Damien (Nightwalkers Series #4)by Jacquelyn Frank, Sands Xe
They are the Nightwalkers, mysterious beings who dwell in the shadows of our world, and Damien, the Vampire Prince, is among the most powerful of them all. But one woman will tempt him with a desire unlike anything he has known, and together they will face a terrifying and relentless foe.See more details below
They are the Nightwalkers, mysterious beings who dwell in the shadows of our world, and Damien, the Vampire Prince, is among the most powerful of them all. But one woman will tempt him with a desire unlike anything he has known, and together they will face a terrifying and relentless foe.
Damien is a prince of the Vampires; Syreena is a princess and-should anything happen to her sister, Siena-heir of the Lycanthropes, a strange mutation capable of transforming into dolphins or falcons with ease. When the two meet at the discovery of a Nightwalker library, they feel an instant attraction. But it isn't until Syreena is kidnapped by a crazed demon bent on vengeance and Damien comes to her rescue that they shatter Nightwalker taboos. As they fight both Ruth, the demon, and a love affair that is forbidden and politically explosive, they are forced to question what their priorities are: their people or their love for each other. Frank's latest Nightwalker entry is fast-paced and steamy, nicely developing the world of her generally upstanding, gorgeous and charismatic supernatural creatures. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Read an ExcerptDamien The Nightwalkers
By Jacquelyn Frank ZEBRA BOOKS
Copyright © 2008 Jacquelyn Frank
All right reserved.
San Jose, California, Present Day
Damien's head snapped up as he got the sudden sense that someone was very nearby. The sharp turn of his neck caused the braid at the base of his neck to snap like a whip against his throat.
It was nearly like pitch, the darkness around him was so black and so complete. There was no visible moon, leaving everything like a heavy blanket of suffocating velvet that those who considered themselves vulnerable might feel an urge to run away from. Even the glow of the streetlamps placed few and far between in the California suburb seemed helpless to penetrate this darkness.
However, the night did not bother Damien. Quite the opposite. It was his natural habitat, all of his senses equipped to work best within its folds. In spite of all that, something blew with alien chill down the back of his neck as this new presence crept within range of his perception.
He leaned back into the protective shadows of the foliage a little bit more as he realized it was not a human being that moved toward him with such near-perfect stealth. Normal humans were not capable of defying his senses so well that they could come this close before he became aware of them. So the Vampire Prince was left to wonder who, or what, it was that was following sostealthily in his footsteps.
He first had to determine if this was an accidental or purposeful tail. He exhaled, out of habit rather than a need to, shaking his head with momentary perturbation. All he had wanted to do that night was take part in a good hunt and then return to his holdings in peace. However, in order to have that sort of easy peace, he mused, one had to have no enemies.
Unfortunately, Vampires had a lot of enemies.
And the Prince of all Vampires usually had ten times the usual dose of them. Exterior politics and the number of annoying humans or troublemaking Nightwalkers aside, Vampires had an awful tendency to play King of the Mountain with one another. Though most knew better than to match skills with Damien, there were always a few who over-estimated their ability to unseat the royal Vampire from his throne. Theirs was a society where survival of the fittest was at the core of many of their motivations. In the case of the throne, it determined who would lead their entire species.
He should know, he thought with a sly half-smile that allowed the ivory of one anticipatory fang to glimmer in the darkness. Defeating the previous monarch was how Damien had come to be in his princely position several centuries ago.
But his predecessor had been something of a jackass, he mused as he waited idly for his stalker to catch up with him, and he had quite thoroughly earned his ritualistic beheading.
As he turned his senses to the task of making prey of his hunter, he was able to determine that it was not a Vampire that tracked him. All he needed to do to figure that out was flick into place the small nictitating membranes hidden in the anatomy of his eyes. That membrane added the ability to visualize a brightly fluoresced aura that varied with the amount of heat a body was giving off.
While Vampires did not have a natural circulation to speak of, they did retain the heat of the blood of their victims from one feeding to the next, able to maintain it well, provided they fed within twenty-four hours of the previous meal. However, the flaw to that system was that extremities like fingers and toes lost that artificial heat the quickest. So, in his visual perception, a Vampire who had not hunted yet would have a sort of bull's-eye effect at this young hour of the night. The heart and chest would be the hottest, flaring bright and white, but in eddying circles that white would fade to a circle of red, then orange, then pink, until the location of hands and feet were almost imperceptible to heat vision, blending in too well with the temperature around them.
A Vampire who had hunted already would be a uniform red, unlike a human, who was a changing series of white, red, and redder splashes of determining color. Human heat levels were always changing, with movement, effort, sickness, or arousal, and there was a perceptible time period before the human body compensated for those changes, evening them out somewhat. However, those with the sharpest of eyes and skills could easily determine the difference between a flushed Vampire and a mortal being after a century or two of practice.
The figure that tracked him was neither human nor Vampire, he determined. However, it was potentially a Nightwalker who could emulate any level of body temperature they wished, or it was a Demon. The Demon race was notorious for a body temperature several degrees cooler than most upright walking species on the planet. This was the case in the body that stood in shadow not too far away from him.
The Nightwalker species were the races that lived only in the night, hiding from a curious variance of negative effects the sun caused them. Of these species, Demons were the second least likely to cause grief or pose a danger for the Vampire Prince. Demons were infamously moral and reclusive, focusing within themselves and upon policing their own, and were very much less likely to venture out in order to cause trouble elsewhere.
There had been a bit of trouble lately that made anything possible.
Of course, it could be a Shadowdweller. Those devious little tricksters were the masters of self-camouflage. They were the Nightwalker equivalent of chameleons. They were also an enormous pain in the posterior, Damien thought wryly. They had little to no political structure, wandering around in clans or religious clusters, quite often causing more than their fair share of mischief and trouble. They were like wild children, pestering other Nightwalkers, scrapping amongst themselves and with others, mucking with mortals like they were toys and dolls for playing with.
Not that Damien failed to see the appeal in that. He had mucked around with humans and others quite a bit in his youth.
Well, perhaps youth was being too liberal.
To be honest, he was still quite easily capable of toying with the workings of the races around him, if it suited his mood. He chuckled to himself at that. Gideon, an old Demon friend of his, had once accused him of being a cosmic busybody. It was not all that far from the truth.
Before Damien would allow himself the luxury of believing that this Demon was a friend, he needed to turn the hunt around and surprise his quarry. If he lollygagged in the bushes much longer, the person tagging after him would realize he had become aware of being followed.
Unexpectedly, the shadow suddenly broke from its surroundings and headed straight in his direction.
The direct approach.
That meant one of two things. Incredible stupidity, or immeasurable fearlessness. As he switched to normal vision and picked out the features of the approaching figure, he realized it was the latter.
"Noah," he said, breaking from the shadows himself to step up to the Demon King.
Noah smiled slightly, reaching out to take Damien's quickly offered hand and shaking it firmly. The two monarchs then settled their weight evenly on their feet and regarded one another with quick, skilled eyes.
"What brings you to my hunting grounds, so far from home?" Damien asked, cutting to the chase. Noah's holdings in England were a far cry from California, which was where Damien claimed his territory nowadays. It was not as though the King would be able to claim the likelihood of just passing by, since Demons were less frequently found in the United States. They were not enemies, though, which was clearly indicated by the fact that Damien asked his question first, rather than after trying to kill him.
Vampires were also very territorial.
"Call it a business matter," Noah returned congenially. "My apologies for invading your mealtime."
Damien waved the matter off with the flick of a long-fingered hand, the large ruby of the ring on his middle finger winking one of its facets at the Demon King.
"I had not acquired prey yet. It is no matter."
"I had measured as much," Noah returned.
The Demon King was a Fire Demon. Every Demon claimed a power and affinity with certain elements of the natural world around and within themselves. Fire was of course the most volatile and impressive of these elements. As such, Noah could sense energy patterns and, having lived over six centuries, had enough practice with them to know whether or not Damien had acquired a target for the night's feeding.
Noah had earned his throne much in the way Damien had, only he had been elected to it because of his unquestionable strength and ability to be a leader. The previous Demon King had needed to die before that would happen. Of somewhat natural causes, too, because it was severely frowned on for Demons to battle or kill one another-though, being basically immortal, there was very little about the death of any member of either of their species that could be considered natural.
Usually it came down to some form of homicide. In that culture, however, it was unlikely a Demon would be elected King who had just murdered their predecessor. Demons took great affront to the murder of their monarchs.
Noah could also never be voted out of his office. Though the Great Council had elected him, they could not change their minds. His death would be the only way they could replace him with a successor. In less civilized times that had made it a very interesting prospect to be the King of Demons. Especially if the Great Council decided they had made a mistake and tried to assassinate the reigning monarch.
Then again, no Nightwalker race could ever be completely civilized. That was one of Damien's firmer beliefs.
"So what is your business?" Damien asked, indicating with that same ringed hand that the King should walk beside him. They were in a quaint little development in the San Jose suburbs, the rows of houses on either side of them sitting quiet and dark, set back from perfectly manicured lawns and neat little sidewalks.
Again, he cut right to the point of it. Damien liked that about Demons. They did not play social games, unless it suited some extraordinary purpose.
"Yes. The Library. I have not forgotten," the Prince said. "What is it you would like?"
"Scholars from your society, to be blunt. We have no intention of keeping the mysteries of this hidden Nightwalker Library to ourselves. It is clearly a universal collection of many Nightwalker histories. We have not reentered the place since our initial discovery of it in the caverns in Lycanthrope territory. Neither have any of Siena's people," Noah said, smiling slightly when he mentioned the name of the Lycanthrope Queen who had recently wed the commander of his own armed forces. Elijah, the Captain of the Demon warriors, was clearly looked on fondly by his ruler.
"We ... that is, Siena and I decided it would only be fair to invite you to join us when we send our scholars in to begin to research what the significance of this place is. Since none of us have ever seen its like before and it is obviously compiled of the languages of all the Nightwalker species, all Nightwalkers should have a fair chance of having a crack at it. On equal terms."
"That is very fair of you. But I do not think I need to tell you that my people are not the scholarly type. Outside of our immediate political structure and my rather compact court, we are a nation of tribes. We run in small, independent packs, worry mostly about feeding, avoiding human hunters, and"-Damien gave Noah a feral grin-"seeking out sensuality. If we cannot consume it, kill it, or party with it, it does not interest us."
Noah laughed at that. That basically described almost every Nightwalker race there was. However, the Demon King knew that the Vampires were the epitome of that particular stereotype. Vampiric boredom was a frightening thing to behold. A Vampire tended to cause a great deal of upheaval when not distracted or amused. Still, Damien had his own way of policing his species. It did not get too far out of hand in this day and age, as it sometimes had in the past.
Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that Damien had matured and had stopped leading his people into the fray.
"If I send anyone to you who is interested," Damien said slowly, "they will no doubt have ulterior personal motives. Perhaps looking at this strange Library as a means of gaining power. There is nothing a Vampire enjoys more than gaining power. If I send someone who is not interested, the place will no doubt become a Vampire hangout until it loses its charm. They would only get in your way. No, it is best if we get any pertinent information from you and yours. Demon and Lycanthrope scholars are the best for this sort of task."
"I figured you would say that, but I thought I should ask in any event. I am surprised that you are showing no personal interest."
"On the contrary," Damien contradicted. "I am eaten up with curiosity. A joint Library with books in languages from so many of the Nightwalker species has intriguing implications. The one I find most curious is how we all managed to get in the same room long enough to even think of constructing such a place, never mind filling it as full as it was when we first saw it. It hints at curious histories so long past that even we who are so long-lived do not recall their origins. It flirts with the idea that we Nightwalkers may have more common origins than we would ever have suspected. It also opens the potential of pissing off a few of the elitist purists all of our races seem to have, arrogant, prejudiced bastards that we are. It is bound to cause trouble."
"And I know how much you enjoy trouble," Noah remarked wryly.
"I admit it, I do." Damien chuckled. "I am certain I will be seen snooping around your workers from time to time. Otherwise, I will instruct Horatio to attend your meetings and recaps of your discoveries. He will report back to me."
"Horatio?" This time Noah laughed. "Now there is an unlikely student. Diplomats make poor scholars. Sometimes history and recorded data is too factual for them. Too biased. They prefer to give too much the benefit of the doubt. Everything would be propaganda to Horatio."
"Just the same, he is already a fixture of your court. That will make it easier. There is also Kelsey. She is taking in the delights of Siena's court at the moment. Between them both and my occasional check-ins, I imagine I will get a fashionable form of the truth of the goings-on."
"Very well," Noah conceded. "But let me know if you change your mind."
"I rarely do."
"I realize this," Noah said. The other man stopped walking and they reached to shake hands once again. "Thank you for your time, Damien. I hope you will come to the naming celebration?"
"When is your sister due to give birth?"
"Within another month or two. Normally a Demon female would go a full thirteen months to term, but Gideon feels his son is very eager to make an appearance. Between that and Magdelegna's strong desire to finish this pregnancy, I have no doubt I will be an uncle again very shortly."
"Wish her well for me. I look forward to Horatio's news of the birth."
Noah gave him a nod, stepped back, and in a heartbeat became a twisting column of smoke that stayed in the shape of the tall, broad-shouldered man for several seconds before stretching out to the sky where it was lost to the night.
Damien followed the Demon King's retreat with his other senses for a moment before he turned his attention back to the task of seeking his supper.
Syreena hit the ground with a loud grunt, the impact of her body and the hard exhalation of her breath kicking up a cloud of dust that, upon her next breath, promptly entered her lungs. She coughed, spat blood from her mouth, and then twisted up onto her hands in order to glare at the person who had hit her.
Actually, she should say persons.
They were The Three.
And she had crossed them badly.
"Get up, child," the central robed figure commanded her.
She did so, drawing her slim legs beneath herself so she could push off from the dirt floor. She tossed back her hair, the two-toned tangles mixing iron gray and soft brown together for a moment before parting into uniform-colored sheets on either side of her head. They parted perfectly into a straight fall on one side and a feathered softness on the other. Her eyes flashed with anger. They were also one gray and one brown; however, they had the disconcerting position of being on the opposing sides of the hair color that would match them. The harlequin effect was always eerie, but in outrage it was downright disturbing.
"I am not a child," she snapped at them, defying the fear of The Three that had been instilled in her from a young age. "I will not apologize for my actions now or ever, even if you beat me to a pulp. So you may as well reconcile yourself to it."
Excerpted from Damien The Nightwalkers by Jacquelyn Frank Copyright © 2008 by Jacquelyn Frank. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are saying about this
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >