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|Gideon(Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“Well, perhaps Gideon is merely making an extra effort because it has been so long since a Druid and a Demon have mated. And yes, I am sure the fact that you are half human does make your case unique, but I am also certain he only means to be cautious. You know how direct he is. If there were something to worry about, he is not one to keep you uninformed.”
“True. He would at the very least inform Jacob if there were something to be concerned about, wouldn’t you say? Jacob and I have very few secrets between us, what with our ability to share one another’s thoughts.”
“I must admit, Bella,” Legna confessed, “that even though I am a Mind Demon, I am quite grateful I can only read emotions, unlike my male counterparts who can trade thoughts as you and Jacob do. I am positive that I would not want to know everything someone was thinking. Trust me, knowing everything they are feeling can be quite troublesome enough. And as for Jacob being able to read your thoughts, I do not know how you bear it. I am not so certain I would enjoy someone else having access to my most private ruminations. I suppose the closest I come to that is with Hannah and Noah. We have always had a strong sense of one another’s needs, desires… pain. But I promise you, there are things that have crossed my mind that I hope Noah never finds out about.”
Legna gave an impish wiggle of her brows, making Bella laugh.
“I’m familiar with that particular desire,” Bella said with a nod. “Still, there’s something comforting about the vast openness of the sharing and honesty between Jacob and me. And… ” She paused, her face softening with a warm, beautiful thought, her skin, like pale satin, flushing with a gentle glow. “My love, my mate, lives within me always, Legna. I’m never completely alone, even when he tries to give me solitude. And I don’t even mind. Part of me realizes that, for the rest of my life, I will never be alone again. Better still, I will never be lonely. It’s compelling in a way I can’t possibly describe. My sister is only just beginning to learn this for herself. I have tried to help her, but I always fail to describe it to her adequately.”
“Your description lacks nothing, Bella,” the empath confessed quietly, a catch of emotion in her throat and a shine of bittersweet happiness in her eyes for her friend.
“Corrine’s power acquisition is taking much longer than mine did. Gideon believes it’s delayed because of how close she came to dying.”
Bella shuddered as she remembered the image of her sister lying close to death in her bed, gray and gaunt from the energy drain she had suffered. A Druid only came into power when his or her Demon mate came into contact with them for the first time. At the time Corrine and Kane had encountered each other, no one had realized she was a Druid, destined to be with Kane and destined to wither away without his nearness and energy to replenish her.
“It has been taking time, Gideon says, for her connection with Kane to rebuild and repair itself. He likened it to having brain damage, where the brain has to reroute function in other ways to compensate for the damage.” Bella shook her head. “I watch her struggles and I am so frustrated for her. I want her to be as happy as I am. I want her power to come so she will know what we have inherited. As a logical person I know it will take time, but as a sister—a pregnant sister at that—I want to yell out to the Fates, ‘C’mon already!’ She’s already been through so much.”
“She has come very far already. She is looking healthy and does not become weak as quickly,” Legna soothed her.
“Gideon said as much, but he also said she may have more setbacks and that we should be prepared for that. He explained that the damage has made her pathways to power fragile. But you know this. This is why you are teaching her meditation and focus techniques. It is by his prescription.”
“It will never cease to amaze me, the extent of Gideon’s knowledge. He is the only Demon in all the world who was alive during the time of the last Druids. In spite of it being over a millennium ago, he still remembers such details of the connections between Druid and Demon, and of the healing processes of a race he thought was obliterated. It boggles the mind to think he was only a fledgling himself at the time.”
“Yes. It’s quite remarkable.” Isabella leaned forward, lowering her voice to a whisper. “But Gideon holds a great deal of weight on his soul over having been a part of the original massacre of the Druids. I believe he feels he should have known better, in spite of the fact that the entire world was fairly savage at the time and he was a mere fledgling following the orders of the Elders of the era.”
“War never makes sense when the aftermath is studied a thousand years later. It is a testament to his strength that he has survived in spite of all the deaths, Summonings, and worldwide upheavals of a millennium. A thousand years.” Legna shook her head with amazement. “Even those Demons who are past their fifth century have difficulty comprehending such a lifetime.”
Isabella nodded, sitting back once more and absently rubbing her distended belly. “So you are certain he would tell me if he had concerns about the baby?”
“Positive,” Legna affirmed with a curt nod. “There may be a great many things about Gideon I do not understand, or even like, to be honest, but his straightforwardness is admirable, even if somewhat harsh from time to time. Besides, Jacob would not tolerate anything less than total forthrightness, and Gideon would respect that. Their friendship is still much strained, in spite of Gideon’s welcome return to mainstream Demon life and his Triumvirate seat on the Great Council. However, Jacob’s latent hostility would not keep Gideon silent if speaking was called for.”
“I know,” Bella said softly. “I don’t think that Jacob has quite come to terms with Gideon’s rude behavior around me in the beginning of our relationship.”
“But he would be foolish to turn away the most skilled medic in Demon history when that Demon offers to oversee the pregnancy of his beloved mate,” Legna pointed out. “And Jacob is no fool. No matter how deeply his Imprinted instincts have made him come to distrust other males who come too close to you, I believe your safety is paramount to him. He wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of that, not even if it were Prince Charming himself who needed to tend you.”
Isabella tossed back her head and laughed aloud at that, appreciating the mischievous sparkle in the other woman’s eyes. Legna was impressively unmoved by the power of the male Demons who surrounded her night in and night out, century after century. Isabella had appreciated that from the moment she had met the female Demon.
This brave characteristic in her friend had served as a model for Bella, teaching her to put her foot down and stand up for her rights and perspective even before her own ability to absorb and use the powers of those around her had come into play. Other Demons had learned to respect her long before they had been forced to respect the magnitude of her awesome ability to render anyone from any Nightwalker race completely powerless.
Luckily, this was the same power that had forced Isabella into being included in Legna’s terrifying Summoning during her and Jacob’s aborted wedding ceremony. It was that same power that had nullified the damaging effects of the pentagram that had caged them together.
Even though the experience had been terribly harrowing, Isabella was constantly grateful to have had a hand in sparing her friend the fate of being Transformed. Among other things, it would have destroyed Jacob to be put in the position of hunting the sister of his King, forced to destroy her before she destroyed others. Jacob’s relentless sense of duty and his respect and love for Noah would have made his course clear, but Jacob carried his failures hard, and he would have blamed himself for not doing more to save one so important to the man he looked on as a brother as well as monarch.
No one meant as much to Isabella as Jacob did. Perhaps not even her sister Corrine, whom she loved with all of her heart. Jacob was her heart and her soul, and she would be deeply affected if he were to ever suffer that magnitude of pain. Worse yet, the responsibility could have fallen to Isabella herself, destined by that newfound ancient prophecy to hunt the Transformed. She had been born with the genetic code for her special abilities just for that purpose, unaware that they were lying dormant, waiting only for the day she and Jacob finally crossed paths.
Jacob had experienced the untenable situation of enforcing those he had once been friendly with. There had even been times when he had been required to destroy them after they had been perverted into the monsters a pentagram’s black magic forced them to become. But Isabella was so much softer in the heart and so new to her Enforcer role; she had not yet been confronted with destroying a Transformed Demon she had once known and cared about.
It was her deepest fear that she wouldn’t be able to do so when the time came, and Legna immediately became aware of the weight on her friend’s heart as the expecting woman considered the possibility. She did not mean to intrude, but Legna’s power was always “on” just like Bella’s was, and the effort to control it came when trying to shut it off or lower its effect. She had allowed herself to relax too much during their conversation and had inadvertently picked up on Bella’s serious emotions.
Legna kept her countenance, not sharing her knowledge with her friend about her fears. Isabella was half human and used to a more private lifestyle than that of Demonkind. Legna had come to realize that Bella was disturbed by the seemingly intrusive habits of those Jacob knew.
In fact, the biggest offender was Gideon. He would never wait to be given leave to come and go, no matter how many times Bella lost her temper with him. It was his nature to believe his way of thinking was correct and the ways of the human woman were utter nonsense. After all, he had survived ages and a great many threats more impressive than the temper of a hybrid Druid female.
Just then, as if bidden by Legna’s thoughts, a strange silver light sparkled into the room, winking instantly into the form of the great medic.
Instinctively, Legna surged to her feet. Whenever she and the Ancient occupied the same space, she could not fight the urge to go on the defensive. She and Gideon had a history of hostility, born out of a brief moment of foolishness and painful words. It was a moment that Legna could not allow herself to forget, for all her forgiving nature, and one that Gideon continually denied ever happened quite the way she remembered it.
It wasn’t exactly Gideon in the room. It was an astral projection of him. This was the way a Body Demon traveled quickly. In this form, they were able to sense and feel everything around them. The only thing that limited a Body Demon’s astral form was the inability to use their inborn powers of healing others. He was powerless, to an extent, in this form, but Legna had learned never to underestimate the eldest of her kind. It seemed the longer they lived, the more potent they became and the more tricks they learned. She wouldn’t put any ability she could conceive of past the great Ancient.
“Legna,” he greeted her coolly, nodding his silvery head with respect, his starlight-colored eyes flicking over her form briefly. “You are looking well.”
“I am well, thank you,” she returned just as cordially.
Gideon turned to Bella, giving her a slight bow as well.
“Enforcer. You are well, I trust?”
“Yes. I would be better, however, if you could somehow manage to squeeze the concept of knocking on the door into that vast intellect of yours,” she remarked sardonically, clearly not expecting it to happen anytime soon.
“I do not recall Legna striking upon the door before her entrance,” the Ancient noted offhandedly.
That caused both women to exchange startled looks and then face him with dual accusing stares.
“Just how long have you been here, Gideon?” Legna snapped, her irritability escaping her control and eddying outward in a tangible ripple of emotion.
“Obviously long enough,” he replied, clearly unperturbed, “to know you did not knock when you arrived.”
It seemed to make perfect sense to him, while causing both women to seethe.
“You mean to tell me you were floating around my house all this time? Spying on us?”
“Hardly. I arrived only moments before Legna did, and when she appeared I thought I would be kind enough to allow you both some minutes to visit before I intruded.”
“Gee, you’re all heart,” Bella said tartly. “Did it not occur to you for even one second that our conversation was a private one, and that it was rude to listen to it?”
Legna and Bella both exhaled large breaths of frustration at the male Demon’s unconcerned shrug.
“There was nothing of an extremely private nature within the conversation that I can recall,” Gideon added, his bright eyes glancing over both women as if he were trying to figure out an illogical puzzle. “Your obvious irritation is senseless.”
“Yeah,” Bella said dryly. “It would be… to you.” She clearly gave up, waving the matter aside with a hand. “So, to what do I owe this pleasure?” she asked of the medic.
Legna didn’t immediately hear his response. Her ears were ringing with her continued outrage. The last thing she would have ever wanted in a million millennia would be for Gideon to hear her defending him or his behavior, touting how skilled and majestically Ancient he was. He was already so infuriatingly arrogant! But he had flown around in his nonvisible astral form, listening to her reassure her friend about his abilities, no doubt basking in it and preening the whole time.
Gideon’s eyes flicked over to her, the strange silver light within them giving her an eerie chill, almost as if he had just been privy to the rancor of her thoughts. It is an illusion, Legna argued with herself. It was a disarming trick he constantly used to maintain the upper hand and a position of advantage. He always seemed to have a bagful of these subtle psychological tricks at the ready, but she was a Mind Demon broaching Elder caliber come half a century or so, and she’d be a simpleton if she could not recognize them.