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|Noah(Nightwalkers #5) by Jacquelyn Frank|
She closed her eyes and concentrated. She prayed she could do this. Much of her energy had always come from him. She had only just begun to learn how to draw energy from outside sources under his guidance, and she had sucked at it so far. But she couldn't afford to screw it up. Not now.
She began to glow a healthy green, pulling in from the creatures huddled in the forest, the motions of the wind, and the energy of life itself. Her hands flared bright, but she did not shape her energy.
"Remember what you said?" she asked him roughly. "You said we are symbiotic. We are one, inasmuch as we are two. I am the right hand. You are the left. What I take in from you, I must expel. You made me feel the place within that connected to you. It will work in reverse, my love," she insisted softly. "What I take from that path, I can give on that path. Take what you need and come back to me."
She laid her hands on his chest and continued her compressions, at the same time sending a sizzling conduit of energy into him. She focused through her mouth, through the kiss of her lips, the place where they had first birthed her ability to connect with him. So her mouth glowed and sparkled when she breathed into him slow and deep. She pushed on and on, until the glow around her began to fade.
Noah suddenly sucked in a harsh, gagging breath.
He threw her off him, rolling over onto his hands and knees and expelling mud and water with violent retching. His black hair hung around his face lank with water and mud, and his body shuddered as he tried to take in an uncontaminated breath.
That was when Jacob and Isabella finally showed up.
They burst from dust to flesh in a heartbeat, scaring ten years off Kestra when they spoke up behind her.
"What the hell!"
Jacob rushed to the King, looking askance at Kestra.
"Vampires attacked us. He drowned. We need a medic," she croaked in short bursts.
"We know about the Vampires. Bella saw it in a premonition," Jacob said. "It took us a bit to track you."
"Here, sit," Bella urged Kestra while Jacob murmured something to Noah, who was still struggling to clear his lungs.
"Oh God, he's going to suffocate," Kestra said, tears stinging as they rolled over the slashes in her face.
"Jacob can help," Isabella soothed her. "Just give him a minute."
Kestra watched with wide eyes as Jacob leaned over his monarch, speaking softly to him. Suddenly, Noah was retching again, purging pure dirt and silt.
Then he took the first clear breath he'd taken in over fifteen minutes.
"Jacob is of the earth, remember," Bella explained. "He cannot heal, but he can draw out the silt and soil from Noah's lungs. No different than making dirt leave a hole."
All Kestra could do was nod vigorously in comprehension and sudden relief. Jacob helped Noah sit up and Kestra crawled over to him in a flash.
His thoughts were as stilted as his gasping breaths, but at least they were there, back where they belonged, warm in her mind.
"Yes! Yes, I'm fine. You scared the hell out of me!" She switched to thoughts herself when her voice finally gave out. You should have warned me about the water! Why didn't you ever let me scan you? You almost died!
You are not going to hit me…are you?
Don't you dare joke at a time like this! She glared at him, daggers of ice in her faceted eyes. I will beat the crap out of you if you crack wise about this!
Finally, Noah recovered enough to drag her into his embrace. He was racked with coughing, covered in muck, but he knew she wouldn't care about any of that. He knew she needed to feel him alive and breathing…such as it was.
I am sorry you were scared. We are okay now. Try and calm down.
She couldn't calm down. She burst into hysterics.
"Post-adrenaline crash," Jacob murmured helpfully, trying to explain her uncharacteristic unraveling. "I am leaving Bella here and I am going to get help. Do not move and do not attract trouble," he dictated sternly.
The male Enforcer left and his mate rolled her eyes at his ridiculous commands.
Noah was fully focused on Kestra. She was tearing his heart out with her sobs, and his heart already felt as if it had been through a building collapse. He cradled her head to his chest, resting his chin atop it between coughing fits.
Hush, baby. All is well.
I thought I lost you! I was lost. I fell! Noah felt the disjointed swirl of confusion and hysteria running through her. I thought you were…I thought you were on the bathroom floor…in the garage…all alone…dying all alone!
Noah suddenly understood. She had relived the horror of losing a loved one all over again. Her worst nightmare coming true.
Noah stiffened abruptly.
A loved one.
Noah closed his eyes as a tidal wave of emotion cascaded over him, drowning him, only this time in a little death that thrilled him.
Yes! Oh God, yes. I love you, and I'm so sorry I was too stubborn to tell you. Too cowardly. I love you, Noah. She began to press flighty little kisses all over his face, heightening the suddenly disconnected and heavenly feeling the Demon King was floating on.
You were never a coward, baby love, he told her, squeezing her tightly to himself. No one can ever call someone a coward if they are brave enough to survive and love again. Never.
I love you. You're my soul and my heart. I feel it every time I breathe. I knew. I knew when every day went by and just got better and better. I knew when Samhain passed and you became more and more beautiful. Painfully so, Noah. I met you when you were at your worst, and I love you so much that I actually miss your worst! But I bless your best. You've changed me and my world, and everything is so different now. Just because you were brave enough to face down a royal bitch and give her a good wake-up call.
Noah chuckled roughly, setting off another coughing fit that jiggled her against his chest.
Ah yes, that was brave of me, was it not? More than you will ever know, he added more seriously. I think you will always confuse the hell out of me, baby. I fear I will never figure you out and I will be tripping over my feet and my tongue and my impulses for quite some time.
You know what, I can handle that. But only if you promise me one thing.
What is that, Kikilia?
Stay the hell away from water!
Damien crouched in the thick mud, rolling over the last Vampire's body as he inspected it with a grim expression.
"That is the last of the lot," he affirmed, standing up and swiping his hands against each other, more to remove the taint of evil than the mud. "At least this time."
"You sound sure that your people won't get the message," Elijah remarked, his humor somewhere far from the site that had almost seen the death of his King. "I think there is something to be said for a well-publicized ass-kicking."
"Mmm," was Damien's only agreement. After a moment he spoke, his tone dark and heavy with bitterness. "I have learned much in this past year, Elijah. I have learned how to love and how to fear, both with a depth I never knew. I have learned I have not done as good a job ruling my people as I once thought. I am certain, in fact, that ruling is a loose term. I presided over them. There is a difference."
"Damien…" Elijah protested, but the Prince held up a staying hand to cut him off.
"It is like running an orphanage of young children," he explained quietly. "You can manage the aesthetics, the accounts and feeding times, but if you do not control the children, even the best management is doomed to fail. They will have a limited environment, but they will run around like wild animals within that environment from the moment they wake until they collapse with exhaustion." Damien flicked a damaged gaze of midnight blue over his shoulder at the warrior. "I suddenly tried to impose rules on a madhouse full of wild children, and I am surprised they rebelled? It was a poor example of my supposed great wisdom."
"We have made worse mistakes," Elijah said cautiously, very aware that the Vampire was not in the mood for appeasement. "The wisdom comes in the rectification."
That got Damien's full attention, a brow arched in surprise.
"You are sounding suspiciously like a leader, Captain," Damien remarked, a twitch at the corner of his lips.
"I am one. Have been for some time," Elijah said with a dismissive shrug. "Managing unruly warriors with an itch for battle is no easy trick. Standing next to my wife as she presides over a people who hate the very sight of me has its moments, too," he added wryly. "But they are grudgingly forcing themselves to accept there is nothing they can do about it. One day, I am determined they will accept my command with the same ease of respect as they accept Siena's. But that day is long in the future. You, however, have the benefit of the majority. Your people love you, and they have been used to loving you for more centuries than I have even been alive. Those who don't love you will be forced to respect you. I do not doubt this. If I did, I could never reassure my wife that her sister is safe in your keeping. And if I couldn't reassure my wife, you would have a hell of a time on your hands." Elijah's look was pointed.
"I thank you for your confidence," Damien said graciously and without humor. "I think it is time for me to take some pages out of the Demon political handbook. Your system has worked, more or less, for some time, and I need to delegate in order to restructure such a structureless society."
"Keep in mind," Elijah warned, "the Council can be a damned nuisance as well as a help. Don't elevate anyone you can't trust, and don't give too much power away."
"Not to worry. I am Prince and will always be so. My wife has been itching for involvement and I see possibilities now that I am not going to fear the displeasure of my 'children.' And I must replace Stephan." Heavy sadness settled suddenly over him at the remark. "Jasmine will round out the beginnings of a new political structure. She will be pleased to be entitled. It may even keep her out of trouble for a while."
Elijah snorted with disbelief, making Damien chuckle.
"Look at it this way," the Prince said. "If I can reform her, I can reform anyone."
Damien found himself hosting the Demon King and his mate that night. Since the citadel was closest, the medic recommended it would be best for them to rest there and travel home the next day. Syreena and Damien did not mind, of course. They welcomed the company. As did Elijah and Siena, who had decided to spend the night as well. Noah and Kestra were tucked into a bed in guest quarters, healed to a point of comfort, their bodies left to do the rest over the next twenty-four hours.
Kestra was exhausted, both mentally and physically, but though her equally wiped-out counterpart fell asleep immediately, she couldn't rest so easily. She stopped her silent pacing of the room, donned a borrowed robe, and walked the halls of the citadel. She was wary, not liking the idea of being surrounded by Vampires. It was an understandable sensation, considering. But she tried to take Damien's assurances of safety to heart.
It was just about dawn, so the traffic in the castle had wound down to silence. Kes didn't encounter anyone else until she ran into Elijah in an alcove that doubled as a sitting area.
"Kes!" He greeted her cheerily, waving her over to a seat next to him. "How are you feeling?" he asked as she sat, curling her legs up beneath her.
"Alive," was all she had to say to that.
"I think that is a fair feeling," Elijah agreed. "I bet Noah seconds it."
"Yes." She paused several beats, but Elijah sensed she was gathering her thoughts and he let her do so. "I can't have children," she blurted out suddenly. "I love him and he loves me, but he deserves children! Elijah, he's a King. He needs heirs. Doesn't he? He's so wonderful with Leah and he loves kids. I see it. I feel it. He would be a magnificent father. What am I supposed to feel about this? How-" She choked on her own pent-up emotions. "How can Destiny pick someone like me for someone like him when I can't give him something he so clearly deserves?"
Elijah exhaled in a soft, introspective sigh.
"It's funny," he said gently, "how hard you are on yourselves when it comes to this. Women, I mean," he clarified at her sidelong look. "Syreena is a perfect example. She is frantic to give Damien an heir, and when she doesn't conceive, she destroys herself over it. Siena is no better. She is watching her sister play the baby game and I hear her thoughts and fears. She is afraid she will fail me. If anyone should fear failure to provide a child, it should be me. She is the one who needs the heir. It's my job to be a worthy stud."
His irreverent expression made her laugh in spite of her shaky emotions. Elijah realized she had been through an emotional wringer that day and she should not be tackling this topic just then, but clearly it was heavy on her mind. He suspected that she was sharing with him because he was pretty much a stranger and she was afraid to talk to someone she knew better. Yet he was close enough to understand the necessary particulars. He sighed, wondering when the hell he'd gotten so mature and wise.
"But they fear success and odds and possibilities," Kestra whispered softly. "I already know it is impossible for me to get pregnant."
"Ah. Always a 'but.' Kes, there is no 'but' here. You and Noah are Imprinted. This is as good as it gets. It is a magnificent blessing. Anything beyond that is icing." He sighed with regret. "And I don't think I need to remind you that there is a war around us. You know what war means, Kes. We're going to lose friends and loved ones, and they're going to leave children behind. Who better to take them in than their King and Queen? There are always children in the world in need of parents. Even in the Demon world."