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|Jacob(Nightwalkers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“That is not true!”
“Then prove it to me. Not with your thoughts, but with your actions and your words. Tell me you want me here, tell me you want me to be part of your life the way I want you to be a part of mine.” Her voice trembled and Jacob felt her hurt rush over his skin like little pinpricks. “Tell me I’m not the only one who’s learning what it means to love someone else so totally that they finally feel they have a chance at being complete!”
Jacob was speechless for a long minute, his dark eyes wide with his realization. His gaze encompassed her from head to toe, drinking in every minute detail of her and finding nothing that he didn’t already adore. He had known that long before this argument. He had very likely fallen in love with her the moment he had felt a passing impression of irreverent thought floating down to him from a window five stories up.
Destiny couldn’t have chosen better for him.
Actually, it wasn’t his feelings for her that he had ever really doubted. It was himself. Would he be what she needed him to be? Could a male who had lived such a solitary lifestyle, who had spent so much time embedded in work and responsibility have any idea how to treat so vital and loving a woman as she was?
“Isabella, I have never doubted my capacity to love you.” He reached under the heavy fall of her hair to wrap a large hand around the back of her neck, drawing her closer to his body so he could feel her warmth. “I am afraid that, in spite of how much I love you, I will not know how to be worthy of it.”
“That’s because you’ve never had anyone to tell you how worthy you really are, Jacob. All you’ve known for these past four hundred years is censure and hostility.” Isabella slid her arms around his waist, hugging her body to his with fervent affection. “But I’m here now, and I won’t let that happen to you anymore. I’m going to give you so much positive feedback you’re going to want to scream. I swear it,” she said fiercely, hugging him tighter still. “If you stay with me, I will show you everything I always thought love should be. Stay with me, Jacob.”
Jacob pressed his face into her hair, reflecting the press of profound emotion constricting him as tightly as her arms were. “Gideon was wrong, little flower,” he said hoarsely. “Your ability to render me powerless is already living a bright and potent life in you. I can barely speak.”
Then don’t speak.
She tilted her head back as she filled him with the thought and intense impressions of emotion and desire that floored him. He caught her mouth up against his and kissed her deeply.
I love you, little flower.
The silence in the Council chamber was so heavy, Jacob wondered if gravity had shifted. All were speechless, each barely breathing. Even Ruth, always the one with something quick to say in riposte, was subdued.
Gideon’s presence had had a profound impact to begin with, the information revealed to them not withstanding. Jacob imagined it couldn’t be easy to hear that the race that was so proud of its purity of breed was actually dooming itself with its ignorant prejudices of both the past and present. When it came down to it, the Demon race was proud of its intelligence and knowledge, as well as its culture and its power. Learning that their ancestors had been capable of atrocities similar to those they had often condemned the “less evolved” human race for was nothing short of painfully horrifying, in as much as it was enlightening.
“It would seem,” Noah said, at last breaking the hush, “that our future as a race is going to change dramatically. The Council will need to discuss the ramifications of this in detail. I want it made clear that at this time no one is to approach any human being under any circumstances. The laws that have governed us toward them will remain in place until we can revise them. The Enforcer will still punish those who cannot control that impulse. Is this clear?”
“Clear, and wise,” Elijah agreed. “I will loan my warriors to Jacob at a moment’s notice should there be any need for it.”
“Actually, that brings up something that must be addressed immediately,” Noah said. “The Druid, Isabella.”
Jacob stiffened in his seat, his fingertips tensing on the tabletop. Noah had not discussed bringing up Isabella to the Council with him. He had been prepared for all Gideon had imparted, but he had no idea what the King was thinking.
“It will be the duty of every person in this room to see to it that Isabella’s safety and security amongst our race is paramount. This woman has brought salvation to us. We must recognize that and afford her the respect her actions on our behalf have garnered. It was she who discovered the prophecy, and for no other reason than having our best interest in her heart. We who have not treated her so kindly to date.” Noah’s eyes flicked to Ruth and a couple of the others, and each had the grace to lower their eyes.
“The prophecy has mapped out her future, and it is our responsibility to see that she fulfills it in good health and spirits.” Noah paused long enough to look at his Enforcer. “The role of the Enforcer will change for all time. His responsibilities, already vast, will no doubt triple. Gideon and I have discussed this in great depth, and we feel that Isabella’s training as Enforcer should begin immediately.”
There was a communal indrawn breath from all sectors of the room, and Noah was highly aware of Jacob’s eyes narrowing on him dangerously. Jacob was concerned with Isabella’s safety, and Noah didn’t blame him. But there was a method to his actions.
“So young? What can she possibly—” Ruth began.
“I do not recall opening the subject to debate,” Noah said stonily, the look in his smoky eyes sending a bolt of alarm down Jacob’s spine. He could only imagine how Ruth felt being on the receiving end of it. “This is a momentous day in the history of our race,” the King continued, instantly shaking off the power he had used to quell Ruth. “This is the day we return all the wrongs we have committed to rights. Isabella will be the first to join our brethren, but she will not be the last. Think of the gift we have been given. At last we have the solution to a peaceful existence.” He caught Jacob’s gaze and held it intently. “Jacob and Isabella will be the gateway leading us to that future. They will guide us to the Druids we so desperately need. Jacob’s blessing has unlocked the future for us all.”
If it could have been, the silence in response was even heavier than that of earlier. Jacob swallowed thickly, looking away from Noah as gratitude swam through him. The King had just made a statement that would change the way the Enforcer was viewed for all time.
Enforcers, Jacob corrected himself.
Isabella threw her head back, releasing a spray of perspiration from her brow. She was drawing in large amounts of air, her body crouching down low to the ground as she caught a telltale movement in her adversary’s posture. A moment later, Elijah turned to air and rushed at her violently.
“No fair, you cheating bastard!” she shouted, taking two steps and springing into his attack, diving through the force of his approach as she might dive into water, completely streamlining her small body and allowing him to pass over her without buffeting her in the slightest. She hit the ground in a somersault, rolling up onto her feet with a triumphant cry.
Elijah materialized instantly, his laughter coming a moment earlier than his solidification.
“Damn me, Jacob, but she thinks fast!”
Isabella was jumping up and down, laughing and taunting Elijah. She posed, flexing her tiny biceps as if she were as powerful in shape and musculature as the warrior was.
“Super Druid wins again!”
Jacob was chuckling at her antics, giving Elijah a shrug that asked the warrior what else he might expect from the mate of the Enforcer. Isabella loped across the lawn and sprang into Jacob’s waiting arms, her arms winding around his neck as her legs kicked up into his cradling embrace.
“Tell him to stop cheating!” she demanded, kissing him until he was too breathless to do anything but obey.
“Stop cheating,” he commanded the warrior before he caught her flighty mouth tightly onto his.
“Oh, brother. Get a room,” Elijah barked dryly. “Are we going to train, or are you two going to have public sex?”
Jacob laughed and dropped his eager burden back onto her feet. “When her dampening power kicks in, you are not going to be able to use yours, and neither will anyone else. That’s why what she needs to learn is better hand-to-hand combat.”
“And diplomacy,” she reminded Jacob quickly. “I’m only going to fight if I absolutely have to.”
“That is exactly how I approach it,” Jacob agreed.
“Just remember, Isabella, fun and games with me and Jacob is one thing. Being forced to cause harm to someone else is a very difficult position to be in.”
“Don’t patronize me,” Isabella snapped suddenly, all humor instantly dismissed as her hands went to her hips and her eyes flashed with indignant irritation. “Or do I have to break your nose again to remind you how, in the moment, I can be very serious about hurting someone else?”
Damn, but she knows how to go straight for a man’s ego, Jacob thought with amazement as the warrior flinched visibly. It wouldn’t surprise him if her ability to ferret out an adversary’s mental weakness wouldn’t end up being one of her best talents.
“All right, that is enough training for one day,” Jacob announced, circling her hips with an arm and drawing her close to his side.
“Jacob, you promised you’d take me on patrol with you soon. I want to learn how to track properly. I want to watch you work.”
“Not yet, little flower.”
“When?” she demanded.
“Soon,” he promised.
“You don’t want me to go with you,” she stated suddenly.
Damn this mental connection anyway, Jacob thought irritably.
“It is not that exactly… ” he started cautiously.
“It’s exactly that,” she insisted.
Uh-oh, there go the fists on her hips, Jacob thought wryly.
“You’re damn right I’m getting my back up,” she responded sharply, making him curse the errant thought. “You don’t trust me.”
“That is absolutely wrong. Our communication mentally is not perfect as of yet, Bella, so do not think you are reading that right. It is not that I do not trust you, it is just that… I am afraid that if I should happen to be threatened, you would not keep a safe distance no matter how much you promised otherwise and you would jump into the fray without any regard for your own safety. Until you have the natural protection you are intended to have for these types of encounters, I will not risk your safety.”
“Jacob.” Her eyes narrowed on him and he read her impending words from her thoughts before they passed her lips on the way to his ego.
“And do not bring up the fact that you have already done battle twice for my benefit if you want to make it through the night without a bruised backside,” he warned.
Isabella’s temper subsided as she realized what a low blow that would’ve been, especially knowing how hard Jacob had been on himself as it was. She lowered her eyes, glancing to the right to see if Elijah had made a discreet exit. Of course he hadn’t, the big oaf. He was standing there hanging on the entire exchange with far too much amusement in his eyes. For once she wished she were the one who could turn them to dust and spirit them away to a quiet place.
No sooner had the thought crossed her mind than that eerie lightness washed through her. She looked up at Jacob, smiling that he’d so thoughtfully anticipated her need.
But the look on Jacob’s face was one of total shock. Suddenly they shot back into their solid forms and Isabella staggered under the clumsy return of her weight. That was so unlike Jacob. Usually these transitions went quite smoothly.
“It was not me,” he said hoarsely.
His dark eyes were wide with unease. He was pushing away from her, spreading out his arms until he was literally touching the surrounding energy. She recognized him extending his senses in a wide blanket, riding the currents of nature, testing its natural rhythms and harmonies for the disturbance of an intruder. Of course, another Earth Demon could easily mask these telltale signs, but it would take an Elder to do so. He was currently one of the only three Elders with the skill, and he knew their energy signatures well enough to recognize that they weren’t there.
“Jacob?” Elijah asked, tension radiating from his huge frame in great waves.
Jacob glanced at Elijah and a second later they both transmutated into dust and wind respectively, taking to the sky with blinding speed.
Stay where you are, Jacob demanded.
What’s wrong? What’s happening, Jacob?
I do not know. Someone just tried to turn you into dust, and it sure as hell was not me.
Isabella felt the ramifications of that possibility keenly. She sat down, her knees suddenly too weak to support her. Was this what Gideon had been afraid of? Was some other Demon trying to hurt her just because of some old hostility toward a race their ancestors had so unjustly persecuted?
No, Bella, this is something else, Jacob assured her gently. I think it is safe to say that my people have become very accepting of you, and the ramifications you represent, these past days.
Then who… ?
That is what I am trying to figure out. Do you think you can safely reach Noah?
Yes. Of course. It’s only across the lawn, Jacob.
Believe me, when it comes to powers such as this, little flower, across the lawn might as well be across the world. Go. Go quickly. He will protect you.
Isabella wasted no time. She stood up and broke into a flat run. Her new strength had turned her into an incredible sprinter and she crossed the acre of lawn to Noah’s home in the span of half a minute.