This time when she returned, Deshazior patted his lap for her to sit. He wasn't hard on the eyes, even with his huge horns. She considered what the old Holly would do.

Determined to enjoy this bizarre night, she did the opposite, delighting the big demon....

When Cadeon finally emerged from Imatra's lair, she was perched on Deshazior's knee, whispering in his ear, swaying to "Pride and Joy."

Her glasses were on Deshazior's nose, she believed she was wearing the pirate's sword belt, and she had a sinking suspicion that one of the smaller male demons was sitting on the floor beside her, lovingly rubbing his face against her free hand.

Cadeon's wide jaw bunched at the sides, and his eyes flooded with black.

In the background, Stevie sang, "You mess with her you'll see a man get mean."

20

My female's in another male's lap, her lips to his ear....

Deshazior noticed him and jerked his chin in greeting.

And I can't kill him. The storm demon had made no move of aggression. Their breeds weren't at war. Hell, Cade thought he'd gotten drunk with him before.

If Cade did anything, everyone would know it was over a female. Through gritted teeth, he told her, "Up - now." She'd seen him kissing another and had seemed almost amused. Cade had merely seen her flirting with another, and he wanted to slaughter something.

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"Problem, Cadeon?" Deshazior asked, studying Cade's face.

"That's my charge, and we're leaving."

"I'm going, I'm going." Holly stood unsteadily, removing a sword belt from her waist. Once she'd collected her glasses from Deshazior, she briefly patted his horns.

More than one male groaned, while she was oblivious, having no idea that for a demon, she might as well have fondled his crotch. "Perhaps I need one for the road - "

Cade hauled her over his shoulder. "Party's over, pet."

The others eyed him as if he was crazy for manhandling a Valkyrie, yet instead of growing furious, Holly blew her entourage loud kisses with both hands all the way out. "Mwah! Text me, Desh!"

"Cadeon, where are we headed?" she asked once they were back on the road, cruising down a dark, isolated highway.

He'd been silent for miles. As if he were mad at her. Without a word, he handed her a slip of paper that read:

The Laughing Lady Bridge on the Bloodwater River, Michigan's Upper Peninsula. A contact will be on the bridge at midnight on three consecutive nights beginning Friday.

"What the hell were you doing in there?" Cadeon finally said.

"I was just having fun while you were in the back, doffing Imatra."

"I don't have to explain myself to you."

"Certainly not." Leaning her head against the window, Holly gazed up at the sky. Stars. Brighter than any she'd seen in Orleans Parish in decades. Neat.

Cadeon said, "It's not like we have some kind of arrangement between us."

"No, indeed."

"What is this?" he demanded. "Some kind of reverse psychology?"

She sighed. "Cadeon, is it so incomprehensible that I'm not upset about this, because I'm not interested in you like that?"

"That's bullshite. You know there's an attraction between us."

"Attraction? You're kidding, right? I have hypersensitivity. You diagnosed it. Seems I'm not as discerning as usual. Even you can start to look like an option."

"Even me? What the hell does that mean? Women don't find me hard on the eyes."

"Nor conceited." His words brought to mind what the others had said about Cadeon - the ladies' man. "Those are women who probably have a thing for horns and fangs. I don't."

Chapter 12

With his brows drawn, he rubbed a palm over one his horns, seemed to catch himself doing it, then yanked his hand down. "Don't like horns, huh? You were tickling Desh's like there was no tomorrow. For future reference, you might as well have been giving him a hand shandy."

She didn't know what that term meant, but it sounded bad. "How was I supposed to know that? It's not like that little nugget of information was in The Book of Lore. And you're one to criticize my behavior in the tavern, Saint Cadeon."

"Damn it, Holly, it's not what it looked like back there with Imatra."

"I really don't want to hear your defense when there hasn't been an offense. I'm not really concerned about what it looked like. None of my business."

"Even after we just kissed last - "

"The kiss that I didn't want and told you we'd never repeat?" She frowned as a wave of dizziness washed over her.

"Do you not wonder why I would kiss you last night and then her tonight?" As if that was all he'd done.

"Because you're a male?" She shrugged. "Maybe you're like a lion in a pride, wanting any available female you see."

"She told me she wouldn't give me the bloody directions until I did it!"

"And that took an hour?" Holly said with more feeling. But then Cade realized she was laughing at him.

"An hour? You're drunk...." He trailed off as he glanced at the dash clock. His brows drew together. "That witch! She must have slowed time in her room."

Now Holly laughed outright. "Slowed time. In her room." She hummed the tune from The Twilight Zone. "Just drop it. I don't care."

"I'd expect you to feel a shade proprietary after our kiss last night."

"I wouldn't feel proprietary, just as you wouldn't that I was flirting with Desh."

"Desh." He seethed for long moments. "Your boyfriend's at a conference, you were kissing me last night and damn near handling me just a few hours ago, and then you were getting drunk and hanging all over yet another male. Lot of loyalty there."

"You pinned me. The disloyal virgin. Playing fast and loose."

"Why are you smiling?"

"Because I'm enjoying my first time ever being tipsy."

"That's what this is about," he said, relaxing somewhat. "When you sober up, you're going to be pissed at me."

She pinched her forehead and muttered, "Now I fully comprehend the term buzz kill. I never did before."

"You're calling me a - oh, now I've heard it all! The schoolmarm's calling the demon a buzz kill."

"Schoolmarm? Ha! You just dated yourself again!"

Cade felt compelled to do something to shake Holly up. He could stand anything but this indifference.

He parked the car on the side of the road, then reached for her, cupping her face and drawing her to him. But she shoved at him. Hard.

Valkyrie strength - definitely growing.