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|Gideon(Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
He drew back, gently caressing her down the side of her face as his eyes continued to shimmer with bright amusement.
“You will never bore me, sweet,” he promised her, kissing her ever so briefly before dissipating beneath her touch.
She sighed, feeling the loss of his presence more keenly every time they parted. She knew it was only a matter of time before they would not be able to part at all. The time when nature would overtake sense. She only hoped that by then she would have already made all of her reconciliations within herself.
She slid out of bed quickly, somehow managing to shower once more with her eyes closed the entire time, in spite of the chuckles echoing over and over through her mind. By the time she was dressed, she was flushed from being torn between scolding Gideon and laughing with him. Unfortunately, the scolding would have been highly ineffective, considering he was already privy to her dilemma between the two options.
So she lifted her nose into the air and decided to completely ignore him.
When she reached the bottom of the steps, Hannah was pacing back and forth across the entire length of the Great Hall. Legna was at once awash with her sister’s emotions and could not resist the groan that swung through her thoughts.
Be brave, Neliss, Gideon encouraged her, reading from her thoughts what she was sensing from her other sibling.
Wrath of a Self-Righteous Fire Demon, take two, she thought wryly back to him.
Did you expect otherwise?
No, but a girl can hope.
Complete your task, Nelissuna, then come to me.
I will, but remember I promised to have dinner with Noah later.
I recall. I do not plan on making you miss your appointment with your brother, Legna. Only to have as much time with you between now and then as is possible.
Legna gave him one of her mental nods and turned to face down the simmering temper of her distraught sister, once more preparing to defend the Imprinting, which she had no control over in the first place. Except, this time, it meant quite a bit more to her than that.
When Legna appeared in Gideon’s parlor, he was walking across the room, shrugging into a long coat of a rich brown leather, reaching back to pull the long tail of his hair out of the collar just as Legna was cocking a curious brow in his direction.
“Are we going out?”
“No,” he responded, his tone as serious as the tension she sensed within him.
Gideon paused in the middle of strapping a knife in its sheath to his thigh. Body Demons rarely, if ever, armed themselves. It only served to perplex Legna further, his thoughts kept as far from her as he could manage for some reason.
“Noah has called a Council meeting. Elijah is expected to give his report on Bella’s attack. I was told to… come prepared.”
“Who told you this? Noah mentioned nothing to me.”
It gave him only a moment of pause to hear this, then he shrugged.
“Your brother has formed a habit of leaving you out of the loop since October’s incident. You are not on the Council, so he sees no reason to inform you of these things.”
“Not on the… ” Legna’s jaw dropped open as her eyes widened in shock and building outrage. “I am one of the most powerfully effective diplomats and mentors in our society, and he chooses not to inform me of critical happenings that require you to come armed to a Council meeting? I am not a child, despite what you or my brother might think, and I know full well that the only reason for you to be armed is if you plan on engaging in battle with a Nightwalker species that is somewhat or completely immune to your abilities.”
“I never said that I thought you were too young to be capable of understanding the situation. Legna, do not lump me in with the protective actions of your brother. If you will recall, it is I who is being forthright with you about the nature of what is going on.”
He was right, of course. In a way, she truly was acting like a child, throwing a temper tantrum because the big kids were clearly not going to let her play in their games. It made her angry with herself and with Noah all at the same time. Legna folded her arms across her middle tightly, blinking back the childish urge to give in to tears.
“Come, sweet, you are being too hard on yourself,” Gideon soothed, crossing over to her and pulling her into the comfort of his arms. “Now that I am a part of you, I am beginning to understand how come you became so angry with me for calling you a child. Despite your age and accomplishments, no one in your family has ever quite stopped treating you like the baby of the family. It is a wonder you have developed the sophistication you have despite their unwitting repressive behaviors. It is even more miraculous that you have maintained your patience with them for all these years.”
“I am being sensitive because they have both taken turns at scolding me within the past twenty-four hours,” she argued with herself aloud. She sniffled and dashed the dampness from her eyes before she made a complete fool of herself.
“You do not need to feel embarrassed with me, Magdelegna,” he told her softly, reaching to pick up one of the long coils she had styled her usually softly curled hair into. He smiled, rubbing the curl against his lips affectionately. “Always feel free to show your honest feelings to me. I am most likely aware of them in any event.”
“Gideon,” she whispered, her hands reaching to splay over his broad chest, “I am… I feel fear for some reason. I am filled with the sickly sensation that if I let you go, I may never see you again.”
The confession did amazing things to Gideon, turning his heart completely over in his chest, for starters. She was allowing herself to become more closely attached to him, otherwise why would she dread his loss? He closed his eyes as he was rushed through with pleasure at the realization and a swell of hope so powerful it made him numb. Unable to resist the impulse, he drew her tightly into his embrace, hugging her so securely that he heard her breath escape in a rush from the compression of her rib cage. Her feet waved a couple of inches off the floor, and she laughed in a mixture of delight over his affections and unsure fear as he swung her slightly from side to side, continuing to clutch her for a long chain of minutes. When he finally set her back onto her feet, she clung to him with her comparatively slender, feminine body as if they had been stuck that way by the irrepressible connectivity of static electricity.
Gideon’s hands were gloved, she realized for the first time as he brushed her hair back in an attempt at giving himself a clear field of vision while he looked down into her face.
“You look beautiful tonight,” he said, stroking the very different mass of tight curls first, and then the shimmering azure silk that spilled off her shoulders in a delicately embroidered and beaded shawl. The dress she wore was as long and trained as all her others, the black silk of it also beaded and fringed with intricate care. “Was this all for me?”
She nodded, too wound up to make any pretense at sarcasm or jokes or evasiveness. The appreciation in his eyes as he took in her efforts made the honesty well worth it.
“Just so you know, I find you to be equally stunning even when you wake up tousled and perturbed with me,” he told her, his crooked smile making her smile shyly in return. “It is your desire to please me, above all, which has won my pleasure, not the methods you used to try and do so. However”—he reached to slide blue silk back from a bared shoulder, leaning forward to kiss the exposed spot gently before meeting her gaze once more—“you do wear it well.”
“I want to come with you,” she blurted out suddenly, the words coming to her lips even before he could find the thought forming in her mind.
“Why? So you can pace the hall while the Council meets? To what end? Only to have to pace it some more after I leave for whatever action it is that Elijah has planned for me? I believe it would be better for your peace of mind to remain here where you can follow me in your thoughts with no one to disturb you.” He rubbed the soft, rosy rise of her cheek with a leather-covered thumb. It was a uniquely masculine caress, as well as breathtaking and loving. Legna had to maintain her focus with a little more effort than usual. “Remember, Legna, for the rest of your life you will always come with me.”
“No. This is wrong!” She pushed out of his hold, wrapping herself in her shawl and her own arms once more as she paced several steps away before turning quickly back. “Can you not feel what is inside of me? I am ready to scream with this feeling that no one should… that I should… ”
She had to stop and sort through exactly what it was she was feeling. She had denied these instinctual aspects of her being for so long, now she had no experience with which to compare them. She drew a frustrating blank on how to describe or identify the sensation she was feeling.
“What you are feeling, Legna,” Gideon rescued her with a soft, soothing pitch to his voice, “is the desire to remain at my back. It is an instinct designed for both your self-defense and the defense of your mate.”
“Yes!” she exclaimed, returning to him in order to reach for him, her slim hands clutching the leather that covered his powerful upper arms. “We were meant to be back to back when you face danger. I can feel it. It is a clawing need within me… It… reminds me of what it feels like when you are swimming and remain beneath the water too long. It is a need as desperate as the urge to draw breath when starved for air. You must take me with you.”
“Not this time, Nelissuna.” He tried to deny her gently, but her need and determination were sharp. She could take offense easily, no matter how diplomatic he tried to be. Gideon hoped he would be able to appeal to her logic. “You do not have enough experience working with these instinctual emotions. They are new, and, as you know, can be overwhelming. Until you learn to acknowledge them and integrate them into yourself, you are in danger of losing focus and control. I do not have to tell you how dangerous that is in a volatile situation.
“We will take the time to train you, to train myself as well, after I return to you. Understand, I will be unable to feel comfortable having you at my side in battle right this moment. Not because I do not want you to fill your place behind me, but because in this situation I would spend too much time worrying about you. It could cause one or both of us to become injured.”
He was correct, of course, but it only served to spike a streak of frustrated anger and self-contempt in Legna. She had been running from this side of herself as if she were a frightened child, shutting her eyes tight and wishing the monsters within herself away rather than facing them down. Now she would begin to pay for that. She had been so arrogant to believe that she had to keep herself above such urges. In that moment she would have given anything to already be reconciled with those exact same urges in order to aid her mate as she was supposed to. If something happened to him because she was not there to be his additional eyes and strength, it would be her fault.
“Stop, Legna, this serves no purpose,” he said firmly, the leather of his gloves cool and taut against the skin of her face as he forced her to meet his gaze. “Do not waste your time with self-recriminations when there is nothing to be done about it at this moment. Instead, find a comfortable place here and follow me from within. I still need you, sweet. Your experience, your abilities, and your intuition could serve me just as well as your physical presence could in this matter. I need you to see what I may miss, and to maintain a route of escape should the need arise. And no, I do not expect it to. It is just my nature to be prepared.”
Legna absorbed his request for what seemed like a minute too long, but then she broke out of his hold and turned her back to him. Her thoughts were so chaotic that Gideon could not make sense of what she was thinking about specifically. It wasn’t until she reached for the second knife and sheath he had left on the table that he began to understand her intentions.
With the grace she had that surpassed even that which should have been natural to her because of her blood-lines, she moved back to him. After touching him lightly across his chest with an affectionate hand, she quietly bent to the task of securing the sheath to his other thigh.
The profundity of her actions left Gideon utterly speechless. All he could do was watch and feel as her deft fingers fixed the higher strap and buckle on the high inside of his thigh. To say the experience was erotic was an understatement of terrible ineptitude. It didn’t matter that it had not been the intention of either of them to see the action in such an intimate light. What mattered was that they were both aware of it, that they both were aroused by the intimacy of her actions on far deeper levels than just the fact that her hands were touching him.
She was his one true mate, his second half, the feminine side of himself that flourished on intuition and protective instincts. She was the side that turned calm before the battle so as to see to complete preparation for what was to come. She was center, focus, and everything moral that would guide his actions. She was the strategy and logic that would take him along the best course to victory while exercising caution for his own safety. She was mercy for those who would lie beaten at his feet, satisfying him with victory while sparing him the poisonous joy of killing when it was no longer needed. She was the peace and the light that would keep him from burdening himself with the heavy weight of taking a life, no matter how justified it was.
He was her one true mate, her second half. As she armed him, she felt him slipping deeply into her soul, becoming the masculine side of herself. This was the place within her that thrived on defending what was hers, the part that would mark her territory with the blood of her enemies if they dared cross the lines set before them. He became her sense of authority and righteousness, the part of her that was battle scarred and warrior skilled. He was her physical prowess, her devious cunning, and the part that would endure the pain and wounds of hell rather than see injustice done. He was the darkness and the conflict that kept her from becoming too complacent in the soft nature of peace, leaving herself open to the attack of those who were not so honorable in ideals as she would have them be.