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|Jacob(Nightwalkers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“Still. I’m going back to my books. Come get me when you wake up.”
It was daylight once more when Jacob floated down through Noah’s manor until he was in the vault, one moment dust dancing through the incandescent light, the next coming to rest lightly on his feet. He looked around the well-lit catacomb, seeking his prey. He heard a rustling sound from the nearest stacks and moved toward it.
There was a soft curse, a grunt, and the sudden slam of something hitting the floor. Jacob came around just in time to find Isabella dangling from one of the many shelves, her feet swaying about ten feet above the floor as she searched with her toes for a foothold. On the ground below her was a rather ancient-looking tome, the splattered pattern of the dust that had shaken off it indicating it had been the object he had heard fall. Far to her left was the ladder she had apparently been using.
With a low sigh of exasperation, Jacob altered gravity for himself and floated himself up behind her. “You are going to break your neck.”
Isabella was not expecting a voice at her ear, considering her peculiar circumstances, and she started with a little scream. One hand lost hold and she swung right into the hard wall of his chest. He gathered her up against himself, his arm slipping beneath her knees so she was safely cradled, his warmth infusing her with a sense of safety and comfort as he brought her down to the floor effortlessly. In spite of herself, she pressed her cheek to his chest.
“Must you sneak up on me in midair like that? It’s very unnerving.”
She had meant to sound angry, but the soft, breathless accusation was anything but. Anyway, how angry would he think her to be if she was snuggling up to him like a kitten? Damn it, Demon or not, he was still a sinfully good-looking man. Jacob was elegant to a fault, his movements and manner centered around an efficiency of actions that drew the eye. He was dressed again in well-tailored black slacks, and this time a midnight blue dress shirt with his cuffs turned back. She could feel the rich quality of the silk beneath her cheek, and when she breathed in, Jacob smelled like the rich, heady Earth he claimed his abilities from.
Besides all the outwardly alluring physicality, Isabella knew that he was extremely sensitive about all his interactions with others. She could feel his moral imperatives tingling through her mind whenever he was near. His heart, she knew, was made of incredibly honorable stuff. How could she find it in herself to be afraid of that? Especially when he had never once hurt her, even though there had been plenty of influences compelling him to.
“Shall I put you back and let you plummet to your death?” he asked, releasing her legs and letting her body slide slowly down his until her feet touched the floor.
The whisper of the friction of their clothes hummed across Jacob’s skin, and he felt his senses focusing in on every nuance of sensation she provided for him. The swishing silk of her hair even in its present tangled state, the sweet warmth of her breath and body, the ivory perfection of her skin. He reached to wipe a smudge of dust from her delectable little nose. She was a mess. There was no arguing that. Head to toe covered in dust and grime, and she smelled like an old book, but those earthy scents would never be something unappealing to one of his kind. Jacob breathed deeply as the usual heat she inspired stirred in his cool blood. It was stronger with each passing moment, with each progressive day, and he never once became unaware of that fact. He tried to tell himself it was merely the effects of the growing moon, but that reasoning did not satisfy him. Hallowed madness would not allow for the unexpected compulsion toward tenderness he kept experiencing whenever he looked down into her angelic face. It would never allow him to enjoy these simple yet significant stirrings of his awareness without forcing him into overdrive. True, he was holding on to his control with a powerful leash of determination. He was tamping down the surges of want and lust that gripped him so hard sometimes it was nearly crippling, but somehow it was still different.
Then he had to also acknowledge the melding of their thoughts as something truly unique. Perhaps a human could initiate such a contact if they were a medium or psychic of noteworthy ability, but she made no claims to such special talents. Every day the images of her mind became clearer to him. She had even taken to consciously sending him visual impressions in response to some discussion they were having with Noah, Elijah, and Legna. He believed that, if things continued to progress in this manner, he and Bella would soon be engaging in actual discussions with each other without ever opening their mouths. He didn’t have fact to base that assumption on, but it seemed the natural evolution to the growing silent communication between them.
He had seen Legna staring at them curiously on several occasions. Luckily, because she was a female Mind Demon, she was not a full telepath. If she had been a male she would have been privy to some pretty private exchanges between him and Isabella. Nothing racy, actually, but he found Isabella had such an irreverent sense of humor that he wasn’t sure others would understand it as he seemed to.
It was a privacy of exchange he found himself coveting. It was the one way they could be together without Legna or Noah interfering. It was bad enough that the empath was constantly sniffing at his emotions, making sure he kept in careful control of his baser side. Since the King was not able to subject him to the usual punishment that was meted out for those who had crossed the line as he had with Isabella, he had been forced to be a little more creative. Setting Legna the empathic bloodhound on him had done the trick. It was also seriously pissing him off. He knew she was always there, and it burned his pride like nuclear fire.
What was more, he couldn’t keep his mind away from Isabella. And since even the smallest thought of her had a way of sparking an onslaught of fantasies that brought his body to physical readiness—well, it was the very last thing he wanted an audience for.
It had taken quite a bit of planning, and the deceptive use of herbal tea mixtures, in order to slip out from under Legna’s observation so he could sneak away to the vault. The empath slept as soundly as the dead, and she would stay that way until this evening.
“I wouldn’t have fallen to my death,” Bella was arguing, her stubborn streak prickling. “At the most, I would have fallen to my broken leg or my concussion or something. Boy, you Demons have this way of making everything seem so intense and pivotal.”
“We are a very intense people, Bella.”
“Tell me about it.” She wriggled out of his embrace, putting distance between them with a single step back. Jacob was well aware of it being a very purposeful act. “I’ve been reading books and scrolls as far back as seven hundred years ago. You were just a gleam in your daddy’s eye then, I imagine.”
“Demons may have long gestation periods for their young, but not seventy-eight years’ worth.”
“Yes. I read about that. Is it true it takes thirteen months for a female to carry and give birth?”
“Minimum.” He said it with such casual dismissal that Bella laughed.
“That’s easy for you to say. You don’t have to lug the kid around inside of you all that time. You, just like your human counterparts, have the fun part over with like that.” She snapped her fingers in front of his face.
His dark eyes narrowed and he reached to enclose her hand in his, pulling her wrist up to the slow, purposeful brush of his lips even as he maintained a sensual eye contact that was far too full of promises. Isabella caught her breath as an insidious sensation of heated pins and needles stitched its way up her arm.
“I promise you, Bella, a male Demon’s part in a mating is never over like this.” He mimicked her snap, making her jump in time to her kick-starting heartbeat.
“Well”—she cleared her throat—“I guess I’ll have to take your word on that.” Jacob did not respond in agreement, and that unnerved her even further. Instinctively, she changed tack. “So, what brings you down into the dusty atmosphere of the great Demon library?” she asked, knowing she sounded like a brightly animated cartoon.
Oh, how that singular word was pregnant with meaning, intent, and devastatingly blatant honesty. Isabella was forced to remind herself of the whole Demon-human mating taboo as the forbidden response of heat continued to writhe around beneath her skin, growing exponentially in intensity every moment he hovered close. She tried to picture all kinds of scary things that could happen if she did not quit egging him on like she was. How she was, she didn’t know, but she was always certain she was egging him on.
“Why did you want to see me?” she asked, breaking away from him and bending to retrieve the book she had dropped. It was huge and heavy and she grunted softly under the weight of it. It landed with a slam and another puff of dust on the table she had made into her own private study station.
“Because I cannot seem to help myself, lovely little Bella.”
The thick silk of his voice slithered down her neck and spine, making her shiver. She reached up and shoved back her dusty hair, refusing to make eye contact with him.
“Okay, umm… Demon plus human equals… big bad things, remember? Full moon? October? Any of this ringing a bell?”
“You think I do not know that?” The question was low, sounding dangerous. “Do I seem out of control to you, Bella? Do you really think, even for a moment, that I would hurt you?”
“No, I don’t think so.” She finally met his piercing gaze. “But you weren’t exactly you yesterday, now were you? And the night we first met? Didn’t you say yourself it can hit any of you at any time? No one is immune.” Bella moved to face him, her arms crossing her tummy from hip to hip. “Do you forget that I’ve seen the worst of a Demon’s lust? I close my eyes sometimes and see Saul looming over me. That scares me, Jacob. I don’t want it to, but it does.”
Jacob’s fingers curled into themselves, forming tight fists that were a signal of his building upset. She sensed it bothered him greatly to know she was afraid of him, that she was comparing the possibilities between them to her encounter with a perverted monster. However, it was the truth of her feelings, or some of them, and he needed to know it. She may have been caught up into his world by Destiny or whatever, but that didn’t mean she was going to disregard her personal safety. Nor would she put any of his friends at risk. She was coming to care for Legna already, the stunning empath’s purity of soul so beautiful and guileless that she could not help her growing fondness for her. After yesterday morning’s display of Noah’s power, she refused to even think of putting Jacob into confrontation with him. She also had a very clear feeling that the Demon Enforcer did not have very many friends, that Noah held exclusive rights to such an exalted position in Jacob’s esteem.
It bothered Bella that she disturbed Jacob so much. It was like being an incredibly mean tease, stirring him up and having no intention of following through. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t trying to do it, it just mattered that it was what happened.
“Maybe I should leave,” she said faintly, turning to shuffle papers into innocuous positions on her desk. “Maybe someone else should do this research. Noah has so much more experience in this than I do. I can read the English texts, even the Latin ones, but I can’t read the works that are in whatever language that is. You have Demon scholars, and I’m just a human… ”
“No. We need you.” His tone was as firm as stone.
“So you say. All I know is that I’m a distraction to you, Jacob. One you don’t need right now, from what I’ve been reading.”
“You will not leave.” It was a command, deep and forceful, filled with his frustration. Then he seemed to realize what he was saying and sighed, shoving his hand through his long, loose hair in agitation. “If you were out of the realm of my… my people’s protection, then you would see the meaning of the word distraction,” he promised her.
“There you go again. Is everything so extreme for you people?”
“Yes.” His hand came out to frame her face, turning her around to look up fully into his eyes, his fingertips moving in a soft, tantalizing massage at the spot in front of her ear where her hairline began. “I will tell you this, Isabella. In my very lengthy lifetime, I have been single-minded in my devotion to a great many things for a great many other people. But you… you are the first thing I feel compelled to be devoted to for myself and myself alone. Do not think it is the Hallowed moon that makes me talk this way. I assure you, it is something much deeper than that, something far more cogent than such astrological fickleness.”
“Jacob… ” Isabella was breathless. Why couldn’t a normal male say things like that to her? Finally someone romantic, fascinating, and intelligent comes along, and he turns out to be not even of the same species. Just her luck.
Jacob smiled, a broad toothy grin.
“I am a normal male,” he insisted.
“Hey! Stop doing that!” She covered her head with both hands. “Don’t read my mind. That’s not fair.”
“Fair? What does fairness have to do with it? I do not know why I am able to sense your thoughts, but since I have the ability, it is practical to use it.”
“Well, it isn’t ethical!” Her hands popped onto her hips, making him smile. “Sometimes very private things go through my head, and you have no business snooping into them. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”
“I understand that. However, you are the one who keeps tossing images at me when we are in public. Some of them quite disrespectful of my King and Elijah, I might point out.” His eyes were twinkling with suppressed amusement as she thrust up her chin stubbornly.