Luke’s leg brushed against hers, triggering an immediate response from her overactive hormones. Just being near him turned her on. He held himself differently now than at the club. Tension coiled in his muscles like he was prepared for an imminent attack. “You seem very familiar with military terminology,” Astrid said, keeping her tone casual.
He shrugged. “I served for a while.”
She’d bet it was for more than “a while,” judging by how quickly his mind had snapped into strategic planning. It would have been a career. “What branch?”
“The Marines, of course. There is no other worth joining.” Holden fired one of his grins at her. She wasn’t overly familiar with the different branches of the U.S. military, but she did know that the marines were elite soldiers. She and her battle brothers and sisters were einherjar, Odin’s and Freya’s elite soldiers. She wondered if Holden’s training had been similar to theirs but doubted his had included how to kill supernatural creatures like Loki’s wolverines. “What about you?” Holden asked.
Startled from her thoughts, she didn’t know what he meant. “What about me?”
“You obviously know something about the military. Did you serve?”
Talk about a loaded question. She’d been born a thrall but earned her freedom as a shield maiden. “I did.” She still served as a soldier. She served her gods and her fellow warriors.
“And in what branch?”
She didn’t even have to think about it. “Navy,” she said with a small smile on her lips. The Viking ships she’d sailed on were a far cry from the modern ships he’d associate with that term, but it was close enough.
“So we’re both sailors,” Holden said. “I never asked where you’re from, but did you serve here in the States?”
Astrid shook her head. “I was born in Sweden.” Almost a thousand years ago, but a woman didn’t discuss her age.
Luke opened his mouth as if to ask something else, but then quickly picked up his binoculars and aimed them down the hill. “Something’s happening.” He stood.
She peered down at the buildings through her own optical device. One of Loki’s wolverine-human hybrids walked across the courtyard to one of the buildings that looked more like a barn. He carried a tray in his hands, and she could see steam rising from one of the plates. “I don’t think that’s one of the ones who attacked me.” It was hard to tell because the creatures looked so much alike.
“What do you want to bet that’s food for their prisoner?’
Astrid fought the worry rising in her chest. “That’s a fair assumption.”
Holden lowered his lenses and reached for her hand. “You okay?”
She had to look away to not reveal how much that small gesture comforted her. “I’m good.” Why was she so emotional around him? She needed to get a grip and warrior up.
He gave her hand a squeeze and turned back to the buildings. She did the same. After about twenty minutes, the door on the barn opened and the wolverine came out again. The tray was empty.
“At least we know they’re feeding him,” Holden said.
The thought of the wolverines mistreating Naya’s brother overwhelmed her. Despair welled up so fast in her throat that she choked.
Dropping his binoculars back around his neck, Holden turned and reached for her. He enveloped her in his arms. “Hey, we’ll get him out.”
“This is all my fault,” Astrid forced out through her constricted throat. His body heat was both comforting and disturbing.
He rubbed his hand up and down her back. “You didn’t know they planned on taking him.”
She rested her head against his broad chest, reveling in the strength she found there. She’d fucked up so badly. If she didn’t get this right, she’d never be able to look her queen—her friend—in the eye again. She’d never be able to fight among her Norse brothers and sisters. They would not trust her and she’d be a liability in battle. And fighting was the only thing Astrid had ever been good at. It was what had changed her from a slave to a person of worth.
Holden’s nearness inundated her senses. She needed some distance so she could think clearly again. She flattened her palm against his chest to push him away, but paused when he hissed in a breath at the contact. She could feel his muscles contract underneath her hand. Slowly she raised her head to look up at him.
His gaze smoldered and zoomed in her lips. They parted of their own accord, and her breath hitched. His hand on her back pulled her closer, while the other cupped the back of her neck. “Fuck it,” he whispered and descended on her lips.
The kiss seared her senses, firing through every nerve of her body. She moaned and he slanted his head, deepening the kiss. His tongue explored her mouth, sending darts of pleasure zinging through her body.
She laced her hands behind his neck and pressed into his warm, solid body.
Holden growled into her mouth and backed her up against one of the aspens. He grabbed the back of her knee and hooked her leg over his hip, angling down so all his hardness pressed in just the right spot. Liquid heat shot from her core through her limbs. She groaned her approval and buried her hands in his hair. A powerful need built inside her.
More. Mine, whispered the berserker, feeding on the sexual energy radiating off Holden. Horrified, Astrid froze in place, panting heavily. What the fuck? Her berserker could not be claiming Holden.
He immediately stopped, leaning back to gaze into her eyes. “You okay?” he asked, a frown marring his face.
She looked away and slid her leg out of his grip until she stood on solid ground with two feet again. “This is not right,” she managed to whisper.
He leaned his forehead against hers, and she closed her eyes to savor the sensation, while desperately forcing the berserker back into slumber. “This is the most right I’ve felt in a long time,” Holden countered. “We need to stop kidding ourselves about how badly we both want this.”
She can’t let him discover…
Immortal Vikings are among us
Astrid Irisdotter is a Valkyrie-a fierce warrior fighting to protect humanity from the evil god Loki and his brutal minions. She’s on an urgent mission for her queen when everything goes hideously sideways. Undercover agent Luke Holden arrives on the scene just in time to save her life-and put his own on the line.
Luke may have saved her, but that doesn’t mean Astrid can trust him. Tempers flare as they hide secret upon secret from each other, but Astrid’s inner warrior knows what it wants…and it will not take “no” for an answer.
Romance Paranormal [Sourcebooks Casablanca, On Sale: October 4, 2016, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781492618874 / eISBN: 9781492618881]
About Asa Maria Bradley
2016 double RITA finalist Asa Maria Bradley grew up in Sweden surrounded by archaeology and history steeped in Norse mythology, which inspired the immortal Vikings and Valkyries in her paranormal romances. She arrived in the U.S. as a high school exchange student and quickly became addicted to ranch dressing and cop shows. Asa currently resides on a lake deep in the pine forests of the Pacific Northwest with a British husband and a rescue dog of indeterminate breed. She graduated from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers program at Eastern Washington University with an MFA in creative writing and also holds an MS in Medical Physics from University of Colorado. Visit her at , or follow her on Twitter @AsaMariaBradley.