Born a Viking and an immortal warrior of the People, Sigrid Glyvynsdatter has spent her entire life chasing wars and men, not necessarily in that order. Now one of the People's leading geneticists, she longs for the thrill of battle and the spoils of war. Even her work on the recently discovered Bones of the Just isn't enough to break the routine boredom she's fallen into.
Until Will Corbin snags her attention with a stolen kiss.
Will has been watching Sigrid from behind the bar of his parents' pub since she walked through its doors two years ago. In a fit of exasperation, he dares to kiss the woman he's wanted for so long, risking her wrath and his life.
But will that one kiss lead to something more, or will the forces aligned against them destroy the fragile attraction stretching between Will and Sigrid before they can fall in love?
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Excerpt from The Gathering Storm
Sigrid Glyvynsdatter leaned against the bar inside The Omega, Tellowee, Georgia’s only nightlife, and sipped her lager. Duke and Carolina were playing hoops on the TV hanging in a corner above the bar. She kept one eye on the game. It wasn’t all that interesting, but it beat staring at the people crowded into The Omega. Word had already spread in the close-knit town. Jerusha Mankiller had discovered the bones of two Sisters. For the People, the find might as well have been the Holy Grail.
Carolina scored, and Moira Firebrand shot a triumphant grin at Sigrid. “Three minutes.”
Sig snorted and set her mug on the bar’s smooth, burled oak surface. “The game isn’t over yet.”
She wouldn’t have worried about its outcome at all if she hadn’t bet a night of babysitting on Duke blowing Carolina out of the water. Moira had gone through her needing recently and, of all things, had submitted to the father, Tom Fairfax, and become mortal. Apparently, they were in love. The very idea rankled. If Moira had truly wanted to protect her child and lover, she would never have submitted to him. A Daughter’s best strength resided in her immortality, not in her tender heart.
The bartender switched Sigrid’s nearly empty mug for a fresh one. She ignored him. Men were one and the same, good to warm her bed for a night or two and not much else. What use was it to get to know one? She had no intentions of falling in love and her needing was months away. Even if she wanted another child, now would be the worst possible time for her to have one. The People were on the cusp of change, positioned on the verge of finally gaining the strength to overcome their greatest enemy. Now of all times, Sigrid needed to concentrate on her duty, not fritter her time away chasing after a handsome face.
Though she’d be the first in line to examine the Sisters’ bones, the discovery held only mild interest for her. Extracting DNA, analyzing it, and comparing it to the Institute for Early Cultural Studies’ growing database of modern DNA samples was child’s play. That she might have a hand in reuniting the People with a significant part of their history excited her not at all.
She tossed her braid over her shoulder and stifled a sigh. At her age, boredom was to be expected. She’d spent centuries doing exactly what she wanted, fighting wars, raiding and pillaging. The pillaging had been fun, especially when it ended with a strapping man chained to her bed.
Duke stole the ball and passed it down the court, and one of the guards scored on a beautiful layup. Sig cut a side-eyed glance at her red-headed companion. “Two minutes.”
Moira twisted her wide mouth into a grimace. “Feckin’ butterfingers.”
“Should I say I told you so now or wait until Duke wins?”
“Keep dreaming, you cockeyed Viking.”
“I’d rather be cockeyed than knocked up.”
Moira whirled around, her blue eyes hot. “No swipes there, Sig, or I’ll take ye down a peg.”
Sigrid pushed away from the bar and eyed the temper sparking in her friend’s eyes. Maybe tonight wouldn’t be such a wash after all. It had been ages since she and Moira had gotten into a row, and they always proved interesting. The younger Daughter’s fighting tactics were as creative as her language and twice as fun to counter.
The bartender smacked his fingers against the bar, drawing Sigrid and Moira’s attention. “No fighting, not tonight.”
Moira rolled her eyes and slumped against the edge of the bar, muttering under her breath.
The bartender’s finely arched eyebrows furrowed over leaf green eyes. “Don’t test me, Moira.”
Sigrid hid her humor behind a sip of her lager. As if he had a chance of winning against a Daughter, mortal or not.
Carolina scored, and Moira whooped. “Forty-five seconds.”
“You’re counting your chickens,” Sigrid said.
“That I might be, but at least I know the difference between a bird and a basketball player.”
Sigrid slapped her mug onto the bar. “Are you calling Duke’s men’s basketball team chickens?”
Moira waggled her strawberry blonde eyebrows. “If the shoe fits.”
The bartender braced his hands against the edge of the bar. “Why is it that nobody else comes in here and gives me trouble except the two of you?”
Moira flashed a grin at him. “Ye’re just lucky that way, cousin.”
“More like cursed,” he muttered. “No fighting.”
He hustled off to fill an order, and Sigrid turned back to the game. The problem was, she was bored. Her life had settled into the most humdrum of routines. Get up early, workout, go to work at the IECS. Come home at the end of the day and workout again, then drop by the Omega and snipe at Moira for an hour before the Irish Daughter’s husband dragged her home. Where was the adventure, the action, the sheer lunacy of Sigrid’s youth? The world had changed in the twelve centuries since her birth, and she didn’t like it one bit.
Perhaps a trip to the darkest reaches of Africa might be in order. There were still wars being fought there, plunder for the taking, innocents needing a hand against the hammer of the cruel and unjust. She could wrap up her work at the IECS within six months at the most and hand the remaining details over to her assistant, George Howe. He was intelligent enough, for a man, though a bit bashful for her tastes, and should be able to finish their work on his own with no major glitches.
Moira punched her fists into the air and wiggled her butt. “Carolina wins, and that’s a night of sitting when the babe gets here.”
“Let’s go two for three.”
“Oy, there, Sigrid. A deal’s a deal and there’ll be no wiggling out of it.”
Moira jabbed her finger at Sigrid’s sternum. “That’d be the one, right there.”
Sigrid stared down her nose at the smaller Daughter. “I’m a cheat now?”
“Aye and a right good one. Would it kill ye to give me a night out with me Tom?”
Sigrid gritted her teeth together. “I wasn’t trying to wiggle—”
Moira’s hands bunched into fists at her sides and she stepped up toe to toe with Sigrid, unmindful of the half-foot difference in their heights. “Liar.”
Sigrid shoved two fingertips into Moira’s shoulder. “Half-wit.”
Moira’s shoulder twisted around. She popped back into her former position and pushed Sigrid into the person standing behind her. “If I’m a half-wit, ye’re a bloody fool, ye lily-livered, fog-brained, goat-faced hag.”
Sigrid sucked in a breath. “I am not lily-livered. You take that back.”
Moira stuck her dainty chin out. “Why don’t you make me, ye yellow-spined coward?”
A red haze descended over Sigrid. Nobody called her a coward, nobody. She snapped her fist back, preparing to punch. A hard hand wrapped itself around her upper arm, holding her firmly in place. She swiveled around and came face to face with the bartender.
“I said no fighting.”
Sigrid yanked at her arm. “Stay out of this, barkeep.”
He stared her down, one hand wrapped around her arm, the other loose at his side, his even features set in a hard mask. “My bar, my rules. You don’t like them, there’s the door.”
“Run away now, coward,” Moira sneered.
Sigrid jabbed her elbow back and missed. Damn it, where had the little firebrand gone?
The barkeep snagged Sigrid’s other arm and yanked her against his chest. “No fighting,” he gritted out, and his mouth came down on hers, hot and hard and demanding.
Her anger over Moira’s smart mouth evaporated into incredulity. Who did this upstart think he was, assaulting a Daughter of her breeding and reputation? She’d plowed through so many men just like him, she couldn’t even remember all their names, and he thought he could tame her with a simple kiss?
The very idea was laughable.
He yanked away from her, breaking the kiss.
She wriggled her shoulders. “Let me—”
“When you calm down,” he said, and he slid his mouth across hers again, softer, less urgently.
A slow thrum of heat tripped into her blood. It had been months since she’d allowed a man to kiss her, months more since wicked desire had heated her loins. Perhaps she could give this man a moment more before she lashed out and taught him a lesson. She relaxed against him. Why not? One kiss wouldn’t kill her and it would lure him into dropping his guard. She could deal with him after she’d taken her pleasure and pay the requisite fines on the morrow, if the resultant damage was great enough and his kin insisted.
He hummed against her mouth and shifted his grip, one masculine hand cupping her nape, the other at her waist. His lips were supple against hers, giving, and his tongue darted out, testing the seam of her lips.
Heat threaded steadily through her, growing inch by inch, and the noise around them faded. She parted her lips, inviting him in, and gripped his hips over low-waisted jeans. He was warm against her, solid, and patient in his explorations. His tongue dipped into her mouth, teasing her, and he nipped her lower lip.
Desire stuttered to life inside her and her skin tingled. Oh, he was good, so good, and deliciously sweet. She flicked her tongue out. Mint and chocolate mingled together in his mouth, and she tasted him again and again, eagerly sampling what he willingly offered.
His hand tightened on her nape, and a moment later, he eased away and stared down at her, his light green gaze oddly dispassionate. “Next time, you’re out.”
He let her go and pivoted away, pushing through curious onlookers toward the backroom.
Sigrid staggered into the bar next to Moira. “Pick another fight with me.”
Moira snickered. “Aiming to get kicked out?”
“Aiming for another kiss.” Sigrid sucked her lower lip into her mouth and tasted him. Mmm. Mint and chocolate. A delightful combination. “Is he taken?”
“Not as I’m aware, though his eyes drift often enough to a certain woman.”
Some of the heat ricocheting through Sigrid dissipated. “Who?”
Moira snorted into her water bottle. “Like ye don’t know.”
“I truly don’t. Tell me.”
“And give his secrets away? Not a chance.”
“At least tell me his name.”
Moira shook her head. “Two years, ye’ve been in Tellowee.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Ye’ve been coming here for two years and still don’t know the bartender’s name.” Moira capped her water. “I’m for home.”
Moira grinned. “Good luck with another kiss.”
She slipped through the crowd toward her new husband, and Sigrid glowered after her. First, Moira had called her a liar, then a coward, and now, she refused to name the man that had just kissed Sigrid, her closest friend, near senseless.
And that after winning a bet and earning a babysitter for a night a few months hence.
Sigrid put her back to her friend’s bouncing step and hunched over her lager. It just showed that a Daughter was better off relying on herself, or would if Moira weren’t such a hotheaded, fickle creature. Help one minute, fight the next, and no one could predict which one would come first or what the outcome of either would be.
The backroom’s door smacked open and Sigrid glanced up. A young blonde strode out carrying a tray of plated food. The door paused in mid-swing. Beyond it, Sigrid could just make out the kitchen and another door, that one tightly shut. An idea blossomed in her head. She set her lager down and glanced around. The waitress had her back to Sigrid and was setting steaming entrees in front of women sitting at a table on the other side of the room.
Sigrid slipped quickly through the crowd gathered near the bar and into the backroom. An efficiently organized commercial kitchen spread out to her left. One person manned the grill, a rangy, middle-aged man wearing a grease stained apron over a black t-shirt and jeans.
“Help you?” he asked.
Sigrid jerked her thumb at the closed door. “I need to speak with the bartender.”
The man shrugged and flipped a burger. “He’s probably in his office. Through that door, down the hall, second door on the left.”
Sigrid inclined her head once. “Thank you.”
She twisted the doorknob, pushed the door open, and headed toward the intriguing young man who had dared to steal a kiss from an immortal Daughter.