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|Gideon(Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Careful, love, Gideon soothed. It is an enchantment. The scream of the mountain lion has terrifying effects naturally, but she has an added power of compulsion.
Legna could believe it. She had to concentrate very hard not to give in to the fear the guards were giving in to. The women cried out and bolted from their positions. They tore past Legna as if the hounds of hell were after them. Legna resisted the urge to giggle and hurried into Siena’s wake. The Queen was laughing herself as she shook out her hair one final time. Oblivious to her nudity or anything else, she led Legna into the small cave that had lain behind the guards. On a pallet of straw, chained cruelly to the wall in a way that left her suspended by her bleeding wrists, Corrine hung limply, her face buried under the curtain of her hair.
Legna hurried to encircle her with strong arms, holding her weight up as she pushed back her hair. If she was too badly injured, it would be dangerous to teleport her. She had been abused, her face covered in bruises and blood, but Legna felt Gideon assuring her quickly that she was able to be transported.
Legna motioned to the Queen to join her.
“No. I must continue this little charade. I have to exit via natural means, be it the front door or one of the hidden ones I guarantee you are located in these caves. That way, they will not suspect me as anything but the lion.”
Anya hurried into the cave, breathless with her excitement.
“They’ll kill you,” Legna argued. “This is suicide!”
“They have to catch me first.” The Queen laughed, shaking her hair until it once more spread over her.
Legna didn’t waste time watching the transformation. She grabbed Anya’s wrist and closed her eyes. They teleported with a hearty pop, rematerializing moments later in the alley next to the club they had entered from.
Gideon and Kane were already hurrying around the corner.
“We have to get out of here. Siena’s game is dangerous.”
It was clear by the flame in her mate’s eyes that Gideon was not pleased with the Queen’s reckless behavior. But Legna believed there was sound method to the madness. The human women would suspect Corrine had escaped while they were busy chasing a mountain lion that had inexplicably entered their caves, no doubt by one of the rear escape exits Siena had mentioned.
“You have been very quiet tonight,” Noah said to his sister. “I guess you are pretty shocked about this whole business.”
Legna didn’t respond, she just watched her brother as he walked around the triangular Council table they had used for their recently ended meeting. The newly discovered liberty of wearing jeans allowed her to prop her feet up on the wooden table with casually crossed ankles. She seemed to be enjoying the somewhat unladylike position.
Jacob and the others had gone home not too long ago. Gideon had removed himself with Kane and an excuse about checking on Isabella’s and Corrine’s health, but he knew Legna had wanted to be alone with Noah for a little while. Legna understood Noah was pleased she had stayed behind, and she hated to shatter his contentment, but the sooner they discussed this, the better.
Noah looked at her, hesitating in his task as he did so.
Noah’s brows drew down in a moment of noncomprehension. But as he read his sister’s serious expression and the grave stillness in her eyes, it dawned on him sharply what she was talking about. He almost laughed aloud in his sudden tension. He had imagined this day for two and a half centuries, even down to the words “I remembered,” and still it had taken him by surprise.
Noah moved to sit in the nearest chair, sinking into it as if gravity had suddenly increased for him. Legna watched and waited while he gathered himself, trying to erect a mental armor but having very little success with his emotions already in turmoil. It didn’t surprise her. Noah’s entire element was based on volatility. It was a credit to his power that it didn’t take over like this more often.
“You do not have to explain the details of what happened. Gideon has spared you from that. But I thought you should know,” she said.
“I had a feeling this would happen.” Noah reached to rub at an invisible spot on the table. “I suppose you are thinking that I should have told you sooner, yes?”
“Yes,” she agreed. “But I also understand why you did not.”
“I am sorry, Legna. I had hoped you would never have to remember that day. I… I was terrified when I realized what was happening between you and Gideon. I knew a power rush like that would open all kinds of doors.”
“I know. When it was finally unlocked, I also realized why you and Hannah have been twisting into knots over this. I must say, I am glad it is not Gideon you truly object to.”
“No,” Noah agreed. “It was not Gideon himself. Just the possibilities of his influence resurrecting these memories. I hope he was there when it happened.”
“Luckily, yes.” Legna paused for a long minute, meeting his troubled eyes. “You must promise me that you will stop trying so hard to protect me. It cannot succeed flawlessly, and you are just wearing yourself out. And if I go to the Lycanthrope Queen as your ambassador, you must keep me apprised of all things. To leave me in the dark would be foolish.”
“Then you are considering the offer?”
“Yes. But I must discuss it with Gideon first. Tell me, Noah, why you thought of me for this task.”
“As I said, because I trust you. Your loyalty and your open mind are exactly what I require. You know you are my best diplomat. I can send no less.”
“You must trust me in this as well, Noah. It is not your job to protect me anymore.”
“I’m afraid that will be a nearly impossible habit to break,” he told her. “However, I shall endeavor to do so.” He gave her a wan smile. “I hope that some day you will be able to remember beyond Mama’s death to when she was alive and loved us both. They are excellent memories.”
“They will be worth living through this last one if they are as good as I hope for.” Legna dropped her feet to the floor and approached him. “Now, there is something I need you to do for me.”
“Anything, little sister.”
“I need you to talk to Gideon. Yes, he is behind my eyes, and yes, he is somewhat immune to emotional ramblings of distraught brothers and sisters.” She smiled as she stood behind him and leaned forward to wrap her arms around his shoulders and hug him tightly. “But he deserves better than what he has been getting from you and Hannah this past week. Despite what everyone seems to think, I believe it is important to him that he earn a family, and I want to give him mine. I do not know a better one.” Her voice lowered as she rested her chin on his shoulder. “And I love him, Noah. With all of my heart and soul. He has a conscience of such depth, and a capacity for needing me I never thought possible. How can I help but feel deeply for him?”
“I know,” he said just as quietly, rubbing her hand warmly. “I have been feeling that keenly all night. I am happy for you. I truly am. I have been very selfish lately. For all my announcements that I was afraid of your pain, it was my dread of you facing me with the truth that was my motivator. I am sorry for that.”
He turned his head to look at her as she released him from her hug and moved to slide her bottom onto the table near him. She crossed her ankles and began to swing her linked feet back and forth.
“Today,” Noah continued, “someone reminded me of Gideon’s value to our people, and I realized that I had been forgetting to acknowledge that. It is a sad repayment for all he has done at my request over the centuries.” He smiled, reaching to tug on the alien black hair that Gideon had yet to return to its natural state. “It is not the same without its true length,” he teased.
“Oh, stop,” she scolded, laughing as she freed her hair from his fingers with a tug.
“Should you not be getting home to your betrothed?”
“Mmm, I suppose I should. I want to make certain the guest rooms are prepared for Bella and Corrine’s stay with us. I am glad they will stay out of the way, protected by the fact Ruth is not likely to think to look for them in Gideon’s infamously off-limits household. As advantageous as their abilities are, they and Bella’s baby have been through enough.”
“Agreed.” Noah watched her hop off the table. “Legna?”
Noah reached for her hand, pulling the back of it to his brief, affectionate kiss. “Tell my brother-in-law that I hope he appreciates the precious gift I am giving him this Beltane.”
Legna smiled at him, but her mouth trembled as tears brightened in her eyes. She leaned in to kiss his forehead and then turned away, hiding her emotional expression as she disappeared without a sound.
Gideon’s silvery eyes flashed in the moonlight as he scanned the area before him. He was perched on the roof of Jacob’s home, blending into the darkness of the shadows around the chimney, leaning his weight gently against the back that supported his, just as he supported hers. He felt her power blanketing the area. She was in search of the heightened emotions of those who would be descending on them that night with ill intent in their hearts.
Gideon was aware of the hidden pulses and body warmth of the others, easily discerning their location as he turned his eyes from one place to the next. Jacob’s heart was the slowest in beat, weighed down, no doubt, by the stillness that often preceded acts of terrible retribution. Elijah was another story. The warrior was notoriously serene on a hunt, but Gideon could sense the speed of his breath and blood was not normal. He suspected that the Lycanthrope female who was near him might have something to do with that. Elijah seemed to be very uncomfortable around her. The warrior knew what it was like to fight her kind, so it was understandable. Working with one’s former and recent enemy had to be unnerving.
The Queen herself had enjoyed the invitation to join this little ambush. Her body chemistry, pulses, and senses were just different enough to be alien, but he knew enough about her physiology after his five years of “captivity” to know she was anticipating the hunt, the battle, with every ounce of the instincts that ruled her kind.
There was Noah as well, of course, plus the Lycanthrope half-breed, and, to even Gideon’s amazement, the Vampire Prince. He had not been tendered an invitation but had somehow learned of the action taking place here this night. Damien was an ally who transcended all others. To begin with, the attackers would not be expecting anything other than Demons to be involved in this. At most they would be prepared for the Enforcers to still be as heavily guarded as was last reported. They would surely not be prepared to do battle with Lycanthropes and Vampires. Such a collaboration of Nightwalkers was unheard of in all the centuries they had existed in the same universe.
Gideon felt Legna go very still, the heightened sensation of her scans returning his attention to the roof they were perched on. He raised his head and reached for what she had sensed.
Heartbeats. Dozens of them. And power. A great deal of power.
Gideon closed his eyes and reached to astral project to the rear guard of warriors that were hidden farther back from his recon position. Once he warned them it was time to make ready, he returned to his body and moved to lie on his belly beside Legna, who had already done so. They watched the cliffside horizon, feeling keenly that they were coming by the beachside.
Jacob’s hunting senses roared to life along with those of all the others. He was at point for a reason. He was the first line of defense, Elijah the next. The attacking force would find it difficult to circumvent these initial defenses. And even if they did manage to get past these formidable fighters, they would have Noah to contend with next. If Jacob had not been so full of high adrenaline and the need to purge himself of his building anger, he might have spared his coming enemy a thought of pity.
Then again, probably not. These animals had come to his home, orchestrated an attempt to assassinate the one thing that meant more to him than his own life. Though they had failed, they would answer for her pain and injuries. They would hear his rage over every shudder and shiver of fear they had caused Isabella to feel, every tear she had shed from that day to this. And now they dared to return? Invading his home, prepared to destroy it, him, and his family?
Oh yes. They would learn a great lesson tonight.
Most of all, they would be made to understand how much he hated the fact that he was even there. His bride’s sad heart and eyes were behind his own. All of her spirit and thoughts whispered in his mind with wishes that such violence and ignorance would just go away and leave everyone to live in peace and in their own way.
The aggressors came over the cliffside in a sudden wave, the necromancers glowing head to toe in bright blue light as they levitated themselves and several hunters each with unnerving ease. Through the dark, Jacob saw the hunters holding crossbows at the ready, and the smell of rust on iron hit him tangibly. The bolts in the bows were made of iron, making the sharply pointed missiles extremely deadly. The old and heavy metal was the one true weakness of every Demon. Iron burned them, scarred them, and could quite easily kill them if it struck a mortal enough target within them. It didn’t matter how powerful or how ancient they were, everyone was vulnerable.
Jacob swore under his breath but did not retreat from his position. He tried to think of how he could warn the others, who would not have the same keen sense for this earthy metal as he did. He reached out for Siena, knowing her eyesight in the darkness was unparalleled.
Siena felt the earth move beneath her hand and she withdrew with a soft gasp. The blond warrior near her shot her a look as she continued to stare at the ground. An invisible finger was drawing in the dirt. She cursed when she realized it was a word, sent to her by the Earth Demon.