That rusted iron groaned with each fog-stirring breeze.
When she spied the water, the tiny hairs on her nape rose. In the foggy moonlight, it looked exactly like blood.
After skirting the roadblock, they started across, with her avoiding the cracks between the boards. About twenty feet in, she glanced back, hesitating when she couldn't see the car.
"Stay closer, Holly."
She caught up with him. "Is the bridge...swaying?"
"Yeah. The deck gives a little, so it won't break. Here, hold my hand."
She raised her brows. "I'm getting an eighth grade vibe here. Taking the girl to the spooky place? So she'll be fwightened into necking with you? Am I getting warm?"
He gave her a smug grin. "After what we just did on the roof of the car, necking seems quaint, yeah? Besides, you want to hold my hand." He took hers in his. "Admit it."
Arrogant demon. "No...I don't." She withdrew it. "Just because we've been intimate doesn't mean I want to be affectionate with you." She needed to try to keep some distance between them. For all she knew, the next checkpoint could be another bar, with another demoness....
And Holly could finally admit to herself that catching him with the beautiful Imatra had...hurt. She often had to struggle not to picture them kissing.
Though Cadeon had been considerate at times, she knew that deep down he was still a cad.
"What we did changes nothing between us," she said. "I still have a boyfriend, and you still have your chits on your jock or however you view your conquests."
Well, that appeared to piss him off.
"And you count yourself among that number?" He snared her hand again.
"Why wouldn't I?" She pulled away, but he held her firm. Through gritted teeth, she said, "Let - go."
A dangerous light glinted in his eyes. "I'm holdin' it, or you're going back to the car."
"Screw off. Don't talk to me like I'm a child."
His tone derisive, he said, "Holly Ashwin said screw with no one else but me to witness the occasion. I'll let go as soon as you admit that what's between us is more than just physical for you."
"You're the one who suggested that I use you to ease my curiosity, to take a couple of weeks to get all this craziness out of my system. Then when I do, you're not happy until I admit to something I don't feel."
"You think you're just going to use me and not be affected in turn?"
"Why not? Like you've never done the same!"
"I've always done the same!" he thundered, his words echoing in the weathered enclosure.
Suddenly, eerie laughter sounded, women's laughter, from no apparent source.
Cadeon yanked Holly behind him, as they peered around in the thick mist. "We're starting back. Now."
"Is it the ghosts - "
His body shot up from hers into the air. As she screamed, some invisible force hurled him into one of the trusses, shaking the entire bridge with the impact. His back bent the iron girder he smashed into, one of his horns embedding into it. With a yell of pain, he wrenched his head forward to dislodge it, dropping to his feet.
More laughter sounded.
"Cadeon!" The ghosts. It had to be them. "Oh, God, they're real."
"Stay down!" he roared.
She crouched, but she hadn't been touched. Why hadn't she been?
When he tried to reach her, invisible hits struck him from every direction until he was flung down the entire long length of the bridge. Furious, he bolted to his feet.
Again and again, he grappled to reach her, each time propelled back. "Get to the car! Drive off!"
When they lifted him once more, he struggled to fight back but couldn't. His foes weren't substantial.
Realization hit her. She shot to her feet, charging through the mist for him.
His eyes went wide as she neared. "Holly, no! Get the f**k away - "
"Wait!" she cried out to the night. "He's not hurting me."
At length, the force dropped him to the ground.
Holly knelt beside him, helping him sit up. She sensed they were surrounded, menace seething all around them. "He's with me!" She took Cadeon's hand and placed it against her face. He cupped her gently, as she'd known he would.
The attack abruptly stopped.
"What the hell's going on?" he grated, running his sleeve over his bleeding lip. His cheek was cut deeply, his shirt nearly ripped from him.
"I think they believed you were hurting me, or forcing me to the bridge," she said. "They're probably sensitive about aggressive males dragging females around out here."
He surveyed the area warily. "Thanks for the save, pet." When he tried to stand, he gritted his teeth in pain, his hand clamping his ribs. "But with that big brain of yours, you couldn't have figured this out sooner? Preferably, before they broke a slab of my ribs?"
"Oooh! I should have let the ghosts - the female ghosts - spank you like a moppet some more!"
An arrow lodged into the iron between them, vibrating there with a loud twang. Their heads whipped around in the direction of the car. But she couldn't see who'd fired it -
"Go! Into the fog!" Within a split second, Cadeon had her hauled up and running in the other direction, putting himself between her and the enemy.
"I thought some more factions would want to breed with me!" she cried as she ran. "Where are they, Cadeon? Huh? Because it seems like most just want to kill me!"
"If they'd wanted to kill you, they wouldn't have missed!" A torrent of arrows flew at them. Two plugged into his back.
"Keep - running!"
Just before they reached the other end of the bridge, two more hit him. He tossed her behind a boulder on the side of the road, then ducked down with her.
Twisting around, he gave her his back. "Pull them out!"
"Oh, God." They were so deep. She grasped one of the shafts as far down as she could. With a swallow, she yanked until it tore free. Blood dripped down from the wound, and for an instant, she thought there was a bluish cast to it. She blinked her eyes, and it was gone. "Who are they?"
"I thought they were the good guys," she said, pulling the next arrow free.
"They are." He glanced out from behind the rock, then jerked his head back just as an arrow whizzed by his face. "And they believe we're the bad guys. Remember? You're possibly the source of the ultimate evil, and I'm a demon mercenary."
She wrapped her fist around the third arrow and yanked. Nothing. "Cadeon?"