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|Noah(Nightwalkers #5) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Her fingertips drifted down her throat, sweeping slickly over her collarbone. She resituated herself restlessly as unbidden images of Noah floated into her mind. She had managed not to dream of him for a small chain of days, and for that she was grateful, but she couldn't get the memories of their frantic, explosive lovemaking out of her uppermost thoughts. She had never felt anything like it, had deemed herself incapable of passion anywhere near what he'd coaxed from her body so easily.
She groaned softly, throwing her arm over her eyes as her skin seemed to come alive over every inch of her body just from the thought. Perhaps that was why she'd allowed herself to be so reckless. She'd been accused of being cold, controlling, and even frigid on the few occasions she'd allowed a man to touch her. Every time she hoped it would be different, but it never was. There were too many scars, too much baggage that weighed her down and leashed her tightly away from the ability to be uninhibited. She hadn't even had the vaguest idea about what an orgasm was truly supposed to feel like until she'd first dreamed it with such realistic intensity six months ago.
But even that had paled to the real thing. Things. Oh God, she had never once suspected…How was it possible? How could he manipulate her stubborn body with such ease? Was he so better skilled than others? What, she wondered, would it be like if he actually took his time instead of being caught up in the torrid needs of the moment? What would she be like?
Kestra brushed a hand down her body, sloughing off water and perspiration, her fingertips sliding over her breast and onto her stomach. She felt heat and weight, but it was inside her body and had nothing to do with the press of the steam around her.
She had a fierce memory for detail and had been able to memorize even the smallest of nuances with barely a blink of an eye. She remembered every single facet of his strange gem-and-smoke-colored eyes, every sharp angle of his rugged face, and every single touch of his vital body against and within her own.
Kestra sat up quickly, gripping the wooden bench fiercely as her head spun with the images and the heat. It was impossible! All of it. She needed to put this out of her mind before she drove herself crazy. She had a wild life and there was no time or space in it for a lover, no matter how much he set her on fire. Besides, she knew his type, knew what men of power were like and the demands they thought they could make. She would rather shoot a hole through her head than give up all she had worked so hard for her entire life.
She stood up and headed for the door.
Kestra stumbled, realizing too late that she had moved too fast to her feet. She was overwhelmed with a sense of vertigo, the world falling away. She fell to the floor, cursing herself for her stupidity. Still, she didn't truly realize she was in trouble until she tried to push herself upright and found she didn't have the strength.
The heat and steam seemed to suddenly attack her, the weight of it pressing her down and suffocating her as though she were trying to breathe in water.
She gasped once. Twice.
She fell straight into blackness.
Noah moved across the porch even as he sensed Jacob leaving the area. Jacob could track anything, and Kestra had been no exception. Now Noah could sense her and smell her. She was everywhere in this house, and his heart leapt with anticipation of seeing her again. He knew he wouldn't be welcome initially, knew she'd be as hostile as ever, but it didn't matter. He had to be here for her well-being. He had to see her. He desperately needed to touch her. He'd worry about the delicacies of her heart and how to win it after he could see she was well and safe. He still hadn't been able to get the vision of her being shot out of his mind's eye and he didn't think he would be able to do so for a very long time.
Noah scanned for her energy patterns, penetrating every wall and piece of furniture in the house. At first he thought she wasn't there, or that his exhaustion was fouling up his sensitivity, but suddenly he felt that innate warning ringing into his psyche. It was the very same warning that he'd ignored once before when he'd inexplicably stopped dreaming of her. An overwhelming sense of panic rushed over him. It had only been two days and three nights. At the most she would be just as tired as he was, wouldn't she?
Sweet Destiny, I have been a fool.
He went into the house, a dark cloud of building power as he drew on all of the electrical energy being fed into the cottage, replenishing himself as he moved. Lightbulbs began to explode from the power surge. Visible arcs of electricity darted at him like strikes of lightning as this fire made by man arced to touch him, clung as it whipped blinding white and blue, stretching to keep the contact with him as it was consumed by his body with a snap.
It followed his progress through the house, and then suddenly all the bulbs and electronic equipment burst like little bombs. Once the the transformer blew, everything went dark and quiet. All residual energy faded or was absorbed by his body. He practically glowed with the power crackling through him.
That was when he saw the one and only other power source left in the building. It was low to the ground, sprawled out over it, and Noah understood with perfect clarity that it was Kestra and that she was in trouble. He was in motion in an instant, a storming god limned in a bright blue aura as he rushed through the house, his heart pounding with fear and fury, his eyes blinded to everything except the low energy of her body. He burst into the bathroom, seeking, seeing, and understanding. He wrenched the sauna door right off its hinges and looked down to the floor even as he shoved it aside with a crash. Kestra was sprawled out, her head and face hidden by the damp sheen of her white hair.
How long has she been like this? he wondered in panic, his heart clawing for speed in his tightening chest. He crouched down over her head, took her shoulders gently into his hands, and turned her over against his arm. She was breathing, though it was with soft, rattling gasps because she was starved for steam-free oxygen. Noah stripped the hot, heavily soaked towel from around her hips, then scooped her up and hauled her out of the room as quickly as he could. Her arms hung splayed and limp, her horrifying gasps for breath shuddering through him.
"Okay, baby, okay," he murmured in a soft, breathless voice of reassurance even though he felt nothing but terror. He strode into the bedroom, back through the house, and out onto the porch.
Noah beelined for the pool, not even hesitating as he stepped hurriedly into the water and down the stairs of the shallow end. He sank her into the cold water quickly, right up to her chin, letting her float so he could reach to press her head back as well, wetting her hair. Her face was bright red, and even though he had plunged her out of pure heat and into pure cold, she didn't react even on a subconscious level.
Not until a full minute or two later.
Kestra came to with a staggering gasp of breath, jolting with shock, her vivid eyes flying open and looking straight up into his. Her hands came up and clutched at his arm, her fingers digging into his flexed muscles.
"It is okay now," he soothed softly, the silence of the water surrounding them eerie as it echoed his voice and her rapid but easier breathing. "You are safe now."
Kestra tried to join thoughts and images in her head, but it was pounding with pain and she could hardly see anything other than his face. She focused, understood his words, and took them at face value. Whatever had happened, she was safe now. She had no choice but to believe him, to allow him to be her protector if he chose to be. It wasn't such a difficult thing to do, she realized. There was a stark honesty in those dark features. She took comfort in knowing that she'd never once thought he was lying to her, whatever else she had thought of him.
"How did you find me?" She shivered as she asked the only question she could come up with, curling her rapidly chilling body closer to the heat of his.
"Now, that would be telling," he said with pointed humor, a smile touching his lips. However, she could see that it didn't reach his eyes. His eyes held something else within them. Something dark and primeval.
She understood that instantly, though she didn't know how. He'd been afraid for her.
He had been terrified. Terror was the only term to fit the raw pain and panic flickering in the smoke of his eyes. The comprehension stole her breath away, tightening her chest with inexplicable emotion. Why did it matter to him what became of her? She knew it wasn't just a matter of human kindness and the impulse to save the life of another that came to those of good conscience. Kestra saw more. She felt it in the pounding of the heart behind his ribs, the grip of his fingers as they grasped her and released her feverishly, and the deeply etched lines of concern in the otherwise smoothly drawn angles of his beautiful face.
No one ever really worried about her. Despite what Jim said, so long as there wasn't a body he needed to pick up at the morgue, he never really was worried about her. He certainly never feared for her.
Kestra couldn't understand why seeing the emotion in this virtual stranger on her behalf made her feel…
She didn't know what it made her feel, and she was far too weak and confused to figure it out. Kestra relaxed in his hold, allowing her body to float in the cool water. She closed her eyes, reaching out with her other senses. She heard the lapping of the water against her skin and the edges of the pool. If she let her ears lower beneath the water, she heard the fast rush of her own breathing, and the equally rapid cadence of his. She turned her head and looked at him. Really looked at him. He was fully concentrating on her, keeping her head abovewater and her relaxed body below it. He was fully clothed, she realized, feeling the fabric of his shirt wet beneath her fingers and against her bare skin. Clearly he wasn't concerned with it. His concentration was completely on her. He watched her steadily, as if watching a ticking bomb.
She was completely naked in his arms, the buoyancy of her breasts bringing them above the water, the shivering cold making her nipples contract almost painfully. As she floated, she felt there was a strange sensuality to her perceptions of contrast. Cold water, warm male body. Nude female, clothed male. He was so powerful and strong as he suspended her in her watery bed, and she was as weak and limp as noodles.
She swept her gaze up to his and saw a darkly troubled expression for a brief moment before he hid it beneath a calming upward sweep of his lips. She closed her eyes, or actually hooded them with her lashes, letting him think he was unobserved as emotions ticked across his features. She understood his suddenly dark expression as his eyes drifted over her exposed body, her breasts, her legs, and the curls at their apex. He closed his eyes and clenched his jaw until she thought he would break a tooth. No doubt he was giving himself a very intense lecture on inappropriate thoughts during lifesaving moments.
Kestra only smiled. Her slightly disembodied state as she floated in the water allowed her to release and confess. She thrived on his hunger, she acknowledged. It thrilled her, left her breathless, and she couldn't even force herself to be offended over trivial things like timing and circumstances. She was glad she had not been a mere itch to him. She wanted him to continue wanting her. It seemed to calm her even as it excited her. More feelings she didn't understand, probably due to her inexperience with the feelings born in interpersonal relationships.
She suddenly shivered, and hard as she tried, couldn't make herself stop. She felt the shivering bone deep, felt it rocking into him like a focused quake. She was flooded with nausea, the sensation making her gasp, and she instantly tried to gain her feet. Instead, he held her tight.
"Okay, baby, time to get you dry."
He swung her up high against himself as he turned and walked them both up the pool steps without so much as a stagger from the regaining of their weight.
"I'm going to be sick," she warned him.
He didn't respond. He walked straight into the house, into the kitchen, and dropped her feet just in time for her to clutch at the sink and throw up. While he supported her with one arm, he drew back her hair with his free hand, holding it away from her face as her entire being shuddered with her nausea. His mouth brushed the back of her head and he murmured softly to her. It sounded like an apology.
After a minute she was able to catch her breath and rinse her mouth. Once she began, she realized she was incredibly thirsty, and she tried to scoop up handfuls of the fresh water in order to quench her thirst.
"No," Noah denied her gently. Taking her hand away from the water, he drew her closer to his warm, wet body and shut off the taps. He leaned toward the refrigerator, looking at it for a moment as if he thought it might potentially bite him. Then he pulled open the door and searched the shelves. It only took him an instant to find the bottled sports drinks that athletes tended to keep in stock. She barely noticed that the power seemed to be out and there was no light. She was too busy trying to burrow into his heated skin.
He was right, though. The electrolyte-balancing beverage would be the better choice over water for now. He handed her the bottle and she cradled it against her body as he scooped her back up to his chest and walked the hallway toward the master suite. She heard a very loud squishing sound as they went, the noise grating on her headachy brain, and she looked down his side. She laughed when she saw water spurting up out of his boots as he walked.
"I did not have time to remove them," he explained, his grin genuine in the face of her laughter at his expense. She was instantly puzzled. She hadn't thought he would be the type to laugh at himself.
"You're getting water all over the house."
"It is only water," he said with a shrug.
He was right. She had much bigger things to worry about. Her head was pounding and she was still nauseated. Her skin itched and her hands and feet were cramping like crazy. He carried her to the bed and carefully laid her in the center of it. He tucked a single pillow behind her head before releasing her and reaching to strip off his dripping shirt. Once he was sure he had minimized getting the bed any wetter, he reached to pull up the heavy quilt over her legs, covering her hips.