Authors: Ednah Walters
Reproducing this book without permission
from the author or the publisher is an infringement
of its copyright. This book is a work of fiction. The names
characters, places, and incidents are products of the
author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.
Any resemblance to any actual events or persons,
living or dead, actual events, locale or
organizations is entirely coincidental.
P.O. Box 3444 Logan,
Copyright © 2013 Ednah Walters
All rights reserved.
Edited by Kelly Bradley Hashway
Cover Design by Cora Graphics. All Rights Reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
Whatsoever without permission, except in the case of brief
Quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
publication: May 2013
ALSO BY EDNAH WALTERS:
The Runes Series:
Runes (book one)
The Guardian Legacy Series:
Betrayed (book one)
Hunted (book two)
The Fitzgerald Family series (Writing as E. B. Walters)
Slow Burn (book 1)
Mine Until Dawn (book 2)
Kiss Me Crazy (book 3)
Dangerous Love (book 4)
Forever Hers (book 5)
This book is dedicated to my four daughters.
Follow your dreams and never let the word CAN’T stop you.
To my editor, Kelly Bradley Hashway, thank you for
Streamlining the story. I am so lucky to have found you.
To my beta-readers and dear friends, Catie Vargas, Jeannette Whitus
and Katrina Whittaker, you ladies are amazing. You lift me up when
I falter and have no problem telling me what needs to be fixed.
This book would not have been completed without you.
Friends like you are a gem!
To my critique partners, Dawn Brown, Teresa Bellew,
Katherine Warwick/Jennifer Laurens and Mercy, thank you.
Mercy, you asked all the right questions, correcting my
Course and inadvertently guiding me when I deviated.
To my family, I wouldn’t do this without
your support. Love you, always.
: A tribe of Norse gods
: Home of the Aesir gods
: The father and ruler of all gods and men. He is an Aesir god. Half of the dead soldiers/warriors/athletes go to live in his hall Valhalla.
: Another tribe of Norse gods
Vanaheim: Home of the Vanir gods
: The poetry-loving goddess of love and fertility. She is a Vanir goddess. The other half of the dead warriors/soldiers/athletes go to her hall in Falkvang
: Odin’s wife, the patron of marriage and motherhood
: deities who control destinies of men and gods
: A powerful seeress
: A group of seeresses
: Humans who stop aging and self-heal because of the magical runes etched on their skin
: Immortals who collect fallen warriors/soldiers/fighters/athletes and take them to Valhalla and Falkvang
: The rainbow bridge that connects Asgard to Earth
: The end of the world war between the gods and the evil giants
: Magical knife or dagger used to etch runes
: Plural of artavus
: A type of artavus
1. A FRESH START
The east lot across from school was jammed with students trying to find parking. I eased my Sentra beside a four-wheel truck, switched off the engine, and just sat there, staring at the students scurrying past. Any moment, I expected someone to notice me and yell “Witch!”
Being a witch would be preferable to what I was.
What I will become after I complete my training.
A Valkyrie. A soul reaper. Just thinking about it made my skin crawl. Six weeks ago, I was your average student concerned with starting another boring school year and making out with the guy I’d had a crush on, like, forever. My best friend, Eirik Seville.
Then Torin St. James stormed into my life on his black Harley with his wicked smile and brilliant blue eyes. He’d shattered everything I thought I knew about me, life, and love. Made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. The focus of his existence.
But before I’d been able to savor the joy of being in love, it all fell apart like a house of cards, destroyed by beings so powerful even the gods quaked in their presence. I shuddered. Two weeks had passed, yet the images from that night still haunted my dreams.
Twelve swimmers from my high school had met their death in the most horrific way. To the rest of the world, they’d been electrocuted by lightning during a swim meet. The media had called it a freak accident. I knew better. Evil Norns had caused the lightning.
Norns, destiny deities from Norse pantheon, were real and as badass as they come. Some blissfully went about guiding disasters, natural or manmade, without caring about the lives they destroyed. The worst part was, I had known about their plan but hadn’t stopped them. Couldn’t stop them even though I’d tried. Valkyries, or Valkyries-to-be in my case, couldn’t prevent deaths. Not without consequences.
Norns, on the other hand, ruled over destinies of gods and Mortals and did as they pleased. My flamboyant, technology-challenged mother might have saved my teammates at one time, but her Norn card got canceled when she fell in love with my father, a Mortal, and chose him over them. She had been training to be a good Norn when she fell; thank goodness. Mom’s situation was another tidbit I’d learned two weeks ago. I was still trying to wrap my brain around that one. Now I had to deal with school, friends I hadn’t seen in two weeks, and teammates who’d seen me act like a deranged lunatic during the meet.
I continued to watch the students and tried to muster courage.
You can do this, Raine. Stop whining and get your butt out of the car. You can do this… You can…
I exhaled sharply and pushed the door open.
The protective runes my mother had painted all over my Sentra to ward off accidents were thankfully gone. I’d insisted. Seeing them would have reminded me of how I’d been spared while my friends had died.
I hoisted my backpack on my shoulder and was reaching for the folder on the passenger seat when the powerful sound of a Harley filled the air. A spasm kicked in my chest, and my heart started to pound.
Anticipation and pain flashed through me. Last night when my parents and I had arrived home, his place had been in darkness. I’d worried he was gone again, taken away by sour-loser Norns to punish me for refusing to join them. As if they hadn’t done enough by erasing every bit of his memories of us together. I wasn’t sure what was worse—having him gone or having him around when he couldn’t remember he loved me.
He parked his bike, removed his helmet, and pushed locks of raven hair away from his forehead, baring his chiseled face. The familiar gesture made me smile. He looked exactly the way he had the first day he knocked on my door and took my breath away. Same black jeans, matching shirt and leather jacket. Blue sapphire eyes so brilliant it hurt to look into them.
In the recesses of my thoughts, a fantasy blossomed.
I run to him, wrap my arms around his neck as he circles my waist and pulls me close. I draw a ragged breath, his musky scent filling my lungs, his warmth wrapping deliciously around me. He professes his love, and his voice resonates through me, sending fingers of need through my body. I hear his heart beat fast against my chest, mirroring my own. Then his head dips, and my lips tingle with anticipation. But he doesn’t kiss me. He makes me wait. Crave. Bold and cocky, he teases me, his hot breath caressing my lips and igniting a wave of desire as natural as breathing. My body trembles and melts, then we kiss. Souls meld. Two halves become a whole.
Giggles reached my ears and reality crept in like a thief in the night, stealing my fantasy. That was all I had left. Fantasies of what could have been. The two giggling girls almost tripped staring at Torin. Still straddling the bike, he stood. Six-foot-three mass of pure masculine hotness.
I wanted to touch him, kiss him again, claim him like he’d claimed me before the Norns interfered. How could I let them win? Give up on him? On us?
No, they weren’t going to win. Not when it came to Torin. If I had to remind him of everything we’d done together, every touch, every kiss we’d shared, I was going to make him remember.
As though he felt my gaze on him, he turned and stared straight at me.
I ducked, the folder slipping from my hand and landing on the wet ground with a dull thud. I squeezed my eyes tight and cringed.
Way to go, Raine.
That was the dumbest move
. How was I going to help him remember anything when I couldn’t even face him?
Acting cowardly wasn’t encoded in my DNA, but what was I supposed to do when I’d thoroughly humiliated myself the last time I saw him? I’d run straight into his arms and kissed him, welcoming him back, thrilled to see him after I thought I’d lost him. I hadn’t noticed his initial reaction, the hesitation, the words that should have warned me that he didn’t remember me. So he had kissed me back, a stranger, a silly Mortal girl throwing herself at him—a Valkyrie.
Oh, the humiliation.
But that was two weeks ago. Now, I had a fail-proof plan to fix him. Two, to be on the safe side. Dad had taught me to always have a back-up plan. By the time I was through with Torin, he’d either remember we were meant to be together or he’d fall in love with me all over again.
Slowly, I stood and peered over the hood of my car.
Our eyes collided, and I winced. He stood on the other end of my car in the cocky pose I’d come to expect from him, backpack slung over one shoulder, hands in the front pockets of his jeans, brilliant blue eyes studying me with a wicked gleam. A zing shot through me. That gleam still had the power to make me weak in the knees.
“Are you hiding from me again, Lorraine Cooper?” he said in a deep, hypnotic voice, and my entire body flushed in response to the sexy timbre. I wanted to savor the feeling forever.
“No. I dropped my folder. See?” I wiped the wetness off the red leather cover. He flashed a sexy grin, and my traitorous heart leaped. I knew the smile too well. It said he knew I was lying, but chose to ignore it. “How do you know my name?”
“Mrs. Rutledge told me.”
I thoroughly disliked that gossipy neighbor, but I forgave her this time. I was still annoyed at her for this morning. She’d crossed herself when she saw me, and then hurried back inside her house as though I was the devil’s spawn. I guessed everyone around town knew about the incident at the meet. I hoped they wouldn’t start a witch-hunt. Being burned at the stake didn’t exactly fit into my future plans.
Then something Torin had said registered. “What do you mean by ‘hiding from you
you kissed me.”
My cheeks grew warm. Trust him to bring that up. “You think I left because we, uh, kissed?”
kissed me,” he corrected, that charming wicked grin broadening as my face grew hot.
“I went on a cruise with my parents to get away from, uh—”
“Everything.” I glared at him. My mother thought we needed a break from Kayville and the endless tragedies, so we’d taken a ten-day Hawaiian cruise. “It had nothing to do with you.”
Of course he wouldn’t believe me. I waited for his next question.
Come on. Ask why I kissed you.
He continued to study me, curiosity replacing smugness, but the question didn’t appear.
“Shall we?” he asked, indicating the school entrance.
I loved the formal way he’d worded that, his British accent rearing its head.
“Aren’t you going to ask why?” I asked, walking to his side.
“Why I did it.” My face burned, but I couldn’t afford to stop. Too much was at stake. “Why I kissed you.”
Torin blinked as though surprised by my boldness. He chuckled. “No, I already know why. Women always find an excuse to throw themselves at me. I’m more interested in why you cried. No one cries after kissing me.”
Seriously, he could be so arrogant sometimes. “Well, I, uh, I did it ‘cause I was angry.”
His eyebrows rose until they almost met the locks falling on his forehead. “With me?”
He sounded like that was unheard of. “Yes and no. You forgot about me.”
He gave me a slow perusal. “I don’t think I’d forget meeting you, Lorraine Cooper. You, on the other hand…”
“Would forget you because Norns erase Mortals’ memories after they meet with Valkyries,” I said, speaking so fast my tongue tripped. Plan A had better work. I took a deep breath and continued slowly. “They didn’t erase my memories, Torin. Instead, they erased yours.”
Torin stopped walking, uneasiness crossing his face. “What are you talking about?”
“We met when you and your friends came here a little over a month ago to reap the souls of my teammates. You even saved my life a few times, but that was okay because I wasn’t really supposed to die. Three Norns were trying to lure me to their side. When I refused, they decided to punish me. They erased your memories, so you wouldn’t remember me.”
Torin stared at me as though I had escaped from a psych ward. Then his expression hardened.
“Listen, I’ve never seen you before two weeks ago. If I had, I would not have forgotten.”
“But it’s true. How else could I know you are a Valkyrie? We were neighbors. I saw you every day.”
He shook his head. “You couldn’t have. Someone told you about me.” He lifted his head and looked over my shoulder, his eyes narrowing. “I’m going snap his neck and trap him in Hel’s Mist for eternity.”
I followed his gaze. Andris was getting out of an SUV. “Andris didn’t tell me about you. I haven’t seen him since he reaped my friends’ souls at the swim meet. You were supposed to be with him, but—”
“I had to reap a busload of school kids in Seattle. You’re one of his girlfriends, aren’t you? After I’d told him to leave Mortals alone, he’s back at it again. Did he promise to turn you?”
This wasn’t how I expected things to go. “I wouldn’t let Andris touch me if you paid me.
gave me clues about who you are, and Andris confirmed it.” Torin’s expression grew thunderous, and I knew I was screwed. “I know about you because
told me. You were born during the reign of King Richard. You and your brother James fought during the crusade, and that was where you were turned into an Immortal. When your brother died, you changed your surname from de Clare to St. James to honor him.”
Torin stared at me intently, a slow grin lifting the corners of his sculptured lips. The smile didn’t reach his sapphire eyes. “Ahh, now I know who you are.”
My heart skipped. “You do?”
“You’re Lavania’s new protégé. It’s just like her to do this to me.” He started walking.
I stared after him, so frustrated I could scream. Who the heck was Lavania? Surely my trainer wasn’t here already. I didn’t want to train. Not before I helped Torin remember us. I needed time with him. Alone.
“Did she ask you to kiss me, too?” he asked over his shoulder.
“No, that was my brilliant idea.” No matter what I said, he wouldn’t believe me. Plan A had bombed. Feeling deflated, I added, “I kiss all new guys in our cul-de-sac.”
That was a stupid explanation. Everyone in our cul-de-sac was either old or married. Maybe I could save face with a lie and move on to plan B—make him fall in love with me again. The problem was I had no idea what I’d done to make him fall for me in the first place. I was an average girl, while he was super hot.