"Until I met you, I always thought codes were about words and riddles."

"Cryptology used to be the realm of linguists. Now it's dominated by the geeks." She said this proudly, as if she was one among them. "We're going to rule the world, you know?"

What Holly didn't understand was that when she said things like this, she didn't sound like a geek - she sounded like a Valkyrie.

18

I refuse!" she told Cadeon as they waited for the tank to fill up. "I won't do it!"

"You don't know what you're missing. Just a bite," he said, easing his hot dog toward her mouth.

From her perch on the hood of the car - where he'd insisted on lifting her - she eyed the offering with disgust and put up her hand. "Forget it. Gas station food is foul. Gas station hot dogs are beyond foul. Do you know how long it's been on those greasy rollers?"

"Long enough to taste good." He took a huge bite.

"You might as well be eating pickled pig's feet, fished from a jar."

His eyes went wide. "They had some? And you didn't tell me?" With a grin at her horrified expression, he said, "All right, all right. I had to give it a shot." He set down his dinner beside her, then bent to a plastic bag by his feet. "Here," he said, pulling out a bottle of orange juice. After painstakingly opening the top without touching the rim, he handed it to her. He also produced several packaged granola bars.

Cadeon could be unexpectedly thoughtful. For a demon. She took a drink. "Why haven't you made fun of me for my...quirks?"

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He shrugged. "Everybody's got something unusual about them."

Holly tilted her head. He was wearing that broken-in, leather hat. Nïx had been right. He was sexy as the devil in it. She inwardly shook herself. "So what kind of gas mileage does a Veyron get?"

"At full speed, it can burn through a tank in twelve minutes."

She nodded slowly. "So basically this is a one-car solution to an unscathed ozone layer."

"Yeah. But it goes fast. Unlike that bladeless lawn mower you call a car."

"It's a hybrid! I drive it for the environment."

"But it doesn't go fast."

She rolled her eyes. "You said this was the most expensive car. How much is it?"

"One point two."

"Million?" she cried. She began scuttling off the hood, but he stayed her with his big hands on her hips.

"You don't have to get down. Always remember one thing."

"What's that?"

"This isn't our car."

His sat-phone rang then. "It's Rök. Need to take this." He crossed the parking lot for privacy. As if she could understand whatever that foreign tongue was.

She'd learned that Cade's phone had satellite access, which meant that it would work just about anywhere on earth. Which meant that she could patch her wireless laptop into it and have internet access anywhere on earth.

Once he returned, she asked, "What do you call that language?"

"Demonish," he answered. "You'll be happy to know that the rest of the Order of Demonaeus has been taken out. And Rök and my crew are on the vampires' trail even as we speak. You'll have two fewer factions out for you."

"Oh. Thank you. And thanks to Rök." How did one express gratitude for demon and vampire strikes? It wasn't like there was a card. "How did you meet him?" she asked, picturing the demon she'd briefly met. He was as tall as Cadeon with similar horns, though Rök's were more silvery. He'd had black hair tied back in a queue, and heavy-lidded blue eyes. Take away the horns, and women would find him gorgeous.

"We were adversaries, each with different strengths - he likes his spy intrigues while I like to whack things with swords. We kept getting hired by different factions to go after the same stuff or for our crews to fight. We eventually determined that we'd kill each other, and then no one would get the pay."

"And is it all about the pay?"

"Hence the term mercenary." He chucked her under the chin. "Try to keep up, halfling."

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"I thought 'Sandbar' was just a cutesy play on words," Holly observed, pulling her lightweight jacket tighter. The air coming off the river chilled her to her bones.

"Nope. It's really a sandbar island," Cadeon said. After strapping his sword over his back, he began leading the way from the bluff where they'd parked down to the water.

She followed him along the dicey path, picking her way through roots and scrub, expecting to fall - or at least to get a run in her hose at every turn. "I still don't see a ferry."

"Then take off your glasses. See the beach? Right down there. Ferry."

She squinted, then stumbled, and a nanosecond later she was in his arms - his big, warm arms.

Startled by how much she liked it there, she said, "I can make it by myself."

"In heels?"

"I'll be buying more suitable footwear as soon as possible."

His voice was low and rough when he said, "I like you in your heels."

Why did she respond so readily to his mere voice, her body going soft against his? She'd never thought of voices as arousing, had never thought much about them at all unless they'd grated.

Tim's was pleasing. Cadeon's was...arousing.

At her ear, he rumbled, "I'd like them better digging into my back."

Of course, her mind went right to envisioning that.

"Got you thinking about it, didn't I?" Flashing her a look that said My work here is done, he continued down the path.

"Let me down, Cadeon. Now!"

He didn't, and there was nothing she could do about it because the demon was exponentially stronger than she was. She had no hope of overpowering him....

Before, she'd never had sex for fear of losing herself - and hurting another. There was no way she could with Cadeon.

Which meant that technically, this lusty demon was a potential sex partner for her.

Holly tried to stem those thoughts. Even if he was possible from a physical standpoint, he still wouldn't do. Cadeon was uncouth, overbearing, and an unabashed chauvinist.

Case in point - he refused to set her down even when they reached the chunky yellow sand to meet the ferryman.

The man was a creepy sort, with bulbous horns that pointed ominously forward. Cadeon's were much better. At least she knew she wouldn't get an eye put out if they ever missed while kissing.

Not that they'd be kissing ever again!

"Only Lorekind allowed," the ferryman said.

Against her protests, Cadeon tugged up her hair from her ear. "Valkyrie," he said simply.