"You'd be amazed how many Lorekind live among humans, and they never know it."
She tilted her head. "Honestly, I'm not certain that I'd want to live forever...." She trailed off when the server returned with their dishes.
For Cade: a twenty-ounce porterhouse. For her: bananas unpeeled and boiled eggs with their shells intact, accompanied by plastic ware, still in the wrapper.
She looked from her meal to his, her expression growing forlorn.
"You want some of my steak, don't you?"
She shook her head hard, clearly wanting some of his steak. "I still have...issues."
"I know, I know. You like things untouched and still packaged."
She frowned when the server returned with another plate for her, filled with lobster tails and uncracked crab legs.
When they were alone again, Cade said, "Behold, the ultimate in untouched and packaged foods. You can crack the shells yourself without any transference, then eat the meat with the plastic fork."
She blinked at him. "Do you know how long it's been since I've had fresh seafood?" Then her lips curled into a smile.
Score another one for the demon.
"I'm a good date, aren't I?"
"If only you weren't so modest," Holly replied outside the restaurant. In truth, he had been a good date, creatively working with her quirks. And the dinner had been phenomenal.
He crossed to a garbage can, throwing the watch boxes away. From that distance, he turned and tossed something to her. "Think fast!" he said.
Was it shining?
A diamond ring.
Her wide-eyed gaze locked on it in the air, her hand shooting out to snare it.
She opened her palm, shivering with wonder. "What is this for?" she asked in a daze.
"Aversion training. Now you have to look away from it," he said at her ear. When had he moved so close to her?
She hastily hooked her finger into the ring so he couldn't snatch it from her, but she couldn't look away.
"Break your stare."
She shook her head irritably. He'd thrown it at her, but expected her to take her eyes from it?
"Look away, or I'll toss your laptop into that public trash bin over here. Imagine the germs teeming in there. You think the hard drive will even be salvageable?"
Holly started quaking with the effort to look away. "Don't...please!"
He covered her hand, then wrenched the ring from her clutching fingers.
The trance broken, she glared at him. "That wasn't funny!"
"Not meant to be. You need to practice with this, ten times a day if you have to. You have a vulnerability, poppet. A big one. You've got to overcome it."
Though he was brusque and abrasive, he did seem to have her best interests at heart. She nibbled her lip. "The diamond was real, or I wouldn't have seized on it." When he nodded, she said, "How much do mercenaries like yourself make these days?"
"I've got a fortune in gold. Ah, was that a flicker in your eye? Do you like me better now that you know I'm rich?" He curled his finger under her chin. "Because I'm all right with that."
He gave her a brief kiss on the lips.
"Stop doing that!"
He kept sneaking kisses, treating her as if she was his girlfriend. Which flustered her. It did not excite her.
"Now, prepare yourself," he said. "It's time for you to drive a really fast car."
"It's ideal for our purposes," Cadeon said, gazing down the length of the highway.
It was deserted, looking like an abandoned airstrip through the forest, and was visible all the way to the mountains in the far distance. Old snow lay in clumps off to the side of the road, but the pavement was clear and dry.
"You're really going to let me drive?"
"Whose car is this?"
She answered, "Not ours."
As he pulled over, she surveyed the area. The forest was lit by the waning moon, the sky clear. "I can't believe I'm all the way up in northern Michigan, and there's no real showing of snow."
"Maybe so, but now you get to see the northern lights."
"No way! Where? I don't see them - which way are they?"
He pointed to the left, just above the tree line. "There's your Aurora Borealis."
Her gaze followed, and she gasped. Shimmering violet lights danced against the black sky. As they swirled, they alternately obscured, then highlighted the moon and stars.
Seeing this made her heart sing, and she murmured, "So lovely."
"Legend held that the Valkyrie created the lights."
"What was the legend?"
"The early northlanders believed that when the Valkyrie rode from Valhalla to choose brave warriors for eternal reward, their armor cast a strange flickering light over the sky."
"Really?" When he nodded, she said, "You know a lot."
"You think?" he asked nonchalantly, but she could tell her comment pleased him.
She was inclined to be nice to him, still delighted over her dinner, and excited about finally driving this car.
"You ready?" He turned a knob to the left of the driver's seat.
She could feel the car sinking lower and heard a whirring behind her. "The spoiler in the back - "
"Retracts into the body of the car. So do the front flaps. And here's something you'll like to hear. These changes reduce the drag coefficient by .05 percent."
She quirked a brow. He was speaking her language. Once they traded places, she sank into the driver's seat, adjusting the mirrors.
"You know how to drive a stick, right?"
"I cut my driving teeth on a Carrera, thank you very much."
"Good. Then put on your seat belt."
She fastened the harness. "You, too." At his mulish look, she said, "Please?"
"Fine, fine," he said, startling her by conceding so easily. "Now just pull out real slow."
Though he had yet to drive slowly, she dutifully slipped the gear into first and eased out onto the road.
"All right, get her up to the speed limit."
Steadily giving gas, Holly shifted to second, then third.
"That's it. You're doing good. Really good. What do you think?"
By fifth gear, she was convinced the clutch was the crispest on earth, the accelerator the most sensitive. The engine was responsive, like nothing she'd ever driven. "Incredible. It maneuvers so easily. All-wheel drive?"
"You know it."
"It's hugging the road." Like a bullet on a magnetized rail.
"Believe it or not, this car is as heavy as a tank. A full two tons."