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|Gideon(Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“I never suspected you had a sense of humor,” she mused aloud, studying his face as if he were a fascinating puzzle to be figured out. “See? Hardly ten minutes into the night and I am already learning fabulous things about you.”
“Imagine what will happen in an hour,” he said.
“That sounded suspiciously liberal to me,” she rejoined slyly, reaching to wind her arms around his neck. “Did I mention that you look like you just stepped off a pirate ship? This outfit is very… roguish.”
“‘Roguish’ is a word from the English language,” she lectured. “It means… to be like a rogue. In your case, to be in the style of a rogue. Roguish.”
“I know what it means, Neliss. I do not believe I have ever heard myself described in such a way before. I shall have to take your word on that.” He reached up to push back some of the heavy fall of her hair. “You always wear dresses like this, and almost never bind your hair. Do not take this as a complaint, but I was wondering why that is.”
“I like dresses. I never quite took to the idea of skirts above the ankle. I guess I am an old-fashioned eighteenth-century girl.”
“I see. And just when, exactly, should I begin to look for those pigs that will be flying by?”
“You know, you sit there and accuse me of having a smart mouth?”
“Well, you were wondering what part of you was going to show up in me,” he rejoined.
“Oh. Ha ha. Your stellar wit has charmed me straight to my toes,” was her dry reply.
“In any event,” he continued, ignoring her sarcasm, “your style suits you quite well. It suits me as well.”
Gideon reached out with a single finger to trace the cream silk of her neckline slowly. The dress was a heavy sheath from shoulders to upper thighs, after which it flared out in a skirt and train of enormous folds of glimmering, iridescent material. The neckline, however, was the antithesis of the otherwise demure style of the gown, cut deep enough to allow his light touch to skim over the very tops of her breasts, taking her breath from her in an instantaneous rush.
“I cannot explain to you, Legna, how much you affect me,” he said, his voice filled with the fascination reflected in his eyes as they devoured her beautiful flesh, from her neckline to the obvious thrust of dark nipples beneath the light fabric. He leaned forward slightly, bowing his head until his mouth brushed the line of her breastbone. The erotic kiss played havoc with her equilibrium and she clutched his shoulders for an anchor. His lips drew hotly over her silken skin, upward in a line that brought him to her extraordinary throat. She was shuddering with wave after wave of stimulating chills of pleasure as he nuzzled her throat and neck, paying great attention to the smallest touch and the effect it had on her. When he pulled back, she made a petulant sound of protest, making him chuckle softly. “Be careful what you purr for, little sweet. You are too tempting a delicacy for me to resist for very long.”
“So I see,” she said softly, her warm eyes meeting her mate’s, barely a nose length away. “What you do to me seems so simple and harmless, if watched from an outside perspective, but when you are inside… it feels like fire and magic.”
“Mmm, I promise, Neliss, this is only the beginning of the fire and magic you will feel from your… inside perspective.”
Legna’s face felt as though it had suddenly caught on fire as she blushed over his purposeful twist of her words. Hearing him say such things turned her completely inside out, setting her imagination on curious tangents that were remarkably vivid and blatantly lacking in decorum. With him sharing her mind, she was positive he was aware of every last one of them. It made her worry what he might think of her, and she wished she could make those parts of herself less obvious to his exploration through her psyche.
“Legna, your imagination delights me. I would be hard put to try and ignore it,” he explained in response to her private rumination. “Never be ashamed of anything about yourself, Neliss. Never feel you must apologize for your experiences or curiosities. You lived a full and varied life before me, as I did before you. Neither will I be like Jacob, frantic every time a male enters your sphere. We are for each other. This cannot change, and I have faith in that, as well as trust in you.” He soothed her bristling nerves by rising to his feet, setting her on her toes in front of him. He held her close, his hands circling her shoulders like a cloak, cradling her against the incredibly warm length of his body. “In your thoughts I find enough adventure and stimulating inquisitiveness to last us another millennium, and I will relish every experience you wish to explore.”
“Even though you have probably done everything twice already?” she countered.
“I have done nothing with you. Nothing but these two days past, in truth.” He reached to run smooth knuckles down the length of her throat. “There is no experience in my life comparable to the way your kiss makes me feel. Even this simple touch against the universe’s softest skin is new and breathtaking. You know these are not just pretty words, Legna. You can feel it as I feel it. You can enter my perspective and know I speak the truth. Do not shy from my age and wisdom. It is all for naught when it comes to experiencing you.”
Truth. The truth was, he never lied. Everyone knew that, and now she knew it as fact as well as faith. The only time he was capable of deception was when he was deceiving himself about the emotions and feelings he guarded so heavily. All of what he was saying now was an absolute truth, though. He had lived the centuries since the wars in seriousness and reservation, never once risking himself to the inevitability of loss, never allowing emotion to cloud his judgment or actions.
Until now. Now he suddenly decided to invest himself without reservation in her. Or was he really? He seemed so accepting, but was he truly accepting even the deepest nature of what the Imprinting would mean to them both? For that matter, was she?
“I think I am ready to choose an activity for us,” she told him, once again forced to clear the persistent catch in her voice that appeared whenever his tenderness did.
He did not respond. He was too absorbed in the touch he was running over her skin. It had expanded to her face, shoulders, and, once more, the length of her exposed breastbone. He clearly could not resist these temptations. It was as if he was so lost in the experience that he did not even realize he had escaped into the sensual tangent.
It was safe to say, standing as close to him as she was, that she was very aware of the rise in his aroused sensuality. Even if his hand had not been burning across her skin, the unapologetic hardness of his body pressing with erotic familiarity against hers would have told her how very much lost in his need for her he was. Gideon had to be the most sexual creature she had ever encountered. And yet, only a few short days ago, if she had been asked her opinion on that particular subject, she would have made suppositions that were quite the opposite. Was he telling her the truth when he said it was because of her?
“I never lie, my beauty,” he murmured, reminding her of her own understandings about that. His lips against her hair, just beneath the back of her ear, were warm and smiling even as he kissed the thrillingly sensitive spot. “And even if I were just a dirty old man, Neliss,” he whispered like the warmth of sunshine in her ear, “it would never account for the tenderness you see in me even now.” He tightened his hold on her, drawing her so close that he burned hotly against her. “And you would have been in my bed, beneath the press of my body, open and inviting me in by now.”
The raw observation and the aggressive heat of his body made her gasp, a mix between shocked sensibilities and excited delight. Legna looked up into his famished eyes, licking her lips with a hunger all her own.
“If we do not find something to do, we will end up in bed together,” she reminded him with her heart pounding so obviously against his chest.
“Yes. Perhaps without the intention of rousing until Jacob and Bella’s Beltane wedding,” he mused, the pleasure of the speculation quite evident in his expression.
It was an attractive thought to Legna as well, especially as his mouth dipped beneath her hair to continue to tease the sensitive skin of her neck. But just the same, she took matters into her own hand, so to speak, and teleported out of his grasp, reappearing all the way on the other side of the room. Finding his arms so abruptly vacated, Gideon gave her an eloquent look. She was going to pay for her little trick one day, and his eyes promised it to her as thoroughly as a worded threat.
At the moment, however, she had to direct their energies elsewhere if she was ever going to have enough time to think straight about this situation. He was far too threatening an allure for them to chance too much flirtation. He was an alpha male, coded by genetics, experience, and a knowledge of the ages that told him how to get his way whenever he wanted it, that he deserved to get his way because of his superiority of health, strength, and intellect. He was to be the male of their particular pack who was deferred to as the most powerful, the most beautiful, and the one whose wishes were paramount to all others.
And she was to be his mate.
The alpha female, the huntress, the mistress and mother, the disciplinarian and the comfort of nurturing and stability. Legna realized that it suited her all too well. Even the huntress. Though only newly introduced to this part of herself, she knew it was well matched within her, that she had taken too much pleasure in her brief appearances to try and deny it now. That did not mean it did not frighten her to learn this about herself. She was a diplomat, the peacemaker and peacekeeper in both her family and in her brother’s court. It was so alien to her nature of over two centuries to embrace violence and aggression. But this was what would be, an inevitability. As Gideon had said, she had made her choice. The problem was reconciling herself to it, finding joy in it. Could she ever be happy with such an alteration in herself? Could she be what he needed? Even now she could not give him what he required from her. She knew he restrained himself with pain, knew it fed the canker of loneliness he had lived with for so long, to be kept from the haven she could supply for him.
It was only his concern for her that kept him from taking what in essence was very much his, just as he was very much hers for the taking. But just as he was the gift, she could not yet comprehend how she could be a worthy recipient. There was then the deeply entrenched fear of him that had been instilled in her for so many years of her life. She had been molded to feel this, the respect of his unknown and immeasurable power, the wonder and responsibility of age and wisdom that would come to any who sought for it as Gideon had. How was she ever going to circumvent that fear? How would she even feel herself an equal, as Noah had almost always made her feel, in his house?
“With the help of your chosen mate,” Gideon answered from across the room. “Legna, allow me to show you everything you fear as closely as I am able, as close as you are willing to come. Familiarity will help to wash it clean, will allow you to replace it with all you will need to walk beside me for our life. I can introduce you to your growing power, and I can also assure you that beneath all of mine I am no different than Noah or any other male Demon among us. I can also show you the advantages and the enjoyments that come from embracing not only the more instinctual side of yourself, but the same side within me.”
“I do not doubt that, Gideon. That is just the problem. I do not know if I want to embrace it.”
“It is fear of the unknown that holds you in conflict. You are driven by impulse and by nature in these moments and it frightens you, and I can understand that. You are far more comfortable with the idea that you are an intelligent being of high moral standards and civilization. This is how you have become the genteel and valuable creature that you are in your brother’s realm. But in all things there must be balance. You cannot control these impulses when they happen, because you need savagery just as much as you need sensitivity. It is time for you to integrate the huntress with the diplomat, Legna. You do not have faith that your mind will eventually learn to regulate itself, choosing appropriately in the situations of the future. You persist in thinking that to explore the baser side of your nature would mean a total loss of control. This is the heart of your fear.
“You have not changed in essentials, Legna, and I cannot conceive that you ever will. The predator with intellect and morals will choose her battles very carefully. No true hunter hunts in excess of its needs. This is what makes the difference between a sophisticated assassin and a ruthless killer. You will bring your weapons of conscience and tolerance with you. The cold killer leaves them behind. You have perfected the cultivation of your morals and they will not abandon you. Nothing of any import will be lost in the process of nurturing the huntress. You will lose nothing, and gain so much more.”
“You sound so certain,” she said wearily, turning to look out of the window she stood near. “But lemmings are chock full of animal instinct, and look what happens to them.”
“You are forgetting that you are an intellectual being, quite capable of realizing it is a pretty bad idea to run off a cliff,” he scolded gently, slowly approaching her from behind.
She was aware of his advance, but then again, he did not hide it in any way.
“If what you say is true, then why do I feel as though I cannot stop this urge to run off a cliff and straight into your bed? It burns and beats at my every last cell, springing into this high-strung awareness every time you come near me as you are doing now. With each step you take, the fire grows, taunting me, urging me to throw morals and caution out the window and just”—she turned to face him, her eyes burning with intensity, her breath coming quickly—“just devour moment after moment with you.”