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Authors: Dana Marie Bell

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Literature & Fiction

Eye of the Beholder

BOOK: Eye of the Beholder
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Dedication

To Mom, who actually believed me when I told her I wanted twins, and I wanted to name them Apollo and Artemis. (Of course, if I’d actually
had
twins this would be a whole different story...)

To Dad, who sat there and tried to help me come up with names that were even worse than Apollo and Artemis just to watch Mom freak. Do you think we went too far when she started hopping up and down and screaming? Or was it when the shoes started flying?

Finally, to Dusty, my one and only. Sometimes we have to realize we will never achieve certain dreams no matter how heartbreaking it may be. So stop thinking about Jessica Alba, whipped cream and rubber sheets, okay? Because you may run faster than me, but I learned my Shoe Fu from one of the best and you WILL go down.

Prologue

Long ago…

Tyr stood at the edge of the battlefield, appalled by what he saw.

The war was over. The Aesir had won.

There were but six of the Vanir left.
Six.
Even Zisa—lovely, pale Zisa, Tyr’s beloved wife who had refused to raise a weapon in the hopes that things could be resolved without bloodshed—had fallen beneath Aesir blades.

Now Odin, their conqueror, was asking for an audience with the ruler of the Vanir.

Why? Why had the Aesir done this? The Vanir were peaceful, concerned only with the green, growing things, the tides, the wind and the rain and...

No. Not for that.

Not for the Dökk Alfar.

The Dökk Alfar had only begun to make weapons for those who’d chosen to fight, but it had been too little, too late. Not even the mighty spear they’d crafted for him had halted the tide of the enemy soldiers. But the potential of the Dark Ones had been there all along for any with eyes to see. It was there in the wonderful toys they wrought, the shining palaces they’d created. All of which had been destroyed by Aesir hands. The shining palaces were crumbled, the gold and silver toys destroyed. Even the land itself had broken, falling beneath the waves under the furious might of Odin and his warriors. Only Vanaheim itself still, home of the Vanir, still existed, defiled by Aesir hands.

The last of the Vanir stood on an alien shore and prepared to meet their fate.

“What shall we do?”

His eyes never left the retreating messenger, yet he answered Idunn’s question as honestly as he could. “I do not know.”

“Shall we meet with him then?”

As always, Frey’s voice was calm. He held his sister Frejya’s hand tight, calming her fears as best he could.

“We have no choice.” Njord’s deep voice rolled over Tyr filled with the chill of the deep ocean.

“No. We do not.” Heimdall’s dark hair blew across his face, his crystal eyes studying the retreating form of the messenger. “Even now, they plot something.” His right hand held his Horn, the silver nails of his left tapping against his leather pants.

Tyr nodded. “I will meet with him.” As if there was any other choice.

The Vanir might be defeated, but the remaining gods would protect what little was left of their world.

Chapter One

Present Day…

“Time to go, Lefty.” Logan Saeter, also known as the god Loki and once Travis’s greatest enemy, entered the hospital room waving Jamie’s release papers triumphantly. “Guess what, Pita? You’re finally sprung!”

“Thanks.” Travis nodded at Logan, eager to get away from the smells of sickness that had surrounded him for the last three weeks.

“About time too.” Kiran Tait, once known as Baldur and the current leader of the Aesir and Vanir, followed his lover into the hospital room, carefully watching around for any sign of trouble.

“Hey, sis, you ready to go?” Jordan Saeter-Tait, one of Travis’s top investigators, brushed by the blond Kir with a fond smile and made her way to her younger sister’s bed. The trio’s love had shocked him when he’d first heard of it, but watching them together had eased his fears for his friend and employee. Jordan glowed when she was around Kir and Logan, and he couldn’t be happier for her.

“No sign of the cops.” Val was the latest employee of Travis’s company, Guardian Investigations, and the uncle of Jeff, Jordan and Jamie. Travis wasn’t surprised he’d shown up. The man adored his nieces and nephews, and was the one who’d risked everything to cut Jamie down from Grimm’s cross.

“Have they been by today?” Jeff, Jordan’s younger brother and twin to Travis’s beloved Jamie, brought up the rear. He immediately went to his twin’s side, their hands meeting over her blanketed body. Jamie had been in the hospital for three weeks and today, finally, she was being discharged, much to the relief of her loved ones.

“Nope.” The cops hadn’t been by yet, which was a good thing. Their constant interviews had exhausted Jamie. The last thing she needed today was another question-and-answer session. How many times could you ask someone why their grandfather had tried to kill them? Did they expect to get a different answer? It wasn’t as if the events of last month weren’t still fresh in everyone’s mind, made more so by the woman lying so quietly in the hospital bed. Some of the bruising had faded, but Travis wasn’t certain she’d ever get over the emotional trauma she’d been through.

Travis had witnessed crucifixions, most recently in the Philippines. Men there subjected themselves every year to the horror of the crucifixion to prove their devotion to Jehovah and Jesus. But they only endured it for minutes at a time, and that voluntarily. Jamie had been on that cross, hanging and suffocating over and over again, for more than an hour before Val had been able to rescue her.

Grimm had made her suffering even more hideous by inflicting as much pain as possible beforehand. Grimm had beaten her, both with fists and with a blunt object, breaking one of her cheekbones and her right wrist. Travis was sure he’d used something like a baseball bat for some of the blows. He’d burned her with cigarettes, leaving permanent marks on her stomach and buttocks. He’d used electrical shocks, causing permanent nerve damage in one of her legs. She’d limp from that for the rest of her life without help from Logan. Even with Logan performing a blood bond there was only a one in three chance of it healing her. That meant she’d been tied, weak in one leg and one arm, forced to use them just to stay alive, the muscles of her diaphragm working to bring in needed air and too strained by her position to do so. She would have tried to stand, to get a breath, only to have one of the weak limbs give in. The cycle of slow suffocation would begin all over again. The only good thing about the ordeal was that Grimm had tied her to the cross rather than nailing her. At least she’d been spared one small agony, but it was scant consolation when held up against everything else he’d done to Jamie.

When Travis thought of what Grimm had done to the beautiful, vibrant woman Jamie had been, the loving, devoted granddaughter Grimm had supposedly cherished, his vision fogged. He knew his eyes were turning white even now, blinding him to the physical realities around him. Even the sight of Jamie’s vibrant soul couldn’t dim his rage. His fists clenched, his muscles tightening to the point of pain as he held himself still, refusing to give in to the powers that called to him. If he let those powers loose, even for a second, in the way he wanted to, he would light a beacon Grimm would not be able to ignore. As it was, the runic wards Logan had put up around Jamie’s hospital room barely masked the presence of the four gods.

Part of him didn’t care. He hadn’t been this angry and anguished since Zisa had been killed.

He shut his eyes, muttering a mantra he’d learned from a Buddhist priest long, long ago, calming himself enough that the fog lifted. But not before he caught a glimpse of something inside Jordan that had him drawing in his breath in shock.

“Lefty? You in there?”

He opened his eyes to find Logan waving his hand in front of Travis’s face. “Knock it off, hothead.” He knocked Logan’s hand out of the way, ignoring the other man’s amused snort.
Oh, great. Something else to worry about.
He decided to keep his mouth shut since Jordan had already agreed to remain at the condo with her sister and only leave if Travis, Logan or Kir was with her. Kir would soon figure out what was happening to his woman, and then all hell was going to break loose, but Travis wasn’t going to be the one to break the news.

He turned back to the bed to find that Jeff had helped Jamie sit up. Her normally bright red curls were limp and straggling around her pale black and green face. The swelling around her beautiful green eyes had finally gone down, allowing her to see the people in her room, not just hear them. He had to thank the advances in medical technology. If Grimm had done this to her even a hundred years ago Jamie wouldn’t have survived it.

The wariness on her face was new. Seeing the way she flinched back from them had his vision misting over again. He turned away from the twins and faced the three people in the room who knew who, and what, he truly was, knowing he could trust them to keep Jeff and Jamie in the dark about his eyes. He slipped on the pair of sunglasses Jordan handed him, grateful for their mirrored shield.

“Is the car ready?”

“We took the Lexus.” Jordan stood guard on the left of the door, Logan on the right. Kir stood in front of him, frowning at something behind Travis. Probably something Jeff and Jamie were doing, although what that could be he didn’t know and didn’t dare turn around to find out, not with his eyes covered in white mist. That would lead to questions he just couldn’t answer, at least not here. But Jamie could barely move even now, after three weeks in the hospital. Her physical therapist had said it would be months before the pain subsided. So whatever Kir was frowning at was more likely to be Jeff’s goofing off than anything Jamie was doing.

He almost had his eyes back to normal when Jamie hissed in pain behind him.
There goes my vision again. Damn it.
At least off the influence of Grimm’s fucking apple-laden delicacies he could finally see the true souls of both Logan and Kir. He still grieved over the injustice they’d both suffered over the centuries. Hunted and hated by Vanir and Aesir alike, they’d been on the run from Grimm for centuries. Loki had been accused of the murder of Baldur and punished so grievously he still bore the psychic wounds. Grimm, declaring it just, had taken the only two of Loki’s children not born “monsters” and destroyed them, turning one into a mad wolf who tore apart his brother before his father’s eyes. Grimm had then used the entrails of the dead boy to magically bind Loki to three slabs of stone while a serpent forever dripped burning poison onto him. It had all been done to cement Grimm’s power and prevent Baldur from eventually taking over leadership of the Aesir.

Travis had every intention of helping Logan and Kir right those wrongs.

Travis nodded. “Good.” He ran his hand through his hair, his vision returning to normal. “All the paperwork is taken care of?”

Logan grinned. “Yup. And spare rooms are made up at the apartment for everyone.”

Travis grimaced, but he’d already lost this fight. Jordan, Kir and Logan had ganged up on him, insisting Jamie would be more comfortable with her sister than with him. Part of him agreed, much as it galled him to. Jeff had insisted on moving in with them as well, providing yet another buffer between his twin and their grandfather. Travis was still concerned about that. Jeff would be the only human guarding Jamie, but Jeff had put on his most stubborn expression and Travis had bowed down. Once Jeff made up his mind about something it was damn near impossible to get him to change it, and he’d made up his mind that his sister needed his protection.

Despite the fact that both Baldur and Loki had sworn themselves to her safety, Travis’s decision had also been a no-brainer. “My room too?”

“Yup. We even made sure everything was left-handed just for you.”

He rolled his eyes as Logan batted his eyelashes at him outrageously. It had taken them a bit to come to terms, but he and Logan had worked out the majority of their problems with one another, mostly at Jordan’s urging.

Almost all
. He winced as he thought of the task he’d set himself as soon as Jamie was up to the trip.

He wasn’t going to hide what he was from her for much longer. She needed to know what they were up against, and why Grimm had targeted her. He had to see to it that she had the means to defend herself if it should ever happen again. That meant not only getting her the training he knew she desperately needed, even if the others couldn’t see it yet, but making sure she had the necessary power to back up her will.

He looked down at his palm and traced the blue veins with his eyes, wondering how she’d react when he mingled his blood with hers, and what it would ultimately do to her. Mixing blood with a god was not something to be done lightly.

Especially when it was Tyr, god of justice and former lord of the Vanir.

“Hey, pumpkin.”

Jamie smiled as much as her bruised, broken face would allow. “Hey, Uncle Val.” She sounded like she was talking through a napkin, but the doctors had assured her the last of the swelling would be completely gone soon.

BOOK: Eye of the Beholder
8.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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