Ain't Myth-BehavingKatie MacAlister
“Please help us, Brynna.
Please take us to Valhalla.”
Alrik’s lips brushed mine as he spoke. I had an almost overwhelming desire to tilt my head up just a fraction of an inch, so his mouth would be fully pressed against mine, but a shred of dignity kept me from doing so. I never kissed men I had just met! Especially not ones who had been dead for almost thirteen hundred years. My mind did a double take. He couldn’t be telling the truth. It had to be an illusion of some sort. Didn’t it?
I reached up with both hands and grasped his wrists firmly. His flesh was warm and silky over steel muscles. “Now disappear,” I said.
“As you wish.” He leaned forward in a kiss that damn near burned my mouth, it was so hot.
Then he was gone, simply melting before my astonished eyes…and regretful lips.
My hands were holding nothing where a moment before Alrik’s wrists had been. I could still taste him on my lips, a faintly sweet, earthy taste, like that of mead I’d once had at a Renaissance fair.
“Oh dear God,” I said softly. I’d just been kissed by the most incredibly sexy man I’d ever met…and he had been dead for more than a thousand years.
Light My Fire
“If you used just one word to describe MacAlister’s magical heroine Aisling Grey, it would be ‘unsinkable.’ Book three in this delightful series pours on the romance big time and adds complications galore. Aisling’s never-say-die attitude is mixed with a snarky humor that gives this magical saga extra zing. MacAlister’s comic genius really shines through!”
Fire Me Up
“Fresh, funny, and fabulous…Fire Me Up will crack you up. With so many intriguing, intelligently drawn, distinctive characters, it is no wonder [Katie MacAlister] is soaring to the top.”
—A Romance Review
You Slay Me
“Smart, sexy, and laugh-out-loud funny!”
“Graced with MacAlister’s signature sharp wit and fabulously fun characters, this paranormal romance is wickedly sensual and irresistibly amusing.”
“In the first of what I hope are many Aisling Grey novels, MacAlister shoots straight for the paranormal funny bone. Her outlandish sense of humor is the perfect complement to her sexy stories.”
“Amusing romantic fantasy…. Fans will appreciate this warm, humorous tale that slays readers with laughter.”
—The Best Reviews
“Katie MacAlister creates an entertaining world of demons, dragons and the people who control them…. Intriguing and funny.”
—A Romance Review
“Humor, suspense, and intriguing characters…a real winner.”
—Romance Reviews Today
Blow Me Down
“Outlandishly sexy and hilarious high seas high jinks…. Today’s world can always use more humor and, lucky for us, MacAlister is there to deliver.”
“A great try-it book for readers who say they don’t read romances with a sci-fi twist. If that doesn’t hook them, most likely the charming humor of an almost-midlife-crisis mom and a not-so-alpha hero falling head over buckles for each other will do the trick.”
A Girl’s Guide to Vampires
“Fantastic! It’s sensual, it’s hilarious, and it’s a winner! Ms. MacAlister is my favorite new author.”
—Reader to Reader Reviews
“With its superb characterization and writing that manages to be both sexy and humorous, this contemporary paranormal love story is an absolute delight.”
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Once again I owe tusen tack to my friend Tobias Barlind for his Swedish translations and endless help. I’d also like to thank Micki Nuding for her delightful sense of humor (and copious amount of patience), and my Senior Dog, who steadfastly snored beside me the entire time I was romping around my own versions of Ireland and Sweden.
M y lord, do you not think…”
“Eh? What’s that? Speak up, Stewart, you’re positively mumbling.”
Stewart the steward (we have many a good laugh over that) looked pointedly at the stone statue in front of me. “My lord—”
I held up my free hand. “Please, not you, too. It’s bad enough having ‘Most gracious lord this’ and ‘Oh worshipful lord that’ coming from the druids, but you’ve known me for…phew, how many years now? Three hundred? Four?”
“Five hundred and twelve,” the little man answered, wincing as I scratched my belly and sighed with relief. “I’ve always called you my lord. If not that, what do you wish me to call you?”
“Didn’t we go through this last year? It’s Hearne. Dane Hearne. Know it, use it, love it.”
“Aye, my…Mr. Hearne. But…eh…is that not a bit sacrilegious?”
“Not in the least. It’s the name I was born with. Well…in a manner of speaking. People didn’t much go in for surnames back then, but that’s what it would have been if they had. Nowadays, people hardly ever use my proper name. I almost forgot what it was myself until a few months ago, when I ran across an interesting online article about me.”
“No, not your name. Er…that.” He nodded to the statue in front of us.
I looked with dissatisfaction at it. “Sacrilegious because the artist depicted Taranis as standing astride the world in a position of power when we know him to be a cowardly little wimp, you mean?”
Stewart closed his eyes a moment. “No, my lo—sir. I meant the fact that you’re urinating on it. Taranis is, after all, your overlord, head of all the Irish gods.”
“On the contrary, I find it remarkably stress-relieving. It expresses my true inner feelings about that bastard.” I punctuated the word I had written on the statue with an exclamation point before zipping up. I stretched and glanced around the yard. “So, what’s been happening
while I’ve been gone? Buildings look good. I see you’ve had the verge mown. The druids seem to be multiplying, though. Did you speak to them, as I asked? And why the blazes did Taranis wait until now to have me summoned?”
Stewart was a short man. Proud, and of noble birth—if on the wrong side of the blanket—but lacking in the general region of height. He trotted alongside me as I strolled around the grounds, eyeing the large square tower that made up one of two habitable parts of the castle. The tower looked as solid as ever. There was a hint of moss growing on the north side, but other than that, it looked good. Remarkable, really, considering it was older than Stewart.
“Er…I have no idea. I was told there was a delay. As for the druids, I tried, Mr. Hearne.”
“Dane. Surely after all those long centuries of employment, you can call me Dane?”
His little round face looked vaguely shocked. “I couldn’t do that, sir. It wouldn’t be fitting. You are, after all, Cernunnos.”
“Stewart, Stewart, still living in the twelfth century.” I shook my head as I strode past the carriage house where the druids were housed, counting no fewer than three new faces in the group that was dancing around a willow tree.
“I was born in the sixteenth, sir—”
“Doesn’t matter.” I waved a hand at the splotches of yellow that cascaded over the crumbled stones that made up the ruined part of the castle. “Those yellow blobs there, those flowers. Just look at them!”
We marched past the flower-splattered mossy ruins, following the narrow trail down to the rocky beach that dropped abruptly into the sea. “Whatever they are, they’re positively bursting with life force! It’s spring, man, the time of birth and rejuvenation and life! The time to celebrate being alive, not fussing around with archaic ideas and outmoded methods of speech. Live in the here and now, that’s my motto, and it’s never let me down. Where’s Fidencia?”
“Er…she’s not here, sir.” Stewart skidded down the last of the path, and kept from falling by clutching the root of an uprooted tree that had washed ashore a few years ago.
I hopped over the tree and walked to the water’s edge, breathing deeply of the fresh salt air. My position might be tied to shady woodland areas, but it was the sea I loved best. The relentless roar of the waves, the sharp tang of salty air, the piercing cry of gulls and terns as they etched great arcs into the sky—ah, yes, it was the sea that I returned to each time I was born, and it was the loss of the sea I mourned each winter when I died.
The sea air brushed away a few of the mental cobwebs that always remained after rebirth, and I turned from the view of my beloved sea to glance at Stewart. He was looking distinctly uncomfortable, shifting restlessly from foot to foot. “What’s the matter with you?” I asked, feeling a momentary spike of concern. Stewart had been with me so many centuries, I couldn’t imagine how I would cope without him. Had someone wooed him away from my employment while I was gone?
“It’s Lady Fidencia.”
“What about her? Don’t tell me that she’s broken that thing we started a couple of years ago. What was it?”
“A credit limit?”
“Don’t tell me she blasted through that credit limit and bankrupted me again? I distinctly remember you telling me she couldn’t do that anymore.”
“No, sir, she has not exceeded the limit you put on her credit card—at least I don’t believe she has; I haven’t seen the statements for this month yet. It’s something of a different nature that I believe will interest you.”
I turned back to the sea, allowing its ebb and flow to soak into my soul. “I sincerely doubt that. Fidencia is so caught up in herself, she never has time for anyone else, let alone her lord and master. What’s she done now? Started another artists’ colony? Gone to those monks in Nepal to learn meditation again? Decided to breed more pygmy goats?”
“Alas, she hasn’t, sir. She’s…er…”
“Spit it out, man,” I told him, not taking my eyes from the breathtaking expanse before me. It amused me to try to find the point on the horizon where the steel gray of the sea merged into the gray of the sky.
“She’s gone to South America, married another god who is now a Brazilian salsa dancer, and is going to be expecting a Happy Event sometime in the near future,” he said in a rush.
My blood seemed to turn to fire in my veins. I turned slowly to look at the steward. He had backed away a few steps as if he was about to bolt. “She what?”
He jerked at the bellow, the birds above us scattering with harsh cries of protest. I was on him in two steps, the blood pounding so loudly in my ears that it blocked the sound of the sea. The pressure in my head built until it burst forth, another roar of anger sounding against the crash of the waves. “She married someone? She can’t marry someone, she’s supposed to marry me in a week! She’s gone and impregnated herself with some other man’s child? She can’t do that! I forbid her to be pregnant! I forbid her to be married!”
“You’re…strangling me…sir…” Stewart’s raspy voice pierced the roar in my ears. My eyes focused on his face, turning red as I held him by his neck two feet off the ground.
“Blast! My apologies, Stewart.” I set him down carefully, straightening his tie and jacket, and watching him closely to make sure he wasn’t going to swoon. “You all right?”
“Yes, sir,” he squeaked, tugging at his tie. He eyed my forehead with a look of great caution. “You seem to be manifesting. Shall I fetch the swords?”
I waved away the offer. “No, no, there’s no need for me to work off anger through fencing anymore. There was a new yoga instructor in my department. I spent the entire time I was dead working on anger management skills. Just let me get control again, and then you can tell me what the hell Fidencia is up to now.”
Stewart looked away as I turned back to the sea, driving all thoughts from my mind but the calming rhythm of the waves. A few minutes later I was myself again, and tapped him on the shoulder before starting back toward the tower. “I think this is going to require a drink.”
“Several, I would imagine.”
“Take it from the beginning,” I said as we walked into my study at the top of the tower. I poured brandy into a couple of glasses, sliding one toward him before moving to the window overlooking the rocky beach. The uneven stone surface that made up the entire tower was cool to the touch—it always was, no matter how hot the day. I gripped the stone windowsill, my eyes on the gray sea below.
“It was just after you left for the Underworld that she called from Rio de Janeiro. She said that she had fallen in love with Dionysus.”
“Dionysus?” The named seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it.
“Better known as Bacchus, sir. Lord of wine and celebration. Evidently Dionysus joined a twelve-step program, has gone on the wagon, and became a salsa dancer at a hotel, which is where Lady Fidencia met him. She called soon after you died to say that she was in love, was going to marry him and go to Rio to live la vida loca.”
I cast a frown over my shoulder at him. “She’s living what?”
He made a little gesture that had his brandy splashing in his glass. “La vida loca. I looked it up on the Internet. Evidently it’s from a popular song. It means living the crazy life.”
“Life here wasn’t crazy enough for her?” I asked, indignant at the thought that she felt the life I offered was lacking in any way. “She doesn’t think being surrounded by neo-druids for half the year and hyperactive fitness instructors and televangelists for the other half isn’t crazy? She’d have to be insane not to find that crazy!”
Stewart shrugged and sipped his brandy.
“This isn’t good.” I jerked the chair out from behind my desk and slumped into it. “Beltane is a week away. You know what that means—Taranis will be chomping at the bit to get a replacement for me in here. Well, I’m not going to let that happen. Get Fidencia on the phone. Maybe this is some sort of ploy to get her credit limit raised.�
Stewart rose to do as I requested, but the look on his face had me worried.
He moved to the desk in the alcove that used to be a fireplace, but which was now his office space. The tower walls were several feet thick, made of local stone quarried a few miles from the castle. I looked around my study, wishing I’d had the good sense in the thirteenth century to panel the walls with wood instead of taking the advice of the local castle builder. Although the tower was the only original part of the castle to remain standing, it always had a slightly damp feel, as if the stones leeched the constant spray of water that beset the outer walls.
“Someone is going to fetch her,” Stewart said, his hand over the mouth of the telephone.
I grunted and turned on the laptop on my desk, sullenly prodding a couple of buttons until the current week’s schedule was displayed. “This is just what I need the second I’m reborn—a faithless consort, possible dispossession, and oh, joy of joys, what’s this? Tourists? We never open the castle until June. Why does it say that we’re booked for ten days starting tomorrow?”
“Sim, sim, Senhora Fidencia, por favor.” Stewart covered the mouthpiece again. “I was going to tell you about that. We had an offer I didn’t think you would want to refuse from one of those American travel websites. They’re running an international contest for their top travel writers, and they needed several historical sites to serve as subject matter. You should be flattered they chose Bannon Castle—they skipped several others in the county. They’ll only be here for ten days, and the money is quite good. You said before you went underground that the roof needed repair, and you didn’t know where you were going to find the money for it—I thought this was a blessing in disguise.”
I frowned and waved away his idea of a blessing. “But they will be here before Beltane! You know how disturbing I find tourists—always getting underfoot, asking questions, wanting their pictures taken with me, coveting my manly body, that sort of thing. That’s why Fidencia and I go away during the summer—so we won’t be bothered by them. How many rooms are they taking?”