As he held on to the head, she cupped the shaft in her fingers, running her fist up and back.

"Ah, God, again!"

On her second stroke, he widened his knees, thrusting up to her grip. His balls drew tight, readying, swelling. "That's it... "

On the third stroke, he removed his hand.

At once, he began ejaculating in her fist, the crown of his c**k steaming with hot seed. So f**king good... feels... A brutal groan broke from his chest as he watched her milking him steadily, pumping his se**n out into the snow, again and again.

Once she'd wrung him dry, he collapsed onto his back, hurriedly tucking his rapidly cooling shaft back in his pants.

Unable to help himself, he turned on his side to stare at her. Daniela the Ice Maiden had so much fire...

A man could get burned.

If I'm not wary, I'm going to become dangerously obsessed with a woman.

He'd bragged to her that sexually he'd been able to last as long as he pleased - because he always had been. Yet within hours of his boast, he'd almost come in his pants. He'd told her that he never lost control - she'd made him totally f**king lose control.

She was smiling, glancing up from under her icy lashes. "You should probably go get my things before dawn breaks in New Orleans. I left two suitcases in my car. It's a red X6, parked near the corner of Dauphine and St. Philip." She had that optimistic air about her again, her eyes glittering like the crystals on her face.

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Her expression reminded him of the hopeful one she'd evinced their first morning together. He stiffened, reacting to it as poorly as he had then.

She noticed his sudden tension. "Murdoch, we had an agreement."

How did she turn this around on me? He felt like scratching his head in bafflement. I control situations with women. "And how are you to stay here?"

"You know I don't eat. I don't need or want heat. This is ideal for my needs," she said, her tone growing absent. She seemed distracted, her gaze fixed on the drifts in the distance.

"Fine, suit yourself." He stood, buttoning his shirt. "Though I don't know when you think I'll be able to return."

She blinked up at him. He thought he spied a brief flash of hurt in her eyes, but it vanished so swiftly he decided he imagined it -  especially when she said, "Vampire, after you fetch my stuff, I'm not asking you to return at all."

With a scowl, he traced back to the Quarter and found her car just where she'd said it'd be. He traced inside to grab her bags.

Back out on the street, holding two suitcases, he thought to himself: My God, what have I done?

CHAPTER 24

While he went to collect her things, Danii slipped on her dress, then explored her new hideout.

Murdoch had modernized the lodge to a degree. There was running water, lighting, plumbing, and a fairly new generator. She found bedding and towels.

In every spacious room, the timeless sculptures, decorations, and brickwork had proved impervious to cold. Which meant this place was perfect for her. She was a nester. Her star sign decreed nesting, and she was helpless to resist.

The first thing it needed was... ice.

When he returned with her bags, Murdoch gruffly showed her to a guest room, acting like he'd made a huge concession by letting her stay. But he also appeared a bit wild-eyed as he glanced from her to the suitcases and back. She supposed BP would be worse in him since he'd been single for so long.

"Do you have something in your bags to write my number on?" he asked her.

"Yes, but you can just tell me. I'll remember."

As soon as he uttered the last of the digits, he hastily said, "But keep in mind that I'll be extremely busy following our leads and hunting Ivo."

She gave him her best ice queen impression. "Of course, I understand." But did she? If she were honest, she would acknowledge that deep down, she'd hoped to convince him to stay here with her.

Which regrettably hadn't panned out. But no matter what, she still had this prime place of safety to hide out for a time - and that's what really counted. If he didn't want to experience more of the exquisite pleasure they'd just shared, then it was his loss.

Which means it's mine as well -

"Good bye, then," he said, tracing away before she could say anything else.

Once she was alone, she gave a casual shrug as if she wasn't hurt. But fooling him was easier than fooling herself. Ignoring the pang in her heart, she proceeded to decorate, figuring it would be many days before she saw him again...

Hours later, she lay on the stripped bed in the master room, eschewing the smaller chamber he'd stuck her in. A delightfully chill wind blew, rushing in through the outer doors and windows - which she'd opened to the freezing night.

She was fatigued from her labors, but pleased with her progress. Icicles embellished all the woodwork and doorways, and ice sheets covered each of the walls.

Yet then she frowned. The glazed walls looked faceless, the flawless ice seeming barren to her.

Those unbroken sheets bothered her, like an off smell or a discordant sound would. And the irritation was sharp, as strong as the pull she'd been feeling to this place.

She rose and crossed to the bedroom window, looking at the dark woods surrounding the lodge, then back inside at the walls. Out, then in. Wrong.

Unable to stand it any longer, she fashioned a spear of ice, galvanizing it with layer after layer, honing it.

Once finished, she took her makeshift chisel to the wall, stabbing the glaze. Then again. And again, until peculiar markings began to take shape.

Murdoch would not return to Siberia. I've made it seven days, I can make it seven more.

He'd finished chasing his leads for the night, and dawn was approaching - Lukyan and Rurik had already returned to Mount Oblak.

But it would be dark in Siberia.

Lulls in action were dangerous for Murdoch. They made the temptation to return to Daniela harder to resist.

No, he refused. Because of the blooding, he was just supposed to succumb? To tolerate this total loss of power? Welcome a complete personality rewrite?

He was determined not to go to her like some lovesick lad, especially since she obviously couldn't have cared less when he'd been about to leave that last night. And she hadn't called him once.

Part of him resented how easily she'd manipulated him. Another part resented her encroachment. But that didn't mean he had bachelor's panic, as she'd accused - which, he'd noted, handily placed all the blame on him for this, while ignoring the difficulties she presented as a Bride.

In any case, if a woman's toothbrush was this age's symbol of female encroachment, try two stuffed suitcases.

So for the last week, he'd kept himself occupied, endeavoring not to think of her at all. With Lukyan and Rurik, he'd been following the leads she'd helped generate, closing in on Ivo with each one. He'd tried repeatedly to see Nikolai, but his brother was usually... engaged with Myst.