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|Gideon(Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“I would not scan you without your permission, Magdelegna. Body Demons who become healers have codes of ethics the same as any others.”
“Funny,” she remarked, “I would have thought you to believe yourself above such a trivial matter as permission.”
His mercury gaze narrowed slightly, making Legna wish that she had the courage to dare a piratical scan of her own. She was quite talented at masking her travels through the emotions and psyches of others, but Gideon was like no other. She was barely a fledgling to one such as he.
Gideon had noted her more recent acerbic tendencies aloud once before, irritating the young female even more than usual, so he resisted the urge in that moment to scold her again and instead let her attitude pass.
“I have come to check on your well-being, Magdelegna. I am concerned.”
Legna cocked a brow, twisting her lips into a cold, mocking little smile, hiding the sudden, anxious beating of her heart.
“And what would give you the impression that you need be concerned for me?” she asked haughtily.
Gideon once more took his time before responding, giving her one more of those implacable perusals in the interim. Legna exhaled with annoyance, crossing her arms beneath her breasts and coming just shy of tapping her foot in irritation.
“You are not at peace, young one,” Gideon explained softly, the deep timbre of his voice resonating through her, once again giving her the feeling that she was but fragile crystal, awaiting the moment when he would strike the note of discord that would shatter her. Legna’s breathing altered, quickening in spite of her effort to maintain an even keel. She did not want to give him the satisfaction of being right.
“You presume too much, Gideon. I have no need for your concern, nor have I ever solicited it. Now, if you do not mind, I should like to go to bed.”
“For what purpose?”
Legna laughed, short and harsh. “To sleep, why else?”
“You have not slept for many days together, Legna. Why do you assume you might have success today?”
Legna turned around sharply, driving her gaze and attention out the window, trying to use the sprawling lawn as a slate with which to fill her mind. Mind Demon he was not, but she knew he was capable of seeing far enough into her emotional state by just monitoring her physiological reactions to his observations. Legna bit her lip hard, furious that she should feel like the child he always referred to her as in their conversations. Young one, indeed. How would he like it if she referred to him as a decrepit old buzzard?
The thought gave her a small, petty satisfaction. It did not matter that Gideon looked as vital and vibrant as any Demon male from thirty years to a thousand would look. Nor did it matter that his stunning coloring gave him a unique attractiveness and aura of power that no one else could equal. All that mattered was that he would never view her as an equal, and therefore, in her perspective, she had no responsibility to do so for him.
Gideon watched the young woman across from him closely, trying to make sense of the physiological changes that flashed through her rapidly, each as puzzling as the one before it. What was it about her, he wondered, that always kept him off his mark? She never reacted the way he logically expected her to, yet he knew her to be extraordinarily intelligent. She always treated him with a barely repressed contempt, though she never had a harsh word for anyone else. He had almost gotten used to that since their original falling-out, but this was different, far more complex than hard feelings. Gideon had not encountered a puzzle in a great many centuries, and perhaps that was why he was continually fascinated by her in spite of her marked disdain.
“It is not unusual,” she said at last, “to have periods of insomnia in one’s life. Surely that is not what has you rushing into my boudoir, oozing your high-handed version of concern.”
“Magdelegna, I am continually puzzled by your insistence in treating me with hostility. Did Lucas teach you nothing about respecting your elders?”
Legna whirled around suddenly, outrage flaring from her so violently that Gideon felt the eddy of it push at him through the still air.
“Do not ever mention Lucas in such a disrespectful manner ever again! Do you understand me, Gideon? I will not tolerate it!” She moved to stand toe to toe with the medic, her emotions practically beating him back in their intensity. “You say respect my elders, but what you mean is respecting my betters, is that not right? Are you so full of your own arrogance that you need me to bow and kowtow to you like some throwback fledgling? Or perhaps we should reinstate the role of concubines in our society. Then you may have the pleasure of claiming me and forcing me to fall to my knees, bowing low in respect of your masculine eminence!”
Gideon watched as she did just that, her gown billowing around her as she gracefully kneeled before him, so close to him that her knees touched the tips of his boots. She swept her hands to her sides, bowing her head until her forehead brushed the leather, her hair spilling like reams of heavy silk around his ankles.
The Ancient found himself unusually speechless, the strangest sensation creeping through him as he looked down at the exposed nape of her neck, the elegant line of her back. Unable to curb the impulse, Gideon lowered himself into a crouch, reaching beneath the cloak of coffee-colored hair to touch her flushed cheek. The heat of her anger radiated against his touch and he recognized it long before she turned her face up to him.
“Does this satisfy you, my lord Gideon?” she whispered fiercely, her eyes flashing like flinted steel and hard jade.
Gideon found himself searching her face intently, his eyes roaming over the high, aristocratic curves of her cheekbones, the amazingly full sculpture of her lips, the wide, accusing eyes that lay behind extraordinarily thick lashes. He cupped her chin between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand, his fingertips fanning softly over her angrily flushed cheek.
“You do enjoy mocking me,” he murmured softly to her, the breath of his words close enough to skim across her face.
“No more than you seem to enjoy condescending to me,” she replied, her clipped words coming out on quick, heated breaths.
Gideon absorbed this latest venom with a blink of lengthy black lashes. They kept their gazes locked, each seemingly waiting for the other to look away.
“You have never forgiven me,” he said suddenly, softly.
“Forgiven you?” She laughed bitterly. “Gideon, you are not important enough to earn my forgiveness.”
“Is your ego so fragile, Legna, that a small slight to it is irreparable?”
“Stop talking to me as if I were a temperamental child!” Legna hissed, moving to jerk her head back but finding his grip quite secure. “There was nothing slight about the way you treated me. I will never forget it, and I most certainly will never forgive it!”
Gideon reached out, taking her by both of her shoulders, hauling her up with him as he regained his height. He unintentionally pulled her off balance, forcing her to sway into his body slightly in order to prevent herself from teetering further off center. Her soft curves skimmed against the harder planes of his torso for all of a second. The Ancient male felt a sensation shimmer through him that he couldn’t immediately define, his silvery brows knitting with his momentary confusion. The situation was too volatile to waste time on a cursory sensation, however, so he put it aside as he put Legna at arm’s length.
“Legna, I do not need to explain to you the difficulties we all experience during the Hallowed moons. Especially the Samhain moon. I never meant to cause you pain. I have always been disturbed by my lack of control that night.”
“Oh, I am sure you have,” Legna hissed, fighting back the embarrassing sting of tears that threatened to overwhelm her. “How awful it must have been for you to realize you had defiled your wondrous ancientness with the kiss of an infant.”
Legna pulled herself out of his hold, turning her back on him violently as the back of her hand tried to press back the sound of pain brewing behind her trembling lips. She lost her battle with her tears, shamed to feel them skid down her flushed cheeks.
They had barely spoken of that night—a mere nine years back—mostly because Legna could hardly stay in the same room with Gideon for more than five minutes at a time. But much of their gap in communication was because Gideon had been in a self-imposed exile for the past eight years, driven there by his shame over having stalked a human female and being forced to face the humiliating justice of the Enforcer as a result. The incident with the human female had taken place the very next Samhain moon after the one that had caused the rift between Legna and Gideon. To Legna it had only served to add insult to injury, forcing a shameful pain upon her that magnified that of the original encounter.
And she remembered that night, that moon, the entire incident as keenly as if it had happened five minutes ago.
She had been restless that particular full moon, much in the way she had been feeling only recently. But as expected, on that Hallowed night it was intensified a thousandfold. She had been pacing the gardens, chilled by the clouds that drifted over the bright moon, waiting impatiently for Noah to emerge from Council. She had been hoping he would somehow be able to distract her, keep her from going stir-crazy. But as she had wandered the distant mazes of sculpted bushes, it was Gideon she had stumbled across. She had been surprised, not having sensed him at all. What was more, Council was in session and he was one of the Triumvirate, one of the three most powerful voices at the Council table.
He had stood there, his face turned up to the moon, as if he were a wolf ready to bay in worship of it. His powerful body was locked rigidly in place, every muscle flexed, tensed to react to whatever came across his path. Legna’s senses had suddenly flared to life, no longer unaware of his presence, and she was overwhelmed with the emotions abruptly radiating off the usually serene Ancient. He was holding a rash of wild impulses barely in check, his need crashing over her like a violent tide, making her gasp aloud in shock from the force of it.
Gideon had turned then, the speed of the movement barely perceptible to her vision. She suddenly, breathlessly, found herself being dwarfed by his presence, his power, and his remarkably vital body. She had no hope of erecting her usual safeguards against such a potent influence. It was far too late in any event. His raw emotions had long since taken over hers. She became a mirror for them, making them hers in a way she hadn’t even thought herself capable of.
He spoke her name with a low, predatory sound to his voice. She even heard the guttural growl of contemplation he loosed beneath his breath. It called to Legna’s primitive restlessness of that night. She had narrowed her eyes, taking his measure very slowly, unaware of how inviting and sensual an act it was.
Gideon easily saw the rush of her blood as her pulse quickened. He saw her skin flush with awareness in her erogenous zones as she devoured his imposing frame with fearlessness and blatant curiosity. She had stepped closer to him, a soft undulation of her long, feminine body, making him realize that she was only about six inches shorter than he was. It placed her proportionately close to scale against him, and he knew instantly how well she would fit his body if only he closed the small gap that remained between them. Her scent had carried on the still night air, overwhelming the crisp autumn odors all around them with her special perfume of sweet spices and a nectar of ghosting feminine musk from her obviously provoked body.
Gideon had been enthralled by the uniqueness of that scent, his head lowering slightly as he drew a deep breath to bring the bouquet of her beauty deep into his lungs. In the blink of an eye, his hand shot out and seized her by the nape of her neck, jerking her forward toward him so hard that she felt their breastbones collide. She was tall, but Gideon had to lower his head to close the distance between their faces just the same. He held her still, not allowing her to turn her head in any direction he did not wish it to turn. He bent his silvered head until his nose brushed the curve of her swanlike neck.
Legna felt the rush of his breath against that sensitive portion of her skin, unable to resist the shiver that shuddered through her and the impulsive purr that vibrated over her vocal cords. Her senses were bludgeoned with the fierce sharpening of arousal that rocked through the powerful male who held her so possessively. It was safe to say that, as an empath, she had experienced much of this emotion over her centuries from others as they had indulged in passions of the flesh, but she had never felt anything like this in all of her life. She had never even conceived of such overwhelming intensity.
He had wrapped her hair up in his fist, bringing the silky mass to his lips and rubbing it against them slowly, all the while boring into her soul with the hot ice stare of his eyes.
“Magdelegna,” Gideon said again, her name a command on his tongue.
She felt him move aggressively against her, making her very aware of his physical response to her closeness. She felt liquid heat slither throughout her entire body just from the understanding of her effect on him, the heated sap coiling into intriguing puddles of arousal in equally intriguing places.
“I could make you feel in ways no female has ever dreamed of feeling,” he had promised her, his smooth voice so perfect and so hypnotic with its low, beckoning pitch, creating a whirlpool of desire deep in her soul as his free hand slid to the curve of her waist, moving boldly to the arch of her lower back. It was as if they already knew each other with perfect intimacy, from thought to movement, from feel to touch, from male to female.
Legna’s breath came quicker as he aggressively appraised her, his gaze like melting wax, scalding her everywhere it touched her. His fingers came forward over her rib cage, fanning out until each had found a fit in the spaces between the flexible, curved ribs. His thumb slipped under the weight of her breast, slyly stroking the sensitive flesh in a way that shimmered right through her. She gasped softly, her head falling back until her throat was fully exposed to him. He released her hair immediately, his hand covering the alluring expanse she’d provided, his fingers greedily absorbing the vibrations of the low sounds of invitation she made. Then his fingers were moving aside and his lips touched her in their place. His breath was a potent heat against her skin, making her shiver as her flesh exploded in goose bumps all the way from her neck to her heels. His mouth was masculine magic, his lips stroking her in prelude to the damp questing of his tongue.