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|Jacob(Nightwalkers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“So how does this indicate I was not lacking something?”
“I recently discovered that Lucas, the Elder, is missing. I presume Summoned.”
Jacob sucked in his breath, his body going so tight that Isabella was compelled to hug him in comfort. He absently returned the gesture as he looked down into her eyes. “Lucas is an Elder Demon of the Mind. If they have him imprisoned, he will teleport them anywhere they desire, allowing them to pop up without warning.”
“But there was no smoke or that sulfuric smell like when Legna teleports.”
“Elders do not leave that display behind. Their skills are such that they can transport themselves and others quite cleanly. As long as Lucas is under their sway, he can transport anyone who forces him to with no warning, and this is another reason why our safety is terribly imperiled. Especially anyone Lucas is or was closely acquainted with.”
“Let us focus on the question of Bella’s powers,” Jacob said hastily. “Is there anything else we can expect?”
“Unfortunately?” she repeated.
“I am, of course, speaking from the perspective of a Demon who was once a part of the war with the Druids. I will attempt to refrain from casting any further bias on the matter.”
“You do that,” Isabella encouraged dryly.
“I am not the only one who will reflect that bias when knowledge of this power becomes widespread. You may meet with some prejudice.”
Again her eyes went heavenward. “As opposed to what I got for just being the human?”
“Perhaps I am understating. You could be considered enough of a threat to renew the hostilities that set Demon and Druid at odds in the first place. Your life could be in danger.”
“Wait a minute, I thought harming humans was bad,” Bella said, wriggling when Jacob’s grip on her arm became uncomfortably tight. She didn’t have to read his mind to know what he was feeling.
“You are not entirely human. Do not mistake me; we have evolved a great deal since those times. But we have our fanatics just as any other society does. Though we like to think ourselves evolved beyond certain behaviors, fear can be a powerful motivator.”
“Just tell us,” Jacob demanded quietly.
“She can dampen power. It works on any supernatural being. Necromancer, Vampire, Lycanthrope… ”
“Yes,” Gideon confirmed. “And it will not just be a dulling, unless the mix of her heritage has changed this. She can literally render them temporarily powerless. You see, when the ability comes to life in you, Isabella, it will always be on. The skill will be for you to shut it off. It was this capability that allowed the Druid monarch to kill the Demon King. They met under peaceful pretenses. When they were alone, the Druid dampened the Demon’s power and murdered him.”
“Oh my God. How did you ever trust each other? Knowing they had such superiority over you, how could you share a culture with them? And how did you ever eradicate a race of people you couldn’t even get close to without becoming totally powerless?”
Gideon hesitated, for the first time showing a very human compulsion to be subversive. Isabella felt Jacob drawing to even sharper attention.
“Firstly, it was not a matter of trust so much as it was a matter of necessity. Druids and Demons were meant to have a symbiotic relationship. A Druid needs a Demon to bring its power to life. A Demon needs a Druid to dampen its power.”
“Why would a Demon want to willingly have… ? Oh my. The moon madness,” Isabella answered herself.
“Yes, this is a large part of it, though our ancestors dealt with a different degree of this. However, if we review the warnings about the risks involving mating with humans, you might find an equally compelling reason.” Gideon’s eerie eyes flicked from Isabella to Jacob. “Evidence to the fact was littered across your home last evening, Jacob. Had she been merely human, the loss of control you experienced could have been deadly not only for her, but also for others in the vicinity. Luckily, your power is already coming awake, Isabella. Considering the quiet degree of it and the circumstances of those… less focused moments… you have not noticed it.
“As for the eradication of the Druids, it was not an easy task. War never is. However, Druids have their weaknesses just as Demons do and, suffice it to say, they were thoroughly exploited.” Gideon held up a staying hand when Jacob would have questioned him. “It comes to this,” he said at last, “and this is what I must reveal to the Council: Demons were never meant to find their mates entirely amongst one another. They were meant to find the majority of them in the Druids. In destroying the Druids, we sacrificed knowing what it meant to find the perfect complementary spirit. I believe humans refer to it as a soul mate. We refer to it as Imprinting. It is why so many of us are so solitary, and why so many of us cannot find comfort in a member of the opposite sex… why there has not been an Imprinting in centuries…
“Until now,” he countered himself with reverence in his tone. “Jacob, you find yourself providential among all Demons. It is why from the moment you met, the two of you have been unable to resist being a part of the other. Imprinting is a glorious and compelling intensity and it cannot be forestalled. When a Demon and Druid meant to be Imprinted come into contact, it immediately triggers the DNA alterations I mentioned. So you see, you are destined to meet for this purpose before you are even born, prophecy notwithstanding.”
Isabella was staring at the Ancient with wide eyes, but what she was focused on was Jacob’s emotional reaction. He had turned his face completely into her hair and a sensation of euphoria that was equal parts agony washed through him.
“This brings us to your weaknesses, Isabella,” the medic continued, oblivious to the emotions crashing through the couple he lectured. “Once a Druid comes into power after being triggered by a Demon, they must have a regular dose of exposure to that Demon from that moment on, somewhat like a human who must absorb sunlight for their health.”
“You mean, Jacob is sort of like… a vitamin for me?” Bella asked numbly.
“It would be more accurate to say he is like an energy source. His presence recharges you, especially after large expenditures of your abilities. Without that recharge… well, you are aware of what happens to a battery that loses its charge.”
“It dies,” Isabella whispered, a sensation of dreadful trepidation washing over her. “Did you… do you mean to say that… Did you defeat the Druids by depriving them of their energy sources? You”—she swallowed hard—“you starved them to death?”
“It is worse than that, Bella,” Jacob rasped, his voice rough and airless as horror dawned in his eyes. “It means they starved their Imprinted soul mates to death. Sweet Destiny, Gideon, how could you destroy the creatures you needed and loved the most?”
“Few did so willingly. Almost none, in fact. It was left to those of us without mates to impress the dictate upon them.”
“Jacob… ” Isabella gasped, trembling in his hold and shuddering with her thoughts.
“I am not proud of this history, Druid,” Gideon said quietly. “I was a member of the forces delegated to imprisoning reluctant members of my own species, thereby forcing them to kill their beloved mates. It is no excuse to say I was a mere fledgling at the time, either. I can only beg you to forgive us for our barbarism as anyone might forgive a society for the mistakes it made when it was young. And though I ask no pity for it, we have suffered equally for our folly. After the war, the rash of suicides that followed almost destroyed us in populace. Today, we live loveless, incomplete lives with madness dogging our heels. Just deserts, one might say.”
Isabella could not conceive of what she was hearing. Her head filled with images of Demons imprisoned by their own kind, their souls screaming for the mates they knew were starving to death without them. She herself, even after only these few days, couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be forced away from Jacob.
“You have kept all of this to yourself all these centuries, Gideon?” Jacob asked hoarsely. “Do you know the implications of Isabella’s existence?”
“Yes. I am aware of it.”
Isabella turned questioning eyes to Jacob. His lips were white at the edges with his tension. “It means, Bella, that Druids have existed all of this time, and however watered down they may be, some of them very likely could have crossed paths with their Demon counterparts. And since neither would be aware of it, the Druid would have died inexplicably from the deprivation that ensued afterward. It also means… ” Isabella felt him shudder with revulsion. “It means that all of these centuries as Enforcer, I may have been depriving Demons instinctually drawn to other human-Druid hybrids of their one true mate. Gideon, how could you keep such a thing to yourself?” he demanded.
“I did not know until my encounter with you, Isabella, that such a thing existed. As far as I knew, I had seen my last Druid a thousand years ago. Believe me, Enforcer, I am potently aware of what the ramifications of my silence about our history may have caused. I do not need your condemnation to supplement my own.” The Body Demon at last rose to his feet, looking very much as though he moved under the weight of his information. “I will have Noah convene the Council this evening. I will repeat all I have told you there. Mark me well, Enforcer. Your mate will potentially be in danger once I do this. It is because I owed you a great debt that I came to warn you first. You must also take measures that see to your own safety. Isabella will not survive long if something should happen to you.”
With that statement and a sharp wink of silver light, Gideon left.
Jacob was beset by a sensation of weight pressing into his chest. There was no easy way to take in the thousands of ramifications that came with the knowledge Gideon had imparted. However, being that it was his culture and his world, he imagined he was far better equipped to deal with it than the silent woman who sat with her knees tucked up close to her chest as she leaned back against the headboard.
What could he possibly say to her in that moment? He had been responsible for everything that had been happening to her, for the complete upheaval of a life she was now realizing she could never completely return to. If she was going to live, she was going to have to remain associated with him for the rest of her now considerably extended lifetime, whether she wanted to or not. It wasn’t how Jacob had wanted her to feel compelled to remain close to his side, and it sat very ill with him.
“Isabella,” he whispered, his remorse heavy on the word.
She looked up, her pretty violet eyes seeming so large, vulnerable, and forlorn.
“I know your mind, Enforcer. Don’t make this into yet another reason for you to abuse yourself.” She reached to push back the heavy fall of that incredible hair of hers and gave him a wan smile. “You pick the strangest times to respect the privacy of my mind. If you were in here now, you’d know that I don’t hold you responsible for all of this.”
“How can you not? If we had never met—”
“If we’d never met,” she interrupted him, “I’d have gone on living half of a life instead of a complete one. Jacob, what is it you think I’m leaving behind?” She stretched a moment, then climbed off the bed to walk up to him. Her nearness comforted him automatically, filling him with a sensation of peace that was in contradiction with his thoughts.
“All of my life I’ve never quite fit in. I lived on the fringes of human society, Jacob, a very solitary person with the exception of my sister and her few friends for company. The night I met you I was looking out at the moon, as I had thousands of nights before, and even then I knew there was something about it and the night that held important secrets for me. I spent years reading voraciously, in search of information. I think it was these answers I searched for all of that time. I think it was you I longed for, Jacob.”
“I wonder if you would feel that way if you had a choice in the matter,” he responded stiffly.
“I do have a choice, Jacob.” She reached out and picked up his hand between hers. “I could choose to go back to where I was and slowly waste away. But it would have nothing to do with being deprived of necessary energy, Jacob, and everything to do with being deprived of all the things I have finally discovered with you. Do you have any idea the gift your presence in my life has given me?”
He could imagine that if it was anything like what she had brought to him, it was a very profound one.
“That’s right, Jacob,” she encouraged softly. “Everything in life is part of some greater plan of fate that none of us knows about until it actually happens.”
“I always believed that Destiny gave us free will, Bella. That we all have a choice.” He paused, toying with her soft fingers for a moment before bringing them up to the press of his lips. “Yes, I believe in special destinies, but… I wanted you to come to me because you chose it, not because you had to.”
“Jacob, you aren’t listening to me.”
“I am! And I do not think you know what you are saying. How can you, in light of all the overwhelming things that have been happening to you?”
She jerked her hand out of his, curling it into a fist that promptly ended up on her hip. “I’m a full-grown woman with a mind of her own, Jacob, that’s how! You keep expecting all of this to piss me off, to make me feel trapped, and when I don’t, you’re disappointed somehow and make every effort to see that I do! Perhaps it isn’t me who’s having a problem adjusting, Enforcer. I’m beginning to think that you’re the one who doesn’t want to commit to the implications of having me here.”