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|Jacob(Nightwalkers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“I?” That irritating lift of one silvery brow.
“Yeah. Remember, you said it was a good thing he was unconscious because he probably wouldn’t like you healing him? Which, by the way, he didn’t even think about when he learned of it.”
“No. If I had to put a word to his feelings on the matter… he seemed accepting.”
Gideon’s eyes roamed over her slowly. She was far too small for a Druid. But he could see the mark on her clear as day; there was no mistaking it. And her power was growing stronger by the minute. Even in these few hours she had changed, become more potent in the ways she already knew and in ways she hadn’t yet discovered.
Gideon could also see Jacob’s brand on her, could smell him on her body, imbedded in her pores and her chemistry for all time. He hadn’t had time to notice earlier, but it was clear they were mated. The Enforcer had broken the very taboos he was sworn to protect. The ones he’d once upheld above his friendship with the Ancient. Not that Gideon hadn’t known, that painful eight years ago, that Jacob had been in the right in the actions he’d taken against him. The Enforcer had done what his duty called for. He’d put respect and friendship aside, had even faced incredible peril to his life, all to protect the human female who had become the target of Gideon’s momentarily warped reality. Gideon held no ill will toward the Enforcer, but his pride had been bruised and, for the first time in a millennium, he had discovered a fear of something.
It had brought him low to realize that one could have ultimate power, a millennium’s worth of knowledge and experience, and still succumb to the basest of behaviors. He had thought himself forever above such things. Now he feared himself like he never had before. His isolation had been to protect others, not to punish Jacob. It was calming to know that Jacob held no apparent grudges. What was disturbing was that the intuitive little hybrid woman had somehow known he’d needed to know that.
“I am here to speak of the matter of your existence. I apologize for what you clearly perceive as rudeness. I ask that you remember my culture is not yours. Privacy, though valued in our culture, is expected to be disrupted. You see, we do not use the technologies of your species, such as telephones and cars and the like. I am sure you have noticed.”
“I had noticed,” she said.
“So we come and go with a different convention in this culture. Most of us are born with our own inherent means of long-distance travel and communication.” Gideon indicated his presence. “You could call our lack of protocol for privacy a cultural weakness if you wish. Which brings me to you. You, apparently, are a sign of new weakness.”
“I beg your pardon?” Not only does he invade my privacy, now he insults me?
“Yes. It has always been foretold that a Demon mating with a human would bring about repercussions.”
“Those were fables,” Isabella countered. “I discovered a prophecy—”
“Yes, I know all about that. They are not fables. Not entirely. There is always a grain of truth in everything. You may take that wisdom with you as fact, from one who would know.”
Isabella nodded. The one thing she could not argue was that he knew a hell of a lot more than she did. “So tell me, what is so terrible about all of this? Will it hurt Jacob?”
It didn’t escape Gideon that she didn’t even think to ask about herself, even in the face of all the drastic changes and discoveries she’d been undergoing.
“Before we can discuss this, you must be willing to accept what I am saying to you as truth. As fact. Not as conjecture or guesswork. What I tell you, I know. Otherwise, I will not speak of it. It is my way.”
“Well, I suppose in the fifteen minutes total that I’ve been in the same room with you, I’ve found you to be an apparently candid person. Smart. Wise, if you prefer. Certainly old enough to know. Say, how old are you anyway?”
“That is irrelevant.”
“Oh.” Isabella rolled her eyes. “Okay, let’s just speed this up so you can go back to your own body or whatever. I’ll take what you say as fact until I hear otherwise.”
“No one can refute me.”
It would have to do, Gideon realized. She was incredibly stubborn. Willful. It was a wonder Jacob tolerated her. He decided to test her mettle right off.
“You are immortal.”
Isabella opened her mouth to argue, thought better of it, and then pursed her lips together briefly in irritation. “How?” she countered.
“Druids are immortal. You are half Druid. Therefore, you are immortal.”
“I almost died as a child, when they were taking my tonsils out.”
“I did not say you could not be killed. Immortal, to us, means long lived. Not indestructible. Although I promise you, it will not be so easy to destroy you now.”
“And you know this so certainly how?”
“I thought we agreed you would not question me,” Gideon sighed, sounding very put upon.
“Humor me,” she parried.
“Immortals have a specific genetic code. As a Demon of the Body, I can sense that code on you. Just as I know that it is the waking of dormant DNA that is the cause of the changes you are experiencing.”
“It is?” Isabella asked, her surprise clear in her tone. “But why did it wake up?”
“An excellent question,” Gideon complimented, honestly pleased with her quickness of mind. “It woke the moment you came into contact with Jacob.”
Isabella and Gideon both looked up at the deep-voiced question, seeing Jacob standing just inside the open window, feet braced apart, his expression tense.
“Jacob!” Isabella reacted explosively, bursting off the bed in a flurry of sheet fabric, catapulting herself at Jacob, who opened his arms to catch her. He wrapped her up in his embrace, lifting her feet up off the floor and swinging her slightly as he chuckled over her enthusiastic greeting. She reached for his mouth eagerly, banishing the other Demon from her thoughts completely.
Jacob couldn’t resist her, even though he was well aware of the ice-colored gaze studying him intently. He received her buss happily and returned it, but was very consciously wrapping fabric around her bare back, protecting her body from Gideon’s unwelcome eyes. For a moment, he basked in the feel of warm bare skin under loose, thin cotton. Then he scooped her dangling legs up into his arms and moved her back to the bed, seating himself on it, Isabella on his lap, and pulling a quilt from the foot of the bed to wrap her up in. She rested her cheek contentedly on his shoulder, snuggling into his ministering touch. Once they were settled, his hand went to her hair, stroking it in an absently affectionate manner.
Gideon watched all of this with no little surprise. He remembered having one or two discussions over the centuries with Jacob about how neither of them felt the desire for a female companion. Even if they had been so inclined, relationships between those who were immortal were complicated and taxing. If one loved and lived with a mate for centuries, the loss of that mate was devastating. Gideon and Jacob both had lost large families, living to see parents and siblings and their siblings’ children all perish. Wars, Summonings, and hunts. Demons who’d survived the wars with the Vampires and the Lycanthropes, endured the strange trickery of the Shadowdwellers with its morbid outcomes and the most devastating obliteration of the war with the Druids, had to now face lives completely empty of those they loved. After so many centuries, it just became too difficult to take risks again. Why enter relationships and invest one’s emotions? Marriage was rare and sexual relationships sometimes limited only to the weeks of the Hallowed moons, when they were so compelled.
Love was left to the young and foolish…
And the Imprinted.
In light of the fact that it was a half-Druid female sitting in Jacob’s lap, Gideon shouldn’t have been so surprised. Still, she was completely outside of a culture that defined every part of who Jacob was. But there was no help for it. Forces far beyond even the power of Demons had made the match.
Jacob was looking up at Gideon now that he had settled his woman comfortably in the protection of his embrace. Gideon knew he was waiting for a response to his query as certainly as he knew Jacob was displeased at finding him in a room with his mate while she was unclothed. Gideon was unrepentant. He had his reasons, and he didn’t need to defend himself.
“You asked how it is that you awoke her latent abilities? Without going into too complex a list of details, there is a code written on your DNA that, when in proximity to hers, triggers massive systemic alterations in her DNA and similar ones in yours, though on a smaller scale.”
“In mine? I am no different,” Jacob insisted.
“You have noticed no new abilities?”
“No. I would recognize if something had changed.”
Jacob, you’ve forgotten something.
What, little flower?
You do have a new ability. You’re using it right now.
Jacob went still, his fingers flexing in her hair as he looked down into her face. Her eyes were full of encouragement, brimming with acceptance.
“Isabella has just reminded me of a power that is new to me,” Jacob said quietly.
Gideon leaned forward in his chair a little. “Telepathy,” he stated. “That would suit not only what I know, but the prophecy as well. This is one of the first signs.”
“I also seem to have an empathy where enemies are concerned,” Bella noted.
“No, you do not.”
“Oh, I am so going to hit him,” Isabella growled to Jacob, her eyes flashing with violet anger. “How would you know?” she snapped.
“You clearly do not recall our agreement about accepting what I say as fact,” Gideon noted calmly.
“Bella, love,” Jacob said gently, “a Demon of the Body of Gideon’s age and abilities can simply look at you and see your powers.” He turned dark eyes on Gideon, knowing a look of warning would be lost on the Ancient. “Gideon is merely stating facts as he sees them; he does not mean to be insulting. He is an extremely literal being. Unlike your culture, ours does not subvert meaning behind words. We are a very direct species, and though many of us have adapted our language tendencies to suit human sensibilities, Gideon is the oldest among us, as well as one of the most isolative. Because of this, he is far less diplomatic than what you are used to from the rest of us.”
“Yeah, sure,” Isabella acquiesced, but she wasn’t feeling too warmly about it.
“For my part, Isabella, I will make an effort to remember there are nuances to your language that I am not skilled with. I am hoping you will bear with me.” Gideon’s largesse apparently served him well. Isabella truly did relax then, nodding with honest acceptance this time. Gideon sat back once more before continuing. “Tell me about the latest incident with the necromancer. In detail.”
Isabella and Jacob did, jointly, with Isabella giving the more in-depth account and Jacob adding the impressions he had gleaned off the imprisoned necromancer.
“You say you tasted blood in your mouth, but there was none?”
“Yes,” Isabella confirmed.
“Do you not see a parallel?”
“No.” Bella felt the telltale flex of Jacob’s hand and shot into his mind. “Your injuries? You struck your mouth on the dresser,” she read from him. “But that happened afterward.”
“Premonition. It is not empathy… it is premonition! You sense the future, Bella,” Jacob realized in a rush. “Of course! You smelled smoke, sulfur; you were choking on it that night before we even got to the warehouse, but the smoke did not occur until my attack on the necromancer broke his concentration and Saul broke free of the spell.”
“So last night, I was feeling the tension of our encounter with the necromancer a few minutes before it actually happened?”
“Something along those lines, yes. And the wound in my mouth. You tasted what I was going to taste in just a few minutes.”
“Eww. Yuck. What a sucky power! What good is premonition so soon before it actually happens?”
“Increased time between premonition and occurrence, as well as understanding of what you are seeing, comes with time, training, and experience,” Gideon informed her.
“Terrific. And after all that time I spent thinking turning twenty-one was the biggest milestone of my life. Thanks.” She indulged in her infamous eye roll, making Jacob chuckle.
“Premonition is an anomaly for a Druid, but I noticed the genetic disposition for it when I took your hand. You see, Druids had… ” He corrected himself. “Druids have specific abilities, just as any race inherently does. It is written on us all in code for all time, unchanged, with the exceptions of evolution and mutation, of course. Now, it is possible that the centuries of human and Druid breeding that led to who and what you are now has caused some unexpected mutations, a supposition supported by your unusual ability of premonition.
“Like ourselves, Druids draw strength from nature. For example, your increased senses, the ability to heal rapidly, and extraordinary endurance. Your new instinctual fighting skills are an anomaly as well, but it is purely from nature that you borrow the ability to sense the presence of power, especially of evil. It is an intuition not too unlike that of any prey sensing the proximity of the predator.”
“The necromancer. She sensed him when I could not because of premonition?” Jacob frowned. “I still do not entirely understand how I was unable to track him before his initial strike, though.”
“You lacked nothing, Jacob, except information. There are many Demons who live in isolation. If they were Summoned, no one would be the wiser. It was only a matter of time before the necromancers seized someone closer to your attention.”