|Home > Jacquelyn Frank > Nightwalkers > Damien (Page 43)|
|Damien(Nightwalkers #4) by Jacquelyn Frank|
"At least I will have you," the Demon murmured with eager delight and intent.
As Nico was lunging for the Lycanthrope, Ruth reached to grab her by the hair that was as great a weakness, as it was her one true strength.
To the shock of both enemies, they passed through their intended targets, crashing hard against each other instead in a tangle of clothing and limbs. Ruth cursed Nico; Nico cursed Ruth, shoving her violently away as he tried to find the quick little minx who had somehow managed to elude them both.
When Ruth and Nico both finally located Syreena, they were shocked to see her standing side by side with the Vampire Prince, not ten feet away from them.
"Impossible!" Ruth hissed.
"It's a trick! An illusion," Nico growled.
"Impossible!" the Mind Demon insisted.
"Clearly not," Damien remarked dryly.
Ruth struggled to her feet, making to lunge for the couple that had outfoxed even her considerable mental powers. She had barely managed to make it to her full height when her hair was grabbed violently from behind, tearing out in painful clumps, her head jerked back so hard it nearly sent her back to the ground.
Ruth screamed in pain.
Jasmine slapped her other hand over Ruth's mouth, the thick handful of pasty mud she had mined from the nearest puddle filling the orifice thickly, sealing off all sound and ability to speak.
Damien reached for the poniard up his sleeve, and he and Syreena advanced on Nico with clear menace. Realizing he was outnumbered and too wounded to make an impact if he continued fighting, Nico closed his eyes and promptly disappeared in a roiling cloud of smoke.
"Apparently, Ruth figured out how to share her power with him," Jasmine said dryly. "Did you not, dearest?" she asked, jerking the suffocating woman back against her body by her hair. "You would not want to tell me where my book is, would you?"
Jasmine looked up at Damien and Syreena with a flashing smile that was brilliant and surprisingly pretty. "Oops. That's right. Speak no evil." Jasmine wiggled one of the fingers sealed over Ruth's mouth, forcing her to keep the paste of mud within her lips.
"Do we kill her, or take her to Noah?" Damien asked.
"Kill her. Kill her before she can-"
Jasmine's words and figure were lost in a sudden explosion of thick black smoke. The cloud roiled up from between her arms as Ruth disappeared from her grasp. Damien and Syreena heard the Vampire woman scream with outrage and frustration as the smoke cleared to show her stomping her foot in fury, her hands empty of her prisoner.
Damien and Syreena exchanged a look and a sigh.
"Nico," they said in unison.
For the most part, the mission had been a victorious one, even though Jasmine was still grousing over losing her captive. Syreena, however, knew that they had been the first in a long time to best Ruth to the point of nearly capturing her. And that was with the added threat of Nico included. It was something to feel very proud of, in spite of the undesirable outcome. She sensed clearly that Damien felt the same way. That did not change the fact that they were about to have a very difficult discussion.
Syreena sat on the bed where they had completed the Exchange only the night before. Damien walked into the room with a clean bowl of water, clean cloths, and bandaging materials.
Syreena obeyed, sliding aside so he could sit beside her. He placed the bowl on the night table, then, after wetting a cloth, turned to face her. He reached to cleanse one of the many cuts on her back, urging her to turn so he could better see.
He was silent for several long minutes before speaking.
"You have every right to be angry with me. In spite of everything I said, I do know that," he said quietly. "I let Jasmine convince me too easily into doing what we did. I was itching for a fight because of Kelsey's death and the idea of a Vampire joining ranks with Ruth. I am not an idiot, but I suppose to you, I was acting like one."
She felt him lean forward and give her bare shoulder what felt like an apologetic kiss. "I don't care if you are an idiot, Damien. I do care that you broke a promise only a few hours old. I have given you my complete trust in so many things and asked little in return, and the first time-"
"I know. I know," he interrupted her with a fierce whisper. "It was bad of me. And worse to place fault in your lap. I was just taken off guard and I was afraid for your safety. Jas and I could go undetected, but I knew the minute I sensed that you were close…"
"And that, perhaps, was bad of me. It was certainly foolish. I know I could have gotten us all killed."
There was quiet again as he gently cleansed her wounds. They were superficial, and she would heal by the next evening, but he wanted to tend to her in this way. It was part apology, part concern, and even a part gratitude. She had proven herself valiantly against enemies who had both bested her once before and had been a great source of fear and rattled confidence since. She was quite possibly the bravest creature he had ever met, and it made him quite proud to have her next to him.
When he finally set aside the cloth he had used on her, she immediately reached for another and turned toward him with expectant intent. He obediently shrugged out of his jacket and loosened his shirt. When he peeled back the dark blue fabric, he exposed numerous bleeding lacerations, but more importantly, ring after ring of livid bruising.
"Damien," she breathed in obvious despair as she reached to touch light fingertips to the discoloration. The ensnarement spell had been powerful, and the roots of the trees had strangled him from head to toe. The damage looked profound and probably felt worse. "I am so sorry."
"It will heal in a day or two." He smiled at her. "It is worth it, because I now know who the Vampire is. I could not tell from a distance. In a way, you helped us find out exactly what we wanted to. You lured them out into the open."
"Yes, well, I have come up with better plans."
"Yet they were probably less effective," he chuckled.
"It is not very funny," she said, reaching to cleanse a particularly nasty abrasion on his shoulder. "It was a mess and we were lucky to get out relatively unscathed."
"About that," he said suddenly, reaching to stop her ministrations by catching her wrist. "Would you mind telling me how you managed to trick Nico and Ruth into thinking you were somewhere you were not?"
"I…" She gave a distinct blink of her dark eyes. "I don't really know. I just had this instinct…"
"An instinct to cast an illusion of yourself while you escaped his target area." Damien let a corner of his mouth curl into a smile. "Well, well. I think we can stop guessing what part of me you are going to achieve. I must say, it was a pretty powerful trick to play on two people of such mental skill. Especially for an amateur."
"But you are not an amateur," she reminded him.
"Yes, but you are a very skilled shapechanger and it is clear that I did not inherit that from you intrinsically."
"Actually, perhaps you have. Not every detail, mind you, but it does take several decades before a shapechanger can change with the ease you showed only a day or so after discovering you could do so. You are quite good at the changing skill, even doing it on the fly tonight, which very few can do. Behaving true to avian form, that is an entirely different skill."
"So perhaps you can project powerful illusions, but you may need a great deal of time and practice before you can see through them yourself."
"Exactly! Oh…really?" she asked, sounding instantly dejected. "They are two different skills?"
"I am afraid so, sweetling." He chuckled. "But if you teach me how to land, I think I can teach you how to see through some pretty strong illusions."
She smiled at that, taking her wrist from his hands and going back to her task as she grinned happily. "I think I will like this ability. For a while, I was worried I might sprout fangs."
"Worried? I was hoping," he countered, giving her a sideways look and a mischievous lift to his eyebrows.
"Pervert," she chuckled. "Do you ever think about anything besides sex?"
"With you sitting this close to me naked? I hardly think it is possible."
"Stop it," she scolded him, slapping away the hand he started to slide up her thigh. "I am covered in blood and battle, not to mention the fact that I may very well still be mad at you. I have not decided yet."
"What part of being covered in blood is supposed to make you unattractive to a Vampire?" he asked teasingly.
"The part where it's the blood of a corrupted Vampire using black magic," she reminded him.
"Ah. Excellent point."
Then he shoved aside her hands and in a single movement scooped her into his arms and rose off the bed. He carried her into the adjoining bath, ignoring her protests about his high-handed treatment of her.
"You are arguing as if you do not want to take a bath," he pointed out, "when I know that you do."
"Why do you always make it sound like you have divined some great mystery of my mind? I pretty much just said as much," she said dryly, pushing away from him slightly when he set her on her feet and leaned over to start the water in the old claw-footed tub.
"Unfortunately, the water will be cold. The heating systems are in need of repair, I am told," he warned her. "Though I imagine it will bother me far more than it will you."
"I can have water boiled and brought up for you," she said simply, stepping into the tub lightly, giving herself a moment to adjust herself to the promised chill once her toes had taken its measure. Syreena sat down and stretched out, allowing the clean water to creep up over her skin slowly as the bath filled.
Instead of leaving her, Damien knelt down beside her on the tiled floor, folding his arms across the near lip of the iron tub and bringing his gaze level to hers. The sound of the water splashing into itself was strong for a few minutes, and then he broke it.
"I am truly sorry if I worried you."
Syreena sighed softly, drawing a lip between nibbling teeth for a moment as she thought a little before responding. Her habitual care in all her responses had become charming to him, and a strong reflection of who she was, so an inner smile blossomed beneath his skin as he watched her.
"That is not the point, Damien," she said softly. "You broke a promise to me. That is what upsets me most. And I feel I need to remind you that I only asked you not to do something reckless, not that you could not approach me and tell me if you had an entirely new argument and purpose. I would not have been happy about letting you and Jasmine go, but I would have preferred to know than not. It would have saved all of us this trouble tonight if you had merely told me where you were going and why. You promised to consider my feelings, and all you considered was that if we discussed it, I would countermand your desires and attempt to keep you from doing what you wanted to do.
"In truth, Damien, I would have seen the logic behind it as well as the risk. I have always been able to see both sides of an issue. I do wish you would have thought, even for a moment, to give me credit for that. Instead, you snuck off behind my back."
"As I said, I am not accustomed to answering to another," he said quietly.
"It is not answering to me," she said sharply, then reigned in her flash of temper with a breath. "I am not out to curb you or leash you into obedience, Damien. That would destroy the very essences of what attracts me to you, of what holds my heart captive. I only want this to be a fully reciprocal partnership. I know you are capable of it. I see it every time you and Jasmine bend your heads together. I also know it will take time for us to reach the same level of familiarity and comfort you share with her, but I expected you to at least remember the principle of trying from one hour to the next." Syreena sighed, running damp hands back through her hair. "This is sounding like a lecture, like I am scolding a child, and I do not mean to make it that way."
"I imagine that is because we are still learning how to communicate with one another, Syreena. I am taking no offense. You have a right to your frustration with me. You do not make an unreasonable request here. I know you would have shown me far more consideration than I showed you. And you are right; it took the breadth of a day before I acted against the decision we had made together. I owe you an apology for that as well."
"And there is fault with me here as well," she said, waving off the apology with an acceptance that would do the least damage to his pride. "I flew off half-cocked myself, giving in to my temper, heedless of the danger I was causing, just so I could say my piece."
"That is very true," he agreed with readiness that clearly bordered on humorous.
"Oh, hush up and help me wash this stuff off of me."
She softened the command with a kiss on his nearby lips, smiling halfway through the exchange until she had to break off a giggle.
"You know, I may have created a monster," he mused, reaching out to push back a strand of hair straggling over her nose. "You are beginning to get quite bossy about what you want."
"Well, I am afraid you will have to live with that," she informed him.
"I think I can manage that, sweetling," he promised her.
"Then I think you are right, Damien. I think we may actually be able to make this work after all."
Jasmine sat off in the shadows, not necessarily sulking, but not exactly joining in with the festive actions going on a short distance away from where she stood.
Damien had actually done it.
He had wed himself to the Lycanthrope Princess.