Thunder Hunter By Rachel Medhurst


THE DYING BODY of my grandfather lay at my feet. Stooping, I transferred him into my arms, grunting as the bulk of his muscle weighed me down. His low groan vibrated through me as the battle raged on around us. The heavens resonated with the sound of swords clashing and shouts from dying men. And gods.
Thunder Hunter
Thunder Hunter By Rachel Medhurst


“Where do you think you’re going? Put him down!”

The stiff muscles in my back stretched as I turned to face my great uncle, Loki. He had been the one to strike my grandfather with his sword. Freya had managed to preoccupy him while I ran to rescue the great god.

“Leave him be, Loki.” The shake of my voice was a testament to my inexperience.

Gritting my teeth, I cleared my throat, ready to speak again. Loki, tall and thin, the corner of his lip always sunk into his cheek, came closer, his sword held by his side. He saw me as no threat.

“You are but a boy, Trygger, leave this war to the men.” Dismissing me with a wave, he turned his back to me.

If the mighty god Thor hadn’t been in my arms, I would have attempted to run him through with my sword. Instead, I moved away from him, determined to get Thor away from the heavens and back to earth. He would be safe there for a while.

“Why are you so foolish? I always told your father that he had spawned an idiot. So bloody…innocent.”

I froze, my feet almost merging into the soft grass under my feet. Innocent? My innocence had been stolen the night Loki had kidnapped me away from earth so he could torment his enemy, his foster brother, Thor.

“You may think I’m innocent, but I don’t care about your opinion of me, Uncle.” I spat the last word as if clearing a disgusting taste from my mouth.

His laugh taunted me. If my hands were free, I would have fisted them, ready to fight. My father had trained me to be ready for battle since I was a boy. When Loki had killed him in a one on one duel, my grandfather had visited me on earth to help me train to become an accomplished fighter like him. I had learnt well.

“You weaken the more you hold him. Why don’t you put him down and face me like a real man?”

It was too much. I couldn’t refuse his challenge. Laying Thor on the ground, I paused when he managed to wrap a hand around my wrist. My gaze shot to his face. His eyes were open, but the light in them were weak.

“Get out of here, Trygger. You need to live.” His strained voice was hard to hear over the battle in the background.

Gripping his fingers, I tore them away from me. “I will not let you die!”

Straightening, I turned to face Loki. He circled me, coming closer to Thor. Skipping forward, I forced him away from my grandsire, the god who had fallen in love with a human, my grandmother, Ingrid. My heritage made me proud. I would never let the god of thunder down.

“You think I’m a boy?”

I approached Loki, my bulk and height bigger than his. As his neck bent back, he looked up at me, his grin widening.

“You may look like a man, a warrior, even…but, your heart hasn’t known pain…or love. The two most exquisite emotions known to humans. And, to the gods.”

At the age of twenty-five, I couldn’t deny his claim. I had been too busy learning to fight to find love. Or, to lose it. Yet, he had forgotten one thing.

“You killed my father! How dare you say that I’ve never felt pain?!”

My roar made the smile freeze on his face. The white of his cheeks paled even more as his memory served him.

“Oh, that was just…unfortunate. I warned your father not to get involved in our little spat,” Loki said, gesturing towards Thor.

Glancing behind me, I gritted my teeth when I saw that Thor was trying his hardest to get to his feet. It wasn’t working. Loki’s sword had hit him deep in the stomach. He was losing a lot of blood.

“First mistake.”

Pain exploded in my head as the flat side of Loki’s blade connected with my skull. I flew backwards, landing on the green grass just outside of Valhalla’s gates. I had to get Thor away to give him the best chance to survive.

Thrusting to my feet, I ignored the dizziness that spun my head. Loki had moved nearer to my grandfather, but he faced me as I growled deep within my chest. He would have to kill me first.

“You’re not the one I’m here for. Be a good boy and leave me be.”

Throwing myself forward, I wrapped my arms around Loki’s waist to drag him down to the floor. He gripped his hands around my throat as I tried to pin him down. My throat constricted as he squeezed, his evil eyes boring into me as I thrashed around, looking for a weapon to prise him off. How was he so strong? His figure was lithe and fast, but he didn’t have muscles like my grandfather and me.

“Give up!” he hissed into my ear as darkness crept into the corner of my eyes.

Trying my hardest to drag air into my lungs, I coughed. My throat burned where I couldn’t breathe. Loki looked over at Thor, his grin returning as my eyes drifted closed and his face disappeared.

My consciousness only wavered. As Loki’s hands fell from my throat, he shoved me off him, getting to his feet. I pried my eyes open, gasping in as much air as I could. My body was glued to the ground, my head tight and heavy.

“This is it,” Loki shouted, bending down to Thor. “It’s my time!”

My mouth opened as a silent scream rasped out of my raw throat. Loki’s hand plunged into Thor’s chest, making my grandfather writhe in pain. His roar cut straight through me, willing me to help him.

“Sorry…brother.” Loki’s voice was full of glee as he ripped Thor’s thunder from his chest.

A ball of lightning and storms sat in Loki’s cupped hands as Thor collapsed on the floor, his body completely still. Getting to my hands and knees, I tried to crawl to him. My throat burned so badly, every time I tried to inhale, tears fell from my eyes. Were they tears of physical pain? Or, were they tears of sorrow?

“Loki! I don’t think so…” Freya.

Her golden glowing aura hit my eyes, stinging my pupils. I had always struggled to look at her when I had visited the heavens. She was beautiful, but glowed brighter than the sun. My father had whispered stories of her as we sat around the camp fire in Scandinavia. His words came to me as Freya closed in on Loki.

“When we die, Viking, we go to Valhalla. Although, I wouldn’t mind visiting Fólkvangr…for just one look at her beauty.”

I choked as I tried to speak. To shout to Freya as Loki backed away. She had to help Thor. If she didn’t, it would be too late.

“Come now, Freya, let me have my glory!” Loki snapped at the goddess, glaring at her, seemingly unaffected by the light of her.

Her long blonde hair flowed behind her as if a small breeze wound just around her. The field outside Valhalla was still. In fact, the noise of the fighting had started to die down.

“You do not get to have his thunder. That’s not how this is planned.”

Loki stamped his foot, causing the ground to shake. The power he held in his hands vibrated through him.

Trying my hardest to keep the attention off me, I dragged myself around to my grandfather. Loki stood in front of us, his back straight as he faced another of his enemies. Not that Loki was lacking in those.

Thor’s chest wasn’t moving. His eyes were closed, his blonde eyelashes touching his cheeks. My chest squeezed as the man who had taught me so much faded away.

“Give me that!”

Freya launched at Loki, catching him off-guard. He hadn’t expected the goddess of love to dare attack him. Stumbling, Loki tripped forward, almost making it too easy for Freya to catch the ball of Thor’s thunder.

“No!” Loki scrambled to his feet as Freya flew towards me.

I wrapped my arms around Thor, ready to hold him still as she put his power back. Instead of plunging her hand into his chest, she moved closer to me.

Loki ran towards us, shouting. I watched in silence as Freya’s hand rose in the air and plunged into my back where I crouched over my grandfather. My head flew back as pain, and a blast of fire, rocked throughout my chest and all over my body.

A scream echoed around us. I thought it was Loki’s but as I collapsed forward, I realised that I had been the one to make the sound. Freya removed her hand and turned to face Loki.

He was frozen, staring at her, then at me. The shake of his head was slow as his cheeks grew redder and his lips caved in on themselves.

“What have you done?” he spat between clenched teeth.

My whole body shook as I lay over Thor, my thoughts running over and over. I had Thor’s power within me. Thor’s thunder. Loki was right. What had Freya done?

“You better get out of here before I drag you back to my field. No one kills Thor under my watch.”

As Freya spoke, something shifted beneath me. Backing up, I stared as my grandsire’s spirit rose from his body. Loki gasped when Thor looked at him. There was no anger in his gaze, just sadness. Loki had finally done the worse.

“Go, Thor, I promise I will do everything in my power to bring you back.” Freya stilled Loki by stepping in front of him when he tried to approach Thor’s body.

Thor’s spirit moved away, so I threw my still vibrating body over Thor’s lifeless body. If Loki managed to get hold of it, he could burn him, forever getting rid of Thor in the physical world.

Freya’s power, a surge of light, made Loki fall back, his buttocks hitting the ground. The grunt that came from him was full of pain more unbearable than from simply falling. It was failure. He had failed to get Thor’s power for himself.

“You’ll pay for this.” Loki scrambled to his feet, glaring at Freya before his gaze landed on me. “And, don’t think I won’t kill you.”

Before I could blink, Freya rushed towards Loki, grabbed his shoulders and pushed him with all her might. The god flew back into the arms of two of Freya’s sentries. They instantly put him in chains and hauled him, kicking and screaming, away from the field.

“Where are they taking him?” I asked, looking up at my grandfather as he started to pace backwards.

His spirit was silent, not able to talk in the heaven of the living. He watched me, his eyes narrowed on my chest. Looking down, I gasped when I saw the rip in my leather top. My chest was whole, but a line of blood flowed down my muscles from my heart. Freya’s hand must have gone right through.

“Somewhere I can keep an eye on him. Today has not turned out how I expected. Thor, I’m sorry I couldn’t save you from Loki.” Freya’s eyes brimmed with unshed tears. “But, I have put your thunder in Trygger for safe keeping. I need him to do something for me.”

Thor nodded, a small smile on his face. Although his body lay dead in my arms, his soul lived on. And, seeing his shimmering spirit made the loss easier to bare.

“I will keep Loki trapped in my field until Trygger can complete his mission.”

My gaze shot to her. Mission? What mission? I went to open my mouth, but the goddess went on, ignoring me completely.

“Thor, your body will be safe under Valhalla, trapped in ice, until the time your thunder can be returned to you.”

As Thor bowed his head, his eyes closed. Freya was going out of her way to help him come back to life. I would follow her example and do everything I could to help. Including the mission Freya wanted me to complete.

Nothing more was said as Thor glanced at me one last time and put a hand on his heart. I bowed to him, ready to serve my god and grandfather.

“Trygger,” Freya said, getting my attention as Thor started to walk towards the gates of Valhalla. “You will go down to earth to find the Fallen Ones. You will kill the bastards that escaped my field and send them back to me. All two hundred of them.”

Fallen Ones? The most powerful evil spirits that had been kept at Fólkvangr, the meadow where Freya ruled. Where half of those that died in combat go upon death, while the other half go to the god Odin in Valhalla. Most of the dark souls were sent to the underworld, Helheim, when they left the bodies of evil humans, but Freya had sought to keep some of them in Fólkvangr to back her up in the event of a war ever getting out of out of control. Legend said that the Fallen Ones were dark enough to influence, and even kill, a god. However, that had never been proven.

Rubbing my chest, I untucked myself from Thor’s body and lowered it to the ground, ready for Freya to move it to safety. Standing, I faced her, listening intently to her orders.

“You will not be able to die until all two hundred of the evil spirits are back in my field again. Their escape makes me look like a weak goddess, a goddess that has failed. I can’t have that, I won’t have that. Not anymore.” Her soft face screwed up.

Freya had been tricked into a dalliance with a fresh spirit. Their passionate affair caused her to become distracted from her job as Ward of Spirits in Fólkvangr. Loki had bribed the guards that worked for Freya to allow the Fallen Ones to escape when she was wrapped in the arms of her lover.

“It’s been hundreds of years since they escaped, how will I know who they are?” I thumped my chest to stop the burning. It didn’t work.

“That’s going to take some getting used to…” She gestured to where I had just hit myself. “…His power will enhance your fighting skills. You may be able to use some of it for controlling the weather, but I’m not sure. I’ve never put a god’s power into a human.”

Freya was right. I was mostly human. My grandsire was a god, but my father was half human and my mother was full. If I was to have any godly power, I hadn’t come into it yet.

“You will know who the spirits are because Thor’s power will call upon you. A burning in your chest will alert you of their presence. Use his lightning by calling upon it to show you the way. It may take you a year, it may take you a million years. I wish you all the luck.” Freya’s bright blue eyes sparkled as she laid a hand on my arm.

The glow was easier to bare now that I was used to it. I couldn’t wait to tell my family and friends that I had met, and been touched, by the goddess Freya. My Viking relatives would never believe me. Ever.

“Freya, I thank you for saving Thor’s thunder from Loki.” I wanted to ask her why she chose me, but it was considered rude to question a god or goddess.

“You think I’m crazy. You are inexperienced. You’ve not lived much. Yet, I can see a power in you all of your own, Viking. Never forget, no matter how long you’re on earth, that you are the grandson of Thor, god of thunder. If you complete your mission, Trygger, you will be allowed to die. Upon which, your soul will live with the gods. You will have earned that right.” Freya’s cheeks reddened when I dropped to my knees in front of her.

A soft hand brushed across my head, sweeping away my long black hair that had come loose. I watched the long strands move within the breeze. The goddess Freya was stroking me. I couldn’t wait to tell my fellow swordsmen.

“I thank you for the gift you’ve given me,” I declared, bowing my head to her.

She lowered, crouching in front of me. Her legs opened, revealing pale thighs. I blinked, looking into her face to avoid seeing if her skirt rose too high. The last thing I wanted to do was offend the goddess by looking up her dress to see what was underneath. Although, I was sure one look of her nether region would send me wild.

“I’m not sure you’ll think it’s a gift soon enough, but for now, good luck, warrior. Go and hunt those spirits that are masquerading as human beings. Find them for me, Viking. Become a true hunter and you shall die and live among the gods.”





1





The Gods’ Descendants





“YOU BREATHE AS if it’s your last breath,” she whispered, holding the knife nearer to my throat.

The chuckle that moved my chest invited her to press harder.

A decade had passed since I had last seen her. Tied to a bed. Left used, yet satisfied.

“I’ll never see my last breath.”

The shackles held my arms stretched above my head. The cool wall behind me shocked my skin every time I accidently made contact with it. She had cut my shirt off, determined to bring me to my knees. How ironic that I couldn’t bend.

Her laugh echoed around the room. A plush apartment room in the middle of the city. A city full of hateful beings that crawled under the cover of darkness, pretending to be something that they were not during the day. I quite liked the décor, actually. The walls were painted just my shade of green, spring grass. The bed was a four-poster with thick curtains hanging around it. All the better to hide debauchery behind.

“This is all just a bit predictable, isn’t it?” I moaned.

Analise sighed as she whipped the knife away, dropping it on a glass-topped table. Her long legs stretched her black pencil skirt as she walked over to a cream armchair. Lowering herself, she crossed those delightful legs at the knee. A grin came unbidden as I remembered how it felt to have those darlings wrapped around my hips.

“Yes, it is rather. Do you know how many times I’ve told Father how boring it is that the humans have it so…right? You…grandchild to Thor. Me…Loki’s granddaughter ten thousand times removed.” She rolled her eyes, flicking her long black hair over her shoulder. “Just another pawn in the god’s war.”

“Indeed. How many more descendants will Loki send to try and kill me? I’m sure he must have warned you that none of the others survived?”

Her sigh filtered over to me, lifting the hairs on my arms. I would happily make her sigh in the most pleasurable way. Alas, I had been easy on her last time, allowing her to live. It seemed it had been a soft spot too many. Not one of Loki’s descendants had managed to tie me up before.

“I love it when you talk dirty.” Her eye glittered as she watched me, kicking her leg in a slow rhythm.

Was she thinking about our encounter all those years ago? I had certainly not left an inch of her untouched. The dark woman had been sweet and bitter at the same time. A mix I had grown fond of in my thousand-year life.

“You haven’t changed much, have you?”

The corner of her painted lips sunk up into her cheek. She thought I was paying her a compliment. I wouldn’t correct her assumption. The short life she would lead hadn’t taught her much. Considering it had taken ten years to track me down again, she hadn’t exactly gone to too much trouble to make sure I was secure in my chains.

“I must warn you, I’m no longer alone. My niece has joined my efforts. In fact, she’s on her way right now. We plan to hurt you. Kill you. On behalf of Loki.”

My snort was met with raised eyebrows. Another young female sent to distract me. When would Loki learn that I had tasted every single type of woman that earth could offer? A thousand years hunting, and sending back, the Fallen Ones had left me wary for originality.

Trying to straighten my back, I winked at her. “Do you want to have some fun before she gets here?”

The movement of her throat alerted me to her temptation. I would enjoy running my tongue over her supple body.

Getting to her feet, Analise moved closer, grabbing the knife in a quick swift movement before spinning to point it at my chest. I was defenceless. Or, so she thought. I would keep the game going for a little while longer. Just because it amused me.

“Where is your sword, Trygger? You were always so attached to that piece of metal.”

The weapon she so dismissively described wasn’t with me. I only ever bought it out when I knew that a Fallen One was near. It wouldn’t do to have the residents of London see me lug around a big sword in the middle of the city. Not in the year 2016, anyway.

“I don’t need my sword to kill you,” I said through gritted teeth.

It was good to let her think that she had the upper hand. Sweat dripped down my chest, grazing the muscles of my stomach. Analise’s gaze traced the movement before she moved forward and ran a finger over my nipple. The knife she held followed, tracing the scar that lay over my heart.

“I’ve heard all the legends about you,” she whispered, close to my ear. The sweet musky smell of her filled my nose as she pressed her body against mine. “How Freya thrust Thor’s thunder into you so you could retrieve the dark souls and return them to her. Loki’s fury is still strong, even though he’s been trapped in her field for a millennium. He hates you just as much now as he did then.”

A chuckle escaped my chest. I tried to hold it back, but gave up. Why should I not laugh? The hilarity rose up my throat. I couldn’t stop. Analise glared at me as I laughed so hard, I rocked on the chains that bound me to the ceiling. My bare back hit the cold wall, but I didn’t jump this time.

“Stop,” the sensual woman ordered.

Her tone was bordering on fury. Oh, but I couldn’t stop. Why would I let one of Loki’s offspring tell me what to do? I never had before.

“Make me,” I said through my laughter.

Her hand rose up and thrust down, sending the tip of her blade into my shoulder. My teeth gritted together hard, almost popping my jaw, but I uttered no sound. A grunt escaped me as she tugged the knife out, a small laugh coming from her as she did.

“Made you.”

Her phone started to ring. She ignored it for a second, staring into my eyes as I breathed through my nose. A line of blood dribbled down my shoulder and onto my chest. We both kept our gaze on each other, not daring to look away.

“That will be Chloe.”

Leaning forward, she put her nose against my neck and sniffed. The waft of perfume circled around me, almost enticing me to forget who she was. Almost.

“You better answer it, then,” I said.

The tilt of her head brought our lips closer, but not close enough. I wasn’t going to play her game, not today. I would have been tempted a few years ago. However, I was so close to the end. So. Very. Close.

“Yes, I should.” Her high heels clicked as she walked over to the window.

Looking at her phone, she paused, her cheeks draining of colour. Whoever was on the other end, wasn’t her niece. Analise wasn’t easily influenced.

“Hello?”

The tightness of her voice belayed the confidence she faked as she stood with her spine straight and her other hand gripping the knife handle. Watching her, I tried to listen to the conversation. She turned away, lowering her voice as she replied.

Glancing out of the window behind her, I watched the lights of London. The city that ruled the financial world. I had helped my father raid England back in the day of the Vikings. He had promised me that the country would indeed be great. Although it had been years since I had been back, I had to agree that the city was pretty impressive.

“No! I’m not going to do that,” Analise spat, her voice rising.

I watched as her shoulders lowered. It was always the same with these people. They were controlled by someone else. By a god. Loki.

My mind strayed back to the field outside Valhalla. Freya had done us all a wrong, technically. She could have given Thor his thunder back straight away. Instead, she chose to use his death to her advantage. How had she known that I would be able to hunt the Fallen Ones? I was just a boy then.

“It seems my niece is almost here. My father tells me that I have to wait to kill you,” Analise announced as she hung up the phone. She avoided eye contact as she went to the bed, kicked off her heels, and sat on the edge.

“Can I join you?” I asked, just to wind her up.

Her gaze narrowed on me before she shuffled on the mattress and undid the top button of her white shirt. Digging her hand into her top, she fiddled around in her bra. What did she hide there?

I braced myself, ready to fight, but when she pulled the bra off from under her shirt, I couldn’t help the smile that came to my lips.

“What?” she said, tilting her head to the side. “Bras are extremely annoying.”

“I understand. You should’ve let me help you remove it. As I recall, we enjoyed it the last time I did.”

The door crashed open, rebounding off the wall. Analise stayed on the bed, unfazed by the intrusion. I was about to free myself of the chains when an average sized curvy young girl walked into the room, a gun held out in front of her.

“Do you have to make such an entrance?” Analise faked a yawn as she lounged against a pillow.

The curtain at the side of the bed was open, but the rest of them were pulled. I liked the idea of getting them both hidden inside the cube of material.

“What can I say? I’m kick-arse.” The new female wore a long brown skirt with a light pink flowy top.

Her wavy dark-blonde hair was un-brushed and stuck out all over the place. She certainly didn’t look like a forbidding Loki descendant.

“That is not the way I would describe you,” Analise said, climbing off the bed.

“You’re just a girl.”

My words hit her in the chest. I could see by the way her hand came over her heart. A sensitive girl, too. What was going on with Loki? Why would he send such a sweet innocent normal type?

“So, you’re the famous Trygger? You look…” She turned to her aunt and mouthed ‘Hot’.

“Why, thank you,” I replied, also looking at her sexy aunt.

I couldn’t help the smirk that came to my face. The girl was young and impressionable. Surely, Analise didn’t think that the meek woman would be able to hurt me?

“Enough chit chat, let’s do this.”

Striding to her niece, Analise handed her the knife. “Chloe is going to kill you, apparently. Although, why my father insists she does it is beyond me.”

Family troubles. That could play to my advantage. If I could be bothered to mess around. Sometimes life became boring, so I had to make up my own amusements.

My chest tightened, alerting me to the presence of a Fallen One within a ten-mile radius. My current hunt had brought me to London two hundred years ago. He was getting a little less careful. Which worked in my favour, very favourably. If only I could get hold of him right now, I would only have four more souls to go.

Four more souls until my death. Fuck! Oh, how I relished the idea. Yet, the pesky descendants of Loki were determined to end me before I could complete my mission. It wasn’t easy to kill me, although not entirely impossible. However, if Loki was successful in having me killed, I wouldn’t get to live with the gods. And, that wasn’t going to happen. My place was in Valhalla and beyond.

“Can we hurry up with this, please? I need to go and…hunt.” The last word was bitten between teeth as the pressure in my chest faded.

The bloody Fallen One had gone again. Thor’s thunder had helped me track down a hundred and ninety-five dark evil souls. With my sword, I called for Thor’s lightning, which connects with the blade. When the blade slices the head off the host of a Fallen One, the lightning freezes the spirit, and a beautiful Valkyrie collects them so they can be taken back to Fólkvangr, Freya’s field.

My ending was in sight, finally. Yet, it had taken me a thousand years to get the first hundred and ninety-five. How long would it take me to get the last five?

“He’s very polite, isn’t he?” Chloe said, coming over and waving the gun towards me.

“That’s not exactly how I remember him. Maybe it’s because you’re young.” Analise went over to pick up her heels. “Get on with it, then. I want to get out of here.”

The clever woman had managed to get me into the apartment by using a hooker to lure me. I was tense, I needed to relax. Meeting her in the local bar, I had charmed the hell out of her. The barman had offered me a drink, I had let my guard down, swallowing the shot down in one go. The poison had knocked me out instantly. When I woke up, I was in the plush green room.

“I’m not that young! I’m twenty, thank you very much. He doesn’t look that much older than me.”

Chloe’s sulky tone made Analise’s eyes roll. “He’s over a thousand years old, remember?”

Something wasn’t right. My tingly senses noted the tension between the two women. Chloe, innocent, or supposedly. Analise, smooth, calm and sexy…but on edge unlike I had ever seen her.

“Just do it,” Analise snapped, coming closer to us.

Chloe raised her gun and aimed it at my heart. Her chest rose and fell as she breathed deeply, ready to commit murder. Or, so she thought. My legs rose from the ground, all my weight held by my wrists. Flinging my knees around her waist, I jolted her. As I suspected, the gun dropped to the ground as she cried out, thrashing around madly.

Analise scrambled around for the gun as I released Chloe, letting her fall to the soft carpet. Lifting myself onto my tiptoes, I wrapped the chains around my wrists and pulled with as much strength as I could. The bolts holding the chain to the ceiling gave way, bringing plaster and chains crashing down on top of me.

“Stop!” Analise had the gun in her hand, pointed at my chest.

I froze, spitting as dust and white powder floated around me and in my mouth. “Let’s not do this.”

The burn was back in my chest, stronger than ever. The Fallen One was near again, even closer this time. He obviously lived or worked in a ten-mile radius of the apartment. I had to get away from these pawns to find him.

“I’m sick of hunting you down, Trygger. I have to do this. Give up for once and we can all be happy. You said you wanted to die.”

“He did?” Chloe got to her feet, trying to shake the white dust out of her hair.

Analise growled in her busty chest, pushing out a long hard breath. It had been fun to ride her all those years ago, but I had other things to be getting on with. It was time to end the current situation.

“Goodbye, Trygger.” She raised the gun, but before she could shoot, Chloe pushed her arm. The gun skidded on the floor again, away from the girls.

“Shit! Why did you do that? I’m going to kill you!” Analise turned to her niece.

Chloe already ran towards the door. Picking up the chain I was attached to, I flung it, lasso style, at Analise. The metal wrapped around her throat, bringing her to her knees. Walking over slowly, I looked down at her. She tried to get her hands under the links to prise it away. Her face turned red as the air was unable to gain access to her lungs.

“That wasn’t very nice.”

I glanced over my shoulder at Chloe. She stood by the open door. Reaching out, she pushed it closed as she watched her aunt suffocate. Analise looked at her, eyes bulging, pleading. Shrugging, I took hold of the chain, placed my foot on the dying woman’s thigh and jerked as hard as I could, snapping her neck in a second.

The gasp that came from Chloe wasn’t followed by a sob. Why had she stayed behind and closed the door? Why hadn’t she run for her life, like a good girl would have done?

Ripping the chains from my wrists, I grunted when they came loose, clunking to the ground. The welts on my wrists were sore and red raw where I had tugged to get free. I had only been trapped for a few hours, but I needed to get out. Picking up my torn shirt, I pulled it over my head, relieved it was still wearable after Analise had ripped it off.

“Erm, well…”

Going over to the corner of the room, I picked up the gun. A small squeak came out of Chloe’s mouth as I moved towards her, the gun aimed at her head. One wrong move and she would be gone.

“Who are you? Why would a descendant of Loki be so…useless?”

Not once had I ever seen one of my great uncle’s henchmen or women so timid. Or, bat-shit crazy. They were all pretty solid fighters who knew exactly what they were doing.

“About that,” Chloe stuttered. “I pretended to be Loki’s blood, but I actually lied.”

What?

“How did you get away with that? I mean, I can see why they would question who you are, considering.” I gestured, making it obvious what I thought about her.

Her lips bunched in on themselves as she put her hands on her hips. “I resent that remark, thank you very much,” she said in a strong English accent. “I’ll have you know, Trygger, grandson of Thor, that I am none other than Chloe, descendant of Freya. So, there.”

Well, shit…that I did not expect.





2





Viking Souls Unite





“YOU’RE SAYING THAT Freya sent you to help me? What was she thinking?”

I hadn’t seen the goddess Freya since that fateful day outside Valhalla. I had no idea that she even kept track of my whereabouts considering how long it had taken me to get this far in my mission.

“Well, she was thinking what’s taking you so bloody long?! That’s what she was thinking.”

I paced the concrete alley just outside the apartment, listening to our surroundings as I tried to straighten my thoughts. Could I trust the young woman who stood in front of me? How would I know she was telling the truth?

Only twenty minutes ago, she had threatened my life with a gun. Now, she stood in the alley beside the establishment where we had left Analise’s body, telling me that she was there to help.

“I don’t need any help. I’ve done it all on my own so far.”

Chloe stamped her small foot, clad in twinkly pink things that could be classed as some sort of shoe. Her wince made me smile. She wasn’t a warrior, not like me and Analise. We were born to kill. Although, Chloe had hardly reacted when I had snapped her supposed aunt’s neck.

“As you can tell, Freya is anxious that you get these souls back to her. They’re the strongest, most powerful ones. Surely you can see that they’re not going to be as easy.” Her sniff distracted me as she ran a hand under her nose.

“As easy? What do you take me for? If it had been easy, I would have been in Valhalla a very long time ago. Trust me.” I crossed my arms and faced her.

The tilt of her head as she looked at me betrayed the arrogance of her station. She wasn’t used to being spoken down to. Did she get special treatment from those who had been tricked?

“How did you fool Analise into believing that you are one of Loki’s spawn?”

Her shrug made my back straighten. The measly woman was playing with fire, yet, she had no idea. Did Freya warn her about me? Or, did she send the poor girl to help with no training?

“Hang on,” I said, my brain clicking into place. “Analise said you were her niece.”

A small smile crept onto Chloe’s pale face. The streetlamp that filtered down the alley highlighted her messy dark-blonde hair. She was an average looking hippie type woman. Ready to try and help me kill one of the most evillest spirits on earth. It had to be a joke.

“I’m Analise’s supposed long lost niece. She didn’t know that I wasn’t of course, but I remember the day very well. Freya came to me, telling me it was time to finally find you. After so long, I almost didn’t agree. Freya took me from my life and made me join Loki’s descendants. Eventually, she replaced Analise’s real niece with me. I think she somehow tricked them into believing me, I don’t know.”

Leaning against the freezing cold brick of the building, I watched her. She shuffled on her feet as my eyes traced the length of her. The only proof I had of her being who she said she was…was nothing. Even her tactic of staying behind when Analise died could have been a ploy to get close to me.

I was about to open my mouth when a rush of wind whisked around us and a bright light appeared next to Chloe. I squinted as I pushed away from the wall, forcing myself to face her beauty. Freya.

“Trygger, it’s been a long time,” she greeted, not looking at her offspring. “I was afraid you’d never get the job done, but I have to commend you.”

Bowing, I swallowed hard as the female goddess approached me. Laying a hand on my chest, she looked directly into my eyes. She was the same height as me, which made a change to the women on earth. I had only ever met one six foot four woman before, and that had been a little odd.

“Thank you, Freya.”

I didn’t know what else to say. It wasn’t often that I was tongue tied, but the goddess surely did that to all men. She was the goddess of love and sex after all. And, I liked sex. A lot. Love on the other hand. That wasn’t for me.

“This is Chloe, a descendant of mine. She’s been blundering along nicely, but she’s here to help you. She lied about her age for some reason. Why is that, dear?” Freya turned to the now bright cheeked woman.

“I…don’t know.”

Frowning, I looked between them as Freya stared and Chloe shrunk in on herself. How often did the two meet? If Freya had trained Chloe, I would most certainly allow her to help me. No one had ever claimed to have had that pleasure. I would have died to have the pleasure of training with the goddess. She wasn’t the guardian of Fólkvangr for nothing.

“How old are you, really?”

It didn’t matter to me. However, if the goddess had mentioned it, it had to be relevant.

“Two hundred and twenty.”

It wasn’t often my eyebrows rose when a woman spoke, but I found myself staring at Chloe. As far as I was aware, there wasn’t any other descendants of the gods that had lived longer than a normal life span. The blood had been too diluted to give them the power to outlive a human.

“How can you be that old and still fight like-?”

“Oh, no you don’t. Don’t you dare make a sexist remark!” Chloe moved forward, her shorter frame coming up to my shoulder.

She could try to threaten me all she liked, it wouldn’t get her far. The crazy woman already had my nerves on edge. And, not in a good way.

“Like I said,” Freya interrupted. “She’s been stumbling along. I want you to train her. With your skills, she’ll become better.”

The goddess’s hair whipped around her face in the non-existent wind. Her bright blue eyes glistened like the sea. It reminded me of home. Or, what it used to be. Scandinavia was no longer the same. The old village I had come from no longer existed. It had been replaced by a fishing town.

“Times have moved on for you, Viking. I see that you’re sad. However, do me this last favour and help Chloe to help you…and not long from now, you’ll have your wish.” Freya leant closer, her scent of fresh meadow flowers washing over me.

Glancing down, I held back my grin when I saw straight down her gold top. Her breasts were pert and oh, so smooth. She was a clever goddess who knew how to get what she wanted.

“Okay.”

Throwing my hands in the air, I moved away from the goddess. Her heady influence made me want to do unspeakable things to her. Things that she would never agree to. As a usually sensible goddess, she wasn’t one to have an affair with a human. Even if that human was Thor’s grandson. Shame really, the tales of Freya’s ecstasy when I was a boy made it hard for me to look at her platonically.

“I can hear your thoughts.” There was a crack of humour in Freya’s voice.

Chloe rolled her eyes before glaring between the two of us. “Can you either get a room or get out of here?” she ordered.

Considering she was older than any other woman on earth, she was pretty prudish. That would be trained out of her soon enough if she wanted me to be the one to show her how to fight.

“Why has she been around so long?” I asked Freya.

The goddess knew she had persuaded me. Her smile was genuine as she glanced at her descendant. There was actual affection in her gaze. Something I hadn’t seen on the battlefield back in front of Valhalla.

“I was so impressed by you, Thor’s grandson, I wanted a warrior of my own. Of course, there couldn’t be two of you, so I choose a girl and placed her in the care of Loki’s family. They put up with her, but they didn’t have the skills…” She looked at Chloe again. “…Or, the patience…to train her.”

“I’m not that bad,” Chloe muttered, tucking her hands into her sleeve.

The outfit had to go if she was going to be seen with me. Not that I often socialised with anyone, but a warrior didn’t wear what she was wearing.

“Be easy on her, Trygger, I think you’ll find she has a lot to teach you, too.”

The goddess approached Chloe and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Listen to him, he will help you become all that you can be.”

The woman scoffed, throwing a narrowed gaze at me when I laughed. I couldn’t help it. She didn’t want to be tied to me as much as I didn’t want to be burdened by her.

When had my life become about pleasing Freya? Oh yeah, when she fucking shoved Thor’s thunder into my chest. Bitch.

Her chuckle flowed to me on the breeze. It was probably a good thing the goddess found me amusing, or my body would already be lifeless on the ground, my head rolling away from my neck. She didn’t exactly take kindly to rude men usually, but she obviously wanted something from me. That was the problem with me, I couldn’t say no to the goddess.

“That’s a good man, Trygger. Just think…a few years from now, Thor will be alive again. And, you will be dead.”

“Dead?” Chloe interrupted. “That’s not very nice, is it?”

Freya’s wave of dismissal was law. I couldn’t imagine anyone defying her. She had enough power to wipe out the whole dirty city of London.

The smell of sex and disrespect was heavy in the air. Not that normal humans would notice the darkness that surrounded them. They were too ignorant, too wrapped up in their own pathetic little lives.

“You think so poorly of your kind, that intrigues me. Considering you’re mostly human, I would’ve thought you would have some sympathy.” Freya held up her hand as her offspring went to talk. “Chloe, how much do you still like being alive?”

The young woman snapped her mouth shut. Although Freya obviously cared about her, the threat wasn’t idle. Nothing the gods ever did was in vain.

“Do you still like being alive?” I asked Chloe.

Her gaze dropped to the ground. Her feet in those ridiculous shoes, moved slightly. As her mouth opened to answer me, her head snapped towards the end of the alley. Right at the exact moment I smelt the disgusting stench of a Dark Crawler. The rotting scent surrounded us as the sound of high pitched laughter filled our ears. The hairs on my arms stood up. Dark Crawlers were minions of the Fallen Ones. Lesser evil than their masters, their spirits somehow managed to stay on earth instead of being taken to Helheim. They jumped from human to human, possessing them until the flesh decayed to the point where the human body could no longer exist.

“It’s time for you to go,” I told Freya, moving to stand in front of both women.

Freya didn’t disagree. Instead, she put a hand on my shoulder, sending a shudder down my spine. That woman was full of sensual energy. I wouldn’t mind pushing her against the wall and ravishing her sweet goddess body.

“Thank you for taking care of her,” she whispered in my ear before a rush of wind whisked her away.

“Like I have much choice.”

My muttered words didn’t go unnoticed. Chloe cleared her throat, squaring up to me as I glanced over my shoulder. The draught made the stench waft up my nose, causing me to gag. Her face fell when she saw my expression.

“Am I that bad?”

Clearing my throat, I took a step away from her, waiting for the Crawler to show itself. They were good at hiding in the shadows, the creepy vile creatures. The first time I had seen one was not long after I had returned home from the heavens. My mother had asked me to go to a nearby town to fetch supplies. Never before had I noticed the rancid smell of the streets. As soon as I arrived, I marvelled at the difference. I could feel and smell so much more than I ever could before. Dark Crawlers appeared in human form because of their habitation of the species. However, the smell of them gave them away. Humans were generally tricked by their luring darkness. Humans with a darker soul were always ready and available for the cunning creatures to seize and invade them.

“Can you not smell that?” I threw over my shoulder.

Patience was required when a Dark Crawler decided to pray upon you. They knew who I was by smell, always wanting to please the Fallen Ones by attempting to capture me. To prevent me from my mission. There was no way I was going to let them succeed. Especially not in front of Chloe.

“No, I can sense them, but I can’t smell them. Analise was the same as you, she could smell them a mile away.”

Reaching for my sword automatically, I gritted my teeth when I remembered that I had left it at home. “Shit.”

“Here.” Chloe waved a knife in front of my face. “I grabbed it off the table, just in case.”

Taking it, I scowled at her. “Be careful with that.”

Her eyebrows rose. “Are you afraid that I’ll accidentally cut the greatest Viking warrior of all time?”

It took all my might not to tell her to fuck off. She was already irritating me to death.

“Be quiet,” I ordered, shoving her behind me as the laughter came again, closer this time.

The Crawler had probably felt Freya’s presence. Her power was a beacon to those that would serve Loki and the gods of Helheim. They would feed off any light possible, just to put it out. Humans were their main source of protein. The human species had enough light to sustain a Dark Crawler.

“Why do you always have to fight? Why won’t you run?”

The slight wobble in her voice proved what I already knew. She wasn’t a fighter, she was a lover. A good soul. One totally unfit to help me with my work.

It took me a second to change my usually fixed mind. She was right. There had already been one murder tonight, I didn’t want to put her through another.

The little mare’s retreating footsteps made me growl in my throat. She had taken it upon herself to start running away without my permission. Bolting after her, I ignored the stench that promised me a fight. Instead, I caught up to Chloe and passed her.

“Wait for me!” She panted, her breath coming in short bursts.

My feet thundered on the ground, my thigh muscles propelling me forward. I had to physically stop myself to be able to wait for her small dainty feet to catch up to me.

“We won’t get away if you run like that,” I muttered.

Her wild hair flew out behind her as she rounded the end of the alley. Something in my gut told me that the smell of her would find its way to the Dark Crawler and pursuit would be hot. And, quick.

“Come here.”

The London street was empty. Chloe looked around as she came to a stop next to me. Without saying anything, I swept her up into a fireman’s carry. Her stomach pressed against my shoulder, her head hanging down my back.

“What are you doing?”

The screech of the Crawler in the alley made her gasp. I didn’t bother to explain as my feet started to move. My leg muscles pumped under me as I rushed us away from the area. Chloe had a lot to learn. A hell of a lot. If I wanted to keep her alive, I had to train her in every way possible.

My breath sucked in and out of me in rhythmic fashion. I ran on my treadmill every day, without fail. Just for occasions like this. Chloe stayed silent, just slightly huffing from the movement of bouncing around on my back.

A nightclub spewing out people came into view up the road. If I blended in with them, I would lead the evil Crawler to them, putting them in danger. But, if I didn’t, I could be running all night. I had no choice. Hopefully, the Crawler would be so intent on getting us, he would leave the humans alone.

“Go!” Chloe said when I hesitated for a second.

Listening to the woman, I dropped her to her feet, tucking her under my arm. She instantly put an arm around my waist and walked with me. Straight up to the people who milled around outside the club. A bouncer was nearby, keeping an eye on the drunken crowd.

“Hello,” one woman greeted as we walked past. “You’re a handsome one.”

A human’s base nature when drunk was appalling. Their darkness came out more, waiting to be allowed to play. The things I had seen humans do, sickened me more than the evil sometimes. But, then, I shouldn’t forget what fed their dark desires in the first place.

“He’s mine.” Chloe’s snapped reply made me glance at her as we threaded our way through the throng of people.

We left the woman behind, our steps too quick to hang around. Hopefully our scent would have mixed in with the club goers. I released Chloe as soon as we were out of eyesight of the humans. If the Crawler had followed us, he would be near them by now. They were better at tracking smells than picking up on facial features.

“Why did you get all jealous back there?”

Taking her hand, I started to jog towards the nearest tube station.

The Crawlers rarely went on the trains, although, they did like to hang around the stations. Changing my mind, I waved down the late bus. We didn’t speak as we bundled on, Chloe smiling kindly at the driver. We looked like a right pair. Me, with tight leather trousers and a tight fitting ripped shirt. Perfect to fight in. Her, with a weird get up of a costume, ready to fall over from exhaustion.

The driver didn’t even look twice as we moved to the back of the bus. He was obviously used to seeing all sorts of weird and wonderful types of people. London was one of the most diverse capitals in the world. And, quite frankly, I was becoming sick of it.

“Firstly, I didn’t get jealous, I was acting. You know what that is? Secondly, thank you for…you know…”

I wrapped my fingers around the pole in front of me. Sentimentality was not something I had experienced often in my world. Even back over all the years I had been alive.

Since the moment Thor’s thunder was in me, I dedicated my whole life to saving him. I had never allowed myself to get emotionally involved. With anyone. Not that I was feeling that with Chloe, but her sensitive ways were transparent already.

“Chloe isn’t a very old fashioned name.”

Clearing her throat, she looked down at her lap, folding her hands in her skirt. “No. I had to assume that name when I was swapped for Loki’s descendant. Anyway, it helped me to blend in. Unlike you.”

Watching London go past, I longed to go back in time. If only I hadn’t gone to the bar with that whore, I wouldn’t be saddled with a mumbling female. I would have happily had a fight with the Dark Crawler. And, then, be comfortably on the way to my bed.

“I am who I am, like it or not.”

It was a motto I had used for many centuries. Human’s understood this better than other types of creatures. When I had said it to one man, he had agreed so whole heartedly, I asked him why he didn’t try to change me.

“Because, my man, our lives are so short, the only way to live in this world is to live for ourselves.”

That man had become a very good friend. His philosophy on life had taught me a lot. I had forgotten the humanity of the world, because I had been in it for so long. Every now and then, back in the times when I still had a bit of a heart, I allowed myself friendships with interesting people. It had been a while, though. Watching those you were fond of die, over and over, wasn’t enjoyable. It hardened the soul.

“I am who I am, like it or not,” Chloe muttered under her breath. “Well, so far…it’s not.”





3





History Unravelled





“THIS IS YOUR HOME?”

Chloe’s nose turned up as she circled. The sparkle that was in her eyes when she burst through the door in the apartment was gone. It was no wonder after everything that had happened in the space of the last few hours.

“Yes, this is my home. I wasn’t expecting company.” I paced away from her, into the bathroom.

The apartment was above an old factory in the middle of the city, on the bank of the River Thames. An old church was right beside my home, just for shits and giggles. Although the church was less effective with evil nowadays, it was still somewhere dark ones avoided.

It had taken us an hour to get through the city of London. Chloe had fallen asleep on the bus, leaving me to my thoughts.

The apartment had two bedrooms, but one was my gym. I had never entertained the idea of anyone staying with me. In fact, why had I even brought her here?

After relieving my bladder and washing my hands, I re-joined my new apprentice in the living space. The kitchen area was at the back of the room and the bedrooms were up the stairs that were against the wall of the downstairs area.

“Where do you live? I was going to take you home, but when you zonked out, I decided to bring you here for the night.”

Chloe kicked off her little shoes, leaving them in the middle of the room. Going over to the sofa, she took the throw that was neatly placed over the back and wound it around herself. Moving past me, she disappeared into the bathroom without a word. Okay, then. She would apparently make herself at home. In my home. Which I had never shared with anyone, the whole two hundred years I had been in London.

“I did live with Analise,” she shouted through the bathroom door.

Oh, that was bloody fantastic. That meant she couldn’t go back. Which meant…

“I have nowhere to go now.”

Gritting my teeth, I went over to the kitchen area and switched the kettle on. The one good thing about England was the way they made their tea. When I had first landed on the shores from Denmark, I had ordered a hot drink of any kind to calm the chill in my bones. The landlady had brought over tea laced with milk and sugar. I didn’t like to let anyone know about my secret love of English tea, but I needed a cup right now.

Opening the cupboard door, I took out one of the perfectly placed mugs. There were things littered here and there, but my kitchen was always tidy. A habit my mother had taught me a thousand years ago. She hated having a dirty cooking area. She always insisted Vikings could only stay strong if their food wasn’t contaminated. It had certainly made me grateful for the lesson.

“Are you making tea?”

I had been so deep in thought, I hadn’t heard her come out of the bathroom. Her small hands held the blanket tight around her. It would stink of woman now; I would have to wash it. Not that I was against the smell of a woman, but usually, I preferred it over me. Although, not Chloe; that wouldn’t be right.

“I suppose you want one?”

Tilting her head to the side, she smiled at me. “Yes, please. I’m surprised you’re not a raging alcoholic.”

“Alcohol impairs judgement and makes men fat. Eventually,” I replied without even thinking.

The tea made, I gestured towards the sofa. If I had to do what Freya asked, we had to have a little talk.

“Thank you,” she said, taking the mug from me and going over to sit down.

I followed, gingerly lowering myself in the chair opposite. Putting my mug on the table, I quickly tried to hide the novel that sat next to my reading chair.

“Pride and Prejudice? Do you have a girlfriend?”

Coughing, I nodded. Better to lie about that than admit that I was in the middle of the romance novel. It would not do me any favours to have the girl-woman know too much about me. Especially my reading habits.

“Analise said you were a loner. Are you reading Pride and Prejudice?” Her eyes were on me, watching for any giving sign.

Keeping still, I watched her back. When her gaze met mine, she swallowed hard. She could probably see the darkness in my eyes. The hard rigid set of my jaw. So far, she had treated me as a normal person. But, I wasn’t. And, I was afraid that I would train the softness out of her.

“Have you any idea what Freya has got you into?”

“Why are you so…cold?” Her instant retort made me sit back in my seat.

Studying her face, I noted the tiny mole on the right side of her jaw. Her pale skin was smooth, with no blemishes anywhere. A lick of mascara covered her lashes, but no other makeup covered her face. The brown of her eyes was dark, almost black. It was an unusual shade to go with her dark blonde unruly hair.

“What do you know of me? What lies did Analise and the others tell you?”

Chloe sat back on the sofa, getting comfortable in my home. I gritted my teeth, holding back the urge to make her less comfortable. She looked around, probably noting the lack of television and mod cons. I was a man of simple needs. Material ideas didn’t bother me. Not anymore. I had grown too used to new gadgets throughout my long life.

“You’re a barbarian, ready to kill, instead of reason. Loki hates you because you have the one thing that he wants. Thor’s thunder. He speaks to his descendants in their dreams, urging them to find and kill you.”

“I’m well aware, Chloe.”

Crossing her legs under her, she sunk into the corner of the sofa, her eyelids becoming heavy. The girl would not be sleeping until I had more answers. I didn’t care how tired she was.

“Okay, they weren’t lying in regards to that.”

“Have you ever been in love? I mean, I doubt you have because of how cold you are, but…”

I thrust up from my seat as her sentence trailed off. Her hair fanned out around her as she pressed herself further into the grey sofa. Pacing, I ignored her flinch. I had worked hard to be that intimidating. It was a good thing it worked.

The black rug under my feet dragged under my thick boots. The slap of the soles when they landed on the wooden floor past the rug made Chloe cringe. I was six foot four with a fair bit of muscle. Of course my footsteps would be heavy. That was exactly why I chose an apartment above a factory. No one would hear my pacing at night.

“I only talk about important things. Everything else is filed under ‘I don’t give a fuck’, therefore, we need not speak about it.” Cracking my knuckles, I looked at her to make sure she hadn’t dropped off to sleep.

She stared at me, her cheeks slightly pink. The brown of her eyes looked like her pupils had expanded. If I looked too long, I would get dragged into their deep pits. That woman had some serious depth to her. No wonder she struggled to become a warrior.

“Tell me your story, from the very beginning.”

Sitting up, she pointed at my seat. For once in my life, I did as the woman bid. Sipping my tea, I waited while she cleared her throat and got comfortable.

“As Freya said, she made me join Loki’s descendants. They tried to train me to be a fighter from a young age, but I struggled. I didn’t resonate with them, you know?”

I didn’t know. In the whole thousand years I had been on earth, the only family I had resonated with had been lost to me almost as quickly as my mission had begun. I had forgotten what it was like to be close to anyone. It wasn’t important to me.

“So, I kept trying my hardest, but they soon became frustrated and hoisted me onto an elderly family member, instead, concentrating on another of their children. It didn’t matter which one killed you, ultimately. When they died, I pretended to be Analise’s niece to get back in with them.” Her voice was quiet, almost childlike.

“And, how have you lived so long?”

Putting her mug on the small table beside her, she glanced at me before staring out of the huge window I’d had installed in the ceiling. The stars twinkled, although their brightness was affected by the lights of London.

“Freya came to me when I hit twenty. She told me that my mission wasn’t complete. I had to keep trying to get involved with them. It took me a long time to be able to find someone who came from Loki’s bloodline who wanted to help me. Freya froze my age, so I could achieve my mission. I had to keep making up new stories to each family, moving around the world to avoid suspicion. Sometimes it didn’t work,” she muttered the last part of her sentence.

Leaning forward, I rested my elbows on my knees, the leather making them slide before I forced them to grip. “Did you have to kill them?”

Her laugh was bitter. “Don’t be silly. I’ve never killed anything before. Freya always stepped in. Always helped me. She really is my saviour.”

The snort that came from me made her stare. It was unusual for me to show such emotion, but hearing Freya be called a saviour was somewhat a shock. Especially after what she had done to me. A thousand years was a long time to hang onto the idea of vengeance. It was an even longer time to long for death.

“Why do you feel like that about Freya? She’s a Viking Goddess. You of all people know what that means.” As she tucked her hair behind her ear, I looked up through the glass, leaning back against the chair.

“You do know that she put Thor’s thunder in me?”

Her murmured affirmation didn’t make me look away from the stars.

“And, you do know that I’ve been down here for a thousand years, hunting the evil spirits that escaped her field?”

“Okay, so no one’s perfect.”

Springing from my seat faster than she could blink, I shot across the space to her sofa, lowering myself so my eyes were level with hers. She yelped in surprise as my breath hit her face. “Oh, but she should have been. Why now? After all the years I’ve been hunting, why does she send me help now? And, you, of all people!”

Her inhale was sharp as I stared into her eyes, trying to read her soul. What was the point in sending me someone who would die in an instant? It wouldn’t help, it would hinder.

“I don’t know, Trygger, I don’t know.”

The rush of her warm breath made me back away, almost stumbling over the edge of the soft rug. I hadn’t been that close to a woman for a long time. When I had sex with one, it was quick and never featured kissing. I couldn’t be doing with intimacy.

“Am I that vulgar?”

Her insecurity made me take a deep breath and sit down, yet again. Keeping my cool with this person was going to take some major practice. My anger was always focused. I either killed or exercised it out. Or sex. Sex was a good outlet.

“I’m going to work out, you sleep if you want.”

Leaving her, I jogged up the stairs before she could answer. As I was about to walk across the open balcony to the gym door, she called up to me. Hanging over the railing, I looked down at her. My dark ponytail fell over my shoulder as I leant my arms on the wood.

“Yes, Chloe?”

“There is one thing you can do to make this work, you know that, don’t you?” she said, pulling her blanket even tighter around her as she lay down on the sofa.

“What’s that?” I replied, keeping my face straight from the brewing annoyance.

Her yawn stretched her mouth wide, revealing great teeth considering how old she was. “Just train me to be as good as you. I could be a Viking fighter, too.”





4





Loki’s Blood Falls





“GET UP!” MY shout echoed around the open area.

Chloe jumped, looking around as I threw a pile of clothes at her. They weren’t going to be flattering to her curvy figure, but that didn’t matter. It was all about the training.

“What’s going on?” She rubbed her eyes, ignoring the clothes on her lap.

I wandered over to the kitchen area, pulling out a juice to start my day. My fitness regime had been tweaked throughout the years, but my diet of meat, vegetables and fruit was still key. Food became boring after processed food got invented.

“You want to be a warrior, get off your arse and get dressed. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Chloe held up the jogging bottoms I had given her, her lip curling into a displeased sneer. “I can’t wear these. Or, this!”

The T-shirt was long. It had to be to fit me. “I don’t see a bag of clothes with you.”

Downing my drink, I waved for her to get on with it. Instead of doing what I asked, she got up, leaving the outfit on the sofa, and put her hands on her hips. Her skirt was creased where she had slept in it.

“I’m going to collect my clothes. Then, I’ll come back here.” She went to march towards the two steps by the kitchen. They led to the front door and out of the building.

Moving to block her, I tilted my head. “You think you can just waltz into wherever it is you live? After what happened with Analise last night?”

Her step faltered as she came to a halt in front of me. Putting her hands on her hips again, she looked at me, nibbling on her lip as she glared me down. Or, tried to.

“Okay, they still live there. So, I’ll sneak in and grab my stuff. It won’t take long. When I’m back here, I’ll…”

“Oh no. Don’t think because I somehow got roped into training you, you get a place to stay. We’ll set you up somewhere else.” Slamming my cup on the kitchen side, I regarded her.

Shrugging, she put her arms to the side. “Fine by me, meathead. I’m quite capable of sorting myself out. I’ll just pop round here for my training sessions. And, then, I’ll be on my way.”

Nodding, I took hold of her arm as she went to walk past me. “I think I better come with you to get your stuff.”

Biting my tongue, I stayed quiet when she shrugged again, tugging her arm out of my grip. The woman was just as offhand as I was. Why did she accuse me of being cold, when she was so bloody chilly herself?”

“Haven’t you got better things to do today?”

“Well, I was going to find a special friend of mine to work out my…frustration…but, I can help you first.” Bending to pick up my leather waistcoat, I froze when I turned to face her.

Her cheeks were bright red and her mouth was screwed up. Apparently, I disgusted her. The corners of my lips sunk into my cheeks. I wasn’t going to change who I was, just because a woman who I wasn’t fucking was hanging around.

“What?” I asked innocently.

Her huff made me chuckle as I put the waistcoat on and did up the fastening. The old jacket had been with me since my Viking days. I had made it myself when my mother insisted I was equipped for the times ahead. She never expected me to live so long. Her parting words on her deathbed had been a plea for me to hurry, so I could join her in the heavens.

A lump came to my throat as Chloe went down the steps, leaving me with my thoughts. Grabbing the gun I had stolen from her, I tucked it into the back of my waistband. If Loki’s relatives were anything like they had been previously, they didn’t give a shit who was around when I showed up.

“Are you coming?” her moany voice called from the front door.

Rolling my eyes, I went after her, determined to start training as soon as possible. If she had truly lived for over two hundred years, she must have some sort of idea how to fight.

“So, how have you not killed a single person in the whole of your life?” I asked as we left, jogging down the steps that lead to my door halfway up the building.

Moving past the car parked out front, I gestured for her to follow me to the river. A small speedboat rested against the dock, waiting to take us up-river.

“Is this yours?”

I nodded as I climbed in, gesturing for her to follow. Not many creatures had their own river transport. It made for a quick easy getaway.

“You’re not very chivalrous, are you?” she muttered, stumbling into the boat.

I could have caught her, but I didn’t. Letting her fall onto the boat floor, I turned to start the engine. When I glanced back, she was on her feet, rubbing her knees.

“If you want to be a warrior, I can’t hold your hand. You know that.”

As I went to turn away, she replied. “Fuck you.”

The laugh escaped me before I could stop it. I sat in the driver’s seat, ignoring her cursing behind me. If Freya wanted to saddle me with someone, I would do everything in my power to make her the best warrior she could possibly be.

“Where do you live?”

She made a noise, trying her hardest to defy me.

“If you don’t tell me, how can I get us there?” Why did women have to be so difficult?

“Near Westminster.”

Her grunt made me look over my shoulder just as I was about to accelerate onto the water. The hem of her skirt was stuck on the chair. She tugged it, a whimper coming out of her mouth when it ripped to her knee.

“Well, don’t just sit there!” she snapped, bending to try and wrench the material off whatever it was caught on.

“Okay,” I said, pressing forward on the control.

The boat jerked away from the dock before gliding onto the river. Chloe screamed as she fell back, her bottom bouncing on the light blue leather seat behind her. The sound of her skirt shredding even more made me keep my eyes ahead. I didn’t want to bear witness to anything I shouldn’t.

“You’re intolerable!”

My smile grew as she hurled insults. The calm water soothed me. There was something about being away from the land that brought me peace. When I had crossed the sea to England from Scandinavia all those years ago, I promised myself I would buy a boat. I had already visited many countries by land and sea, but I had never had the means to purchase my own.

“Did you hear me?” Chloe shouted.

“Yes, you said I was a fucking wanker, who likes to wank. I can’t say I disagree. Sometimes needs must when I’ve not found a lady in a while.”

I still didn’t turn around as I replied. The smack around my head made me jump. Throwing a glare over my shoulder, I chuckled when I saw one of her pink shoes on the floor next to me.

“Good throw.”

Her scowl made me laugh harder. She had managed to finally detangle herself, but now sat clasping her skirt together. If only she had worn the clothes I had given her, we wouldn’t be on our way across the city.

“They warned me that you were cold hearted. I thought maybe they were over exaggerating, but now I see they were right.”

If I were a more sensitive man, I would have been hurt by her words. But, I wasn’t. It was true. Cold hearted I had become. Cold hearted, I would stay. And, not one person in the world had judged me enough for me to change. Or, got close enough to crack the ice.

“Chloe?” I sighed, turning to her as I set our course for straight ahead. “Everything you’ve heard about me is true. When you learn to turn your emotions off, you’ll understand.”

She blinked, staring straight at me. The chill of the wind made the hairs on her arms stand on end. The brown of her eyes deepened again, almost turning black.

“I’ll never turn my emotions off.”

Turning back to the controls, I navigated around a river-taxi. London was just waking up, the city coming to life. The lights started to go off as the sun crept up over the buildings. The London Eye glittered in the reflection of the sunrays, the pods still on the crisp but clear morning.

The light of day always made me feel hopeful. Dark Crawlers and souls slunk away during the day, leaving the city as my playground. If I needed to relax, I could find a lush green park, or an ancient building. That was one thing about England my Viking blood appreciated. Its ancient history rivalled my own.

In fact, I sorely regretted missing the invasion of 1066. My uncles told great stories of conquests by the Normans. However, I was too busy trying to capture my first Fallen One in my own country. I had been alive for fifty years when William had invaded England. Never did I believe back then that I would be in the city of London a thousand years later.

“It’s not far from here,” Chloe announced, moving to stand beside me. “If we pull in over there somewhere, I can hop out. I won’t be long.”

Glancing at her, I raised my eyebrows. She knew full well I wasn’t going to let her go on her own. Freya had placed her in my care. I couldn’t go against the goddess. Whatever happened, I had a new mission on top of the old one. The beautiful goddess had a lot to answer for.

Pulling up on a wooden jetty, I ordered her to wait for me. As she scrambled her way out of the boat, I tied it to a pole, determined to be back as quickly as possible. I didn’t like to leave my baby unattended for long.

“You’re determined to piss me off, aren’t you?” I said, coming up behind her as she stormed up the planks.

“Just leave me alone,” she shouted, waving me away. “I’ve had enough of you already.”

Her female wiles made me grit my teeth. If she annoyed me for much longer, I would abandon her. There was no love loss on my side, either.

“Where is your home?” I glanced around the grass bank, clocking the three storey homes that would fetch at least two million pounds, probably a lot more in this part of London. “This doesn’t look like the sort of place you come from.”

The soft intake of breath, followed by a slight movement made me duck my head. Her arm flew over me, missing her mark. It was stupid to try and pull one over on me. Especially when I was standing right next to her.

“Why are you so infuriating? I do come from here, actually. Loki’s family has money. Which is obvious, considering they come from a god.”

I followed her as she marched away. Loki had always been one to be frivolous. He wouldn’t allow his descendants to live in poverty, no matter how useless they were at their job. And because of Freya, I was now approaching the home of the bastards that had been trying to rid me of the world for so long.

“If Freya hadn’t turned up last night, you would be dead by now. And, I certainly wouldn’t be following you into this trap.”

“It’s not a trap!” She spun to face me, her hair hitting my arm. “I didn’t even want you to come.”

It was true. She hadn’t bothered to put up much of a fight, because she knew she would lose. Everyone lost when it came to me. I couldn’t help that. It was just a consequence of my mission.

“Shall we just get on with it? I have more important things to be getting on with today.”

Chloe didn’t reply as she moved towards a spiky holly bush that lined one of the gardens of the huge properties. “This is where I always sneak in. Stay here, I’ll be back in a minute.”

Grabbing her arm, I stopped her from disappearing into the thick greenery. “I already told you that I’m coming with you.”

Her top teeth bit down on her bottom lip as she glared at me. “Okay, fine. Just, follow my lead.”

My instincts were good enough to defend myself if we did come into contact with any of the family. They would know that something was up by now. The lack of a report from Analise or Chloe would have alerted them that something was wrong. However, I didn’t need the risk of attracting their attention any more than I already had.

“Fine.” I bit the word through my teeth as she nodded and went through the gap.

Swearing to myself when my jacket caught on the holly, I thrust myself through the hedge after her. If things went my way, we would be in and out quickly and efficiently. When I came out the other side of the hedge, I smacked straight into her back. She grunted, moving out of the way too late. Ignoring her, I glanced around. We were behind a shed half way up the garden.

“There’s a camera by the back door. I usually sneak up the side of the garden and into the side door. It’s pretty early, but most of them would have gone to work. One or two might still be in bed.”

“Do they really not care about you, then?”

Chloe stared at me, her eyes unblinking. “What do you mean?”

Rubbing my eyes with my hands, I sighed. “You and Analise are missing. Will they not be searching for you?”

“Oh, crap…yeah, probably. I didn’t really think this through, did I?”

Biting my tongue on my less than elegant retort, I pointed through the hedge. There was no point hanging around. If she wanted other clothes, she could order them online and get them delivered.

“Chloe, let’s go and start your training.”

Shaking her head, she grabbed my extended arm. “No, I may as well go and get my stuff now that I’m here.”

Was the woman crazy? Had Freya made me agree to train her because she was bat-shit insane? Clenching my hands into fists, I shook her off me. It wasn’t like me to back away from a fight, but the idea of having to protect Chloe made me less enthusiastic.

“Okay, let’s go. No pissing around, just get your stuff.”

She smiled at me, her shoulders doing a stupid excited shrug. Was she actually leading me into a trap? My life was valuable to me, but only because I wanted to live with the gods and give Thor back his thunder. If Chloe was fooling me, I would fight to the death. Their death. Including hers.

“Go, then.” I shooed her, gesturing with my hands.

Her snarl made me laugh as she went out from behind the wooden shed, straight onto the grass. Following, I dug my gun out from my waistband, holding it close to my chest. If anyone attempted to stop us, I would shoot them.

Chloe kept her attention in front of her, navigating the toys and swing set. The family had children? Were they more of Loki’s descendants? Would it be wrong of me to kill them off right now?

Shaking my head, I hid my ironic smile when Chloe glanced over her shoulder at me, almost tripping over a dog bowl. Dog bowl?

The low growl came just before I reached the same spot. Chloe instantly rushed over to the German Shepard, calming it with a whisper of her voice. He approached her, sniffing gently before allowing her to stroke him. I stayed back. My experience with dogs, although I loved them, wasn’t exactly something I wanted to repeat. Especially since I was the enemy.

Chloe gestured for me to go over. I went, reluctantly, staying back from the dog. He must have sensed my unease. His hackles went up as a growl started low in his throat again.

“Rusty, shush!”

Rusty? He didn’t look rusty to me, although his colour could suggest where they got the name from. However, he looked fighting fit…and pretty fierce. The dog stopped when Chloe reached back, grabbed my hand and shoved it under his nose. After a sniff, the dog licked me once before rubbing against Chloe’s legs.

“Hurry up,” I bit through my teeth.

There was no sound coming from the house. The dog’s kennel was to the right of the side door. Chloe ordered the dog to go into his little hut. He obeyed, laying down and staring up at her dolefully. She ignored him, concentrating on looking through the glass to determine whether there was anyone in the kitchen. She tried the door, it unlocked easily.

Did Loki’s relations trust that no one would enter? Or, was the house so expensive, no one dared come through the gated entrance? Whatever the reason, my gut still told me that something wasn’t right. There was a hard knot in the pit of it, warning me not to go in the house.

Grabbing Chloe’s arm just before she went in, I halted our entrance. She couldn’t say anything, but she glared at me before raising her eyebrows. Pointing at my stomach, I indicated that my intuition wasn’t feeling good.

“You should have eaten more before you came out,” she hissed.

My mouth dropped open. What was she talking about? Looking down at my stomach, I pressed my lips together and leant to her ear.

“Something doesn’t feel right.”

Waving me off, she stepped into the kitchen without looking back. Taking her hand, I pulled her, pushing her behind me. Holding the gun out, I wandered through the kitchen, towards the door that led to the rest of the house.

It was still silent. Maybe some of the residents were asleep, which would make our job harder on one hand, but easier on the other. As long as we didn’t wake them up.

Chloe tapped my shoulder, frowning at me when I looked at her. “Do you know where we’re going, smarty pants?”

Shaking my head, I gestured for her to go ahead of me. If she got killed in the crossfire, well, I suppose it would make life easier for me. I would no longer have the distraction.

She moved ahead, opening the kitchen door and looking out into the hallway. I crept along behind her as she headed towards a door to the right of the kitchen. When she opened it, she disappeared straight in without waiting. Aiming my gun as I went in, I sighed when I saw that the room was empty.

Closing the door behind us, I turned to face Chloe. The room was obviously her bedroom. Pink stuff was everywhere. A huge poster of an angel, her face turned towards the sun and her wings spread out behind her lined the wall.

“I painted that,” she whispered, grabbing a bag out from under her bed.

My mouth might have dropped open slightly. I had not expected her to have any talent. No wonder she was useless at being a warrior, she was too creative. Although, I couldn’t deny that the picture was incredible.

“You made it into a poster?”

Thrusting clothes into the bag, she shook her head. “I sold the painting to a company. It’s used all over the world, printed on all sorts of things.”

Well, there was something I had to respect her for. An artist with an entrepreneurial mind. I had seen many artists in my day, but there was something mesmerising about the angel. She felt like a representation of where I was trying to get to.

“Let’s go,” Chloe said, slipping a journal into the bag and turning to me.

Footsteps outside the door caused us to freeze. Muffled voices came from the kitchen as whoever passed moved into the room next door. Chloe’s fingers latched onto my arm, squeezing tightly as the voices increased in argument.

“I told you not to kill the bloody children!”

The gasp wrenched from Chloe’s mouth before she could stop it. It was loud in my ears, but did the others hear it?

“Loki’s bastard descendants have to die, remember? All of them!” A man shouted in reply.

Glancing at Chloe, I placed my hand over hers. Tears hung on the edge of her eyelids as she bit her lip. She knew, and probably cared, for the children.

“Wait, there’s two more that live here. Called Analise and Chloe, the boss said. Where are they? Have you checked the downstairs bedrooms yet?”

They were both men, their voices deep and rumbling. It wasn’t wise of them to talk so loudly in a house full of people. Well, dead people by the sound of it. If they had killed everyone, there was no risk. However, their stupidity made me frown. If they had a list of people to get rid of, why hadn’t they noticed that Analise and Chloe were missing earlier? Why only now?

The kitchen door opened again. I brought my gun up in front of me, but Chloe moved across the room and held her hand out to the door knob. A flash of yellow left her palm and wrapped itself around the metal handle. Someone cursed on the other side of the door, obviously trying to open it and getting burnt in the process.

“It’s protected by magic. They’re hiding something in there,” one of the goons yelled.

Going to the window, I dragged open the pink sparkly curtains, doing my best not to get glitter on my clothes. The last thing I needed was to look like a Christmas tree. Chloe came up behind me, waiting patiently as I slowly opened the window, trying not to make a sound.

“You try it, then,” the man said to his friend.

“I’ve just seen how badly it’s burnt your hand, you really think I’m going to grab it?”

A scream followed his short sentence, followed by swearing. The one in charge had obviously forced him to touch the handle, just to shut him up.

“Don’t let go. Hold on and turn it, then we’ll be in there. Think how the boss will praise us if we’re able to get something good. Like the journal!”

Taking hold of Chloe’s waist, I hauled her towards the window. She had a journal in her bag. Was that what they were talking about? Why had someone ordered the Loki family to be killed?

Chloe got her feet on the edge of the windowsill and jumped down into the back garden. If there were no descendants left in the house, it wouldn’t matter if we were caught on camera. I followed Chloe. Instead of taking my time like she had, I dived through the window, just as a man groaned in pain and the door started to open.

Rolling with my landing, I was up and on my feet, following the running figure of the woman who hadn’t been truthful with me. We reached the edge of the holly bush when Chloe stopped and turned back. Thrusting past me, she headed straight for the side door.

“Chloe!” I hissed, trying to keep my voice down.

“There’s someone out there!” one of the men shouted from the bedroom window.

I ducked as a bullet flew past my ear, disappearing into the bush behind me. Glancing at where it had gone, I cursed to myself. What the hell was that woman doing?

Keeping low to the ground, I went to follow the crazy lady, but soon stopped. She was coming towards me, Rusty at her side. Was she seriously risking her life for the dog?

The sound of gunfire resounded around me again as the back door opened and someone came out. Grabbing the dog from her, I shoved her behind the shed, just as a bullet grazed past my ear. Shit. That hurt.

Holding back my curse, I pushed the dog through the gap in the hedge, passing his collar to Chloe on the other side. She pulled him, encouraging him as he whimpered. When we were out, we ran towards the boat. Chloe started to struggle, her bag too heavy for her. Snatching it, I swore as a wet drip from my ear landed on my shoulder.

If I didn’t have the dog and Chloe to worry about, I would have gone back and killed them for managing to hit me at all. Even if it was just a graze. The dog trotted along, following his owner as she approached the boat.

A shout behind alerted me to their pursuit. Why the hell hadn’t they given up? Turning and running backwards, I aimed my gun just as the first man came out of the hedge. Firing, I smiled when the bullet lodged straight in his shoulder. His gun fell to the ground as his arm dropped.

“Come on,” Chloe implored as I slowed down.

I was tempted to wait for the second man, but I had to get the others out of there. Chloe was stumbling towards the side of the boat, ready to get in. Rushing forward, I scooped her into my arms, forcing her to let go of Rusty. The dog automatically jumped in when I did, following the small whistle I gave him.

“Why did you do that?” Chloe complained, shoving out of my arms and taking hold of Rusty’s collar as I dumped her bag and went to untie the rope securing the boat to the jetty.

“To hurry you up and stop you from falling over again.”

The second man came through the hedge just as I pulled the end of the rope on-board. He stared down at his accomplice before seeing that we were in the boat.

“Drive,” Chloe ordered, jumping to her feet and extending her arm towards the shore.

Trusting her, I went to the controls and started the engine. A low humming sound started at the same time as the engine fired up. It wasn’t the boat, though, it was something else. I expected a gun to fire at any moment, but nothing sounded.

Shoving the accelerator on forward, I turned to see a long golden line of magic extending from Chloe’s hand. It wrapped around the man, freezing him to the spot. His eyes bulged, the pupils expanding to encompass his whole eye, making the iris and white disappear.

“Okay,” I shouted, moving the boat away from the jetty as quickly as I could.

Checking our surroundings, I finally let my breath out. No one was around. At all. That was incredibly convenient, but I wasn’t going to complain. Glancing over my shoulder, I watched as Chloe flicked her hand, the magic dropping away. The man on the shore sank to his knees before his face planted on the grass.

Rusty whined as Chloe slumped onto a seat, her eyes closed. “Chloe?”

My shout made the dog even more agitated. He licked her hand, nudging it with his nose. I turned the boat to face upstream, checking that there were no other vehicles on the water in front of us. Setting the course for cruise control, I went back to the woman who had just fainted. Leaning over her, I shook her limp body. She groaned, waving me away, but her eyes stayed closed.

“She’s alright, Rusty.” I was talking to the dog now?

“I’m fine, I just need a moment,” she mumbled, opening her eyes.

Moving back to the controls, I sat down to process what had just happened. My heart pounded in my head, adrenaline pumping through my veins.

“It’s okay, Rusty,” I heard Chloe say to the dog. “Trygger is taking us home now.”

Home? Only twenty-four hours ago, I had been tracking the hardest Fallen One so far. I may have taken a detour to a bar to get drunk and find a lovely lady, but I was still doing my job.

And now? It seemed I had somehow inherited a bloody family of sorts.





5





A Woman and Her Dog





“HAPPY NOW YOU have your clothes? And, your dog?”

My sarcastic tone went completely ignored as the woman in front of me bent over to make a fuss of the German Shepard. It hadn’t taken long to get back to my apartment, but I had a lot of questions swirling in my head.

“Rusty is so grateful to you for letting him stay here.”

I stopped pacing, facing the woman who was now on the floor, rubbing the dog’s stomach where he had rolled over. Seriously?

“It’s not like I had a choice, is it?” The snappy response was met with a frown. “Forget him for a minute. Why didn’t you bloody well tell me you had magic?”

Her shrug was just as dismissive as my attitude towards the dog. The woman was infuriating. Freya hadn’t even mentioned that Chloe could do damage with her magical weapon.

“Freya!” I barked, startling her. “She gave you the power, didn’t she?”

Chloe huffed out her breath as she got to her feet and faced me. “Yes, she did…but…”

Her hesitation made my back straighten. Was there a condition to her power like there was to mine?

“But, what?”

“I struggle to control it. You saw how knocked out I was after I…hurt that man. I shouldn’t be like that!” It was her turn to pace the rug between the sofa and chairs. Her small lips screwed together as she absently patted Rusty’s head when she passed him.

“Another reason Freya sent you to me. I had to learn to use Thor’s magic, not that I do very often. My sword…” Did I want to tell her everything? Not really. I still didn’t trust her.

“What about your sword?”

Shaking my head, I wandered towards the stairs, gesturing for her to follow. “Nothing. Get changed into something comfortable. It’s time for your first lesson.”

I had somewhere to be that evening and the following day. If I showed Chloe her new workout routine, she would be able to keep herself occupied while I got on with my own life.

“Can I just take a shower or something first? I need a bit of time to get my head around the children’s death… I still can’t believe it.”

I stopped at the top of the stairs. Her face was solemn, she was hurting, but we had a mission to fulfil. My lips quirked as I looked down at her unsuitable clothes and messy hair. “Trust me, you’ll need a shower after. You can grieve later. We’ve got work to do.”

Her look of disgust as she grabbed her bag and went into the bathroom made me laugh. It seemed my new apprentice was not a fan of being told what to do.

Going into the gym, I switched on the light, illuminating my favourite room of the house. I might call it a gym, but it was much more than that.

The room took up most of the top floor. On one end was the equipment for exercise. The other was hidden behind steel screens that stretched across the width of the room. They slid open and closed, concealing the open space on the other side. Enforced mirrors lined every wall in the room, even the one hidden by the steel.

“What’s that?” Chloe’s voice was small as she came in through the open door.

I blinked, looking away when she looked up at me. Her hair was pulled into a bun, tight on the top of her head. She wore skin tight shorts, which were black. One colour that I preferred. Her T-shirt was pink with the slogan Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn, then be a unicorn.

The words stretched across her bosom, enhancing the message. I looked away, shaking my head at her choice of workout outfit.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” I told her, bringing myself back to her question about the steel doors. “Come on.”

Going over to the mirror, I stood in front of it, my feet spaced slightly apart and my hands hanging to the side. Chloe followed, pausing at the sound of claws scraping on the wooden floor.

“That dog can’t come in here,” I told her.

She turned, shooing Rusty out of the room. Ordering him to sit, she left the door open and came over to me. Standing in front of the mirror, she copied my pose, screwing up her face when she looked at her reflection.

“Is this what I really look like?”

I coughed, unused to feminine sensibilities. The only type of women I was ever around always looked pristine, their makeup perfect and their hair false. I hadn’t really been around a real woman for hundreds of years. I preferred it that way, too.

“What you look like is not going to affect your ability to fight.” Flexing my fingers, I studied the ridge of muscle on my bicep. Moving my arm, I pointed to it, showing Chloe my strength.

“All right, arrogant pants, no need to be so…arrogant.”

Dropping my arm, I took her shoulders and turned her to me. “I wasn’t showing off. I was showing you what muscle looks like. You see this?” Lifting my arm again, I almost shoved it into her face.

“I can see…and smell…it.”

Scowling, I turned away from her. “Fine, you can get on with it yourself. Go on, go and build your own muscle.”

Reaching up to her hair, she pulled a strand out of the bun, her eyes on my feet as I stood watching her. “I can’t. Sorry, please…go on with what you were going to say.”

Waiting to make sure she was listening, I snapped my fingers in front of her face so she would look at me. Her brown eyes widened when I stared straight into them, coming close enough to breathe all over her. It wasn’t a friendly closeness, it was threatening.

“If you want to be taken seriously, you need to start committing to yourself. So far, you’ve done nothing to show that you want to achieve your mission. Do you, Chloe? Do you want to achieve your mission?”

She stayed quiet throughout my little lecture. When the question came at the end of it, her mouth opened and closed, as if she didn’t have an answer. Not one that she had previously thought about, anyway.

Without saying a word, she nodded her head, her gaze once again dropping to the ground.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you. Stand up for yourself.” I stayed where I was, solid, strong, intimidating.

If she thought I was bad, she would die at the sight of a Dark Crawler or Fallen One. They had so much darkness pulsing off their despicable bodies, I almost retched every time I killed one. I may be a cold hearted brute, but I did feel an element of pity for the humans they inhabited when they started to rot from the inside out. That’s why it had taken so long to find the Fallen Ones. Once a human body was useless to them, they moved to a fresh one, constantly changing identities. Bastards.

“I…don’t be a bully.” Her meagre words were small in the big room. “I mean…okay, well…”

“Well, what?” I bit out.

“Get out of my face!” she screeched, placing her hands on my chest and shoving as hard as she could.

The tap of claws resounded on the wooden floor again, but I didn’t look away. If Rusty attacked me, they would both be out on their own.

Of course, I didn’t budge with her aggression, but I did smile. “Good. Now, who the fuck are you, Chloe?”

My change in tactic made her blink, her light eyebrows pulling low over her dark eyes. “What do you mean?”

“Who. The. Fuck. Are. You?” I said, thrusting each word into her face with just my voice.

Stepping back, she stumbled, but managed to keep her balance. Glancing at Rusty, she ordered him to lay down. I kept my eyes glued to her, not backing up or relaxing one bit.

“Well?”

“I’m…I’m Chloe,” she stuttered, holding her hand out to ward me off, but not actually coming into contact with me.

I didn’t move forward or back, I stayed exactly where I had been before she moved away. Her shoulders were slumped, her eyes looked everywhere but at me.

“I’m Chloe,” I said in a high pitched measly voice. “And, who the fuck is Chloe?”

Her foot stamped on the floor, a small wince showing her pain as the bottom of her foot slapped against the wood. Trust her not to put any shoes on for training.

“I’m Freya’s fucking descendant, that’s who I am, you bastard! And I’ve told you a hundred bloody times!” Thrusting her whole weight forward, she pushed me as hard as she could.

Not expecting the aggression and allowing her a small victory, I rocked back on my heels, allowing one foot to step back. The movement would give her confidence, even if she didn’t know that I had faked it.

“Better.”

Chloe’s bottom lip started to wobble. Grabbing her chin, I squeezed, making her eyes grow huge. Shaking my head, I made her look at me. “Don’t. Don’t give in to the emotion that wants to overtake you now. You’ve taken back your power. They treated you like another human in the chain of Loki’s vengeance. But, you’re not that person. You’re so much more. I’ve never known a descendant of Freya, Chloe. Ever.”

Her throat moved as she swallowed. A hand came up to my forearm and tugged me away. I released my grip, letting her stand straighter. “I’ve never known a descendant of Thor, until you.”

A bark of laughter escaped me. Rusty got to his feet and bounded over, jumping up at me and trying to lick my face. “Why is he happy that I’m laughing?”

“I’m not sure, he’s always done that to me, too. Why were you laughing?”

Chloe stood still, watching as I stroked Rusty’s head and gently pushed him off me.

“I’m the last descendant of Thor. He died, remember? Loki is still able to keep his line going by manipulating different people to do his bidding. I never had children, I couldn’t bear the idea…”

“The poor children.” Chloe’s deep sigh made me look at her. “How could they kill the children? Who were they? Why did they do that?”

The same questions had been going through my head all day. I hadn’t given Chloe enough time to think about what had happened back at the house, but it looked like now was the chance.

Leading her over to a bench, I gestured for her to sit. She immediately did, putting her head in her hands. “I looked after those poor children. I know they were being groomed to find and kill you, but still, they didn’t deserve to die. I was starting to grow fond of them…but now they are…” A sob gulped out from her downturned mouth, a tear falling onto her leg.

“I have no idea who would want Loki’s family line wiped out. Other than Freya, of course. But, still…he has a lot of supporters down here. The Fallen Ones admire him due to his devious ways… so, I don’t have a clue at this stage.”

Ignoring the blatant sniffles coming from Chloe, I marched over to my jacket where I had hung it on the back of the door. Getting my phone out, I checked to see if I had any messages from my contact. None.

“What is that tattoo?” Chloe asked between snivels as I came back over to crouch in front of her.

She needed time to grieve, but that time wasn’t now. We had to get on with her first training session so she could keep herself occupied.

Clearing my throat when I looked at my bicep, I frowned. No one had asked me that question for a long time. “It’s a rune.”

“I know what runes are. I’m Freya’s blood, technically Viking, too. I’m just not that clued up on their meaning.” At last a faint smile on Chloe’s face, her sadness easing.

The tattoo was originally black but had faded to grey. It looked like a funny shaped S or Z. It covered my whole bicep and had done so for a thousand years. I often had it re-coloured when it started to fade.

“It’s the rune, Eihwaz. It means strength and transformation. It’s the symbol of the Yew tree, which means age, endurance, death and eternal life.”

Her smile was small but genuine, her composure settling. “You’ve certainly been through those things, except death of course.”

Nodding, I rose from my crouch, going over to the mirror to stare at my reflection. I rarely bothered to take notice of how I looked anymore. There was no point. My hair, long and dark, almost to my waist, was always tied back. My outfit was usually leather trousers or jeans, depending on what I was doing. Matched with a leather top that I usually wore when I was out killing. The sleeveless ancient waistcoat type top made it easier for my arms to move. After enduring hundreds of years in Scandinavia winters, I didn’t feel the cold in London.

“Do you long for it, after so long?”

Looking in the mirror, I stared as our gaze met in the reflection. As far as I knew, she was the only other person who hadn’t lived a normal human life. Did she know how it felt to want to be gone from this world? I probably already knew the answer.

“Let’s get on,” I said, not allowing her to pry.

Getting to her feet, she came over to me, wiping her eyes as she did. I pointed to the poster I had just printed off and stuck to the wall.

Chloe glanced up at the stretching exercises I had prepared for her. “Seriously? You want me to start stretching?”

Smiling, I started to do the stretches myself. I had to lead by example if I wanted my apprentice to follow my plan. The poor girl had no idea what she had got herself into.

“You were going to say something about muscle earlier.” Chloe tried to copy the stretch on the poster above, in the end she gave up, looking at what I was doing instead.

My gaze travelled to the dog as he laid by the door, his head on his paws as he watched us. Chloe would be in charge of hoovering up the dog hair. That was not a chore I was prepared to worry about.

“Obviously, you’re not going to have muscle like me…you would look a bit…”

“Manly?”

“Exactly,” I said, nodding my agreement. It wasn’t exactly the word that came to mind, but I couldn’t exactly tell her what I had been thinking. “But, muscles are not just the tissue that line bones. Your brain is a muscle, your tongue…”

My mind trailed off as an image of the last woman who had used her tongue on me came into my head. I hadn’t meant to go on a tangent, but the image made me smile anyway.

“Okay, pervert, I get your meaning.” Chloe’s deadpan face made me laugh.

I hadn’t laughed so much in a long time. It was a shame I was laughing at a woman who should technically be much stronger than any of the women I had come into contact with lately. Even Analise.

“Did Analise never teach you to fight? Her tongue…” I trailed off, teasing her as she screwed up her face and uttered a sound nearing revolt.

“She didn’t really have time. She was so close to finding you after letting you go when you…you know…” Her cheeks flared red.

So, Analise had told Chloe about our one-night affair. I chewed on the side of my lips as I stretched my arm over my head to the side. How much had the vixen told our little innocent friend?

“I was quite happy to have a repeat of that night with Analise before I killed her. She wasn’t up for it, though.”

Rolling her eyes, Chloe did the same stretch, almost going too far. Her mouth was pulled into a grim line, her prudishness evident in her expression. Oh, how I loved to tease the innocence in her. I had very rarely come across someone so…green.

“How have you managed to stay so…?” I couldn’t think of the right word.

Innocent wasn’t completely true. She had maimed a man earlier, but she was more bothered by the children that had lost their lives. Although, to be fair, it had saved me a job for later. My heart had hardened to those who wanted to kill me a long time ago. Those goons did me a favour. But, I had never stooped so low as to kill them when they were young. In fact, I tended to forget about them until one of them showed up. Which explained why I was so slack with Analise the night before.

“Useless?”

Chloe’s reply shook me out of my reverie. It wasn’t exactly the word I was looking for, but it would have to do.

“I don’t know if that’s the right word. Emotional, maybe? Caring?”

The words that came out of my mouth made me pause in the crouched stretch I was doing. Did they just come out of my mouth? I hadn’t uttered or thought those words in a very long time. I supposed it was fascinating to me that someone who had lived for so long was still so open and willing.

“You asked me who I was earlier…and I didn’t know how to answer you. Those words…they do describe me. That’s who I am.” Chloe got up from the crouch, staring over my head at the steel doors that hid the other half of the room.

“Are you sure you want to stay that way? It’s a weakness to…”

“No! Don’t call me weak. Having emotions is not a sign of weakness. I may be useless, silly and have no idea what I’m doing…but those qualities, they don’t make me weak,” Chloe said matter-of-factly.

I smiled. Getting up from my crouch, I bowed my head to her before rising to look her in the face. Reaching forward, I put my hand on the middle of her chest, above her breasts. I quickly took her shoulder when she went to move away.

“Then embrace them, Chloe, and make them your power. Don’t run and hide from them. At least you know who you are now. Take that and train your heart out until you are a powerful, emotional warrior. Only you can do that, not me.”

I had never met anyone who wanted to use their emotions to become stronger. Shutting off my own had been the only way I could deal with the incessant dragging of time, of people I loved dying and eventually, of the loneliness. And, that was the way I would stay. But, the one thing I had learnt over the years was that any person who was going to see bad, nasty things in their life, had to use what qualities they had and amplify them to defy the odds of getting killed. Or, going insane.

I wasn’t sure how much Chloe had seen in her two hundred and twenty years, but what she was about to face wouldn’t even compare.

“Muscles?” I went on when she stared at me, her breath low and even. “This…” I pointed at the arm that was extended, still on her chest. “…is the by-product…” I put my finger to my temple, making sure to keep eye contact with her. “…of this.”

“Your head?”

Nodding, I let go and stepped back. “Your mind is the only thing that will make you strong in body and spirit.”

A small smile relaxed the frown on her face. Glancing at the poster on the wall, she moved into a different stretch.

“Are you ready to start?” I asked when she had done most of them.

Nodding, she shook her arms out to the side, moving her tiny feet back and forth, waiting for my command. Going over to the bench, I picked up another sheet of paper and brought it back to her. When I handed it to her to read, she uttered a sound low in her throat.

“Really? Ten minutes of running on the treadmill. Ten minutes on the rowing machine and ten push ups. Followed by…does that say swimming? How can I swim?”

Gesturing for her to follow me, I walked out of the room. I didn’t bother to check whether she came after me, I could tell by the click of Rusty’s claws on the floor.

“Trygger…” Her voice was cautionary, which caused me to hold back a laugh.

Leaning on the railing of the balcony that lined the top floor, I pointed through the long glass window that lined the wall of the living area, all the way to the roof of the building.

“You’ve got to be kidding me? You want me to swim in the Thames for twenty minutes?”

Looking at her with a straight face, I made sure to enforce my stance. It may be an extremely cold river, but it was effective.

“Twice a day.”

“What?!” Her wide eyes and open mouth made her look a bit like the fish she would be swimming with.

“You’re nice and stretched, go get on with it. I have something to do.”

I couldn’t be her personal trainer every second of the day. If she wanted to become a warrior, she had to get on with it. Instead of the protest I was expecting, Chloe huffed once and went back into the gym.

Running a hand over my face, I went in behind, just to check that she was doing what I asked. Sticking my head around the door, I bit my lip as she stood, fiddling with the controls of the running machine.

Maybe it was a little unfair of me to expect her to know how to do everything instantly. Moving over to her silently, I gestured for her to get on. Going to slip on her shoes, she came back, her face set in determination. Showing her the directions to set the right speed, I glanced in the mirror as she started to move. Her back was hunched over, pulling her shoulder muscles forward. This was going to take a lot more work than I first realised.

“Stand straight at all times. Why is your posture so…bad?”

Putting my hand at the bottom of her back, I tapped her shoulder with my other hand. She straightened, almost losing her balance as she kept jogging.

“I’ve spent a lot of time working at desks.” Chloe’s breath huffed in and out of her. She wasn’t used to physical exercise, that much I could tell.

“Doing what exactly?”

I caught a slight lift of the corner of her lips before she replied. “Before computers were invented, I was a tracker. I was the one who helped Loki’s family find you. I would use divination…and magic.”

“Ah, yes, your magic.”

“When do I get to train with that? They used to push me so hard, I would run out of energy before I could find you. Sometimes I succeeded. Those people who found you, that was because of me.” Her sentence came out in bursts as her heartbeat increased and her legs pumped evenly on the treadmill.

“We don’t go near your magic until your physical fitness is better. Right now, you’re a danger to yourself. A warrior needs to be agile, tough and strong. The magic will just take you to a whole new level…” Her legs lost footing as she turned to look at me. “…when you’re ready. Which is not yet.”

Righting herself, Chloe faced forward, biting on her lip as she did. It was obviously starting to hurt. Five minutes in and I had to give it to her. She hadn’t complained once.

“How did you feel about working with the enemy?”

Shaking her head, she refused to answer. Not because she didn’t want to, but because she couldn’t breathe and talk at the same time. Stepping back, I waited for the last five minutes to pass. The more I knew about her time with my enemies, the better.

When the timer beeped, I pressed the slow down button. She jogged for a minute longer before the machine shut off. Handing her a towel, I waited while she wiped the sweat from her face…and arm pits. She was as bad as me.

“I had to fit in. If I didn’t help them, it would be obvious that I wasn’t one of them. My gift became quickly apparent when they asked me to do some research to get me out of the way. When I came back with your whereabouts, they forced me to be their tracker. And a tracker I remained.” She shrugged, seemingly unbothered by assisting the people that were determined to kill me.

“And, now?”

Her frown matched my own. “What about now? Freya came to me and said it was time to leave them. I had done my job there and now I am needed by your side to help you defeat the Fallen Ones. Do you really think I had a choice?”

No, she didn’t have a choice. My own experience with Freya was filled with love and hate. She had helped save Thor, my grandfather, yet…at what cost? Was he still looking down on me from Valhalla, egging me on? Or, had he given up on me a long time ago? A thousand years was a long time to wait for your power to be returned.

“Rowing machine.” I pointed at the equipment. If she didn’t know how to work it, well, she would figure it out. “I’ve got something to do.”

Turning away from her, I dismissed her from my thoughts. My first plan of action was to find out who lived at the big house that we had just rescued Rusty from. The journal was in the back of my mind, but I would wait until Chloe trusted me. I didn’t want to push her away too quickly. Not if I was stuck with her for now.

“You’re lucky I thought to pack a bathing suit. Otherwise, you would have had to watch me walk down to the river naked.”

“You’d freeze your tits off,” I replied as I exited the room, laughing when her gasp of outrage was shut out as the door closed behind me.

Ducking to the right, I went into my tiny office. The walls were painted neutral light blue, a soothing colour for work. Sitting at my laptop wasn’t my favourite part of a day, but it had to be done. If Chloe was a good tracker, like she claimed, I could use her expertise. I was a reasonable tracker myself, but my magic couldn’t track magic, other than to tell me when they were near. So, I had to find the Fallen Ones by technical research alone.

Firing up the computer, I leant my head in my hands, taking a moment to breathe. I was used to ‘mad all over the place’ type of days, but the last twenty-four hours really were something to contend with. Never had I been challenged with training a woman or finding out who was killing my enemy in the space of a day. A part of me wondered if I could just leave the other people to slaughter Loki’s descendants. The rational part of me knew I couldn’t do that.

Typing in the address of the house Chloe had lived in, I found its owner. Analise. So, she had bought the house by herself. There was no other name on the deed. Yet, there were more people living there.

Searching the electoral roll, I found that no one had been registered there in ten years, even though the property belonged to the dark haired beauty. An image of her choking face came into my mind, but I pushed it away. Her soul was happily with her grandfather, Loki. And, she would have the chance to meet Freya. Oh, how the goddess would have some choice words to say to her.

“I’m going for my swim now, wherever you are,” Chloe shouted.

“I’m in here,” I called back.

Her footsteps padded nearer to the room, her head poking around the door. “Rusty, in here,” she ordered.

The dog wandered in, sniffing the single bed and chest of drawers. It was a spare bed, although it had rarely been used.

“You can sleep in here,” I said, suddenly, not knowing where the offer had come from.

Chloe’s eyes widened as she looked around the small cubby room. It wasn’t very big, but it was private. Better than sleeping on the sofa, wasn’t it?

“Thank you. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Closing the door, she left the dog with me. He went over, whining as her footsteps moved away. Ignoring the hairy thing, I went back to my search. If the family hadn’t voted, or entered their names on the electoral roll, they may have been changing constantly. Who knew how many descendants Loki had?

“Be quiet,” I hissed at the dog when he sat, pining for his owner.

He came over, nudging my arm with his nose. Scowling down at him, I didn’t react. The nudge came again. What was wrong with the thing?

Getting up, I went back into the gym to get my phone. I wasn’t very good at keeping it on me at all times. Rusty followed me, his claws clip, clip, clipping on the floor. I hoped it wouldn’t start to grind on me. He seemed harmless enough. A trip to the shops was in order to purchase food for a dog. Oh joy.

“Jack, you smelly bastard,” I greeted my only friend when he answered my call. He was more a contact slash business partner than a friend, but he still knew how to throw a good party.

“Trygger, my friend, where the hell have you been? I had a wash a few days ago and wanted to tell you that I ain’t smelly no more. Well, that was then…I’ve been with a woman or two since…”

His laugh made me smile. The man was a south Londoner through and through. No matter how many years passed me by, the spirit of a true born London man was as strong as ever. They hardly changed their ways, or their speech.

“I’ve been slaying demons, as usual.”

“Ah, the great Viking warrior is at large. Funny you should say that…a rumour is circling about a certain Dark Crawler living longer than usual. Know anything about it?” The inhale of breath on the end of the line made me picture the thirty-year-old puffing on a cigarette.

Going over to the balcony, I watched Chloe through the window. She hovered on the side of the river, looking between the factory building and the water. Did she think she would get away with not doing it?

“No, I’ve not heard anything. Any idea who it is?”

Jack clicked his tongue. “Yeah, it’s your best friend, Frankie. Ha ha. Apparently, he’s outlived all Dark Crawlers…ever. I heard it from Dan. He reckons a Fallen One is helping him stay alive somehow.”

How my friend got into the underworld business of London, I didn’t know…and I never asked. I had met him at a club one day, on the prowl for a threesome. I had turned him down when he made a beeline for me.

“Ah, Frankie, Frankie, Frankie. Such a son of a bitch. When was the last time someone saw him? I thought he only had a week or so left when I last saw him. Only reason I didn’t cut his bollocks off and feed them to his slaves.”

My friend laughed, choking on the cigarette smoke he had obviously been inhaling. “Don’t, mate, seriously…I would’ve liked to see that after what he did to Matt.”

We fell silent as we remembered one of our insiders. An older man who got dragged into the darkness by his wife. He had hated what his wife stood for, scared of the black magic she dabbled in. However, he loved her dearly. Instead of dragging her away, he had fed information about certain mafia plans, witchcraft dealings, and the Dark Crawlers secrets, to Jack from inside the underworld.

Matt’s wife had killed him when Frankie noticed how undedicated he was to those that ruled the underworld. They relied on humans for their light. The life-force inside them. Dark Crawlers and Fallen Ones sucked the light out of a being by connecting their evil spirit to the soul of a human and pulling the light out, killing the human. It helped with the life flow of the body that the spirit inhabited. They needed humans like Matt’s wife, people with magic, to keep London a thriving place of humans with light, ready for darkness to feed off. All she had to do was spell people to forget what they saw if they witnessed any of the attacks. The media could never pick up on the amount of human deaths in the city, or all hell would break loose.

“Jack, do you know anything about Analise Theopolis? Heard anything?”

If anyone knew anything about the whole of the dank, dirty going ons in London, it was Jack. He kept his ears and eyes open, sometimes sleeping with men and women, just to get answers and information. He loved it. The dark side of him revelled in the part that he had to indulge. His good side passed on information to those fighting the darkness. People like me.

Since being on the earth, the Fallen Ones had contaminated humans, making their souls evil while they still lived. I had to fight the evil so the innocent humans were no longer used as an energy source to either be fed on or possessed. Although my soul was pretty dark itself, I still fought to eradicate the Fallen Ones. In a way, I was the light, fighting the dark.

It had taken me a while to trust Jack with my story. He had proved his worth by saving my life when a Dark Crawler almost caught me by surprise ten years ago. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I would have been able to kill the bastard, he had seemed too pleased with himself. Eventually, bit by bit, I had let him know who I was. He was the only person I trusted in the whole world. He didn’t even bat a mascaraed eyelash when I told him that I had Thor’s thunder in me, which in turn gave me magic. And that, if you weren’t a witch, was pretty unusual in this day and age.

“Ah yes, that tight bit of arse sat on my face not so long ago.” Jack brought my attention back to Analise.

The man was straight up human. Not one ounce of magic or evil spirit inhabited his vulnerable body. How he hadn’t been killed already amazed me. Yet, he had been drawn into the world of magic and darkness. It was hard to believe that he wasn’t like the people he had befriended.

My hand tightened on my phone. “Did she now? You didn’t happen to talk about me, did you?”

“Of course not, mate, I’m closed lipped when it comes to you. You showed me what would happen if I did speak, remember?”

I did remember. After I had refused to suck him off, I had followed him to his home of debauchery to spy on him. The man was a contradiction of sorts. He wanted to help, yet, he was always tempted by the pain and horror that played out under the guise of popular city life. When I found him in the alley with a Dark Crawler, I heard Jack telling him that he had tried to get me to co-operate. His failing was met with vengeance. The Dark Crawler attacked him, shoving his hand into Jack’s gut.

Without thinking, I had run at the creature before slicing his throat with my dagger. Jack had fallen to the ground, crying out in pain as the darkness stopped absorbing his light. I had picked him up, for some bizarre reason, and brought him home to heal.

After living with him for a week, I had found out that he couldn’t swim. Taking him to the river when he was healed, I dumped him in. Eventually, when he was about to drown, I dragged him out. Leaving him on the ground, I told him to get out of my life and never speak about me to anyone, ever again. I hadn’t been able to shake him since, which in one way was a pain, in another, quite handy.

“Saying that, I’m watching the gentle…” I downplayed it, the river was a little rough today. “…sway of the water as we speak.”

Chloe finally plucked up the courage to jump in. I shivered in reaction, knowing how cold it was in there. A smile crept onto my face as she resurfaced, wiped the water from her face and started to swim up and down. Maybe I had underestimated the woman.

“Don’t remind me,” Jack groaned. “The thought makes me shudder. Do you know how damaged I am because of you? I ain’t been near water since.”

“Well, I do like to make sure everyone…”

“Fears you…yeah, yeah, I know. Listen, Frankie is having a little get together at the weekend. I’ve managed to wangle an invite. Have you ever been to his place, mate? It’s the fucking Ritz on steroids, I’m telling you.”

My chuckle made Rusty rub himself against my leg. What was it with that dog and humour? Was he put in front of a television that showed comedy shows or something? Stroking his head absentmindedly, I thought about Frankie, the Dark Crawler. He was probably the closest thing to the latest Fallen One I was tracking. I didn’t even have a name for him yet.

“Can I be your date, then?” I asked, knowing full well that Jack was hinting at that exact thing.

His laugh was raucous down the line. “See, I told you one day you’d be knocking on my door, didn’t I?”

My face was straight as I thought about the opportunity. Getting close to Frankie could be my only way of finding my ultimate enemy. Someone I had wanted to kill for a very long time.

“Don’t get too excited, you’re not my type and you know it.”

Jack’s sexuality was always questionable to me. He left everyone guessing, which was wise. Buttering up the dark people in the city made his job easier. I really had no idea if he was genuinely bisexual, or if he did it to further his cause. Either way, I was pretty sure he enjoyed it.

“Ah, come, my friend…you’d crush me in a heartbeat, which is pretty tempting…but, I’d like to live.”

His hilarity made me shake my head. The man wasn’t tiny by any means, but he was right, if I wanted to, I could crush him. And, not just in a sexual act.

“Text me the details for the party. I’ve got something to check out tonight, but I can’t wait to rub shoulders with the elite darkness.”

My tone was ironic, yet, the quirk of my lip was truthful. It had been a while since I had been able to get close to any of the group. Although they knew my name, no one knew what I looked like. If I had ever come across any of them, they hadn’t survived long enough to tell the others who I was.

“Mate, I’m telling you now…you’re going to get your end away before the killing begins. Those women are hot for anything. A Viking warrior is going to turn them on big time.”

“No killing,” I said, backing up from the balcony as Chloe climbed out of the water.

She had only been in there a few minutes, had she given up already? Moving to her bag, she got a water bottle, downing a drink before throwing it on the ground and getting back in the water. Good girl.

“Aw, I like watching you kill. You’re so graceful. Although, seriously mate, I’ve got to be there when you find the Fallen One. That sword of yours is going to look so pretty with his dark soul hanging off it!”

Licking my lips, I relished the image myself. Jack had a way with words that was for certain. He could conjure up an image in a moment.

“Friday night, then,” he said when I didn’t reply. “I look forward to seeing you in your best, you sexy beast.”

The phone went dead. Pulling it away from my ear, I tucked it into my pocket. Friday night. That was three days away. My heartbeat increased as I thought about the possibilities. I would find out where the Fallen One was, once and for all.

With one last glance towards the Thames to check that Chloe was still swimming, I went back into my office. Rusty followed me, his whining stopped now that I had paid attention to him. There was one important thing I had to do that night. And, Chloe couldn’t know what it was.

“Rusty, don’t tell your owner, but I need to go back to her house to check out the bodies of Loki’s descendants. Will you keep her company when I’m gone?”





6





Decomposing Truth





THE BLACK WATER was silent as I cut the engine of the boat, cruising it to the jetty. When I had locked Chloe in my apartment, she hadn’t been too pleased, but had agreed to stay put. The last thing I needed was her getting in my way.

Tying the boat, I looked up at the house. It was in darkness. That was a good start. No police or ambulance lights flashed around the front. Did anyone know that the residents were dead? Had they already cleared them away?

My steps were soft on the grass as I held the gun close to my chest and approached the dark pile by the bush. My dagger was tucked in a sheath on the inside of my jacket. Getting closer, I frowned down at the now empty pile of clothes. The bodies of the men had disappeared but their garments still laid on the ground. They must have been some kind of magical mortals, instead of the humans I first assumed they were.

The chilly night breeze rushed over me as I went through the holly bush and into the garden.

The shadows were still as the leaves rustled ever so slightly. The moon was high and full, highlighting the various toys on the ground. Toys that no longer had owners. Pushing away the sentimental thought, I moved to the side door quickly, checking if it was still open. It was.

Creaking slightly, the door swung open easily. Stepping inside, I checked the shadows as best as I could. Blinking, I pictured a lightning bolt. Thor’s power had come in handy a few times before. My sight enhanced as I opened my eyes and light shone from them, illuminating the room. I sent a thank you up to my grandsire. There were perks to having a god’s power inside of me.

Going to the door of the kitchen, I let myself into the hallway, careful to close my eyes to switch off the glow so I didn’t attract attention if there happened to be anyone around.

Silence resounded around me. Unless there was a very clever soul hiding somewhere, no one was in the house. Now, to find the bodies. Maybe the way they were killed would give me a clue as to who had done it.

Feeling more confident, I moved through the downstairs rooms. A thought hit me as I stood at the bottom of the stairs, ready to ascend. Chloe had said that some of them went out to work. Had they killed all of them, or was there someone out there who would come back to their dead family? Or, worse, had already come back to find them slaughtered and cleared up the mess themselves.

The underworld rarely got police involved in their business. It sickened me to admit it, but I was part of that world. People knew of me, yet, they weren’t completely clued up on my story. If they were well informed, I got rid of them. I didn’t need them to go crying to the Fallen Ones.

The stairs were well made, they didn’t creak as I made my way up. My light was in check as I rounded the middle, keeping my back close to the wall and the gun aimed in front of me. Not a single sound reverberated around me. In fact, the quiet was unnerving in itself.

The smell hit me as I got to the top of the stairs. Covering my nose with my free hand, I tried to hold back the gag that stretched my throat. It didn’t work. The bodies were still there.

Following the stench that filtered through the air, I tip-toed into the first bedroom. Blinking, I brought light to my eyes to illuminate the room. A middle-aged man and woman lay side by side, in their bed, their eyes closed. They looked asleep, but the smell of them told otherwise.

Edging closer, I flicked the cover off them. They were naked, their bodies laid out as if they were asleep. The one saving grace for Chloe was that they had no idea about their death. It was obvious they went in their sleep.

No blood covered the bed. Their necks weren’t twisted at odd angles. How had they been killed?

Moving my gaze over them, I bent down to check for anything to suggest what had taken their life. The woman’s hair was spread out over the pillow. I didn’t touch it, not wanting to make any contact with…

Something caught in the light as I moved up to look at her face. My eyes searched her neck, where a red welt stuck out from under the blonde hair. Using the tip of the gun, I moved the hair. The muscles in my body went solid.

The rune Hagalaz was burnt into her skin. It was small, only a tiny little brand on her pale skin. Hagalaz was the rune of disruption and the unknown. It certainly represented the current situation I was in. The brand was obviously magic. There were no other marks on them to blame for their death. Someone had killed Loki’s family, someone powerful enough to have magic. A witch most likely. It may have helped with my job, but the Viking reference made my chest cold as ice.

Checking the man, I revealed the same mark on his thin neck before I draped the duvet back over them to cover their dignity, even though their souls were no longer in their body.

I went to the next room. A middle aged woman was sprawled on the floor, her smart dress telling me that she was obviously about to leave for work when the men turned up.

Crouching, I shone the light from my eyes onto her neck. Yep, the same. Not bothering to hang around, I went into another room. The walls were painted with pictures of cartoon characters. Two small beds were on opposite sides of the room. The smell was just as strong in the eerie bedchamber.

Could I bring myself to look at the dead bodies of children? Taking a deep breath, I edged closer. A small smile was frozen onto the face of the first boy. If things had been different, I would probably have killed him twenty years from now. At least his soul rested in Valhalla.

A loud bang sounded from downstairs, causing me to tear my eyes away from the dead child. Someone had come in the front door. The sound of giggling drifted up the stairs as I moved into the hallway, blinking my eyes to shut off the light.

“Be quiet, we’ll wake everyone up,” a female voice whispered.

One of the family members had survived. I had to sneak out before she found me. There was no shame in killing someone who tried to kill me, it was just self-defence. However, I wasn’t the type to finish off someone else’s dirty work. Slaughtering a descendant of Loki would have to wait until another day if I wanted a quick exit.

“Are we going upstairs?” A male voice interjected.

Keeping my gun by my face, I waited at the top of the stairs. My breath was silent in the cool air. I was used to the smell of bodies that were now well into the decomposing stage.

“No, my bedroom is down here. Come on, lover.”

The door of a downstairs room opened and closed. I sent a thanks up to Thor and Freya. Even if they couldn’t interfere too much down here, I was grateful for the circumstances.

Keeping my feet light, I crept down the stairs slowly, making sure to listen for the door of the room again. The smell would hit the woman in the morning, but the house was big and spacious. And, she had sounded a little drunk. I almost felt sorry for her. It wouldn’t be a pretty sight when she eventually woke up and searched for the cause of the smell. My sentiment soon relinquished. The woman had been planning to kill me. As were all the other victims.

Sounds of laughter and kissing came from behind the door next to Chloe’s room. Did she have to listen to her cousin have sex all the time? I could just imagine that look of disgust she wore on her face. I better not bring any of the women I engaged with back to the apartment. Not that I did, anyway. It was none of their business where I lived.

My gun was still high, my footsteps still silent. Going into the kitchen, I decided that I had seen everything I needed to see. Whoever had killed Loki’s family had something to do with Norse Mythology. That’s what the branding suggested. I sucked back the snort that almost zipped up my throat.

Thor’s thunder beat in my chest as I thought of my grandfather. A weird longing radiated out from me, as if the magic inside called to its original owner. As I stepped out of the house, I frowned to myself. Surely the power could at least appreciate that I was keeping it warm for Thor.

Glancing over my shoulder one last time, I made sure to remember what the house looked like. The rune Hagalaz meant something to the people who had killed my enemies. And, if they had killed them, were they looking for me?

Or, did another god just become involved with the war between Freya, Thor and Loki?





7





Dark Crawlers of the Night





THE DEMONS DANCED with the sheep as I wound myself through the club. It was heavy, the air thick with smoke. The management didn’t stick to the law when it came to smoking. Why should they? The police that visited the club were as corrupt as the people in it.

A woman eyed me, her gaze grazing over my body as I passed her, placing my hand on the small of her back to steady her as she moved against me.

“You look like my type,” she shouted, reaching up to flick my ponytail behind my shoulder.

The corner of my lip lifted into my cheek. “And, you look like mine. I’ll come and find you later.”

Her pout, blood red from a dark shaded lipstick made me instantly want to drag her to the bathroom and let her wrap those lips around me. I resisted. I had to find Jack. Leaning down, I ran a tongue around her ear. “Wait for me.”

My whisper made her shudder. She would be able to feel the power pulsating through me. I hadn’t ever had to look for a woman to fuck. They were able to feel Thor’s magic rushing through me, calling out to them. If I were a more sentimental man, I might wonder if anyone would ever want me for me. But, I wasn’t that person. As long as I could sink myself between a pair of sweet legs, I was happy.

I bumped into a shorter man as she nodded, licking the red swell of her lips. The enticement was everything the underworld stood for. Temptation, debauchery, nastiness. All things that I had come to tolerate. Although, I kept my distance, not making any friends. Except one.

“Trygger, what the fuck are you doing here?”

Jack’s voice pulled me away from my fair lady. His hand clutched my shoulder, guiding me out of the gyrating bodies on the dancefloor and towards his private booth.

“I need to talk to you,” I replied, looking down at him.

His mousey hair was cut short at the sides, long on top. The denim jeans that encased his legs were like a second skin, exposing the line of his genitals so clearly, I had to make sure to keep my gaze above his waist every time I spoke to him. Men were not my personal flavour.

“You do look sexy in your fighting outfit, did I ever tell you that?” Jack waved away his harpies, both women and men.

I stepped into the circular leather booth, lowering myself in the centre so I could watch through the gap. There were two things I was keeping an eye out for. My luscious lady…and my enemies. If there was one thing about this club that had me on edge…it was the amount of magic encased in the creatures that let loose on their inhibitions.

“Is it safe to talk here?” I asked my friend, accepting the glass of whiskey the waiter handed to us both.

Jack lounged back in the seat, one foot up on the table in front of us. A pair of sunglasses sat on the top of his head, his fluffy fringe sticking up in front of them. The white shirt he wore had black guns printed on it. He liked his weapons, even if he didn’t look like the type.

“Well, you’re a bit fucking serious, ain’t you? Here I was, thinking that you might finally want my body, when really, you want to talk business. I thought we were going to do that in a few days’ time, my boy.”

Jack downed his whiskey, gesturing to the waiter to put the bottle on the table. Once the man moved away, I leant closer to my contact and stared at him. He was distracted by the bodies writhing on the dancefloor, the exotic beat of the rhythm slow enough to give the dancers a chance to swirl their hips.

“I can feel your beady eyes all over me, Trygger, it’s making me feel all funny,” Jack said, raising his eyebrows when he looked at me.

Black eyeliner highlighted the bright blue of his piercing gaze. The man was a typical British looking kind of man. And, the ladies…and men…loved him. And, he loved them.

“Okay, okay, mate…” he said, raising his hands in the air. “Let’s escape to a more private room.”

Wiggling his eyebrows at me, he got to his feet, grabbed the bottle of booze and waltzed out of the booth, his finger clicking to the beat as he checked that no one watched us. Following, I did the same. You could never be too careful in a club full of darkness.

“No Dark Crawlers in here tonight?” I said as we went behind the bar and through a black door that blended into the wall.

Jack waved his hand in the air, not bothering to look round at me. “No, they’re banned. Management had enough of the fights. There’s only so many times a bouncer can stop the vile creatures from jumping bodies and leaving the dead host laying on the dancefloor. Not good for the consumers when all they want to do is have a good time.”

Jack was management. Well, partly. His father owned the club, but Jack had taken a keen interest in it as soon as he turned eighteen. It had been a wonderful spot for famous people, but since Jack’s interest blossomed, it was taken over by the bad and ugly underworld. Mafia, criminals, witches and dark spirits lingered in the shadows, doing their dodgy business. There was probably a human serial killer or two, but I didn’t pay much attention to the clientele. All were corrupt, revelling in their sordid desires.

I didn’t reply to him as we went into his office. The walls were made of leather. He had designed the room himself, his eccentric tastes obvious from the metal chains and handcuffs attached to everything.

Lowering himself into his chair, he pointed at the sex swing in the corner. Its chains were attached to metal hooks that hung from the ceiling. “Have you ever had a go? The positions you can do in that are…”

Putting my hand up, I silenced him with a glare. I had much more important things to wrack his brain about. His sexual prowess was the last thing on my mind.

“I may as well down this bottle to drown my sorrows. You killed my buzz, grumpy bum. Anyway, what the hell can I do for you?”

Taking a swig of the whiskey, he slammed it back down on his desk. I sat in the seat opposite him, snatching the bottle from his hand and taking a generous gulp.

“Circumstances have changed for me. But, first, let me tell you about something I saw an hour ago.”

Jack sat back, his fingers linking over his chest. His interest was piqued, I could tell by the attentive way his bright blues stared, waiting for me to go on.

“Have you ever heard of the rune, Hagalaz?”

The slow motion of his blinking eyes told me all I needed to know. He had. Now, if my contact knew about runes, he might just know what Hagalaz was connected to. Or, more importantly, who.

His eyebrows rose as he regarded me. I waited for him to answer, even though I already knew what he was going to say.

“No, I-”

“Come on, Jack, you know me by now.” Taking another gulp of the whiskey, I grimaced as the fiery liquor laced my throat.

My contact sat forward, his energy changing entirely. His shoulders hunched over as he leant on the desk, his gaze intent on me. “You know I would do anything for you, Viking. But, this? You’re asking too much, mate. There ain’t no way you’re getting me involved with whatever you’ve seen tonight.”

As a fan of the underworld, it was unlike my friend to shy away from its mysteries. His inquisitive nature made him one of the most popular people in London. The streets vibrated with his name and reputation.

“I’ve never known you to be scared of anyone.” Getting up, I placed the bottle carefully on the desk. “Which means there’s something I need to know.”

Jack waved me away, sitting back in his seat and pretending to relax. The stiff way he held his head was the only thing that gave him away. A normal person would never feel the underlying nervous energy that vibrated in the room.

“This is not the place.” The words were bitten through his teeth, almost inaudible.

Nodding, I placed my hands on either side of the desk and leant forward to shorten the distance between us. He obviously worried about customers’ ears inside the club. It was a place that attracted witches and all kinds of dark entities.

“Come to my place as soon as you can.”

His nod was small, but his word was always final. My contact had information that he hadn’t voluntarily given me. We had been working together for a while. There had to be a reason why he had kept his mouth shut for once.

Looking at his ridiculously expensive watch, he grinned when the dim light reflected on the crystals. “Give me until day break, I’ll be there.”

The sound of pounding footsteps in the hallway interrupted our little conversation. Stepping away from the desk, I waited for the door to open. A tall dark-skinned bouncer looked straight at Jack.

“There’s a Dark Crawler here. He’s already killed two people. No one has taken much notice of him, we’re trying to keep it on the quiet.”

“Fucking wanker. I’m coming,” Jack said, swigging from the whiskey bottle one last time.

Tucking his shirt in when he stood up, he ran his hands over his hair as he made his way to the door.

“Need help?” I asked, rubbing my chest and sniffing the air.

I thought the heat had been from the whiskey. Thor’s power had been trying to alert me to the bastard crawler who had managed to sneak into the club. I was beginning to smell the fucker, and it grew in intensity by the second.

“Trust me,” the bouncer said as we moved into the hallway. “This guy’s a motherfucker. I’m not sure one man will be able to sort him.”

I chuckled low in my throat as Jack barked out a loud laugh. “Trust me, my man, this ain’t no ordinary fella.”

The bouncer watched as we went into the club, our eyes instantly drawn to the dancefloor. My chest pounded harder as my gaze searched the people that dry humped each other in time to the beat of the music. Jack would find it hard to determine who the Crawler was.

“Where are the bodies?” he demanded over the music.

The bouncer’s finger extended towards a booth. A couple of Jack’s employees were witches. One of them would have put a cloaking spell over it instantly, making it appear as if everything was normal. I moved closer to where he pointed, wanting to check the Crawler’s killing style.

Jack followed a few steps behind, trusting me to lead the way. One of Jack’s other men stood on guard just outside the booth. It looked empty from the outside, but as soon as I stepped in, I paused.

“Shit,” came Jack’s voice behind me. “That’s going to be a mission to get out of the leather!”

There were two women. Blood leaked from a deep cut in the back of their necks. Our Dark Crawler was a sick fuck. It would have taken them a while to die, yet, they would’ve been paralysed from the neck down.

“And, no one saw this?” Jack asked his men, hovering back while I examined the bodies.

The stench of the Crawler was stronger in the booth. The person he was inhabiting was seriously rotting from the inside out. In fact, he probably came to the club in desperation. After his attempt at sucking the light from the two women, he had moved on his way. Probably feeling good, just long enough to jump into a new person.

“We’ve got to find him,” I said, turning back to Jack.

His face was pale, but not from fear. The sneer on his face was because of the stain on his club floor.

“Yeah, we do…he’s going to pay for fucking up my club.”

Spinning, he went out of the booth, cursing when a human woman smashed into him, on her way past. “Sorry, love,” he muttered, brushing her firm arse with a hand before patting once.

She licked her lips as she watched him turn away from her. The stare of her eyes made me study her as Jack spoke quietly to the original bouncer. Her long legs were muscular, strong. Her whole figure was encased in a see-through tight black dress, lace highlighting her breasts and neck.

The air of innocence radiated from her, but at the same time intrigue and longing for something darker raged within her. She possessed a yearning for sinfulness. I rarely encountered her kind, a normal harmless woman on the brink of heading down the wrong path, but when I had, they were always wild and wanton. It saddened me to see the good succumb to the bad, verging on the threshold of the dark side. Their interest had been spiked and they had just started to play. They were in the best place for fun and carefree frolicking, here at the underworld club. The temptation was too great.

“Who are you?”

Her whole body jerked slightly. She hadn’t noticed me slide up beside her. Jack was engrossed with giving his men their orders.

“I’m…”

My nose twitched as the overwhelming smell of putrid flesh filtered up my nose suddenly. She smelt it, too, her face screwing up as she looked at me.

Turning, I put my hand on my dagger in the back of my waistband, ready to pull it out. A tiny group of people were close by, on the dancefloor. They had formed their own little haven of people, away from the big crowd. Heat engulfed my chest as a woman danced lazily. Her feet sidestepped and her arms hung to her sides. Her head bowed, her dark hair falling over her face.

“What’s that smell?” The woman beside me looked towards where I stared. “I’ve smelt it before, but not this bad.”

Looking at her, I grabbed her chin, forcing her to look up at me. She was almost half my size, her tiny frame minute compared to me. “Do me a favour? Get out of here. Now. Go back home to your parents and forget this world. If you can’t do that…if and when you smell this smell again, stay away. Far, far away. Run for your life.”

Without saying another word, I nodded at Jack, who watched me from behind, and thrust into the crowd. Blending in with the dancers, I lost myself, circling behind the small group. The Dark Crawler was in a woman’s body, ready to jump into her next victim.

Luckily, the spirit would be so wrapped up in the enticement of being in a fitter body, it wouldn’t take much notice of me. They got careless when they were ready to switch. Their senses were so dulled by the dying body of the host, they became weak. And, that’s why they were so easy to kill.

The song changed, but the style of dancing continued. Taking my dagger from its hidden place, I wound myself into the group. The thumping of my whole being increased as the stench went ignored. Calling on Thor’s thunder, I stamped my foot.

The ground shook gently, shocking everyone into looking around to see what was going on. Stepping lightly, I spun around the person blocking me from the Crawler. One hand wrapped around the host’s arm, ducking her down with me, in the pretence of protecting her. The other brought my dagger up, plunging it straight into her throat, severing the jugular.

Letting her go, I stepped away, stooping towards the ground, worming through the people who still looked at each other in total astonishment as the ground shook. My dagger was tucked back in its safe space. The wet slide of blood on the blade moved against the skin on my back, but my job here was done.

“Thanks, mate,” Jack said as I escaped the throng of people.

He stood by the exit, holding the door open. The blackness of the hallway swallowed us as we left the room.

“Has he really gone? It didn’t just hop into some other poor fucker’s body, did it?”

My steps were quick as we rushed down the hall, towards the exit. Jack clapped a hand on my shoulder, pointing towards a side door.

Diving through the artist’s entrance, I glanced behind me before I reached the outside door. “All of my weapons are full of Thor’s power, the dagger sent the spirit back to Freya. It is done.”

His nod was quick as he gestured for me to leave. “Dawn. We’ll speak then. Seems I bloody owe you one now, fella.”





8





The Hagalaz Cult





“BE QUIET, YOU’LL wake up Chloe,” I said quietly as I let Jack into the apartment.

It had been five hours since I had left the man in his club to clean up my mess. And it had been pretty messy. At least he had bouncers that were skilled with magical powers. They weren’t just brawn, they were handy with their witchcraft and cunning. Jack couldn’t exactly run a club for the wonderfully powerful underground elite without having a witch or two of his own to run the joint. One of them would’ve cloaked my kill in the middle of the dancefloor.

“Chloe? Who the hell is Chloe? Don’t tell me you’ve finally shacked up with someone after all these years? I won’t bloody believe it, trust me.”

Rubbing my damp hair with a towel, I pointed to the sofa. “No, I’ve not shacked up…god, you’re so…British.”

Going to the sofa, Jack laid down, his head resting against the arm near my end so he could look out over the river Thames.

“That’s because, my friend, I am a mighty Brit…as are you.”

Snorting, I made a cup of tea, brushing my hair roughly while I waited for the kettle to boil. There was not an ounce of British in me. My Viking blood was still as pure as it had been back when the gods still conversed with man. Oh, I missed that time much more when I spent time with the likes of Jack.

“Don’t go getting your girly hair in my brew,” Jack bleated, when he glanced over at me.

Tying up my hair, I flipped him off. “If you’re not careful, I’ll spit in it. And, keep the noise down.”

I had washed off the stink and blood of the Dark Crawler as soon as I had walked into the apartment. The last thing I needed was questions from Chloe and the dog sniffing my clothes. The small dagger had been safely put in the locked up room for cleansing.

“I think you’re giving me BS. You’re just sick of my voice, ain’t you?”

Taking him his tea, I almost spilled it when he sat up suddenly, flicking his sunglasses over his eyes when the sun came out from behind a cloud and beamed straight in through the windows.

“Geez, you need some blinds, mate.”

“Trygger?” Chloe’s sleepy voice echoed over the balcony.

It seemed she had been woken by my friend’s rabbiting on. He gasped when he heard the feminine voice, spilling his tea all over himself. Cursing, he jumped to his feet, brushing the hot liquid on his jeans.

Rolling my eyes, I went back over to the kitchen counter and made up another mug. Chloe’s footsteps were followed by sharp claw tip-tapping coming down the stairs.

“Who the…erm, who are you?” Jack asked as she came to stand in front of him.

Chloe’s dark blonde hair was wavy and unruffled. I had been surprised by how soft it looked after a wash. Although, she no longer looked like the crazy-arsed descendant of Freya.

She looked up at Jack, although he wasn’t much taller than her. Rusty moved between them, sitting at her feet. Protecting her.

“A dog? What the fuck, man! What have you done with my friend?” He looked at me as I brought Chloe’s drink over, not saying a word when I slipped it into her hand.

She smiled a thanks, bending down to unconsciously stroke Rusty’s head. “I’m Chloe. Who are you?”

I had debated whether to send her back to bed, but she needed to know what happened to her family. If Jack had information on their deaths, it might help her to get over it quickly so she could shut that emotion down.

“I’m Jack Newton, best friends with Tyrgger Odinson. And, you…are a bloody woman.”

Clearing my throat, I widened my eyes at my friend. It wasn’t polite to swear in front of women. Especially not women like Chloe. She wasn’t anything like the women we were used to.

“I’m sorry, you’re a bleeping woman!”

Shaking her head, Chloe lowered herself into one of the chairs, tucking her legs under her and cupping her mug. “Last time I checked, I was a woman.”

“Oh, yeah? When did you last check? Did you use a mirror or your fingers?”

Shooting forward, I slapped Jack’s head, pointing for him to sit down. “Don’t,” I warned.

My contact laid back down again, putting his sunglasses over his eyes. He had removed them to get a better look at the first woman he had ever seen in my home. Taking the last seat, I looked at Chloe, who was watching Jack closely, her brown-eyed stare sizing him up.

“Jack is my contact, Chloe. He’s the only person in the world I trust completely. Even if he’s an idiot sometimes.”

“Idiot? I’ll have you know, I’m very intelligent. How else do you think I got most of London under the dirty nail of my thumb?”

It was unusual for my friend to blank a woman, especially a pure one. When you lived in the dark, a fresh piece of light could be extremely enticing. Chloe wasn’t Jack’s usual type, her ignorance was a little too obvious, but he would usually appreciate her all the same.

“So, you’re proud of your immoral ways?” Chloe’s tone was sharp, her tongue even sharper.

The corner of my lip quirked when Jack raised his sunglasses, turned his head to look at her and winked.

“Oh, yes, miss high and mighty, I is well proud of my ways, I tell you.”

Downing the rest of my tea in one gulp, I slammed my mug on the table beside me. Both of them jumped. Rusty came over to me, his nose nudging the hand that rested on my thigh.

“Why does he do that?” I asked Chloe, changing the subject.

Her laugh was short, but she quickly cleared her face when I frowned. “He wants you to stroke him.”

Waving the dog away, I ignored him when he padded over to Chloe and laid down in front of her. At least I wouldn’t be the only person trying to protect the woman.

“Right, Jack, I’m ready.”

“Ready for what?” Chloe intervened as Jack waved his hand, indicating that he was listening.

Gritting my teeth, I supposed that I had better tell her what had happened at the house. It would be a test on her sensibilities and how she handled death.

“I went back to your house last night,” I started.

“You went back there without telling me?!” Her anger and perplexity was evident.

“Your family were still there…”

“What? I thought…” Her sentence trailed off when my meaning dawned on her.

“I checked them over and found a rune branded onto their necks. I have no doubt it was magic that killed them. The rune was Hagalaz, the rune of disruption.”

Jack sat up, his bright gaze boring into me. Gesturing for me to go on, he didn’t even look at Chloe when she swallowed loudly, the gulp filling the room.

Glancing at her, I waited. Her eyes brimmed with tears, her cheeks the same cream shade of the throw on the back of my sofa.

“When I was there, someone came home. She had male company, so she was too preoccupied to investigate the house. She’s probably waking up to find them now.”

“That will be Amy, she’s always hooking up with some dude. Doesn’t surprise me that she was so wrapped up in herself she didn’t even notice that her whole family were…slaughtered…” Her face darkened at the thought.

“Dude? Where are you from, America?” Jack broke his concentration enough to glance at the woman who was much, much older than him.

Chloe sipped her tea before answering. “Yes, for a while I was American.”

I stifled the grin that came to my face when the born and bred London boy lifted his nose in the air and faced away from her. What was wrong with the man? He was one of the most influential people in his city, yet, a slip of girl was making him feel inferior.

Chloe blinked rapidly, clearing her face of any emotion and trying to wipe her eyes discreetly. She could play it hard, but the news was hurting her more than she cared to admit. We weren’t exactly the sympathetic type for her to grieve with.

“Anyway, I got away from the house with no problems. Jack, last night when I came to you, I could tell that you knew something about the rune Hagalaz. Can you tell me now? I have to know. It’s a major clue as to who slaughtered Loki’s descendants.”

“How do you know you can trust him?” Chloe interrupted angrily, untucking her legs as she sat forward.

Her feet knocked Rusty, which made him jump up on guard. He looked between Jack and myself, weighing up any threat. When he didn’t see any, he slumped back down again.

“Chloe, I almost ordered you back to bed…the least you can do is trust me.”

“Ordered?” Her cheeks flushed red, her anger fuelling as she put her mug down and faced me.

Crossing my arms over my chest, I sat back in my seat and looked at Jack, ignoring the feminine wiles.

“I may have heard a thing or two being whispered. The word Hagalaz has been breathed into my ear once or twice.” Jack’s demeanour was serious, his face straight as he spoke to me. “I didn’t say anything to you because I assumed it was another fake cult starting up.”

“Cult?” Chloe cut in.

“I’m sorry, but what’s she got to do with it, Thunder Hunter?” Jack asked me.

My breath inhaled quickly as her gaze flew to me. No one had called me by my nickname in a long time. Jack knew that.

“She’s my guest, you’ll treat her with respect.” I would not tell Jack exactly who Chloe was.

Although I trusted him, if word got out that a descendant of Freya existed there would be an uproar. Everyone would want to find her, assuming she was as beautiful and powerful as the goddess herself. A lot of people had heard legends about me, but not many actually knew I really existed. Keeping a low profile had helped people forget about me.

“You’re right, mate. I’m sorry, Chloe, I don’t usually disrespect hot ladies. Trygger is my man, I’m just looking out for him.” Jack got up from the sofa to approach Chloe.

Rusty got to his feet, a low growl rumbling from his chest. I couldn’t help the laugh that rattled my own chest when Jack retreated, the back of his legs bumping into the sofa. His arse landed on the leather as the impact made him fall.

“Thank you,” Chloe said, waving away his advance. “Let’s get back to the cult.”

Nodding, I raised my eyebrows at Jack. He winked at me, his gaze going back to travel over Chloe now that the tension had broken.

“So, what did you hear about Hagalaz?”

Jack shuffled into a more comfortable position, pulling his stupidly tight jeans from his crotch. Chloe averted her eyes. He had been watching her the whole time he did it. Was he sizing her up? Or, did he fancy her?

Snapping my fingers, I got his attention. Many other men would have blushed or apologised, but not Jack. He wasn’t sorry for anything.

“When I was giving it to…”

Clearing my throat, I glared at him. “We have a lady present.”

“Oh, please don’t hold back on my account, this is teaching me a lot.” Chloe stared at Jack, her gaze mesmerised by the dark human.

“Good, I like to be of service when I can. I ain’t the sort to hold back, am I, Trygger?”

Gesturing for him to go on, I linked my fingers and placed them over my chest, relaxing in my seat.

“I was giving it to a lovely lady when she screamed some other man’s name. It was unusual, so when we finished, I asked her who he was. You know me, I’m prone to giving a person a good time, so they come over all soft and loving. She told me that someone had asked her to join a group. She was a pretty powerful witch, mind you. I forgot to mention that bit.”

I said nothing as Jack looked between Chloe and me. His gaze was distant, as if he was reliving the night he spoke about. How he could remember baffled me. Every night was a new person, a new experience for him.

“So, I probed further, after other further probing, if you get what I mean.” He winked, looking deflated when neither of us responded. “And, she said that there was a group hiring magical people to help them. They called themselves Hagalaz.”

“Did she say what she was helping them with?”

Jack shook his head, putting his hand up to check that his sunglasses were still in place. “Nah, I tried to worm it out of her, but she clammed up. Bloody witches, they’re a pain in the arse.”

“Why?” Chloe asked.

Did she know nothing of the underworld? How had she lived in it for so long and not know why witches were a pain?

“You don’t look like the type to sleep with a witch, so I’ll give you a pass for that question,” Jack said, getting to his feet. “My bed calls, my sexy people, it’s time I was going. I’ll keep an ear open for more info on this group.”

In one swift movement, I was on my feet. Following Jack to the front door, I nudged him in the back.

“Oh, I ain’t used to there being someone else here. See ya later, Chloe, you sexy thing you,” Jack called back, blowing her a kiss.

Her cheeks went pink as he turned away and winked at me. If he carried on, I would plunge my knife into that eye. The poor girl was in training, she didn’t need the likes of Jack around her. Even though the men in the underworld were ten times worse.

“I’ll do my research, my lovely,” Jack told me as he opened the door.

The cool air wafted in as he stepped onto the steps leading down the side of the building. He would’ve had a cloaking spell on him since he left his club. I would never forgive him if he had been tracked to my home. He was a popular boy, so many people tried to follow him. Luckily, one of his witchy shag partners had protected him a while ago with a cloaking spell.

“Thanks, Jack. Be careful.”

He saluted me before trotting down the stairs, humming to himself as he went. Closing the door, I went back to the living room. Chloe wasn’t there, nor was Rusty. Going to the stairs, I smiled to myself. The sound of the treadmill came from upstairs.

Taking the steps two at a time, I joined her in the gym. She kept her concentration when I walked up to stand in front of her. Sweat already beaded on her top lip. The speed she went was faster than I had shown her the day before.

“You might want to slow down a bit,” I said, going to reach for the controls.

She smacked my hand away, a smile coming to her face when I frowned. “It’s fine, I’m feeling fantastic.”

Oh yeah? She was going to be the rebel. Pushing herself to make her body stronger. What a lesson she had to learn. And, I would let her learn it.

“I want to do some other training when you’ve finished this,” I said, retreating to go into my secret room.

“What’s in there?” Chloe called, as she noticed me heading for the steel doors.

Rusty walked with me, sniffing under the line of the metal wall. When he looked up at me, I froze. As our gaze made contact, my feet literally glued to the floor. The intensity of his stare suggested he had power over me. I was simply paralysed to the floor.

“What the hell?” I muttered to myself.

The dog continued to stare at me, his eyes intent and intense, his body rigid. He sat slowly, his back-end gently resting itself on the wooden floor. I tried to move my foot, but I couldn’t. Pulling on the muscles of my arms, I groaned in frustration when it stayed by my side.

“Why didn’t you tell me you had a dog that possessed magic?”

Chloe’s footsteps slowed, the machine cutting off before she came over. Watching us both, she walked around us, studying our positions. “I didn’t know.”

It was true, I could hear it in the tone of her voice. Wonder. Disbelief. How that woman had no clue that her pet was a magic dog said too much about her innocence. Even naivety. I had to find out more about her.

“Call him off,” I bit out through my teeth.

Chloe glanced at me, folding her arms over her chest, squeezing her breasts together. I looked away as her cleavage enhanced. She had changed her T-shirt to a work out top with thin straps and leggings.

“I’m not sure I want to after the way you’ve been treating me with such…”

“Kindness?” I offered.

Her snort was pretty unladylike, but I didn’t comment. The last thing I needed was to be accused of being sexist. Especially when her dog was still staring and controlling me.

“Rusty, come on,” Chloe said, pulling on his collar.

As soon as the dog looked away from me, I was able to move. Breathing deeply, I bent down to the dog to check him over, avoiding eye contact. He happily let me run a hand over him, even licking my thumb.

“How has he acquired magic?” Chloe bent down with me, looking into his eyes. She moved freely, not stuck like I had been. Frowning, she did the same as I had, checking him over. “I…what the hell? Are you sure you weren’t just mucking around?”

“Do I look like the sort of person who mucks around? You saw how he looked at me.”

Chloe blew her breath through her lips, making Rusty rub his head against hers when the air ruffled his fur. Shaking her head, she cuddled him before moving away. “How has he got magic?”

Stroking the dog one more time, I got up from my crouch. “I have no idea. I’ve not come across magic animals for a while. Not since the days when I was in Scandinavia with my family. A local village seer gave magic to her pet dog when she lost her sight. He would be her eyes, projecting images into her mind. Maybe this is something similar. Maybe the family from Loki’s side made a witch or seer give him the power.”

Blinking to clear myself of the memory of my past, I faced Chloe, about to command her back to her routine. She stared at me, her eyes soft and glazed over.

“That’s the only time you become warm and passionate,” she said, a small smile playing on her lips when I frowned at her. “When you talk about your original days. You were hurt back then so badly, you closed off your heart.”

“Please,” I muttered, going past her and taking the key out of my pocket to unlock the secret room.

“You can long for the past all you like, but the truth is…”

I paused as the lock clicked open, waiting for her to finish her sentence. The break was effective, making sure I listened.

“…You’ll be dead soon enough, able to see them in Valhalla. However, life is here right now. You’re as dark as some of those souls out there because you’ve blocked out the light.”

Her footsteps padded away as I stared at the grey of the metal steel in front of my eyes. Without answering her, I opened the door and stepped through, closing it behind me. I didn’t need her to lecture me about open hearts…and light. My light was stolen the moment Freya took my freewill and gave me another man’s power. Not my own.

The running machine started up again. Pushing away her words, I moved to the centre of the room. The lights were dim in there, their glow a deep orange. The walls opposite each other had floor length mirrors. The wall opposite the metal sliding doors was lined with wood. There were shelves, cubbyholes and secret drawers on that wall. My weapons. My magic.

“I’m going for my swim,” Chloe shouted.

Not replying, I shook myself out of my thoughts. An image of my mother shoved into my mind. Chloe’s words had brought back those times. They had eroded somewhat, the memories. How could they not after so very long? But, my mother’s eyes were always clear to me. Especially the look on her face when I had told her what happened outside Valhalla.

She had placed her hand on my chest, tears hovering on the edge of her eyelids. “You’ve brought honour to this family, Trygger. Saving Thor’s power, his thunder and lightning, that’s all the honour and more. Your name will go down in the history books. Be proud, Viking, like I am proud.”

How would I know that my new power would be the very thing to kill her…and the rest of my family?





9





Trained For Magic





“PUNCH ME.”

Chloe’s fist flew towards my head, I sidestepped easily.

“Fuck!”

Two days ago, the morning Jack left, I had started to train Chloe how to fight. Her fitness level was quickly increasing, which amazed me. Did Freya’s blood give her an advantage?

“Again.”

Instead of going for my head this time, she ducked around my side, her small fist connecting with my kidney. A short sharp jab.

“Yes!” Throwing her hands in the air, she celebrated.

Grabbing her around the waist, I threw her to the floor, pinning her against the mat. The air left her lungs as my weight pressed on her chest. Rebounding off her, I sprung up to my feet.

“What…was…that…for?” she puffed out as she tried to get her breath back.

Hopping from one foot to the other, I waved for her to get up. She was on her back, her arms by her side.

“You just broke my ribs,” she muttered, crawling onto her side and getting up.

Poking her in the shoulder, I grinned. She would get a lot worse than broken ribs if her enemy got hold of her and she knew it.

“I’ve had enough today.”

Pausing in my movement, I threw my hands in the air and turned away. A cry escaped her mouth as she jumped on my back, her long arms wrapping around my neck. Spinning, I went to fall backwards to pin her against the ground again. Chloe managed to get her fingers in my mouth, tugging hard.

Grunting, I flung her over my shoulder, dumping her on the mat. “Good job!”

My lips stung where she had almost ripped my mouth apart. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was impressed by her technique. Not the jumping on my back part, that was standard. It was the use of her hands to find a weakness in the face. Not many people would think to do that.

“Thank you,” she breathed getting to her feet.

“Let’s go.”

Moving towards my jacket, I took out the key to the metal room, which was the name Chloe had come to call my magic room.

“Where are we going?” she asked, grabbing a towel and wiping away the sweat on her brow.

Freya’s descendant was changing. Her meek manner was hardening as she trained every day. Not once had she mentioned her old family, except to ask whether Jack had any information on the Hagalaz rune.

“In here.” I pointed to the metal door.

Her eyes widened before she skipped over, slapping me on the back as she went past. Moving in front of her, almost knocking her out the way, I unlocked the door. Placing my hand on the handle, I turned to face her.

“You’ve surprised me, Chloe. I never thought you would be so dedicated to your training. You still have a long way to go. It’s only been a few days, but I think we need to start…a different type of training. Things are moving quickly. Whoever these Hagalaz people are…we need to be ready for them if they come after us.”

She nodded, her eyes locked on mine as she listened. The slight sideways tilt of her head reminded me of a collie dog I once had. He was intelligent, yet, very loving. Chloe had kept to herself since she had arrived, only speaking to me regarding training.

“I want to know some details, Chloe, about you.”

Her feet automatically took a step back. The lift of her shoulders after her victory dropped, slumping in on themselves. Had Chloe suffered at the hands of Loki’s family?

“Come on, we’ll talk later…first, I’ll show you…” Clicking open the handle, I opened the door and went into the magic room.

Her footsteps soon followed, accompanied by the tip-tapping of the dog’s claws. Someone had given the animal powers, which was a bonus if I could get him on our side. That meant I had to start being nice to him.

“What is this place?” Chloe asked, her voice echoing around the small area.

The glow of orange illuminated the wooden wall and the mirrors. Each weapon I owned hung on the wall, a small light glowing onto it.

“This is the magic room. Thor’s power is extremely strong, obviously. I had these weapons infused with his magic. Some of them are spelled by an old witch friend of mine, who was sadly killed a few hundred years ago.”

Chloe drew nearer to the wooden wall, her gaze eating up the sight of daggers, guns and finally landing on my sword.

“I’ve heard about this sword. It’s the only thing that can send the Fallen Ones back to Freya.”

Her hand reached out unconsciously. Stepping forward, I grabbed her hand, pulling her away. She frowned up at me as she blinked to shake away the mesmerised expression.

“Don’t ever touch these, their magic is bound to me. If anyone else touches them, they will die instantly.”

“How did you infuse them with your own magic?” She crouched to Rusty, stroking him to give her something to touch so she wasn’t tempted to reach out again.

“When I landed back in Scandinavia after the God’s war, my mother found me. Thor’s power was vibrating throughout my body so hard, I couldn’t function. So, she made me tune into the magic. Giving me my weapons from war, one at a time, she guided me to push the magic out through my hands and into the object.” Clearing my throat when it started to close, I kept my eye on the sword.

“It had been my father’s. He had given it to me when I turned eighteen, a proud father of the warrior he was raising.”

Chloe stood again, her hand brushing against my arm in a movement so light and quick, I had no idea if it was intentional or not. Frowning, I went over to the mirror, gesturing for her to follow.

“This is where I want you to practice your magic. These walls are protected, meant to keep the magic in. That’s why there’s no windows. Although, I can’t stop you from hurting yourself, so you better be careful. Tell me about your magic. How does it work?”

The young woman still stared at my sword, her ears seemingly blocked from my words. I was about to repeat myself when she turned to face me, her eyes filled with tears. As a drop fell down her cheek, I linked my hands behind my back, waiting for her to speak. I wasn’t used to tears. What was the usual protocol when it came to women and crying?

“I feel so much of your pain.” Her words were whispered, but the echo of the room filtered them to me easily enough.

Rusty wandered over to me, nudging me in the leg with his nose. Remembering my promise to befriend him so I could use his power, I tapped his head a few times.

“He can feel it, too,” Chloe said, taking a few steps to the mirror to stand beside me.

“Let’s go back to your magic.”

I didn’t need to analyse my pain, I had none. It had been wiped out of me hundreds of years ago. The compassion was gone from my bones, the hurt eradicated from the darkness that surrounded me in those creatures and humans who could not find their way to the light. It was too late for me. Too late for her to be my saviour.

Chloe glanced at me before staring at her reflection. Rusty moved to the corner of the room, sitting on guard.

“As you know, I wasn’t born with magic, Freya gifted it to me. The others thought Loki had given it to me, which was the only reason they kept me around. The names they called me…”

“Start from the beginning,” I said, facing the mirror, but looking at her side profile.

Her nose pointed up very slightly at the end. A small dark freckle sat on her jaw, which was smooth and feminine.

“From the beginning? As in, when I was born? Or, when I got my magic?”

Tempted to look at the time, I resisted. I only had a while until I had to go and meet Jack to go to Frankie’s exclusive party. The Dark Crawler was still alive, and I had to find out how.

“Your magic for now. I want to know it all, of course, considering Freya didn’t even tell me she had sent a descendant of hers to help me.”

Most gods were no longer interested in the world. It had become too predictable for them, apparently. I wouldn’t actually know, considering Freya had been the only god or goddess to contact me since my mission began…and her contact had only been a few days ago. Bastards.

“Freya came to me when I was a hundred years old. She told me that I hadn’t been performing for her quite as she had hoped… Performing, as if I was a bloody monkey.”

I smiled, only because I could imagine exactly how disappointed Freya looked when declaring Chloe useless.

“We are puppets in their war, never forget that. It’s the only thing that has kept me so bent on finishing my mission.”

“Don’t lie. You want to live with the gods. Do you think I get that privilege when I die?” Chloe finally turned to me, putting her hands on her hips.

“No, you won’t.”

I could say no more, she was right. Freya wouldn’t promise a mortal a place with the gods in heaven. Valhalla was a resting place for many, that’s where Chloe would end up.

“If Freya had never come to me, I wouldn’t believe they even existed. I was born in Scandinavia, but how many of them believe in the gods anymore?”

Cracking my knuckles, I stared at her. “Times have changed. Norse mythology has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”

She frowned, hitting me as I went to crack my other hand. “Stop it, it’s bad for you.”

Shaking my head, I raised my eyebrows. My ponytail swished against the leather on my back. I didn’t need to point out that I had never suffered an illness or condition since I became the Thunder Hunter.

“I don’t like that our gods are forgotten. It’s about time they made themselves known to the human race again.” Chloe faced the mirror, staring into her own dark gaze.

“That will never happen.” I didn’t elaborate, there was no need. “Tell me about your magic. I have to go out soon, so skip to the part about you not being able to control it.”

The tilt of her head made me glance at Rusty. He rested his chin on his paws where he had laid down, his eyes watching our every move.

“Can I come with you?”

That wasn’t what I expected to come out of her mouth. “No.”

The magic lesson would have to wait, it had taken us too long to even get to the information I needed. Turning, I wandered towards the door, expecting her to follow me. The reflection in the opposite wall showed her staring at my back.

“Why won’t you let me go out? I’m bored, I want in on the action.”

Pausing, I made eye contact in our reflection. “You’re not ready.”

“Nothing like experience to make you ready. Where are you going?”

Coughing, I turned to face her. “To a party thrown by a Dark Crawler. Jack’s invite. He didn’t invite you.”

“Don’t be such an arsehole. Let me come.” Chloe came forward, ready to plead her case.

Stepping back, I went out of the door, blocking her exit. “Back off, or I’ll lock you in.”

“You would never do that to Rusty.” She was right to doubt that. I would do it to her, but the dog?

“Why would you think I have any worries in regards to that dog? He’s yours.”

“And, yours. Don’t pretend he’s not cracking a tiny part of your cold ice heart. Let us come, he’ll keep me protected and you can have your way with all the women you want.” Chloe’s innocent gaze was offset by the twinkle in her eyes.

“There’s no way I’m taking that dog anywhere until I’ve figured out his power. And, I’m not getting attached to him, thank you very much,” I said, storming away from the metal door.

She followed this time, coming right on my heels. Spinning away, I went back to the room and locked the door. I had swiped a blade from the wall as I left, tucking it into my waistband without Chloe seeing.

“Let me come, Trygger, I can’t sit here and twiddle my thumbs anymore.”

Marching across the room, I stalled when Rusty blocked the doorway. How did the dog know I was refusing Chloe’s request? Had she ordered him to sit there when I turned my back?

“You want to come to a Dark Crawlers party? Where there will be a lot of pretty nasty people?”

She nodded, a pink tinge coming to her cheeks. Hope. The woman was full of hope and nice thoughts and feelings. Maybe a trip into the underworld would give her a reality check and drown out some of her…

“Please? I have a great dress.”

Clicking my fingers to get the dog to move, I growled low in my throat. He looked at Chloe, waiting for her command. Bloody animal.

“Okay, but you’re not picking your own dress. I’m sure I’ve got something lying around.”

Chloe’s laughter travelled around the room, making Rusty run and jump up at her. She hugged him, stroking his sides.

“What’s so funny?” I asked, affronted that she had scorned my kindness in letting her come.

Rusty got down, coming to sniff my hand. I idly scratched behind his ears, watching Chloe compose herself.

“I just had an image of you in a little black dress, that’s all.”

Curling my lip, I went towards the door. As I reached it, I glanced over my shoulder, my ponytail flicking behind me. “Trust me, I look sexy as hell in a little black dress.”





10





Dancing With Darkness





THE LITTLE BLACK dress looked amazing on Chloe. I had never seen her looking so refined. Her legs were longer than I thought, accentuated by the black heels. It was lucky that one of my former hunters had taken her clothes off before I killed her. I didn’t tell Chloe that for obvious reasons. A small smile played on my lips as I remembered the last few moments of our passionate grinding before I had ended her life. Not one of Loki’s descendants had finished me so far.

“I’m so nervous,” Chloe said, tugging on the hem of the dress again.

Her interruption made me glance at her. We were in a taxi, on the way to meet Jack. The image of the previous owner of the dress merged with Chloe and I almost gagged. Chloe was my apprentice, not some woman to bang before I killed her.

Grabbing her fingers, I stilled her movement. On one hand, her nerves would fool the people at the party into believing she wasn’t a threat. On the other, she was fresh bait.

“Tonight is important. Do you remember everything I told you before we left?”

Nodding, she kept her eyes ahead, staring at the London roads. The traffic was always horrendous. A vast difference to the days before cars. I glanced out of the window, remembering the horse and carriages that would trot along the cobbled streets. It was a much more romantic time. I preferred the modern times in one way. Mainly because information was so much easier to come by.

“I’m your sister, Jack’s your date,” she said.

Jack was not my date. Chloe had taken it upon herself to tease me about my friendship with the sexually confused male.

“Jack’s a friend, he’s…oh, never mind.” I gave up. Her smirk was enough for me to want to wrap my fingers around that small neck of hers, which was exposed. Her hair was pinned up into some complicated hairdo.

“We’re here,” I said, getting out of the taxi as it pulled up outside a gated residence in the most expensive part of London. “Shit,” I breathed under my breath.

I hadn’t expected it to be gated. That wasn’t good if I wanted a quick escape. In fact, it really hindered my plan to kill and leave.

“Wait for me.” Chloe almost fell over as she tottered around the taxi, waving goodbye to it as it went.

“Did you just wave goodbye to a taxi driver?”

The whole of her pale face flared red. She half shrugged, half turned, pointing at the gate. “Is that it?”

Sighing, I paused when a shout echoed down the street. “Fuck me, Thunder Hunter, your date looks sexy as fuck. Who is she? Can I fuck her?”

Jack.

“No, you fucking well can’t!” Chloe snapped just as I was about to open my mouth to reply.

Smiling to myself, I waited as my friend approached. He was squinting in the dark, looking at Chloe’s face. His mouth dropped open as he came to a stop in front of her.

“Well, f…shit me...it’s you.”

Chloe appraised him, a less than impressed expression on her face. Jack wore a tuxedo, his hair styled fluffy, falling over his forehead, instead of the usual lift into the air. His strong jaw moved as he bit down on his teeth, probably wanting to say more.

“It is me and you better respect me, or I’ll shoot you with my magic.”

Stepping forward when he went to place a hand over her mouth to shut her up, I knocked him out of the way. Chloe squeaked, retreating from the pair of us. Grabbing her arm, I squeezed the thin layer of flesh.

“What did I say?” I hissed into her ear.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, looking around me at Jack. “Please, don’t say anything to anyone.”

Huffing the breath out of my lungs, I let her go and turned back to my friend.

“You’re crazy for bringing her here, mate. Bloody loco!”

The man tapped his black brogues on the concrete pavement. The gates were across the street, closed and dark. That didn’t matter in this part of town. It wasn’t the type of party that played stupidly loud music with young people shagging in the garden. It was much, much better. When I could play, instead of work that was. Tonight, it was all about work.

“It’s her funeral, dickhead,” I said, moving away from them.

Her gasp reached me before I got to the gate. The sound of high heels quickly clicking on the pavement was followed by a low rush of wind right near my ear. Ducking my head, I spun, but before I could move completely out of the way the spikey heel of her black shoe connected with my calf. If I hadn’t been as quick as I was, it would’ve probably pierced the skin.

“Bitch,” I said, looking at Jack.

He stood by, his arms crossed over his chest and a huge smile stretching his full lips. Bastard.

“Don’t underestimate me.”

“Don’t fucking tell anyone you have magic, then,” I bit back, going closer to her.

She backed up a step, moving next to Jack. He leant sideways, putting an arm around her shoulder.

“Don’t worry, babycakes, I’ll protect you. Just my name puts fear into these men, I promise you.”

“Liar,” I snapped, going up to the gates.

The sound of the camera focusing on me made Jack and Chloe step forward.

“Name?” a computerised speaker ordered.

“Jack Newton.”

The speaker buzzed before the gates started to wind open. No one came to greet us, so we went into the garden, threading our way through the perfectly manicured lawns and flowerbeds.

“Told you, Trygger, Ritz on steroids, you wait!”

Jack liked a good party. He was always there on business, but business was his pleasure. The one thing in life I could count on when I went on a night out with Jack was a good time. Tonight would be different. I had to keep an eye on Chloe.

“Where’s the dog?” Jack asked as he led us down a side path, away from the front of the house.

“He didn’t let him come,” Chloe said, almost spitting the sentence out.

She had already shrugged Jack off a couple of times. He got the hint, coming over to me and flinging his arm around me. He wasn’t tall enough to reach my shoulders, so he settled for my waist.

“And, you look like a sexy beast, too. I so rarely see you in a suit. A navy blue one at that. Posh boy, ain’t we?”

It was a good job I needed Jack in my life. The amount of times I had been tempted to put a bullet through his head for being a cocky bastard had been uncountable. At least he had an interest in Chloe now, too. I wouldn’t get all of his idiocy. And, she had proved she was perfectly capable of protecting herself when it came to him. In fact, I had never seen him so respectful towards a woman. Was there something in that?

“Shut the fuck up.”

“Here, here,” said a voice just up ahead.

A tall thin man stepped out from behind a bush. His eyes were bulbous, but his nose roman-like. I didn’t recognise him, but as we neared him, my chest flooded with heat, distracting me from him.

A Fallen One had just come within a ten-mile radius of me. And, I didn’t have my sword.

Chloe’s arm threaded through Jack’s as a smile lit her face. “Are you going to introduce us?” she asked Jack.

The man stared at her. His gaze had travelled over me and Jack, but quickly returned to the only woman of the group. What did he see in her? She was looking much better in the clothes she wore, but her stance was awkward, almost boyish. Maybe he liked boys. There was nothing wrong with that.

“Dan, this is Chloe, and…you’ve heard of Trygger, haven’t you?”

Dan’s eyes widened as his gaze shot back to me. Puffing his chest out, he nodded in greeting. Jack had often spoken about the man, but I had not met him so far. It was a risk for people to know who I really was, but it had to be done.

A statement needed to be made to the evil spirits I hunted. I was coming for them. The only way they tended to come out was when something interested them. They were as bored of life as I was, yet, they couldn’t give it up. No, that would be hell to them.

They preferred skipping between bodies in order to stay alive compared to seeing Freya again. I didn’t blame them. Freya was a massive bitch when she had been crossed. It was another one of the reasons I kept doing what I did. If I upset the goddess, she would find a way to take her revenge. Most likely by letting Loki out of Fólkvangr. And, that would mean the end of the human world as we knew it.

“Nice to meet you at last. I may have heard a few things about the legend of you.”

Shrugging, I smiled gently. “Ah, all lies, I’m sure.”

Being polite, but cold, was the order of the night with Dan it seemed. He turned to Chloe, extending his hand. When she took it, he leant down and kissed her knuckle, lingering as he sniffed her.

Jack stepped forward, almost knocking Dan over as he threw his arms around his friend and slapped his back. “God, you’re a tall bastard.”

“Pleased to meet you, Chloe,” Dan said, shoving Jack off him.

Taking Chloe’s arm, I guided her past both men as Jack tried to engage Dan in conversation. The intense stare that followed my apprentice made me feel sorry for her. All the men would be the same. They could smell innocence a mile away.

My chest was still hot, Thor’s thunder let off a low vibrational rumble. I had to ignore it as we came up to the door of a barn out the back of the property. I had never expected a Fallen One to show up at a Dark Crawler’s party. Certainly not one that was attended by Jack of all people.

“That man was little creepy,” Chloe said, smiling at a bouncer as he opened the door for us.

Stepping through the dark curtain that covered the inside of the door, we both paused to look around. The barn was converted into a large area. It was a private club. Sofas were set out, creating seating sections dotted across the whole floor. A bar lined the back wall, all the way down. Different types of tables and chairs were in the middle of each seating section. A sex swing or two were attached to the ceiling.

“Is this a sex club?” Chloe asked, gripping the flesh on my forearm.

A chuckle left my lips before I could stop it. Her gaze flitted over the various components of the room. It was dim with fairy lights hung all over the place. People in all stages of undress lounged over the seats, or the tables, their laughter echoing around the room.

“Not predominantly, although, plenty of that does happen.”

Chloe let go of me, straightened her spine and cleared the rabbit in headlight look on her face. Glancing up at me, she smiled coyly, getting into her role.

“Better,” I said, moving towards the bar.

She moved in front of me, swaying her hips as she seemed to flip a switch inside of her. That’s exactly what I needed her to do. If the Fallen One did come to the party, I would need my wits about me. It might not be the night to kill him, however frustrating that was…but if I could find out who he was, I would know where to look for him next.

“Don’t be too obvious,” Chloe said, leaning against the bar when we reached it.

Ordering our drinks, I frowned. I was being my normal self. Turning to her when the bartender handed them over, I bit my lip on my response. The last thing I wanted to do was upset her. If she wanted to get all woman on me, she could.

“How am I being obvious?”

Biting her own bright red lips, she looked up at me from under her eyelashes. “You’re stiff, completely uncomfortable looking. Relax, loosen your muscles.”

“I would think you’ve fooled me all along. Have you set this up?” I winked when her demeanour slipped slightly, her mouth parting and her eyebrows pulled low. “Don’t be too obvious,” I whispered into her ear as Jack came to join us.

“I’ll have a whisky, my man,” he asked the bartender. “And, how are my two favourite people doing? Have you spotted anyone you want to play with?”

He directed the question at both of us. My laugh was loud as Chloe’s face drained of colour. I really had to train her to hide her emotions. She thought she was ready for this, but every time her emotion changed, it was clear in her facial expression.

“We’re not here to…”

“Oh, yes we are,” Jack interrupted, winking at her. “Don’t worry, if you don’t find anyone you like, I’ll give you a good seeing to. God knows you need it.”

“Which god knows? Freya wouldn’t dare let any of the gods know anything about Chloe’s…sex life.” I swallowed my drink in one, expecting Chloe to bend under the onslaught.

“Sex life,” she huffed. “Chance would be a fine thing.”

Swiping her cocktail off the bar, she strode towards the small dancefloor at the bottom of the room. Jack was laughing, his hand on his flat stomach and his mouth thrown open. A couple of people turned to look, grinning to themselves when they saw who it was. My popular contact didn’t know everyone for nothing. He always had something to offer.

“Ask questions about Hagalaz,” I told him, pushing away from the bar to follow Chloe.

She stood on the edge of the dancefloor, watching those that were lost in the music. Her toe tapped on the wooden floor in time to the slow beat. Did she like to dance?

A man approached her, probably giving her a typical chat up line. Hovering close, I tuned them out as I watched the room. Jack was talking to an older man, laughing and joking with him. Everyone was focused on their groups, not taking much notice of others outside their small clique.

“I didn’t expect to see you here,” a voice said near my ear.

Looking down, I planted a stiff smile on my lips. The burning in my chest was strong and a pungent odour overcame me. I felt his presence before setting my eyes on him. Frankie, the Dark Crawler.

His gaze traced my face, studying the set of my jaw and the glare of my eyes. We were enemies, yet, I had let him live the last time I had faced him. The smell diminished slightly. The rotting of his host seemed to have slowed considerably compared to other crawlers.

“I’m Jack’s…”

Frankie’s lip curled. He was a good looking older man, powerful and greedy. His dark hair had streaks of grey, highlighting his temples. A robust, strong figure, Frankie knew who his friends and enemies were.

“I can’t refuse anyone who comes with Jack now, can I? He’s such a charmer.” Frankie’s eyes sparkled as his gaze sought my friend.

“Don’t worry, I’ll behave. I just wanted some…fun.”

The man straightened his suit jacket, doing the button up before he placed a hand on my shoulder. “Then, fun you shall have, my friend,” the creature said, guiding me towards one of the sections.

My whole body vibrated with heat, causing sweat to break out above my lip. Being so close to so much darkness made my body-heat rocket. The Fallen One was still in a ten-mile radius. I had to find out who he was without fucking up.

“Thank you, Frankie, I’m much obliged.”

Glancing at Jack, I pointed at Chloe when I caught his eye. He nodded once, excusing himself to move to my protégée. She laughed with the man, apparently enjoying herself. Her posture was confident, but her hand hovered by her leg at all times. Good girl. A small blade was tucked into a garter on her thigh. There was no way I would let her leave the house without a weapon of some sort. If Chloe attempted to use her magic, she would more than likely ruin everything.

“You’re a man of many talents, Trygger. I heard that you killed Analise recently. Such a shame, she was a very good friend of mine.”

My back muscles stiffened as Frankie sat on an empty sofa, gesturing for me to sit opposite him. Treading past the table, I did as he ordered. I would play his filthy game. The creature was intelligent, always had been. I had never managed to get quite so close to him, which was a smart move on his part.

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

Frankie sat back, lacing his fingers together over his stomach. It was a good idea for him to keep the body he inhabited fit. Who had the poor fellow been before the Dark Crawler took up residence in him?

The corner of Frankie’s lip twitched. “What they say about you is true. Although, you’re not quite the same as us.” He gestured at the people in various states of inebriation.

“And, what is it they say about me?” I was genuinely interested to know.

“That you’re cold, so incredibly cold…yet, you intrigue me because you’re not controlled by your shadows. So many humans stifle their dark side until they can no longer resist it.” Frankie looked around, studying those that were a slave to his kind.

Glancing at Chloe and Jack while he was distracted, I held back a smile. Jack had obviously got rid of the man and was coaxing Chloe onto the dancefloor. She had her arms crossed, tapping her fingers against her side. Was she tempted by the jokester? At least it kept her out of my way.

“We all have shadows.”

He nodded, bringing his attention back to me. “Indeed, all humans do. But, you’re not quite all human, are you?”

Forcing myself to relax my shoulders, I waited as a waiter handed Frankie a bottle of vodka and two glasses. Dismissing the man with a wave, he placed everything on the table and gestured for me to pour.

“I don’t know what you mean.” I played dumb.

According to Jack, I was a myth, along with my gods. Many creatures had heard of me, but none had seen me. The ones who had seen me were dead before they could tell anyone else. I didn’t know if the Fallen Ones believed if I was still around. It had been several years since my last big kill.

“No? Let me fill you in, then. You’re rumoured to be the famous Thunder Hunter. Is it true?”

Leaning forward, I placed my fingers around the bottle of vodka, one digit at a time. Dragging the glasses nearer to me, I poured the drinks, sliding one back to Frankie when I was done.

“Never even heard of him. Who is this famous Thunder Hunter?”

The Dark Crawler slowly reached for the glass, his eyes watching me closely. He wouldn’t get the truth out of me, no matter how hard he tried. It had been a while since that name had been linked to me. I preferred it when it wasn’t even spoken.

“You’ve been on my radar for a little bit, but you’re delightfully good at disappearing off it. I’m glad to have you here tonight.” Frankie downed his drink, snatching back the bottle for a refill.

Sipping my own, I barely felt it go down my throat. It was already burning too much from the amount of evil in the place. And, the Fallen One. Wherever he was.

Glancing around, I watched the faces of the people in the room. Most of them were smiling, happy to indulge in their disgusting whims. Not long now, clothes would be stripped from bodies of all shapes and sizes. The smell of sex and desire would linger in the air. The club would echo a whole different vibe.

“Like I said earlier, I’m just here for some fun.” If I pandered to him, more questions would be asked. More answers, meant more interest. The last thing I needed was the Dark Crawler to become too close to me.

He obviously had someone helping his host stay fresh. Although, I had no idea how long the bastard would last. Surely, if the body was rotting, it wouldn’t be too much longer. It had already gone weeks past the usual expiry.

“And, like I said earlier…fun you shall have.”

Frankie looked over my shoulders and clicked his fingers in the air. The music changed to a slow, hypotonic beat, the sound sexy and enticing. The scent of perfume wafted around me. A woman approached from behind, I could feel her.

“If you are the so-called Thunder Hunter…I have someone who wants to meet you,” Frankie said, his eyes on the woman who approached him.

A pair of slim arms wrapped around my chest from behind. Bleach blonde hair hung over my shoulder as a pretty face appeared by the side of my head. Painted bright red lips made my body react in a completely inappropriate way considering there was a Dark Crawler sitting opposite me and a Fallen One nearby.

If I pushed the woman away, I would offend Frankie for refusing his gift. She was pretty with a heady smell of femininity about her. Something I always enjoyed after killing rancid smelling creatures.

“Are you ready for a good time?” The woman pulled away from me to come around to the table.

Her friend joined her after she had kissed Frankie full on the mouth. They wore long white dresses, the picture of innocence. Their long hair flowed down their backs as they embraced each other, their lips pressing softy against one another’s.

Usually, I would revel in the scene that unfolded in front of me. Frankie watched them closely, his gaze devouring the travelling hands of the women as they explored each other’s bodies over their clothes.

“Another drink?” I asked him, grabbing the bottle just before the women knocked it off the table.

He nodded, taking his eyes away to accept the vodka. How long could I sit with him without cutting off his head?

Swigging another shot of vodka, I kept my gaze on the women, aware that Frankie watched me as much as he enjoyed their show. The dresses were coming off now. I licked my lips, tempted for a split second to join them on the table. A sandwich with them both wasn’t out of the question.

“Trygger!” A stern feminine voice brought my attention away from the entertainment.

For a moment, I had forgotten the heat that pulsated through me as it was replaced by a different kind of heat.

“Chloe.” I kept my voice deadpan, enough to let Frankie know that I wasn’t best pleased that his gift had been interrupted.

“Who is your friend? Are you going to introduce me?” Chloe’s dress was pulled as low as it could go, showing her ample cleavage. What was she playing at? Did she want to get killed?

Frankie got up from his seat, bowing to Chloe as she smiled pleasantly at him. “And, who are you, my love?”

“This…” Jack interjected, coming up behind my charge. “…is Chloe, my date.”

Two pairs of eyes glared at Jack, while Frankie frowned. “Shame,” he muttered.

I waited for Chloe’s shriek of protest towards Jack, but it didn’t come. Had they devised a plan together without telling me?

It was probably better that Frankie didn’t think she was related to me, actually. From the way his gaze ate her up, he would be tempted to turn her into the darkness he inhabited.

“Well, it’s a pleasure to meet such a beautiful woman.” Frankie bent over Chloe’s hand, his thin lips puckering against the skin on her knuckles.

I smiled at the clench of Chloe’s jaw as the vile man fawned over her. It was her own fault for bringing her apparently beautiful, but innocent, self to a place that only knew evil. Only knew desires beyond anything she could possibly imagine. Even I didn’t have the stomach for some of the things I had seen in these types of places.

“It’s good to meet such an accomplished man,” Chloe said, her smile pouring with insincerity.

Luckily, the man embraced his manhood. Nothing like a good stroke of the ego to make someone feel warm towards you. Frankie’s cheeks glowed pink at her compliment.

“Why hasn’t Jack told me about you?” He gestured for Chloe to take a seat next to him.

As she engaged him in conversation, Jack sat next to me, his eyes glued to the women on the table. They were fully naked now, enjoying the feel of themselves as well as each other. It was a shame I couldn’t indulge. Spending time with a woman in the house…an annoying one at that…was a douse on my desires, but still, my carnal instincts were not being met. Maybe I could trust Jack to keep an eye on Chloe while I satiated my lust.

“Make sure she doesn’t say anything stupid,” I told my friend, about to get up.

He put a hand on my arm, pausing me before I could move. “I’ve managed to talk to two people, I just need to get Frankie alone.”

Nodding once, I excused myself, pretending that I needed to visit the toilets. Frankie didn’t even lift his gaze from Chloe’s bosom as I left them. Hopefully the temptation of her light would make him listen to the incessant chatter that came from her mouth.

“Well, hello handsome,” a woman said as I went to pass.

Pausing, I glanced over at her. She rested against the bar, a pint of lager in her hand. Her long elegant body, with her short black cropped hair, was a contrast to the masculine drink. Desire pulsed from her, sending a wave of male instinct over my muscles. Maybe a release would help stem the fire that burned my insides.

“Hello.” I approached her slowly.

Her free hand travelled up my arm, tracing my Eihwaz tattoo before her fingers wrapped around my ponytail. She didn’t pull, but stroked through my hair, her eyes watching her own movements.

“What’s your name?”

She went up on her tiptoes and whispered in my ear. “Fuck me.”

“Well, your parents must have hated you,” I replied, taking the pint and putting it on the bar.

Offering her my hand, I looked into her eyes. They were ringed with black eyeliner to make them bigger, but it didn’t hide the slight redness. She was an addict. Not of drugs, not of alcohol. But, of sex…and darkness.

“I want you.”

Her simple statement made me look over my shoulder. Jack had leant forward in his seat to join in the conversation with Frankie and Chloe. Maybe he wouldn’t need to get the Dark Crawler on his own to find out what he needed. He had a way of bringing the truth out of people. A weird human gift that I had never found anyone to be able to emulate. Not in all my years.

“Likewise.” Tugging the nameless woman, I pulled her towards the toilets.

I didn’t want my arse showing in front of everyone else. Although people were already frolicking on the floors and tables, I wasn’t part of the show.

It wasn’t darkness that made me storm into the bathroom, lock the door and shove the woman up against the door. It was need. A true, male lustful need.

Kissing her roughly, breaking my rule of no lip contact, I proceeded to take what she offered. She groaned against me as I made sure she got what was rightfully hers. Release.

“You’re strong and…beautiful. My father could do with a man like you in his…club.”

“Club? What one does he own?” I tucked myself away as she straightened her dress.

Washing my hands, I paused when she threw her head back and laughed. Watching her in the mirror, I waited until she calmed.

“Sorry, I always find it amusing when people confuse my meaning. He has a different type of club…a fully exclusive one that only has the best members. I’m intrigued by your tattoo. What is it?”

Ah, so she had traced it with her finger for a reason. She had recognised the rune. She may have been playing ignorant, but it dawned on me quickly. A club…for exclusive members.

“It’s a rune. I find them fascinating for some reason. I think it’s because my ancestry is Viking, it’s just a little tribute.” Turning to her, I pulled her towards me, enticing her with a deep kiss.

Her breath rushed out of her when I released her mouth. Her hands wrapped around my neck, her body almost hanging on mine.

The heat in my chest hadn’t lessened. In fact, as I was about to open my mouth to speak, Thor’s thunder vibrated in my chest so violently, the woman frowned at me.

“If you’re interested in runes, you should visit my father. He is a professor in Viking history.” Pulling back, she took a card out of her bra and tucked it into my jacket pocket. “We’re always looking for new members.”

Swallowing to try and erase the burn, I smiled at her, blowing her a kiss as she left me alone. Turning the tap on, I ducked my head underneath and sucked water down my throat.

The Fallen One must be inside the club. The only time I had ever felt such force from Thor’s power was when one was in close proximity to me. Thumping my chest when the water didn’t work, I wiped a hand over my face and faced the door. My enemy was out there…and I had to find him.





11





The Goddess’ Huntress





PATTING MY JACKET pocket to make sure the card was still there, I surveyed the room. It seemed I had accidently stumbled and fumbled my way to an answer about the Hagalaz rune. A professor had set up a new cult. It didn’t surprise me.

In fact, as I propped against the bar, my memory took me back to five hundred years before. A man who travelled the world had spread stories about Vikings, including tales about a man who claimed to be Thor’s grandson. When I found him, slouched over with his beer, I settled beside him to hear the story myself.

Everything he said was truth. The mere human had the gift of sight, it seemed. Premonition was a sought after talent in those days. The man even claimed to know who would end Thunder Hunter’s life.

“I haven’t seen you at one of these for a while.” The male voice was one I recognised very clearly.

Turning, I saluted him with my glass of vodka. He smiled before edging closer. “I couldn’t help but notice that there’s an incredibly sexy woman over there staring at you. I figured you hadn’t noticed because you had a far off look on your face.”

Following his gaze, I appraised the woman he spoke about. My gut flipped as Thor’s thunder rumbled deeper within my chest.

“Seems you’re as hungry as she is,” the human laughed, backing away when I looked at him.

He was just a regular dark goer. Another addict to the very thing that would kill him before long. Glancing back at the woman, I watched her as she stood and spoke to one of the men she was with. It was her. It had to be. A Fallen One. Her long brown hair fell to her waist. Her hips were wide, her shoulders as wide to match. The clinch of her waist was tiny, making it hard not to stare as she glanced over her shoulder at me and waved. She had the perfect hourglass figure.

I resisted the urge to rub my chest. The pain wasn’t quite knocking me out yet, but it wouldn’t be long. I had to kill her. But, I couldn’t. I didn’t have my sword, which was the only weapon that would send her soul back to Freya.

Her hips swayed as she strode with her small group towards the door. Leaving so soon. Did she know who I was? She must have done. Why else would she acknowledge me?

Tempted to follow, I held back. The people with her were magicians and witches. The power resonated from them, making anyone who was in their way move automatically. I had no chance against her without my sword.

Ignoring everyone in the room, I memorised every inch of her. I had to know her name. The Fallen One would have inhabited the host’s body for quite some time. They had the power to keep them alive longer than the Dark Crawlers. Their black souls were worthless. Old men that died in battle, but refused to go to Valhalla or Freya’s field. Fallen Ones had already been there…and escaped.

“Trygger, who was that lovely lady you took into the toilet?” Jack asked, appearing by my side suddenly.

I kept my eyes trained on the party that headed out the door. The woman was the last to leave. She looked around. Our gaze locked. My chest squeezed so hard, I couldn’t breathe. Blowing a kiss, the dark haired, pale skinned woman disappeared out of the barn.

“Who the fuck was that?” Jack said, completely distracted from his previous question. “I would do her in an instant. Wow.”

“That…was my greatest enemy,” I uttered, finally able to pull air into my lungs.

I still stared at the empty space where she had been. Oh, how I longed for my sword so I could run the blade through her heart. For a hundred years I had been tracking her. A hundred years I had followed her across London, never quite able to catch her scent. Roses. She smelt of roses.

The Fallen Ones had a habit of covering themselves with a certain scent. Firstly, to cover the smell of decaying souls and flesh, but mainly as a signal to other dark ones to follow.

“It wasn’t…?”

Finally looking at my friend, I frowned as I tried to clear my head. The burn lessened the further the Fallen One got from me. Giving in to the desire, I rubbed my chest, directly over my heart. What I wouldn’t give to have Freya pull the power out of me and give it back to Thor.

“It was.” I blinked, frowning when I looked towards Frankie’s table.

“Why did you leave Chloe?” I asked him, staring at the pair on the sofa.

The woman in question had one arm around Frankie’s neck, guiding his head to her neck and the other reaching for her thigh. Jack grabbed my arm as I was about to fly across the room. Knocking him back, I kept my mouth shut as my feet moved.

Chloe’s hand snatched the knife from the garter, brought it up and plunged it into Frankie’s neck. Blood spurted as Chloe held still, twisting the blade for good measure. I jumped over the women still having sex on the table and wrapped my arms around Chloe, dragging her off the sofa.

Frankie’s human host was too weak to withstand the attack. But, his soul could jump into her at any moment. I paused when the body spasmed. That only happened when the dark soul was sent back to Helheim.

“We need to get out of here,” I muttered in Chloe’s ear when the women on the table started to screech.

Although the humans liked darkness, they were still weak when it came to death. They wouldn’t take too kindly to a stranger killing the owner of the club.

People started to get up to see what was happening. Marching Chloe away, I headed towards the front exit. Shouts calling us back made me run. Chloe’s stupidly high heels hindered her escape. Kicking them off, she glanced behind her.

“Concentrate on getting out of here or you’ll be killed.”

I had no idea where Jack was. It was better for him to stay neutral. If he had stayed by the bar, he could plead ignorance. Not many people would have taken notice of him dancing with Chloe earlier in the night. Did they plan her stupid move together? Surely Jack wouldn’t have been so bloody ignorant.

“Jack…?” Chloe muttered.

Ignoring her, I shook off the people who tried to grab at my jacket. Chloe’s dress had blood all over it. The humans were slow to react, always had been. Frankie obviously enjoyed his company as fresh as possible, which was good for me. Thrusting outside, I dragged Chloe with me.

“What’s going…?”

I charged straight into the bouncer who was about to come through the door. He caught my arms, but my momentum kept us moving forward. He retreated but didn’t let go. Releasing Chloe, I wrapped my fingers around his arm and spun, bending it behind his back. He groaned, but managed to spin me and release himself.

“Trygger!” Chloe called when the man launched himself forward.

Ducking, I swung under him, punching straight up into his gut. Falling hard, he smacked his shoulder against the concrete.

“Get out of here,” I told her as the bouncer stumbled to his feet.

There was no way the man was going to give up without a fight. He was trained well. And, full of darkness that needed venting. The blood on Chloe would have sent him into overdrive. The flare of his nostril made me pause. A white powder came out of his nose as he breathed. Was he high? Or, magicked up?

“I’m not going anywhere.”

Her words should have distracted me, but they didn’t. To hell with her. She was the one who had caused the trouble, so if she wanted to stay, she could. When they caught her, I wouldn’t save her. It wasn’t my problem.

The hulking man shot forward again, his thick fist ploughing into my neck. I had expected him to aim for my face, so I dodged, but his speed increased quicker than I anticipated. The air shot out of my lungs as I flew back onto the ground. Rolling sideways as he flung himself down, I jumped up and onto his back when his face smashed into the concrete.

He might be fast, he might be powerful, but his tactics were slightly disjointed. As if he was new to fighting. Had Frankie hired an idiot to keep the riff raff out of his party? Or, had Frankie been so confident in his friends’ fidelity, he didn’t believe there would be any trouble.

Taking hold of the bouncer’s head, I pulled back. He thrust his body up, his muscles rebounding me off him. He managed to turn and wrap his legs around my neck, squeezing tight. I choked, digging my fingers around his thighs. His bulk was too much, I couldn’t wrench his muscle off me.

A flash of yellow light blinded my vision. The pressure on my windpipe eased as the bouncer went still, his body slumping beside me. Small hands pulled his legs away. Soon they grabbed my arm and tried to haul me up.

Leaning onto my side, I gasped for air as stars danced in front of my eyes. He had almost strangled me with his meaty legs, the bastard. How did he have so much strength?

Chloe’s hands pulled at me, and I finally tuned into what she was saying. “It sounds like they’re going mad in there. I touched the doorframe on the way out, sealing them in…including Jack.”

The sob in her voice made me clamber to my feet. Taking her hand, I glanced at the club as I led her down the path. Luckily, there were no windows in the place. If there had been, the image of what we looked like would be imprinted on their brains.

“What have you done?” I hissed as we shoved through the gates.

Half dragging, half carrying her, I put my arm around her waist to get her moving. She shook me off, cringing when she saw the blood that covered her hand. We couldn’t even get a taxi home.

“I was just doing my job.”

Clenching her fists, she threw her heels on the ground and started to run full pelt. Pausing to pick up her discarded shoes, I followed. If she left those behind, they would find them…and use them to track her scent. That woman knew nothing of the Dark Crawlers and their habits. Surely, if she did, she would know that the way they recognised someone was through smell. Especially as they were so often jumping hosts.

“Chloe!”

Catching up, I jogged beside her. The faster she ran, the harder she breathed. I was much fitter, so my run was slow compared to usual. The woman was a hindrance that I didn’t need. It had been a successful night all in all. However, her carelessness could have got her killed. Or, even worse…made her a host.

Instead of speaking to her, I felt down her thigh as it moved and snatched the knife out from her garter. She gasped, her pace slowing as I studied the blade, not needing to look where I ran. She had ripped it out of Frankie’s neck when I had pulled her away.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

Instead of slowing down to her pace, I sped up. The little bitch had stolen a dagger from my wall in the magic room. And survived touching it. Her magic from Freya must have stopped her dying. When the hell had she done that? I thought she had grabbed a normal knife from the kitchen. Not one that could send a soul back to Helheim.

“Wait!” she called as we neared the busier part of town.

I wouldn’t wait. The little minx had decided to take matters into her own hands. She could have ruined everything. I wasn’t going to help her get home. Not when she had gone against everything I had taught her so far.

“Please.” The call was faint as I disappeared around the end of the street.

It was safe for me to use public transport. I wasn’t the one with blood all over my clothes. Ducking down into the tube station, I vaulted over the ticket barriers and skipped down the escalator. No, I wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving her on the streets of London in the middle of the night. Not even a little bit.

A tube train pulled up as I wandered onto the platform. Perfect timing. Sliding through the doors, I glanced around and lowered myself on the nearest seat to the exit. A couple of people were on the train, but no one of interest.

“Have you got the time?” a young man asked.

He stared at me, his pupils almost filling his iris. There was nothing like getting high when you were young. I’d had my fair share of fun, trying every type of drug on the market all through the ages. These people had no idea what a real trip was like.

“It’s two thirty,” I replied, glancing at my watch.

The boy’s eyes widened. I swallowed as I spotted the dash of blood on my wrist just above the leather watch strap.

“How did you get that on your wrist?” he asked, a little too confidently.

If he wasn’t so out of it, he probably would have got up and moved to a different carriage. But, the lame drugs he had taken made him careless.

“I’m a butcher,” I replied, smiling to myself. For the first time in a long time, the blood was not from a kill of my own. In fact, I was quite disappointed that Chloe had taken all the fun. Although, sinking myself between the legs of the woman in the bathroom had been a bonus I hadn’t expected.

“Ha! A butcher in a suit, how very Criminal Minds.”

The lad laughed, slapping the seat beside him. The others on the train ignored us, either listening to music on their headphones or reading a book. London life was lonely, isolated and boring in a crowd of people.

“Want to know what really happened?” I asked him, prepared to play to his pathetic sense of humour.

He nodded, his eyes growing wider as he bit on the inside of his mouth continuously. What an unattractive way to get high. Seriously, why these people bothered was beyond me. No one read history on the good ways to get high back in the day anymore.

Sighing, I leant my head on the window as the whirl of the train travelling through the tubes lulled me. “I took my…friend…to a party. She got a little bit carried away, like you do.”

Laughter burst from him as if I had said something hilarious. I waited for him to calm down until I went on.

“She decided that she didn’t like the way one man made a move on her, so she drew blood.” Shrugging, I read the advert on the roof of the train. Life insurance. I joined in with the laughter of the boy who was off his face. Not because of what I said, but because life insurance for me was ironic.

“Good on her! Is she hot?”

Frowning, I pictured Chloe in my mind. Her unpolished ways were a hindrance to the training. The way she did her hair and sucked her lip was irritating.

“I wouldn’t know, she’s a…”

“Relative?” The lad nodded as if he understood.

Although Chloe wasn’t a relative, I would use that word to describe the type of relationship I had with her. But, really I was her trainer…that was all.

“Something like that.”

A chill rushed over my body as the train started to slow for the next stop. My stop. A stop where something or someone waited for me.

“This is me,” I announced to the boy.

Reaching out his hand, he took mine in a tight grasp. “You look after that woman,” he said, his wide eyes almost staring through me.

Prying him off me, I got to my feet and left the train. My hand went to the back of my waistband, ready to palm my gun. A chill filtered down my spine as I walked towards the exit, my steps drowned out by the leaving train.

The silence descended as the echo of the wind died down. Keeping my feet light, but quick, I stayed by the wall, ready to defend myself if a creature came out at me.

“Trygger.”

Her voice was soft, floating to me across the platform. Spinning, I grabbed my gun, aiming it directly at the goddess.

“Freya…”

She stood right on the edge of the platform, only one step away from being on the tracks. Lowering my arm, I watched her as the wind whipped her long golden hair around her body. Her white dress reached the ground, but didn’t make contact. The ethereal light of her hovered and shimmered outwards.

“Thor sends his love,” she said, pointing up, towards the heavens.

Swallowing, I stepped closer, my gun still in hand. It wasn’t Freya I didn’t trust, it was the minions that could creep up on me while I spoke to her. She would surely disappear if anyone turned up. Which would leave me distracted.

My heartbeat did a little flip with the mention of my grandfather. I hadn’t thought about him personally for a while. “Really?”

Freya’s hard jaw softened as she watched me, her hands hanging loosely, confidently, by her side. Her eyes twinkled, even though the light was artificial underground.

“Yes, really. He begged me to talk to you on his behalf. In fact, he’s been bugging me for almost a millennia.” Freya held up a hand as I approached.

Freezing to the spot, I waited for her to go on. My stomach rolled at the idea of my grandsire, the mighty god Thor, not being able to speak to me. And having to plead with a female deity to do as he bid. That would have hurt his pride.

“Look, I don’t have much time… Thor sends his love and thanks you for everything you’ve done to get his thunder back to him. He’s proud to call the Thunder Hunter his kin.”

A lump came to my throat for the first time in hundreds of years. Coughing, I cleared it, nodding instead of replying to Freya. I couldn’t speak in that moment, even if I wanted to. Which was a rare feat for me. Very rare indeed.

“I noticed you finally set eyes on our Fallen One last night,” Freya said, her expression turning serious. The swell of her lips rubbed together as she regarded me. “Do you think you’ll be able to find her again?”

Checking around me, I waited as a surge of wind came down the tunnel and onto the platform. Another train approached. Freya stayed where she was, waving her hand once. The train ploughed through the station, not stopping at the platform.

“Did you just…?”

Her smile was small before she stared straight into my eyes. “Like I said, I don’t have much time. Well…?”

“Yes. I know what she looks like now, I can draw her and get…” I stopped speaking as a shudder made my body move.

Freya rolled her eyes, seemingly bored with me…the immortal human slash a tiny bit god. I did have some diluted god blood in me.

“Okay, so you don’t want to tell me your plan. You never have trusted me, have you?” She had the cheek to look affronted. Her usually porcelain pale cheeks blushing pink.

“Do you blame me?” I had never voiced my anger towards Freya until now. “You could have given Thor back his thunder straight away, instead of dragging me into your little game.”

She shot forward, the force of her spirit almost knocking me back. I planted my feet firmly on the concrete, making sure to keep eye contact as she hovered just in front of me, her beautiful eyes only a couple of inches from mine.

“You think this is a game, do you?” she hissed, spit flying into my face. “If it wasn’t for me, Loki would have destroyed the world by now. Ragnarok would have happened a long time ago. But, I changed history, giving us a chance to get the Fallen Ones back to where they belong.”

I kept my gaze glued to hers, seeing the truth of her soul. She did believe in what she said. She thought she had saved the world, solely on her own.

“You owe me an apology,” I said, quietly.

Moving back as if I had slapped her, Freya put a hand to her bosom. The dress she wore wasn’t tight or revealing, but did accentuate her perfect goddess figure. A surge of power stormed through me as she sunk to her knees in front of me. A goddess kneeling at the feet of a man.

“You’re right. I’m sorry that I’ve never acknowledged what you’ve done for the Vikings, for the gods…for me.”

Looking around to check if anyone was there, I almost grunted because the station was empty. I would have given anything to have someone witness a goddess bowing and apologising at my feet. Oh, how I would remember the moment for the rest of my life.

“It’s okay, as long as you hold up your end of the bargain, I’ll keep fighting.”

Gracefully, Freya got to her feet and placed a hand on my chest. The power in me surged, making me shake where I stood. She smiled, her rosebud lips puckering as she did.

“It’s still so strong in you, isn’t it? I wondered how long it would survive on Earth without its real owner. But, you’re doing a fine job of keeping it safe. You shall be sad to lose it, I’m sure.” Freya drummed her dainty fingernails over my heart.

I had never thought about not having Thor’s power in me. The time would come when I died and his power was returned. When I was dead, everything would be different. I wouldn’t have a chance to miss the power as I resided peacefully in Valhalla.

“You’re so close, Trygger. You’ve only got five more souls to go…and I have a good feeling about Chloe. I think she’ll help you to track them down and find them quicker. She has a gift.”

Nodding, I placed my hand over hers, stilling her movement. A shock of electric zipped up my arm, but I kept my expression straight and my fingers soft on hers.

“Why Chloe? She’s…”

“One of the best trackers in the world. Do you really think she didn’t know where you were all those years? She trained and trained in that area, although that did lead to neglect in every other area,” Freya said, the corners of her lips sinking into her cheeks. “But, use her talents, Hunter. Use them well.”

Leaning forward, Freya kissed my cheek. My whole body relaxed as her warm, sexy energy sifted into me. Moving closer to my ear, she whispered. “And, forget about the cult until you’ve got the Fallen One.”

The wind came again and Freya was gone. Lifting my gun, I swung around to check that no one was at the station. No, I was alone. Running across the platform, I took the steps up two at a time. Freya, the Viking goddess of love, had not only apologised to me, but kissed me, too. If only I could tell my family, they wouldn’t have known what to do with themselves.

However, that time had gone. A long, long while ago. I had no family. No friends. It was just me, against the world. Against the evil. And, it was about time I died and went to heaven.





12





Fighting For The Truth





MY FEET ALMOST tore up the magic room floor. Pacing, I swung my sword, high above my head. Then bent one knee and thrust it upwards, aiming for what would be my enemy’s side.

“Trygger, you son of a bitch!”

Chloe’s shout caused me to pause. Her footsteps slapped against the wooden floor of the gym, on their way to the room I currently trained in.

Ignoring her, I pirouetted, swiping the blade of my sword in a circle. The Fallen One would be cut in half by now if she were here.

The bang on the door was followed by it being thrust open. “I knew you’d be in here.”

Going over to the wall, I hung my sword back up. It was too powerful to have around a stroppy woman. Stroking the handle softly before I turned, I readied myself for her onslaught.

“Have you only just got home? What took you so long?”

I had slept and showered. Feeling refreshed, I had decided to train with the sword. I was one with it whenever I picked it up, not really needing the refresher, but I knew it wouldn’t be long until I used it again.

“You know what? Fuck you!” Chloe came into the room and shut the door, leaving Rusty outside.

Aiming a finger directly at me, she released a stream of gold magic. Ducking just in time, I held up my hands.

“Whoa, chill out.”

“No,” she barked, firing another shot.

She wasn’t a very good aim. The magic went just above my head, hitting the mirror behind me. Looking at where the shot had hit the glass, I laughed. There was a tiny black mark, but nothing to worry about.

A sharp pain hit my leg as she shot yet again. It made contact with my calf muscle, making me jump in the air. Moving, I turned to face her. She wasn’t fooling around, she meant to hurt me.

“You left me to walk through one of the biggest cities in the world with blood all over me. On my own. You’re a fucking wanker!”

Yelping, I dodged out of the way when she threw up her other hand, releasing a long string of heated magic. It was similar to Thor’s lightning, but yellow. It made sense considering Freya was always a golden colour. However, it was rare that descendants had much magic left. The witches tended to be the ones with the magical powers.

“Okay, okay, seriously…calm down.”

My words were said in vain. She lifted her arm again. Shooting forward, I tackled her by the waist, knocking her to the ground. Rusty whined outside when he heard Chloe grunt from the impact.

“Get off me!” she huffed, trying to worm out of my grasp.

It didn’t work. She might have more direct magic than me, but I had much more strength. If she wanted to hurt me, she would have to try a lot harder.

“Let’s do this,” I announced.

Springing to my feet, I took a step back, my arms held in front of me. Chloe surged up, running at me full pelt. She had some anger to burn. And, I didn’t mind being her punch bag. Not if it meant she got better at punching.

“You really pissed me off.” It was good to see the aggression come out in her.

She claimed that she wanted to use her emotion as a strength, well, anger was a good one to channel. Not that I would tell her that, it was something she needed to find out herself.

When she made contact, ploughing straight into me, I held tight, my feet running back with the momentum. Instead of trying to hit me, Chloe hooked her leg around my knee and pushed me forcefully.

I went down, rolling my back on the floor, lifting my legs into her stomach and taking her with me. Flipping her over, I pinned her to the ground. She grunted, squeezed my buttock hard and kneed me right where no man should ever be kneed.

She had just won the game. Slumping on top of her, she moaned when my weight crushed her. It was the least I could do considering the foul move she had just pulled. She shoved me off as I grabbed my nether region and curled up into a ball. I never expected that hit.

“Serves you right,” she said.

Although she breathed hard, she got to her feet and ran out of the room. Probably making sure she was well out of the way before I regained composure. My teeth ground together as pain radiated through my groin area. I had forgotten how it felt to injure my most delicate parts.

A memory flashed into my mind of my brothers. When we were young in Scandinavia, we played a game. Six boys stood around with the smallest one in the middle. All boys had two minutes to find the best shield for their privates. When time was up, the little boy went around the circle, kicking the others right in the knackers. It was a painful, stupid game. Ah, how Vikings had to prove their manly worth.

The memory made my heart ache for something I hadn’t allowed myself to think of for so long. My memories were my weakness. The only thing that could harm me.

Rusty’s claws clipped across the wooden floor towards me, breaking my thought pattern. A small lick on my face made me open my eyes and look at him. My body went still as our gaze locked.

Bloody dog. “Stop, Rusty!”

He instantly began to wag and broke eye contact. Could I control him that easily? Would he work with me? I relaxed against the floor as the pain slowly started to subside. If that bitch had caused damage, I would… What would I do? To Freya’s descendant?

“Rusty, your owner is a crazy bitch, but she does have a good bloody aim when it comes to her knee.”

Getting to my feet, I tiptoed out of the room and through to the balcony. My new friend followed me, nudging me for a stroke when I leant over to see where Chloe was. Not downstairs. Stroking the dog’s ear unconsciously, I listened, hearing a small sob come from my office. Or, technically, Chloe’s room.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I muttered under my breath, really not wanting to deal with woman tears.

Hobbling forward, I opened the door to her room. There was no way she would politely invite me in, so I had to take the initiative. Even if I did just want to escape downstairs to make tea…or nurse my poorly bits in the bath.

“Chloe?”

“Go away,” she choked, throwing a pillow when I stuck my head around the door.

Ignoring her, I came in, pushing Rusty in front of me. The tall golden dog rushed to her when he heard that she was crying. Jumping on her bed, he buried himself against her side. She laughed when he licked her face, getting rid of the tears.

“Seriously, please leave me alone,” she said when she looked at me.

I had never backed down on much in my life, and I wouldn’t start now. So, I might have acted like a dick by leaving her to fend for herself, but she had to learn.

“No.”

Moving to the office chair, I sat down, careful to not knock my bruised self in any way. Chloe wiped her face on the bedcover and faced away from me, towards the wall.

“That was the first time I have ever killed anyone.”

Her confession made me rub a hand over my face, my fingers catching the stubble on my chin. When I thought about her using her emotions, crying wasn’t what I had in mind.

“How have you lived two hundred and twenty years without killing anyone?”

“I never needed to. Loki’s family were perfectly capable of doing all the killing. Besides, they shunned me, only wanting me for my tracking skills.”

I could understand why they didn’t use her for fighting, she didn’t exactly have a natural talent for it.

“Tell me your story, Chloe, I want to know who you are.” I kept my voice neutral but firm.

Shaking her head against the pillow, she stayed facing away from me. That was okay, I didn’t mind her hiding. But, I would know what had happened to her in the time she had been with my enemies.

“Tell me your story.”

The demand made her sob again. I held back my impatience as I settled into the ergonomic chair, ready to listen. Rusty still laid beside Chloe, his solid bulk obviously a comfort to her. She stroked him rhythmically, her breathing becoming less frantic. If she fell asleep, I would throw water over her face.

“You pulled a crazy stunt last night, the least you could do is tell-”

“Okay!” she said forcefully as she spun onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. “Okay, I’ll tell you.”

Cupping my tender area, I crossed my leg over my knee and waited for her to speak. I would praise her fighting skill later, but right now, I had to keep my mouth shut.

“I was born in Sweden in 1796 to Freya’s last descendant, my father. My mother died in childbirth, but my father brought me up with no problem. My name was Agnes back then. I kept that name for most of my life, until I was swapped for Loki’s descendant. My father died when I was twenty years old. I was alone…completely alone.”

The wobble of her voice alerted me to fresh tears. Biting my tongue, literally, I kept my opinion to myself.

“Until Freya turned up, I lived in the mountains, away from civilisation. My father had made trips to local towns, but always left me at home. Freya told me that I had a very important job to do. She also said that I would live a long time, until I could complete my mission. At first, I wasn’t afraid. My father had told me that we were Freya’s bloodline, so I wasn’t surprised that she had visited me. Then… I went into society. That was a knock back.” She cringed into herself, patting Rusty when he sniffed her armpit.

“So, that’s when Freya froze your aging?”

She nodded, turning her head to look at me briefly. “She did the same to you, didn’t she?”

Grunting, I put my fist to my mouth. “You could say that.”

Although a small smile lit her lips, it quickly vanished as she turned to stare at the ceiling again. “I fumbled through life, making friends here and there. It took me a good twenty years just to get used to how civilisation worked. In fact, quite a few times I disappeared back into the mountains for a couple of years. Eventually, Freya came to me and gave me my magic.”

Rusty put his head on Chloe’s arm, comforting her unease as she told her life story. It seemed the woman had been lonely in her young life. At least my family had lived until I would have been fifty. They accepted me as I was, always away from home, trying to avenge Thor. I should have stayed with them for those years. I never knew how much I would miss them when they were gone.

“She gave me the name of a family who were working on finding Loki’s descendants. I went and lived with them, becoming their first tracker. They trained me well, not bothering to use me for anything other than that. No chance of me learning to fight. After ten years, I moved to a different part of the company. That was the name I gave them. They worked for Freya, although they didn’t know that.”

“Did you ever find the bastard’s spawn back then?” I spat, sitting up when her gaze shot to me.

“Yes, several times. We wiped out families…so they couldn’t get to you.”

The blood in my veins chilled. Leaning forward, I rested my chin on my folded hands. “Wait. That’s exactly what the people did to your…well…”

“That’s what I was thinking. The company disbanded fifty years ago. There just wasn’t enough interest because…well, mythology isn’t taken quite as seriously anymore. Not with the internet and technology.”

“You don’t think it’s an uprising from the same people?” I asked, chewing on the inside of my cheek.

Chloe shook her head, slowly sitting up. “As far as I know, they all died of old age. But…I could check to see if any of the same tactics have been used. The rune wasn’t significant to them, though.”

Nodding once, I stared at her. “Thank you for sharing your story. You literally tracked all those years?”

“Yes, I got bored out of my brain. And, when they died off, I decided to live a normal human life until Freya made me go and live with Loki’s family. Can I use your computer?”

Getting to her feet, she shooed me out of the way. The blood stain on her dress had dried, cracking slightly.

“Don’t you want a shower?”

She looked down at herself, a grimace crossing her face when her hand reached out and touched Frankie’s host’s life force. “Yes, then I’m going to research the group that killed-”

“Before you do that, I need to ask you a favour.”

Looking down at me, she raised her eyebrows. “A favour? Like I should do anything for you after what you did last night.”

“What? Save your arse from all those people who were going to kill you? I think you should be thanking me after your careless murder.”

I bit back a smile when she shrugged and turned to leave. “What can I say? My trainer is obviously not good enough.”

Lunging from the chair, I grabbed her arm before she disappeared out of the room. “I’ll have you know that your trainer is one of the most sexiest, mysterious men in the world. However, he may have overestimated how ready you were.”

Snarling at me, she knocked my hand off. I let her have her tantrum as she stormed away from me and towards the top of the stairs.

“Chloe, when you’ve had your shower, I need you to track this woman.” Taking a piece of paper out of my pocket, I unfolded it and held it up for her to see.

She paused, curiosity overtaking her indignant mood. Glancing over her shoulder, she stared. “I saw her last night. Did you…?”

“Draw it? Yes, I did. Can you find her?”

Crossing her arms over her chest, she came closer, examining the picture. “Yes,” she breathed, tracing the outline of the face. “I can trace her. Leave it on the desk.”

Spinning, she ran down the stairs, Rusty on her tail. Frowning to myself, I studied the face of the Fallen One. The evil spirits rarely took residence in a female body. The only reason was because of brawn. Most of them knew there would be a battle. However, times had changed since my last kill.

The Fallen One had power and money…that was obvious. She had magic in the form of witches. And, she wouldn’t be afraid to use it. All I had to do was get the evil little bitch on her own.





13





One Step Closer





“FUCK ME, MATE, what was that about the other night?”

Jack pointed at the painting on the wall, momentarily distracted as we sat down at the table. It was three days after our little mishap at the party. It had been a jam packed few days of Chloe training and tracking. I had made targets for her in the magic room. She practiced hitting them for hours at a time. She was getting better, but she still had a long way to go.

“It was…an experience, that’s what it was,” I replied, ordering a tea from the waitress.

The woman’s teeth were bright white as she made eyes at me. Tracing the outline of my tattoo, her gaze moved over my muscles and down to my fingers. The minx probably had wicked thoughts about what I would do with my long, strong digits. I would usually be happy to oblige, but I had too much on my mind.

“Do you want to join us?” Jack asked, patting the seat beside him.

The woman laughed and waved away his suggestion, going back to the kitchen. The café was attached to an exclusive art gallery. Jack appreciated a dark painting or two.

“Well?”

“Well, what?” Jack asked, dragging his eyes away from the woman’s arse to look at me.

Sitting back, I regarded him closely. My contact was usually brimming with information and excitement. Today, he was on edge. More than once he had checked over his shoulder.

“Why have you invited me here to talk?”

Running a hand over his fluffy hair, Jack tucked his sunglasses further back on his head. “Frankie’s wife…”

“Wife?” I spat, lowering my voice when Jack eyeballed me. “I didn’t know the bastard was married.”

“He was…and, she’s not a very happy bunny. Apparently, she knew exactly what Frankie was…and has ordered her men to find Chloe and repay the favour.” Leaning forward, Jack checked around before he carried on. “I’ve done a little digging into who she is and it turns out that she’s involved with the Hagalaz cult.”

My hand automatically went to the gun in the waistband of my leather trousers. If Jack had done some digging and found out such vital information, he had probably ruffled some feathers or caused suspicion with his enquiries.

“Don’t panic,” he said, pointing at my arm where it bent behind my back. “I’m…being careful because I may have slept with one of the Fallen One’s witches last night. And, stolen her phone.”

How that man had not been killed amazed me. He either had a death wish or a strong belief that he was protected for some reason.

“You’re not a wealth of information for no reason, are you, my man?” I relaxed, sitting against the seat as the waitress came back with our drinks.

Jack’s smirk was aimed at me, but the waitress paid attention. Leaning low, she allowed her top to fall open and reveal her cleavage. “My boss wants to speak to you,” she whispered into Jack’s ear.

Both of us turned to look towards where she had come. Neither of us had been expecting her to say that. Her boss was obviously someone who knew us.

“Who is he?” Jack asked.

There was no one obviously looking at us. The waitress pointed towards a painting on the wall. My eyes instantly zoomed in on the background. I had barely glanced at it as we made our way to the café, but now it had my full attention. A mash of runes were painted subtly behind the sullen beautiful face of an angel. Wait, that wasn’t an angel…it was the Fallen One from Frankie’s party.

Jack got to his feet the same time as me. The waitress nodded at a man who stood staring at the painting. Her boss, apparently. Not even bothering to wait for Jack, I strode over to him. What did the mysterious man want?

“Trygger, wait!” Jack grabbed my forearm as I went to tug my gun out.

My magic was never my first choice of weapon. It wasn’t fair on humans to use magic to hurt them. That was something I had always maintained since my mother begged me not to hurt a village boy when he tried to steal my sword. She made me see that humans were defenceless and to use magic would be wrong.

Releasing my gun, I slowed my step as I got nearer to the man. He was almost as tall as me, but his frame was skinny. The dark hair on his head was short and thick. Getting closer, I clocked the glasses and old acne scars.

“Let me do the talking.” Jack thrusted himself in front of me. “Hello, there,” he greeted.

The man turned to us, a smile lighting his face. “Well, I’m pleased you agreed to speak to me. I wasn’t sure if the famous Jack Newton would grace me with his presence.”

“And, can I ask who you are, sir?” Jack didn’t bother to deny the outrageous claim to fame. He always did have a big head.

“I’m Martin Sturgent. Owner of this art gallery.”

Jack’s cheeks drained of colour. He glanced at me before offering his hand. “Well, I must say, I’m really honoured to meet you. I love this place. I come here all the time.”

The man nodded as he shook his hand. Turning, he smiled as he studied me. “And, you, sir? I’m afraid I don’t recognise you.”

His gaze went to the painting, his eyes tracing the long line of the woman’s jaw. Did he know that I wanted to find her? The way he stared at her before looking back at me told me more than any words ever could. He knew something. However, I had to work out if he worked for her, or wanted to help me.

“My name is Trygger.” There was no point in lying.

He bowed his head, his eyes dropping to the floor before raising up my body and landing on my arm. Reaching forward, he hovered his finger over my rune tattoo, quickly pulling back when I cleared my throat.

“I’m sorry, I have a bit of a thing…for runes. And, Viking history.”

“You do?”

Jack stepped between us, putting his arm around the man’s shoulders as best he could, considering he was a fair bit shorter. “I wanted to ask you who painted this?” He pointed at the rune infested painting of the Fallen One.

I was tempted to drag him out of the gallery. There was too much at stake in such an open space. I would never trust anyone who had a painting of my ultimate enemy on the wall. My senses hadn’t heated, so there were no Dark Crawlers or Fallen Ones around. Still, it was a risk to be so exposed.

“This painting was done by my daughter. She was an amazing artist…”

“Was…?” I breathed, my gut tightening.

Martin looked at me, his eyes becoming hooded as emotion overtook him. He had lost his daughter. And, by the looks of it, the Fallen One had something to do with it. Jack glanced at me, his shoulders straightening as the same realisation hit him.

“I heard you’re the man I need to speak to if I want to find out about…” He gestured at the painting, his lips pursing in disgust. “…this world.”

He was facing Jack now, his back turned to me. I kept my expression blank as a smile spread on Jack’s lips. He was feeling more comfortable at the idea of doing what he did best. Maybe my first reaction had been off. If the man was looking for revenge for his daughter, I would happily help him get it.

“Can we go somewhere more private where you can explain what happened?” Jack asked, looking around us.

I did the same, checking the people in the gallery. They were admiring the paintings or drinking tea while chatting. No one looked suspicious.

The man nodded once, leading us away from the painting. Pausing before I followed, I got my phone out and took a picture of it. Maybe it would help Chloe track the Fallen One.

“Trygger,” Jack called from a lift in the corner of the gallery.

Going over, I ran my gaze over the man again. His grief was evident in the way he held his shoulders, sunken in with his back hunched over. My instincts told me that I could trust him. My gut was never wrong.

“Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me. It was purely by chance that I saw you at the gallery today. I was going to contact you privately, but when I spotted you on the camera monitors, I knew I had been sent a sign by my daughter.”

I faced forward as the lift door closed and Martin pressed a button. Jack laughed a little, putting a hand on his shoulder and squeezing.

“I always say that there ain’t such a thing as coincidence, don’t I, Hunter?”

“Hunter?” The man’s cheeks blotched red, the pits of his skin staying pale against the contrasting colour.

“Just a nickname,” I said, glaring at Jack.

Martin nodded as the door opened. The lift spat us out into a hallway that led to one door. Resting my hand on the gun at my back, I followed the other two. When Martin let himself into the room, he gestured for us to go in. I raised my eyebrows at him. It was time to let him know that I wasn’t as easily led as my friend. There would always be a part of me on guard, even if my instincts said that I was safe.

The corner of his lip rose as he went into the room behind Jack. A large white walled office opened up to a small balcony. One wall was made of complete glass and overlooked the River Thames.

Moving to a group of sofas in front of a fake roaring fire, Martin gestured for us to sit. I paused as Thor’s thunder thumped in my chest. Looking at the white wall, I blinked a few times. The power wanted me to see something. As I stared, the others chatted between themselves about the view. Slowly, my eyes started to blur and a slightly darker shade of paint showed through the white.

“Please, take a seat. Can I offer a drink?”

Scanning my eyes over the whole wall, I swallowed as hundreds of small runes appeared in my eye line. They had been painted over, covering their glaring ancient symbolism.

“Trygger, join us!” Jack ordered, jolting me from my staring.

Shaking myself, I went over to them, lowering myself onto the edge of the chair. Jack had asked for a whiskey it seemed. A bottle was brought out from under the table. Martin poured three, pausing when he offered me the glass.

“Did you see them?”

He must had caught me staring like an idiot. I should have been more discreet, but the revelation had caught me off guard. The runes were every imaginable version, yet, one jumped out at me. Hagalaz. It was mixed in, not obvious, but it was reoccurring all the same.

“Do you have Viking ancestry?” I asked, deflecting his question.

He nodded, his face lighting up for the first time. “I do. My great grandfather was born and raised in Denmark. He claimed that he descended from the gods. I did my research, and alas, he was poorly educated in that regard. However, he was the descendant of a king.”

A smile crossed my lips. It had been a long time since I had spoken to someone who loved Viking history. Most British people were a little less than interested considering we had ransacked their country many moons ago.

“Ah, what king? I might have known him.” My words were truth, I had known many kings back in the day of ancient Scandinavia. Martin wouldn’t know that of course, he would think I was a historian like himself.

“Christian II.” Martin’s smug expression was surpassed by Jack’s bored sigh.

If I had been alone with the man, I would have gone into detail about his ancestry. I remembered when the King had reigned in Denmark mainly. I had been fighting my own war by then. In fact, if I remembered correctly, I was in Francia.

“Interesting. I do know quite a bit about the history. Legend has it I am actually descended from the gods.” I couldn’t help my brash claim.

Martin wouldn’t have a clue what I was speaking about. It had been such a long time since I had been able to make such a bold statement. And, yet, it didn’t feel as satisfying as I had thought it might.

“You are? Well, sir, we must sit down and discuss that tit-bit! I would love to find out about your heritage.” Martin downed his whiskey, pouring another one instantly as he scrutinised my face.

Maybe I had said too much already. The man was obviously obsessed with runes. In fact, maybe he had something to do with the Hagalaz cult.

“Your daughter,” Jack said, swiping the bottle off the table to refill his glass. “Please, tell us what happened.”

Martin became sombre as he looked over our heads to the wall behind. I resisted the urge to look and see if there were any more runes hidden in the artwork or the walls.

“My daughter was twenty when she met her boyfriend. He’s a guitarist in a band, she was a budding artist. They had that crazy type of love, soon getting caught up in drugs and partying. One day, she told me that he had pledged his soul to an evil spirit. I laughed, not believing in her dramatics. How wrong I was.”

My sharp look at Jack made him shut his mouth before he spoke. The last thing we needed was to let on how much we knew about the world Martin’s daughter was involved in. In fact, it sounded suspiciously like a certain Fallen One who had influenced the couple.

“Do you happen to know the name of the woman in the painting downstairs?” I asked him.

Shaking his head, he frowned, distracted by my sudden change in subject. “No.” He sighed heavily. “My daughter told me that she was the most powerful woman in the city. When I asked her how, she wouldn’t tell me. To be honest, she rarely spoke. Always moody and…sullen.”

“Ain’t all artists like that? That’s what gives them inspiration, ain’t it?”

Martin smiled at my friend. “Yes, true. But, my daughter…she changed…one minute she was a beautiful happy artist, the next…I don’t know, something dark took hold of her.”

My Adam’s apple bobbed as I swallowed. Was Martin’s daughter a victim of a Dark Crawler? Did she become a host after she had got involved with the Fallen One? There were still too many questions about everything that surrounded my enemy. Did the Hagalaz group know anything about one of the most evil spirits on the planet?

“Is her boyfriend still alive?” Jack asked, leaning his arms on his knees.

Martin rubbed a hand over his face, his fingers digging into his scars as they came into contact with his cheeks.

“Yes, he plays private gigs mainly. Actually, my secretary knows him quite well and told me he was playing for someone tonight. A high powered woman, apparently. Very exclusive. He’ll get a huge fee for that, I’m sure.”

Jack looked at me, his eyebrows raised. He knew what I was thinking. Was the woman in the painting the high powered lady that Martin talked about? Maybe we could gate crash the party, just to see.

“I know this is an odd request, but to help you, I would need to speak to your daughter’s boyfriend. Could you ask your secretary to come in so we can find out where the gig is tonight?” Jack tugged on the sleeves of his black shirt. The colour of his outfit made his mousey hair and blue eyes stand out.

Martin nodded and got up from his seat to wander over to his desk. I studied the painting on the opposite wall to me. If the gallery owner was so innocent, why did he have so many ancient runes…mainly runes of protection…all over his office?

I tuned him out as he requested his secretary to join us. The man was involved with something other than an interest in history. He had to be.

The door opened, drawing my attention away from the painting of an angel with black wings, bent over a man who grasped a wooden made version of my tattoo, Eihwaz.

“Can I help you, sir?” the pretty young woman asked.

I turned to her in my seat, my eyes stretching when my gaze traced the tightness of muscles on her legs. The tone of her figure was strong and powerful. Her waist length hair was a temptation all in itself. My fingers itched to wrap around the strands and tug her head so far back, she would find it hard to breathe.

“Yes, these gentlemen are investigating something for me. They need to speak to Andrew about a few things. Could you tell them where he’s performing tonight please?”

Martin came over to the woman, his shoulders pulled high and his arms relaxed by his side. Jack jumped up from his seat and moved to her, almost tripping over himself to get there.

“I…remember you,” he said, a grin spreading on his cheeky face.

The woman’s face flashed red as she cleared her throat daintily. “Hello, Jack.”

No one could forget Jack once they had been within his dirty grasp. He had a way of testing limits, mostly sexual. And, if she had been caught by him, she would probably remember every little detail about their night.

“I need your help. Just the small detail of where the band is playing tonight.” He bent over her hand, kissing the knuckles.

A small shudder ran over her body. Martin wouldn’t have noticed it, but I had been around humans for so very long, I could see every nuance in their stance. Was that a good or bad reaction to Jack? I hoped for our sake, he had shown her a good time.

“Of course, I’ll write the address down for you.”

My phone beeped loudly, drawing attention to me. The woman’s eyes grew wide as I unfolded myself out of the chair and bowed my head to her. She automatically stepped forward, licking her lips as she waited for an introduction.

“This is my friend Trygger, he’s from Scandinavia,” Jack said, scowling at me in warning.

Apparently, Jack had enjoyed the pretty woman’s company too much to share. That was a pity, I could do with releasing some tension before I faced the Fallen One. My heart pounded as the idea ran through me. I could feel it, the closeness. Not physically, like when Thor’s thunder warned me. But, instinctually.

“Trygger is an interesting name. Are you coming to the gig tonight?” Her interest in me could pay off.

Jack linked arms with her, guiding her to Martin’s desk. “He is. Maybe we’ll meet you there. If you could write down the address like a good girl, we can go and get ready…for you.”

Glancing at Martin, I clocked the clench of his hands as the young woman used his pad to write on. Was he protective of her or jealous of the attention she showed us?

Remembering that I had received a text on my phone, I dug it out my pocket. It was Chloe. I hadn’t even thought of her once since leaving the house. The first message made me click my tongue. Apparently, she had found exactly where the Fallen One lived. Yeah, right, as if she would have found my enemy that quickly. After all the years I had tracked her. Although, to be fair, finally having a face to the energy helped a huge amount.

My smile quickly changed to a frown when the second text listed an address. Moving towards Jack, I ran my eyes over the text, memorising the address. My friend was whispering to the woman who now sat at the desk, still writing very slowly.

“Jack!” I snapped, noticing how tense Martin had become.

It wasn’t very professional to flirt with Jack’s client’s secretary, no matter how amazingly hot she was. Or, the history they obviously shared.

“Sorry,” Jack murmured to Martin as he stepped away.

I leant over the desk to look at the piece of paper, my face getting near to the girl’s. She sucked in her breath when I lifted my gaze to look at her. Our eyes met and the small movement in her throat made me want to move closer and lick the smooth skin there.

“Thank you,” I said, snatching the paper and looking down at it.

My lip lifted into my cheek as I moved away, heading towards the door. The address matched the one on my text from Chloe. Apparently my novice did have skills I hadn’t been aware of. And, it looked like tonight, I would finally be able to send another soul back to Freya.





14





Preparing For The Fallen One





“HOW DID YOU do it?” I demanded as I grabbed my sword from the wall in my magic room.

Kissing the handle, I grinned to myself as I tucked it into my scabbard. It had been a hundred years since I had last killed a Fallen One, I had missed my blade.

Chloe followed behind me, just like Rusty followed her. She watched me as I patted the sword and turned to leave.

“I scanned that picture you drew onto the computer. Using your credit card, the one that was sitting on the desk, I purchased a top graphic making software that allowed me to make the image 3D.”

I glanced over my shoulder, my back going stiff. She used my credit card without asking? Wow, it seemed I had a dependent who would be happy to spend my money.

Sighing, I ran a hand over my hair, reaching for the elastic that held it away from my face. Pulling my hair out, I gestured for Chloe to follow me.

“Then, when you sent me that picture of the painting, I crossed referenced it to change anything I didn’t quite have right. When it was perfect, I ran it through social media databases…and got a hit.”

“A hit?”

We walked through the gym before skipping down the stairs. Chloe stayed close to my heels, her hands wringing together in front of her. Moving to the kitchen area, I pulled open a drawer to reveal several strands of ribbons. All dark colours, they sat in a row. Picking up a black one, I gathered my hair, ready to tie it.

A small hand snatched the ribbon from me before I could get it around the thickness of my hair.

“Let me do it. Yes, a hit,” she said, tugging on my hair to smooth it out. “A match to a photo of the person I was searching for. Turned out, our Fallen One had quite a social media presence. Now, that may have been down to the host, rather than the spirit. The photos were a bit older.”

When the bow was tied, Chloe stepped back and absently patted my shoulder. I felt the back of my head, checking that the bow was exactly how I liked it. Apparently, Chloe knew exactly how to tie it. Looking down at my outfit, I straightened my back and brushed the leather of my top. The matching trousers were made for me a hundred years ago by an old man in Germany. The last pair had got blood all over them, making them useless.

My arms were bare as I reached for the sword at my side. I would have to use magic to hide the weapon. There would be a ridiculously slim chance that they would let me in with a blade.

“I’ve never seen those boots before,” Chloe mentioned as I tapped the sword twice, invoking the invisibility spell my old friend had placed over it. “Wow, you’ve hidden it!”

My boots were steel capped, a great invention by modern day standards. It had always hurt my feet when I was in battle with a Fallen One. They knew my footwear had always been weak, like most men, so they took advantage of that. It would be interesting to see how a female would fight. It had been hundreds of years since I had last fought one.

A knock sounded at the front door. “Okay, I’ll see you later.”

“What?” Chloe’s shrill response made me freeze. “I’m coming with you!”

Turning slowly, I raised my eyebrows when she looked down at herself and squeaked. Rushing towards the stairs, she took them two at a time.

“You’re not coming, Chloe,” I shouted, going to the door to let Jack in.

“Oh, yes I am!”

Her reply was muffled as she went into her room. Jack sauntered in, his eyes tracing my outfit.

“Is it fancy dress today, mate? I mean, medieval style suits you, sir, but…I think you may raise an eyebrow or two. And, you’ll probably raise a male or two…if you get my meaning.”

My contact was on form already. He waltzed up to me, gingerly reaching out to rub the leather. Knocking his hand away, I studied his choice of outfit.

“You can talk. What are those?”

Jack wore white jeans tighter than I had ever seen. A long silk shirt with a black and white pattern covered up his lower region, which was a relief. And, on his head, was a pair of bright orange sunglasses. Even though it was dark outside.

“This is fashion, darling, you wouldn’t know it if you were stripped naked and bloody well fed it, would you?”

Shaking my head, I nodded towards the door, putting a finger to my lips to tell him to keep quiet.

“You’re not leaving her here, are you? After she found the woman? How did she do that?”

“No, he’s not leaving me here,” Chloe shouted from the top of the stairs.

Grimacing, I watched as she almost stumbled back down them. Her legs were encased in black leather trousers. A lace skirt covered them, slits right up the sides to the waistband.

“Now that is fashion!” Jack declared as Chloe fumbled her way to the sofa, only to sit down to put her ankle boots on.

Her top was corseted, mainly black with a hint of red ribbon to tie it with. A leather coat had been in her hands when she had come down the stairs. I couldn’t help looking between me and her.

“Aw, you’re matching,” Jack said, grunting when I punched his arm, a little harder than I probably should have.

“I can’t look after you tonight.” I went over to Chloe as she stood and tugged her jacket on.

Her dark blonde hair was messy, but for once, it went with what she wore. A dark ring of black lined her eyelids and her lips were painted bright red.

“I promise not to do anything stupid. I’ve learnt my lesson. I’ll just do as I’m told and keep out of the way.”

My one shot at killing the Fallen One would happen tonight. I had never had to think about anyone else when taking that all important shot. If I missed, the evil spirit could hop into another body, ready to run away.

“Do you think this is a game?” I hissed, my skin suddenly heating. “I’ve been doing this for hundreds of years. Yet, here you are, cramping my style everywhere I turn. Why can’t you just do as you’re told and stay here?”

“Because Freya sent me to help you. I will not sit back and play the helpless woman.” She moved to stand in front of me, her head bent backwards to glare up at me.

“Wow, you could cut the sexual tension like a wedding cake, my loves. Why don’t you just shag it out of your system before we go?”

Chloe took a step back, her mouth dropping open as if Jack had slapped her. When she uttered a sound of disgust, I frowned myself. I wasn’t that bad, was I?

“Well, I don’t know about you lot, but I’ve got a party to go to. If we don’t go soon, we may miss all the fun. Stop bitching and let her come, I’ll look after her.”

“I don’t need looking after,” Chloe insisted, thrusting past me and heading towards the door.

Rusty’s claws clicked on the floor as he followed her. Growling, I looked at Jack. He shrugged, waving at me to just go with them.

“That dog can’t come to a party.”

Chloe ignored me completely as she yanked open the front door and let Rusty go out with her. Was I now completely redundant in my own mission? Was the inexperienced woman going to cost me all my work? She may have found the Fallen One, but so had I. In fact, there was no point in her coming with me at all.

“Why do you want to get yourself killed?” I called, joining them all outside. “That dog is going to look a bit suspicious, isn’t he?”

Chloe stopped walking down the pavement and spun to me. “Will you just fucking trust me for once?”

“You said that last time…look what happened there.”

“Here we go…lovers who have never even fucked having a spat. Excuse me while I snort a line to kill this dull-dom.” Jack dug into his pocket, pulling out a packet of white powder.

“Seriously?” I snarled, knocking it out of his hand. “I need you focused.”

We had made a promise to Martin. Not only was I going to kill the Fallen One tonight, we were going to find out what happened to the gallery owner’s daughter. Jack had to be on the ball so he could do what he did best. Garner information.

“How do you think I usually focus?” Jack bent to pick up the packet. “If you’re going to be that delicate about it, I’ll wait until I get there, pretty boy.”

I wasn’t naïve enough to think that Jack didn’t indulge in sex and drugs. That’s exactly how he became so good at his job. Yet, I didn’t want Chloe to get dragged into the debauchery. There was too much innocence somehow still intact in her after all these years.

“Well?”

“Well, what?” I snapped at Chloe.

She put her hands on her hips, her eyes narrowing on me. “Are we going to the party, or what?”

“The dog?”

“…Has been trained well enough to know what to do. He’ll be waiting for us outside. I have a whistle…” She untucked a pretty metal whistle that was on a gold chain out from under her top.

Moving closer, I took hold of it to get a better look. It was engraved with a flower pattern, one I had seen before.

“The journal.”

In my search for the Fallen One, I had completely forgotten about the journal that the men in Chloe’s house had wanted. When she had grabbed it off her table in her room, I noticed the intricate pattern on the front.

Chloe cleared her throat and took the whistle back, tucking it away again. Biting her lip, she looked past me to Jack.

“You need to tell me about the journal,” I ordered, clicking my fingers at Jack and storming past the woman who had invaded my life.

“In time,” she said, her footsteps following me. “After you’ve got rid of our enemy.”

“Our enemy?” I scoffed, not able to hold back my laugher.

Marching down the side of the building, I grinned when I heard both Chloe and Jack groan. The boat was the safest way for us to get to the party. It would take us to the other side of London, where we could either walk or get a taxi.

“Do we really have to go across the river?” Jack asked, his voice travelling to me from the road.

Keeping my strides long, I ignored him. Either they did it my way, or they stayed behind. Rusty would be less suspicious on the boat, too.

“Come on,” Chloe said to him, probably gesturing for him to follow us.

Getting hold of the rope when I reached the jetty, I started to undo it. The water was calm, the sky clear, which made it easier to see.

“Wait for us to get on,” Jack squeaked, clambering onto the boat just behind Chloe.

Rusty jumped in, not even hesitating. That dog had more guts than the pair of them put together. Maybe I could use his staring power somehow. Even if it meant he could get Chloe to do as she was told. Sighing, I threw the rope. He would never defy his owner. Bloody dog. Or, more accurately, bloody owner.

Starting the engine, I ignored the others as I guided us onto the river. It was quiet other than the roar of the boat and the slicing of the water as we glided through it.

Jack cleared his throat several times. Looking over my shoulder, I raised my eyebrows.

“Just so you know, I’ve taken a Viagra so I may disappear for a moment or two.”

Chloe giggled. Ignoring my outrageous friend, I faced forward to watch the city of London go by. The lights on the bridges of the Thames reflected against the water. The party was on the other side of the city, quite a way from my house. That made me rest easier.

In fact, my whole body hummed in anticipation. The thumping of my heartbeat was only drowned out by Jack’s singing as he started to bay an awful modern day tune. Chloe joined in with him, making a racket, too.

Speeding up, I was tempted to brake suddenly to shut them up, but I realised that it was better they sung instead of bugging me. It wouldn’t take too long to get to our destination, then the singing would stop.





15





Embrace Thor’s Lightning





THE HAIRS ON my arms stood on end. Heat had engulfed my body as soon as I had come into a ten-mile radius of the house we now stood in. The bouncer on the door had recognised Jack straight away, not even bothering to check who we were. They had started to talk about the last time they had seen each other. Turns out Jack had a thing for football. That wasn’t something I expected.

“How does that man know everyone?” Chloe asked, looking around her.

The hallway was marbled throughout, the staircase winding up the side of the wall. It was an old fashioned house, although pretty modernised inside. The plain décor made me yawn as we were offered a glass of champagne.

“He’s literally Jack the lad, he knows everyone and everything. It’s his business.”

I took a deep breath to steady the shaking of my insides. Thor’s thunder was loud and clear in my body, almost bashing against my insides to get out. It had always been an odd sensation, one that I wanted to discuss with my grandfather when I finally saw him again.

“So, what’s your plan?” Chloe had left Rusty in an alleyway near the house.

My hesitation had been apparent, but he was her dog. I had no business telling her what to do with him. If he was captured, well, Chloe would learn her lesson.

“Find her before she finds me. She did make eye contact with me when I saw her at Frankie’s, so she may know who I am. Although, I’ve done my best to keep under a low radar.”

“Well, I can tell you that she’s the daughter of a rich tycoon. He died last year…funnily enough…and she inherited all his money. Apparently, many people comment on how much work she’s had done, considering she’s meant to be ten years older than she is. It must be all that plastic surgery.”

Shaking my head, I looked around as we made our way into one of the living areas, Jack following behind. “No, the Fallen One’s energy would keep her looking younger. Especially as it’s probably draining the life out of people to help her stay as fit as possible. I want to find out how she helped Frankie stay in his host for so long. It’s not usual for a Dark Crawler to be able to do that.”

I snapped my mouth shut as we rounded the corner. Throngs of people milled around talking, many of them the Dark Crawlers I spoke about. Humans were dispersed throughout the room, unaware that a feast of their life-force would probably take place later.

“Trygger,” Chloe said in a quiet voice. “Why is my skin itching like crazy? And, what is that odd smell?”

Looking down at her, I noticed for the first time that she was fidgeting. Maybe her magic picked up on the darkness in the room, too?

“You can probably detect…them…” I discreetly pointed to the disgusting people that littered the room. “And, the smell…the host will be pumping perfume into the air in an attempt to cover the rancid stench of the Dark Creatures.”

Although I had found myself in many venues with them, I had never stayed to party. Humans with dark souls were my best companions. Or, had been…It seemed that since Chloe had come along, I had changed my ways. That didn’t sit right in my chest.

“I don’t want to hang around to watch this place descend into…”

“Fun!” Jack interspersed, clapping me on the back. “This man doesn’t do fun.”

“You confuse me,” Chloe said to Jack. “One minute I think you’re the good guy, but I’m quickly reminded that you’re just as bad as these people.”

Jack put a hand on his chest, feigning pain. “You wound me, sweet woman.” Leaning closer to her, he whispered. I just caught the middle bit of what he said. “…confuse me, too. One minute I’m evil, horny and wanting to fuck. Then you come along and bam…” I didn’t hear the last of his sentence as he breathed the rest of it into her ear.

Seemed Chloe had awoken the good part of Jack that had been lost a long time ago. Something about the woman made it hard not to want to be a decent person. And, that included me.

“I’m going to find her,” I said, waving them away when they went to protest. “You stay down here and keep guard.”

Their spluttering went ignored as I wandered back into the hall and towards the stairs. A small group of people were coming through the front door, so I used their raised voices as a cover to sneak up the marble staircase. My heart burned in my chest, Thor’s thunder ready to explode from me. Ah, patience, my friend, patience.

I was quickly on the landing, moving towards a huge door at the end of a corridor. My instincts led me straight there without even a question. The Fallen One was being fashionably late, which was all the better for me to get an opportunity to kill her first.

“Trygger, please come in,” a female voice shouted from inside the room.

Smiling to myself, I opened the door and slipped inside. The room was dim. Red material draped from the walls, giving the impression of the Moulin Rouge. Ah, my Fallen One was a bit of a creative.

“You know who I am?” I said, looking around.

She stepped out from behind an old fashioned room separator. The body of the host was clothed in a long red dress to match the décor. Her hair was curled to her waist, flowing freely behind her. A pretty girl, it was a shame that her soul had been absorbed by such evil.

“Of course I know who you are. I’ve heard legends of you for many years. My brothers kept me informed of your whereabouts. Until you killed most of them, of course. I knew I would see you at some point in my life. And, when I found out that you were hunting me…oh, how the fun began.”

Her pretty eyes sparkled in the reflection of the chandelier that hung from the ceiling. I stayed glued to my spot near the door. My skin was on fire, but a calm had come over me. Enough for me to ignore the power vibrating through me.

“Are you ready to join Freya?” My question was asked in genuine curiosity.

Surely they had lived every life possible. They had been on Earth for as long as I had…in fact, longer. And, yet, they resisted going back to Freya’s field to live out their destiny among the souls there.

“I died in battle many many years ago. And, my pathetic life as a Viking warrior was worth nothing to them.”

The Fallen One moved to sit on a stall in front of a mirror ringed with light bulbs. Leaning forward, she started to paint her face with makeup.

“You killed innocent woman and children. You did unspeakable things to them. There’s no excuse for what you’ve done. That’s exactly why Freya locked you up so tight.”

“Before we escaped.” She laughed, looking at me through the reflection in the mirror.

The war between the gods had caused havoc with the humans and spirits alike. If Loki, Thor and Freya had managed to get on, there wouldn’t have been so much death and destruction.

“How is my dear Freya doing?”

Our gaze locked and she went still. The fire in my veins must surely show in the pupil of my eyes. The sweet smell of her wafted over to me as she got to her feet. How did the host not stink of rot?

“She’s very happy to have received so many of you back into the fold. She cannot wait to see you again. I promised her it would be soon. Very soon.”

My hand touched the tip of my sword, yet, it would look like I scratched my side. Resting my fingers on my hips, I watched her as she moved to the middle of the room. Keeping her distance was wise. She knew I had more power than her, always had done.

“Well, we both know that’s not going to happen.” Clicking her fingers, she pointed at me.

I was about to rip the sword out when the door opened and hands grabbed me from behind, hauling me out of the room. Relaxing, I let them take me as she followed, a smug smile on her face.

Dragging me down the stairs, the men who had hold of me took me into the living room. The Fallen One laughed, drawing the attention of everyone who stood around. Chloe and Jack were nowhere to be seen. Where had they gone? Did she capture them too?

“My fellow lovelies, I have a treat for us tonight. A man…a very powerful one at that…has decided to pay us a visit.” She moved in front of me to address her audience.

The Dark Crawlers licked their lips, obviously knowing what was in store. The humans looked excited, like children about to see a clown at a birthday party; the expectation that it would be wonderful, but unaware that the experience would be pretty frightening.

“Some of you know that I’m actually from a time long ago. A time when gods were still important, believed in. I laugh whenever I hear the people of today talk about that time. And, call it myth even. For the gods to be forgotten makes me very pleased. You see, they made me kill for them, and then banished me for it. What an evil thing to do, don’t you agree?”

The crowd murmured their agreement. It was so easy to entertain those that had no lives. A human loved a good fairy-tale. It was a shame they didn’t realise that the truth was much bigger. And, that they were in incredible danger. But, alas, it wasn’t my job to save them. It was my job to kill her.

Keeping still, I didn’t dare struggle against my captors. I could easily break free and when it was time, I would. It was good to make her think that she had the upper hand. For a while.

“Well, this man has been hunting me for a thousand years!” She held her long thin arm in the air, laughing as the crowd joined in with her hilarity. “Can you believe that I managed to stay hidden for so long?”

They shook their heads, fully immersing themselves in the roleplay now. The Dark Crawlers stared at me, their eyes wide. They had obviously heard of me.

“Thunder Hunter. That was the nickname given to you by the Scandinavian people, wasn’t it?” she said, turning to me.

Keeping my eyes on her, I failed to reply. There was no point in prolonging the inevitable, I was done with the theatrics. Tensing my arms, I thrust backwards so hard, the two men holding me stumbled. Falling to the ground, I rolled out of their grip by bending their arms with the whole weight of my body. They screamed as their shoulder joints dislocated.

Hopping up from my roll, I faced the crowd. The Fallen One stood facing me, her feet apart in stupid high heels and her hands held up in a claw shape. Oh, how easy this fight would be.

“Stand down!” she screeched when men moved forward to apprehend me again. “I’m ready to fight you, Thunder Hunter. Trygger, grandson of Thor. Loki will reward me handsomely when you’re sent to Valhalla.”

A roar left her lips as she jumped in the air. I ducked under her, getting my whole body low to the ground to avoid her swinging kick. Punching up, I smashed my fist right between her legs. Very uncouth, but effective. What can I say? She wasn’t a lady, she was an evil spirit.

The laugh that came from her as she scrambled around to face me made me pause. The evil thing had enjoyed the disgusting move.

“That wasn’t very gentlemanly, was it?” she asked her audience.

I didn’t bother to listen or acknowledge their reaction. Flying forward, I grunted as I tackled her around the waist, throwing her to the ground. My sword clattered against the floor as I pinned her with my weight. Her hand came up, the flat of it hitting my chin so forcefully, it knocked my head back.

My ears rang as she thrust me off, using her legs to kick herself out from under me. A chanting started to raise up around us. Glancing up, I took note of her witches, who had gathered in the doorway. Great, her magic had arrived.

“Can’t play fair? Too afraid of Freya, are we?” I mocked, spitting blood out of my mouth as I got to my feet.

“Stop!” the Fallen One screamed at the witches.

They immediately went silent, their hands dropping to their sides. Where were Chloe and Jack? As long as they were safe, I could get on with my job.

“It’s unlike you vile creatures to want to fight one on one.”

The pretty woman tilted her head to the side as she regarded me. A red flare in her eyes alerted me to the power that boiled inside her. Oh, how I had longed to see that evil for so many years. The thrill of it rushed through me, making every muscle in my body stiff.

“I’m one of the oldest living Fallen Ones, I think it’s only fair we drag this out a little bit before I destroy you. I’ve been a little…bored…waiting for you.”

Flicking her hair behind her, she dropped her shoulders. Her impression of trying to appear relaxed put me on edge. Bracing my feet, I waited. Two seconds and she rushed for me, throwing a punch towards my head. Ah, an old fashioned fist fight.

Blocking her, I grabbed her wrist and spun so her arm bent up behind her back. Her frustrated howl made me smirk. Oh, how exciting it was to brawl with a female. Such a different way of fighting. A huff was followed by her leg kicking out backwards, the heel grazing my knee. I grunted as it gave way, propelling us to the ground.

We were evenly matched in strength, which surprised me. It was my own fault for taking it easy on her. Assuming that she would be weak because she was female was a mistake I had already made with Chloe.

“Give up,” I hissed into her ear as I pinned her against the hard floor.

Letting go of her with one of my hands, I reached for my sword. I was bored of fighting already. As I was about to wrap my hand around the handle, she bucked me. Smiling to myself, I steadied her before attempting to reach my blade again.

“Never.”

The smile was wiped off my face when she threw her head back so far, a crunch resounded. Not only in my nose where her skull made contact, but in her neck, too.

Releasing her, I sucked in a howl as I cupped my nose. The Fallen One rolled out from under me slowly, grasping her neck. She must have snapped a tendon. Lifting a hand, she motioned towards the witches. The problem with having a human host was the inability to withstand injury. It was the joy that all of us humans had to face. I might be immortal because of a spell Freya cast on me, but I was still predominantly human. And, injuries hurt.

The chanting of the witches started again. A circle of fire rose up around me and my enemy, blocking us in with each other. It was my perfect opportunity. Getting to my feet, I approached the Fallen One. She got up, stretching her neck from side to side. Her recovery was quick. Too quick. The witches had healed her.

“Ah, magic is what’s keeping your host alive for longer,” I said, almost to myself.

The roar of the firewall drowned out the others around us. I watched the pretty woman prepare herself for another attack. Her eyebrows rose as a smile spread her plump lips.

“Yes, my witches have found a new kind of magic that helps us keep our hosts from rotting so quickly. A good trick, isn’t it? They covered the smell, too. Much better, don’t you think? I’m starting an empire. No wait…building an empire.”

That made sense. The longer a creature could stay in a body, the more powerful it would become. Having to jump from host to host was exhausting for them. It made it difficult for them to build a life to influence others, too.

“Not this lifetime, my love,” I said, rushing forward.

Her laughter echoed around the space as I bashed into an invisible wall. The fucking witches were preventing me from getting to her. Fair fight, indeed.

“You’re scared,” I said, suddenly, facing her head on. “Freya will torture you so very badly.”

The smile was wiped from her face as I thrust my hand through the wall, gritting my teeth through the pain as it radiated up my arm. My muscles shook as I pushed against the energy force that separated us. She stood, her mouth open as I stretched my fingers out towards her.

As I was about to make contact, the wall broke and I fell forward, my hand wrapping round her throat. She was caught off-guard, unable to pry her fingers under my hands.

The confidence she had in her witches’ magic had caused her problems. I lifted her from the ground, channelling all the anger for the Fallen Ones into the muscles that squashed her windpipe. It wouldn’t be enough, not on its own. If I killed the host, the Fallen One could escape to a new body.

“Don’t,” she managed to squeak out between her lips.

Brushing a thumb over those now paling lips, I got close to her face. The firewall dropped and a gasp went up around us. Instinct told me to act.

My free hand went to my sword, swiping it from its scabbard. Some commotion was happening by the doorway, but I ignored it.

“Enjoy seeing Freya again,” I whispered.

The host’s eyes started to roll, warning me that the Fallen One was about to jump. Holding the sword in the air, I let go of her, letting her drop to the floor. Lightning zipped through the ceiling as I roared, calling on Thor’s power. The sword vibrated heavily in my hand as Thor’s lightning connected with the blade. Thrusting down, I sliced the Fallen One’s head clean off, grunting when it disconnected from the host’s body and blood spurted everywhere.

A gasp resounded around the room as the pretty curls of the poor woman who had been possessed got soaked in bright red blood. The remaining part of her body slumped to the ground.

My whole body shook with force. I fell to my knees as the lightning disappeared and my arms dropped, releasing the sword.

“Everybody, leave!” I heard Jack shout. “We need to get you out of here for your own safety.”

Blinking, I looked around me. The Dark Crawlers had already gone, probably scared off by their leader’s demise. It didn’t look good that the one person who claimed to be powerful enough to defeat me had gone down.

Humans were in shock. Some cried, some screamed, but most were silent as they filtered out of the house. They knew the rules about the underworld. Whatever they saw was never to be repeated to those outside. The police wouldn’t even be called.

“Trygger…”

Wind whispered around me as a bright light engulfed the living room. My name was being called by… The light grew so bright, I squinted. A beautiful long legged female appeared in front of me. Leaning down to the body that the Fallen One had inhabited, she placed her glowing hand into its chest and tugged the evil spirit out.

The Valkyrie. Oh, how I had missed seeing her face. The same one would come to collect every Fallen One I killed to take them back to Freya. Her beauty was something I had always looked forward to seeing. Her long golden hair was braided down her back, the curve of her bottom evident in the shimmering see-through dress she wore. A sight that no mortal man could ever handle.

“Thank you,” she breathed, winking at me before disappearing with the struggling spirit in her grasp.

“Are you okay?” Chloe’s voice broke through my mesmerised state.

Falling to my side, I curled up into a ball, hugging my legs to me. Thor’s power drained out of me, leaving me cold to the bone. All the heat left in a rush, making me shiver uncontrollably.

As I was about to close my eyes, I glanced towards the door. The witches stood with their backs against the walls, their eyes glued to a spot just beyond the room. Moving slightly, I laughed to myself when I saw Rusty sitting in the middle of the hallway, staring back at them.

“Rusty?” I muttered.

Chloe tried to get her arms under me, but struggled. “He gate-crashed the party when I whistled for him. Somehow he knew how to stop the witches. I’m not kidding, he literally growled to get their attention and when they turned to look at him…that was it. They were stuck.”

I tried to help her get me up by taking a deep breath and heaving myself into a sit. “I think I may have just fallen in love with your dog.”

“We’ll have no bestiality here, thank you. Not today, anyway. That’s saved for the incredibly depraved!” Jack approached us, light on his toes.

Shoving his arm under mine, he dragged me to my feet with Chloe’s help. I had forgotten how much killing a Fallen One took out of me.

“We’ve got to get out of here. I’m sure the Dark Crawlers have gone to spread the news.”

I nodded as I took a tentative step. Yep, I could stay on my feet at least. The witches still kept their eyes focused on Rusty as we slipped past.

“I can’t believe we’ve done it,” Chloe said, looking at Jack as we left the building.

“Are we leaving the dog behind?” I asked, interrupting their girly chat.

“I know, it was amazing! The way you kicked that bouncer in the balls, that was classy, girl!”

“Thank you!” Chloe smiled at Jack, her cheeks glowing bright pink.

“Hey!” Pushing them off, I managed to hold myself up. “Don’t get too ahead of yourselves. I think you’ll find I managed to kill the Fallen One, not you.”

“Fucking egomaniac,” Jack muttered, linking his arm through Chloe’s.

My protégée took out the whistle and blew it. Rusty came bounding out of the house and down the path. I followed them out the gate, a new burst of energy pulsing through me.

“Trygger?!” someone called from the entrance to the house.

Turning, I paused when I saw the woman with short dark hair. The one I had fucked in the bathroom at Frankie’s party. She waved as she started down the path. Shaking my head, I clicked my fingers. Rusty came closer to me, ready to help if I needed him.

“Wait!” she called, stopping in her tracks. “I need to tell you who I am.”

A man came out of the door behind her, his arm snaking around her shoulder. He wore ripped jeans and a T-shirt with the Halgalaz rune on it. He raised his head to me in greeting as he kept hold of the woman, preventing her from moving forward.

Chloe and Jack were still talking together as they walked down the road, unaware that I wasn’t right behind them. An image of Martin popped into my head unbidden.

“You’re the gallery owner’s daughter, aren’t you?” I shouted back.

That got the others attention. Jack and Chloe spun around, staring between me and the couple. The guitarist of the band smirked at me as he pointed at the rune on his shirt.

“Yes, I am. My father is who I said he was. He’ll be in contact soon.”

With that, they both turned and went back into the house. Did Martin run the Hagalaz cult? And, why had he sent me to the Fallen One’s party under a guise?

“Who the fuck was that hottie?” Jack asked when I reached him.

I kept quiet as we made our way to the boat. If the man had wanted me to kill the host, was he on my side? Or, was there something much deeper going on that I wasn’t aware of?

Feeling for my sword, I froze when my hand didn’t come into contact with the handle. I looked around me as the others shook their heads.

“It’s here, silly. Do you think I would have let you leave it behind?” Chloe pulled it out from under her leather jacket.

Snatching it from her, I jumped into the boat, putting my sword into the scabbard around my waist, where it belonged. As I started the engine, Chloe stood next to me. A hand came onto my shoulder, squeezing once before letting go.

“You did really well,” she said, looking out towards the darkness of the river.

I followed her gaze, finally able to get my breath as the boat parted the water and we sailed towards home. “Thank you,” I murmured, without looking at her.

She coughed and laughed at the same time. Was my sincere appreciation a joke to her?

“See, we make a good team, don’t we?”

Shaking my head, I disagreed. The stress of having her in my life had fair outweighed the help she had given me. However, for the first time in my whole life, having her there, along with Jack, to pick me up when I was down…that counted for something.

“Where’s my thanks, then, arsehole?” Jack piped up, joining us by the front of the boat.

“Up your arsehole,” I replied, shoving him when he tried to sit on my knee.

Chloe giggled as we bickered over the controls. Jack made the boat turn sharply when I bent down to stroke Rusty. If it hadn’t been for him, I wasn’t sure if I would have killed the Fallen One so easily. That dog had some serious magic. And, I owed him my life.

“That’s true, isn’t it?” Chloe said, bringing me back from my thoughts as I pushed Jack away from the controls, banning him from the front of the boat.

As he moved back, he plonked down on one of the seats. “It is indeed.”

“What is?” I asked, not ashamed to admit that I had been ignoring them.

The factory building that was my home came into view on the riverbank ahead. My muscles relaxed as my chest vibrated. Freya would be happy that another Fallen One had been returned to her. Thor would be smiling down at me, pleased that his grandson wasn’t a failure. And, even Loki would be furious right that moment. His people had failed. Again.

“Loki,” I blurted just as Chloe was about to speak.

They frowned at me, a question on both their faces. I sat back in my seat, spinning it to face them as the boat moved slowly across the water.

“The Hagalaz cult must have something against Loki if they killed his descendants. No other gods have any descendants left, but I wonder…” My sentence trailed off as I went into my thoughts.

“Ermmm…” Chloe said, getting my attention. “About that…”

My whole body went still at the tone of her voice. The woman knew something that I didn’t. How? I always felt like she knew a lot more than she had let on.

Running a hand through her messy hair, she flicking it behind her shoulder. Her brown eyes blinked a few times before she looked away from me.

“What is it? And, what were you saying earlier?” I realised that it was rude of me to interrupt what she was saying and then demand she tell me something.

For the first time, I had to be warm towards her if I wanted the information she apparently had. I had a feeling that she had been keeping something from me, but the journal had completely gone out of my mind. Until now.

“Well, firstly, I said that’s one down, four to go.” Chloe looked at me, her gaze intense as she stared.

“Actually, that’s two hundred and ninety-six down, four to go,” I corrected her, smirking in her direction.

Jack snorted, his usual humour not downtrodden considering he had been relegated to the back of the boat.

“Alright, smart arse. The other thing…” She cleared her throat again, almost choking on what she had to say. “…You’re not going to like.”

The boat carried us forward, almost docking into the jetty. I gave her my full attention so she knew that I was ready to hear what she had to say. If she kept me in suspense any longer, I would have to threaten her with my sword. I was a man of action and very few words. Stringing me along never worked. Ever. I always had my way. I always won. Nothing would ever get in the way of my ultimate goal. She was right. With another Fallen One gone, there were just four left to go. The end was in sight. Finally, I would die.

“The journal that the Hagalaz cult wanted. It mentions…it says…”

“Even I’m getting bored of waiting for you to spit it out,” Jack said.

“…It says that Odin’s descendants still live…and they’re out to destroy the last living relatives of any of the Norse Gods.”

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