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|Noah(Nightwalkers #5) by Jacquelyn Frank|
"You think I am sarcastic and stubborn," she accused.
Noah gave her a charming half smile.
"See? I told you that you could read my mind." He rose to his full height and walked up to her, reaching out to catch her arm when the action of tilting her head back to maintain eye contact with him wreaked havoc on her equilibrium. "Did you get to the part where I think you are so beautiful that it almost hurts to look at you? That it takes every ounce of my willpower to keep from touching you? Kissing you? And nothing stops me from needing you. Soul-deep need, Kes."
Kestra instantly fell into the soft green and gray need reflected in his eyes. She couldn't understand why she wanted that so much, to be needed like he said he needed her. She had never wanted it before, was convinced it wasn't a part of her makeup. The words "I need you" had repulsed her from the beginning of time.
From the time she'd last heard them.
Noah felt the black rush of memories and fear explode over her like a violent malevolence. He had felt her answering need a moment before, but then she had taken a turn into a dark place, a place where evil lurked in her mind, scarring her in a way she thought could never heal. Should never heal. This, he realized, was the heart of her need to fight fear with dangerous hobbies and probably dangerous work.
"I don't do need," she said hoarsely, trying to pull her arm free. "I don't need anyone, and I resent you needing me for anything. You have no idea who I am. You have no idea what you're touching! I don't know you! I don't even know what you are!"
"I am a great many things, Kes," he countered calmly. "I am a King. I am an immortal Nightwalker called Demon. I am Fire. I am a brother, an uncle, and a friend. Most of all, I am your soul mate. We were born into this universe meant for each other. You are for me and I am for you. Your fear will not change that. Do you know what you are? Are you sure?" he pressed before she could speak. "You are Druid, Kestra. You are no longer just a human being. The day we met, the day we came into contact, you became much more than human. You will grow in power, though I do not know how, and you will become immortal."
"The day we met?" she asked weakly.
"When you were born, it was with a specific genetic code. That code is attuned to mine. As mine is to yours. That is why we searched for each other, how we found each other in our dreams. Once I understood you were somewhere out there for me, I must have opened my mind to you. Then, when our bodies came into contact, when I first touched you, it triggered a cascading change in your genetics, birthing your power, making you ready to be my other half, connecting us in life and death for all time."
"You are a madman," Kestra gasped, this time succeeding in yanking free of his hold and backing away from him. "You're crazy!" she screamed, hysteria edging her voice.
"No, I am not. Do you see me?" he demanded in cold, blasting severity. "Do I seem crazed or manic to you? Have I acted rashly and with intent to harm you?"
"No, but you will! I know!" She was gasping for breath, clutching the furniture. "Oh God, how stupid I've been! You think I was born for you? You think we are destined to be together forever? You think these promises are poetry?"
"Kestra, you do not understand, baby. Please calm-"
"No! I do understand!" Kes dragged in a breath, wheezing and hunching over into herself like a wounded animal, grasping at the agony clawing through her chest. "You're insane. It doesn't stop. And I can't…" She shuddered and shook so hard that she couldn't finish speaking. Her face turned a florid red and she collapsed to her knees and hands, trying to breathe and hold herself up at the same time. Noah was there instantly, dragging her into his body, finally realizing that this wasn't just about hysterics or normal disbelief in the face of the unbelievable. He realized she was having a violent panic attack.
His Kes. His fearless Kes.
And suddenly he understood.
He held her as she flailed for breath, gasping, clutching at the incredible pain in her chest, tears of agony streaming down her face.
"Easy, baby, easy," he soothed her in a fast whisper, trying to penetrate the screaming of her brain. "It is not what you think. Shh…I swear it is not. I did not know, Kikilia. I did not know. I would have found another way to say it if I had known. I am so sorry. Shh. Breathe, baby, breathe."
She couldn't. Not when she thought he was like the one from her past. The one who had caused the evil scars within her. The one who had given birth to the fear she tried so hard to fly in the face of.
The one who had hurt her in the name of his love for her.
How could he make her believe that this was not the same? That this was truth and she would know it if she just listened to her own spirit? How to make her believe this was not about obsession, but about Destiny?
How could he make her breathe?
For all his power-the energy, the Fire, and the force he could compel-he could not compel her to breathe!
Noah closed his eyes and tapped that power, his entire soul screaming out in fear and fury as Kestra passed out in his arms and went deathly still.
Every Elder Demon in a hundred-mile radius felt the raging torment of their King. Even some of the adults were sensitive enough to hear the cry. But it was not a summons for them to answer. It was meant for one and only one Demon to hear, and those who were up to date on the workings of the court feared she was too far away to receive the message.
Legna leaned over her son, her incredibly long hair falling like a protective curtain around him as she reached to kiss his tummy, making him squeal with laughter. The beautiful Demon mother glowed with love and patience even when her sixteen-month-old son grabbed her hair and held on to his prize for dear life.
"He has his father's penchants," Gideon mused, looking on from a chair very close to where they were settled on the floor at his feet. He leaned forward and stroked loving fingers through her cascade of coffee-colored hair. He wore a necklace made of her tresses, the only jewelry he had ever worn in his Ancient lifetime. It had been a gift from her just after they had wed. The day they had learned their son was coming.
Legna extracted herself from Seth's death grip on her hair, sitting back on her heels and smiling at her husband as his hand lingered on her back.
"That is all well and good, but I think I will have you braid my hair for the next few years. He is a little hard on my poor scalp."
Instantly Gideon reacted. He reached for her abused hairline, his powerful healing abilities more than compensating for her soreness. It was gone in an instant, and she reached to kiss him in gratitude.
She never quite made it. To Gideon's shock, his wife was suddenly plucked from his grasp. She flew backward across the room-a full ten feet-before she crashed into the wall, as if she were a rag doll thrown by a spoiled child having a temper tantrum, and slid to the floor limply. Gideon instantly went to move, but she was still in the air and only halfway across the room before the backlash in her mind reached her Imprinted mate.
Gideon roared with the pain exploding in his head. He heard the answering cry, the torment, felt the path arcing from the brother to the sister and overflowing into the husband. The medic's brain, as powerful and sophisticated as it was, was not made for the abuse. Blood vessels burst and his nose began to bleed in a torrent. It was a tribute to his powers of healing that he didn't lose consciousness, that he managed to avoid the hundreds of little strokes popping in his brain with devastating potential.
He couldn't succumb. If he was suffering only backlash, his wife was being bludgeoned to death. Gideon gasped as he gained his feet, fighting himself to step over his son without falling on him. He staggered to his wife, healing himself internally the entire time with a calm that belied his horror at the sight of his beloved mate lying unconscious on the floor, blood leaking from her nose, ears, and eyes.
Never in all of his life had he suspected Noah was capable of such power. Since Gideon knew Noah would never knowingly harm his sister, he doubted Noah even knew it himself. Gideon laid hands on his wife, rapidly healing her, focusing everything he had on her, now ignoring his own pain and injuries. He said a fast prayer of thanks that he had been there, that he had been with Legna when this had happened. What if he had been abroad on some errand? There were no Demon healers in the Lycanthrope court besides himself. In his unleashed fear and fury, Noah would have unknowingly killed his adored sister.
Gideon gently wiped away her blood with his fingertips as she stirred. He bent to kiss her forehead, finally able to breathe again now that she was moving appropriately.
"You are all right, Neliss," he soothed her. "I have to go to Noah."
"No, wait." She cleared her throat, trying to rid it of weakness. "Do not tell him."
Gideon understood. "If I do not tell him and he does it again, he could kill you if I am not with you. He nearly did in spite of my presence."
"It will destroy him if you tell him." Her beloved eyes were begging, though she knew he would always do anything to secure her happiness. "Warn him. Tell him less. Only enough to moderate him. Only do not tell him of this."
"As you wish, my love," he whispered. "Can you teleport me?"
She sat up with his help, but she nodded.
"I will ask Elijah to care for Seth. You will rest."
She didn't give him a single argument.
Gideon entered Noah's bedroom with a pop of harshly displaced air. Gideon saw the King clutching his mate, his face ravaged with panic. She had passed out and now lay pale and limp in Noah's arms, gasping for breath in little hitches. Her lips were blue.
"She had a panic attack. I thought when she passed out it would get better but…" Noah became speechless, explanation unnecessary to the great medic.
Gideon wordlessly reached for Kestra, his fingers touching her throat as he closed his eyes and sank into her struggling body, searching for all the signals and warnings that would lead him to his answers. She had a very healthy body overall, which made it much easier to sort out minor glimmers of illness from that which was serious. When the body entered a crisis, it pooled all resources and sent them screaming to the area of alarm. Gideon was swept along for the ride.
"Asthma. She has asthma, set off by her panic. Her lungs are completely closed off."
As he assessed Kestra, the medic also reached to touch Noah on his shoulder. He made it appear to be a gesture of masculine support, a comforting grip of reassurance, but he was far too aware of the volatility of Noah's emotions in the moment. He covertly, gently, manipulated the chemicals pumping too much adrenaline into the Demon King's body.
Noah instantly began to calm, to regain composure. He had no reason to doubt Gideon's medical skills, he remembered. Gideon could heal with miraculous power and speed. The medic had managed to heal himself from death once, only one of a dozen miracles Noah had seen him accomplish over the years.
When Kestra took her first full breath, a long ragged gasp that echoed into the room, Noah actually sobbed with relief, unable to help himself. Another harsh breath, much-needed oxygen coming with it, and her color began to return. Noah dragged Kestra to his chest as Gideon was forced to find a new touch point of access into his patient's body. The nearest point was her hip, so he allowed the King to purge his emotions and simply touched two fingers to the supple red velvet covering Kestra's pelvis.
Technically, Noah shouldn't be hugging her, as it would restrict her breathing, but given another minute, even that wouldn't matter, so the medic said nothing. He would have her healed completely of her crisis. As her eyes opened and she gasped a deep breath, Gideon also removed the remnants of heat exhaustion from her body. There was some small damage and weakness from her temporary removal from Noah's energy too early on in her growth into a Druid, but it would heal quickly enough in spite of Gideon's inability to aid her in that respect.
Gideon couldn't explain why, but suddenly he was sure he was the center of Noah's mate's attention. He looked up and met her eyes, a pale and glittering gaze, like blue glacial ice cut into gems. She didn't speak, nor were there any traces of her initial panic. Gideon had soothed her body chemistry into perfect balance, but that didn't mean she wouldn't ruin his work with chaotic thoughts.
However, it wasn't that knowledge that allowed a strange sensation to walk down the back of his neck. It caught hold, capturing all nerve impulses and cutting off his brain from his spine until he was relaxed into a paralysis that he found fascinating and even a little frightening. He probably could have broken away from her, but he didn't, his curiosity as a scientist of the Body getting the better of him.
In her eyes he saw clarity and understanding. There wasn't even a blink of an assessing expression. Her comprehension was instantaneous. He realized then that she knew what he was. She knew he was Demon and all that this meant. She now held in her mind a blueprint of his capabilities, his peaks of power and, most of all, his places of weakness.
Noah finally realized both Kestra and Gideon were staring at each other and sitting still as statues as they did so. His hold on Kes loosened, and it allowed her to sit forward. She reached toward Gideon's face, toward the edge of his silver eyes. She laid her hand against the side of his cheek and they continued to stare at each other as if entranced. Noah was beginning to understand that this had nothing to do with common curiosity, that there was an undercurrent of something else.
That there was power.
He felt it suddenly, though it had been growing the entire time as Gideon and Kestra had threaded together through their joined gazes. His heart skipped a beat, only to pound all the harder to make up for it. He didn't know what to do and didn't understand what exactly was going to happen. He wasn't precisely afraid for Gideon, because even Bella couldn't affect him with her awesome power to steal ability from others. So he let the exchange continue, standing ready and waiting.