Authors: Kristen Painter
Tags: #Holidays, #Romance, #30 Minutes (12-21 Pages), #Paranormal, #Inspirational
HER VIKING VALENTINE
By Kristen Painter
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Published by: Kristen Painter
Cover by Kristen Painter
Copyright © 2010 by Kristen Painter
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Her Viking Valentine
“He’s too happy.” Freya, goddess of love, stared into her all seeing mirror and studied the Phoenix who’d gotten away from her, Viking chieftain Alrik Gunn. He’d been one of her favorites. Stubborn. Vengeful. Deliciously handsome. But thanks to the mortal woman at his side, Calleigh McCarthy, he’d found a loophole in her system. The mortal woman had given one of the three changes meant to transform her life to Alrik. Changes he’d been charged to give to her.
Freya had yet to get over it.
Eros crossed his arms. “Happy is good. He deserves happy. Let him be.”
She raised a brow at the original Phoenix. “Are you telling me what to do?”
Eros shook his blond curls. “Merely a suggestion.”
She narrowed her gaze. “Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. Shouldn’t you be out shooting your magic arrows into the lovelorn?”
“My job as Cupid has nothing to do with this.” Eros frowned. “They’re in love. Why does that bother you so much? You should be happy for them.”
“They only think they’re in love.” She snorted indelicately and her attention went back to the mirror and the disgustingly happy couple pictured within. “They’ve been married a little over six months. They’ve had no trials, no tribulations, no obstacles. They don’t know any better!”
“Don’t you think they went through enough when they first met?”
“When a sword is made, the metal is hammered to make it stronger. If they are truly in love, a few trials won’t weaken them.” And if they weren’t in love, a few trials might break them apart. She crossed her arms and tapped one finger against her upper arm. Maybe Alrik would beg to be taken back into her service.
“Whatever you’re thinking, I don’t like it,” Eros said.
“You don’t have to like it.” She slanted her eyes at him. “You’re just a demi-god, lover. Now go fetch me my wine. This sort of thing makes me thirsty.”
* * *
Calleigh smiled at herself in the mirror as she added a petite pair of diamond hoops to her ears. Life was good. No, life was
. She’d lost seventeen pounds since reopening the dance studio and started teaching again. Her cat, Snickers, hadn’t gifted her with any dead mouse parts lately. And what was that other thing? She laughed and twirled so her red dress spun out around her like a budding rose, thankful that
was downstairs where he couldn’t see her giddiness.
She was married to the most amazing man, amazing because he adored her in a way no other man ever had, he’d given up so much just to be with her and he was, without question, the kind of man other women looked twice at, but he never looked back—if he even noticed them in the first place. He was far too loyal, not to mention anything that smelled like betrayal was on his taboo list. He’d been through that already with his first wife.
Fortunately, that marriage was well behind him. Eleven hundred years behind him. She spritzed a little perfume on her wrists, rubbed them together and smiled. What other woman could say she was spending Valentine’s Day with a former Viking chieftain turned male model?
“By Odin’s good eye, you’re a winsome lass.”
She jumped, unaware that he’d been standing in the doorway. “You scared me. You shouldn’t…” Words left her at the sight of him. The charcoal suit and cranberry tie her fashion photographer uncle Seamus had helped Alrik pick out set off his glacier blue eyes perfectly. His dark blond hair grazed his shirt’s crisp white collar. “You look very, very nice.” But then, Alrik looked good in just about everything. And nothing.
He plucked at the suit’s lapel. “Your uncle said this was by a famous tailor. Armano? I don’t know who the man is but he makes a nice suit. Not that I like wearing such binding things.” His gaze swept her from head to toe and back up again. “I’m not sure I like you wearing such binding things either.” A sinful light sparkled in his eyes. “Perhaps we should take these garments off and celebrate this day in bed.”
“His name is Armani and we have a reservation.” She walked toward him, enjoying the delicious shiver of being ogled like a sex object.
He met her halfway and pulled her into his arms. “I have no reservations about the wicked things I wish to do to you, wife.”
She planted her hands on his firm chest, unable to stop smiling. “You’re a bad man, Alrik Gunn.” Going up on her toes, she kissed him. Hard to believe this man was hers for the kissing whenever she wanted. Which was a lot.
Arms wrapped around her, he pulled away just enough to feather kisses across her jaw and down her neck. “I know we have to go, but I would be content to stay here with you.”
She sighed and answered without opening her eyes. “That is starting to seem like a really good idea.”
The doorbell rang.
She broke the embrace. “I’m sure that’s the limo.” For their first Valentine’s Day, she’d gone all out. She wanted the experience to be really special for Alrik, especially after everything he’d been through in his life.
He crooked his arm toward her. “I cannot wait to ride in one of those long vehicles.”
His fascination with cars had taken off once he’d gotten over his initial fear of them. She hooked her hand over his arm and let him escort her downstairs. “Seamus uses this company all the time. He says they’re great.”
Alrik answered the door while she got their coats. For a February in Brooklyn, the weather wasn’t too bad, but it was still chilly, plus some of the city streets were like wind tunnels. Alrik told the driver they’d be right out, then came back to help Calleigh with her coat.
She slipped one arm through as Snickers came tearing into the living room. “You behave while we’re out, you hear me young man?”
Snickers skidded to a stop right before the beautiful black satin pumps she’d bought for this night. He got a funny look on his little cat face, bent over and barfed up a hair ball with a loud, “Gwack.”
Calleigh backed up just in time to avoid ruining her shoes. “Snickers! That’s gross.” She groaned. “Great. I was hoping I could clean up some cat vomit before we left.”
Alrik shrugged into his coat. “Why would you hope that? Wait, was that sarcasm?”
She laughed. “Yep.”
“Good,” he said. “I am getting much better at modern language.” He stepped over the barf. “I’ll get some plastic towels.”
“Paper,” she called after him, smiling to herself. Yep, much better at the modern language.
Vomit removed, they made their way to the sleek black limo. The driver opened the door and Calleigh slid in first. Alrik joined her as she looked around. Champagne chilled in the ice bucket and a stunning bouquet of red roses nestled alongside it.
“Look.” She pointed. “Seamus was right, this is a nice company.”
Alrik reached for the roses and held them out to her. “Nay, these are from me. When you told me about getting this car for us, I asked your uncle what I might do to make it more special.”
“What a sweet thing to do.” She took the bouquet and lifted it to her nose, inhaling deeply. “They smell wonderful—ack! What’s that?”
A bee zipped out of the flowers. She swatted at it. A second later, her hand began to burn. “It stung me.”
Alrik snatched it in his palm and threw it to the carpet, crushing it with his shoe. “There should not be bees this time of year.” He glanced skyward, then cupped Calleigh’s hand between his. He plucked the stinger out, flicked it away and gently kissed the spot. “I do not like that you are hurt. Is it bad?”
“Not terrible,” she lied. She didn’t want him to feel responsible because of the flowers. “Why don’t you open the champagne? A little bubbly might help take away the pain.” She smiled weakly. Her hand was throbbing.
His eyebrows rose. “You said it was not terrible.”
“It hurts a little.”
He frowned. “Bee stings hurt. Do not lie to save my feelings.” He kissed her hand once more before letting it go and reaching for the champagne bottle. He pulled it from the ice, then stared at it.
“Peel the foil off, then untwist the little wire cage and take it off. Then gently work the cork out with your thumbs.” Poor Alrik. His years trapped in Valhalla had left him a little low on skills, but he was a quick study and Calleigh didn’t care anyway. He was sweet and wonderful and all that mattered was that he was no longer enslaved to the horrid goddess of love. What a piece of work that woman was.
Calleigh had only run into her once, but from that experience and everything Alrik had told her, Calleigh had sussed out enough to know that she was nothing like most people might have imagined. She was no angelic creature dispensing love potions while surrounded by flowers and blue birds. Instead, she was a mercurial creature of whims and wayward passions. As Alrik had explained it, the goddess controlled many types of love. Love of money, love of power, love of self. For what the goddess had done to Alrik, and for other reasons best left in the past, Calleigh had no use for her.
The pop of the cork caught Calleigh’s attention and she looked up.
The cork smacked her in the eye. “Ow!” She clamped her bee-stung hand over her face. “You have to watch where you point that thing.”
“I pointed it away from you and toward the ceiling. I don’t know how that happened, unless…” Alrik glanced at the ceiling briefly, then slipped the bottle back into the ice bucket.
Stars danced in her vision. “It must have ricocheted. I know you didn’t mean it.”
Alrik growled. “Something is not right.”
“Everything’s fine. I’ll be fine. Just a few mishaps. These things happen.” She squeezed his hand with her good one. “Pour us some champagne and let’s have a toast.”
He did as she asked and handed her a flute, filling hers then one for himself before returning the bottle to the bucket.
She lifted her flute. “Here’s to our first Valentine’s Day, the first of many.”
He raised his glass to hers. “I love you, Calleigh lass, no matter what.”
She clicked her glass against his. He had such a funny way of saying things sometimes. “I love you too.”
He pulled her close to his side, his arm draped around her shoulders and they rode in companionable silence as the limo swept them over the Brooklyn Bridge and into the city. The building lights sparkled as they zipped past and Calleigh forgot the injuries to her hand and face. Tonight was going to be great.
No matter what.
* * *
Alrik rested his head against Calleigh’s, content to just sit beside her and breathe her in. She meant the world to him and he hoped that everything that had happened was just ill-timed coincidence and not Freya up to her old tricks and trying to ruin their evening. The goddess had no reason to interfere. He no longer worked for her, thanks to the fair lass tucked against his side. He kissed the top of Calleigh’s head, her curls tickling his nose.