Studying ancient Norse mythology is supposed to be hard. No one warned Caroline it would be life or death.
Caroline Capello’s carefully planned life turns upside-down when Loki, the enigmatic and irresistibly sexy Norse god, appears in her apartment, cuts her clothes off, and rocks her studious world all night long. The next morning, she’s convinced she imagined it all, a result of working too hard and getting too little sleep–until she sees her clothes on the floor, cut down the middle.
As Loki’s unpredictable visits grow more intense and Caroline is pulled into a dangerous world of gods and magic, she turns to the ancient myths she studies for guidance. But is Loki as cruel and capricious as the stories suggest? Will he start Ragnarök, the apocalyptic final battle destined to destroy the gods and end the Nine Realms?
And does she dare trust him with her heart?
When Loki’s appearances stop and Caroline’s other-worldly dreams hint at a dark future, concern for her lover leads her to Val-Hall, the ancient home of Óðinn’s army, where she must put everything she has learned to the test. If she fails, there’s far more than Loki’s life at stake.
The end of the world is on the horizon, and only a graduate student with a crush on a god can prevent it.
The Trickster’s Lover ~ Preview
I reached my dull, grey apartment building and hiked up five flights of stairs to my dull, grey studio apartment. The place was a disaster, as usual; dirty clothes on the floor, dishes stacked in the sink, a tangled ball of mildewing towels outside the bathroom door.
Tomorrow, I told myself, I am totally going to clean this mess.
I shoveled a few dishes off the cheap, fiberboard square that served as both kitchen table and desk, and I pulled the books carefully from my bag.
The Wikings and Their Gods. Being a Recollection of the Pagan Beliefs of the Northmen. And the Sem Guði Hátíð, The God’s Feast. This was an account of a celebration held for the Norse gods in Svartalfheim, and it had never been translated into English.
I was going to do it. I was going to be the first person to translate it.
All I had to do was teach myself to read Icelandic.
The Sem Guði Hátíð was slow going as my two windows rattled in their panes and cold rain streaked across the glass. The lights flickered but stayed on; Chicago knew how to handle a storm. The only dictionary I’d managed to find translated ancient Icelandic into French, so I had a second dictionary to translate the French into English. Some of the dictionary entries were supremely unhelpful, offering that the translation for the French preposition “de” could be “of, to, from, by, with, than, at, off,” and, under some circumstances, “out of.”
There were familiar characters in the Sem Guði Hátíð , like Óðinn, Thor, and Loki, but also plenty of ambiguity. Haf, for instance. According to my dictionary, this meant “ocean,” but was this the actual ocean? Was it the name of the god of the ocean? Or was it meant as a description, an attempt to evoke the vast size of the feast hall? Sometimes I was almost certain I’d understood a phrase, but mostly it was like feeling my way through an unfamiliar room with the lights turned off.
It was fascinating.
I told myself I’d only work until midnight. When midnight came I made another cup of tea and said I would only work until one in the morning. Now the clock above my tiny half-oven blinked quarter to two, and I ignored it.
“Girnud,” I muttered to myself, trying out the words. I rolled them around on my tongue, imagining Viking ships and longhouses, imagining woodsmoke, the spray of salt from the ocean.
And then I was no longer alone in my apartment.
There was, perhaps, a crackle of electricity in the air, a quick gust of cold air on the back of my neck, like a melting snowflake.
I looked up from the table. There was a very tall man standing in the middle of my apartment. I stood and stumbled backward, bumping awkwardly against the wall. Our eyes met, and my breath caught in my throat. He was unreasonably attractive.
“Uh, hi?” I stammered, staring at his high cheekbones, full lips, and long, fiery red hair.
He smiled, and my heart surged. Damn, what a smile. I fought the insane urge to smile back and tore my eyes off him, glancing at the door to my apartment. It was still closed, bolted, with the chain drawn. How did…?
I turned back to him, and he moved a step closer. He wore strange clothes; they looked like leather, black with streaks of gold and red, with an enormous cloak rippling behind him. His fingers were delicate, his full lips slightly parted, and his ice-blue eyes seemed to be laughing. He bent toward me, so close our lips were almost touching. So close I could smell him. Woodsmoke. Salt spray. Cold, and leather.
“Hello,” he whispered, his breath warm on my neck.
My skin prickled, and I trembled as my body flushed with heat. I swallowed and tried to think. It’s the middle of the night, I told myself. And there’s a strange man in your apartment. I turned to face him, my gaze lingering on the soft curve of his full lips, wondering how they would feel –
I shook my head, tearing my eyes away from him. You should not be thinking about kissing him.
“What are you – ” The words died in my throat as a jolt of recognition surged through my body. I know you, I thought.
I’ve been reading about you since I was thirteen.
“Loki?” I whispered, my voice sounding very small. “Loki… of the Ӕsir?”
His eyes danced. “Very good. I am Loki, son of Laufeyiar.” He gave me another slow, incendiary smile. “And right now, I’m admiring you.”
The room suddenly felt very warm. I took a deep breath. “That’s not possible,” I whispered.
He tilted his head to one side and raised an eyebrow. “What’s not possible?”
Neither of those things are possible, I thought, but before I could say anything he stepped back and his eyes dropped, running slowly along the length of my body, lingering on the swell of my breasts, the curves of my hips. He was lean and muscular under his leather armor. And his armor was very tight, especially around his hips. There was a flush of heat between my legs and I bit my lip, trying to look somewhere else. Anywhere else.
His eyes caught mine, and I had to remind myself to breathe. “Very nice,” he whispered.
“You too,” I said, before I could stop myself.
Then my mouth went dry as he pulled a blade from somewhere in the depths of his cloak. It glowed blue under my yellow kitchen light. He reached for me with the knife.
I’m going to die, I thought. Then, this can’t possibly be happening.
I closed my eyes. I heard a small skritch and felt another gust of cold air. It didn’t hurt. Perhaps dying did not hurt, after all. I opened my eyes and looked down, expecting to see the hilt of the strange, blue blade buried in my abdomen.
I was topless. He’d cut open my shirt, and the tattered remnants hung from my arms. My skin was flushed, my nipples hard.
I looked up. Loki was standing close enough to touch, his head tilted, his eyes sparkling. I flushed with embarrassment and crossed my arms over my chest, trying to pull the shreds of my T-shirt back over my nipples.
Loki moved closer, the blade still in his hand. I closed my eyes again.
“Are you going to kill me?” I asked. My voice sounded small and distant, as if it were coming from far away.
He laughed, and then his mouth was next to my ear. His hair brushed gently against my neck. “Of course not,” he whispered. “What fun would that be?”
I felt him cut the drawstring on my sweatpants, and they fell to the floor. Then he touched my wrists, his hands cool and gentle, and my entire body trembled. He pulled my arms away from my breasts, exposing my nipples, my skin flushed with heat. His smell surrounded me; woodsmoke, salt spray. My body hummed under his touch. Loki stepped back, again tilting his head to one side. And he stared at me, his eyes burning.
I’ve never been very happy with my body. I’m too tall and awkward, I hate my nose, and my breasts are so small my mom keeps buying me bras with an inch of extra padding. But as I stood naked in front of a Norse god, and his eyes traveled the length of my body, devouring me with a hunger I’d never seen before, not even from Doug, I flushed with heat and shivered with arousal, and I felt sexy.
I actually felt sexy.
I watched him as he stared at me. I could trace the lines of his muscles through his leather armor, and I wanted to touch them, wanted to run my hands up his arms, along his chest. I wanted to pull his face to mine, to sink my fingers into his hair, to again feel those cool hands on my skin.
“Yes, very nice,” he said, his eyes once again meeting mine. His voice was thicker this time.
I nodded and swallowed, hard. “Thanks,” I whispered, frantically trying to think of something clever I could say to him. You’re fucking hot as hell, I thought, and then I bit my lip again. Caroline, you cannot say that.
He took a step closer to me, and I could feel his body, wrapped in leather, inches from my naked skin. I trembled; the inside of my thighs was wet. I hoped he couldn’t tell. I hoped he couldn’t hear the wild pounding of my heart.
His cool fingers wrapped around my upper arm, and he leaned close to me. I felt the whisper of his hair against my skin, the warmth of his breath on my neck.
“Mortal woman,” he said, with a catch in his voice. “I desire you.”
Want more Loki?
You can find The Trickster’s Lover on Amazon.
Just want to know what happens next?
You can find the rest of this scene on Janine Ashbless’ fabulous blog.
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