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|Noah(Nightwalkers #5) by Jacquelyn Frank|
"In the future, Jasmine, I expect you to restrict yourself to the common areas of the castle. I would not wish you to make the mistake of crossing the wrong threshold and finding yourself perceived as…an open invitation for trouble."
Now, that was a threat, Jasmine mused. Either that, or it was an enticement. Either way, it delighted the female Vampire no end. Noah was as clever as a cat, and he had just perched himself outside her mouse hole, just waiting for her to make that one extra misstep while stealing the wrong piece of cheese.
"I will keep that in mind," she promised him, the expression on her face and the obvious shift of her sensual body broadcasting her intent to play the tease. Noah closed his eyes briefly, shaking his head once in an attempt to cool his dangerously seething temper before finally glaring at her.
"Enough, Jasmine." He exhaled, managing to calm down enough so he didn't do something rash. Something along the lines of throttling her with his bare hands. That would start a war with the Vampires, and he had enough trouble in his life already. "Do you turn Damien's household upside down regularly as well, or have you spared the honor for me alone?"
"I promise you," she responded easily, "I make my best effort to cause trouble wherever I go."
She reached out to take the hand he held out to her, and he pulled her to his side as he began to walk back toward the gardens where they would have the best privacy. After all, business was business, and she had come for a reason.
"So tell me what I can do for the Vampire Prince."
"Actually, it is more a matter of what he can do for you. I come with a warning."
Noah stopped, turning to look at her as his expression became grave.
"Just that what Damien has been anticipating has actually happened. A small faction of Vampires has taken the recent wedding of their Prince as an excuse to break away from the laws that govern them. I know you have enough to worry about, with Ruth and the Vampire Nicodemous unaccounted for after our battle with them last winter, but until they turn up, Damien begs you turn your attention to this dangerous group of Vampires. Now that Vampires know that drinking the blood of Nightwalkers can imbue them with the foreign Nightwalkers' powers, no one is safe from a group like this who is publicly flouting the law and Damien's rule.
"Of course, Damien is doing everything in his power to call them to justice," she continued. "However, since your people are most at risk due to the variety you have in your elemental powers, he felt you should be put on alert immediately. He has also asked that I remain close to you until they are caught. Between me and Horatio, we will best be able to sense if a Vampire comes close to the court. If they do, we will be in a position to track and deal with them."
"I appreciate the warning. However, I am capable of protecting my own court. While you are always welcome, I am sure Damien needs you more than I."
"I do not mean to insult you, Noah," she said firmly, "but I think you are wrong. There are only three Fire Demons in existence, two of whom are from your family. Since you are the only male and by far the most powerful, you will be the proverbial brass ring. You and I know it is insanity to gun for the Demon King, of course, but greed makes for ridiculous bravery. And who knows how much power these rogues will have acquired before they come after you? Because that is exactly what they will do, you know. They will hunt down as much power as they can, gathering it within themselves like a wicked posy. Then, when you are outpowered and outnumbered, they will come for you."
"Which is exactly why Vampires were forbidden to drink the blood of Nightwalkers all this time," he said bitterly. "I am sorry. I do not mean to begrudge Damien his happiness with Syreena. I also publicly allowed a few changes in our laws to suit the introduction of human hybrids into our race, but when Demon and Druids become matched, it has no opportunity to hurt outsiders."
"Hmm. I see," she mused. "So creating a bucketful of Druids who can rob Nightwalkers their power does not affect us outsiders? Better yet, that one Druid in specific, Isabella, who takes on the power she steals…she is no danger to us?"
"Point taken," he agreed grimly. "I suppose, as always, it is the character of each individual that tells the tale, no matter how many laws we make."
"Do not get me wrong," Jasmine added. "Far be it from me to defend Damien's current lack of sanity. Frankly, the more time goes by, the more I am convinced this entire marriage of his was ill thought and worse timed. Things were much better settled and peaceful before that Lycanthrope crossed his path." Jasmine countered the causticity of the statement with a brilliant faux smile. "But we are sure to get along famously given enough time."
"Enough time for what?" he countered knowingly.
"For Damien to get bored of her. Or a mishap in childbirth, perhaps. Who knows?" She waved off his expression of disapproval for what could be construed as a treasonous remark. "For now I prefer to deal with one problem at a time. This week, my problem is keeping you and yours protected. You will not begrudge Damien this favor, I hope. If something were to happen even remotely close to you, he would take it very ill."
The way she constructed the observation gave Noah pause where it might not have otherwise.
"Very well," he said softly. "If you insist, I will welcome your assistance. Just remember, while you are here, I expect you to adhere to our laws just as I do your brother and any other visiting dignitary."
"I'll be sure to brush up," she said dryly.
"I promise, I will stay within the letter of the law. I do know how to control myself."
"Despite evidence otherwise?"
"Hey, you have your culture, I have mine. Besides, what fun is life if it doesn't keep you on your toes?"
"My toes are appropriately exercised without your help, Jasmine."
She smiled and turned to leave him to his privacy, now that it was no longer important.
"Mmm?" She turned back and arched a curving dark brow at him.
"Do be so kind as to refrain from teasing the bloody hell out of my men. I know you have no intention of making good, even if they do not, and I will be seriously displeased if your actions stir one of them up enough to behave lawlessly." He made certain he was locked to her gaze so she would see the seriousness of his. "You know what Samhain is like for us, and it is cruel of you to tempt without relief. You are a Vampire, and as such you bear a sensuality that is markedly powerful and impressionable. Destiny help you if it turns on you. Or worse, on an innocent."
The Vampire sobered considerably under the warning, all signs of amusement leaving her dark chocolate eyes. Still, it was not in her to apologize, so he had to be content with the purposeful bow of her head in acknowledgment.
Damien entered the citadel by way of the turret that led into their private rooms. They used the small tower as a private sitting room, the circular exposure of windows making for an excellent view of the Romanian mountains in the night. Although, consequently, it had to be locked up and sealed off in the day to prevent even the slightest touch of the sun from disturbing their rest.
He was flushed from a fresh hunt, windblown from the circuit he had made around the leading edge of his property, scanning for any lurking problems or outright threats. Once a threat breached the property itself, he would instantly know it. Since the holdings were so large, he needed to physically run the borders if he wanted to scan even farther than that. True, there was security everywhere in the form of loyal Vampires, but it was new to him to think about trusting others with his safety, and definitely impossible to accept trusting others with the safety of his mate.
Just as the thought of her entered his head, she entered the door to the sitting room. She had sensed his impending arrival, even though he had no made telepathic contact with her. It always impressed him how she was able to do that. What awed him more was the outfit she was almost wearing. Damien felt an instant fire light inside him, his midnight blue eyes devouring her beautiful little body.
Whatever the garment was, it looked like a robe. It swept the floor and had long sleeves rather like the wings of an angel. It was buttoned across her body with two lone buttons, was made of a very fine white netting of silk that was completely transparent, and she wore absolutely nothing beneath it. As she moved toward him, the robe dragged back behind her, parting all the way up to the insignificant buttons that held it closed between her breasts.
Damien felt as though he had been cemented to the spot. It was the only way to describe the hard, heavy sensation that poured through him as his sexy little wife approached him with such clear intent. If he had forgotten what it was like during her last heat cycle, Damien was thoroughly reminded as Syreena pressed her heated body against his and began to fish past his clothing for contact with his skin. Her dark charcoal eyes, with their multicolored flecks, were hungry and avaricious. She wanted. She needed. She made sure he could see it, and now she would make very sure he could feel it.
"Damien," she whispered, her breath quick and hot against his sensitivite neck.
Oh, how well she knows me. She knew every reactive place on his body and how to use them. Her tongue flicked against his throat, taunting him as she laughed low in her throat, the sound so sexy and stimulating that it sent a shock wave of desire flooding through him. It was intensified by the swift seeking of her hands over his skin.
"Is this your idea of a hello?" he asked, his teasing tone destroyed by the obvious sound of pleasure that interrupted him as her hands swept low and sure against him.
"Would you prefer a handshake?" she asked coyly, her fingers circling him in a silky grip that was nowhere near his hand.
She shrugged, all innocence as she worked quickly to free him from his clothes, though she did not release her hold on him.
"All right, then," she relented. "I see you prefer oral greetings."
Damien's hand slammed out to brace against a window frame as his wife slid down his body.
Kestra didn't utilize the nearby airport as Noah had suggested. She couldn't go through Heathrow, even though her identification had arrived on schedule one morning later. Even after a week, her face would be far too hot for such public places of travel. So she decided the safest thing to do would be to spend another week in Europe, although it really burned her to be anywhere on the same side of the ocean as Noah…Noah…
Oh God, I don't even know his last name.
As soon as the thought entered her mind, she promptly quashed it. She refused to waste any more energy on thinking about that huge mistake. It was done. Over. In the past. Now she was on her way to the North Country, as far away from the south as possible, where she had rented a nice cottage for the week under the identity James had sent her.
She could spare a week. She had a gig lined up and needed to go through it with Jim once more, but it wouldn't help if she got nabbed at the airport because she moved too soon. She had the option of staying the winter if she had to. The job could be postponed. She could stay low here, or swing into Monte Carlo for a little business mingling and social reconnection with certain people. She would have to feel around and see.
It was well into the night by the time she pulled up to the gorgeous little rental, a smaller building on a huge property right out of Edwardian England. The main house was back beyond miles of gardens and lakes, or so it seemed at first glance, and she had the privacy of her own walled-in park as well. She had been here before, as someone else's guest, and had always been determined to capture the place for herself when she found the time. At least she could thank her precarious fortune for that much.
She unpacked her car of all the supplies she'd deemed necessary, although the minute she entered the location she could see that others had preceded her in order to fully stock and freshen up the place. There was already a fire in the large fireplace. The cabinets were full. Wooden floors were highly polished, as were brass rails and marble fixtures. The part she adored was the full gymnasium at the center of the house, built obviously with a woman in mind. A gymnast. It was matted wall to wall, mirrored on three walls, and had everything from a climbing wall to a dance bar.
Kestra didn't even waste time with any other details. She'd been idle for a week, apparently, and it was unacceptable to her. She changed into a red sports bra and snug biker shorts and warmed up. Still, she couldn't help but feel like something was off with the time. She felt fit and well sprung and not as though she had lain lax and sleeping for all that time. She was active and in phenomenal shape, but no one could maintain tone under those conditions. Not her kind of tone.
Or maybe she was merely losing what was left of her mind. After all, she had to be insane to have had sex with a total stranger. It was the only explanation. She'd never done anything like that in her life. Never. Jokes and taunts aside, she honestly had no time or inclination toward a sex life. Though what she did have was brief and detached, she usually knew the person pretty well. In fact, she had a knack for destroying male friendships that way.
As those faces dared to loom up at her, she turned her back on them and opted for the gloves and punching bag instead. Kickboxing made for excellent cardio, and she was definitely in the mood to work up a sweat. She hated having all this backwash of emotion seeping through her mind all of a sudden. She would beat it down if it was the very last thing she would do.
She thrashed the bag, letting it swing and become a moving target. She imagined life into it. Even gave it a face. A dark, arrogant green-eyed face that was far too handsome for its own damn good. She landed a vicious spin-kick, grunting with satisfaction. That would teach him to touch her. Oh, and she just bet he was all kinds of proud of himself now. It had taken him mere hours to get into her pants. Probably wasn't even a recordable event for him. He just seemed like that type.