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|Gideon(Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Legna turned her back on the implacable mercury stare, dismissing him and the entire conversation he was having with Isabella. She folded her arms across her slender stomach, moving with a soft whisper of silk and poise to gaze out of the window and down the cliffside, taking in the English coastline through a portal of colored glass. It was easy for her to move in and out of touch with much of her power, but in the end it was all innate, all reflex and instinct at the ready and seeking input. It required enormous effort to truly shut down all the depths of her extrasensory abilities, but she began to do so, using the crash of the surf on the sand and rocks as a metronome for the meditative process. Legna had no choice. She had to lock it all down, because whenever the medic was in her presence her senses were always overwhelmed. She knew he had powerful mental barriers. Anyone who watched his detached, emotionless manners could see that all of his essence and emotion was slammed in a protected prison that he had no interest in accessing in the slightest, even in the privacy of his own mind, it seemed.
With Legna being an empath, such a void should be disturbing yet quiet. But it was not. Instead, his energy seemed to grasp at her, tendrils of it reaching and clutching almost painfully before letting go. Every time a connection was made, impulses fired her mind with images and impressions she had no hope of comprehending. It was like an electrical overload, one she never felt with anyone else. Jacob, Noah, Elijah… other Council members… all so powerful in their own right, but none with this vibrating force of presence that made her psyche ring like tones through crystal. Crystal shattered when the pitch ringing through it reached a certain resonance. That was how she felt, as if she might shatter if she stayed too long in his company. So she never went near him if she could avoid it and she always escaped the room he was in as quickly as she could. She could not stomach the idea of his power touching her psyche in such ways.
This was one of those times, however, when she could not make a graceful exit. Isabella needed her there. The Druid’s heart was beating fast with her worry and it was a clear, impassioned desire in her mind that Legna stay. So she did, keeping close enough to comfort Bella and focusing on the tide and sea to comfort herself.
Gideon watched as Legna stared out of the window and down at the coastline. He could see the heated changes in her body chemistry, the flush of her skin that intensified with what was obviously an irritable emotion. He knew he had offended her yet again, but he had long ago resigned himself to the fact that he always would. She was an overly headstrong female, persistently thinking and behaving in ways that made little or no sense to his more rational and logical mind. It had gotten worse, he had noted, since the Druid had come into their midst. Isabella had almost no reservations about saying whatever she felt aloud, with little thought to the respect his position or those of many others usually garnered. She was young, raised human, and it was expected for her to have immature and somewhat barbaric ways. Bella was also a stranger to their culture, so it was a somewhat excusable type of behavior. Legna had no such excuse. She had been raised in the Demon way, knowing all the protocols and societal expectations of her.
Gideon held up his simple conversation with Isabella as he continued to study the perturbed female Demon. In the eight years he had been in seclusion, she had grown astoundingly in her powers and abilities. Demons often went through great surges of development during their lifetime, a series of almost adolescent growth spurts, and she was young enough as an adult to experience these. Yet Gideon could not remember seeing such an unexpected leap in strength and ability in a Demon since… well, since her brother’s youth. Their genetic stock was predisposed to such things, but Noah was of Fire. Fire had its own rules when it came to growth within because of the way the Demon could draw energy from outside sources. Demons of the Mind were a young breed, the eldest and first born of the ability only recently lost to them at the age of 405. Since Lucas’s birth, Demons of the Mind had become a regular and frequent element for the young. The guidelines of their development were set down in expected patterns well before Legna’s birth.
The medic also knew that Legna was aware enough of this growth and the peculiarity of it to make a pretense of being somewhat weaker than she really was. He wondered at that, curious as to why she would deny such remarkable aptitude. He had been observing her somewhat closely these past five months, since his reemergence and her Summoning. However, her continued hostility toward him kept him at a suitable enough distance to prevent him from making a complete diagnosis of her metabolic development. Just as she could read emotion, Legna used the powers of her mind to put up impenetrable barriers around herself, strong enough to keep even Gideon’s formidable powers somewhat at bay.
That was only part of the obstacle, though. The other part was within Gideon himself. When it came to Legna, he found himself compelled to reserve any action that, should she sense it in any measure, she might take as an intrusion… a violation. He had made the mistake with her once in the past, and would be hard-pressed to ever repeat it. Despite what Isabella and Legna thought, he was quite capable of learning from his mistakes… when he chose to.
Gideon turned back to Isabella, noting the nervous way she was stroking the distended belly that housed her developing child. He had been aware of her fears and concerns even before overhearing her conversation with Magdelegna. However, contrary to what Legna believed, he was quite capable of holding his thoughts to himself when he thought it would be better for his patient. He was incapable of lying, even if he had seen use in it. The truth of his concerns over the hundreds of things that could go wrong with Isabella’s pregnancy would give her little peace of mind and could potentially have ill-reaching ramifications. So he kept his counsel, offering no false comfort and no frightening truths. He would allow her to continue to draw her own conclusions, so long as it did not reach a pitch of worry that would be detrimental to her health. Unknowingly, Legna’s affirmations of his straightforward nature had been advantageous to both him and the mother-to-be.
“I see no need to arrive in person this week,” he informed Isabella. “However, if you should require anything or experience any concerns, you may contact me immediately.”
Gideon took a moment to do a last visual check of the breeding woman, his fingertips touching her chin, turning her head to the side gently as he inspected her pulse and blood pressure with a momentary glance. He briefly ran a hand over the swell of her belly, and then he stepped away from her, dropping his touch from her before the male Enforcer sensed his mate had been touched by another male and showed up in an agitated swirl of dust. Jacob had made no secret of his possessiveness of Isabella. This sometimes occurred in an Imprinting, depending on the nature of the element the Demon came from and factors in personality. Jacob’s affinity with nature made him very susceptible to surges of territoriality when it came to that which he held most precious. The Enforcer was capable of curbing the emotion when absolutely necessary, so it would not become overly detrimental or antagonistic. Bella herself did not even bat an eyelash worrying over things like jealousy. She was probably the most trusting soul Gideon had ever met, her hopeful youth and unblemished naпvetй sometimes so pleasing, even while it made her vulnerable to the future pains that came with being a part of their species.
Gideon had just moved a significant distance away from the little Druid when a violent dust devil swept into the room, coalescing with a twist into the form of the Enforcer. Jacob was a male of awesome power, and though his was a lean, athletic build, he radiated that fact from every pore. The Earth Demon could manipulate mighty forces of nature, such as gravity itself, with a mere thought. Next to Fire Demons, Earth Demons were the most powerful of their kind. This was why he had been chosen to be the one to hunt the renegades of his own race. The implacable depths of his dark, warning gaze as he fixed it on the medic said much about what being forced to hunt down and sometimes even destroy those he had once called friends had made him capable of. Gideon and Jacob had done battle only once. It had been enough to give them both a healthy respect for each other’s abilities, as well as creating an underlying tension between them that might never resolve itself.
“Gideon,” Jacob greeted coolly, moving in the blink of an eye to enfold his beloved mate into the protection of his embrace. When he looked down into her face, he softened in that remarkable way Gideon didn’t think he would ever get used to. It almost relieved him when Jacob’s nearly hostile gaze returned to him. “I thought we had agreed you would warn me before you visited with Isabella,” he said, his tone so even that it was every inch threatening.
“I had expected Isabella to warn you herself. After all, she is the one in constant mental contact with you. Not I.”
“And you are capable of projecting yourself to me before you appear to her just as easily.”
“You were hunting, Jacob. I decided to let you finish your task in peace. This was to be only a brief visit. And as you see, we are thoroughly chaperoned.”
Gideon gestured to Legna, who, in a remarkable way he had begun to notice, had managed to make herself go completely overlooked. Even Isabella seemed to suddenly realize she had forgotten all about her friend’s presence. But now the stately, graceful woman was turning a soothing smile on the tense people half a room away from her.
“Jacob, it is good to see you.”
Jacob grinned at Legna, nodding his head. “How is Noah?”
Legna quirked a brow. “Did you not see him in the Council?” She glanced from one Enforcer to the other, then to Gideon. “I understood that Noah was in Council with you all this morning, discussing the necromancer threat.”
“Yes, we were. But he was… unsettled, after discovering Daniel beneath the Council table,” Jacob informed her.
“And he had words with Councillor Ruth, as usual,” Isabella added, rolling her eyes in reflection of her feelings about the cantankerous Elder. “We all did. I swear, that woman gives me ulcers.” Isabella hugged her mate to herself in comfort. “I believe she still blames Jacob for the death of her youngest daughter’s mate. It’s unfair. How could any of us have known any sooner than we did?”
Legna’s spine straightened suddenly, the strong emotions that burst from Jacob forcing her to catch her breath as they pummeled her. She realized then that Jacob had never forgiven himself for that lost life.
Before Bella had come to them, Jacob’s primary duty had been to keep Demons and humans apart, believing as they all had for thousands of years that humans were too fragile to withstand the seduction of a Demon. During the Hallowed moons, the full moons of Beltane in May and Samhain in October, Demons were compelled by a mystical explosion of sexual compulsion. It was believed that it was originally meant to perpetuate their species, but because of Demon foolhardiness, the Druids meant to be their ease and their mates were all murdered in war. So the madness of lust had grown out of proportion with time, and this lust could be directed in lawbreaking directions, no matter how strong the Demon’s moral codes and self-control.
Even Gideon—powerful, invulnerable Gideon—had not been immune. So it had been the Enforcer’s role to track down those who attempted to break that law, punishing them for it, keeping humans and even other Nightwalker species safe from this uncontrollable, animalistic nature that overcame his fellows. This past Samhain, the same time that Bella first was becoming revealed to them, Jacob had prevented Ruth’s daughter Mary from seducing a human man, punishing her severely, as the infraction called for. All the while, the Enforcer had been unaware this human man was actually part Druid, destined by fate to be Imprinted with Mary. Jacob had had no inkling that their brief contact before the actual enforcing had triggered the dormant Druid genetics in the would-be victim. How could he? There had been only one Demon among them old enough to know the true nature of Druids, and Gideon had never expected that an exterminated Nightwalker population had actually become hybrids in the human population.
These alien genetics blossomed into dominance, overwriting existing DNA from that of a mere human into that of an awakening Druid. Once this happened, a Druid became mortally dependent on their Demon mate’s elemental energy, just as the Demon became dependent on the Druid’s love and ability to bring peace to them during the Hallowed moons. Once mated in the Imprinting, that Demon would never fear the Enforcer again. As a pair, they would grow as content and powerful as Jacob and Isabella were becoming.
Unfortunately, Mary’s mate, kept away from the fledgling Demon as she was punished and held under watch until Samhain passed, had starved from the deprivation of his mate’s energy, dying before Jacob could rectify the mistake.
There was no way Jacob could have known, and yet Ruth would not forgive him. Worse, Jacob refused to forgive himself. He could not bear to see crime or injustice go without rectification. It was what made him the miraculously capable Enforcer of Noah’s laws that he was. He was invaluable to Legna’s brother. But it was also what made him so unforgiving of himself when he felt he had failed.
Legna knew it would just take time before Isabella’s sweet, loving emotions for him would heal him of his guilt. Even now she was sharing thoughts of comfort with him. Legna felt an oddly hollow pumping to her heart as she absorbed the eddy of the Enforcers’ love for one another. She realized then that just as there had been truth behind Noah’s joking about their relationship, there was truth for her as well. She envied them. It was a heartbreaking craving shadowed with a malevolent flutter of jealousy. She turned away once more, ashamed and inundated by her own emotions for a change, and guarded her face from prying eyes as inexplicable tears burned in her eyes.
She had to be tired, she excused herself, trying to shake off the ache that continued to beat through her. She felt foolish. She scolded herself for allowing things to affect her as if she were some green fledgling not yet trained in controlling her own powers and emotions. Pressing harsh fingers into her damp eyes, she turned to the others.