trick of Lycanthrope blood in the body of a Vampire," he told her pointedly.
Jasmine could not speak. Her voice would not work, even if she could formulate a single thought. The condition lasted for many harrowing seconds.
"What is the other way?" she asked hoarsely at last, swallowing hard as her head spun with what she had just seen. "You said there were two ways…?"
"The Library, Jasmine. For which, I am afraid, I will need your cooperation."
"Damien," the female Vampire said, still half in shock after watching his thrilling and terrifying transformation, "you are asking me to look for a Holy Grail; a treasure you only hope and suppose is out there. What if it is just as impossible to find?"
"I expect it will be. But it will be more possible if one who reads our ancient tongue is there. One who has a vested interest in researching our part of it. I know you were curious and compelled before, but now I want you to be driven. If not for the potential importance to me, then to the effect it could have on so many others of us." He raised an elegant hand and beckoned her forward. She obeyed automatically, moving closer to the bench until he could reach to take her hand. "It changes everything, knowing what my hopes and speculations are in this matter. Not for me, but for you. You will be tempted to shy from this. You will want to fear anything that threatens you with potential for commitment. I know, because a week ago I would have reacted the same way.
"Unfortunately, you will not have the song of the blood of another inside you luring you toward acceptance and spurring you into action. Your instincts will scream at you to lie to me, to burn evidence I need to support my theory and to do anything you possibly can to avoid the idea that there could be a way of tying yourself to a complementary being irrevocably, day after day after day, for the rest of your existence." Damien had to stop as he fought off the chill that walked his spine, the cold dread of it a remnant of similar feelings that faded as the time apart from Syreena grew longer and more strained.
"Why?" She struggled on the question, realizing he was terribly correct. "If I am not meant to feel this way, then why do I?"
"I do not know. I am hoping this is what you can tell me."
"I…" Jasmine broke off and sat beside him, her fingers feeling numb and cold in his grasp. "The anxiety building inside of me," she explained her knuckles pressing against her solar plexus as if she were experiencing pain. "I am afraid of so little, Damien, yet this thing terrifies me out of proportion. This is instinct. I am used to embracing instinct."
"So is this," he countered, indicating the feelings within his own body. "You have to trust me. One of these instincts is natural. The other is somehow not. You need to tell me which it is. I need to know before it drives me mad."
"You have felt as I do for nearly a millennium, Damien."
"The time spent on a pursuit does not matter if it turns out to be a false path in the end. All you can do is seek backward until you pick up the true path and can follow it instead. It is an old hunter's philosophy, sweetling. One I know you can grasp. There is only one true path here. Let us find it together."
Jasmine sat in silence for a minute, the fine tremor that shivered through her body betraying how rattled she was. Damien, however, was counting on his knowledge of her. Jasmine thrived on intriguing ideas and thoughts. For a Vampire, the more dangerous the stakes, the more diverting and delightful the prize of success was.
Life was not worth living if you were not willing to risk it.
This, he realized, was why they shorted out so easily. There was so little for them to fight for, to defend and crusade about. Without things like this to drive them, they became like Jasmine, constantly growing depressed and bored, so lost for lack of having a purpose that all they wanted to do was sleep.
"Very well," she said so softly that he would have missed it had he no supernatural senses. "You are right. Something is not right here. But I warn you, Damien, I do not agree with the idea that the way we have lived and related for so long is the wrong one. My goal is to seek proof, even if it is proof against your desires."
"I expect nothing else," he assured her.
"And I will act on my findings, Damien," she warned him a bit more ominously. "I will do everything in my power to separate you from the Lycanthrope forever if I find out she is the wrong choice here. If she is the poison, I will administer the antidote. I would rather kill her and risk ages of war than lose you to something that will eventually destroy you. We need you too much. I need you too much."
The statement did not rattle him as it was meant to. She was baiting him with her threat to harm Syreena, but even more, she was trying to push his buttons about neediness. Jasmine apparently did know him very well. Such statements were a quick way to get dismissed from his company, because they made him uncomfortable and the strings attached caused too much inconvenience.
At least, it had.
Before he had demanded to know what it was a female with bicolored eyes and the contrary heart to match had needed.
And now everything was different.
"What of you, Damien? Are you going to run off to Russia and profess love to a total stranger?" Jasmine could not bear the idea of him behaving so irrationally.
"No. I am not saying I am in love with her. But I am going to find out if I can be."