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|Noah(Nightwalkers #5) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Pleased being the least volatile of adjectives at the moment.
"Yes. I am looking for my flashlight. None of the lights seem to be working."
"Yes. I believe the transformer overloaded last night. Most of the lights blew out, and as for the rest"-he shrugged-"I guess they have not restored the service."
"Oh." She sighed. "Well, considering how rural this is, I won't be surprised if I spend the rest of the week in the dark. Aha!" She pulled out the small metal cylinder she had been looking for, dragged the sheet across herself, and sat down. The strong little light flared to life and she flashed it at him, making his maladjusted eyes smart. He hid a grin and walked over to the bed.
With a violent pop, the bulb in the flashlight blew out.
"Grr! Isn't that just the luck?"
"Yes. I was so looking forward to running around in the dark with a tiny beam of light to show me the way. Here, drink this."
She took the bottle absently, shaking the light as if it would make it work again. She sighed.
"You're right. It's not as if it can heat bathwater. God, I hate cold showers."
"Yeah, me, too," he said softly. She looked at him and he could easily see her eyes narrowing. "Although, if you are feeling better after you drink that, we could always return to my holdings. Plenty of light, plenty of hot water. I believe I even have a tub my sister claims all women will consider divinity on earth."
"Sold! To the man in the shining armor!" She laughed. "So much for Wonder Woman. She who hates to be without amenities. And a gym."
"Mmm…the best I can do there is the training yards. A lot of violence and sweaty people. Oddly enough, I can picture you right in the thick of it."
"Hoo-yah!" She laughed. She clutched her head and slid into a reclining position. "Well, maybe just hoo…the yah can wait a few days."
"I am inclined to agree."
"So I guess this means you're driving."
Noah went very still.
"You're stopping again," she noted immediately.
"No. My eyes are still open."
"Well, it's dark."
"But something is bothering you. I can feel it. Your energy gets all prickly."
Now he was definitely stopping, and he couldn't help it if she noticed it. He closed his eyes as an anxious yet exhilarating wash of emotion flooded over him. It was not very likely that the average human being could detect changes in energy, never mind "prickly" changes in energy. Did she even realize what she was saying? Perhaps she was chalking it up to her extremely impressive instincts and intuition, but it was too uncannily coincidental for it to just be that. Energy. Heat. Power. Those were a part of him. Were they now becoming a part of her? What kind of Druid was she going to be, exactly? They had no way of knowing. He was overwhelmed with the urge to find out, even as he wanted to delay it all just a little while longer.
"What?" she asked quickly.
"Nothing." Then he sighed and rubbed his forehead just over his nose. "No, wait. I apologize. What I mean to say is, it is nothing for you to be concerned with. Just a lot of thoughts running amok and trying their best to give me a headache."
"I see. Well, don't expect pity from me. I won't be impressed until you at least have some nausea or…blood coming out of your eyes or something."
Noah looked at her with utter disbelief. "Have you seen much of that in your lifetime?"
"You know, some questions are better left unanswered."
The really frightening part about her response was that he didn't think she was making a joke. Noah was instantly taken back to the first moment he had seen her in reality, and how it had ended so abruptly seconds later.
"I have a plan," he said absently, pushing that aside for more pressing concerns. "Let us get you dressed and then you can rest while I prepare for our trip. Considering how you are feeling, I would not be surprised if you sleep the entire trip." He purposely looked away, turning to find some clothes for her.
"I'd be surprised if I did. I don't like to sleep while driving."
"Actually, I was thinking of flying."
"Flying? Quicker, but on such short notice?"
"I have means of private transportation," he said, again purposely vague. He withdrew a brief cotton dress out of a series of dresses that didn't seem to go past midthigh. She was clearly a modern girl who loved to flaunt her femininity and her hard-earned body. Every dress was stylish and light, not conservative but not garish, either. She had a small selection of very sophisticated evening dresses from some pretty exclusive designers as well, confirming his suspicions that she had more than her fair share of resources. He wasn't certain that the brief dresses were at all appropriate for an English October, but she had worn one that he had seen already and it hadn't seemed to faze her.
"Actually, I have a red velvet dress in there. I would prefer that one," she said before he could turn and show her his choice. It seemed such a domestic thing for him to be doing for her, choosing something for her to wear. "If you can see it in the dark."
He already had it in hand as she was saying that. He draped it over the bed and then turned to the only dresser in the room. He selected a bra and underwear with just enough care to make her blush uncharacteristically. Kestra told herself it was because she didn't like being ill and waited on. Then she told herself she was a coward and the blush was because she liked his choices, that they were sexy and she had bought them after they had made love, probably with temptation in her subconscious.
Sex. Had sex. Not made love, she corrected herself hastily.
"You were not wearing hosiery the other day…?"
He let the unspoken question hang, the memories of that torrid meeting crowding between them both. Kestra shifted beneath the sheet, the fabric suddenly overly stimulating against her skin. She casually crossed an arm over her breasts in an attempt to hide the sudden thrust of her nipples.
"I…wear garters and stockings, but I haven't found any I like yet," she managed to say in a passably even tone.
"Oh. I forgot you had to buy-"
He stopped again.
She watched his eyes slide closed and was sorely tempted to call him on it, to know what he was thinking that very second. After a moment he looked at her and smiled in a way that didn't reach his eyes. "We will not be leaving your clothes behind this time."
"Barneys and Saks will be very sorry to hear it," she joked. It was clear there was no enthusiasm behind it, but he smiled again anyway.
Noah moved to the bed, coming to her side and sitting down so his hip contacted hers and he was facing her. He reached out to push back a strand of her hair as he found and held her gaze. Kestra could see the seriousness in his eyes and she felt her throat constrict with an anxiety that she couldn't make herself understand.
"When we are settled at my home, I would be very grateful if you would allow me to talk to you about some…unusual matters between us."
"Unusual matters?" She looked perplexed. "I don't believe I have ever heard it put quite like that before."
"Believe me, you have never had a discussion like this before."
"I wish you hadn't done that," she said with a frustrated sigh.
He looked at her with bald confusion.
"Now I'll spend the entire time from here to there worrying and wondering what it is you want to say to me that's unusual," she clarified.
"Worrying? I do not think worrying is required. As for wondering, you will have no success, so you should not attempt it."
"Just like that, hmm? You think telling me not to worry and not to wonder is going to make it happen?"
"I am appealing to your logic," he said, a grin already playing over his lips. "But you are beginning to sound suspiciously like a woman."
"Ooo." She squinted her eyes and wrinkled her nose at him as she shook a scolding finger. "You just said that because I almost made that man comment."
"I told you, the man comment did not faze me."
"Uh-huh." She clearly didn't agree.
"Come. Dress," he ordered her. "Unless you need my assistance?"
"No!" She snatched her clothes from him, fighting back a wave of nausea as she moved too fast. "You go take those lethal hands elsewhere," she commanded, not thinking about her phrasing.
"Lethal hands?" he echoed, his tone suddenly careful.
Kestra froze, bit her lip, and cringed slightly when she realized she'd spoken the words aloud.
"Yes. Lethal," she said, facing the music. "Deadly. Dangerous. Otherwise unwise to be in the vicinity of."
"Are you leaving so I can get dressed?"
"Well, might I say it is a very slow departure?"
Noah got up and walked out of the bedroom. He ended up back at the kitchen counter. He was smiling, unable to help himself.
Banda ran for his life.
He had been caught in the city. He'd had no choice but to go, but for every shadow there was light. He felt them coming, slipping shadow to shadow as he was, just as adept, more than powerful enough to seek him out. He didn't understand what they wanted with him. Their people were not enemies. Banda hadn't been making any mischief on any of their kind.
As he ran flat-out among the streetlights he felt the glow touch his skin with irritating prickles, touching just his arm but running the entire course of his nervous system, whenever he had to run out of the shadows to cross the path of the frightening light, the blessed light that created shadow sanctuary as well as representing imminent death.
The young Shadowdweller could hardly breathe, he was running so fast. Besides the pounding of his feet on the pavement, all he could hear was the coarse and violent rasp of his own breath as it labored in and out of his body. The Vampires were faster than he, and the light didn't hurt them at all, unless it was sunlight, which Banda was very unlikely to find at this hour. All the better. He'd rather get caught by the threatening Vampires than get caught by the deadly sun.
There were too many of them to fight, and his powers were too untried to go up against those that were clearly very potent. His only hope would be to contact a more mature Shadowdweller, one more powerful than himself, more powerful than the Vampires. The odds of finding one in the city were very low, but better to try than not. The fact of the matter was he couldn't even attempt it while blindly on the run and shuddering head to toe with fear.
Banda had to stop, if for no other reason than that his body ached from the running and the harsh slaps of light that burned him. He tried to control his breathing as he stepped back into the deepest shadows and tried to hide. He blended, phased, and because of his desperation, found the power to become a perfect shadow, indistinguishable from the shadows that belonged against the building made of gray and pink brick.
Cygnus stopped a block away from his quarry when the slippery little 'Dweller up and disappeared. Cursory scans did nothing to find him, the little chameleon having exceeded himself this time. But Cygnus and his counterparts knew the 'Dweller had been just ahead of them a minute ago and that there were very few places he could hide. Especially if they got close enough to him. 'Dwellers could not trick Vampires for very long when they were as young as this one. And Cygnus had watched and purposely hunted this young one. While Vampires already had the ability to blend into the shadows unseen, to fog the minds of passersby from noticing them, Cygnus knew 'Dwellers had other abilities, powers that they did not advertise. He knew this because he had seen them.
It had been about a century ago. Ironically enough, he had been out hunting with Damien at the time. Hunting Shadowdwellers. A little pack of them who had taken to causing trouble for Vampires along the borders of some of their territories. This little pack had been unwise enough to nibble at Damien's hunting grounds. The 'Dwellers would taunt whatever Vampire they found in the area, chasing off prey by scaring them or playing poltergeist tricks.
'Dwellers taunted humans as well. Though it was not blood they took, Damien did not appreciate the sloppy remains of a pack's roving that was left behind for authorities to question, making it harder for Damien to hunt and for Nightwalkers in general to remain incognito. Luckily, humans had a way of making up reasons for things they could not explain, and Damien had quickly caught up with the pack and given them a sound thrashing that had sent them back to New Zealand…or Alaska. Whichever it was at whatever time of year that remained darkest most of the day and night.
But before that had happened, Cygnus had been tracking a stray, a 'Dweller who had somehow gotten separated from her pack. He had chased that one, exactly the same way he was chasing this one. Only that time, when he had found the little bitch, she had looked at him, right into his soul, and twisted something around inside himself. It had taken him three days to come back to his senses. Three days to remember what had happened. He had never explained to Damien what happened to him, figuring the information might come in handy one day. He had never expected to be so right. He was very interested to see what exactly he would acquire when he stole this new aspect from the young 'Dweller.
Cygnus stilled suddenly, his senses flaring as he neared a brick building. Now that he knew the 'Dweller was there, the trick was separating him from the rest of the shadows.
Banda held his breath. He could hold it for up to six minutes if he needed to. But he would release it and redraw every time the Vampire passed far enough out of hearing. Which was not often, because the Vampire could hear very well. Then the leader's cohorts caught up to him, making it much worse. Banda's odds plummeted as they crowded around. They were very focused on the building he hid against, so they knew he was near. All he had to do was maintain perfect concentration and he would stay safe, perhaps long enough for them to tire of the chase. He doubted it, though. Vampires were tenacious, and as hunters they could be extremely unhurried.