Home About Contact Books Blog Latest News Fans Booksellers

Publication Date: December 01, 2006
ISBN-10: 0821780654
ISBN-13: 978-0821780657


Read an excerpt from... JACOB
The Nightwalkers- Book 1


*note: This is the uncorrected file of Jacob so there may be errors not present in the published version.

Chapter One

How ridiculously simple it would be to cause them harm.

From far above, he watched with unwavering dark eyes as they walked down the shadowy street. The human male was so absorbed in his flirtation with his female; he would have no chance of protecting her from harm should they be surprised by a threat. What if he were to drop onto them from his current height?

Although in that instance, ‘surprised’ wouldn’t be an adequate descriptive. The debate of defense would be futile as well. A human versus one of his ilk?

Jacob the Enforcer exhaled a sardonic laugh.

The redheaded woman had chosen poorly, in his opinion. No respectable male would have encouraged his partner to venture out on such a forbidding night. Mystical portents aside, the street they walked was notoriously disreputable. Menacing shadows shifted with threats unknown to simple human senses as clouds skimmed over the fickle light of the moon.

The couple walked beneath him, oblivious to his camouflaged presence.
Not to mention the coming of the other.

Jacob cocked his head, taking careful note of the other’s distant movements. Though the manmade features of a glass and concrete city numbed the Enforcer’s favored senses, he could still follow the comer’s progress easily. The younger, less experienced Demon was being careless, his focus riveted to his objective.

The human female.

Jacob recognized the younger Demon’s hunger, feeling it as it eddied into him, oppressive and pungent with the musk of unrestrained lust. The young Demon, Kane by common name, was stepping in and out of solid existence as he progressed towards the redhead. Kane’s fixation was making him uncharacteristically single-minded. He had no idea that the Enforcer had pursued him; that he was now lying in resolute wait for him.
Kane abruptly appeared on the pavement below in a burst of roiling smoke and the distinctive odor of sulfur. He was several yards behind the unknowing couple, his teleportation going completely unnoticed despite its display.

Jacob waited, the tension stretching his nerves taut. Although it pressed on him to interfere, it was his duty to let the other Demon commit to his course. Only then would he have justification for bringing the laws of their people down on him. All the while, he prayed to Destiny that Kane would regain control and walk away.

As Jacob gave the other Demon his chance to change his mind, he sat as still as a stone, watching Kane step into the recently tread path of the couple. When he passed beneath the Enforcer’s unseen perch up on the light pole to gain on his prey, Jacob launched upward into the air in a light, airy leap from one lamppost to the next several yards down the sidewalk. There was no sound as his feet touched the cool metal, no rustle of the clothing he wore as he crouched down once more in perfect balance. The only telltale sign of his presence was the flickering twitch the light suddenly adopted. It only took him a moment to compensate, making the others below him perceive all as normal, though in actuality the light continued to flash with increasing spasms of protest.

He kept his thoughts hidden behind this projected camouflage as well. He knew that, even in the grip of these basest of instincts, Kane would sense him if he did not. And yet, a whisper in the back of his mind was begging the Enforcer within him to just once, only this once, make an error. One small error, it murmured, and Kane, who is so dear to you, will sense your presence and your thoughts. Let him have the chance that you have denied so many others.

No one would ever know what Jacob sacrificed to deny that insidious whispering. Regardless of the voice’s entreaty, he could not forswear his duty.

So instead, he watched as Kane sent out his summons to the vulnerable couple. Abruptly, the male human turned and walked away from the female, abandoning her without reason or the awareness that he was doing so. The redhead turned completely around, facing the approaching Demon. She was quite beautiful, Jacob noted as she faced the lamplight. With a lush, long body and auburn curls hanging in lengthy coils down her back, it was clear why she had attracted Kane. It wasn’t the Enforcer in Jacob that allowed a small, quirking smile play at the corner of his otherwise grim lips.
Kane sauntered up to her, completely confident of his power over her, and reached to touch her face. Jacob could see the thrall in her eyes, the manipulation of her mind making her soft and pliant, making her turn her cheek into his affectionate caress.

The affection was a lie. What would start with this gentility could not possibly end with it. It was the nature of the creatures that they were, and it was inevitable. This was why he could never have allowed Kane any more warning than he had already given hundreds…no…thousands of times before this.
Jacob had seen enough.

He leapt lightly into the air, his long body tumbling gracefully in a back-flip until he came full around and landed soundlessly behind the redheaded woman. He discarded his camouflage so abruptly that Kane sucked in a loud, startled breath. He froze when he saw Jacob, and the Elder was easily aware of what the young Demon’s thoughts must be.

The Enforcer had come to punish him.

It was enough to make Kane swallow visibly in apprehension. His hand jerked away from the redhead’s cheek as if she’d burned him and his concentration broke from her. She blinked, suddenly becoming aware that she was sandwiched between two strange men and had no idea how she had gotten there.

“Take hold of her mind, Kane. Do not make this worse by frightening her.”

Kane obeyed instantaneously and the lovely woman relaxed, smiling softly as if she were in the easy company of old friends, now completely at peace.

“Jacob, what brings you out on a night like this?”

Jacob wasn’t deterred by Kane’s casual quip or his attempt at saving face through levity. The Enforcer already knew the other male was not wicked at heart. Kane was still relatively untrained and, considering the conditions of the night, it was easy for him to be lead astray by his own baser nature.

That did not change the stark facts of the moment. Kane had literally been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. His knee-jerk reaction, understandably, was to bargain his way out of the punishment he knew was impending. He would start with humor and continue on to every other tool in his arsenal.

“You know why I am here,” the Enforcer said, nipping those tools right in the bud with a chill, disciplined tone that warned Kane not to test his mettle.

“So maybe I do,” Kane relented, his dark-blue eyes lowering as he was shoving his hands deep into his pockets. “I wasn’t going to do anything. I was just…restless.”

“I see. So you thought to seduce this woman to appease your restlessness?” Jacob asked bluntly as he folded his arms across his chest. His entire manner radiated the image of a parent scolding a wayward child. It could be an amusing thought, considering Kane was just about to enter his second century of life. But the matter was too serious by far.

“I wasn’t going to hurt her,” Kane protested.

Jacob realized that Kane actually thought that was true. “No?” he countered. “Just what were you going to do? Ask politely if you could visit the savageness of your present nature on her? How does one word that exactly?”

Kane fell stubbornly silent. He knew that the Enforcer had read his intentions from the moment he’d decided to stalk prey. Arguments and denials would just worsen the situation. Besides, the incriminating evidence of his transgression was standing between them.

For a brief, passionate moment, Kane’s thoughts filled with vivid mental imaginings of what could have been more incriminating. He suppressed a shudder of sinful response, his eyes falling covetously on the woman standing so beautifully serene before him. Had Jacob been even slightly off his irritatingly perfect game and come into the picture a half hour later…

“Kane, this is a difficult time for our people. You are as susceptible to these base cravings as any other Demon,” the Enforcer said with implacable resolve. It was as though Jacob were the one who could read Kane’s mind, rather than the other way around. “Still, you are a mere two years from becoming adult. I cannot believe you have me chasing you down like a green fledgling. Think of what I could be accomplishing if I were not standing here saving you from yourself.”

Kane’s rugged features flushed red with the shame Jacob intentionally laid at his feet. It relieved the Enforcer to see the reaction. It told him that Kane’s conscience was once again functioning, his usually smart sense of morality closer to restoration.

“I’m sorry, Jacob, I really am,” he said at last, this time with sincerity rather than as another ploy to try to disarm the Enforcer. Jacob could tell he was sincere because Kane finally stopped staring at the redhead as if she were due to be served to him on the proverbial silver platter.

As the Enforcer’s dynamic presence stabilized his principles, Kane was realizing that he’d placed Jacob in an untenable position. Perhaps in a way that might forever mar their relationship. Kane’s throat closed with the sharp sense of remorse that knifed through him.

It was as overpowering as the dread that was welling up within him. He’d betrayed the sanctity of their laws, and there was punishment for that. A punishment that made an entire species catch their breath and back away whenever the Enforcer entered the vicinity. Kane could suddenly feel the weight of Jacob’s position, and it sharpened his regret to a point of pain in his chest.

“You will send this woman home safely by reuniting her with her escort and making sure she remembers nothing of your misbehavior,” Jacob instructed softly as he watched the tumult of emotion that swam across Kane’s face. “Then you will go home. Your punishment will come later.”

“But I didn’t do anything,” Kane protested, a swift rise of inescapable fear fueling the objection.

“You would have, Kane. Do not make this worse by lying to yourself about that. You will only convince yourself that I am the villain others like to make me out to be. That will only cause us both pain.”

Kane realized that truth with another upsurge of guilt. Sighing resolutely, he closed his eyes and concentrated for all of a second. Moments later, the redhead’s escort loped back across the street with a smile and a call to her.

“Hey! Where’d ya go? I turned the corner and suddenly you weren’t there!”

“I’m sorry. I was distracted by something and didn’t realize you’d gone, Charlie.”

Charlie linked his arm with his date’s and, completely oblivious of the two Demons barely a breath away, drew her off.

“Good,” Jacob commended Kane. It was simple and to the point. The younger Demon was becoming quite efficient as he matured.

Kane sighed, sounding gravely bereft.

“She’s so beautiful. Did you see that smile? All I could think about was how much I wanted her to smile when...” Kane flushed as he looked at the Enforcer. Jacob was well aware that her smile hadn’t been his only motivation. “I never thought this would happen to me, Jacob. You have to believe that.”

“I do.” Jacob hesitated for a moment, for the first time making it obvious to Kane that this had been a terrible struggle for him, no matter how well he projected otherwise. “Do not worry, Kane. I know who you really are. I know that this curse is hard for us to fight. Now,” he said, his tone back to business, “please return home. You will find Abram there awaiting you.”

This time, Kane brushed away the welling trepidation within himself. He did this for Jacob’s sake, knowing how deeply this cut the Elder Demon, even though the Enforcer’s thoughts were too carefully guarded for Kane to read. “You do your duty as you would with anyone. I understand that, Jacob.”

Kane then gave the Enforcer a short nod of kinship. After glancing around to make sure they were unobserved, he exploded into a burst of sulfur and smoke as he teleported away.

Jacob stood for long moments on the sidewalk, his senses attentive until he was confident Kane was truly returning home. It wasn’t unprecedented for a Demon to try running away and hiding for fear of impending punishment. Nevertheless, Kane was on the proper path, in more ways than one, once again.

Jacob turned and glanced up the street in the direction the human couple had taken. It never ceased to amaze him how lacking in instincts humans were. For all their civilization and technological advances, they had truly lost something valuable in trading away their animalist intuitions. That woman would be forever ignorant of how deadly close she had come to danger. Meeting a wayward Demon in the shadow of a cursed moon was something no mortal wanted to be a part of.

Jacob released himself from the hold of gravity and rose into the air, barely causing a displacing breeze as he did so. His long, athletic body cut through the night like a beautifully honed blade. He soared past high-rises, some of the lights in the nearest occupied windows flickering in complaint at his passing. He burst up into the clear night sky.

Here, Jacob hesitated. He paused to study the bright, waxing moon with a frown he could not suppress. This was the way it was the weeks before and after the full moon of Beltane in spring, and Samhain of the autumn. These holidays were held Hallowed by Demons, but at the same time, they were the center of their curse. Restlessness amongst his people would only grow worse this coming week, peaking at the fullest moon. There would be straying in Fledgling and Adult generations. Even Elders would find their control sorely tempted.

Jacob had been chosen as Enforcer for a reason. His was a control beyond measure. Even the Demon monarch was considered more susceptible to this madness than he, and that was saying a lot considering that in all his 400 years as Enforcer, Jacob had never been called to pull Noah, the Demon King, into check.

Jacob was grateful for that. Noah’s powers were not something he would relish coming up against. Their King hadn’t earned his position by mere bloodlines like those in human histories did. Noah had earned his place based solely on his leadership and superiority of power.

As Jacob flew onward, his thoughts turned to a philosophical bent. Was it harder to be Enforcer, or to be the King who must choose the Enforcer, as Noah had chosen Jacob? When making the choice, Noah would have been forced to acknowledge that there was an equal chance that he may one day find himself face to face with the Enforcer.

It was a brave leader who could still make the best choice knowing that one day he may live to regret it.

Noah looked up from his reading, the eddying energy of Jacob’s approach reaching him long before the Enforcer himself drifted in through a high window in the form of a soft shower of dust. The Demon King understood that Jacob had allowed him to be aware of his coming, as he always did, out of respect. If he had wished, the Enforcer could have camouflaged his presence right up until the moment the dust coalesced into his normal athletic form, as it was doing now.

Noah watched the other Elder, who was now floating above the floor in solid form. Jacob returned his relationship with gravity back to normal, touching down with the fluid grace that was always present in his natural movements.

The King sat back, his impressive build filling the oaken frame of his high-backed chair. Where Jacob was shaped for quick, agile power; Noah was bolder in his musculature and build. This was easily seen in the snug fit of his buff riding breeches and a silk shirt specifically tailored to the wide breadth of his shoulders. Still, Noah had his own style of elegance, and it showed as he casually hooked a black booted ankle over his opposite knee. He sat silently for several beats, taking the Enforcer’s measure thoroughly.

“I take it you found your youngest brother in time to stop him from causing any chaos?”
“Of course,” Jacob replied in dismissive tones, instantly striking Kane’s enforcement off the list of topics he was willing to discuss at present.

Noah got the message loud and clear and graciously accepted the terms. He watched as Jacob moved to pour himself a drink, paused to sniff the contents of the glass and raised a questioning brow in Noah’s direction.

“Milk,” Noah offered.

“I know that,” Jacob said impatiently. “From where?”

“A cow. But imported from Canada, non-pasteurized, and unprocessed.”

“Humph. I expected better on your table, Noah.”

“The children were here. Anything better would have been too potent for them. They would have gotten tanked up and you would have been hunting down six of my sister’s drunken little troublemakers. You recall what trouble she was when she was their various ages, do you not?” the King asked. “Imagine the spunk of her progeny.”

Jacob actually grinned at that, tipping the glass up to his lips and taking a tentative sip. Judging the milk to be refreshing enough, he downed half the glass. “Your sister Hannah,” he recalled, “barely drew breath before she began to cause trouble. For that matter, I am not likely to turn my back on any of your relations any time soon.” He toasted the King with an impudent tilt of his glass. “I am, of course, excluding Legna from the notorious side of your genetics,” Jacob added generously.

“Of course,” Noah replied dryly.

“So, how are the children anyway? Your sister must be going crazy trying to keep all of them under control, given the circumstances,” Jacob remarked. He glanced upwards out of habit, indicating the moon neither of them could see.

“Why do you think Hannah brought them here? I think she was hoping the foreboding presence of their royal uncle would help control them.” Noah reached up to rub a knot in his neck. “I could have used your help. Imagine how well-behaved they would have been if the Enforcer had walked in the door.”

Jacob knew Noah was teasing him, but he didn’t see as much humor in the statement. The Enforcer, in the Demon world, was what mothers used to scare their children into good behavior. It was a necessary evil, considering the powerful mischief young Demons were capable of, but that didn’t mean it sat well with Jacob. It made for a pretty solitary existence, actually. Those Demon children grew up into adults and Elders who never quite shook off their fear of the Enforcer.

Then again, that made his job all the easier. It was a rather nice perk when all it took was his appearance to quay even the most powerful stomachs, making actual battles for control less likely. He was surprised it had worked so well on his brother. Kane was notorious for claiming that, having been raised by the Enforcer, he wasn’t at all intimidated. That obviously wasn’t true and Jacob wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Grateful he hadn’t had to fight his baby brother? Of course. But happy that his brother was as terrified of him as all others were? No, not really.

“So, have you learned anything useful?” Jacob indicated the large, dusty tomb sitting half-read on Noah’s table.

“Not really.” He paused for a beat, narrowing a pair of jade and gray eyes on Jacob, his irises so pale in contrast to his tanned complexion that they seemed to glow in the firelight. Noah’s inspection made it clear that he hadn’t missed the artful change of subject. “As archaic as we tend to be in culture and customs, these books prove how modernized we really are. It is like reading another language.”

“Language is a living thing. As a scholar, surely you must appreciate that even a language as old as ours evolves over time.”

“Well, that does not help me much now. We are in the midst of an intensifying crisis and I am no closer to finding a solution than I ever was.”

“Then we will just have to maintain, as we always have,” Jacob said quietly, his modulated tone meant to settle Noah’s piqued frustration. Noah’s temper was ten times more famous than his sister Hannah’s, though he usually exhibited ten times more control over it as well. Noah firmly believed that no individual could rule over others if he could not control his emotions. “I have faced everything imaginable and persevered, Noah. No one will be harmed, or be allowed to do harm, for as long as I draw breath.”
“But it is getting harder, is it not?” Noah looked up and met Jacob’s eyes sharply. “Every year I watch you become busier and more disheartened. Every year I see more of the most highly accomplished Elders lose control, as if they were in their first hundred years all over again. Tell me I am mistaken.”

“I cannot tell you that,” Jacob said, sighing heavily as he ran a long-fingered hand through thick, brown-black hair. “Noah, I had to enforce Gideon just under a decade ago. Of the handful of Demons I thought to be impervious to this madness, Gideon the Ancient was highest among them. Gideon!” Jacob shook his head, mute with his disturbed emotions and the chilling memories of that dreadful encounter.
“And he is still wound-licking. Gideon has not come out of his stronghold for these past eight years.”

“Well, he certainly will not come about while this is continuing to grow worse.” Jacob frowned dourly as he sank into a chair across from Noah. “His seat at the Council table gathers dust and leaves us...incomplete.”

Noah was aware of Jacob’s personal angst over that fact, but the King refused to let him wallow in it. “It is for the best, at the moment,” Noah remarked. “I do not think you relish the idea of having to reign him in twice.”

“No. I do not. But I am positive that locking himself away alone is the worst choice. The choice that will be far more likely to lead me and Gideon once more into a devastating conflict.”

The bitterness in Jacob’s voice was not lost on the King. Noah had never known another man with the Enforcer’s sense of responsibility, loyalty and morality. Death was the only thing that would ever convince Jacob to step down. This Enforcer would never retire so long as he breathed.

But something had not been right with Jacob for a while now. Year after year he was forced to bring the Elders he most respected to heel as madness briefly overcame them. It was clearly dragging Jacob down in both the mind and the spirit.

The worst, Noah supposed, had been the aforementioned confrontation with Gideon. Previously, Jacob had been the only Demon who could claim an actual form of friendship with that great Ancient. It had lasted up until the Enforcer had been forced to choose between that friendship and upholding the law. There had been no choice really. Not for Jacob. The law was like life-blood to him. An Enforcer with Jacob’s level of dedication and sense of obligation would psychologically destroy himself if he defied the law.

Noah was aware that if he himself lost control of his faculties during one of these Hallowed full moons, and Jacob were forced to snap him back like a recalcitrant child, it would be hard for him not to resent the Enforcer for it. Sure, it would be for his own good, for the good of the entire Demon race, and definitely for the good of the defenseless humans they coexisted with, but Elder Demons were a mightily proud lot and Noah was no exception. Falling prey to weakness was bad enough, having Jacob witness it was worse. Having the Enforcer punish them brutally, as the law demanded, was unbearable.

Noah did not envy Jacob his position in the least.

Just then, the man of Noah’s concerned thoughts raised his dark head from its brooding bent, tilting it to one side as his semi-relaxed frame rapidly grew tense. Noah felt the hairs on the back of his neck stir as the other man’s sensory powers filled the room. Every Demon had his own particular abilities in which he excelled, and Jacob’s hunter’s perceptions were among his keenest.

“Myrrh-Ann comes,” Jacob said, putting his glass down on Noah’s desk as he rose to his feet. “She is extremely agitated.”

Just then, the two large doors at the end of the room burst open violently. A swirl of dark dust and wind spun into the room, whirling like a small tornado, crossing towards the two males in a blink of an eye. It abruptly settled with a final twist into the figure of a beautiful woman, with hair as soft and silvery white as the clouds, her normally blue eyes nearly obscured by the dominating black width of her pupils as unspeakable fear pulsed behind them.

“Noah!” she gasped, reaching blindly for the King as her panic caused a shudder to ripple through the air, bending every flame in the room. “He’s been taken! You must help me! I cannot lose him! He is everything to me!”

“Hush now,” Noah soothed softly, coming around his desk to pull her into a comforting embrace. “Calm down, Myrrh-Ann,” he said quietly. “I assume you are talking about Saul?”

“It was horrible!” the young beauty sobbed, clutching at Noah’s shirtfront. “He disintegrated beneath my very hands! Noah, you must help us!”

Noah and Jacob both went very still, their eyes meeting over Myrrh-Ann’s bright head. They didn’t need to speak to know the other’s thoughts, to sense the quickened breath of alarm in one another.

“What do you mean, ‘he disintegrated’?” Jacob asked carefully.

“I mean he has been summoned! Enslaved!” Myrrh-Ann screeched, whirling in Noah’s hold to glare at the Enforcer with all of her terror and outrage. “One moment he is with me, touching me, cradling our unborn child in his hands as it moved within me.” Her hands went reflexively to her rounded belly, as if she were afraid it would be the next thing to be taken from her. “The next moment his face was contorting in such unimaginable pain. Dear, merciful Destiny! He began to fade, feet first, in a swirl of the most acrid and vile smoke I have ever known.” She turned back to the King, clutching the silk of his shirt in her despair, her nails scoring the fabric. “He screamed! Oh, Noah, how he screamed!”
“Myrrh-Ann, please sit,” Noah said, using a soft, comforting turn of voice to soothe her. “You need to calm down before you drop your babe too early. You have done the right thing by coming to us. Jacob and I will get to the bottom of this.”

“But if he is enslaved,” Myrrh-Ann shuddered violently from head to toe. “Noah, how is this possible? Why? Why my Saul?” Myrrh-Ann lowered her voice to a rapid, breathless whisper of panicked, babbling words. The two others in the room could barely follow all the implications of her shattering thoughts as she rambled.

Could this be accurate? There hadn’t been a summoning of a Demon for over a century. It was possible she was mistaken. Demons had once been threatened to near extinction from this horrific act of enslavement. It had been a necromancer’s trick. A black sorcery that had faded in frequency as Christianity, science, and technology had come to reign. With the demise of such magics, peace had come.

The exceptions to that peace were obvious. The uncontrollable periods of madness that plagued them during the Hallowed moons, dodging relentless human hunters, and the occasional skirmish with other Nightwalker races.

As long as there has been the world, there have been Nightwalkers. The races of the night who breathed the nighttime air best, felt refreshment in the moonlight, and used the sun as a heavenly orb meant to be slept by. Demons, Vampires, Lycanthropes and more shared these traits, if not always the same moralities and beliefs.

For as long as there have been Nightwalkers, there were those who sought to hunt them. Humans armed with ignorance and folklore who stumbled about trying to murder them. These humans, fearing what they didn’t understand, were fanatical in their quest to rid the world of the so-called creatures of pure evil. While normal humans hunters did not phase the Demon race much, human magic-users known as necromancers were another issue entirely. In their spells lay a fate far worse than death for any Demon captured.

Myrrh-Ann’s accusations could mean a crashing disruption in the balance of their world. It would mean that this ultimate magical threat had somehow become reborn. Some would say such a thing was inevitable as the recent human fascination with cults and dark magic had intensified, but the speculation was a far cry from the actual occurrence. A human magic-user? After all this time? Myrrh-Ann’s story made it frighteningly possible.

“Noah, take care of Myrrh-Ann. I will track Saul.”

“NO! Oh, please!” Myrrh-Ann screamed. She made a mad leap for Jacob, who easily floated out of her reach and began to rise slowly into the air, intent on getting on with his grim duty. He felt wind suddenly swirl about in a room where there should be none; felt her tempestuous outrage rising, a reflex to her fear.

“Myrrh-Ann, time is short,” Jacob said, his voice curt and reverberating against the high ceiling as he neared it. It froze her hysteria within her laboring chest. The air condensed and went still as he got her attention. “If I can find him in time I can try to save him. If I cannot, then you know what my duty is. Believe me when I tell you I would rather bring him back to you and the babe.”

With that said, the Enforcer disappeared in a streak of arrowed dust.

“He will kill him! He will murder my Saul!” Myrrh-Ann wailed, sobs ripping from her body.
“If it comes to that, Myrrh-Ann,” Noah murmured softly, “it will mean the Saul we have loved is long gone already.”

Isabella turned from the window when her sister’s key sounded in the door.

“Hey Corr, have fun?” she greeted while turning back to her stargazing.

“It was okay,” her sister replied, dropping her keys on the table and shrugging out of her jacket. “He’s a nice guy. Maybe too nice.”

Isabella rolled her eyes, seeking guidance from the stars.

“How can a guy be ‘too nice’ in this day and age?”

“So speaks the great dating expert,” Corrine rejoined tartly. She couldn’t recall Isabella ever going out on a date. Not even in high school. Corrine shrugged, clearly lacking understanding of her sister’s antisocialism.

Isabella turned from her contemplation of the moon.

“So explain to me what ‘too nice’ means.”

“Well, let’s see…” Corrine mused, moving to stand next to Isabella, joining her in looking out at the October night. “He’s very nice, very polite and very predictable. I guess that’s what I’m saying. He’s nice, but not very exciting. Maybe you should go out with him.”

Isabella laughed, her eyes widening in humor. “Did you just insult me?”

“No, not at all,” Corrine chuckled, draping an arm over Isabella’s shoulders and hugging her tightly. “I just would like to see you meet a nice guy. Even if he is ‘too nice’. Although, I don’t think this one would easily adjust to the stuff that comes out of your mouth on occasion. Oh, and perhaps I should warn him that, even though I am the red-headed sister, you are the one with the scary temper.”

“HA! It wasn’t me that plagued Mom with the rebellious adolescence from hell.”

Corrine laughed. “And it wasn’t either of us that plagued Daddy with Mom’s temper.”
The sisters giggled in commiseration. Each knew exactly where they had earned their outspoken ways and stubbornness from, genetically speaking.

“Well, thanks for the offer of your hand-me-down boyfriend,” Isabella said with a smile, “but I think I’ll decline.”

“Suit yourself,” Corrine shrugged, leaving her sister and crossing into the kitchen. She peeked into the refrigerator.

Isabella turned back to the window and studied the moon a while longer. There was always something about it that got her juices flowing. Lately, she was restless, craving...something. She didn’t know what. Being cooped up in the house was driving her mad, though. What she really wanted was to be out and walking around. Or running.
She mentally shook her head. Running after midnight in the less savory parts of the Bronx? No wonder people used to think the full moon made people crazy. If anyone could read her thoughts right now, they wouldn’t recognize her as the calm, bookish Isabella they all knew and loved. That and they would probably nail her to the floor for her own safety.

In fact, Isabella had frequently wondered if the people who knew and loved her actually knew her at all. How could others know her, when she was beginning to doubt she even knew herself?

She lived a comfortable, quiet life. Rather pathetically stereotypical for a single librarian. She even had the requisite pair of cats. She loved her books. There was such a wealth of information to be had, so much to learn, so many stories being told. Her appetite for it all had never once wavered since the day she had learned to read. She had probably forgotten more information than most people ever read.

However, where books had always been key to her contentment before, Isabella was now somehow…dissatisfied.

Isabella reached for the window and opened it swiftly, leaning out past the unscreened frame and into the cool, bright night. Everything always looked so different when the moon shone as brightly as the sun. Unlike the sun’s golden glow, the moon turned everything pale or silver. Shadows were long and mysterious, the boring black asphalt becoming a highway of incandescent gray.

“If you fall out onto your head, it will serve you right,” Corrine remarked sarcastically from behind her. “I thought you were putting that screen back.”

“Did you say you were going to bed?” Isabella asked, not bothering to look away.
She heard her sister blow an undignified raspberry at her, Corr’s answer to everything when she couldn’t think of a snappy enough response. “Yes, I’m going to bed. Make sure you lock the door before you go to sleep. Don’t stargaze too long, you said you had to work early tomorrow.”

“I know. Goodnight,” Isabella said, waving behind herself without looking. She didn’t see Corrine roll her eyes at her before heading down the hall to her bedroom.

Isabella leaned further out of the window, bracing herself on the arms folded beneath her breasts as she looked down the straight five stories to the sidewalk just below. Her hair drifted slowly over her shoulder, sliding like a silky black snake down her breast until it hung suspended in the night air.

Her eyes drifted around until she spied a man, dressed darkly dignified, coming towards her building. His footsteps were clicking softly through the night, his stride long and assured. She didn’t know how, but even from her awkward height she could tell that his casual walk was a pretense. There was something in that lithe male figure that was very much on guard, and very…ruthless.

She judged him to be quite tall, comparing his height to the doors he passed. His hair was exceptionally dark despite the moonlight shimmering off of it, probably black or a dark brown. She wasn’t sure, but she thought it was caught back in a ponytail. He wore a long gray coat, unbelted and unbuttoned with his hands tucked casually into the pockets. It shifted around his legs as he moved, gaping now and again, revealing a bluish-gray shirt and black slacks. Expensive, sophisticated, and radiating it even from a distance.

This was hardly an upscale neighborhood and aristocratic, well-dressed men were not a commonality. In these parts they were more likely to be labeled as a meal ticket. Somewhere in the warehouse alleys up ahead, the dinner bell would be a-ringing.
The thought was no sooner completed when the man abruptly stopped. She saw something flash in the moon scattered darkness around his face and she had the strangest notion that he’d just smiled. He was looking around, obviously in search of something.

Then he looked up.

Isabella gasped softly as he looked directly at her, her heart making an inexplicable jump beneath her breast. This time he clearly smiled, a sudden dash of white in light and shadow. He took a step, glanced both ways up and down the street, then leaned casually against a telephone pole as he looked up at her again.

“You are going to fall out.”

Isabella blinked as the resonant voice drifted up and around her. He wasn’t shouting. His voice had just floated up five stories and effortlessly spoke into her ear.

“You sound like my sister.”

She didn’t shout either, somehow knowing she didn’t need to. Why didn’t she find that strange? Well, she did find it strange. She just wasn’t bothered by it.

“Then that would make two of us who think you should not be leaning out of a window like that.”

“I’ll make a note of your concerns,” she responded dryly.

He laughed. The deeply male, inviting sound seemed to swirl around her, wrapping her up in the sensation of his amusement. It made her smile and hug her arms tighter around her ribs.

“Besides,” she continued, “look who’s talking. What are you doing wandering around these parts in the middle of the night? Have much of a death wish?”

“I can take care of myself. I would not worry.”

“Okay. But you didn’t answer my first question.”

“I will,” he countered, “if you tell me why you are dangling out of a window.”

“This isn’t dangling. It’s leaning. I’m just looking around.”

“Being nosey?”

“No. If you must know, I was looking at the moon.”

She watched as he glanced over his shoulder at the moon, the act so casual that she got the feeling he wasn’t so very impressed by it as she was.

“During your stargazing, did you happen to see anything unusual around here?” He framed the question in a very offhand way, but something told Isabella that he was far more concerned with her answer than he was trying to let on.

“The unusual is usual these days. Did you have something specific in mind?”

She felt him hesitate, knew he was debating within himself about something. He released a short, heavy breath.

“Never mind, sorry to have bothered you.”

“No, wait!”

Isabella jerked, thrusting out a hand in a staying motion. The motion forward unsettled her precarious perch and she was suddenly struck with the odd sensation of her body weight gathering in momentum behind herself. Her socks slid, the wooden floor providing zero traction, and her feet flew up off the floor as the majority of her body weight came over the windowsill. A strangled sound of surprise escaped her lips as she fell headfirst into the black and silver night. The sensation of falling yanked her stomach around and she figured that she would probably have thrown up if she were not about to die.
But instead of smashing into unforgiving concrete, she landed against something solid, but giving. There was a sensation of whiplash as her body caught up with the sudden break in her speed, and bright stars swam around her eyes behind the lids she had squeezed tightly shut.

Isabella was rasping for breath; her adrenaline catching up with her as she clutched at whatever solid thing was within her reach.

“It is alright. You can open your eyes.”

That voice. That deep, masculine, sexy, alive-and-not-splattered-on-the-ground voice.
Isabella popped one eye open and focused on her grasping hands. They were curled around the gray fabric of the lapels of his coat.

“Holy crap,” she gasped, both eyes flying open and looking up into the face of the man who had apparently saved her from cracking her skull open. “Holy—” She broke off, finally getting a good look at his features and getting yet one more shock to her system.
He was incredibly and unbearably beautiful.

There was no other way for her to adequately describe it to herself. It was beyond being just handsome. Handsome was a common masculine adjective, limited in its scope. This man was honestly beautiful. His facial features were so very elegant, taking the term noble to the extreme. Dark brows winged up over dark eyes, both of indeterminate color in the shadows of the night. So dramatic, but then so belied by the ridiculous child-like length of lush lashes. His magnificent eyes were lit with a soft, smoldering light of amusement as his sensual mouth was lifting up at the corner in a smile she could only call sinful.

“How did you...but that’s...you couldn’t possibly!” she spluttered, her hands opening and closing reflexively on his lapels.

“I did. It is not. And apparently, I could.” He was smiling broadly now and Isabella was certain she was the brunt of some unseen bit of amusement. She glowered at him, completely forgetting he’d just saved her neck. Literally.

“I’m so glad you find this so entertaining!”

Jacob couldn’t help his growing smile. She was so focused on him that she hadn’t realized they were still a good ten feet off of the ground and floating at the exact spot where he’d met her fall downward. That was for the best, he thought, sinking down to the pavement while she was distracted by the taunt of his amusement. He was going to have enough trouble explaining how he’d managed to catch a woman hurtling to her death from five stories up as it was. Let’s see...five stories times...oh, about 125 pounds...times gravity...

“I do not find your situation entertaining,” he responded honestly, very carefully keeping her attention as he brought his weight back to human standards. “I am actually just pleased to see you are not hurt.”

Isabella blinked a couple of times, suddenly realizing just what this stranger had done for her.

Jacob watched the pixyish beauty’s expression change from peevish indignation to utter horror. He mentally kicked himself for reminding her of her close call, even though logically there was no avoiding it. He watched as she pulled her full bottom lip between her teeth to keep it from trembling. The simple vulnerability sent a wrenching sensation through his chest, leaving him inexplicably breathless. Awareness and emotion exploding all around him, Jacob found himself staring at each and every nuance of the woman in his arms.

She was a compact and curvaceous little thing, her petite frame feminine and soft in all the places males liked a female to be abundantly soft. The moonlight enhanced a flawless complexion, pale like the near-transparency of some Nightwalkers he’d seen in his extensive lifetime. She had sinuous black hair, ludicrously thick and long, and he could feel the weight of it as it pooled against his chest and clung to his biceps. Her features were small and delicate, her mouth lush, her eyes as large as an innocent child’s. A pixie with eyes of violet, turned lavender in the moonlight. It was amazing how the moonlight enhanced her beauty. As he cradled her against his chest, he also marveled at how warm she was. He hadn’t realized how enticing human warmth could be.

Jacob caught himself in the borderline illicit thought and reality returned in an explosion of shock. He nearly dropped her in his haste to put her away from himself. Flicking an acidic glare at the moon over his shoulder, he shoved his hands deep in his pants pockets and resisted a bizarre urge to pull her close again.

Finding herself back on her feet all of a sudden, Isabella was a little dizzy and bewildered. The man had abruptly put himself at a distance, as if he’d just realized she was some sort of a plague carrier. Then again, most men were likely to be uncomfortable when a woman showed any signs of distressed emotions. Still, he stayed close enough to reach for her if she needed him. But it took only a breath or two before she was clear and steady again.

Jacob watched her guardedly as she shoved a huge handful of hair back behind an ear nowhere near large enough to keep it pinned in place. The thick, silky cloud drifted forward again the moment she released it. He found himself besieged with the urge to push it back for her, just so he could discover the texture of it. He swallowed hard, cursing to himself in his own language, his jaw clenching rigidly.

“I don’t know how to thank you, Mister...uh...”

“Jacob,” he supplied, his growling tone making her start and back up a step.
“Mr. Jacob,” she said uneasily.

“No, just Jacob,” he corrected, forcing himself to speak more evenly, hating the idea of her fearing him just like everyone else. She was human. She had no cause to fear him.

“Well, Jacob,” she said, her lavender eyes studying him cautiously. Yet, an instant later, she was bold. “I’m Isabella Russ, and I’m extremely grateful to you for...for what you did. I can’t believe you didn’t break your neck.”

“I am much stronger than I look,” he offered in explanation.

Bella found that hard to believe. He looked every inch as powerful as he must be to catch her like that. He wasn’t built brutishly, but he was nicely broad-chested, large-shouldered, and definitely hiding nothing of his physical fitness under his clothes. His was a lean, athletic build, taut and tight in all the right places from what little she could see and had felt beyond the gray coat. But beyond his dark good looks, great body, and the piratical ponytail, Jacob had an air of power to him that was like nothing she’d encountered before. Yes, he was definitely stronger than he looked, and not just in physical prowess.

It was enough to make even a lukewarm librarian shiver. A total package, complete with European accent. Rich and elegant, just like the rest of him. Hungarian or Croatian perhaps; he was quiet, graceful, and controlled. Reeking a self-assurance that was piercing and an underlying dangerousness that sent that shiver up her spine after all. A total, enticing package for certain.

One that was probably married with six kids.

Isabella sighed as she reacquainted herself with reality, the release of her breath stirring up the hair on her forehead. “Well, anyway, thanks for...well...you know,” she gestured lamely from the ground up to the window she’d fallen from. Her brows knitted together in puzzlement for a moment. How exactly had he been able to catch her without breaking his back? It looked impossible.

Suddenly Isabella felt the hair on the back of her neck rise up.

Jacob watched the little pixie’s head jerk around sharply; her pretty eyes narrowing warily. It was enough to trigger Jacob’s own instincts and he felt out into the night for whatever it was that had disturbed her. To his shock, she had apparently picked up on the very thing he had been looking for.

Malevolence. Terror. Saul’s utter terror. Jacob could smell the fear. He could taste the acrid stain of black magic. He was nearby, just as Jacob had suspected he would be when his trail had ended abruptly in this area. Whatever had pulled Saul kicking and screaming through the miasma of the darkness was once more invoking, poisoning and tormenting the imprisoned Demon.

Yet, Jacob’s hunting senses caught no trail, found no direction.

Perplexed, Jacob’s head came back around and his gaze pinpointed onto the small human woman who still stood with her head cocked towards the unknown beyond. Was it possible? Could this female have retained those instincts that, a couple of hours earlier, he had been accusing her race of having bred out of themselves? Sensing what even he could not seem to get a fix on? He’d never heard of such a thing.

But Jacob felt her disturbance, smelled the change in her body chemistry as her adrenaline kicked up in a classic flight or fight reaction. Oh, yes, she definitely had a sense of the evil nearby.

“We better get off the street,” she said quickly, reaching to take his arm in hand.
“Why?” he countered, standing his ground against her tug.

“Because it’s not safe,” she said as if explaining to a two-year-old. “Now quit being macho and do as I say.”

Do as she says? Was this tiny little woman actually trying to protect him? The concept floored him. “I am not being macho,” he retorted, being purposely obtuse now as he watched her anxiety and reactions build to a crest. It was mesmerizing to watch color flush her face, her pulse flashing madly in her delicate throat and her full breasts swelling with her increasing breaths.

“Oy!” Isabella rolled her eyes. “Fine! Whatever. Just get off the street!”

“Why?” he persisted.

He watched in fascination as she once again blew back her hair with an exasperated sigh and planted her fists onto her round hips, her feet bracing stubbornly apart.
“Look, there’re just some places where it isn’t a wise idea to stand in the middle of the street arguing, and this is one of them! If you’re bent on staying here, that’s fine. I’m going—”

She stopped on a sharp gasp, her hand flying up to her throat and a faint gurgle of sound bubbling up. Jacob instinctively reached out to help her, not liking the wide and wild growth of her startled lavender eyes.

“Isabella? What is it?” he demanded, pulling her protectively into his hold.

“Someone...oh, God, can’t you smell it?”

He could. It was all around him, faint but unmistakable. The scent of burning flesh. Sulfur as well. But he had the honed hunting senses of any predatory species he wished, and it was none of those senses which brought the scent to him. There was no trail, no path. It was obscured from him. He was perplexed, but only spent a moment being so. This was a human woman with no such abilities as his, and yet here she was, gasping for breath, behaving as if she were breathing in thick clouds of smoke and sulfur when clearly she wasn’t. Not physically.

Someone else was.


A type of clarity burned in the back of Jacob’s brain, although he was more mystified than ever. The Enforcer didn’t pause to mull over the whys, hows, and impossibilities of what was happening. He only wanted to know one thing.

“Where? Can you tell me, Isabella? Where is he?”

“Close! Inside of me!” Her hands grasped at the fabric of her shirt across her chest, as if she wanted to tear the presence out. Her eyes were tearing, fat droplets flowing down her face as they tried to wash away smoke that wasn’t even there.

“No. Listen to me.” He reached to cup her face between his hands, instantly aware of how small she was between them, how delicate, as he tilted her face up to his. “It is near but not within. Where? Look and tell me where!”

Isabella whirled out of his hold and began to run, coughing and choking on phantom smoke as she lurched and sprinted. Jacob was fast behind her as they rounded a corner and crossed the street. She took one more corner and brought them face to face with an imposing set of rusty, corrugated steel doors.

A warehouse. Long abandoned, and yet, in an upper window there was light flashing violently. Unnatural, cold light Jacob had foolishly thought he would never see again in his lifetime. He seized his tiny guide by her shoulders from behind her, drawing her back against his body as he bent towards her ear. Despite the disparity in their heights, she came to fit against him flawlessly.

“Listen,” he murmured soothingly as she continued to struggle for her breath. “This is not your agony, Bella. Do not own it like this.” He glanced up at the ominous glow in the window, his heart pounding with the pressure to act, but he couldn’t leave her there to suffocate. If her mind believed enough to react with tears and a hoarse voice, then she could believe herself into asphyxiation. “You can see there is no smoke. Are you listening to me, Isabella?”

She was. Though she didn’t speak, she drew in her first clear, deep breath in what had felt like ages to them both.

“Good,” he whispered, his warm breath skittering down her sensitive neck. “Now stay here, out of sight, and just breathe.”

Jacob reached for the seam between the doors and wrenched them open as if he were tearing paper and not enormous pounds of steel, camouflaging the sound as a matter of second nature. Anyone inside would perceive it as merely metal creaking in the wind.
Instinctively, Isabella followed him into the dimness beyond the doors, giving no thought to his instructions. She was afraid of what was happening, but she was more afraid to be alone. She trailed him, her hands clinging to his flapping coat as he strode through the pitch and shadow. There were flares of light and then blackness, the combination blinding her painfully. Jacob walked on without hesitation, as if it were broad daylight, moving towards the light with a sense of menace that was palpable to her. Unexpectedly she felt him rising up before her, apparently climbing a ladder. He slipped out of her grasp and she was left fumbling for the ladder on her own.

She couldn’t find it. No matter how much she felt around, she couldn’t find the means he had used to bring himself up to the loft level of the warehouse. All she could do was turn towards the light that now backlit his figure as he slowly, stealthily crept up on the source of it. Her harsh breath seemed to make too much noise as she struggled for oxygen. Jacob moved closer and closer.

Suddenly, he leapt.

Really leapt.

Isabella might have been seeing things in all that haze of gloom and light, but she could’ve sworn the man made a lithe 25 foot leap from a standing position into the fray of whatever it was that was up there.

Hell promptly broke loose.

Without warning, the smoke she’d smelled roiled out of the sickly light, spilling off the edge of the loft like a foul waterfall in green, rust and black clouds. Then there was a massive explosion,



© 2010 Jacquelyn Frank (content) - Author Web Designs By Tara (design) All Rights Reserved | Site Credits  |  Email Webmaster