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  • Home > Jacquelyn Frank > Nightwalkers > Noah (Page 1)     
    Noah(Nightwalkers #5) by Jacquelyn Frank
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    Prologue

    "Whosoever wishes to know the fate of Demonkind must consult these prophecies…

    "…as magic once more threatens the time, as the peace of the Demon yaws toward insanity…

    "We must enforce ourselves more strictly as the time approaches. In the age of the rebellion of the Earth and Sky, when Fire and Water break like havoc upon all the lands, the Eldest of the old will return, will take his mate, and the first child of the element of Space will be born, playmate to the first child of Time, born to the Enforcers…"

    -Excerpts from

    The Lost Demon Prophecy

    "Kes…what are you doing?"

    "I thought I'd wash my hair," came the whispered, tart reply over the slightly static connection. "What do you think I'm doing?"

    Jim chuckled softly under his breath before reaching to tap the mike of his wireless earpiece, just to annoy her with the noise. Then he clarified, "I meant I wanted to know which room you're in."

    "The Billiard Room," she said dryly, "with an unusually heavy candlestick in one hand." She paused and Jim heard her grunt softly over the open line. He leaned forward a little in his chair to peer at his computer monitor. "I'm in the machine room. Where else would I be?"

    "Okay. I was just wondering."

    There was another brief pause, full of soft static.

    "Incidentally, why do you ask?" she queried at last.

    "Oh, no reason. It's just that I have this huge red blob on my infrared screen that looks suspiciously like a security guard heading in your direction," he informed her, snapping his gum in her ear over the mike.

    Kestra cursed through her teeth, glanced around with sharp, seeking eyes, and turned her face upward almost out of innate instinct. After a quick calculation in her head, she scuttled rapidly across the vastness of the equipment room and headed straight for one of the air-conditioning turbines. With a running start, she stepped up onto the rim of the large machinery and launched her lithe, dark figure straight up into the air.

    There was a clang as her hands just barely made the catch onto a pair of sturdy pipes that ran across the high ceiling. She immediately began to swing herself until she was able to get enough momentum to hook her feet over the piping. Without a single further sound, she wriggled herself up into the darkness of the tight plumbing. She sprawled over it, lying across it as if it were a casual cotton hammock instead of a series of conduits that ran both hot and cold against the press of her flesh. Once secured in the shadows of the one direction nine out of ten rent-a-cops invariably failed to look in, all she could do was wait. She covered the earpiece on her ear with her hand, not wanting to risk any chance of Jim or random static giving away her location.

    She didn't have long to wait before the guard made his appearance. Kes rolled her eyes shut for a moment, thinking that Jim had cut his half-assed warning pretty damn close.

    The guard had no reason to hide his progress, so she could hear his footsteps from the moment he entered the stairwell just outside the door leading into the room. The door clanged open, recoiling off its backstop as the guard released the metal handle that he'd opened it with. In spite of all this noise, Kestra made very certain her breathing never went above a barely audible whisper of sound.

    The guard clomped across the concrete floor, walking the straight path between the rows of turbines on one side, and water heaters on the other. He flicked on a Maglite and swept it back and forth over the dark shadows surrounding him. Kestra closed her eyes briefly, praying to whatever part of the universe it was that protected people like her. Then she watched the approaching man carefully for any signs that he took note of the tiny green lights on the undersides of half the gas heaters, which were guaranteed to be out of place.

    He didn't. He made it to the far wall, turned, and retraced his steps. He passed within a foot of her both times, but of course did not look up. He barreled out of the basement door with a noisy bang, his clomping footsteps echoing away up the stairwell.

    Kestra exhaled a half breath of relief. After she was reasonably sure the guard was far enough away and had no intention of immediately returning, she leveraged herself out of her makeshift hidey-hole. She laid her forearms along two narrow pipes and, using them like a pair of parallel bars, swung her legs down. She released, allowing the momentum to somersault her over just once, then lofted into a perfect landing on the dusty warehouse floor.

    Resisting the habit of taking a gymnast's bow, she swiped at the sweat dotting her forehead, smearing the dust and silt from the exteriors of the pipes across it, and turned her attention to her communications system and her smart-ass partner.

    "Thanks for the warning, James," she said with low heat.

    "You're welcome." He tried to sound bratty, but she could tell he was relieved to hear from her.

    "James, I thought you said there was no one on the premises," she hissed.

    Jim winced, knowing that he was definitely going to be in a huge amount of trouble for being wrong about that. "There's not supposed to be. The guy's off schedule. I'll let you know when he moves on to the next building."

    "Not good enough. I want him out of my perimeter completely."

    "Well, what am I supposed to do? Kidnap him?"

    "There's an idea," she retorted, kneeling down in front of the turbine that had just helped her escape the guard's notice. She shrugged out of her backpack and withdrew her last two square packets.

    Kestra left the backpack behind and scurried low across the floor to the next gas heater. She rolled gently onto her back and reached beneath the unit. There was the distinct clang of metal on metal as the strong magnet on the back of the packet stuck to the underbelly of the furnace. She flicked the switch on the front and waited while the lights went from yellow to green.

    "The point is," she continued as she rolled out from beneath the unit and moved cautiously to the next one, "that I specifically said no civilians in the kill zone. It was your job to see to it that's what I got. That is why I spent a month timing this operation just right."

    "It's not my fault the guy changed his routine, Kestra."

    "Make it your fault, James," she bit back as she hesitated next to the last furnace. "Make it your responsibility. You have twenty minutes to get him out of the kill zone. I don't care how you do it, just do it! And there better not be anyone else."

    "There isn't. You and the guard are the only two heat sources in the entire warehouse row, save a rat or two." There was a distinct pause. "Do you have any suggestions on how I can protect your civilian without getting arrested?"

    Kestra thought about that for a moment, using the time it took to attach the last device to the last heater in order to mull over the situation.

    "How long does it normally take for him to round off the row and start on the docks?"

    "There are three buildings in the row. You're the first on the round. If he follows form, it'll take well over an hour. And if he rounds onto the docks, he's going to spot you. I don't care how sneaky you are, Kes, you don't want him wandering your escape route."

    "Damn." Kestra slid out from beneath the furnace and stood up. She dusted off her backside with more violence than necessary and marched toward her backpack.

    Then she stopped and cocked her head to the side, her incredibly light eyes brightening just a little more as she thought of a possible solution.

    "Oh, James?"

    "Yeah, Kes?"

    "Do any of the buildings opposite those in this row have an alarm system?"

    "All of them. Take your pick."

    "And are they part of our rent-a-cop's minimum-wage jurisdiction?"

    "Why, yes, they are!" Jim gasped comically, knowing she was already done formulating her plan.

    "Now, call me crazy, but if you were a security guard and one of the alarms in one of your buildings went off, you'd run like hell to check it out, wouldn't you?"

    "Oh, you're definitely crazy," Jim agreed with a chuckle. "And you're also right. But how do you plan to set off an alarm and not get caught? Don't we usually do that the opposite way, where you don't set off the alarm? Do you even know how to set one off?"

    "How hard can it be?"

    "And not get caught," he reminded her.

    "Mmm."

    "And blow up the row…?" Jim added.

    "Yup."

    "And not get caught," he reiterated most importantly.

    "Uh-huh."

    Almost exactly twenty minutes later, Kestra dropped from the dock into the rear of the speedboat docked there. She whipped off the tie line and punched the ignition button. The motor roared to life; the only sound possibly louder was the blare of the alarm in the distance.

    Kestra aimed the boat directly out of the harbor and toward the open ocean. She glanced down at the cabin when James stuck his head out of the hatch.

    "You forgot to blow up the warehouses," he said dryly.

    "Yeah, I know."

    The row of warehouses blew up.

    Chapter 1

    The Miserable Princess

    A Demon Fairy Tale

    Once upon a time, fairly long ago, there lived a Princess. This Princess was in need of a husband, or so her father thought. She had a responsibility to wed an upstanding male who might one day become King of all their people. She had a responsibility to have children who would become strong and powerful members of their society. That was what Princesses were supposed to do during that time very long ago.

    However, this particular Princess, though she was kind and good-hearted, did not like to be responsible, she did not like being told what to do, and, most of all, she did not want a husband.

    One day, the Princess, who was named Sarah, was forced to attend a competition between the males of her father's people. She did not wish to go, but her father had told her that if she did not, he would choose a husband for her and she would have to be satisfied with his taste. He would hear no arguments, for he had lost his patience with his headstrong daughter.

    So the Princess went to the royal booth and sat in her chair and frowned at everyone. She had to be there, but she did not have to pretend to be happy. Her father had said nothing about being happy or nice to anyone.

    Princess Sarah looked around at the field of competitors with bored, cornflower blue eyes. She feebly brushed back her long, golden curls as she sighed. This was the third such competition her father had arranged. The Princess knew he hoped that somewhere on that field there would be a Demon who would finally catch her eye. There was no real reason why her eye should not be pleased, because Demon males were as wondrously handsome as Demon females were breathtakingly beautiful. Certainly they were all well mannered, elegant, and highly educated after so many decades of immortal life.

    The Princess, however, was only 110 years old. She thought she was far too young to think about tying herself down to a husband who would probably want babies and obedience. Male Demons were notorious for their arrogance and their need of total control of all things they felt they had a right to control. The Princess did not need another person telling her what to do all the time. She wanted to choose in her own time, when she felt right and ready, and when she found a male who looked upon her as an equal, rather than a worker who required orchestration.

    Sarah shuddered at her own thoughts.

    In spite of their high-handedness, males of her race were far better than the human mortals when it came to the matter of marriage. The idea of being treated like property, a man's chattel he could use and dispose of in the fashion of his own choosing, was a nightmare.

    As for Ephraim, the aforementioned King of the Demons, she knew that he held high hopes that she would be one of the rare and lucky Demons who became part of the Imprinting.

    The Imprinting was the meshing of the hearts, minds, and souls of a male and a female who were compatible with each other to a point beyond perfection. It was reputed to be a connection that transcended the complexities and intensities of mere love. It was an engagement of power that her father hoped would one day coalesce in her womb and produce the powerful potential of a future King of all Demons.

    "Noah, what on earth are you reading to her?" Isabella asked in a curious whisper.

    She had just entered her daughter's bedroom, taking in the sight of her two-year-old, who was draped lazily across the current Demon King's lap. Leah was lying on her back in the cradle of Noah's biceps and forearm, with her arms splayed wide, wrists hanging limply as she snored softly and drooled against his silk-covered chest.

    The King looked up at his Enforcer, the female counterpart of a pair, and smiled in a way that was both bashful and charming. He winked one gray-green eye at her, his darkly patrician features softened by his mischief.

    "It is just a fairy tale," he explained in a hushed voice, folding closed the small book in his hands before setting it onto the floor by his knee.

    He reached for the sleeping child in his lap, touching gentle fingertips to her limp form. At that careful caress, Isabella's daughter slowly began to turn from her flesh-and-blood form into the soft, localized cohesion of a cloud of smoke. The young mother held her breath as Noah manipulated the little cloud into her railed bed and, with practiced ease, returned her to her natural weight and form.

    Isabella had seen Noah make similar transformations dozens of times, including to herself. He was a master of the element of Fire, and she did trust him implicitly. She knew from experience that it was very much a harmless trick, taking only the minimum of his awesome skills and power to perform.

    As a mother, though, a mother who had until three years ago been all too human and as ignorant of the existence of these elemental beings as most humans were, she couldn't help the concern that fluttered in her stomach as she understood that her child was being manipulated on molecular levels. She laughed at herself mentally for her silly anxieties a moment later. Noah was powerful and well practiced, the basest of requirements the Demon race expected from their elected King. Everything about him broadcast the natural fate he had been born to. He had been crafted out of a mighty lineage of Demon genetics, forged and tempered, having the awesome patience, wisdom, and education required of a great leader.

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