"I don't think you're getting the picture. Maybe I need to demonstrate what it's supposed to be like with a male."
Before she could react, he'd cupped her face and bent down, slanting his mouth over hers. The heat of his lips sent shivers radiating through her, stunning her. She was too shocked to move, to breathe....
His tongue teased between her lips, coaxing her to open her mouth and accept his kiss. The sensations were unfamiliar, pleasing.
After a moment, she...did.
He used his tongue to stroke against hers so sensuously, quelling her need to get free. She found her fists loosening, her palms resting docilely on his chest.
Holly never would have suspected the rough mercenary's kiss would be so erotic, so languid and hot. She couldn't stop herself from giving a tentative kiss back. He groaned against her mouth, so she did it again, getting caught up.
When she squeezed the muscles of his chest in fascination, he pressed her back against the wall with his body. Deepening the kiss, he effortlessly stoked her arousal to a fever pitch.
He broke away, but only to trail his lips along her neck. "That's it, pet," he rasped with a lick against her skin. "Let me kiss you. I'll do it till your toes curl."
They already were. And her nipples throbbed. She felt herself growing wet between her legs, aching to be touched there -
Without warning, he spread the top of her robe wide to her waist, revealing the black cami she wore. When he brazenly pinched her nipples through the silk, she nearly came out of her skin, jerking with a cry that turned to another moan.
"Silk's the only thing that should ever cover breasts this beautiful." His palms settled around her sides, his thumbs lazily brushing over her hardening nipples again and again until she was arching to his touch. She bit her bottom lip hard, struggling to keep from moaning.
"Sensitive halfling. I could make you come so quick. Do you want me to?" he asked, settling back into the kiss. As he licked her tongue so wickedly, she realized she did. So much.
Too fast...losing control. She couldn't stop kissing him. Oh, God, I'm losing it. Why couldn't she stop kissing him?
Already, she battled overwhelming impulses to sink her claws into his body, to force him closer so he couldn't get away from her.
She was about to tell him that he could do anything he wanted when he pressed his erection against her, slowly thrusting.
Even as the rational side of her brain was reasoning that his size simply couldn't be right, the other side of her mind was filled with disturbing images.
She saw herself tearing off his jeans to get to the swollen shaft he rocked against her. Then, when he was lying back on the bed, she'd guide his erection inside her body, impaling herself on it as she squeezed the rippling muscles of his chest....
When her hands dropped, claws poised to rip off his jeans, fear coursed through her. These urges weren't her own. Her eyes went wide and she broke away, shoving at his shoulders. "Stop...no!"
He pulled back, his chest heaving, his horns straightening. He looked dangerous and wicked and tempting.
"I figured you'd stop me." His lips curled in a smile that robbed her of breath. "But I got further than I thought I would."
Flinging herself away from him, she demanded, "What is this?" Her thoughts were scrambled, her body screaming for relief. "Why would you want to get far with me at all? What is the purpose?"
"I made a run at you."
She yanked her robe closed up to her neck. "A run? Why? Because you wanted to teach me a lesson, or because you're attracted to me?"
"Maybe a little of both."
"Why would you be attracted to me? It isn't logical."
"You're not just a nerd's wet dream, you know."
"What does that mean?"
"Means I find you sexy. I'm not going to lie to you about this."
"Sexy?" she said in a strangled tone. "But...but you like tarts. With more meat on their bones. That's what you said! And I've done nothing to try to attract this attention from you! I don't wear makeup or low-cut tops - "
"Do you think just because you don't try that you'll be unattractive?"
"Face it, Holly, you're a natural."
This would not do. She pointed her forefinger at him. "No more kissing me, Cadeon. That's not part of this deal. I have a boyfriend."
"No, you don't. You've got a friend. The two of you don't sleep together, or do anything couples should do. And that's because you don't know better. You have no idea what you're missing."
She didn't have the heart to deny his words.
"In the short time that we're going to be together, I intend to keep trying to seduce you," he said. "Why not use me to ease your curiosity while we're stuck together? You can take a vacation from your boring life, get all this craziness out of your system, then go back to normal."
She hesitated, tilting her head...then railed at herself. Was she was actually considering getting lured into his sensual world? The dark side. Just like her dream.
When she parted her lips to speak, he said, "You don't have to answer right now. Just keep the offer in mind. And one thing I can promise you: What happens with the demon, stays with the demon."
"How considerate an offer."
"That's me. Always thinking of others."
She squinted at him suspiciously, having the sense that he was excited, even...happy with her.
"I'm going to sleep." With her robe still firmly in place, she crawled under the covers.
"Ah, come on, halfling, you don't have to keep your robe on like a shark suit."
"I do when there are still sharks in the water."
"You can trust me not to do anything to you. I give you my word as a mercenary."
She glared at that. "Where are you going to sleep?"
He crossed to the couch and sank down, stretching his long arms along the back. "Here, unless you're wanting to share your bed with me."
"Ha!" She turned off the lamp. "In your dreams, demon."
"Admittedly, halfling," he rumbled from the dark.
When she woke near sundown, Cadeon was exiting the bathroom wearing only a towel, displaying far too much of that muscular body. Her lips parted with appreciation.
His tanned skin was taut and smooth over his rigid muscles, showing no signs of being shot just yesterday. His broad chest and back were damp from his shower.
Acting as if she still slept, she watched him moving about the room. She'd just been dreaming about him, the same vivid dream she'd had before. She swallowed, eyes riveted to that intriguing bulge behind his towel that swayed when he bent for his bag -
He abruptly turned, catching her staring at that part of his anatomy before she yanked her gaze up. He gave her a grin, and the blond stubble on his strong jaw glinted in the low light.
Even with the horns, he was too gorgeous for his own good. Worse, he knew it.
She resolved then that he'd never know that she found him handsome.
"Good, you're awake. I'm in need of your services."
"I need you to extract a bullet from me. I haven't been able to shed it."
She sat up, rubbing her eyes. "How would I do that?"
"Dig it out with your claws."
For all her phobias, she wasn't afraid of blood. But helping him would entail touching him. No way. It was too soon after their kiss this morning.
As she'd tossed and turned, trying to get to sleep, she'd decided that she would stay as far away from him as possible, biding her time until they stopped sharing rooms. "This is just one of your ploys to seduce me, isn't it?"
"Look, I wouldn't ask, but it's high on the back of my thigh and I can't easily reach it. Hurts like hell." He held her gaze as he said, "And, pet, I did catch it saving your life."
Guilt flared. He was in pain and needed her help. "You're right." She reached for her glasses, then tightened her robe. "Of course, I'll see if I can help." She hastily added, "But you have to keep your towel on."
"I will," he said, adding in a mutter, "but it won't do any good."
She frowned. Of course it would. He'd be covered.
When he stretched his massive body out on the bed, she sat beside him, trying not to stare at the muscled expanse of his back.
With a trembling hand, she eased the towel up, brushing it over the blond-tipped hair that covered his legs. "Where is it?" she asked, her voice unaccountably throaty.
With a swallow, she tugged the towel higher. She glanced down to find that her claws were already curling.
Those thoughts began to suffuse her mind. She wanted to lick each droplet from his damp skin, to dip her tongue to the slight collection at the base of his spine....
She shook her head hard, trying to jar loose the unwelcome images.
"Higher," he said.
"Yes, yes - "
When she uncovered the wound, she gasped. But not at the injury. His penis hung down between his legs. Turn away. Turn - away. Turn away!
Face burning, she finally did.
"Told you it wouldn't do any good."
She was furious, as much at his actions as at her own reaction - the mere site of his privates made her feel hot and flustered. "You could have arranged yourself differently!"
"You would've seen some or all. What's the difference?"
"I...there's a difference!"
Unable to help herself, she let her gaze flit to it again. Had it grown? Her lips parted. "You're...you're getting aroused!"
He looked up at her. "So?" With what sounded like a stifled groan, he adjusted himself until he lay on it. "Males do that." Seeming uncomfortable in that position as well, he turned to his back.
He'd gotten even bigger! "What do you intend to do about...with...Are you just going to walk around like that?" She'd wondered what he'd done with his previous erection as well.
"I'll grin and bear it, till my next shower."
He gave her a leer.
"Oh!" Her face flushed. He was utterly unembarrassed to divulge that he masturbated, and that he'd be doing it again at their next hotel stop.
Had he done it earlier while she slept? Don't imagine that, Holly! "You admit to it?"
"You don't?" he asked.
"No, I don't...." She trailed off, that haze beginning to suffuse her mind.
As she stared, his breaths grew harsh, and his shaft distended under the towel even more. "You keep watching me like this, and my leg's not going to be the only thing aching." Their eyes met. "You've never seen a male aroused, have you?" he asked softly, with seeming tenderness in his tone. As if she'd charmed him.
Holly had caught maybe one or two stolen glimpses, but she'd never had sustained viewing. She couldn't, else she risked a loss of control. So why couldn't she turn away now?
She had for so long before...
With his hand at the edge of the towel, he said, "Do you want this off of me?"
She was shaking, she wanted it so badly. "Why would I?" Impulses were riding her hard.
"So you can see. You've got to be curious."
He took her hand. At first she thought he was going to place it on his shaft, and didn't know how she felt about that.
Instead, he put it at the edge of the towel. "Pull it off, Holly. Take a look. You don't have to do anything else."
One look. What would it hurt? Her curiosity goaded her. With a swallow, she tugged the towel loose. "That's it." His voice was husky, mesmerizing.
Once she'd uncovered his erection, it jerked as if excited to have her eyes on it. She stared, transfixed.
"Look all you like." He drew his knee up to give her a better view. "Or do you want to touch it?"
She did! So much. Her fingers itched to explore his length.
What would that smooth skin feel like? Earlier, she'd imagined sliding down his shaft, but hadn't known how to truly envision it.
Now she did.
I wonder what it would taste like? She flushed at her thoughts.
As her shaking hand reached forward, his stomach muscles clenched in sharp ridges.
When his erection pulsed again, a bead of moisture arose on the broad head. He gave a low groan, as if that had felt incredible.
She would rub the pad of her forefinger there and see how he liked that. Inches away...about to feel it -
Out of the corner of her vision, she spied his hand oh-so-subtly slipping toward her.
The demon had baited a trap for her, using his erection as a lure for a gullible female.
She snatched her hand back as if from a flame, breaking her stare to meet his gaze. His eyes were growing black, yet somehow glowing. His horns were bigger and duskier than normal. His fangs were longer.
Oh, yes, this was clearly all about her - her curiosity. How could she be so naïve?
The demon was systematically breaking down her barriers. The dark side, lulling her, drawing her away. Everything was conspiring against her efforts.
Lulling me from what I know, from where I want to be...
Now she understood his words from earlier. He'd gotten further with her than he'd expected, and believed he'd get even further next time.
What was so bad - he probably would. And that made her fearful. If only she weren't so attracted to him, then she'd be safe. She'd never go into the shadows with him.
Reasoning trail: No demon, no temptation, no thinking about going to the dark side.
He planned to wear her down? "Cadeon, I believe you want services that aren't included." She stood, heading for the bathroom. Over her shoulder, she said, "But best of luck with that bullet."
When Holly emerged from the bathroom, dressed and ready for the drive, he'd still been battling his hard-on, scarcely able to haul jeans over his aching shaft.
It was probably a good thing that she hadn't put her hand on it before - because by that point, a weak breeze would've instantaneously set him off.
He'd been so close that he'd even given up a drop of semen, which had never happened before, a maddening glimpse of what spilling his seed would feel like.
Even digging out that bullet by himself hadn't put a dent in his need. His kind required release multiple times a day, or they were more prone to go into a rage state. For her sake, he'd have to take matters in hand soon.
Now, to see her with pink cheeks, dressed for in her smart clothes...He raked his gaze over her, as ever finding her effortlessly sexy.
Her heels weren't stilettos, but the way the thin straps hugged her trim ankles was arousing to him. The mere sight of her pearls could pain him, because whenever she ran them against her lips, one of his favorite fantasies always assailed him - the one of her wearing nothing but pearls and him riding her so hard that the strand bounced about her neck.
And her skirt...When he'd watched her in the past, he hadn't understood why she would wear such conservative tops, then such provocative skirts. Yes, they went past her knees, but they also stretched so enticingly over her ass.
He'd finally figured it out. Holly didn't realize how those expensive materials molded over her generous curves.
Cade knew females liked to ask, "Does my ass look big in this?" But considering Holly as an example, he'd begun to suspect that women really couldn't determine what their asses looked like.
Oh, well. A question for the ages.
"Ready?" he asked.
She nodded, behaving as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened between them, while his balls were so blue he wondered if he'd ever get them back to rights.
If she wanted to act like she hadn't slowly licked her lips while her silver eyes were locked on his cock, he could play.
So, we pretend....
After he took the bags to the car, stuffing them in the trunk, he remembered to open her door for her - score one for the demon - but just when he was about to slide inside, she got out.
"Oh, no, no," she said, eyeing the floorboard on his side - which was full of wrappers and crushed cans of Red Bull. "We can't start the drive out this way."
"It's fine, Holls. I'll dump the trash at the next gas station."
But she'd already retrieved her antibacterial wipes and crossed to his side, shooing him away. Setting out the wipes for afterward, she bent over in front of him to clear out the floorboard.
And he had to shuffle his feet wide to keep from falling over.
The skirt was so tight, he could discern she was definitely wearing one of those thongs. Mental note: Always leave trash on the floorboard.
When she'd been getting ready earlier, he'd had only enough time to do one of two things in private: contort naked, digging for the bullet, or take matters in hand with his hard-on. As he gaped at her skirt molding to her heart-shaped ass, he concluded he'd chosen poorly with the bullet.
He stifled a groan, beginning to pace back and forth.
A human male strolled by, then did a double take at her. The bastard's brows drew together with want.
Cade bared his teeth. Don't mangle the mortal! The human caught sight of him and wisely scurried away.
Once Holly had deposited everything in the hotel's trash bin, she used her wipes to eradicate innocent microorganisms.
"Are we ready, pet?" His voice was so hoarse it made her frown.
"What's wrong with your voice? Are you getting sick?"
He heard her asking the question, but his attention was already distracted. The evening was chilly, and her nipples were stiff under the beige sweater she wore. He absently answered, "Immortals never get sick."
She caught the direction of his stare, and her lips thinned. "Must you?"
I must. "First day in the new bra, yeah?"
As if calling on some inner well of reserve, she said in a long-suffering tone, "Yes, Cadeon, it is...."
When they'd gotten on the road, she asked, "So tell me about the checkpoint. Who's this Imatra woman? Do you know her?"
"Not personally. She's supposed to have been born of a sorcerer and a demoness, getting the strengths from both. Rumored to be a great beauty," he added truthfully, gauging her reaction. There wasn't a discernible one. "She owns a Lore tavern on the Mississippi River called the Sandbar."
"How cute." Had her tone been cutting?
Cade would be forced to take Holly with him there. The idea of leaving her vulnerable and alone in the hotel room was worse than what he expected at this bar. Besides, Groot's followers patronized the place.
Surely they wouldn't do anything to jeopardize what the sorcerer wanted so badly....
"And then at the Sandbar, we'll get directions to another checkpoint?" When he nodded, she said, "Any idea where Groot's could be?"
"Some say it's in the north."
"What is he like? I feel as though I'm off to see the wizard."
"He's a blacksmith as well as a sorcerer, supposed to be able to enchant metal."
"Why so much trouble to get to him?"
Stick to the truth. "My enemy Omort wants him dead. So Groot lives in constant hiding."
"Because Groot can forge a sword that can kill Omort."
"So then, Groot must be one of the good guys if he and Omort are enemies."
Vague it up. "Good or bad, you need to remember that all sorcerers have to be dealt with cautiously."
"How will he reverse the transition? Will there be a spell?"
"I don't know. I suppose."
"But only if we get there in time. Why didn't we just fly to Memphis?"
"Nïx made me vow not to fly any leg of this trip. She must have foreseen something bad."
"Do you always believe her predictions?"
"She doesn't get foretellings wrong - ever," he said. "But whether she tells you the truth about them is another matter."
"You seem to know her fairly well. Were you two ever...involved?"
"Involved with Nucking Futs Nïx? Not likely. In case you didn't gather Nïx is" - he twirled his forefinger at his temple - "addled."