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|Jacob(Nightwalkers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
scroll he was having with two of his scholars when she burst through the door, flushed and breathless. He didn’t need to have Jacob’s connection with her to know something had rattled her. She looked terribly frightened, an expression he’d never seen on her before.
Even when she had thought Jacob might bleed to death, she’d only shown anger and determination to stop it. This was honest terror in her eyes, and out of instinct Noah’s protective magic flared into existence. His house was made from stone and steel along the outside for a reason. It was so nothing could melt when he heated up the outer walls with violent speed as he was doing just then. Anything that touched them would singe itself badly just by nearing the outside of the structure.
“Tell me,” he commanded of the little Enforcer.
She did, spilling out everything that had happened in those brief moments. Noah suddenly didn’t blame her for her fear. To have some unknown source picking apart the very molecules of her body had to be incredibly disconcerting for her.
“Fetch Legna, Isabella. She should be in her room. Do not worry. You will be safe here with us.”
After she hurried off, Noah nodded to the two scholars curtly. The one on his left, of the Body, sat down abruptly, and in a second his astral self launched out of his body. The Mind Demon on his right closed his eyes and disappeared with a soft sucking of displaced air. Noah was proud of how quickly the scholars jumped to obey the task he had set upon every Demon to protect the Druid amongst them.
Isabella wasn’t entering a traditional role of Enforcer, with all the apprehension and hostility it came with. His people were practical if nothing else. She represented a change in the one thing they feared the most. The madness of the Hallowed moons, and the insulting punishment that followed, could be a thing of the past. This was a powerful motivator for his people when it came to welcoming the little hybrid into the fold.
Once Isabella returned with Legna, brother and sister took seats opposite one another and slowly began to erect further protections around Noah’s stronghold, working in a fluid, tandem dance of one-word instructions. Legna opened herself to the thoughts and intentions of everything within a mile. Noah set up a perimeter of energy-draining force. Legna circled that perimeter with one of dread. Anyone crossing this barrier would be overcome with the urge to run away.
Isabella felt all the hairs on her body tingling as power filled the room. She rubbed at her arms, chilled in spite of the heat Noah was radiating. Legna’s upper lip misted with perspiration, very likely because of her proximity to her brother—or perhaps because she was concentrating so hard, extending herself to the very edges of her ability.
Just to protect her.
Isabella was humbled by the thought. She instinctively moved closer to her protectors, her chilled skin welcoming Noah’s ambient heat.
Suddenly, the world flared into her awareness. Isabella’s brain was bombarded by a thousand feelings and instincts that weren’t her own, each rocketing through her with furious speed. She felt the fear of dozens of animals as the tension in the surrounding area sent them running. She felt arguments, lovemaking, humor, and reverence from people living not too far away, the clamor forcing her to cover her ears in an effort to protect them from the cacophony of emotions. She sensed Jacob’s tension, Elijah’s outrage. In a moment she discovered the giant warrior Demon had grown fond of her despite everything he showed otherwise to taunt her.
Overwhelmed, Isabella sat down hard on the marble floor, her eyes wide and staring blankly as she tried to push it all away. Self-preservation flared violently to life in her…
… and then out of her.
A conflagration of flames burst to life all around her, radiating outward in a rapid circular wave of which she was the central focus. Legna screamed. Noah shouted.
And then everything stopped.
From their patrolling position in the sky, Jacob and Elijah felt the eddy of a tremendous blast of heat. They both solidified, whirling around to seek the source. They were horrified to see a circle of flames bursting out of Noah’s home, racing across the lawn, and scorching it instantly to the soil.
Both Demons reacted in an instant. Jacob stretched out his arms and walls of earth shot up to meet the advancing fires. Elijah reached upward to the clouds, and as if throwing a spear, tossed a force of incredible wind at the back of the firewall to make sure it kept going in its present direction, and subsequently its demise, instead of possibly doubling back. The earth closed over the flames, dousing them instantly as it deprived them of oxygen. For good measure, Elijah stirred up a heavy rainfall, dampening everything in a matter of moments.
A heartbeat later they were soaring for Noah’s home at top speed.
Jacob noticed immediately that there were no safeguards protecting the home. He knew that if Isabella had begged Noah for shelter and protection it should have been nearly impossible for him to approach. He sought his connection with Isabella, fear clutching at his throat. He’d felt a powerful burst of terror from her a moment before the explosion. But now there was nothing but vacant silence where her warm thoughts should be.
Elijah and Jacob shot through the high windows as arrows of dust and wind, becoming solid again in half a millisecond as they touched the ground.
Horrified, Jacob realized that every last surface in the Great Hall had been scorched black.
And in the center of the blackness lay three bodies.
“Bella!” Jacob yelled, stumbling and skidding over the blackened marble in his haste to gather her unconscious form up in his arms. Through eyes blinded by moist terror, he began to assess her for damage. She was raw and blistered, clearly burned as if she’d been in the sun for hours. Her hair was singed and her clothes melted to her skin, the scent of both choking her mate with outrage.
“It’s Noah and Legna!” Elijah knelt beside the King and his sister. They were barely recognizable, their skin and clothes burnt nearly black, Legna’s beautiful hair long gone. Jacob looked up from his burden, seeing tears shimmering in Elijah’s eyes as he gingerly felt for a pulse in the throat of his monarch.
“Impossible,” Jacob said hoarsely. “Noah is immune to fire!”
“We need Gideon. Now!”
Jacob watched as Elijah stood up, his fists clenching, his consciousness reaching out with the most incredible display of power Jacob had ever seen the other Demon use.
Gideon sensed the disturbance approaching seconds before it struck with wailing hurricane force at the windows of his home. He put aside the book he had been reading and stood up, cocking his head thoughtfully. He was being summoned, and by the power of it he suspected he knew by whom. His brow furrowed at the peculiar prospect, but he wasted no time in opening his door and stepping out into the maelstrom of wind. A moment later he was transformed into a part of it and was hurtling through the atmosphere.
Ashes stirred up in a wild fog of remnants of destruction as Elijah dragged Gideon into the room with incredible force, rematerializing him in a heartbeat. The minute the Ancient Demon was solid, Elijah staggered backward and dropped weakly to the floor. It had taken every ounce of his strength to perform such an incredible feat from such a distance.
Then silver eyes were encompassing the trauma in the room around him. In a rare show of emotion, Gideon swore softly. “What happened?”
“We do not know,” Jacob responded. He quickly related what he and Elijah had seen as the Demon knelt by Noah and Legna’s inert forms.
He reached for the King first, touching the charred flesh of his wrist, sinking his consciousness into Noah’s body. His lungs were scorched from inhaling incredible heat, but other than that it was his skin and hair that had suffered the most. For a human that could have proved fatal, but it was a simple enough repair for Gideon to make. He started by shutting down all the pain receptors in the injured Demon’s body. He healed the lungs first and then urged them to work a little quicker, a little differently, so as to flood the King with a high concentration of oxygen. Then Gideon meticulously began to rejuvenate patches of skin, one cell at a time. It took fifteen minutes before healthy flesh became visible to the two Demons waiting with anxiously held breath nearby. Once Gideon had repaired 50 percent of Noah’s damaged skin, he broke away and turned to Legna. If he waited until Noah was completely healed, he would lose Legna. His fingers reached out to touch the female Demon’s formerly beautiful cheek.
He was unaware that he was whispering under his breath in tandem to the mental processes of reconstruction. Jacob watched with fascination as Gideon repeated the list of mental processes required in his reconstruction procedure. It was rapid and flawless. Legna’s natural skin tone began to flush over her limbs, her throat and her elegant face. She was once more pink and tan, soft and beautiful.
But still Gideon did not turn back to the King. He rested Legna across his thighs and reached to strip off his shirt. He gingerly slid it over her arms, covering her bare body carefully, smoothing long fingers down her thighs so that the tails went straight to her knees. Then he lifted the unconscious female higher into his arms, and brushing tender fingertips over the baldness of her newly repaired scalp, lowered his mouth so close to her skin that his whispered chant seemed like a kiss. In a minute, soft coffee-colored curls began to grow over the bare skin. In five minutes, they had lengthened to shoulder-length hanks. Gideon didn’t stop until Legna’s hair was pooling in its usual dramatic lengths over his arms and thighs.
Finally, he disentangled himself from the growth he’d created. He carefully laid her back along the floor, his fingertips lingering for a moment on the curve of her neck. Then, releasing a sigh, Gideon turned back to Noah. The powerful Body Demon was taxing himself with such an enormous undertaking, but there was no sign of that in the icy chips of his eyes.
When the replacement of Noah’s hair was the only task left to him, Gideon paused once more in his care of the King to cast assessing eyes over Isabella. Gideon rose, stepped over the sleeping bodies of the recently healed Demons, and then crouched down across from Jacob. Even though he knew Gideon would do everything in his power to help Isabella, Jacob couldn’t control the urgent request for help in his eyes. Gideon reached for Isabella, but hesitated before touching her skin.
“Jacob, I have to touch her to heal her.”
“I know that. Why do you hesitate?” The Enforcer couldn’t help the sharp impatience in his tone.
“It has been my experience that sometimes Imprinted mates do not respond well to members of the opposite sex touching their partners, no matter how innocently or well meant.”
Jacob frowned, his first instinct to deny the ridiculousness of him allowing some petty jealousy to get in the way of Isabella’s care. But he was reminded of the hostile surges of emotion he’d been struggling with whenever Noah had shown affection to her, or how when Elijah and Isabella had trained together these past few days, he’d sometimes been forced to leave so he couldn’t see him lay hands on her pretending to harm her.
He felt a humorless laugh bubbling past his lips.
“Heal her,” he whispered to Gideon, his voice hoarse with emotion.
Gideon nodded once, sharply, in acceptance. He concentrated on reducing the instinctive tenderness of his touch, making certain that nothing he did could be misinterpreted by the possessive Enforcer. There was no inner damage to Isabella at all, and she was by far the least damaged of the three. It was confusing and completely illogical. If anyone should have come through unscathed from this conflagration, it should have been Noah. The damage to Isabella’s skin was swiftly repaired, and Gideon searched over and through her for any clue as to why she was the least harmed.
It took only a passing thought for him to brush away the scorched ends of her hair and regrow the raven mass back to its original length and health. He cast a heavy healing sleep inducement on her, reinforcing it twice so she wouldn’t be able to wake herself from it. Then he straightened and walked away from the circle of Demons on the floor. He went over to a fourth body that neither the Earth nor Wind Demon had even noticed was there.
“Samson.” Gideon answered the unasked question that was pending.
Elijah had regained a small amount of strength, and with it he moved to assist Jacob in bringing their charges to a safer, cleaner place.
“No. You rest. I will take them to my home… ” Jacob began.
“No. You can’t. We still don’t know if other necromancers got a fix on your home because of that night.”
“Not the one in Dover. I am not an idiot,” he barked. Then he realized how his tone sounded and apologized.
“No”—Elijah raised a forgiving hand—“you’re right. You aren’t an idiot and you sure as hell don’t need me pointing out things to you that even the rawest fledgling would know. I’m sorry. I’m just tired and this whole business has terrified the hell out of me.”
“Follow me. I have plenty of room and you need to rest where it is safe,” Jacob urged, rising to his feet with Isabella’s limp body in his arms.
When Gideon entered the room, Jacob was seated in a chair beside Isabella’s bed, both of his hands clasped around one of her smaller ones. He was rubbing the tips of her fingers against his lips, speaking softly to her even though she wouldn’t hear him.
“When will you wake her?” Jacob asked, the question strained with his poorly suppressed emotions.
“I do not think she should be awakened for at least a couple of days,” Gideon informed him. “Jacob, what you are feeling is normal for an Imprinted mate. It is… difficult for you to bear the loss of her thoughts within your mind. It was just as difficult for her when you were unconscious.” Then Gideon ventured further. “Just as it would be deadly to her to lose you, it is often just as deadly for the Demon. Remember, we are the few that we are because of this. This is what it means to be Imprinted, and as time goes on, the connection will only grow stronger.”