As she began unlacing her dress, he swallowed audibly. She could see his shaft thickening in his slacks. "You're getting hard. But then, you don't need me for that anymore."

He drew closer to her. "Maybe I want you for it. I'm hard - for you."

"Maybe you should have thought about that before you treated me so badly."

Again, he denied nothing, just gave a sharp nod.

"But perhaps there's a way you can make it up to me."

"Let's hear it."

She tilted her head. "Murdoch, do you spook easily?"

"I haven't been known to... " He trailed off when she turned to the door, heading outside into the night, stripping as she went.

CHAPTER 22

All thoughts of I lead and women follow vanished when he tripped outside after her.

As her delighted laughter sounded in the distance, he realized he couldn't remember the last time he'd felt this much excitement.

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Christ, when she'd begun removing her skimpy dress... exhilaration had spiked in him, not to mention arousal.

He was so very rarely surprised by women. Now he had no idea what she'd do next.

Soon he came upon her little boots, kicked off in the snow, and he gave a low groan. Will she strip completely? Each second, his shaft was getting hotter, even as the temperature dropped.

A dozen feet farther on, he saw her discarded dress. He scooped it up, bringing it to his face to inhale her cool scent. His heart -  which had begun beating for her alone - was thundering.

When he reached her, she was lying back in a snowdrift, stretching with her arms above her head - in nothing more than a wisp of black silk panties. Her perfect br**sts were uncovered, her ni**les so stiff they looked like they ached.

His fingers went limp and he dropped her dress, hissing, "Almighty."

She laughed anew at his reaction. Not surprisingly, she had a musical laugh.

His jaw clenched. Where's my control now? Seconds before, he'd found himself thinking, I'd follow her anywhere. "No compunction about being stripped in front of me?"

"Never. Besides, you've seen every inch of me." She seemed drunk from the snow, shoveling her fingers through it, bringing handfuls up to her lips to kiss.

He turned away from her, disconcerted by how much she affected him, by how her laughter seemed to make something twist in his chest. Determined not to even glance at her until he regained some equilibrium, he sat back against a frost-coated tree trunk.

"You're angry with me, vampire?" She was walking on her knees toward him.

Don't look at her. His hands were fists by his sides. "Not angry." Bloody confused, exasperated. "No, I'm - " He broke off when she was kneeling inches before him. In a strangled voice, he said, "What the hell is happening to you?"

Here in the cold, her appearance had begun to change. She was transforming.

Her hair had become laced with ice and lighter in color, so blond it was almost white. Shining tendrils were frozen in long streams, descending to cover her br**sts or spreading out from her head as though whipped in the wind.

Her lashes were tipped with ice crystals, and more crystals formed semicircles around her eyes. Her lips were pale, bluish even, and were parted, but no smoke came from her breaths. Because they were freezing as well.

Delicate cobalt blue tracings swirled around her wrists in wispy patterns. Her eyes were bright beneath the aurora, a fiery blue matching that in the sky. They burned with an ancient knowledge.

Everything about this moment with her should feel foreign. But it... didn't. I've dreamed of this. Would she think him mad if he told her he'd seen her like this in a vision?

He'd been hard for her before, but now he was throbbing. These changes attracted him fiercely. He feared he could go off right in his pants. No, I never lose control.

Keep telling yourself that, Murdoch.

"You like?" she murmured.

"What is this?"

"This is how I'm supposed to look. And how I'm supposed to feel."

The cold clearly aroused her. His greedy gaze took in her shallow breaths, her trembling lithe body. Her little claws had turned blue and were curling sharply.

I know what that means now. At the thought of her sinking those claws into his back as he plunged inside her, he had to stifle a groan.

Behind her, lightning speared through the aurora. "The lightning is yours." He was surprised his voice was steady. Her gaze was mesmerizing.

She nodded. "Valkyrie give it off with emotion."

"I dreamed of you like this, Daniela." Connection.

When she cast him a doubting expression, he said, "Don't believe me? Those lines of blue trace along your lower back as well."

Her eyes widened. "What else did you dream?"

"I took your virginity," he blurted out.

She shivered. "And how did I react?"

"You wanted me to. You wanted... me." You let me take your neck. His eyes fixed on her supple flesh, and his fangs ached for her. He raked his tongue along one of them for a shot of blood, pretended it was hers.

"Come closer, vampire."

In a flash, he was up on his knees before her.

Without removing his coat, she began unbuttoning the shirt underneath, spreading the edges. "Will you be too cold?"

"I can take it."

Once his chest was bared, she drew closer until her lips were less than an inch away from him. She eased down his torso like this, her breaths like little bites of frost, as if she were running an ice cube along his skin. He shivered - but not from cold.

As she made her way back up, she said, "Murdoch?"

"Uh?" was all he could manage.

She leaned up to whisper right at his ear, "You're going to let me stay in this place." When she nipped his earlobe with her teeth, his c**k jerked in his pants, his sac tightening.

Wait, what had she just said?

She moved to his other ear. "Would you like to do that?" she breathed, making him shudder with want. "I'm going to install myself - a female - in one of your properties. And I'm going to decorate it as I see fit."

Can't... form... words.

"You want me to, don't you?" She slowly gazed up, looking at him from under a lock of shining, icy hair. She nibbled her plump lip, and he was finished, defeated. He watched, bewildered, as his gloved fingertips traced the crystals at her temple.

"Yes." I can't believe I'm saying this. "You can stay." He'd always wanted to discard females - not move them into his home.

He was dimly aware that the seducer was being seduced. The player had just gotten played.

Yet he was still in the game. "You'll stay here. But first we need to seal this deal, Valkyrie. And I know just how."