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|Jacob(Nightwalkers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“Safe and sound,” she reported. Then, with a grin, she popped herself off.
Gideon was just getting to his feet when Bella and Legna materialized in Noah’s home a moment later. Though a good deal of work to refurbish the King’s home had already begun to take place, Isabella couldn’t escape the feeling that the still-sooty surroundings matched perfectly how she looked and felt in that moment. She found a stone bench and lowered herself onto it with a sigh as Legna moved quickly to her side. The beauty took up her hand.
The Ancient medic moved close to the female Enforcer, crouching down before her while he slowly examined her with both his eyes and his senses. The medic’s silver eyes focused on the stain of blood spreading beneath Isabella’s right breast.
“You are fortunate not to have punctured a lung.” He reached for a seam at the waist of her former bridal dress and gripped it in his free hand. With a swift jerk he tore a large swath away from the seam, exposing her brutal wound. Legna made a soft sound of pained sympathy when she saw the sharp fragment of bone jutting out through Bella’s skin.
“You bear it well,” Gideon remarked.
Bella looked at him in surprise.
“Gideon… did you actually just pay me a compliment?” she asked, making sure her shock was well magnified in her voice. Legna ruined it, though, by laughing in an irrepressible snort out her nose, making Bella first laugh, then gasp in pain.
“Perhaps now you will have a care respecting an Ancient,” Gideon said with his usual, unshakable superiority.
Gideon’s eyes slid half closed and his fingers began to slide down the deep neckline of her dress, along the line of her breastbone. Bella jerked harshly and Legna gasped.
“Can you not stop her pain?”
“That is what I am doing,” Gideon said, his tone perplexed as he clearly tried to focus further. “You must relax, Bella,” he instructed as he reached for the torn wound, seeking to begin with healing ribs beneath her breast.
Isabella grabbed Gideon’s hand and simultaneously held her other palm to her forehead as if suddenly bludgeoned by a very bad headache.
“Oh, boy,” Legna said softly, releasing a giggle as she quickly perceived what Gideon couldn’t. “Gideon, I suggest you wait a little while.”
“Nonsense. The longer we wait, the more taxing it will be for her.”
“Explain that to her future husband,” Legna said pointedly, reaching out two fingertips to pluck the medic’s wrist away from Bella as if he were going to contaminate her.
Apparently, in spite of his distance from his mate, Jacob was refusing to tolerate Gideon’s hands on Isabella without being present himself. Gideon sighed but waited until the triad of powerful Demons all coalesced in the Great Hall some time later.
Jacob swore softly, raking a hand through his hair as he went to stand like a guard at Bella’s side.
“Never,” he said low on his breath, “let any other man touch you without warning me well in advance first. Better yet, never let any other man touch you.”
“Jacob, you’re being ridiculous,” she scolded him.
“Just obey me on this one matter, Bella.”
She looked like she wanted to argue, but she just wanted to get the healing over with, so she shrugged in half-hearted agreement.
“My apologies, Gideon,” he said tightly to the medic. “Feel free to continue.”
Gideon nodded, studying the Enforcer for a long minute before slowly returning his attention to Jacob’s injured mate. He reached for a less overtly sexual place on her body this time, allowing his fingertips to skim over her forehead as he went to touch the charred remains of her formerly lovely hair.
The growl that erupted out of the Enforcer was so chilling that Gideon actually jerked away from Isabella as if something had just tried to bite off his hand. When his eyes darted to the feral expression in Jacob’s eyes, he was surprised the Enforcer had not done exactly that. After a moment, Jacob seemed to recover himself, realizing with obvious horror that he’d just threatened the oldest of their kind.
“Ah hell,” Jacob sighed, turning away from his mate and the medic. “I am going to… go somewhere else.”
Jacob burst into a shower of dust, slipping away on the fastest breeze he could find.
Perplexed at this complete contradiction, Isabella looked at Gideon.
“The moon has effects even you cannot quell, Druid,” he explained. “You can keep him from losing control and causing damage with his abilities, but your proximity can only affect the manifestations of his power, not of the beast within him, nor the instincts that come with it. Frankly, I am surprised that I do not find I am deprived of a limb right now.”
Bella gasped suddenly, her eyes widening enormously.
“Fear not, Enforcer. I am certain Noah and Legna would have kept me safe.”
“I don’t care about that,” she exclaimed, missing the mild consternation that flitted through the medic’s silver eyes. “Jacob left!”
“He realized he could not control himself. It was a wise decision.”
“I know that,” she barked in more than mild irritation. “And you’re supposed to be an almighty Ancient?” She rolled her eyes. “I mean he left when he was standing right next to me!” She sighed heftily when they continued to look at her for clarification. “Okay… try this. Jacob, here.” She pointed to the sooty floor near her feet, which still held the imprint of his shoes. “Bella, here. Jacob… Bella… Demon… Druid… Power… power dampener!”
“Hey!” Legna exclaimed as she lit up with understanding. “How did you do that?”
“I… don’t know?”
“Well you must have done something,” Noah pointed out.
“She did,” Gideon stated calmly. “She injured herself.”
“I did,” Isabella agreed. Then she frowned. “And that means what, exactly?”
“When pain receptors fire in such magnitude, it disrupts the flow of energy in your body. It is very similar to the way injury and great pain hinder a Demon’s ability to concentrate. For you, however, it is all taking place on a subconscious level.”
“Oh! I get it!” Isabella smiled triumphantly. “Um, you better heal me while the healing is good. I can hear Jacob grumbling in my head.”
“I suggest you think of something other than my touch, Druid. I should not like you to inadvertently send him the very images he is attempting to distance himself from.”
“Hey, Bella,” Legna said with a giggle. “See any pink elephants lately?”
Isabella found Jacob sitting on the altar, his fist on his raised knee, his chin on his fist as he contemplated the clouds that ghosted over the moon. She bent to kiss his cheek, her newly grown hair coasting silkily over his nose and mouth. He lifted his chin, opening his palm to catch the soft ebony strands.
“You must be tired,” he said quietly. “I know being healed wears a body out.”
“So does beating the tar out of no-good necromancers,” she said, her hand pressing against his thigh until he dropped his leg at its insistence. She turned and settled herself in his lap, her arms wrapping warmly around the back of his neck. He wondered if she had any idea how the hold affected him. There was something about holding her in this particular manner that made him feel like the king of her world. He drew her close to his chest, pressing his lips to her forehead.
“You are the king of my world,” she said in a whisper, returning his kiss with one of her own. “Lucky me to have such a romantic and loving soul for my monarch.”
“And you are the queen who rules over my heart. Bella,” he said fiercely, “I have never known such acceptance, such love. Sometimes I feel it is a wonder that I do not burst into flame with the intensity of it.”
“Please, Jacob,” she sighed, “if you love me, you will not use the phrase ‘burst into flames’ ever again.”
He chuckled at that, kissing her cheek and her neck before tasting her lips gently.
“The night is over. There will not be time to finish the ceremony,” he said with regret.
“I would imagine that means you and I have a date, come Beltane.”
“I am sorry. I wanted this to be a special day for you. I even thought it might be normal… almost human,” he said with regret.
“Everything that can possibly go wrong, going wrong on a bride’s wedding day is as normal as it gets, Jacob.”
“Yes, but how many brides get turned into toast after doing battle with a monster?” he asked bitterly.
“The ones who forget to duck fast enough. Come on Jacob. Don’t do this. If you resent what I’ve become because of you, then you resent who I am… resent me.”
“Never,” he said fiercely. “I will never resent you.” He was quiet for a long moment. “But I will never be glad to see you march into danger. You have to forgive me this chauvinistic part of my love for you, Bella, but I will never feel completely comfortable watching you risk your life.”
“And do you think it’s any easier for me, Enforcer? Don’t you know how hard it was for me to leave you behind, leave you to fight with that prejudiced, evil son of a bitch? I know how powerful he was, I could feel it from head to toe.” She rested her forehead in the crook of his neck. “But I’m glad you are who you are, if only because I have someone to turn to and ask… does it ever get easier?”
“Killing, Jacob. I never… never intentionally… Is it always so hard?”
“Always,” he assured her tightly. “It is the day it is no longer hard to take that you should begin to worry.”
She nodded mutely as he gathered her even tighter against himself.
“Do you think, little flower, that there will ever come a day when you regret meeting me?” he asked quietly.
“Yes,” she said simply.
“I see,” he said tightly.
“Would you like a specific date?”
“You are teasing me,” he realized suddenly.
“No, I’m dead serious. I have an exact date in mind.”
Jacob pulled back to see her eyes, looking utterly perplexed as her pupils sparkled with mischief.
“What date is that? And why are you thinking of pink elephants?”
“The date is September 8, because, according to Gideon, that’s possibly the day I will go into labor. I say ‘possibly,’ because combining all this human/Druid and Demon DNA ‘may make for a longer period of gestation than usual for a human,’ as the Ancient medic recently quoted. Now, as I understand it, women always regret ever letting a man touch them on that day.”
Jacob lurched to his feet, dropping her onto her toes, grabbing her by the arms, and holding her still as he raked a wild, inspecting gaze over her body.
“You are pregnant?” he demanded, shaking her a little. “How long have you known? You went into battle with that monster while you are carrying my child?”
“Our child,” she corrected indignantly, her fists landing firmly on her hips, “and Gideon only just told me, like, five seconds ago, so I didn’t know I was pregnant when I was fighting that thing!”
“But… he healed you just a few days ago! Why not tell you then?”
“Because I wasn’t pregnant then, Jacob. If you recall, we did make love between then and now.”
“Oh… oh Bella… ” he said, his breath rushing from him all of a sudden.
He looked as if he needed to sit down and put a paper bag over his head. She reached to steady him as he sat back awkwardly on the altar. He leaned his forearms on his thighs, bending over them as he tried to catch his breath. Bella had the strangest urge to giggle, but she bit her lower lip to repress the impulse.
So much for the calm, cool, collected Enforcer who struck terror into the hearts of Demons everywhere.
“That is not funny,” he grumbled indignantly.
“Yeah? You should see what you look like from over here,” she teased.
“If you laugh at me I swear I am going to take you over my knee.”
“Promises, promises,” she laughed, hugging him with delight. Finally, Jacob laughed as well, his arm snaking out to circle her waist and draw her back into his lap.
“Did you ask… I mean, does he know what it is?”
“It’s a baby. I told him I didn’t want to know what it is. And don’t you dare find out, because you know the minute you do I’ll know, and if you spoil the surprise I’ll murder you.”
“Damn… she kills a couple of Demons and suddenly thinks she can order all of us around,” he taunted, pulling her close until he was nuzzling her neck, wondering if it was possible for such an underused heart as his to contain so much happiness. It felt as though his chest were going to explode.
“I’d love to see how happy you are changing diapers and getting spit up on.”
“Are you kidding? That will no doubt be the best part,” he chuckled.
“Are you sure?” She was suddenly very serious. “Jacob, you’ve been so solitary for so long. Adjusting to me is going to be difficult enough as it is, but a baby too?”
“Bella… my sweet little flower,” he said softly, reverently as he took her head between his hands and pressed their foreheads together. “After over four hundred years of solitude, I think I am ready for you and an entire barrel full of children. Nothing could please me more.”