He kept his cool until she said, "But that manufacturer doesn't have environmentally conscious policies."

Enough. "Oh, like I give a shite! I just want to get a truck and get the hell out of here."

At that, the wide-eyed salesman excused himself.

Clearly grappling with her own temper, she said, "But a new one will be less likely to break down."

He shook his head. "Trucks today aren't made as well."

"I don't agree," she said. "And I think we'll be more comfortable and safer with the options offered in newer models."

"More options means more things that can break. Now, there's not a damn thing wrong with that white Bronco - "

"Oh, please," she snapped. "O.J. called, wants his car back."

"Were you even born in time to see that car chase? Or did you have to catch it on YouTube?"

"I saw it live. I was already twelve, cradle-robber! Now what's wrong with the little Range Rover?"

"The dealer might frown on me paying for an eighty-thousand-dollar car with cash. Besides, after you offed our seven-figure ride last night, you'd think your mind would be on economizing."


"You know whose car I offed last night? Not - mine. Is this the gratitude I get for saving your life? Don't count on me to come rescue you again. I'll let you fricassee the next time you're on fire!"

Cade's sat-phone rang then, like a ring-side bell. "I'm taking this call. Hey, I've got an idea. While I'm gone, why don't you try to see reason? If you can recognize it."

He stormed across the parking lot. "What?" he barked in answer.

"You sound like hell," Rök said.

"Any word on Rydstrom?"

"My spies in Tornin are almost certain he's being kept there."

Cade said, "And no one escapes from Tornin." The thought of that sent his foul mood plummeting.

It was time for Cade, the master of blocking out unwanted realities, to analyze some pretty grim f**king realities.

His brother: being used by an evil sorceress for impregnation.

His female: stubbornly clinging to her relationship with the f**kwit, and approximately two weeks away from hating Cade bitterly anyway.

Himself: in full-on identity crisis. The killer for hire with no conscience was finding that lies to Holly tasted like soot in his mouth. The big, bad mercenary was having nightmares about an accidental death....

"But I do have some news," Rök said. "You know that mortal you skewered?"

Speak of the devil. Cade scowled. "Néomi. What about her?"

"I just saw her singing karaoke at the Cat's Meow."

Cade's jaw slackened. "Singing?"

"Yeah. There were a few pitch problems in the beginning, but in the end she really worked it out - "

"Rök! Are you saying she survived?"

Chapter 20

"Unless she has a twin...But my gut tells me that was the vampire's Bride I saw."

Rök's instincts had saved their lives more times than he could count. If this was true...

Néomi's male knew of another way to kill Omort - an alternative to the sword. If Cade could get his hands on that information, he wouldn't have to betray Holly.

"Why didn't you abduct the mortal? You know how valuable she is."

"She's quick. She seemed to have just...disappeared out from under us. But I'll find her again. I've got a good lead."

If they had Néomi, the vampire would do anything to get his Bride back, even divulge how to kill a sorcerer....

"Capture her at all costs, Rök."

"We're already on it. But you're still continuing on - in case we don't, right?"

He exhaled. "I am. I have to. But you will find her. Use any means necessary." Once they'd hung up, Cade gazed over at Holly, and his heart thundered in his chest.

Hope - a way out. A way to have everything he'd ever wanted.

He'd held himself back from her because he'd known he would be forced to hurt her worse than she'd ever been. But this development gave him the possibility of a future with her...

Yes, possibility. Before, anything between Cade and Holly had been doomed because there were so many epic obstacles: betrayals, ancient vows, dark lies, the wills of evil sorcerers.

Now, if the only thing between them was a f**king mathematician...?

And one she hadn't been able to say she loved.

This is as good as locked up. Cade would simply have to convince her why he was the better male for her.

He looked forward to it, he thought as he strode across the lot toward her. She caught sight of him and nibbled her lip, studying his expression. She'd worn her hair in that bun, but it was looser, pretty. She was so beautiful she made his chest ache.

In Cade's absence, the salesman had ventured back, but now looked nervous at his approach.

When Cade reached Holly, he swung her into his arms and kissed her.

"Cadeon!" she sputtered when he released her lips. But he kept her in his arms as he told the bewildered salesman, "We'll take whatever the missus wants. And quickly." Cade met her eyes. "We've got exactly four hundred and twenty miles to drive tonight before she'll be satisfied."


Their new vehicle was barreling down the highway.

Earlier, she'd been so disarmed by Cadeon's dramatic change in mood - which he'd refused to explain - that she'd compromised with him. They'd bought a brand new truck that had an SUV-like compartment over the bed.

And now the demon was continually glancing at the odometer as he drove well over the posted speed limit.

She sighed. "Look I know I said we could be...intimate every four hundred and twenty miles, but I've had second thoughts after what happened last night. I don't want to lead you to expect something that can never be."

"Can never be because of your boyfriend? The one you couldn't tell me you loved?"

"It's not just that. You have to understand that all I've ever wanted was a steady, dependable partner and a normal life. You're not...normal." Her gaze flitted to his horn, and he saw it, rubbing it with a scowl. "It's not just you. It's this entire world. The Lore."

"What's wrong with the Lore?"

"Hmm, it's - oh, I don't know - exceedingly violent? As evidenced by last night."

"That was pretty extreme even for the Lore," he said, then added, "And for the record, I'm not ungrateful about your saving my ass. I know what kind of shape I was in. Poison does a number on demons. We're really susceptible to its effects."


"Species that can emit poisons are vulnerable to others," he answered. "So did you mean what you told those spirits last night? About returning with an exorcist?"