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About the author:
A professional technical writer, Anne discovered that getting laid off was actually A Very Good Thing. While looking for her next writing gig, she picked up her pen (well, okay, she used her writing as an excuse to buy a new Apple laptop) and started writing. She soon discovered that writing was uncomfortably similar to sit-ups: add a few more crunches each day, wake up sore, but, by God, you will fit into that bikini. Or finish the book (she’s still working on the bikini). Now she cranks out software manuals during the daylight hours– and writes about alpha shapeshifters the rest of the time.
What inspired you to write your book?
NOTE: Viking’s Orders is free November 23rd, 24th, and 25th only!
Here is a short sample from the book:
Everyone in the pit was dead except for the berserker.
That was the point.
Hidden deep beneath Sin City, the paranormal gladiators forced into the pit’s arena fought until there was only one being left standing. Tonight, Vikar the Black was well on his way to being named champion. Roars of approval hailed his latest kill from the rows of stadium seating stretching away above the underground arena. The spectators had an awesome view of the berserker’s handiwork, along with a bona fide firsthand story for friends and family as no one could recall the last time a berserker had fought in the pit. So far, a half dozen of Fenrir’s offspring had perished in the bloody slaughter, the lupine shapeshifters no match for the warrior.
The iron bars of the cage bit into Pure’s fingers. She was next into the pit, unless the handlers actually intended to set the berserker’s comrades-in-arms loose to fight their leader.
The crowd roared again, a wolf head hit the bloody sand, and time ran out.
Two gates cut off the pit’s only access tunnel, a little extra insurance of iron and steel between the handlers and the paranormals they tortured. No way those gates would contain a berserker in full battle rage.
Vikar turned. He was unadulterated violence, seven feet of heavy muscle. Shaggy black hair spilled around his shoulders, half covering the harsh bones of his face as he spun and brought his axe down on his last opponent. Effortlessly he drove the blade through the bone and muscle of the shapeshifter cowering at his feet. He looked every inch the cold, ruthless killer he was, that barbaric face feral in its intensity. The handlers had stripped him down to a leather loincloth for the fight, so the crowd could enjoy the hard body and the cut muscles of his abdomen. Blood splattered his arms and legs and streaked the side of his jaw. None of it was his.
The handlers had underestimated the berserker.
One minute, he pulled his axe free. The next, his heavy stride ate up the ground. As the handlers scrambled to contain him with their tasers, he knocked them away, making straight for the cage holding his companions. That massive axe rose and fell, cutting the locks free. The pit handlers had dismissed the berserker as an animal, a killing machine they could rile up and set loose for the amusement of the crowds who paid to see the gladiators fight.
Mistake number one.
Mistake number two was their hesitation to engage him.
He snarled, lips pulled back from his teeth. He was a killer, but that wasn’t why she’d been sent here.
The Norse gods had no issue with the killing.
Not if the berserker could control himself.
Since the test hadn’t started yet, she should probably warn him that one of the pit guards—a warg well-known as a particularly ruthless Midgard creature—was sneaking up on him, using the steel cages as cover. She leaned forward, but the berserker was already on it. His axe rose, fell, and the warg’s head rolled across the floor. When she blew him a kiss, he frowned but kept right on killing. Good man.
Tapping her finger against her teeth, she considered her options. She needed his attention on her—and since he was rapidly running out of opponents, that seemed likelier by the minute. She couldn’t stop looking at him, at those big hands handling the axe so competently. She had a feeling that if she hadn’t been an ice maiden, she’d have been aroused as hell. Her berserker was talented. He knew his way around a weapon. Her Valkyrie sisters would have amused themselves by wondering if his skilled hands were equally as good in the bedroom.
She planned on finding out.
Ordinarily, the berserkers wouldn’t have been on Odin’s radar, even though Loki’s berserkers certainly offered a good time on a battlefield, and Odin loved a good fight. In this case, good meaning bloodthirsty and to the death. One of Odin’s in-house seers had warned him, however, that the Norse end times and the final battle for control of the world was right around the corner. Ragnarök foretold the death of gods, assorted natural disasters and the complete flooding of the human world, so suddenly Odin was rethinking his hands-off policy. He wanted his troops lined up, and he definitely wanted to know who was on his side.
That made the berserkers an unacceptable wild card, so Odin had sent her here to feel out this big, angry fighter. She would determine if he contained anything beside rage and anger. Could he pull himself back from that lethal edge? Was he open to reason? Luring the male into her bed was simply the bonus question on the test. Extra credit for me.
Really, she didn’t care what happened to the berserkers. They were Loki’s little pets, but more importantly, she was Odin’s. He owned her every bit as much as Loki owned his matched set of killers. She’d thought about this while Odin stormed around Valhalla, and realized that, really, he’d done her a favor when he’d fucked her ice-giant mother. Twice. Because, in addition to acquiring a baby sister out of the deal, Pure was an ice maiden, and that meant she was a cold bitch. She didn’t feel. No messy emotions for her. Lopping off the head of a misbehaving berserker was just fine with her. No, what she wanted was the opportunity said beheading presented.
An opportunity to negotiate with Odin and shake his immortal, all-knowing, irritating hold on her.
Up until now, he’d given the orders. Testing the berserker was a chance to shake Odin’s control that she couldn’t pass up. It was also her best and only shot at rescuing Eira. Not going there. She pushed the unhappy memories of her baby sister’s fate back into their cage and leaned forward.
The berserker ripped the first gate off its hinges. His men shot up the tunnel with lethal intent. Out. Towards freedom.
And then he turned towards her.
Rage pounded through Vikar the Black, the red haze washing over his vision and reducing his world to a killing field. Kill. His shock troop had cut a deadly path, first through the Viking world and then through North America, leading the fight on hundreds of battlefields. With the Norse kings long dead, becoming mercenaries had seemed logical. The berserkers’ loyalty was to each other and—temporarily—to whatever they’d pledged themselves to. Losing was unthinkable, and yet he’d been taken—drugged—coming off that last killing field.
That day, the bloodlust had ridden him hard, the berserk rage painting the world around him a deadly crimson. The shift had come closer and closer, the point of no return barreling towards him. Then, just as he’d felt his bear form break through his skin—nothing. One minute, the lights and sounds and undeniable scents of the battlefield surrounded him, and the next, he was falling forward, everything black instead of red.
Until he’d woken up chained in the pit.
The drugs had to explain what he was seeing now as he turned away from the pit.
An angel sat there, square in the middle of hell.
She was the prettiest creature he’d ever seen. Delicate. Sitting on the floor of the cage, legs curled beneath her, like she was waiting for him to come on over and do a little hi-how-are-ya. A long sheet of hair so blonde it was almost white fell in a delicious curtain around her face and bare shoulders. The pit’s handlers had dressed her in some sort of leather corslet and pants that cupped her breasts and ass. Despite her pale skin, however, she didn’t smell like a vamp. No, when Vikar inhaled, he caught the scent of something fresh and cool, rather than dirt and the copper stink of old blood. Her lashes swept up, and damned if her eyes weren’t the color of chocolate and whiskey, wickedly sweet and potent.
“Vikar.” She said his name like she wanted to drink him up. “Take me with you.” Her hands wrapped around the steel bars, soft and clean.
He could count the empty cages between his angel and the entrance.
She’d been next into the arena.
Where he would have killed her.
Pausing now was a mistake. He needed to reach the surface and put these hellish pits behind him. The handlers were dead, but there would be more to kill. There were always more. Rage. Kill. He looked at his angel, though, and his anger drained away from him as if she’d reached out her pretty hands and simply pulled the plug on his emotions. For some completely inexplicable reason, he didn’t want to hurt her.
“Who are you?” he asked, when he should have asked what.
He wanted her. He’d spent a lifetime secreting treasure in his tower back in his Norse homeland. He’d collected beautiful things. Delicate, gold chains and ornaments because they were fragile and he wasn’t and he’d wanted them. He wanted her, but she wasn’t a brooch or a necklace or even a dagger. The berserker rage pushed at him. He could take her.
And he’d break her. She wasn’t something you took.
Adrenaline pounded through him, lighting his senses on fire. The fighting rumbling behind him in the pit and the hiss of weapons being drawn was a familiar rush. Red beat at his vision, and he had blood on his hands, so his angel had to know he was a killer.
She didn’t flinch from him. Instead, she gave him answers. “My name is Pure.”
“Pure.” Her name fit the cool perfection of her beautiful face, but her eyes promised something else. Something sensually, wickedly naughty. At the tunnel’s entrance, Var’s head snapped around. Vikar had stopped when he should have been covering his second’s back.
She licked her lips and, by the gods, he was a dirty bastard, because he couldn’t stop imagining those pink lips wrapped around his cock. She tilted her head back for a better look at him, exposing her throat to his attack. The female didn’t know the first thing about keeping herself safe, and that bothered him. That was a new sensation, so he filed it away. He’d consider these feelings later. After he knew what she wanted from him. Because, Loki’s balls, it was a cold, cold day in hell when a female who looked like a bona fide princess wanted something to do with someone as rough as him.
Of course, there was always the possibility she simply enjoyed slumming.
Princess shifted inside the cage, one slim thigh pressed against the other, her fingers stroking the bars as she eyed him up and down.
Her gaze settled unerringly on his leather-wrapped forearms.
“Berserker?” She demanded his attention, her fingers tap-tapping against the bars of her cage.
Definitely a princess. He gave her a slow, masculine smile. Baby was impatient, which made him wonder what she’d be like in bed. His bed. She wouldn’t like orders—the question was, would she take them? How far would she let a man push?
“Yeah,” he acknowledged. “I would be the berserker.” Since he wanted to see her reaction, he gave her a glimpse of his claws. Just one of Loki’s little gifts, the ursine claws slid smoothly out of his skin below his knuckles, eight inches of lethal nasty. In the heat of battle, he’d shift until he was half bear, half man—and all killer. “I come with a few enhancements. You want to get to the point here?”
“I want to hire you.” She examined his face and, shockingly, must have liked what she saw because she propositioned him as if she wasn’t the one locked up tight in a cage. As if she was in a position to give him orders. “You’re perfect.”
He stilled, instincts clamoring. He wasn’t perfect. At all. “Baby, you can’t afford me.”
She looked put out. Too damn bad. “Don’t you want to hear the job first?” she asked.
No. He didn’t need to. Her voice was low and husky with nerves, but that didn’t surprise him. He made everyone nervous.
He gave her his trademark smile, a hard, mean grimace that made grown mercenaries back the hell down. “Rescue doesn’t come cheap and neither do I. I spring your cage, what’s in it for me? With a dozen mercenaries between you and the door, you don’t leave without an escort, and the way I see this play out, most of the males here would just fuck you first and then sell you back to the pit keepers.”
“You won’t,” she said confidently.
“You sure she’s got you pegged right?” Var closed the distance between the exit and the cage. “You sure you’d never fuck her and sell her, Vikar?”
Var was every bit as big and brutish as Vikar, a big, hard bear of a man with sun-browned skin and a shaggy mane of dirty-blond hair into which he’d woven beads and other souvenirs. Including the knucklebones from his previous opponents. The slow, knowing smile lighting his face was familiar trouble.
“You don’t need to. You’re good at what you do,” she acknowledged.
Vikar was good, but then she’d just watched him fight. Watched him stride out of the pit covered in the blood of his dead opponents.
“You want to know why I want out, or where I want you to take me?” she challenged.
He shrugged. “No. Not really.” Stepping backwards, he crossed his arms over his chest. “The hel I care,” he muttered. Hel summed it up, too—when a man came face-to-face with Hel, the goddess of the underworld, he was royally fucked. Confronting Hel might have been easier than this. “What are you offering?”
She wanted to buy him—or rather buy his services—so she could damn well tell him what she really thought he was worth. She’d lowball him, of course, because a woman like this would never have a high opinion of his kind. It was a miracle she’d survived the pits until now. And he’d stopped believing in miracles centuries ago.
“Myself,” she said. “That’s the price tag for this job.”
Lust ripped through him, and he stared at her in shock. Beside him, Var inhaled sharply. His second hadn’t expected that little bombshell either.
“I don’t do emotions.” Some long-vanquished code reared its chivalrous head for a fleeting second before he could tamp down the useless impulse. “I won’t tell you I love you. I don’t do happily ever after.”
“That’s not a problem.” The smile that lit up her face was as pretty as the ice in the frozen fjords where he’d grown up. Diamond-like and lethally sharp. “I’m not looking for love, Vikar. Just sex.”
This close to her cage, he could see the perfect strands of blonde. Smooth and sleek, her hair parted around her face, flowed down her back like a straight, pale arrow. Exquisitely ordered. He wanted to shove his hands into that heavy mass—and tangle her up in his fingers until she was deliciously mussed.
“Be sure,” he warned, and she laughed, her eyes going to the muscle ticking in his jaw. Yeah. She got to him. She made him feel sensations he hadn’t felt in hundreds of years.
A wiser man would have spun on his heel and left her there in her cage. She hadn’t been locked up because she was harmless. No matter how lovely her face or how angelic her gaze, she was dangerous.
She’d been brought here to fight. To kill him if she could.
He frowned. Looking at her beautiful, calm face, he didn’t see how she posed any kind of threat. She bore no visible weapons and, with those angelic good looks, she was no dark elf. Maybe a magic wielder, but he recognized nothing about her. Sensed no powers or overt threat. Just the intense, feminine curiosity with which she examined his face.
“What are you?”
She smiled. Slowly.
“Yours,” she purred. “If you pay my price, Viking.”
“That’s a lovely offer, but what’s to stop me from simply taking you with me when I leave here? I’m a berserker and a Viking. I take.” He wrapped a hand around her wrist, pulling her against the bars of her cage, and they both stared at the skin on skin.
He wasn’t hurting her, but he could. In a heartbeat.
And they both knew it.
“You want me willing,” she said, and her eyes darkened. “And I could be very, very willing.”
He’d never been this hot for a female before. Did she know what she was offering? How badly did she want this? He hadn’t missed the calculation in those brown eyes—or the spark of curiosity.
Deliberately he ran a finger down her forearm. “Really pretty,” he drawled. “But how willing is willing?”
“Willing,” she repeated. “You do right by me and I’ll do right by you.”
“You want me to break you out of here for a handful of words? No.” He shook his head. “You tell me what precisely you mean by willing, and I’ll think about it.”
The flush creeping up her cheeks clearly just made her mad. “Look,” she spat, “I don’t have the entire Kama Sutra memorized, but I think we can make this up as we go along.”
He might be fucking near immortal, but he’d spent most of his life fighting. The berserkers weren’t culture queens. He knew enough to pass in Sin City as human, but he’d been most interested in weapons, bikes, and boats. If this female took issue with his ignorance, she could damn well fill him in. “Explain more about this Kama Sutra.”
Her delicious pink flush darkened. “It’s a Hindu text,” she said. “Of sexual positions.”
“You going to show me this book?” Maybe the last two hundred years had produced more than AK-47s and Budweiser.
“I can’t.” She wet her lips, and he knew his eyes were glowing again. “Yet. It’s back at my ship. You take me there, I get the book for you.”
She had a ship? He dismissed the idea temporarily, wrapping his hands around the bars of her cage and leaning in. “Are you a virgin?”
“No.” She eyed his hands, like she was thinking about where he could put them. His dick got harder just imagining the possibilities.
“Good,” he said, satisfaction rumbling in his voice. “That makes this easier. I’m still waiting, baby. Waiting for you to convince me. What are you planning to do for me?”
“Anything,” she repeated.
“Just to be perfectly clear,” he asked, and the air suddenly got real quiet around them, “you’re going to let me fuck that pretty little pussy of yours? And you’re going to let me touch it all I want?”
He didn’t miss her swallow. “Whatever you want,” she repeated.
“Baby,” he said nastily, “no one lets me do anything. I do whatever I want. You willing to please both of us?” He nodded towards Var, who stilled beside him.
“That’s a generous offer,” Var interrupted them. “Can we leave now?”
“That too,” she whispered hoarsely. “Whatever you want—as long as you get me out of here. Just try not to hurt me.” The words tumbled out rapidly. “That’s the other thing I ask.”
She’d obviously heard the rumors about the berserkers and figured correctly that he was more animal than man. Hel. In the heat of battle, when he shifted and his bear half came out to play, it was true. He wasn’t one hundred percent human—and the human part was more mercenary and straight-up killer. He was a dirty bastard, no way around it.
She certainly wouldn’t be pure when he finished with her.
The noise headed their way down the tunnel picked up in volume. “Now,” she ordered, “would be very good, Vikar.”
He didn’t have time to think her offer over further, however, because more guards sprinted towards them, clearly having dug up some courage somewhere. No way would the hired muscle allow the gladiators to break out. To break free.
One hard blow with the handle of his blade and the lock on Pure’s cage broke.
“Come on then.” He held out a hand to her, and she didn’t need inviting twice, latching on and letting him pull her out of the cage.
Vikar flowed to his feet as Var got to work, cutting through the incoming with the blade he’d recently acquired from one of the guards.
Shooting his new companion a look, he put himself between her and danger. This was going to get real ugly. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
Vikar shoved his blade into a newcomer’s stomach. The male’s gun went flying as the dark stain on the uniform spread. One more bastard down. Behind him, he swore he heard Pure’s gleeful laugh. What. The. Hell.
Var shot him a questioning look as they advanced towards the exit. “You sure about this?”
“Yeah.” Vikar didn’t need to look at Pure again to know. He’d touched her, and something in him had recognized the female hugging his back. “She’s mine, Var.”
Var looked like he wanted to argue, but the fighting rage was already tugging at the male, threatening to drown him in the familiar tide of red. “So we get her out of here.”
Vikar’s shock team of berserkers was closer than blood brothers. They’d had each other’s backs, fighting and fucking their way through each sorry day in the centuries since Loki had transformed them. Since they’d lost everything and everyone. Vikar had led them all those years, directing their tide of violence and mayhem where it needed to go. Where it earned them the most coin or the greatest liberties. If Vikar decided he wanted Pure, Var would make sure Vikar had her.
He’d do the same for Var.
As the fight rolled over and around them, he got to work. This, he knew. Fighting was familiar. Fighting felt right, felt good.
“Hang on to my belt. Don’t let go. You decide to let go, I may not decide to stop for you.”
She whispered something that sounded suspiciously like No worries and Sticking tighter than a leech, and he took her through the tunnel and out.