|Home > Jacquelyn Frank > Nightwalkers > Damien (Page 28)|
|Damien(Nightwalkers #4) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Syreena turned to face him slightly, looking down at his fingers with an expression of warning disdain that came with genetic royal birthright. He did not seem to get the hint, his hold around her bicep growing firmer. She smiled disarmingly, turned full around to face him, and smacked him in his nose with the heel of her palm so hard that she could hear it break. She dropped her bag, using the arm he held to wrap it around the one still clinging to her. She snagged him like a merciless python, twisting bone and muscle into opposing directions until he cried out a curse and buckled to his knee. She followed through by kneeing him in the throat.
She couldn't make him gag for breath, and she had only won a slight show of blood from his nose, but she was quite satisfied when he fell back into the dirt. She stepped forward, putting her foot firmly on his neck and leaning at least half her weight forward onto it.
"Now," she said calmly. "Keeping in mind I can remove your head from your shoulders with a single shift in weight if I wanted to, I think I should like you to tell me what you are really doing following me."
"I already told y-"
She leaned forward onto her knee, cutting him off. She felt his hands closing around her ankle, but he was in for a surprise if he thought to overpower her.
"You just happen to be following the Vampire Prince's woman, who you just happen to know about when no one else does, and then just happen to stop her twenty or so yards from the border of the Prince's property and coincidentally putting me just out of range of his sense of telepathy? He could sense me, sense you, but not sense that you were endangering me. Not until I cross that little invisible line."
He was turning whiter than normal, but he still managed to glare at her. "You are not human!" he croaked.
"Well…duh!" she said dryly. The remark made her realize he was probably too young to have the experience to tell the difference between humans and Lycanthropes in infrared. Youth often came hand in hand with ambition, not to mention rash stupidity. "Thought the Prince was slumming, did you? I am curious, though, what did you hope to get from me? Not the throne, I would hope. What were you going to do, beat him over the head with me?"
Syreena snorted in disgust at the impetuous Vampire who clearly had all ambition and no plan. "I am going to let you go in about ten seconds," she told him. "If I were you, I would take a few factors into consideration. First, I can run twenty yards faster than you can get up and chase me, even if you are a Vampire. Secondly, if you caught me, I would not be this nice a second time. And lastly, if I bruised a single apple in that bag, I am going to change my mind and take your head off after all. If I were you, I would fly away very, very fast."
She did as promised, lifting up her foot and letting him scramble away. He turned toward her as if he was going to say something and she reached pointedly for her bag.
He ran, and then flew away from her.
"Children. You cannot live with them, you cannot kill them until they are older."
Syreena whirled around at the deep-voiced comment, gasping a moment before a second Vampire reached out to seize her violently by the neck with a powerful hand. He was tall, taller than Damien even, and he was enormous. She knew because he lifted her feet off the ground as he raised her by her neck to his eye level. Syreena struggled, but she got the impression she was like a fly crawling over his skin that was merely an annoyance and hardly worth noticing.
This was no child. This was a well-matured Vampire of indescribable power and unfathomable age.
"You shall have to forgive my son," he said to her, his dark mouth twitching with amusement as she was forced to stare into eyes as black as a moonless night. "He has his father's ambition but is as weak as his mother was."
The Vampire took too long a moment to inspect her. If not for the fact that she could hold her breath for a very long time, Syreena could have easily lost consciousness in that time.
"Clever of him to use his father's name, however," her captor continued conversationally. "Then when he fouled up you would run and tell Damien it was Nicodemous. Damien would come after me while my son ran off and cowered somewhere." Syreena saw the flick of nictitating membranes for a second. "A Lycanthrope? Interesting choice for a mistress."
Nicodemous jerked her closer, her legs knocking against him like those of a rag doll. He turned her head, inspecting her closely.
"Well, well," he mused, "someone took a bite on the wild side."
Syreena felt her time running out. She had no leverage in the air and she could not beat his strength any more than his son could beat hers. She tried to fight off panic so she could think about what she had been taught, what she knew.
"Yes. Do tell. What do they teach a Lycanthrope about how to kill a Vampire?"
Syreena cursed herself in her head. How could she have forgotten that he could get into her mind? She had to be more careful. If he could divine her thoughts, then he could manipulate them. She would not know which end was up if he decided to confuse her in such ways.
"In case you were wondering, I do not plan to use you to beat him over the head," Nicodemous continued smoothly. "Only to lure him out of that house of his. Damien I can handle, Damien and Jasmine is an entirely different story. Unfortunately, every time I turn around, she is in his pocket. Either her or some Demon. I suppose I could have used Jasmine and spared you all of this, but she is hell in a bitch's body. She would be too hard a fight if I expect to take on Damien right afterward. Besides, she clearly likes to ride the royal pony, so I imagine one Prince is as good as the next for her. I would hate to waste such a luscious opportunity. I bet Damien takes that opportunity every chance he gets-between passing fancies such as yourself, that is."
Syreena wondered for a moment why it was that people loved to talk so much when they were trying to kill someone. Then she jerked both her feet up and used his chest as a push-off to walk herself into a back flip.
She took his strength out of the equation. No one with a fixed wrist could maintain a hold on a rotating object, unless they wanted to break their wrist. Since she was working against his function and not his force, her neck slipped easily out of his grasp. She landed on her feet, kicking up roadside dust as she finally drew in a breath. It took everything she could muster to keep from gagging as she sucked air through her swelling throat. If she succumbed to a coughing fit, she would be little protection to herself.
Since she had done him no damage, he was able to recover quickly from his surprise at her escape. She grabbed the nearest thing she could, her shopping bag, and spinning once around hard, cracked him in the head with the full force of five pounds of apples, minus two. It was like hitting him with a rudimentary mace, only no spiked extras included.
He staggered under the blow, clearly shocked by her speed and her strength if the look on his face was anything to judge by. The truth of the matter was that she had no hope of fighting him hand to hand if it came down to brute force, and less of a chance if he had the opportunity to play with her head.
So she ran.
She made sure to focus and use all of her speed. He could catch her easily once he recovered, but that would be fine so long as she kept in the right direction and avoided mental games that might send her elsewhere.
Just because she crossed into Damien's range of perception also did not guarantee that he would perceive her. This Vampire could be strong enough to cloak her presence from him, or there could be a dozen other factors that could affect the outcome of the next few minutes.
Her pursuer did not hesitate to light out after her. Syreena tore at her blouse as she ran into Damien's territory. She had no choice but to risk a change half clothed. She could feel Nicodemous reaching for her.
Her one advantage of skill was her ability to change on the fly, so to speak. There were few who could do so with the ease and speed she did. So when Nicodemous grabbed for her arm, all he caught was the tips of feathers. The Vampire stumbled in shock when his hands came up all but empty, but recovered fast and leapt into the air after the peregrine.
Being smaller and quicker, she gained air and distance in that short heartbeat of advantage. If he was as strong as she suspected, however, he would catch her soon enough.
Her right wing suddenly struck something, spinning her nearly out of the sky. Pain blossomed along the right side of the falcon's form. Syreena realized too late that she had hit a tree. The Vampire had tricked her into believing she had cleared the treetops, so she had flown flat-out into a hard, stinging branch. She plummeted toward the ground precariously, and then finally managed to catch air with her uninjured wing. She reeled, spiraling down in a braking decent.
Nicodemous was hot on her heels as she struck the ground on running feet. Off balance and injured, she crashed to the forest floor, dead leaves and brush her only cushion as she skidded to a stop. The Princess did not even have a second to get off her back before he was on her.
He was not going to let her get even the slightest advantage this time. He bored into her with the blanketing fear that he could mentally drill into his prey. Her sister had the same gift in the form of the cougar's scream, only even more intense than the natural fear that cry instilled. So did Syreena, but the chilling cry of the falcon had left with its form.
Syreena let the terror he was feeding her wash over her. She merely relaxed and gave in to it. Adrenaline and fear-response chemicals burst into her blood, blinding panic overcame her every thought.
Damien swung around so fast as Syreena's screaming presence of fright bombarded him that he sent a heavy statue crashing over. The marble immediately burst around his feet as his head blossomed with terror and pain so overwhelming he could not see straight for the first twenty seconds.
Realizing what was happening, he cursed himself for wasting those twenty seconds as he ran out of the house. He did not change form, his speed and skill as the raven still leaving too much to be desired. He did not need to. He was like a black streak of lightning as he crossed scrub and forestland in a matter of a minute.
What in the world had he been thinking? He had known they were out there!
He just had not thought they would bother Syreena since no one knew her significance to him. It was an underestimation Syreena was now paying for.
Damien plowed into the altercation powered by pitch-black rage.
He leapt over Syreena and drove the force of his body into the attacking Vampire. The two males tumbled clear of Syreena, which was Damien's intention. Nicodemous tore over the ground on his back, the Prince driving hard into his chest so that when they finally braked to a halt, Damien's knee crunched down into ribs and breastbone.
"Nico, you miserable bastard, I will kill you for touching her!" Damien snarled, his fangs flashing with a wild roar as he drove his fist into his enemy's throat. His intention was to rip off the other man's head with his bare hands, but Nico was too powerful to make it that easy. He threw off the Prince, sending him flying back a good ten feet into the trunk of a mighty tree. The crack of wood under stress filled the area, echoing off every distant point it could reach.
Nicodemous gained his feet and turned to advance on the Prince with his own mad gleam of huge, pointed teeth and a vicious vocalization to match. Before he could advance on the stunned Prince who was, in essence, the real focus of his intentions, he was railroaded by a speedball of gray and brown hair. Damien's female was strong for her size, but what was more, she was smart. She went for his knees from behind, knocking all the support out from under him. He hit the ground, tumbling back over her. He instantly reached through his rage for the only thing he could see of her.
Her streaked hair.
His hand came away empty, save maybe two strands. Frustrated and in a fine rage, Nico turned his attention to Damien. The Prince had easily gained his feet, his bitch giving him the time he had needed to regain his equilibrium.
The larger male reached into his boot for a dagger and flung it at the advancing Prince.
Damien's hand moved with imperceptible speed and snatched the dagger out of the air right before it would have pierced his throat. The blade cut his hand with the impact, but it was incidental damage.
Nico realized he had just very effectively armed the Prince. Hand to hand was one thing, but when weapons became visible, it usually meant that blood began to flow. Lose enough blood, and lose the fight. The aggressor had drawn the first blood, and he took satisfaction in that as Damien's fingers dripped precious red fluid.
Nico reached for his second dagger, moving at Damien with a speed faster than even preternatural vision.
Damien felt the puncture of the weapon in his lower left side, but he took the damage in stride. He allowed the attack so he could wrap a powerful arm around Nico's throat. The dagger drove deeper into his midsection as he used all the force of his body to pin Nicodemous to his injured side and plunged the other stiletto into his back. The blade glanced off solid ribs, then found a mark between two of them, slicing through muscle, lungs, and liver with the ease of a thrust through water.
Nico grunted in pain, but both Vampires broke apart with weapons in hand. Most people did not realize it, but the drawing out of a blade hurt more than the going in. It also did a hell of a lot more damage.
Damien felt his blood soaking through his shirt and the waistband of his black denim jeans. He ignored the wound, however. In a battle between Vampires, it often came down to which one gave in to the fear of losing too much blood. It was a distraction that disrupted battle skills, but it was also nearly impossible to resist.
Damien had not lived to be 974 years old because he easily gave in to such things. It was the uncanniest part of his power. He had no fear, no consideration, for the prospect of his death.
The Vampires clashed and passed again, both drawing blood before stepping away. Damien lowered his head as he crouched, his eerie blue eyes looking deeply into Nico's black gaze. Manipulating the mind of another Vampire was an incredible feat of command. It was nearly impossible to do because they were always aware of the possibility of the attempt. Normally, neither could succeed in tricking the perceptions of the other.