"It's stuck in the bone. Pull harder."

Glancing out again, he murmured, "How the hell did they find us?" He craned his head over his shoulder, giving her a narrow-eyed look. "You took off your pearls, didn't you?"

"I'm not an idiot." She wrested the arrowhead free, and blood welled.

With his jaw clenched in pain, he grated, "Not sayin' you're an idiot. But how else would they find us? No one's followed us."

Arrows began to hit the boulder - some bouncing off, others actually implanting into the solid rock.

"Just fess up, halfling. You made a mistake. It happens. Even to the best of us. But I need to know if - "

"I didn't freaking take them off!"

If possible, his expression darkened even more. "Then you called your f**kwit tosser of a boyfriend and told him where we were going!"

She took hold of the final shaft. "If I was going to reveal that to Tim, I would have told him in our own code."

Sounding gruffly hurt, Cadeon said, "You two have a code?"

"Maybe your female, Imatra, threw us under the bus. Huh?"

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"Imatra's not my female!"

"Hmm. You sound pretty sure of yourself. Yet you said you couldn't be one hundred percent certain unless you attempted her. Finally, you come clean!"

"I did not attempt her! Finally, you're jealous."

She pulled on the arrow shaft - nothing. "Not jealous, just sick of you lying to me. What else would you have been doing in there for an hour?"

"Damn it, Holly, to the gods, you frustrate me. She bloody slowed time!" he bellowed so loudly, even the shots paused before resuming. His fangs were lengthening, his eyes darkening.

"Awfully convenient! Just admit it." When she snatched the fourth arrow free, a plug of skin came out with it, making him growl in pain. "You're so sure because you gave her a try - "

"I know she's not my bloody female - because you are!" He turned to her.

"Oh, like I'm..." She trailed off at the look on his face.

The volley continued. Bow strings sang in the distance. The fog swirled, and yet she and the demon stared at each other.

"Cadeon?" He was being serious. "When...how...You've known this?"

He exhaled and gazed away. "From the day I first saw you. Been watching over you ever since."

As if a final puzzle piece clicked into place, her mind saw the whole picture clearly. He was the comforting presence she'd felt for so long. He'd been jealous of Tim right from the beginning. The first night when Cadeon had saved her, his big fingers had patted her face, comforting her as he'd taken bullets for her. "Shh, female," he'd said.

"I don't know what to say." This immortal warrior's wanted me for a year? Holly could scarcely believe it.

And he hadn't been with Imatra.

An arrow sailed from above, plummeting down to jut from the ground between their legs.

"Bugger this. It's about to rain them." His eyes and horns grew darker, his fangs shooting longer. "Listen to me. You're going to follow directly behind me. I'll push the archers back so you can reach the car - then you get the hell out of here!"

"What are you going to do?"

He stood, looking brutal - like a demon backed into a corner. "Going to protect my female."

30

As Cadeon loped forward into the thick fog, she ran behind him, flinching at the thunk sound the arrows kept making as they hit him. Again and again, he pulled them free of his body, casting them away to clatter on the wood.

With each second, he was turning more demonic, those corded muscles growing larger. Though he was injured, he was still using his body to shield hers, just as he'd done that first night.

Not merely for money. But because he believed she was his.

He motioned for her to break away and dash for the car. She would get it started, but there was no way she could ever leave him behind -

With an unholy roar, Cadeon charged the archers. Just as he was about to lunge over their boulder cover, Holly heard a female cry, "Cade?"

He skidded to a stop, and a woman popped up, demanding, "What exactly are you doing with the Vessel?"

Cadeon knew this female, too? She had long, flowing brown hair, pointed ears, and a trim, perfect figure. She was ethereal, her face luminous.

And they knew each other. Again, a preternaturally lovely woman was linked to Cadeon in some way. Nïx, Imatra - wait, not Imatra...

What is it with him and gorgeous women?

He snapped, "What the hell were you shooting me for? After what we went through, I'd expect different, fey!"

"I didn't see it was you!"

They'd gone through something together. How special.

Cade glowered at Tera, who raised her chin unrepentantly.

"Who is she?" Holly asked from behind them.

Never taking his eyes from Tera - her bow was still drawn with a nocked arrow - Cade said, "Tera of the noble Fey. In the last Talisman's Hie, I saved her life at least a dozen times."

Tera raised her brows. "I believe I had your back as well, demon."

"You competed in the Talisman's Hie?" Holly said, sounding admiring, which meant his shoulders decided to go back of their own accord.

And clever Tera noticed.

"How've you come to be here?" he grated, frowning when a wave of dizziness hit him. He shook it off.

Tera answered, "I'll feel more comfortable speaking about that when we know what you plan to do with her - "

"Switch to Demonish," he interrupted in that tongue.

Tera knew all languages, and answered him in the same. "You're taking the Vessel to an evil sorcerer, Cade. Factions are going to take notice."

He narrowed his eyes. "Will you kill me to take her?"

"What is she to you?"

"She's...mine."

Tera's eyes briefly widened. "I told you to give up on the witch! Didn't I tell you?"

"Yeah, yeah," he said, wondering why his tongue felt thick in his mouth.

Tera cast a studying glance at Holly. "Hmm. I sense she's a much better fit for you anyway. Well, you must have a plan up your sleeve - it would be impossible for you to relinquish her."

So it would seem. Why did all these chits keep thinking that he'd be unable to turn Holly over? Nïx, Imatra, and now Tera.

Because they didn't know how far his back was against the wall.

Instead of answering her question, he said, simply, "I've waited nine hundred years for her, Tera."

"I remember," she said. "And am happy your wait is over. Is it possible your female could already be carrying your babe?"