"Why? For the strength?"

"Sure. But also because immortality is lonely." Another display of that shocking vulnerability in a warrioress.

"Daniela, who were you searching for earlier?"

"You wouldn't know her."

Not a man. Relief? "And you're not going to tell me more about her." When she shook her head, he asked, "What happens in a couple of days when the Icere return? Will you and your sisters attack them?"

"No."

"Are you just going to wait until they take another shot at you? I thought the Valkyrie considered themselves the top of the Lore food chain. Have you never launched an assault, or sent assassins back to kill him?"

"There's something about their castle that repels my kind." At his questioning look, she said, "I won't reveal more. Besides, we can't find the Icere kingdom." She obviously hated to say kingdom. "No one can, not even through scrying. You know, considering you washed your hands of me, you're awfully concerned about the Icere."

"Yes, because no matter what happened afterward with us, twenty-four hours ago I was plucking their arrows out of your body."

When her hand flittered about her chest at the painful reminder, he gentled his tone. "What would have happened if you hadn't gotten cooled?"

She cast him a begrudging expression as if she supposed she owed him the answer to this. "Thermal shock. At some point, the rapid temperature change would basically make me shatter."

Advertisement..

"Shatter." His voice sounded astonished even to himself. "How's that possible?"

"If glass is heated evenly, it just gets hot. But when it's heated unevenly, it cracks. Well, I don't heat evenly."

"All Icere are susceptible to this?"

"No. Like them, I have freezing skin. But because I'm part Valkyrie, my blood is a fraction warmer than theirs."

He slowed. "If you're at risk like that, why would you ever be out here alone?"

CHAPTER 17

Because I don't fit in with my half sisters. Because, in lieu of true companionship, I'd rather be alone, so I can get lost in my fantasy world, dreaming about sex and snow. Maybe even sex in the snow...

"The arrows are what made me so heated," she finally said, relieved that they'd almost reached their destination. "Take away the poison, and I would have survived. I can usually handle myself just fine."

"Usually? Have you gone into shock before?"

"No. Last night was the closest I've been."

"Then how do you know what will happen?"

"I was warned." Danii, your face is red! Svana had cried again and again. You've been playing with your sisters too long. You know what your godparents said about getting too hot...

"Warned? By your parents?"

"Murdoch, I appreciate your candor about your family." An understatement. His tale had moved her in unexpected ways. "But I won't share it about mine." When he opened his mouth to ask more, she said, "Besides, we're here." With a negligent wave of her hand, she indicated their first stop, Jean Lafitte's.

Though on Bourbon, the tavern was situated at the opposite end from all the hustle and bustle, so it was more like a normal bar without the artificially inflated Bourbon Street buoyancy.

One of the Valkyrie's allies, a storm demon named Deshazior, hung out here whenever he was in town. Fitting, since he was a former pirate. Of course, he'd been hanging out in this building since the infamous Lafitte brothers had run a smithy in it.

Pausing outside the closest set of double doors, Danii told Murdoch, "You should wait here."

"Why?"

"Because my contact and his crew will want to kill you, and also, I might have to flirt with him."

The garrulous Deshazior had a known weakness for Valkyrie -  and a lot of Valkyrie had known weaknesses for him.

Desh had even propositioned Danii, solemnly telling her in his briny accent, "I'd risk freezin' off my bollocks to claim yer maidenhead."

"You think I'll be jealous?" Murdoch's tone was disbelieving. "I believe I can handle it."

So arrogant, so dismissive. Ego takes another hit. Round four, ding ding.

With that, he guided her inside. As they entered, cigarette smoke wafted around them. Nick Cave's "People Ain't No Good" crooned from the jukebox. Drunk, glum mortals stared into their drinks.

Murdoch muttered, "This is a human bar. I thought you mentioned a demon."

"I know where Loreans loiter, okay?"

She swiftly spotted Desh. He was hard to miss, since he stood seven feet tall. And since he sported large, forward-pointing horns. "See that big guy with the horns - "

"He goes out like that?" Murdoch snapped under his breath. "With them uncovered for everyone to see?"

"Yes, whenever he likes. Humans think Deshazior and his crew are in costume. The demons draw straws to see who gets to wear that." She pointed out a sulky-looking demon wearing a neon pink T-shirt that read: "Big Easy Movie Casting! We arrive in costume!"

Humans asked them about prosthetics in cosplay, autographs, and movie release dates - not about their blatant protrusions.

Desh turned then, spotting her. "Ah, if it ain't the fair Lady Daniela," he called. He caught sight of Murdoch behind her and immediately tensed. "With a blightin' vampire. Ye'll be tellin' me why me and my boys won't be evisceratin' the leech."

Murdoch watched as Daniela's friendly demeanor turned cold in a flash. "Because I'll turn your blood to slush if you do," she said, raising her palm to her lips.

She was so small compared to the hulking demon, but Deshazior held up his hands in surrender.

"Now, now, beauty. No need to be freezin' an ole demon like me. It hurts." When she dropped her hand, he added in a mutter, "Ladies goin' with vampires? City's gone to hell whilst I've been away."

"I'm not going with him. We're in an unlikely alliance on a dangerous mission to help Lorekind. An alliance with an expy date of... oh, dawn."

"This one's lookin' at ye like yer together," the demon said. "All possessive-like."

That noticeable?

"And how am I looking at him?" Daniela asked in an innocent tone.

"Like ye'd be well rid o' him," Deshazior said with a chuckle. "So what can I do for ye, luv?"

"Have you seen Nix?"

Who was that? And why was Daniela seeking her?

One of the demons with Deshazior said, "Nix is out tonight?" He anxiously smoothed a palm over each of his horns and straightened his collar.