"Because if you think I got a leg over with that slag, then the chance of anything sexual with you will be drastically reduced."
Without looking up, she said, "Cadeon, a chance can't be reduced from zero."
"Gods, I love it when you talk mathy to me."
He wasn't going to charm her this time. She faced him with a blank expression.
"All right, so you don't think this is a jesting matter," he said. "I get that. But the fact remains that I didn't tup her."
Strangely enough, Holly had started to have minute doubts. Yes, she'd seen them kissing - which was bad enough, since he'd been making advances toward Holly the same night. But had they actually slept together? What if Imatra truly had withheld the directions?
Holly said, "You might be telling the truth about this, and I might come to believe you. But you're lying about something. I can feel it. So be careful what you convince me of."
Had something flashed in his eyes?
Whatever might have been there, he masked it quickly enough. "I don't think I can convince you. Of anything."
Interesting. He's backing down....
"You believe I'm so wicked? I could have taken advantage of you last night, and I didn't."
This made her part her lips. "Do you honestly want credit because you didn't do anything to a helpless female?"
"No! Yes. No, damn it - "
"And you did do something to me! You had your petty interrogation, digging for my secrets." Struggling to get a rein on her temper, she said, "Look, we're stuck together for who knows how long. So let's just try to minimize the unpleasantness and get through this."
"Then use your laptop to get online, and look up our next checkpoint."
"Fine." She MapQuested it, saved the results, then Googled it.
"Well, what does it say about the bridge?"
"Officially, it's called the Bloodwater River Bridge. It's a covered bridge that was decommissioned thirty years ago as unsound. Only the locals call it the Laughing Lady, because it's supposed to be haunted."
"Then it probably is."
"You're saying ghosts are real, too?"
"Yeah. They're not of the Lore, though. We have phantoms - kind of the Lore equivalent of a ghost."
"What's the difference?"
"Phantoms can incarnate at will and travel the world. Not stuck in an attic rattling chains and such."
"Ever met a ghost?"
"Never seen one. Nor a phantom, either. They're kind of rare. So what's the haunt that's supposed to be here?"
What wasn't there? "The first death occurred during the construction of the bridge in 1899. A worker fell into one of the wooden casts used to set the bridge's piers. Unfortunately, it was already half filled with liquid cement. Before others could fish him out, he'd sunk deep. It hardened quickly, so the foreman decided to leave the body inside rather than explode the pier. After that, the locals said, the river got hungry for death."
"You mean the town wasn't named Bloodwater River until then?"
"No, it already was - there's a rare clay that turns the water reddish."
"So then what happened?"
"In the early 1900s, a serial killer disposed of bodies there. He murdered thirteen women and threw them off the bridge, allegedly because he wanted to feed the river. He was shot just before he fatally wounded the fourteenth victim."
"How did he kill them?"
This was where it got really creepy. "He chose victims who were sheltered, having dealt with little to no adversity in life. He'd kidnap them from their beds at night, take them down to the bridge, then stab them in the side of the chest or another place that wouldn't kill them. Then he'd tell them that he'd let them go if they could laugh at their situation. If they could stop crying and laugh, then he'd wouldn't slit their throats. Of course, none could. That's why they call it Laughing Lady Bridge."
"And he was shot? That was too easy for him."
"Why would we have to meet someone there specifically?" she asked.
"Don't know. But you shouldn't be afraid. I won't let anything happen to you."
"I'm not afraid. I'm more excited. I've always been interested in the supernatural."
"The supernatural's now the natural, halfling."
"Not for me. Not for long, it isn't. Now, if you don't mind, I have work to do."
And by work she meant spying - Cadeon had used her computer, having no idea that she had a keystroke program installed that would tell her what anyone had typed on it. Duh.
And the program had just finished collecting the data, allowing her to follow all his cyber-tracks.
After he'd looked up sports scores, he'd e-mailed someone with the message, "Pay up, sucker." He'd transferred a hundred thousand dollars to a checking account. But at the next entry, she felt an unexpected pang.
The demon mercenary had looked up...cluster analysis and extremal combinatorics.
Holly believed he'd had sex with Imatra, and Cade didn't know if he should try to convince his female otherwise. Holly had been bang-on with that "you're lying about something" crack.
They passed another car accident, crawling at a snail's pace. The drive from Memphis to northern Michigan was eight hundred miles - they'd gone ten miles in the last hour.
The palpable tension continued to build between them. She wasn't icy toward him, merely indifferent as she worked on her warrior code.
She was just letting him know how inconsequential he was to her. Kind of like the first time they'd met. He could play that game. He would ignore her right back.
He called Rök and checked in. "What's doing?" he asked in Demonish.
"We've followed the lead on the vampires," Rök said. "Tonight, we strike."
"Good news." Holly would be that much safer. "Hey, how long does it take to teach someone how to block mind reading? Could Holly learn in a couple of weeks?"
Demons had the ability naturally. Other Lorekind could be taught.
Rök gave a scoffing laugh. "Try a couple of years."
Once they hung up, Cade was left to his thoughts. I'm ignoring her. That stance lasted until she pinched her forehead, looking miserable. "You all right?"
"Let me guess? Carsick - with a headache?"
She cast him a surprised look.
"You're carsick because you're reading when we're stopping and starting. And your head hurts because you're still trying to use your glasses when your vision has changed."