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|Damien(Nightwalkers #4) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Now Princess of the Vampires, her other throne put on the back burner, a promise of abdication given to her people on the event of the birth of Siena's first child. It had been a gesture meant to placate them for marrying into another race, but the lack of Lycanthropic attendance spoke volumes about how well the match was being accepted.
There were even those whom Damien considered reasonably close comrades who had not deigned to attend the marriage. This did not really surprise any of those who had decided to wish the union of the two Nightwalker houses of royalty well. It was a breach of too many deeply engrained taboos, buried in Vampire psyche for generation upon generation. The only thing that saved them from a civil war or an uprising of protest was the writings from the Library they had found to confirm Jasmine's previous claims about the ritual that was older than those taboos.
Even so, the couple had waited until spring to join, waiting until their domestic policing system had reached beyond its initial organization stages. A wise choice, really. The timing had been selected carefully so that the information justifying the wedding would come after the security network meant to keep Vampire behavior in check was firmly in place. There had been clues before then, of course, because Damien and Syreena had kept house together publicly in the increasingly growing court. However, any reactions from that had been Jasmine's and Stephan's job to handle.
Jasmine smiled at the thought.
It had certainly kept her from being bored. It was strange how something she felt so little agreement with personally could actually give her a sudden feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction of purpose. Court intrigues of the Vampire variety were definitely keeping her on her toes. Not to mention the ripples that were flowing outward into all Nightwalker communities as the entire political atmosphere began to change with dramatic publicity.
Needless to say, it was making for a busy, volatile time.
That pleased her.
What did not please her as much was the silence from the realm of the traitors. There was no sign of them, as usual. Not even as the security net expanded over the continents. There was no way of knowing if Nico was alive or dead. There was no clue as to what Ruth's next tactic was going to be. They still had no idea what she had been up to in the first place, and Jasmine suspected that the Demon female was only going to become more careful even as she became more powerful. Jasmine had exploited her weaknesses, and in doing so had set her on guard to them. In the end, it could very well have made things much worse.
However, even if Nico had managed once again to survive, it would take a long time in a state of torpor before he would be able to rise again and cause further trouble with Ruth. Jasmine suspected they might get lucky and have the time they needed to grow stronger themselves before they would have to face the duo as a real threat once again. She had to give that much to the Lycanthrope Princess. Her actions and battle skills could very well have bought them some valuable time.
"If the wedding displeases you so, why have you come?"
Jasmine roused from her inner thoughts to look at the female who had addressed her. She dismissed her immediate surprise at being found in the stealth of the shadows when she realized it was Malaya, the Shadowdweller Chancellor. Her breed lived in the shadows even more than Vampires did, so it made sense that she would be able to detect Jasmine in spite of her best skulking abilities.
"I have gotten over my initial displeasure," Jasmine said with a simple shrug as Malaya joined her in the shadows. "I cannot affect jubilance, however. Although, I will admit to being glad that Damien is happy."
"I have tried to place myself in your perspective," the Chancellor said with soft thoughtfulness. "How would I feel if my brother, co-ruler of our species, were to wed outside of our breed?"
"And have you had much success with this?" Jasmine queried.
"Yes. I have realized that we are not Vampires, therefore I cannot begin to put myself in your place even if it were to come true."
Jasmine chuckled at her wry wisdom. She saw her smile flash in the dark.
"I know even less about your people than you do mine," Jasmine admitted, "so I would have equal lack of luck."
"I do know a perfect match when I see one, however," she countered. "To battle against such a thing would be like holding out your hand to ward off a tidal wave. It is a battle against the inevitable, and a foolish position to take."
"Very true," Jasmine agreed. "And so, you have answered your own initial question."
"I suppose I have," she said after a moment of thought. "I have met the new child of Demon prophecy. The newborn of the King's sister. It is believed by them that he will bring new power to the Demons."
"Which means a lifetime of being closely protected. Ruth knows of the prophecy as well as any Demon, and she will seek ways of getting it for herself if she can. The little boy and his counterpart, the girl child who was born to the Enforcers will both learn to walk on a fine line of danger. Why anyone would give birth in such volatile times, exposing their young to such peril, is completely beyond me."
"Apparently your ruler does not agree with your assessments."
Jasmine lifted a brow in surprise. "What do you mean by that?"
"I mean the Princess is clearly in a breeding cycle, and your Prince does not behave like a mate who will be keeping from her bed the next couple of weeks."
Jasmine's gaze instantly flashed to the newly wedded couple that Malaya had indicated with a nod of her head. Damien was, quite literally, all over his new bride. His hands were roaming her figure with public hunger, his mouth leaned close to her ear and was saying or doing something that had her in squirms and giggles. Syreena was not behaving within her usual conservative borders, either. From the placement of her hands and the insinuating rubbing of her body against the Prince's, it was clear what she had on her mind, and damn the fact that there were clusters of witnesses all around.
"It is Beltane," she argued softly. "And they are newly wed. Everyone gets a little…freer than usual on this night."
"You are looking with your eyes, Vampire. I am looking with much deeper senses. I promise you, she is in heat, and if they head along this path very often these next weeks, there will be a child soon. The first of its kind, too. At least, the first in many millennia. The child of a Vampire and a Lycanthrope. One has to wonder…"
"Please," she held up a hand to ward off her speculations. "My stomach is already turning. Do not make it any worse!"
"You do not like children?"
"I hated being a child. I dislike the complications a child of theirs will cause, also. But it is a waste to speculate over the future. Nothing is ever certain. It may be that time has erased the compatibility required to bring offspring between the races."
Jasmine sighed. "Do not be discouraged," the Chancellor murmured gently near her ear. "Your life promises to be one of excitement and fulfillment, whether Damien is a part of it or not."
Jasmine turned her head to look at her again, laughing with a short, clear burst of sarcasm. "You clearly do not know me very well."
"No, but I know the future in ways other Nightwalkers never can."
Jasmine's eyes widened with shock and surprise, but the Chancellor silenced her surging queries and demands with a single finger to her lips.
"This is not information we share with outsiders, but I share it with you for a reason. Your sadness of the past is rooted further in history than you realize, and your future happiness will depend greatly on the extreme despair of another as well. But yours is a special destiny, and it begins here, today, with this ceremony. I have no specifics, so do not ask me. I just thought it would make you look more kindly on your present situation if you knew that Damien and Syreena will one day be directly responsible for the life you will one day come to know."
Jasmine was speechless. All she could do was blink blankly as she watched the other woman move away from her with a smooth, gliding grace that reminded her so much of the way Damien moved.
After a minute, she allowed herself to look back at the deliriously happy and overtly affectionate couple whom she had lived with the past few months. They had managed to learn to live with each other, even learning to respect each other's contributions.
Perhaps, just perhaps, they might begin to find something more than that as well one day.
Of course, that was entirely up to Jasmine, and she rather preferred to cause just a little more trouble for the woman who had stolen away the best man she knew before she would give in to her inclinations to grudgingly like her.