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|Noah(Nightwalkers #5) by Jacquelyn Frank|
He slid down Kestra's body, his mouth dragging hotly over her skin in a direct descent to his training grounds.
Noah woke, feeling that strange disorientation and lethargy that the daylight brought, even before he opened his eyes and saw the spray of colors still gilding the room. Not understanding why he had wakened, he rolled to feel for Kestra, who had fallen asleep snuggled up to his back while toying lazily with his hair, her fingers combing through the waves and curls so rhythmically that he had barely felt her fingers stilling before he himself had given in to rest.
She wasn't beside him and his heartbeat jumped. He sat up, sharp eyes sweeping the room. He exhaled hard with relief when he saw her standing before one of the floor-to-ceiling windows, tracing the patterns of color with a slow, thoughtful interest. His heart literally ached for her as he saw her color-splashed body, wrapped in a sage-colored sheet, her lower lip firmly between her teeth. He realized it was still before noon, the slant of the light in the eastern windows still too strong to be anywhere beyond.
He silently moved to his feet, crossing to her and resting his hands on her shoulders. She settled back against him with a small sigh that sounded too sad and too troubled for his peace of mind. His fingers slid over her collarbone and up along her throat, a soothing gesture as he struggled to keep his questions to himself. He couldn't rush her, could never expect her to settle for him and all he had revealed without a qualm and without a great deal of thought.
"You're so wise," she remarked softly, suddenly breaking the silence and letting him know she was aware of his thoughts, as well as his struggles. "I think more than anything your wisdom and confidence of conviction have had an effect on me." She reached up to draw a finger down the back of the hand resting against her throat. "I was wondering how I was going to explain to you that this isn't settled between us, and suddenly you wake and it's in your thoughts that you already understand that."
Kestra finally turned around, looking up into his eyes, her expression soft yet serious. He instantly cupped her throat between his hands, his thumbs stroking back along the line of her jaw.
"I am not so noble that I do not fear every ounce of your independence when it comes to this topic, Kes, but I am enough of an honorable man to know that I could never hold you without it. I hope you understand that I do not expect everything at once? That I only need you to stay close while I try to…" He hesitated, checking his immediate phraseology.
"Try to convince me that you're right?" She gave a wry little laugh. "There's a possessive streak within you."
"It…" He made a sound of frustration, unused to second-guessing his every spoken word. "I almost said that this is because it is true of all Imprinted mates, but that would be a half-truth. You are right. I have always been possessive and protective over that which I deem my own. I am used to those being necessary qualities in my life and my rule. How can a King not be those things for the good of his people? If I care too deeply, and if it is a failing, I cannot make myself regret it. Apathy is the curse of those who live long lives, and I will not neglect my responsibilities. I believe this is how a nation falls into disrepair, when a monarch or leader no longer cares to protect his people as though they were his family."
"I can actually understand that. I don't condemn you for it, Noah. I'm simply not used to it."
"I feel I must warn you, Kes," he whispered softly, leaning to touch foreheads with her, closing his eyes briefly. "The night of Samhain is tonight, and it is a night of extremes unlike anything you have experienced-or will ever be likely to experience. It has a way of magnifying all that is wonderful, and all that is volatile, in our emotions."
"I know this, Noah. I saw your memories. I felt your pain and your need."
"Need." He laughed, but without mirth. "Tonight you will learn a new definition to that word. So will I, I suspect. No," he said quickly when he felt the sudden surge in her heartbeat. "Try not to be afraid. If you embrace it, make the power of it your own, then you will not feel fear."
"Sort of like going down a hill in the snow and slipping on the ice? What does it matter how you get to the bottom? You were going that way anyway."
He chuckled at that, kissing her lips gently in tribute to her wonderful humor.
"Something exactly like that. The difference being a few bumps and bruises along the way. But I will try not to see you hurt, Kes. I promised you I would not hurt you, but if there will ever be a time when that would become an issue in the physical sense, it will be tonight. I am of Fire, and there are such dangerous things within me."
"I'm not afraid of danger," she whispered in reminder as she moved to kiss him soothingly. "And I'm not afraid of you. Not physically, at least."
"Well, you should be," he said, straightening up a little sharply and giving her a small shake. "You act so confident about things that even I am not sure of. Do not underestimate me. Not this night. It is the first night, do you understand? It is the first Hallowed moon I will have with you, my one true mate, and I am entering it with a keen and painful awareness that your heart is not mine and that you are afraid to give it to me." He felt her hands circling his wrists tightly and he looked away from her, drawing a deep breath in an attempt to control his rising anxiety. "I am sorry. That sounded like I was blaming you, but I am not. I understand your needs, truly I do. I only wish to make you aware of what mine will be."
"Noah, I know what your needs will be. But you can be as volatile as you like and it will not change the essence of who you are. Your sense of honor is remarkable, unlike anything I have ever known. It won't simply disappear."
"You have more faith in that than I do," he said with a candid bitterness. "I would have agreed with you not five…six days ago. But after what I have done recently, I cannot be so sure."
Kestra felt the phrase like a stinging slap. It wasn't his intention to blame her, but she felt responsible just the same. Circumstances had placed him at odds with all the values he held dear. He didn't feel guilt, because he couldn't make himself regret his choices, but he did feel remorse for the fallout of his actions. She regretted it, too, because her careless actions had put him in the untenable position.
"Noah, you just told me I needed to embrace the unfamiliarity of what I'll experience tonight. Doesn't the same hold true for you? Your own fears will be what makes this so difficult for you." She ran her hands soothingly along his forearms. "I haven't closed my mind to you. In fact, you should be encouraged by the fact that…" She exhaled shakily, laughing through it because she wasn't used to thinking with her heart. "The fact that I'm willing to stay with you and learn if I can…if I can have the courage I'll need to…"
"To love me, Kestra," he said with impatience. "You cannot even speak of the idea!" He cursed under his breath as soon as the words passed his lips, releasing his hold on her so he could run agitated hands through his hair and quell the unwanted emotion surging through him. "There is an example of logic and honor for you," he said with bitter sarcasm, "and dark has hours yet to fall." He sighed when he saw she was regarding him with a level gaze. "Whatever else you believe of me in the coming hours, Kes, believe that I truly understand your limitations in this matter and intend to be as sensitive as I need to be to help you cope with it."
"That doesn't mean you have to be happy about the situation, Noah. Don't be so unreasonable with yourself. There's nothing wrong with you wanting someone to love you. I'm only sorry that I-that you've chosen to want someone who feels so much panic when she's faced with an individual who wants her to love him."
Her regret was agonizingly sharp in her eyes and he felt pain choking off in his throat. He reached for her, enfolding her in his arms and hugging her as tightly as he dared to his sheltering body. Kestra instantly felt protected, the sensation so amusing to her that she laughed.
She was the one protecting him at the moment. She probably would be for the remainder of the day and night. Guarding him from these surges of power she knew nothing about, but was supposed to be innately able to conquer. She wasn't afraid of the challenge. It's what would come later that would be more difficult.
Kestra had learned a very long time ago that when it came to dangerous things, a dangerous life, it was best to stay focused on the moment and not let herself be distracted by uncontrollable details. She hadn't liked the idea of not having a real choice in the matter, but she also realized that a tantrum wasn't going to change the facts. Besides, she had to confess she was getting increasingly curious about this night that so powerful a being as Noah seemed to dread, worship, and crave all at once. It was a fascinating combination of expectations. And she'd always wondered what it'd be like spending a day in bed with a great lover and making love like bunnies.
Noah broke out in a coughing laugh, suddenly reminding her that he was skulking around in her brain. She reached out to pinch him, but he caught her fingers in his hands and diverted them to the kiss of his warm lips.
"You think the most incredible combination of thoughts," he said. "One minute impressively brave and philosophical, the next irreverent and bordering on adolescent."
"Mmm, well, I don't think you want to criticize me on adolescent thoughts," she remarked with a well-bred tone of haughtiness. It completely belied the warmth seeping up her arm as his mouth rubbed over her fingers and palm. She did snuggle a little bit more cozily against him.
"I am under the influence of great cosmic forces," he excused himself, a brilliant sparkle of mischief in his eyes.
She contemplated him from under her lashes for a moment, letting him distract himself with her taste and scent, allowing herself to feel how it sent heat dripping through him when he noted the scent of their lovemaking was etched over them both so deeply it was almost permanent. She did the same, inhaling their combined fragrance off his skin, slow and deep, filling her lungs with the intoxicating and stimulating scent. She understood her senses were sharpening, and it excited her, but not half so much as smelling him on her own skin. She didn't understand why, she only felt her every sense coming to attention. She felt sensory memory playing tricks on her body, heating and tingling in deep places as the scent called to mind a certain touch, the fine stroke of his body inside her, his kiss and tongue playing over wickedly sensitive places.
She began to wonder if this was normal or if she was under the influence of cosmic forces. Then she wondered why the hell she was worrying about it. What did it matter?
She smiled up at him, reaching to stroke a hand along his ribs and waist. She was fascinated by the feel and strength of his flesh. Its warmth and power left her envious and breathless. Kes inched her body back from his so she could slide her hand over the firmness of his belly. She felt the muscles clench beneath her touch and there was a sudden nip of teeth against the hand he'd been kissing. She raised a single brow as she looked up at him with mischievous intent. She knew the expression drove him nuts.
"Kestra, I really do need to sleep at some point," he reminded her pointedly. "I am burning energy just to be talking with you at this hour."
"Then by all means, let's put you to bed," she murmured softly against the strong column of his neck as she reached to kiss him there with all seeming innocence. He nodded, the shadow on his jaw abrading her cheek and catching on stray wisps of her hair.
Noah let her grasp his hand and lead him to the bed. She had him lie down; then she made a show of yanking the tuck of the sheet she wore from between her breasts, the light green fabric suddenly billowing free of her breathtaking body. She placed a knee on the bed near his hip and swung one of her extraordinary legs over him. For a brief but ecstatic moment, she straddled him, settled the center of her weight against him so that he was suddenly flush against scorching feminine heat and moist secrets. He could swear the little minx even rubbed against him before she continued to climb over him to her side of the bed. She slid beneath the coverlet and snuggled down as if perfectly ready to obey his request for sleep.
Meanwhile, her slight erotic dance across his body had pretty much set an all-time speed record for inspiring a completely rigid state of arousal. Never one to be outdone, or easily manipulated for that matter, Noah was faced with a conundrum. It didn't take him long to decide that, in this case, he could accept manipulation and go right for not being outdone. Though he almost changed his mind when he heard her try to muffle a feminine snicker of victory.
He gave in, reaching for her with lightning speed, flipping her onto her back and rolling himself atop her cozy body and right into the nestling cradle of her thighs. He did it fast enough to earn a somewhat satisfactory gasp of surprise from his temptress. In a heartbeat he was breathing softly against her lips and returning her sliding caress of intimacy with a deadly accurate undulation of his hips. Her gasp was far more powerful and extremely satisfying this time, as was the slick heat and nectar of her expectant body.
"The sun," he lectured her softly, the low timbre of his voice against her lips, the smoothness of which was marred by the slightest grunt of pleasure, "though a great distance away from Earth, emits enough radiation to reach the planet, bathing it in what we call sunlight." He moved his lecture down to her throat, although he slid his rapidly thickening arousal against her at the end of the sentence. "Radiation is one of the purest forms of energy available on this planet."
"Oh?" she managed to say, following it up with a groan as his hips shifted again and his mouth lowered so his hot breath was cascading over her breast and its already painfully erect nipple.