Chapter One

Ares

“Do you make a habit of sleeping with women and then not returning their calls?” asks a female voice behind me.

How’d someone get this close without me realizing? I don’t allow people to sneak up on me. Haven’t in years. At least I don’t sense any animosity from her.

“Well? Is this your MO?”

As a matter of fact, it is, but I’m not called out on it often. Maybe because I don’t return their calls.

I look over my shoulder at the curvy blonde staring me down, and the padlock almost slips from my fingers.

She’s gorgeous. Legs for days and round hips are encased in denim, and a white crop-top barely covers her full breasts. Her long braids and rosy cheeks give an illusion of innocence that’s shattered by the mocking glint in her huge blue eyes and the sardonic arch of one eyebrow. 

I shift a little, so I can watch her without spraining my neck. My balance is perfect even at a deep squat, so my knee doesn’t dip in the puddle of water remaining from this afternoon’s rain. “I’d return your calls,” I tell the blonde. Eh, maybe the first two. 

Lips made for kissing form a pout. “But you didn’t.” Her throaty voice carries a hint of an accent I can’t place, but her Greek sounds perfect other than that. “That night was special for me. I thought it meant something for you, too.” She adjusts the neckline of her top. Tweaks the waistband of her jeans. Tugs on a belt loop and looks down at it wide eyed. 

“Well, maybe we can repeat it, and this time I’ll remember.” Seriously, though, I doubt I had that in my bed and forgot.

She meets my gaze. “You honestly don’t remember me?” And are these tears, lacing her eyelashes? 

Fuck. I can’t deal with crying chicks. I face forward again and focus on locking the rolling gates outside my dojo. If I fiddle with the padlock long enough, she may stop sniffling.

But she doesn’t, and I eventually need to stand. And look at her. Because I may be an asshole, but I’m not a coward. “Stop crying,” I say. I try for gentle, but my voice-box isn’t accustomed to that setting. “I don’t know why you think we slept together, but I’ve never seen you before in my life.” I’d remember those tits, if nothing else. And I have enough presence of mind to not say that aloud.

The blonde puts a hand over her mouth and splays the other over her stomach.

Is she going to hurl?

I try to put some distance between us, but the metal gate behind me stops my retreat. Could I get Denny to swoop me out of here? He owes me, for bringing Moira into his life.

“So what am I supposed to tell our son?” Blondie asks between sniffles, fat tears rolling down her cheeks. “That his father pretends not to remember me?”

Okay, now I’m going to hurl. 

Son? I don’t… We haven’t… What? What?” Yeah, I’m sputtering. It’s disgraceful, but there’s nobody here to see, and this woman is in no position to judge. She’s a crying mess, her eyes all red and puffy.

Is it possible I really did sleep with her and forgot? I mean, Hephaestus may call me a slut with good reason, but I don’t forget faces. Names? They never even register. But faces I remember.

She covers her face with both palms, her body folding in on itself.

I should do something. Get her some water?

I take a slow, measured step toward her. “Listen… I don’t know what you think you remember, but—” 

She tosses her head back and meets my gaze. Her eyes are sparkling. With mirth. When she drops her hands, I realize she’s laughing her ass off. “Your face.” She points at me. “Odin, you should have seen your face.” She slaps her thigh and hoots with laughter. Her boobs jiggle. Fuck, she’s stunning.

And I don’t care how hot she is. She just played me. Nobody plays me.

“Who are you?” I sense no animosity from her side. No threat. “Did Hermes put you up to this?” I ask. I have a weird relationship with all my brothers, but he’s the only one who’d go out of his way to freak me out like this.

She chuckles and runs her thumbs under her eyes. The redness doesn’t disappear, but it brings out the blue of her irises. “Wrong pantheon,” she says.

Woah. “Come again?” C hasn’t even hinted at the possibility of another set of gods reemerging. What does this mean for us? Are we going to have to fight them? The plan has always been to take over the world with strategic moves, though I wouldn’t be opposed to an all-out battle, once I have my powers.

The blonde smiles and pats the air beside her. A sound like a horse’s neighing makes it to my ears past the roar of a car driving by.

“Need to talk to you and your brothers,” she says, ignoring my question. “It’s kind of urgent.”

I narrow my eyes at her. “Who sent you?”

“Thor.” She pats her stomach. “This was his idea too. Said if you’re anything like you used to be, nothing would scare you more than a baby.”

Too much information to process. 

And more is coming. In the form of an honest-to-Chaos huge white horse, gaining substance in front of my eyes. The girl’s palm is on its flank. And the beast’s got fucking wings.

A glance around shows we’re alone. This neighborhood is usually dead after ten in the evening, so it makes sense. Only thing that does, because this chick and her Pegasus—if I remember my classics correctly—having been sent by a guy only supposed to exist in Hollywood sure as fuck doesn’t.

I can’t get drunk or high, so the only logical explanation is that I’m dreaming. Did I pass out at my desk, scheduling next week’s lesson plans?

It doesn’t feel like a dream.

I’m ashamed to admit a tendril of unease tickles my spine. Three of my brothers have their Olympian powers restored, but none of them has created a winged horse. Does this mean Blondie is stronger than us? Or that those fuckers lack imagination?

The chick grasps the horse’s mane with one hand, gives a little skip, and lifts her left leg. It goes impressively high, if you ask me, but it’s not high enough. She frowns and pulls up her jeans by the front pockets. Second try lands her on the horse’s back with a grace any ballet dancer would envy. “Where are your brothers? I’d rather only say this once.”

“Say what only once? Who are you?” 

“Tilgivelse.” When I ask her to repeat it, she says, “Tilje for short.”

Which tells me absolutely nothing. 

She waggles her fingers at me impatiently. “Well? Are you coming?” She expects me to accept her help, climbing on a horse?

I don’t accept help.

Or climb on horses.

C has a stable, and my brothers—except for Hades, for his own reasons—have been taught to ride, but I haven’t had the best record with animals. They seem to sense something in me that scares them. Scares me too, sometimes.

I approach carefully, and apparently not fast enough for Tilje, who lets out a derisive snort. “Come on. I don’t bite, and neither does Hulda. She’s a good girl.”

The mare in question turns her head my way, but only nuzzles my cheek instead of snapping her jaws. Maybe mythical Norse animals like me.

I squelch a grin and mutter, “People will see.” I never mutter. I am loud and certain of what I say, damn it.

“Not if I don’t want them to. I would have been spotted by now, if mortals could see me.” Tilje smiles, and there’s a dimple, and my hand wraps around hers as if it’s got a brain of its own. Huh. I thought only my dick did that. The having its own brain, I mean, not the wrapping around things, long though it may be.

She pulls, and I try to imitate what I’ve seen in old Westerns. I think I save face, but it’s possible the only thing keeping me from toppling over the other side is her grip. Which is made of steel. Her bicep and tricep bulge. If mine weren’t obviously bigger, I might feel intimidated.

She lets go, and her hand falls to her hip, where a sword as long as my arm materializes. 

Things click into place with glacial slowness. This blonde, riding a winged horse, is a warrior who works for the Norse pantheon. Which makes her a Valkyrie.

My soulmate is supposed to be a Valkyrie—and why the fuck didn’t I realize sooner that this was a very major hint that the Norse pantheon exists?

“Where to?” Tilje asks, as I fold my arms around her waist. She’s warm and hard with muscle beneath the softness of her curves. Her hair smells of meadows. Maybe fresh wheat, under the sun. Tightly wound energy vibrates beneath my touch when I accidentally brush my fingertips over the bare skin of her midriff.

She sighs, and I’m a teenager with a hard-on I try hard not to press against the perfect curve of her ass. If this is my soulmate, I’ll be having that ass along with the rest of her soon enough, but I’m not going to show her how she affects me. Valkyrie or not, my soulmate or not, she’s a chick, and I’m not gonna let a chick have the upper hand.

Tilje clasps my wrist, sending a fresh jolt of desire straight to my cock. Screw it. There’s no hiding this erection, so I stay in place.

“Ares?”

Before she can tell me to back off, I say, “If I scoot back any further, I’ll fall off the fucking horse.”

Her laugh is throaty, like her voice, and full of promise. I don’t know about the forever part of the bond, but I’m gonna like setting it in place. By fucking her like there’s no tomorrow.

“You’re fine where you are, though you’ll lose any hand that strays. What I meant was, where to?”

My place, so we don’t have to move again once the fuckers are gone. “Straight ahead for the next five kilometers. I’ll tell you where to turn.”

She laughs again. “That’s not how it works. Bring the place to mind, and Hulda will find it.”

“The horse can read my mind?” Fuck. Did she hear that? Fuck fuck fuck.

Tilje shakes her head. “Only picks up directions. You’re good.”

Thank Chaos, because Hulda might not appreciate what I’m thinking of doing to her rider before the night is out.

 

< Prologue | Chapter 2 >

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