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|Jacob(Nightwalkers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“Noah, take care of Myrrh-Ann. I will track Saul.”
“No! Oh, please!” Myrrh-Ann screamed. She made a mad leap for Jacob, who easily floated out of her reach and began to rise slowly into the air, intent on getting on with his grim duty. He felt wind suddenly swirl about in a room where there should be none, felt her tempestuous outrage rising, a reflex to her fear.
“Myrrh-Ann, time is short,” Jacob said, his voice curt and reverberating against the high ceiling as he neared it. It froze her hysteria within her laboring chest. The air condensed and went still as he got her attention. “If I can find him in time, I can try to save him. If I cannot, then you know what my duty is. Believe me when I tell you I would rather bring him back to you and the babe.”
With that said, the Enforcer disappeared in a streak of arrowed dust.
“He will kill him! He will murder my Saul!” Myrrh-Ann wailed, sobs ripping from her body.
“If it comes to that, Myrrh-Ann,” Noah murmured softly, “it will mean the Saul we have loved is long gone already.”
Isabella turned from the window when her sister’s key sounded in the door.
“Hey, Corr, have fun?” she greeted while turning back to her stargazing.
“It was okay,” her sister replied, dropping her keys on the table and shrugging out of her jacket. “He’s a nice guy. Maybe too nice.”
Isabella rolled her eyes, seeking guidance from the stars.
“How can a guy be ‘too nice’ in this day and age?”
“So speaks the great dating expert,” Corrine rejoined tartly. She couldn’t recall Isabella ever going out on a date, not even in high school. Corrine shrugged, clearly lacking understanding of her sister’s antisocialism.
Isabella turned from her contemplation of the moon.
“So explain to me what ‘too nice’ means.”
“Well, let’s see… ” Corrine mused, moving to stand next to Isabella, joining her in looking out at the October night. “He’s very nice, very polite, and very predictable. I guess that’s what I’m saying. He’s nice, but not very exciting. Maybe you should go out with him.”
Isabella laughed, her eyes widening in humor. “Did you just insult me?”
“No, not at all.” Corrine chuckled, draping an arm over Isabella’s shoulders and hugging her tightly. “I just would like to see you meet a nice guy. Even if he is ‘too nice.’ Although I don’t think this one would easily adjust to the stuff that comes out of your mouth on occasion. Oh, and perhaps I should warn him that even though I am the redheaded sister, you are the one with the scary temper.”
“Ha! It wasn’t me who plagued Mom with the rebellious adolescence from hell.”
Corrine laughed. “And it wasn’t either of us who plagued Daddy with Mom’s temper.”
The sisters giggled in commiseration. Each knew exactly where they had earned their outspoken ways and stubbornness from, genetically speaking.
“Well, thanks for the offer of your hand-me-down boyfriend,” Isabella said with a smile, “but I think I’ll decline.”
“Suit yourself.” Corrine shrugged, leaving her sister and crossing into the kitchen. She peeked into the refrigerator.
Isabella turned back to the window and studied the moon a while longer. There was always something about it that got her juices flowing. Lately, she was restless, craving… something. She didn’t know what. Being cooped up in the house was driving her mad, though. What she really wanted was to be out and walking around. Or running.
She mentally shook her head. Running after midnight in the less savory parts of the Bronx? No wonder people used to think the full moon made people crazy. If anyone could read her thoughts right now, they wouldn’t recognize her as the calm, bookish Isabella they all knew and loved. That and they would probably nail her to the floor for her own safety.
In fact, Isabella had frequently wondered if the people who knew and loved her actually knew her at all. How could others know her, when she was beginning to doubt she even knew herself?
She lived a comfortable, quiet life, rather pathetically stereotypical for a single librarian. She even had the requisite pair of cats. She loved her books. There was such a wealth of information to be had, so much to learn, so many stories being told. Her appetite for it all had never once wavered since the day she had learned to read. She had probably forgotten more information than most people ever read.
However, where books had always been key to her contentment before, Isabella was now somehow… dissatisfied.
Isabella reached for the window and opened it swiftly, leaning out past the unscreened frame and into the cool, bright night. Everything always looked so different when the moon shone as brightly as the sun. Unlike the sun and its golden glow, the moon turned everything pale or silver. Shadows were long and mysterious, the boring black asphalt becoming a highway of incandescent gray.
“If you fall out onto your head, it will serve you right,” Corrine remarked sarcastically from behind her. “I thought you were putting that screen back.”
“Did you say you were going to bed?” Isabella asked, not bothering to look away.
She heard her sister blow an undignified raspberry at her, Corr’s answer to everything when she couldn’t think of a snappy enough response. “Yes, I’m going to bed. Make sure you lock the door before you go to sleep. Don’t stargaze too long, you said you had to work early tomorrow.”
“I know. Good night,” Isabella said, waving behind herself without looking. She didn’t see Corrine roll her eyes at her before heading down the hall to her bedroom.
Isabella leaned farther out of the window, bracing herself on the arms folded beneath her breasts as she looked down five stories to the sidewalk just below. Her hair drifted slowly over her shoulder, sliding like a silky black snake down her breast until it hung suspended in the night air.
Her eyes drifted around until she spied a man, dressed dark and dignified, coming toward her building. His footsteps were clicking softly through the night, his stride long and assured. She didn’t know how, but even from her awkward height she could tell that his casual walk was a pretense. There was something in that lithe male figure that was very much on guard, and very… ruthless.
She judged him to be quite tall, comparing his height to the doors he passed. His hair was exceptionally dark despite the moonlight shimmering off it, probably black or a dark brown. She wasn’t sure, but she thought it was caught back in a ponytail. He wore a long gray coat, unbelted and unbuttoned, with his hands tucked casually into the pockets. It shifted around his legs as he moved, gaping now and again, revealing a bluish gray shirt and black slacks. Expensive, sophisticated, and radiating even from a distance.
This was hardly an upscale neighborhood, and aristocratic, well-dressed men were not a common sight. In these parts they were more likely to be labeled as a meal ticket. Somewhere in the warehouse alleys up ahead, the dinner bell would be a-ringing.
The thought was no sooner completed than the man abruptly stopped. She saw something flash in the moon-scattered darkness around his face and she had the strangest notion that he’d just smiled. He was looking around, obviously in search of something.
Then he looked up.
Isabella gasped softly as he looked directly at her, her heart making an inexplicable jump beneath her breast. This time he clearly smiled, a sudden dash of white in light and shadow. He took a step, glanced both ways up and down the street, then leaned casually against a telephone pole as he looked up at her again.
“You are going to fall out.”
Isabella blinked as the resonant voice drifted up and around her. He wasn’t shouting. His voice had just floated up five stories and effortlessly spoken into her ear.
“You sound like my sister.”
She didn’t shout either, somehow knowing she didn’t need to. Why didn’t she find that strange? Well, she did find it strange. She just wasn’t bothered by it.
“Then that would make two of us who think you should not be leaning out of a window like that.”
“I’ll make a note of your concerns,” she responded dryly.
He laughed. The deeply male, inviting sound seemed to swirl around her, wrapping her up in the sensation of his amusement. It made her smile and hug her arms tighter around herself.
“Besides,” she continued, “look who’s talking. What are you doing wandering around these parts in the middle of the night? Have much of a death wish?”
“I can take care of myself. I would not worry.”
“Okay. But you didn’t answer my first question.”
“I will,” he countered, “if you tell me why you are dangling out of a window.”
“This isn’t dangling. It’s leaning. I’m just looking around.”
“No. If you must know, I was looking at the moon.”
She watched as he glanced over his shoulder at the moon, the act so casual that she got the feeling he wasn’t so very impressed by it as she was.
“During your stargazing, did you happen to see anything unusual around here?” He framed the question in a very offhand way, but something told Isabella that he was far more concerned with her answer than he was trying to let on.
“The unusual is usual these days. Did you have something specific in mind?”
She felt him hesitate, knew he was debating within himself about something. He released a short, heavy breath.
“Never mind, sorry to have bothered you.”
Isabella jerked, thrusting out a hand in a staying motion. The movement unsettled her precarious perch and she was suddenly struck with the odd sensation of her body shifting and gaining momentum. Her socks slid, the wooden floor providing zero traction, and her feet flew up off the floor as most of her body weight came over the windowsill. A strangled sound of surprise escaped her lips as she fell headfirst into the black and silver night. The sensation of falling yanked her stomach around and she figured that she would probably have thrown up if she were not about to die.
But instead of smashing into unforgiving concrete, she landed against something solid but giving. There was a sensation of whiplash as her body caught up with the sudden break in her speed, and bright stars swam around her eyes behind the lids she had squeezed tightly shut.
Isabella was rasping for breath, her adrenaline catching up with her as she clutched at whatever solid thing was within her reach.
“It is all right. You can open your eyes.”
That voice. That deep, masculine, sexy, alive-and-not-splattered-on-the-ground voice.
Isabella popped one eye open and focused on her grasping hands. They were curled around the gray fabric of the lapels of his coat.
“Holy crap,” she gasped, both eyes flying open and looking up into the face of the man who had apparently saved her from cracking her skull open. “Holy—” She broke off, finally getting a good look at his features and getting yet one more shock to her system.
He was incredibly and unbearably beautiful.
There was no other way for her to adequately describe it to herself. It was beyond being just handsome. Handsome was a common masculine adjective, limited in its scope. This man was honestly beautiful. His facial features were so very elegant, taking the term noble to the extreme. Dark brows winged up over dark eyes, both of indeterminate color in the shadows of the night. So dramatic, but then so belied by the ridiculous childlike length of lush lashes. His magnificent eyes were lit with a soft, smoldering light of amusement as his sensual mouth was lifting up at the corner in a smile she could only call sinful.
“How did you… but that’s… you couldn’t possibly!” she spluttered, her hands opening and closing reflexively on his lapels.
“I did. It is not. And apparently, I could.” He was smiling broadly now, and Isabella was certain she was the cause of some unseen bit of amusement. She glowered at him, completely forgetting he’d just saved her neck. Literally.
“I’m so glad you find this so entertaining!”
Jacob couldn’t help his growing smile. She was so focused on him that she hadn’t realized they were still a good ten feet off the ground and floating at the exact spot where he’d met her precipitous fall. That was for the best, he thought, sinking down to the pavement while she was distracted by the taunt of his amusement. He was going to have enough trouble as it was explaining how he’d managed to catch a woman hurtling to her death from five stories up. Let’s see… five stories times… oh, about 125 pounds… times gravity…
“I do not find your situation entertaining,” he responded honestly, very carefully keeping her attention as he brought his weight back to human standards. “I am actually just pleased to see you are not hurt.”
Isabella blinked a couple of times, suddenly realizing just what this stranger had done for her.
Jacob watched the pixieish beauty’s expression change from peevish indignation to utter horror. He mentally kicked himself for reminding her of her close call, even though logically there was no avoiding it. He watched as she pulled her full bottom lip between her teeth to keep it from trembling. The simple vulnerability sent a wrenching sensation through his chest, leaving him inexplicably breathless. Awareness and emotion exploding all around him, Jacob found himself staring at each and every nuance of the woman in his arms.
She was a compact and curvaceous little thing, her petite frame feminine and soft in all the places males liked a female to be abundantly soft. The moonlight enhanced a flawless complexion, pale like the near transparency of some Nightwalkers he’d seen in his extensive lifetime. She had sinuous black hair, ludicrously thick and long, and he could feel the weight of it as it pooled against his chest and clung to his biceps. Her features were small and delicate, her mouth lush, her eyes as large as an innocent child’s. A pixie with eyes of violet, turned lavender in the moonlight. It was amazing how the moonlight enhanced her beauty. As he cradled her against his chest, he also marveled at how warm she was. He hadn’t realized how enticing human warmth could be.