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|Gideon(Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“Isabella, we will visit again soon. There is something I have forgotten to take care of and I must hurry to complete it before dawn.” She didn’t even hug her friend good-bye or acknowledge the men in the room. With a familiar flourish of her elegant hand, she teleported away in a flash and a small cloud of sulfur.
“She is getting good at that,” Jacob remarked, the peculiar exit making him forget his own thoughts. “She is not yet an Elder, but she leaves less and less of a display behind every time I see her teleport. She is strong for one so young.”
“For those of us who can call being almost two hundred and fifty years old ‘young.’” Bella laughed, cuddling up under Jacob’s possessive arm even tighter. “Compared to you guys, I’m an infant!”
“Fledgling, little flower,” Jacob corrected, giving her forehead an affectionate kiss to go with his endearment for her.
“I am afraid I must also take my leave,” Gideon interjected, his mind fully on Legna’s unusual departure. He had seen something. Something within the empath that was not quite clear to him, but it was potentially physiologically alarming. It had been an impression more than anything, his power weakened by his astral state. Still, it had his interest, and he was compelled by an urge to confront Legna. This impression troubled him. If Gideon had learned anything in his vast lifetime, it was that his instincts were rarely wrong.
“In the future, Jacob, I will exercise more care when approaching your mate. My apologies.” With a curt bow, Gideon vanished in a brilliant flash of silver light.
Jacob and Isabella exchanged perplexed looks and thoughts. But after a moment, Bella’s eyes began to drift over Jacob’s body and the nature of her thoughts changed significantly, punctuated by a sexy, mischievous smile.
“Want to make love to a basketball?” she invited.
Jacob threw back his head and laughed, all painful memories banished in an instant, minimal feelings in the face of his beloved’s wink and smile.
Legna materialized in her bedroom, the familiar pop of displaced air the only announcement of her arrival. Still, Noah would know she had returned. Being her brother aside, Noah was always sensitive to the proximity of all sources of energy. Legna moved to her bed, sitting down slowly as she exhaled a deep, cleansing breath. There was comfort in the protection of her brother’s house, although, at times, she did find herself agreeing with Bella’s desire to have a little solace, a few precious moments of privacy.
She knew it was strange for her to feel this way. She was a Demon. Demons thought privacy was an outdated human concept. What use were secrets amongst creatures who, no matter what element their abilities were drawn from, always had some sort of innate sensory perception that almost immediately told them the nature of an encountered situation? Noah, for instance, could have the manor packed with guests on special occasions, a hundred or more, and he would be aware of every single energy signature, where it was, and what it was doing. Legna’s sense of emotion was equally vast. She would know, even without purposely seeking it out, who was arguing, who was laughing, who was making love, and who was as drunk as the proverbial skunk. They had all lived long, seen it all, done things far more exposed to criticism or embarrassment. What difference did walls or knocking make? A philosophy Gideon clearly lived by. The part he forgot was the common respect of choosing his moments to suddenly cross certain boundaries.
Still, to be alone in her thoughts, in her actions. The idea had a certain appeal to it. Why it appealed to Legna at this particular time of her life, she did not know. It just did. It was a false ideal, she knew. Nightwalkers abounded throughout the world and the human concept of privacy was an illusion of ignorance being bliss.
She was restless, and she knew it was only a matter of time before others besides her intuitive sister and brother began to pick up on it even more than they already had. Traditionally, when Demons were perceived as dramatically restless or unhappy, they were guided into a group of mentors and bombarded with attentiveness and counseling. It was a common belief that Demons without a sure awareness of themselves and their goals could be led astray. They were too powerful a species to be allowed to give in to emotional whims and be left open to potentially negative influences. Demons felt that guiding one another was one of the most primary purposes of their lives.
Becoming Corrine’s guide in meditation, for example. Young and confused, recovering from the terrible starvation sickness that had almost killed her as it had Mary’s mate, who could allow such a lost one to go without guidance and support? It would be barbaric. Siddah were another example. Being the Demon version of what humans called a godparent was the duty of every Demon. All adults and Elders fostered the children of their loved ones, giving them the firmer hand of guidance that sometimes parents had difficulty doing themselves. Legna was of course Siddah to two of her sister’s children. However, beyond that as-yet-unrealized role, she was also one of many Mind and Body Demons who became mentors to the dissatisfied souls of Demons who had lost their internal compasses.
Had she, too, fallen into this disturbing category? Or was she only just beginning a journey toward that disembodied state of being? Oddly enough, the nature of her feelings led her to suspect that all the attention and constant companionship that would follow any sort of confession of restlessness would be exactly the opposite of what she wanted.
She had felt this way ever since the Summoning. It had come on her gradually at first, almost unnoticed. Then she had begun to display short bursts of temper, something she had almost never done before. It had been excusable the first and second time it had happened, considering what she had gone through, but what about the third time? The fourth? It was so out of her character that it was a wonder she wasn’t already in the midst of a mentored intervention. Then again, she had gone out of her way to hide the occurrences, smoothing them over in a way that probably only a skilled Mind Demon could get away with, using her mind and her ability to draw in those of any power with the enchantment of her soothing voice. But along with those soft manipulations of emotions and people’s perceptions of her temper came guilt and remorse and the feeling that she was misusing her abilities. This only added to her confusion. Demons were rarely apologetic for the things they did with their abilities. What was the purpose of a power if it went unused? And she agreed with that. Usage of ability deserved no excuses, unless it betrayed the boundaries of the law or certain moral and professional ethics.
She would have been lying if she told herself these alterations in her perspectives and personality did not frighten her. There wasn’t a night that went by that she didn’t speculate that perhaps Bella’s protection during the Summoning had not been as complete as they had all thought. Before Legna’s rescue, there had been only one Demon to ever be retrieved quickly from a necromancer’s pentagram. The result had been tragic, the pitiable creature rapidly going mad, attacking his brethren and behaving in manic and perverted ways. So the rescue had meant nothing, and Jacob had been forced to destroy the tormented soul after all.
What if that was slowly happening to her as well? Perhaps she was being foolish and arrogant to believe she would be the only Demon to ever escape a Summoning completely unscathed. If this was the case, did it make her a coward that she wasn’t doing the right thing and letting someone know her fears?
Legna gained her feet again, rubbing her hands together as if they were chilled, pacing the ornate woven carpet that covered the stone floor, her silken slippers barely making a whisper of sound and the sheer outer panels of her gown fluttering in the breeze her movements created.
Realizing what she was doing, she stopped short, glancing heavenward and seeking strength for a moment. She moved to the window, pulling the drapes aside so she could see the vast lawns and gardens that stretched out before the grand castle. Noah’s choice of a home was clearly a throwback to the time in which he had been born. Like him, she had always felt more comfortable in its environment than in the more modern choices that were available.
Dawn was starting its approach and she should be tired, preparing for bed, and getting ready to snuggle down in the warm sunlight-streamed room for the day. Legna glanced at the magnificent four-poster bed behind her, even going so far as moving to touch the heavy tapestry bed curtains she had made for it many decades past. The scenes depicted within reflected all those she had loved at the time, most of whom existed still. She touched the figure of a dark-haired, jovial male Demon who was prevalent in the artwork, his image repeated often.
Her Siddah, her mentor. The man who had become as much a father to her as her brother had become after their father’s death. She had never been at a loss for strong males in her life, and she had adored every one of them. They had taught her so much, molded her into who she was, striking the perfect balance between guidance and freedom, discipline and contentment.
And now, along with her father and her mother, Lucas was dead. She closed her eyes, shaking her head to try and ward off the last images she had been given of Lucas. Darling Lucas, trapped in a pentagram across from her, spouting her most precious secret, her power name, for all to hear and use against her. And, the ultimate betrayal, his poor body and soul twisted into those of a demoralized monster.
That was the night Legna had learned what it truly meant to hate another creature. She had never thought herself capable of it, but she had felt it like a white and black poison burning through her every cell, scorching beneath her skin until she was certain her pores would ooze with the vileness of it. It had struck her in the moment she’d finally gotten her hands on one of the four human magic-users responsible for the travesty that had forced the end of Lucas’s precious life. She had acted on her rage and, for the first time in all her years, Legna had learned what it meant to let loose her instinctual animal nature.
It was this nature within her that had wrapped her hands around the throat of the necromancer who had dared to be a party to caging Legna and her mentor. This living predator inside of Legna had refused to let go, encouraging the female Demon to plunge her mind into the psyche of the necromancer, visiting a relentless mental hell upon the offending creature until the reprehensible girl was dead from the horrors of her own twisted mind.
What had frightened Legna about the act was not the fact that she had discovered herself capable of taking a life, but that she had thrown her face and voice up into the night and enjoyed it so wildly. In that moment, it had seemed as though she had never known such delight, and it had taken hours until she had finally begun to come down from the rush of it. It had been days before the high had dissipated completely. To say that she had felt bereft afterward would have been an understatement. In fact, she wasn’t certain she had ever gotten over the resulting emptiness. Had she so enjoyed being a killer? Or was it the idea of revenge she had soared upon? As a Demon, she had never been led to believe that self-defense and even retribution were things to be feared, so long as the laws of her people were followed closely. But still, this aftermath had disturbed her greatly, and five months later it showed no signs of being resolved.
A sudden prickling of the hairs on the back of her neck brought Legna’s attention sharply from her soul-searching. Her head came up, her sensory abilities extending from her like a rippling blanket, seeking to identify the disturbance approaching her.
And it was an approach. She was certain of it.
No sooner had the thought crossed her mind then the air in the room displaced itself from the sudden occupation of Gideon’s imposing figure in the center of the floor. There was no scent of sulfur, as she usually left behind in these instances, but that only told her that the Mind Demon who had transported the medic to this location had been an Elder, stronger and more skilled than an adult like her.
The Ancient’s arrival at that particular moment had an extraordinarily disturbing effect. If there was anyone amongst her people who would be able to determine the meaning of the changes she was feeling within herself, Gideon would probably be it. And, of course, she would have preferred to burn in hell before asking such a private thing of him. Yet now he was here, as if bidden by her thoughts, standing in that always so self-assured manner he had, and looking elegant and spotless in the old-world style of clothing he favored more often than he did the modern attire in his wardrobe. Right then, he wore white from head to toe, relieved only by silver embroidery that perfectly picked up his natural coloring. He wore breeches of a soft cottonlike material that fit him like a second skin and extended into leather boots of the softest tan color possible before it could be called beige. They reached up to just below his knee, so that he looked like he was going riding. As was his habit, he wore a silken shirt with long, piratical sleeves that rippled from his extremely broad shoulders to cuffs of soft lace, the delicate material resting along the backs of powerful hands, his long fingers finished elegantly in spotlessly manicured fingernails. He wore a single ring, a silver loop on his thumb shaped into the medics’ signet.
Legna looked away from him before she found herself doing an overly accurate mental description of the way the laces of the shirt were neglected beneath his throat, allowing the material to gape haphazardly over his collarbone. Suffice it to say, Gideon wore the habits of his lifetime like an unapologetic statement, and he wore them very well. He blended the male fashions of the millennium in a way that was nothing less than a perfect reflection of who he was and how he had lived. This only served to beautify his distinctive and powerful presence with his incidental confidence.
“Gideon,” she said evenly, inclining her head in sparse respect. “What brings you to my chambers so close to dawn?”
The riveting male before her remained silent, his silver eyes flicking over her slowly. Her heart nearly stopped with her sudden fear, and immediately she threw up every mental and physical barrier she could to prevent an unwelcome scan and analysis of her health.