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|Jacob(Nightwalkers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“Jacob, you know what I mean.” She giggled. “Stop that!”
“Stop what? Stop this?”
Isabella gasped, surprised to realize she wasn’t as exhausted as she’d previously thought. And neither was he. The evidence of that was stirring within her very own body.
“And you make fun of my libido?” she demanded.
“Perish the thought. I adore your libido.”
“Somehow I’m—Jacob, I’m trying to talk here!”
“And I am trying to shut you up,” he taunted, repeating the sly touch again.
“Have better uses for my mouth, do you?” she queried impishly, her eyes sparkling with humor.
“Dozens of them. Shall I list them?”
“Oh no. Let me.”
“Tell me something?”
“What?” Jacob asked, enjoying the feel of her hair beneath his hand as she nuzzled her cheek against his chest in a warm, kittenish way.
“No one ever explained to me why the necromancer wanted to know your name.”
Jacob went very still, and Isabella allowed him a moment to gather his thoughts. She knew it was a very significant question, even if she didn’t exactly know why.
“In many cultures it is believed that to give your name to someone is to give them power over you. For a Demon, it is a literal truth. A Demon’s name is the key ingredient in a Summoning. Without it, a necromancer cannot Summon him, cannot control him, and has no means of gaining power over him.”
Isabella lifted her cheek from his chest so she could look into his dark eyes.
“But everyone knows your name, Jacob. Any of the captured Demons could tell the necromancers your name.”
“No. I am the only one who knows my name.”
“I don’t understand.”
Jacob sat up, sliding back to lean against the headboard of the bed while she shifted position, curling herself around his raised knee, setting her chin on it and maintaining eye contact with him.
“When a Demon child is born, there is a naming ceremony,” he began. “There are only four people present. The mother, the father, and the Siddah. These four people are the only ones who ever know a Demon’s true name.” Jacob paused a minute, reaching out to stroke a thumb over the rise of her soft cheek. “Think of it like… riot control?” He shook his head, knowing it was an inadequate explanation. “Though it is not a crime to come into power, the methods we must use to keep control of newly fledged Demons require both parents and Siddah to know the young Demon’s name. It is a tool that allows one to quell power, to soothe and to settle the young one’s mind. It helps them focus enough to gain control themselves. It is also handy when they get a little too seneta yu va.” He tried to think of the equivalent and laughed. “Too big for their britches.”
“So your name is not Jacob?”
“Of course it is. You may actually find this a little ironic, but after we are given our power names, parents choose a call name, like Jacob and Noah and Elijah, and they usually select the name from—”
“Yes.” Jacob grinned. “You see, Demons have a great respect for the Christian religions. As you know, they gifted us with a peace and freedom that will never be matched. Choosing our children’s call names from the Bible is to us an act of tribute.”
“I think that’s wonderful.”
“It is an intimate tradition for expecting parents to spend an entire day selecting a call name. This is done with just the mother and the father, closed away from all the world. It begins with them recalling the first time they saw one another, the story of how each fell in love with the other, the foundation on which the child was conceived.”
“It sounds positively beautiful, Jacob,” Isabella whispered. She turned her eyes away from his briefly, and Jacob realized she was hiding a thought from him.
“What is it, little flower?”
She looked back, drawing her lower lip between her teeth in a telltale sign of apprehension.
“Jacob, according to the prophecy, you and I will have a child one day.”
Jacob went very still, his breath locking in his chest as he was overcome with an inexplicable sensation of fear.
“Does this disturb you?” he asked as levelly as he could manage.
Isabella wondered if he realized how transparent he was in that moment. Sometimes Jacob seemed to forget that she was always a part of his thoughts. He was practically terrified that she disliked the idea of having a child with him.
“Well, frankly it does,” she began, turning her face away so she could conceal her smile of mischief.
“I’m glad that you do. It’s unthinkable and I expect you to remedy the situation.”
Jacob was speechless. He felt his heart turning over painfully in his breast.
Then she turned back, her eyes bright with merriment. “So how do Demons get married anyway?”
Jacob sucked in a breath at last, his skin flushing with the sensation of rapid-fire emotional tidal waves.
“Isabella… ” he said, his tone dangerously full of reprimand. “Isabella Russ, are you teasing me?”
“Why no, Jacob,” she declared, all innocence. “I was asking you to make an honest woman of me. If you think that’s some kind of a joke, then I think it’s time I went home.”
She made as if to get off the bed, but he grabbed hold of her and tossed her back down into the softness of the comforter, looming over her dangerously.
“I am going to thrash you,” he hissed, giving her a shake by the shoulders. “You delight in torturing me!”
“No more or less than you have delighted in torturing me!”
“Isabella!” He growled her name but ended it with a laugh he couldn’t hope to contain.
“So are you going to answer me or not?”
“Did you ask me a question?” he rejoined.
“I believe I asked you to marry me.”
“Ah… well, I do not recall you getting down on one knee or anything,” he retorted.
“Look, I may be a modern woman, but that’s going too far. Next you’ll be wanting a diamond ring.”
“Actually, I look better in emeralds,” he chuckled.
“I’m sure. Listen, Enforcer, I don’t have all night.”
“In that case, Enforcer,” he returned, “I should tell you that Demons do not have a marriage ceremony like you would expect.”
“Of course not,” she said dryly, rolling her eyes. “I’m sure whatever it is, it’s pretentious and full of intensity. That is, after all, the Demon way.”
“Yes, very droll of us.” His expression changed, his dark eyes swimming with seriousness. “So much has happened to you in so short a time, Bella. How is it you seem so sure of this?”
“Jacob,” she said softly, “how can I be anything but sure? You’re my special destiny. I don’t need a prophecy or anything else to dictate that to me.” She reached up, running her searching fingers lightly over the shape and planes of his face. “My soul belongs with yours. Your heart belongs with mine. I feel this with every molecule of my being. I felt it the moment I saw some idiot walking down a dark street in the Bronx during the scariest hours of the night.”
“Mmm. I love you too,” he murmured, smiling against her mouth and kissing her until she was too breathless to tease him anymore. He settled into her body, fitting himself to her with unerring ease. She was made for him, and it could be felt in every place she came into contact with him. “I have lived a life that has seen and experienced a great many things,” he whispered, his voice hoarse with the intensity of his emotion, “but until I met you I never knew what it meant to love a woman the way I know I love you. I cannot promise that to stay with me will be an easy thing. There is much uncertainty in both of our futures.”
“I know, Jacob. I know this is no fairy tale. Happily ever after, while an appealing idea, is too much pressure for me anyway. We’ll still argue, I’ll still be too stubborn for words, and I’ll no doubt drive you completely insane. But I’ll make up for it by loving you to the best of my ability.”
“I will continue to be hard on myself and I will get your back up on a regular basis, no doubt. I will most likely foul up with you with horrifying regularity because I am not very experienced in how to have a love relationship. I have been alone for so long, little flower, and I am afraid it will serve to trip me up quite often. But I will make up for it, Isabella, because I love you beyond even the best of my ability.” Jacob smiled slightly, reaching to catch her sudden tears with his thumb. “I did not intend to make you cry, Bella.”
“I can’t help it. My heart”—she rubbed her palm hard over the spot where the mentioned organ was housed—“I feel like it will burst.”
“How odd, little flower. Since I met you, my heart has done nothing but grow to make very certain it can accommodate you.” He bent his head to her, kissing her gently, and then moved away, standing up and taking her hands to pull her from the bed. “Come, there is something we must do.”
“You will see.”
Noah looked up when he heard footsteps on the stairs. He felt an alien sensation of anxiety when he saw his Enforcers descending toward him. Immediately he pushed it away, reminding himself that Isabella would never intentionally harm him or anyone else. Still, he stood up out of some deep-seated instinct, a need to meet her on his feet.
As soon as they came within his reach, Isabella dropped to her knees in front of him, her lovely violet eyes brimming with remorse as she took hold of his hand and pressed it to her cheek with great emotion.
“Forgive me, Noah,” she begged in a whisper.
Noah felt his heart turn over and instantly regretted all the feelings his fear had engendered within him. He dropped to one knee and turned her eyes up to his.
“There is nothing to forgive, little Enforcer,” he told her gently. He glanced up to look at Jacob, reading the gratitude in his expression quite clearly. “All you need do to repay me, Isabella, is continue to make this Demon, who is so like a brother to me, as happy as I have never seen him until your arrival.”
Jacob drew in a soft, quick breath. He’d never thought he meant that much to Noah.
“There is no repentance in doing something that gives me so much pleasure, Noah,” she said to Jacob’s King. Her fingers circled his wrist affectionately, the touch meant to replace her natural impulse to hug him, which she knew would be upsetting to her possessive mate. “But I can swear to you that I will always be yours to call on for anything you need. I’ll always be completely loyal to you, second only to Jacob and my sister.”
“Come.” Noah regained his feet, drawing her up to hers. “You have said enough. I am content. I will not stand for you to concern yourself over this accident a moment longer.”
Jacob then stepped up, taking his mate’s free hand and glancing at her. The Enforcers simultaneously lowered themselves to kneel before the King once more. Side by side, hand in hand, they looked up at Noah in perfect unison. Noah felt his chest constrict with overwhelming pleasure.
“My King,” Jacob began, his voice low but passionate as he spoke the words of a ritual more ancient than time, “we ask your blessing. Give your loyal servants permission to be joined on the night of the full moon, as my parents were joined, as yours were joined, so that as a completed pair, our power and our loyalty can serve you and all of our kind for all of our lives.”
“My King,” Isabella echoed softly, her beautiful eyes brimming with tears, “we ask your blessing. Give your loyal servants permission to be joined on the night of the full moon, so that as a completed pair, we can provide Demonkind with its future generation. I swear they will be as loyal to you as I am, as their father is, for that is how we will raise them.”
Noah stood silently before them, trying to work past the emotions that held him in thrall. He’d never thought to see this day, this day when Jacob would kneel before him, his dark head bowed close to that of the woman who would be his wife. Though she wasn’t Demon, Jacob had fed her the ritual words, and Isabella had spoken them with all of her heart behind them.
“Enforcers,” he said at last, his hands reaching to settle warmly on their bent heads, “my blessing is yours. I only ask one thing.”
They looked up simultaneously.
“Allow your King to perform the ceremony, for I could not tolerate it if anyone else tended to the union.”
Jacob was rendered completely speechless. Noah had only joined one other couple in his reign, and that had been his sister Hannah and her mate. The honor he was giving them was an astounding one. Isabella read Jacob’s reaction loud and clear, understood immediately the significance of Noah’s offer, and sobbed softly under the magnitude of her gratitude. Uncaring of any further protocols, Isabella gained her feet and literally threw herself into Noah’s embrace.
“Thank you! Noah, thank you so much!” she wept, kissing his cheek soundly. The King, looking quite baffled as he flushed under her exuberant affection, instinctively hugged his new Enforcer. After her tight clutch went on a minute more, he chuckled and looked at Jacob, who’d also risen to his feet.
“Enforcer, peel your bride off of me before she drowns me in her tears,” he laughed.
Jacob stepped up and did so, taking his emotional Isabella into his arms, securing her against his body.