Special Agent Trace Dyson races around the world, retrieving priceless artifacts from criminals. But his one dream is to recover a spear, stolen from The Valkyrie's Tomb. It's his family's White Whale, his father and grandfather's unfulfilled mission—and when he sees a beautiful and mysterious woman steal a bracelet from the tomb’s exhibit, he’s intrigued. Before he takes her to jail, he has a few questions.
Laila Nyland is a Valkyrie on the edge—worn out from her duties, her final mission is to come to Midgard and find a mystical spear lost centuries ago. Forced into a partnership with Trace, she can't help but be attracted to the hardcore treasure hunter even if he drives her up a wall. The more she learns about him—the harder it is to lie to him about her mission.
Before their secrets rip them apart, these two will be responsible for saving the world—that is if they can trust each other longer than two minutes.
Each book in the Odin's Bastards series is STANDALONE:
* Her Alpha Viking
* Warrior Nights
* Warrior in Love
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About the Author
Sheryl Nantus is an award-winning romance writer published by Entangled, St. Martin's Press/Swerve, and Harlequin's Carina Press.
When she's not writing about hunky heroes, she is sipping tea, playing board games and writing haiku.
A total fangirl at heart, she met her husband through an online fanfiction community and currently lives in Pennsylvania.
Sheryl Nantus was born in Montreal, Canada, and grew up in Toronto, Canada. A rabid reader almost from birth, she attended Sheridan College in Oakville, graduating in 1984 with a diploma in media arts writing. She met Martin Nantus through the online fanfiction community in 1993 and moved to the United States in 2000 in order to marry. She loves to play board games and write haiku, although not usually at the same time. A firm believer in the healing properties of peppermint tea and chai, she continues to search for the perfect cuppa. In 2011 she won two second-place Prism Awards from the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of RWA for her steampunk romance, Wild Cards and Iron Horses and the first volume of her superhero romance trilogy, Blaze of Glory.
Read an Excerpt
The bullet clipped the side of the tree, sending shards of wood flying as Trace sprinted down the trail. The brief brawl with the security guards on his way out of the house had adrenaline surging through his veins, giving him the strength to keep running at full speed.
It was all going according to plan ... more or less.
He reached up and tapped the earpiece. "Aisha, I'm on the way. Start the plane."
One of the gunmen behind him shouted something as Trace ducked under a branch, gunfire shredding the leaves over his head.
"On it," the reply came. "I'm heading out of the inlet, meet you at —"
"No, there's no time. I'm coming to you." Trace saw the end of the line, literally, in front of him.
"What the ..." The female voice sighed. "No."
"Yes." He hugged the thin plastic case tight to his chest as he ran at full speed toward the edge of the cliff. "Be there in a few seconds."
Fate loves the fearless.
Six hours later in Manhattan, Trace strode into the Homeland Security offices. The guards at the entrance had first balked at his appearance, but once he'd flashed his Interpol identification, they'd let him pass without further inspection.
"You." The growl reverberated through the bullpen, rising over the usual hum of work.
Trace paused, a wide grin spreading across his face as he recognized the source. He dropped his duffel bag on the ground, pushing it against the wall with his foot. He held up a fabric-covered box, displaying it with pride.
Special Agent Montegro pointed across the room, zeroing in on Trace Dyson with his usual unerring aim. "My office. Now." The older man retreated into said office and slammed the door, waiting.
Trace sauntered along, tucking the wrapped plastic case under his arm. He stopped by the coffee machine, making sure to pick the mug with the Interpol insignia on it — his personal one. It took a second to blow the dust out of the inside, but at least it hadn't fallen into general circulation in the bullpen.
He sipped the black brew as he headed for the corner office.
Montegro stood with his back to Dyson, staring out of the window at the rising sun, the long, bright beams dodging in and out of the shadows, trying to reach the office building. Below them, a series of car horns went off, and Trace could swear he heard the cursing drifting up to the thirtieth floor.
Just another day in New York City.
"Tell me you got it." The tall black man didn't turn. He tucked his hands behind his back, the well-tailored suit snug on his broad shoulders.
Trace put the coffee on a nearby table before placing the cell-phone- sized package on the supervisor's desk, shifting a handful of file folders to make room right smack dab in the center. He flipped each corner of the black handkerchief back, revealing a transparent case holding a thick clay tablet.
"Straight from Mexico."
Montegro sniffed the air. "Damn, you smell like my dog after he's rolled in the garbage."
Trace rolled his shoulders back, his leather jacket still damp. "Tell me about it. It was an interesting flight back." He smiled as Montegro turned around, his eyebrows rising as he saw the relic. "Call the Nigerian representative at the United Nations, and tell them we've just retrieved a piece of their history."
The older agent looked down at the artifact, grinning as he took in the ancient carvings. "Son of a bitch. I didn't think you'd succeed, to be honest." He glanced at Trace before turning his attention back to the antique. "I heard a rumor it was in the Yucatan Peninsula but thought that was just gossip ... "
Trace picked up the coffee and settled into one of the soft leather chairs. "Rumor had some truth to it — only some. Little bit of this, little bit of that, but I found the collector in Campeche. Guy actually bragged about it to his dinner guests — made it easy to scope the place out. Returned after-hours for the retrieval."
Montegro put up his hand. "Save it for the report. Along with how you got out of the country and through customs." He eyed Trace. "Any way he can identify you to the authorities? Last thing we need is an international incident."
"He paid to have it stolen from the National Museum in Lagos. He won't dare make a police report and out himself as a thief. As for the rest — ask me no questions ..." Trace pointed at the tablet. "Important thing is that after two hundred years, this baby is finally going home."
Montegro let out his breath slowly. "You're as good as they said."
"Damned straight." Trace finished the coffee and stood up. "I'm going home to shower, shave, and sleep. Hawthorne's already got the paperwork going — I'll sign off on the way out."
The senior agent couldn't stop staring at the ancient stone. "Shit. The Nigerians ... They're going to freak out when I call them. This has been on their wish list longer than we've both been alive."
Montegro brought up each end of the handkerchief to cover the transparent case carefully and with great reverence. "The Dysons have a powerful legacy. I'd say you're doing a great job of adding to it." He gave Trace a wide grin. "I'll call when we've arranged the hand-off ceremony to the Nigerians. They may want to meet you, thank the man who retrieved a part of their history."
Trace shook his head. "I'm leaving for France tomorrow. Emile likes his briefings in person — and this one's going to be epic." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I'll be going to the Museum before I go. Need to stop by and pay my respects."
"Pay ..." Montegro frowned. "I haven't kept up with the exhibit announcements. What is it?"
"The Valkyrie's Tomb." Trace extended his hand. "Good to see you."
Montegro took it, returning the firm grip with interest. "You know if you ever decide to leave Interpol, you've got a place here. I'd be proud to add you to my team."
"Understood." Trace gave him a sloppy salute. "Until next time." He headed for the office door, leaving the artifact behind on the desk.
It was still early in the morning, but the city was alive and bursting with energy and anticipation — people rushing around and studying their phones, chatting about business deals and boyfriends and television shows.
He devoured it all, using the enthusiasm to power himself back to his hotel room. He was tired and sore, paying the price for his adventure.
But it was worth it. In a day or two, he'd see the news release, the triumphant return of a country's history to their homeland. Deep down in the article would be mention of an Interpol agent, but never his real name — it was too dangerous.
He'd know, and it would be enough.
Now, as Trace stood in front of the majestic, old hotel, the tension began easing out of his body at the familiar archway, the weathered stone gargoyles staring down on him from their perches. He'd stayed in a thousand hotels, camped out in tents, and huddled in caves around the world, but even though he had a room in France, where Interpol was located, this ...
This was home.
The doorman recognized him and opened the door as Trace shouldered his duffel bag.
"Nice to see you again, Mr. Dyson."
"Thanks, Mick. Glad to be back."
A few people stared at him as he walked through the lobby, but Trace shook them off with ease. He wore his leather jacket and jeans with pride. It stood out from the business suits and expensive dresses, marking him as an outsider.
He had no problem with that.
"Mr. Dyson. Pleased to see you again. Thank you for calling ahead." The hotel clerk gave him a wide, welcoming smile. "Housekeeping's made sure your suite is ready." The young man checked his notes. "Groceries have been delivered and put away, along with your favorite beer chilling in the refrigerator."
"Thanks, David." Trace nodded and headed for the elevator. A shower and a brief nap would ready him for the short trip to the museum later on that afternoon.
A pilgrimage he had to make.CHAPTER 2
Laila stood atop the stone wall and looked at the sky, spying a handful of multicolored splashes as her sister Valkyries came and went on their missions.
It'd been her life for over a hundred years. When she'd arrived, she thought of it as a paradise.
Now it's a prison.
She lifted a hand skyward before shuffling along the cool floor, her light blue robes flowing around her as she headed down the hall. Her wings lay flat against her shoulders, limp — feathers close to dragging along the floor. She didn't fly anymore, not unless she absolutely had to. The thrill of jumping off the wall, soaring skyward ... It was gone.
On any other day, at any other time, she would be joining the others — etching the glyphs in the air with her spear to ride the Bifrost, the magical road, to her next assignment.
Her next battlefield.
She closed her eyes and winced, a greasy ball of nausea rolling around her stomach. After all this time, all these years ...
The blood, the labored breathing of the dying, the haunted looks — even of those she brought to Valhalla as they realized what they'd left behind in their ascension. The Great Halls soothed their worries, but seeing their shocked faces —
When the call had come, she'd refused, staying in her quarters.
The next time the call sounded, she ignored it.
And the next.
No one came to her, no one knocked on her door asking where she was.
The summons a few days later hadn't been a surprise.
The double doors swung open as she approached, the guards standing to attention as she passed through.
Laila stopped just inside the room. The resounding thud of the doors closing did nothing to quiet her jangled nerves — the nausea returned triple-fold, threatening to send her running.
She pressed one hand to her stomach, praying for the strength to keep standing.
"There, there." Freyja came out of an adjoining room and crossed over to her with a few long steps. One finger stroked the Valkyrie's cheek, and the sickness subsided. "Calm yourself. There is no reason to be upset. No reason at all." She smiled. "Come, walk with me."
Freyja took her hand, and they moved into the small courtyard. Water gurgled through a fountain in the middle, the winged figure in the raised center holding an overflowing goblet high. "You are not at fault. I need you to understand that." She drew her down onto a cast- iron bench, the black metal twisted into beautiful spirals. "Everyone has their breaking point. There's nothing wrong with that — this is the natural progress of things. I've seen this before and will again. Each time, I'm unhappy, but I understand. You have done your job with pride, with honor and magnificently. My feelings for you will not change, no matter what path you take."
The gentle words soothed Laila's soul, like balm on an open wound. But there was a hesitation in Freyja's words, something she couldn't place ...
"I have served you for centuries, ever since you came to me that one dark night." Laila swallowed hard. "And I will continue, as best I can, to do so, until Ragnarök."
"Good." Freyja took both hands in hers. "Because I need you to perform one last mission before you set aside your duties."
A cold fist gripped Laila's heart, choking the air from her lungs.
"Peace, my little one," Freyja murmured. "I am not going to send you onto a battleground." She paused, a faint smile appearing. "At least, not one you're used to."
Laila swallowed past the lump in her throat. "I don't understand."
"Tell me, what do you know about ..." The goddess hesitated before continuing, lowering her voice. "The Fenris Wolf."
"Our eternal enemy who we will meet at Ragnarök?" The words flowed easily, learned well after centuries of study.
"Yes. And he is a devious creature, who would upset the balance between the worlds if he could." Freyja frowned, startling Laila. "Many years ago, long before you came to us, we fought a skirmish in Midgard against the Wolf. A Valkyrie was struck down in that battle, dying at his great claws."
She gasped, trying to imagine how an invulnerable woman could die. "But ..."
Freyja nodded. "Chaos ruled the sky where we fought, his minions tearing at the Valkyries' wings and shredding their armor. It was a hard- won victory." She paused, biting her lower lip. "We didn't even know Mala died until we came back, regrouping to bandage our wounds and celebrate our win. It was only then we discovered she was missing." She drew a shallow breath. "Upon her death, Mala fell to Midgard and was found by the humans who witnessed the battle over their heads. They gave her a warrior's funeral, treated her as one of their own. She was placed in a ceremonial crypt, carved out of the mountain."
The upraised hand stayed her questions. "We didn't want to startle them, raiding the tomb and exposing ourselves again, so soon after waging war in the sky over their heads. Even if we were invisible, our actions would be seen. So, it was decided to leave her alone." The goddess shifted on the bench. "But she wore a bracelet."
Laila frowned. "We aren't allowed to wear jewelry into battle."
"That's true. In this case, the bracelet was a gift bestowed on her by me and forged by the dwarves." A pained look crossed her face at the memory. "It held a spark of magic, as all of their creations do."
Laila tilted her head to one side, her curiosity stoked. "And it was buried with her?"
"Yes." Freyja nodded. "Along with her lance, but not as the spear she carried into battle. As Mala fell to Midgard, one of her last actions was to press the button that returned the lance to its resting form — that of a simple walking cane. The villagers placed it at her side, encased in a wooden scabbard for protection, runes etched on the surface to show their good intentions."
"Knowing the spear's true nature would do them no good." Laila nodded. "No one but a Valkyrie could use such a weapon. To them, it would only be a pointed stick."
"No one," Freyja said quietly. "Except the Wolf."
"But ..." She stalled, the questions piling up one after the other.
"Over time, the tomb was discovered, the remains taken to a museum. The museum was ransacked by a conquering army during what Midgard called World War II, the items scattered to the winds."
"Didn't Heimdall keep an eye on the spear?" She couldn't imagine anything escaping his surveillance.
Freyja raised an eyebrow. "Heimdall cannot see everything all the time, despite what you have been told. When the tomb was raided, many things were going on at the time, drawing his attention away from the pillagers."
"What happened to Mala?"
"Her body was eventually returned to a proper resting place, along with most of her remaining possessions. But the spear remained hidden from sight." She drew a deep breath. "Recently, Odin sensed a tremor at the World Tree, something happening. He has dispatched many warriors on missions to search out the cause, see if the Wolf is plotting to bring Ragnarök down upon us. They have their assignments, and this is one I would give to you. Find and retrieve the cane."
"But only a Valkyrie can use the spear." Her mind spun. "Why would ..."
Freyja moved around the room, choosing her steps with care. "The lance may be asleep, but it is still a mystical item. If the Wolf found a way to activate the spear, he could reap souls on his own and destroy the balance we've worked so hard to maintain."
"It could also respond to me. That makes me just as dangerous as the weapon itself." Laila shook her head. "Why not send one of the warriors? There are plenty of strong, valiant men and women who would eagerly return to Midgard for this mission."
"Your logic is correct." Freyja chuckled. "As usual. But I need to send a Valkyrie because anyone else, even one of the Warriors Three, wouldn't be able to use the bracelet." A shadow crossed her face, wiping the smile away. "Mala was a good friend to me, a special woman. You will be able to use one item to find the other — the bracelet to find the spear. But only a fellow Valkyrie can access the magic and follow the trail."
A shiver ran up Laila's spine, an unfamiliar sensation ...
Anticipation. Adventure. Excitement.
She bit the inside of her cheek, forcing herself to stay calm.
Freyja studied her face. "I will not force you on this path. But I know of no one else more suited to the job." She turned to gaze at the night sky over their heads, the courtyard open to the celestial heavens. "If you wish to retreat to your rooms, I will understand. But time is of the essence — it must be found and kept out of the Wolf's grip."
"I will go find this lance and return it to Valhalla. As my final mission."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Warrior in Love"
Copyright © 2019 Sheryl Nantus.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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