The Trickster’s Lover
by Samantha MacLeod
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Graphic Designer: Teresa Conner
Studying ancient Norse mythology is supposed to be hard, but 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 studio apartment, cuts her clothes off, and rocks her 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.
Over the course of his unpredictable visits, Caroline questions everything she’s heard about the trickster god and his world. Is he as bad as the myths make him out to be? Will he start Ragnarök, the apocalyptic final battle destined to destroy the gods and ends the Nine Realms?
And does she dare trust him with her heart?
When Loki’s visits 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.
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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 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 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 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, 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 curves of his full lips, wondering how they would feel -
I shook my head to stop myself. 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.
“You okay?” My brother tilted his head toward me. The breeze off the ocean ruffled his hair, which was bleached almost white from years of surfing and working outside.
I don’t know, I thought. Maybe I met a god last month. Or maybe I’m losing my mind.
“Thanks for rescuing me this morning,” I said, avoiding his question.
It was Christmas Day, sunny and a perfect seventy-five degrees in San Diego. We were walking along Coronado Beach, barefoot, my jeans rolled up to my knees. I’d flown in from Chicago last night, and Mom had given me a solid twelve hours of sympathy about breaking up with Doug. But as soon as the presents were opened this morning, she was back to her litany of suggestions about the various ways I could be less of a disappointment to the family.
“Caroline, you could at least wear a little lipstick,” Mom said.
I nodded under the glare of the white aluminum Christmas tree. My mom had given me a Mary Kay makeup kit the size and shape of a cinder block, and I shifted it precariously close to my knees so I could reach my mimosa.
“You’ve just got to get back on that horse,” she continued. “I’m sure there are plenty of very nice boys out there in Chicago. Go have a few dates!”
I nodded again, draining my mimosa in one gulp. I felt like the makeup kit was cutting off circulation in my legs.
“And you know, Caroline,” she said, dropping her voice to a stage whisper, “it wouldn’t hurt to find someone who makes a good living. Because honestly, I don’t know how you expect to support yourself studying Greek gods.”
“Norse, Mom,” I muttered. “I study Norse mythology.”
Mom threw her hands in the air, rolling her eyes.
My brother Geoff came to my rescue then, offering to get the two of us out of Mom’s hair for an hour or so and promising to be back in time to help cook Christmas dinner. And we’d come here, to my favorite place in all of San Diego, the long, golden crescent of Coronado Beach.
He nodded at me, glancing out across the ocean. I followed his gaze, shading my eyes as I looked over the waves. I could just see a freighter on the horizon, dwarfed by the vastness of the sunlit Pacific.
“Some pretty weird shit happened to me this fall,” I said.
“Weirder than normal?”
I snorted a laugh. Weirder than normal, indeed. Weirder than me, the only person in my family with black hair and pale skin? The one who spent her sweet sixteen summer teaching herself to read German while everyone else snuck off to Mexico and had magical first kisses on the beach? The one who decided to move to Chicago and study ancient Viking gods while every other person in my family ran Capello’s Landscaping & Tree Surgery?
“Yeah,” I said. “Weirder than normal.”
My brother nodded. “Weird shit happens to our family,” he said. “You wanna talk about it?”
I looked over the Pacific. Seagulls whirled and dove into the waves, their lonely cries echoing off the beach. Beyond the breakers, the ocean was a pale, translucent blue. Like his eyes, I thought. Just like his eyes. My heart tightened painfully in my chest.
“Not just yet,” I said.
I was in no rush to tell my brother about Loki.
Born and raised in Colorado, Samantha MacLeod has lived in every time zone in the US, and London. She has a bachelor’s degree from Colby College and an M.A. from the University of Chicago; yes, the U. of C. really is where fun comes to die.
Samantha lives with her husband and two small children in the woods of southern Maine. When she’s not shoveling snow or writing steamy sex scenes, Samantha can be found teaching college composition and philosophy to undergraduates who have no idea she leads a double life as an erotica author.
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