Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Chapter Five


Soundtrack: Starry Eyed, Ellie Goulding 


My bedroom door creaked open, but I ignored it and brushed my mascara wand across my eyelashes one more time before tucking it back in the tube.

“Oh-em-gee, Katie, you look amazing! Like a real faerie princess,” Maya came to my side at the vanity mirror and gingerly fingered the gauzy shimmer lace layered over my silk bodice. Her aquamarine mermaid costume, complete with matching demi-mask, was equally as shimmery and far more revealing than my own silver and lace, floor-length gown. The sea-inspired blue color was a perfect complement to her olive skin tone and waist-length, auburn curls. Her look was exotic where mine was fair, and our personalities were just as polar as our looks.

Maya had been my closest friend since we were babies, and I was thrilled to have her at my party, and helping me to get ready for it, too. But, even after all these years, it still drove me a little nuts when she started a conversation with oh-em-gee.

“Thanks. You look great, too.” I stood up from the vanity and made for my walk-in closet to grab my shoes. The clear heels coated with a light dusting of silver glitter had been a last minute, but much needed addition to my costume. I claimed them from the top shelf of my shoe rack and carefully slipped my feet into them. “Ready?” I asked Maya as I emerged from my closet.

“Ready,” she agreed and linked her arm in mine. On my way to the door, I reached out with my free hand and grabbed my mask from the vanity. The shimmery, silver number was barely big enough to cover my eyes and would do nothing to hide my identity. It was purely for show. I couldn’t attend my own masquerade party without a mask. With Maya’s arm still looped through mine, I managed to tie the ribbons together behind my head, securing the mask in place over my eyes without even messing up my hair.

By the time we made it to the landing at the top of the stairs, my arm was starting to sweat where Maya’s touched it, and I was trying to think of a polite way to extricate myself from her hold. “This is going to be so much fun,” I told her, pulling my arm out of hers and clapping my hands together. Then I set both hands on the banister and leaned over to survey the foyer below.

At the bottom of the stairs, partygoers were already milling about, moving from one downstairs room to another, exploring. Still more guests were arriving—some servant, or caterer, or whatever, I didn’t recognize was opening the door every few seconds it seemed like, to allow another group to enter.
“Hey hey, beautiful!” Brad’s voice sounded from somewhere behind me.

I closed my eyes and counted to three, hoping that when I opened them and turned around, Brad wouldn’t be there. Maybe if I wished hard enough, he wouldn’t even be here at the party. Inviting him had been a mistake. I knew that when I did it, but even if I hadn’t invited him, he would have come anyway. Brad was like that, too cocky to realize when he wasn’t wanted. And he definitely wasn’t wanted. If I could have been rid of him completely when we broke up however many months ago, I would have been perfectly happy. But I just couldn’t seem to shake him.

Sure enough, when I turned around, there he stood, dressed as a vampire, complete with fake blood at the corners of his mouth. “Brad. You do know it’s a masquerade right?”

“Chyeah, totally. That’s why I’m wearing this costume.” He posed proudly, voguing the way he must think a vampire would with hands on hips, feet askance, and fangs showing.

What did I ever see in him?

“Ooh, who is that?” Maya’s question drew my attention away from my mistake of an ex-boyfriend and toward the front door. The guy standing in my foyer hadn’t drawn only Maya’s attention, but also the attention of several of the other kids loitering in the entryway. And with good reason. He was dressed head to toe in black, from his scuffed motorcycle boots to his black denim pants to his black T-shirt under a black leather jacket. And he’d topped it all with a black motorcycle helmet, aviator sunglasses, and a black half-mask over his mouth. He was impossibly tall and lanky, but his lean build didn’t make him any less imposing. His look, his whole countenance was both alluring and dangerous at the same time.

“So, babe, when’s the music going to start? I’m saving my best dance moves for you.”

Ugh. Brad.

“Yeah, yeah. Later.” I waved him off like a pesky mosquito and made for the stairs, making sure to place each step carefully, with purpose. A few minutes ago, my heels had seemed so perfect; now they seemed ridiculous because they were keeping me from getting downstairs to figure out who this mysterious bad boy was.

I kept my eyes glued to him as I descended, and my heart sank when he started toward the great-room-turned-temporary-ballroom. A quick scan of the room ahead of him proved that it was already overcrowded. If he made it in there before I could get to him, it would take me quite some time to find him again. I picked up the pace, practically racing down the final few steps. On the last one, my right heel caught in the hem of my gown. I grabbed tight to the banister and lifted my foot to remove my heel from my dress.

By the time I’d extricated my foot from the lace, my mystery guest had disappeared into the crowd beyond the foyer.

“Hey, Katie! Great party,” Amanda Simpkins sidled up to me and wrapped me in a hug. Her too-large nest of teased red curls tickled my nose in an unpleasant way, smothering me with the scent of too much hair product. “Happy birthday, Bestie!”

Bestie? We were barely friends. She must have been trying to impress whoever she was with. I didn’t bother trying to figure out who she was trying to dazzle. Instead, I pulled out of her hug, patted her on the shoulder and took off for the ballroom, dodging other partiers on my way there.

The room was even more crowded than I’d thought; I realized that as soon as I stepped through the arched entry. I skirted friends and acquaintances, stretching to see over their heads. Anything to possibly catch a glimpse of my mysterious biker. When did I start thinking of him as my biker?
It didn’t matter. I’d lost him.

I gave up my search and wove my way through the mob of dancing teenagers toward the edge of the room. They were suffocatingly close, and I needed space right then. The party had only just started, and already I needed fresh air. When I turned back to face the room, I spotted Brad and Maya both standing at the doorway to the foyer scanning the room for me.

I ducked out onto the terrace before they spied me.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Release Day: The Asgardians


Genre: Upper YA Paranormal/Fantasy (Norse Mythology)

Release Date: TODAY!!!
December 21, 2015

Back Cover Copy
Inga Andersson just can’t catch a break. She’s supposed to be enjoying a ski week in beautiful Åre, Sweden, with her immortal-assassin husband. Instead, she and Gunnar are trapped inside a bizarre scavenger hunt, unraveling an incomprehensible riddle at the bequest of a mysterious being known only as The One. And if Inga and Gunnar don’t decipher the puzzle and deliver a mythological relic to a New Orleans graveyard within three days, they’ll be ejected from the Norse pantheon, stripped of their immortality, and cast as the solitary line of defense against the onslaught of frost giants and Helbeasts ready to bring about Midgard’s fall. What started as a party game has become a lethal challenge with irreparable consequences, not only for Inga, but for the god she loves . . . and the realm she adores.
Let the hunt begin.

The Asgardians is a standalone crossover novella set within both the Elsker and Ære Universe. It features The Elsker Saga’s Gunnar & Inga, AND The Ære Saga’s Henrik & Brynn!

Buy Links:
Add THE ASGARDIANS to your Goodreads TBR

The Asgardians Excerpt:
The minute we were done, Gunnar pulled me to my feet. “Let’s get a move on. If the rumors surrounding Draupnir are true, now that this ring is exposed it’ll act like a beacon. A dark-soul homing beacon. And we only need one ice heir to activate this thing, so we’d better roll before—”
“Gunnar?” I tucked Johann’s necklace into my shirt as a breeze kicked in.
Ja?” He tilted his head. “You cold, babe?”
“Not exactly.” I glanced up at the sky. Now the dull grey clouds dumped thick snowflakes, which whirled in slow circles as the wind increased. My intuition prickled at the same time as the lead balloon dropped deeper in my gut. “The heir is here.”
Gunnar narrowed his eyes. “Is that so?”
Brynn drew her dagger and dropped to a fighting stance. “Isbjørn at twelve o’clock.”
Isbjørn? As in, the ice bears of Jotunheim? The only reason they’d have for coming to Midgard would be to protect Ismord . . .” The word fell flat as Henrik followed Brynn’s eye line. Sure enough, two massive white bears with thick red claws stalked beside an enormous figure. He wore a heavy iron helmet over his shoulder-length black hair, and his chest plate bore the insignia of the jotun crown.
Finally. Let me at him.
We were in the presence of frost giant royalty—the very creature I’d wanted to take down for as long as I could remember. And if the growls of the isbjørn were any indication, his guard bears weren’t about to facilitate an introduction. They looked vicious, feral, like they’d stop at nothing to protect their charge.
Good thing it was hunting season on Midgard.

Before finding domestic bliss in suburbia, S.T. Bende lived in Manhattan Beach (where she became overly fond of Peet’s Coffee) and Europe… where she became overly fond of McVities cookies. Her love of Scandinavian culture and a very patient Norwegian teacher inspired the books of The Elsker Saga and The Ære Saga. She hopes her characters make you smile, and she dreams of skiing on Jotunheim and Hoth.
Find S.T. on Twitter (@stbende), her website (www.stbende.com), or send her an e-mail. While you're at it, introduce yourself to @UllMyhr and @TyrFredriksen -- when they’re not saving the cosmos from dark elves, they love meeting new friends . . . especially the human kind.
Want to connect with fellow Norse god fans? S.T.'s readers have created a Facebook group! Head over to the RagnaRockstars page to chat with other readers, talk with S.T., and get access to exclusive content... including Ull POVs and sneak peeks at upcoming Ære Saga books!

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Skål, y’all!