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|Gideon(Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“Legna,” he protested, his face flushing. “That is not true.”
“Which part?” she countered, raising a single brow.
“I… ” He hesitated, looking away from her penetrating gaze, realizing that she saw so much more than he had ever given her credit for. “Well, for one, the rafters of my ‘perfectly kept home’ are full of cobwebs,” he said sheepishly.
Legna suddenly, gratefully, found herself laughing. It was a short burst of amusement that instantly defused the painful tension between them.
“As if it would kill you to spare a thought to giving them a two-second toasting and getting rid of them yourself?”
Noah smiled in spite of himself, shaking his head solemnly. He sighed a long breath of unwinding tension. “Listen, I cannot tell you I am happy for you when I am not. I cannot pretend to encourage you to leave me when it is going to break my heart. I guess what I am saying is… ”
“You need time,” she finished for him. “A phrase I have been using a lot myself recently. I understand how you feel, Noah. I would appreciate it if you took the time to understand how I am feeling in return, okay?”
The Demon King nodded silently. He then reached out to his sister, giving her hand a warm squeeze for a minute that reassured her of the things he couldn’t say at that moment.
“I will let you get changed,” he said, moving to the door of her room, opening it before hesitating a moment. “Are you going… out?”
“Do me a favor? Make time to have dinner with me tomorrow?” He jiggled the knob on the door as if inspecting its integrity. “I will be able to tolerate this better if you take the time to reassure me and tell me that you are doing all right.”
“Only if you swear to me Hannah and the children will be miles away,” she bargained.
“As I see it,” he countered, a small smile twitching across his lips, “the way your abilities are developing, you could see to that yourself.”
Noah left, shutting the door gently behind him. As soon as he was gone, Legna moved quickly to her bed and let herself fall down onto it with a huge sound of relief.
Well done, Nelissuna. Very well done.
Thank you. Gideon?
Please tell me we will not devastate my family because of this.
It will work itself out. Just keep that in mind. I am waiting for you, sweet. And by the way, I know you want to stop to see Isabella. That is strictly against my standing orders as her doctor.
You know, this is going to get on my nerves very quickly. Remember how you said we needed to convince Noah that you will make me happy?
Well, it would make me very happy if you would vacate my head for a little while.
As you know, that is pretty much impossible.
As you wish. For now…
She felt him fade from the forefront of her thoughts.
Legna appeared in the third-floor parlor, in the suite of rooms she knew housed her friends, with her newly habitual pop to announce her arrival. She turned as the male sitting behind her put aside his book and rose to his feet.
“Legna, it is good to see you up and around,” Jacob greeted her.
“Thank you. It feels good. I wanted to find out how Bella is.”
Jacob moved to the bar across the way and retrieved two glasses and a decanter of a creamy, yellowish milk.
“She is sleeping a lot. I suppose that is to be expected.” He turned and moments later was handing her a glass full of the rich beverage. “I did not get a chance to thank you. You have my undying gratitude, Legna. If ever you need anything, just ask.”
“Thank you,” she said again, taking a delicate sniff of the contents of her glass. “Hmm, very nice. Giraffe?”
“Very good,” the Enforcer complimented. “Many confuse it with zebra.”
“A rather spirited choice first thing in the evening,” she remarked. “Are you all right, Jacob?”
“I will be, once this crisis has completely passed.” He swirled the milk around in the glass for a long minute. “I have this image burned into my head of Bella lying in her own blood… and I cannot… ”
Jacob broke off, clearing his throat and looking up at the ceiling as he drew a deep, unsteady breath.
“It will pass with time,” Legna said soothingly, instantly adopting the calming, centering pitch she used to ease others. “Just remind yourself that she is safe and will be well again soon.”
“I know. But I have to admit, I am having a hard time leaving this house even with all of the guards posted outside, even with Noah a shout away. I did not feel that she was in danger until it was almost too late. I just do not understand it. She’s here in my head 24/7. How could I not even notice when she was being brutally attacked? When she dropped from consciousness and was suddenly no longer there?”
“Jacob, you are being too hard on yourself.”
“I should have known when she said she was not feeling well that it was a premonition of some kind. Even with this pregnancy, Isabella is not a nervous person by nature. She always takes so much in stride, so easily. She has premonitions all the time now, and I should have known that they are commonly the cause of such strong agitation as she was experiencing when I left her. I do not know why I did not think of it. And I do not know why she did not understand it herself.”
“Premonition is the most obtuse ability in the world. You know that, Jacob. She has only lived with the ability for five months. She has no idea how to always distinguish them or how to interpret them. And for that matter, what makes you think you should be able to do so any better than she does? You are a tracker and a hunter, not a soothsayer.”
Jacob resumed his seat on the couch, sighing deeply and rubbing at the bridge of his nose. He looked exhausted and Legna could feel the knots of emotion he had tied himself into. She took a seat beside him, reaching to lay a comforting hand on his knee.
“You are not responsible for this, Jacob. And if I know Bella, she will be quite colorfully upset if she catches you blaming yourself. How do you expect her to heal and remain calm and peaceful if her mate is in turmoil? She may be sleeping, but she feels you. I know that for a fact.”
Jacob looked at his monarch’s pretty sister, his keen eyes missing nothing as he scanned her from head to toe. He reached out to touch her gently beneath both of her altered eyes.
“Now I understand,” he said suddenly. “You are the reason why I keep feeling Gideon even when he is not around.”
Legna drew her bottom lip between her teeth and nodded in affirmation.
“You carry his scent… but not yet completely.” Jacob tilted his head to study her more closely. “It has been a very long time since I have seen two Demons Imprint on each other. It is a remarkable gift, Legna. You are very lucky.”
“You know what,” Legna laughed softly, “you are the first person to have anything positive to say about this. And that includes Gideon and myself.”
“I take it Noah had the equivalent of a meltdown?”
“Apropos analogy for a Fire Demon, would you not agree?”
“Noah is remarkably even-tempered for a Demon of his ilk. The only one who really gets him hot under the collar regularly is that prolific sister of yours.”
“I know,” Legna chuckled. “I suppose I ought to count my blessings. I can count on one hand how many times I have truly ticked Noah off.”
“That is because you are the baby sister, and for all of your life you could do no wrong in his eyes. I hate to say it, Legna, but you are spoiled rotten.”
“Is that so? I should like to see you try being the household diplomat for two Fire Demons for nearly three centuries and then tell me how easy I have had it,” she challenged.
“Thanks. I will pass on that honor.”
They toasted each other, trading chuckles.
Legna materialized in Gideon’s parlor about an hour later. He was sitting in the shadows behind her and she turned to him with curiosity.
When he did not respond, she stepped closer to him. That was when she realized that, in essence, he was not truly there. His corporeal form was sitting in a large chair, but his astral self was somewhere unseen. It was the strangest feeling, she noted, that he was physically close, spiritually distant, and also being kept in a quiet corner of her brain at the same time. He was utterly unaware of her intrusion near his body, his focus completely dedicated elsewhere. She took advantage of the moment to look him over once more.
She moved to stand before him and then began to circle the chair, studying him from all profiles. She did not know why she always felt this compulsion to survey him like this, but it did not keep her from doing it. After one revolution, she stopped in front of him again. He was alone, wherever he was. It almost seemed as though he was out on some sort of solitary, spiritual walk. Mind Demons were experts in meditation, so she sensed this with her experience and power as well as her connection with him. She remained quiet in his mind, though, as she knelt between his feet, settling her hands on his thighs. She moved her palms up the corded length of the long muscles and then traversed back again with the edges of her fingernails.
The stimulation made Gideon stir. She was purposely breaking the concentration he had fixed on his projection, perhaps just to see if she could. He was incredibly focused, and she knew that, so she pulled out all the stops and leaned forward between his knees until she could touch her mouth to his.
The kiss brought him back with a jolt.
Gideon immediately reached for her, his hands gently cradling her head. Legna felt his thighs tense against her sides as he took over the kiss and turned it into a desperate, nearly brutal thing. His mouth punished hers, and she accepted it willingly, payment for her disruptive teasing. His fingers tunneled through her heavy hair, gripping her with a pure hunger for the feel of having her within his grasp. He broke away from her bruised mouth, pressing his forehead to hers as they both tried to catch their breath.
“Mine,” he said roughly. He wanted to deny the possessiveness, knowing how ridiculous it was, but he simply could not do it. The need to stake his claim on her was rubbed harshly raw, more and more every time he let her slip away without making her his. “You are mine, Magdelegna, and it is so hard to let you go as you wish me to, even for those short spans of time.”
“I know,” she whispered, pressing her soft lips to his mouth once more. She kissed him with all of her heart, and he clearly felt the sincerity. It served to soothe him greatly, allowing him to loosen his hold on her enough to bring his hands forward over her ears, his thumbs stroking her flushed cheeks gently. “It is so hard,” she complained softly. “How do you remain an individual when you are also part of so powerfully driven a pair?”
“Irrational or justified, it is what it is.” Gideon was realizing the logic of that for himself even as he spoke the words. “Perhaps, in time, it will be less acute. I have no desire to rob you of your individuality, nor do I wish to lose my own. It is difficult for me as well… I have been so solitary throughout my lifetime, and now, to be suddenly given such riveting company… I fear I cannot do you the justice you deserve. And for you it will be worse; with the influx of power you are beginning to experience it will be taxing, to say the least.”
“I know.” Legna reached up and splayed her palms over the dark silk covering his chest. “I suppose at some point, if I start to go crazy, you are going to have to knock me out or tie me up or something.”
“Hmm. The latter has possibilities,” he mused with a growing smile that erased the tension in his face.
Legna laughed, giving him a shove.
“Gideon, you are nothing but an ancient pervert,” she teased him.
“And this is an issue because… ?”
“You are horrible!” She pushed away from him, gaining her feet.
He reached to take her hand, pulling her closer once more and continuing to do so until she had nowhere else to go but his lap. She took the seat, her voluminous skirts spreading over them both.
“I will forgive you, this time,” she conceded.
“Thank you,” he said with honest graciousness. “Now, my beauty, tell me what you would like to do to get to know me better. I find myself looking forward to your discoveries.”
“Well, I did not think of anything specific. I imagined time would fill itself.”
“That is dangerously liberal, sweet. If you leave it up to the natural course of things, I can tell you exactly what we will end up doing.”
Legna giggled, blushing because she realized he was right. Even just sitting in his lap and talking as she was, she could feel the mutual awareness that sparked between them, constantly simmering and waiting for just a little more heat to bring them up to the boiling point.
“Very well, I am open to suggestions,” she invited.
“Again, too liberal,” he teased, his eyes twinkling with mischievous starlight.
“You are incorrigible. I never realized you were a sex fiend, Gideon.”
“I am now,” he amended, drawing a finger down the slope of her nose. “Have I mentioned that it has been quite some time since I have found myself attracted to a female?”
“If it is anything under a thousand years, I do not want to hear about it,” she warned.
“Did I mention I was a virgin?” he edited himself innocently.
“That is just wonderful, darling,” she cooed with satisfaction, giving him a approving pat on the cheek.
Gideon threw back his head and laughed. She delighted him to no end and he could not remember ever feeling so light-hearted. It seemed sometimes as though he had been born too serious for his own good, and that he had been straitjacketed by it for centuries. It was a balm to his soul to be able to banter with his beautiful intended.