|Home > Jacquelyn Frank > Nightwalkers > Noah (Page 23)|
|Noah(Nightwalkers #5) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Jacob looked at the Ancient as if he had lost his mind.
"Why is no one doing anything about it? Someone has to force him to go to her. Someone has to bash some sense into his thick skull!"
"I know. That is why I am here."
"You think he will listen to me?" Jacob laughed harshly. "What of your wife? She has always had a touch with him."
"She has tried and failed. We both believe Noah is indulging in some sort of self-punishment. He is obviously not thinking clearly." The Ancient flicked startling silver eyes over the Enforcer. "He is quite misguided, his need battling with his damaged sense of honor. He is denying something he has always known in his moments of better judgment. He said it to you and he said it to Elijah. The Imprinting is a law unto itself and it cannot be denied. It supersedes all others. Jacob, you are the Enforcer of our laws. I believe you should do just that. Enforce the law. Although I do not think you alone will sway him. But I do have an idea as to who will."
"Oh?" Jacob said warily. "Why do I get the feeling I am not going to like this?"
Jacob turned to face his King as Noah came down the final curve in the stairway. Noah had appointed him four hundred years ago, and by now he had come to know his every mood just by the way he was standing. The brace of Jacob's feet on the marble floor was that of an ageless sentry, set down by Destiny to guard the secrets of fate. Even more ominous was the tight fold of his arms over his chest and the implacable expression he used when discarding emotions for the sake of duty.
His first thought was that Jacob had come to redress issues surrounding Leah or Bella. It was the only thing Noah could think of that would affect him to such a degree.
But then he spoke.
"You have need of me, my King?"
Noah was silent for a moment as his mind turned over the seriousness of the very specific protocol Jacob was using. Why did Jacob think he needed him just then? "You anticipate me, Enforcer. I have not sent for you."
"Anticipation suggests that I am merely early, not unnecessary."
Jacob watched his monarch think on that for a moment. "Jacob," he said irritably, "I am too weary for riddles. Can we not reach the point of the matter?"
"You are seeking punishment, my lord, and I am he who deals it out. Therefore, I am at your service."
Noah squared off with his Enforcer, meeting his nearly black eyes. "So you have decided to do your duty after all," he mused softly.
"It is my duty to enforce Demon law, even if that enforcement brings me to the doorstep of the Demon who appointed me." Jacob took a slow, thoughtful breath. "You defile this edict actively, although the wise and temperate King I have known has, in the past, always been the strongest advocate of this stellar law. There is one law, and only one, which you are breaking. That is the law which is unwritten."
"Jacob." The King scowled. "What is this?"
"Enforcement, Noah," he said, his stance softening just slightly. "You defile the law of the Imprinting. The ultimate blessing. The ultimate gift. The Imprinting is everything and must be honored as everything. You harm your Druid mate, deny her health, peace, and Destiny when it is your duty to do everything in your power otherwise. I swear to Destiny, Noah, that I will not allow it. And on my wife and daughter's souls, I would have sworn never to see the day when you would be so selfish. So cruel."
"As always," he interrupted, his dark eyes glittering with hard inevitability, "my target seeks to cajole and argue his way out of the truth."
"Damn you, Jacob!" Noah exploded, his temper unleashing like a whip. "What of Leah? Corrine? They are abused by me, yet you do not claim justice for them. If you will not, then I will do so myself!"
"Not at the cost of another's safety and wellness, you won't!"
Noah started when Corrine's outraged cry penetrated the hall. She marched out of the shadows, making Noah realize how tired he must truly be if he had not sensed her there. The redhead came at him in a fury, even going so far as to poke an indignant finger into his chest once she reached him.
"How dare you use my name in an excuse that will cause a Druid to suffer the way I did! You think it's noble and self-sacrificing, what you're doing? To starve her? To neglect her? Selfish bastard," she growled. "You know nothing about me if you think this would make me feel like justice is being served." That said, Corrine took a long breath and reined in her outrage. She was still holding herself stiffly, but otherwise she softened, assuming the demeanor that would most make an impression on his beleaguered mind.
"Noah," she said gently, reaching to touch a gentle hand to his forearm, "you're paralyzed. You're unable to move, think, or sleep. You do nothing because you're afraid that if you act you will cause more pain. I understand your fear, Noah. You've hurt those you love, and that is very hard for a man of your honor to bear. But you need to let it go. Let yourself be imperfect, allow for mistakes. Put the past aside and look toward all the futures you hold in your hands. Not just Kestra's, but all of us. How long will our King survive without his mate? I refuse to believe that you're going to sacrifice your entire race over a single act of understandable desperation.
"Just go to her. Do what you do best. Be wise, patient, and loving, and be her guide into our world." Corrine suddenly gave him a cockeyed grin. "And if that don't work, bean her over the head and drag her back by her hair."
"Corrine!" Noah burst out laughing when she made a wicked face of lechery to go with the outrageous proposal.
Jacob sighed heavily, rolling his eyes. Some things, he thought, just run in the family. "And she was doing so well for a second there," he said dryly.
"C'mon, Noah. If I can forgive you, then you can do the same," Corrine urged him, patently ignoring Jacob. "At least I understand what happened and why. But Kestra doesn't. She needs you to explain why this is happening to her and to make it a safe and healthy transition."
Noah wasn't unused to being humbled. He had two sisters who had made an art form of keeping him grounded. However, Corrine snapped him into awareness like no one else could have. She corrected him without trying to humiliate him, clearing his exhausted mind for what seemed like the first time in days. Whether he forgave himself for past behaviors or not, she was right about Kestra. She was an entirely separate issue and he was being injudicious with her needs.
"You are right. You are both right," he said at last, releasing a wry laugh as he reached to slide a finger of affectionate appreciation down Corrine's smooth cheek. "I have no idea what I was thinking." The King shook his head with puzzlement at his own behavior. "I need to find her." He looked to the Earth Demon he knew was the best tracker in their world. "Jacob, would it cause a family war if I asked for your help?"
"Please," Jacob chuckled wryly. "Bella cannot possibly be any angrier with me than she already is."
"I'll take bets on that one," Bella's sister said with a chuckle.
Noah chucked his Matchmaker beneath the chin gently, a silent thank-you that made her smile with pleasure. Then he promptly morphed into smoke so he could follow the stream of dust that was already heading out of the window ahead of him.
The eldest of the small group of Vampires turned to face the youngest, who also happened to be his brother. When Cygnus moved, it was with the natural stealth of his kind. His face was young and harshly handsome, a heavy lock of dark chocolate hair sweeping in a charming curl over his brow. He had the sensual beauty and lean figure of his people and the elegance of centuries of living. He also had the lackadaisical aura of boredom that plagued so many of his brethren. He looked everything that was young and fit and attractive.
Except for the icy black cruelty of his eyes and the slash of meanness cutting at his lips. His dark brow furrowed into an irritated scowl as he faced the other Vampire, the brother who looked nothing like him.
Half brother, actually. But that was a distinction rarely made among Vampires because it was unusual to have a true full-blooded sibling. Vampires had a fickle nature, their inconsistencies the only constant thing about them. In the case of the brothers, it was a dam they had in common. Otherwise it was different sires and vastly differing centuries to which they had each been born. The younger brother was clearly held in a measure of contempt by the elder, the feeling obvious in harsh dark eyes as he appraised his sibling.
Cygnus had little tolerance for Quinton, with his bony body, weak chin, and unruly mop of dirt-colored hair. Even his eyes were a rheumy, water-weak tan color, as if they couldn't be bothered to be brown and couldn't aspire to be gold.
"We want to hunt," Quinton stated with cold determination. Since Quinton wasn't known for his backbone, Cygnus could only assume that his nerve had been built up by the demands of the others who nodded in silent agreement at his back. Their silent agreement unnerved Cygnus's baby brother. He'd expected his supporters to be more vocal, rather than leaving him to be the sole voice to speak up against him.
This was the reason why Cygnus was the one honored with the role of leader, he thought with pained aggravation. The rest of them were just too damn stupid. Lacking in initiative, too, usually. But the group was wound up and hyped about moving on to their next targets.
"In Demon territory?" Cygnus retorted mockingly. "Until we pick a target, that would not be a clever idea." He noted that the urges of the others to defy logic were growing closer together in occurrence. It didn't even take a telepath of his skill to know they had serious moments where they wanted to plot against him. His brother most of all, with his delusions of grandeur that he'd never have the power or intelligence to live up to. "It would tip off the Demons that we are here. I want to watch and make a distinct plan of action before we start hitting the targets we have chosen. If you wish to hunt, go off to an area less populated by Demons and choose human targets."
"Bah! Humans have no power to be gained. Since we tasted that sweet little Mistral last week, I find I crave the flavor of power," Quinton argued, waving off Cygnus's suggestion impatiently.
"Mistrals are easy targets. Catch them young enough and they can barely manage a defense. That mind-numbing musicality of voice does not work so well on older Vampires. Our telepathy dodges that little parlor trick. However, Demons are something else entirely. They are innately offensive. Especially some of the ones we have chosen as potential victims."
"Then I say we skip those more risky choices and go for the young ones."
"A thought that proves to us all why you are not in charge," Cygnus snapped, suddenly losing his patience. He surged out of his chair, rising to his feet with a low, riveting growl of warning. "I am a good two centuries older than any of the rest of you, and my power dwarfs the most powerful of you. Feel free to challenge me if you think yourself more competent to lead than I am." There was silence as he glared at each member of the group in turn. His brother was the only one who appeared to itch for a contest, but Cygnus was used to that. "Very well, then. Go off and hunt in proper feeding grounds, come back and sleep until dusk, and I promise you, tomorrow night we will begin to select from the gems that surround us."
Cygnus turned to stare down his sibling.
Quinton cursed him under his breath, and then with a burst of dark light, changed form to a blackbird, the power he had gained from the Mistral they had fed on. The elder Vampire watched as the others took off through doors and windows, thinking very carefully about how he needed to proceed, and how to keep the others in the positions they deserved.
Kestra shuddered as she looked down into the pool. She couldn't understand her sudden aversion to one of her favorite sports, but the idea of jumping into the chill water made her skin crawl. The water was heated, she tried to remind herself as she took a swig from the water bottle that had come to be ever present in her hand of late. However, even though the pool was enclosed in glass, the late October cold penetrated all around. She sighed, pushing a hand back through her bangs and hair. Apparently, she'd gotten into her suit for no reason.
She turned to look back at the house, biting her lip thoughtfully. There was a Jacuzzi next to the pool, but for some reason it was the sauna that really beckoned her. Was there a rule about how many saunas one could take in a single day? Or rather, night. She'd hardly seen daylight since she'd come to England. She seemed to be sleeping her days away. And nighttime seemed to be reserved for the sauna. If she went back into the superheated room, it would be the third time that day. It was no wonder she was drinking water like a fiend. She was probably dehydrating herself.
Maybe that was why she felt like she was dragging with every step she took lately. Maybe she'd caught a bug and her instinct was to sweat it out of herself. In which case, a third sauna was probably a very good idea.
That logic was apparently all the convincing she needed. She practically skipped on the way to the master suite and the adjoining bath and sauna. Kestra got out of her suit, wrapped a thick white towel around her hips, and stepped into the cedar-lined room, which already had serious steam in it because she'd subconsciously left it running. She dropped her water bottle on the bench behind her head as she stretched out with a happy sigh.
The heat had weight, pressing against her, filling her lungs and coaxing toxins out of her pores. She ran her hands over her face, making sure her hair was swept back, telling herself to simply relax and let the steam do its job. It took effort to breathe, but she didn't really mind so much. Her skin was coated in moisture, beads of it running down her bare breasts, the track ending over her throat where the little rivers tickled as they rolled off her body.