Her wide-eyed gaze locked on it in the air, her hand shooting out to snare it.
She opened her palm, shivering with wonder. "What is this for?" she asked in a daze.
"Aversion training. Now you have to look away from it," he said at her ear. When had he moved so close to her?
She hastily hooked her finger into the ring so he couldn't snatch it from her, but she couldn't look away.
"Break your stare."
She shook her head irritably. He'd thrown it at her, but expected her to take her eyes from it?
"Look away, or I'll toss your laptop into that public trash bin over here. Imagine the germs teeming in there. You think the hard drive will even be salvageable?"
Holly started quaking with the effort to look away. "Don't...please!"
He covered her hand, then wrenched the ring from her clutching fingers.
The trance broken, she glared at him. "That wasn't funny!"
"Not meant to be. You need to practice with this, ten times a day if you have to. You have a vulnerability, poppet. A big one. You've got to overcome it."
Though he was brusque and abrasive, he did seem to have her best interests at heart. She nibbled her lip. "The diamond was real, or I wouldn't have seized on it." When he nodded, she said, "How much do mercenaries like yourself make these days?"
"I've got a fortune in gold. Ah, was that a flicker in your eye? Do you like me better now that you know I'm rich?" He curled his finger under her chin. "Because I'm all right with that."
He gave her a brief kiss on the lips.
"Stop doing that!"
He kept sneaking kisses, treating her as if she was his girlfriend. Which flustered her. It did not excite her.
"Now, prepare yourself," he said. "It's time for you to drive a really fast car."
"It's ideal for our purposes," Cadeon said, gazing down the length of the highway.
It was deserted, looking like an abandoned airstrip through the forest, and was visible all the way to the mountains in the far distance. Old snow lay in clumps off to the side of the road, but the pavement was clear and dry.
"You're really going to let me drive?"
"Whose car is this?"
She answered, "Not ours."
As he pulled over, she surveyed the area. The forest was lit by the waning moon, the sky clear. "I can't believe I'm all the way up in northern Michigan, and there's no real showing of snow."
"Maybe so, but now you get to see the northern lights."
"No way! Where? I don't see them - which way are they?"
He pointed to the left, just above the tree line. "There's your Aurora Borealis."
Her gaze followed, and she gasped. Shimmering violet lights danced against the black sky. As they swirled, they alternately obscured, then highlighted the moon and stars.
Seeing this made her heart sing, and she murmured, "So lovely."
"Legend held that the Valkyrie created the lights."
"What was the legend?"
"The early northlanders believed that when the Valkyrie rode from Valhalla to choose brave warriors for eternal reward, their armor cast a strange flickering light over the sky."
"Really?" When he nodded, she said, "You know a lot."
"You think?" he asked nonchalantly, but she could tell her comment pleased him.
She was inclined to be nice to him, still delighted over her dinner, and excited about finally driving this car.
"You ready?" He turned a knob to the left of the driver's seat.
She could feel the car sinking lower and heard a whirring behind her. "The spoiler in the back - "
"Retracts into the body of the car. So do the front flaps. And here's something you'll like to hear. These changes reduce the drag coefficient by .05 percent."
She quirked a brow. He was speaking her language. Once they traded places, she sank into the driver's seat, adjusting the mirrors.
"You know how to drive a stick, right?"
"I cut my driving teeth on a Carrera, thank you very much."
"Good. Then put on your seat belt."
She fastened the harness. "You, too." At his mulish look, she said, "Please?"
"Fine, fine," he said, startling her by conceding so easily. "Now just pull out real slow."
Though he had yet to drive slowly, she dutifully slipped the gear into first and eased out onto the road.
"All right, get her up to the speed limit."
Steadily giving gas, Holly shifted to second, then third.
"That's it. You're doing good. Really good. What do you think?"
By fifth gear, she was convinced the clutch was the crispest on earth, the accelerator the most sensitive. The engine was responsive, like nothing she'd ever driven. "Incredible. It maneuvers so easily. All-wheel drive?"
"You know it."
"It's hugging the road." Like a bullet on a magnetized rail.
"Believe it or not, this car is as heavy as a tank. A full two tons."
"If it's so easy to drive, then let's see you open her up."
So Holly accelerated, feeling a thrill when she saw she'd broken the highway speed limit.
"Faster, pet. Come on, kick 'er in the guts!"
"You asked for it." She nailed the accelerator, and the car shot forward, plastering them back into their seats. One hundred miles per hour. The tiniest correction on the wheel caused the most precise adjustment in the direction. One forty. The power, the thrum of the engine, the control - all so heady.
The road was indeed like a runway. And Holly felt like a different person - a boots-wearing, seafood-eating, thong-clad driver of million-dollar cars.
When she peeked at the speedometer again, they were doing a hundred and eighty.
Her heart was racing, her adrenaline pumping. But she also felt something she never expected.
She was getting really aroused.
By the time she was flirting with two hundred miles per hour, there was no ignoring it. Her breaths grew shallow, and she wriggled in the seat. Still getting worse.
Two hundred ten. She licked her lips. Speed. Seductive. Sexy.
He'd grown quiet. She darted a glance at him.
He was staring at her, his eyes dark and inscrutable. "Pull over," he said.
"What? Did I do something wrong?"
"Just stop the car."
As soon as she'd pulled over and put the gear into park, his hands shot for her, cupping her face, drawing her in for a searing kiss. With a cry she responded, crushing her lips to his, flicking her tongue.
Her hand shot for his erection. She wanted to touch it like before, but she couldn't reach it. He put his palm between her legs but she couldn't spread them enough because of the steering wheel and console.
"Bugger this," he growled, snapping off his seat belt, and slamming out of the car.
Just as disappointment swept over her, he opened her door and freed her seat belt as well. His big hands grasped her sides, lifting her from the car to set her on her feet outside.
"Cadeon?" When he started on her zipper, she cried, "Someone will see!"
"No one's driving by."
When he shoved her jeans and panties down past her knees, she cried, "What if - Oh."
She didn't have time to resist before he'd placed her on the top of the car, spreading her legs to open her bared sex.
"What are you going to do?"
"Show you something new." He nuzzled her thigh with his cheek, his stubble rasping her tender skin. She could feel his warm breaths....
With a start, she realized what he intended. But she couldn't make herself protest. Everything he'd shown her so far had been amazing. Why would this prove any diff -
"Oh - my - God," she gasped when he licked at her clitoris with his strong tongue.
She fell back on the car, overwhelmed, spreading her legs even wider in welcome. Unimaginable pleasure assailed her, and she couldn't bite back a sharp moan.
He spread her flesh between two fingers, licking her, ravenous on her sex. "Pull up your top over your breasts."
"Why - "
"My hands are busy. Do it, or I'll stop."
Where was his other hand? Comprehension came. "Oh..." The idea of him masturbating as he kissed her like this sent shivers all over her skin.
With a swallow, she tugged her sweater and bra up as he'd done in the hotel. She hadn't perceived a breeze from the forest before, but now it brushed over her sensitive nipples, hardening them even more. She moaned anew.
He reached up and placed her hands on her breasts. "Play with them," he said, before returning his mouth.
As she began to cup her breasts, she gazed up at the sky with heavy-lidded eyes. Above her the stars were feverish, the northern lights glimmering from violet to red and punctuated by her growing lightning. A dream.
Already, the pleasure was about to overwhelm her.
"Your nipples" - he sounded in pain - "pinch them."
As he set back in, she did, shocked by her own touch, arching her back sharply. More breeze, more stars, more insistent licks.
"Are you ready to come?"
"Me, too," he rasped, then he sucked her clitoris between his lips.
She screamed, shooting upright as her orgasm ripped through her. He was licking, groaning, using lips, tongue, and teeth to wring more from her.
When he gave a harsh growl against her flesh, she knew he was about to come right after her. Even when she was finished, he continued his kiss, as if it heightened his own pleasure.
Once he was spent, he lay his head on her thigh, catching his breath.
Eventually, she sat up on her elbows.
After staring at her uncovered breasts with his brows drawn, he met her eyes. "Every five hundred miles?"
She shook her head. "Four twenty."
Laughing Lady Bridge,
Bloodwater River, Michigan
"This is the place. Pull over on the shoulder." Cadeon motioned for her to park beside a rock ridge just in front of the bridge.
Holly put it into neutral, engaged the parking brake, then surveyed the scene.
And she'd thought the Sandbar had been in the middle of nowhere.
For the last several hours, the Veyron had prowled along winding roads through fog-draped woods, ever downward to the Bloodwater basin. The area was mountainous, the roads seemingly etched through escarpments.
She and Cadeon had spoken little. He'd been quiet, lost in thought. She'd still been reeling from what they'd done. And what they might do in a hundred more miles...
He glanced at his new watch. "Twenty till midnight. We're early."
"Well, it's certainly atmospheric," she said.
Mist blanketed the river, trapped between the towering cliffs that bordered the water. It was so thick, she couldn't even see across the bridge - which looked as if it led straight into nothing....
Still, she was more excited than uneasy. This could be a real-live haunted bridge.
"I don't suppose it'd do any good to ask you to stay here?" he asked.
Getting out, she said, "None!"
"You seem in a fine mood."
"I'm wearing new clothes, new boots, a new jacket." She felt jauntier, younger.
"Do you really think it's the clothes that are affecting you so - or the three orgasms you enjoyed today?"
Well, there was that. Yet she tapped her chin as if pondering his question, then answered, "No, it's definitely the clothes," making him scowl.
They set out toward the bridge. The Laughing Lady used to be fully covered, but now parts of the wooden roof and siding had rotted in places, exposing the skeleton of trusses beneath.
That rusted iron groaned with each fog-stirring breeze.
When she spied the water, the tiny hairs on her nape rose. In the foggy moonlight, it looked exactly like blood.
After skirting the roadblock, they started across, with her avoiding the cracks between the boards. About twenty feet in, she glanced back, hesitating when she couldn't see the car.
"Stay closer, Holly."
She caught up with him. "Is the bridge...swaying?"
"Yeah. The deck gives a little, so it won't break. Here, hold my hand."
She raised her brows. "I'm getting an eighth grade vibe here. Taking the girl to the spooky place? So she'll be fwightened into necking with you? Am I getting warm?"
He gave her a smug grin. "After what we just did on the roof of the car, necking seems quaint, yeah? Besides, you want to hold my hand." He took hers in his. "Admit it."
Arrogant demon. "No...I don't." She withdrew it. "Just because we've been intimate doesn't mean I want to be affectionate with you." She needed to try to keep some distance between them. For all she knew, the next checkpoint could be another bar, with another demoness....
And Holly could finally admit to herself that catching him with the beautiful Imatra had...hurt. She often had to struggle not to picture them kissing.
Though Cadeon had been considerate at times, she knew that deep down he was still a cad.
"What we did changes nothing between us," she said. "I still have a boyfriend, and you still have your chits on your jock or however you view your conquests."
Well, that appeared to piss him off.
"And you count yourself among that number?" He snared her hand again.
"Why wouldn't I?" She pulled away, but he held her firm. Through gritted teeth, she said, "Let - go."
A dangerous light glinted in his eyes. "I'm holdin' it, or you're going back to the car."
"Screw off. Don't talk to me like I'm a child."
His tone derisive, he said, "Holly Ashwin said screw with no one else but me to witness the occasion. I'll let go as soon as you admit that what's between us is more than just physical for you."
"You're the one who suggested that I use you to ease my curiosity, to take a couple of weeks to get all this craziness out of my system. Then when I do, you're not happy until I admit to something I don't feel."
"You think you're just going to use me and not be affected in turn?"
"Why not? Like you've never done the same!"
"I've always done the same!" he thundered, his words echoing in the weathered enclosure.
Suddenly, eerie laughter sounded, women's laughter, from no apparent source.
Cadeon yanked Holly behind him, as they peered around in the thick mist. "We're starting back. Now."
"Is it the ghosts - "
His body shot up from hers into the air. As she screamed, some invisible force hurled him into one of the trusses, shaking the entire bridge with the impact. His back bent the iron girder he smashed into, one of his horns embedding into it. With a yell of pain, he wrenched his head forward to dislodge it, dropping to his feet.
More laughter sounded.