Authors: Rinda Elliott
The Lockwood triplets are charged with helping to save the world—but at a high cost.
Coral is always in the middle, always the family peacemaker. She’s the sister with the most to prove. When a freak snowstorm halts her Florida summer, signaling the Norse end of the world, she tracks down Taran Breen—a would-be warrior carrying Thor’s soul. A boy who’s fought his temper all his life and is now a suspect for murder.
One who looks at her as no other has before.
As roaring seas surge and terrifying underworld creatures emerge for battle, can Coral control her goddess magic and protect Taran? Because now she has a chance for more than her crazy life—as long as she and Taran win....
It is written that three Sisters of Fate have the power to change the world’s destiny. But only if they survive...
Praise for Rinda Elliott
“Vivid characters and an action-packed apocalyptic adventure!”
bestselling author Rachel Vincent on
“With a fresh and original take on Norse mythology,
is a breathtaking tale that will leave you crying out for more!”
—Jenna Black, author of
“I was riveted. There were tons of thrills and one hell of a surprise to keep you on the edge of your seat. I really enjoyed the story and the ending has me excited for book two.”
“Full of imaginative, engaging elements; Elliott delivers a novel full of humor and heart...there is no question that Elliott’s resourceful imagination will keep readers turning pages and leave them hungry for more.”
For Rachel Vincent—for the years of critiques and crazy-fun plotting days. And for that one plotting session in particular. (She knows which one.) Also for Karen Mahoney and Devon Monk. The month of daily check-ins and support while we worked on mutual deadlines during this book was priceless.
Thence come the maidens
Mighty in wisdom,
Three from the dwelling
Down ’neath the tree;
Urd is one named,
Verthandi the next,
On the wood they scored,
And Skuld the third.
Laws they made there,
And life allotted
To the sons of men,
And set their fates.
It is written that the
, Norse descendants, will one day house the souls of the gods. True heroes who know their sad fate in the coming battles but fight nonetheless. Their time begins with the portents of Ragnarok. Three years of winter, roaring seas that lash the land and an all-consuming fire. The destruction of the world.
There is another prophecy, one never written and held secretly by the giants of Niflheim, the lowest region of the Norse underworld. The sisters of fate have the power to change the heroes’ destinies. Change the world’s destiny. But only if they survive to their nineteenth birthday.
The odds aren’t good according to this unwritten prophecy:
Born of two magical clans that share life’s spiral.
Light of head
dark of eyes
the young warrior will herald the beginning of Ragnarok.
His hand to the death of a norn.
The boy’s furious dark gaze locked with mine as the cop snapped the handcuffs on him. He stared hard at me for a moment before snarling over his shoulder. “Seriously? What’s with the damned cuffs? You can’t do that. I said I’ll come!”
I watched the cop and three others on the porch through a light snowfall. Thankfully, it had slowed over the past hour. If I’d found the house this afternoon, my new boots would already be covered. As it was, I’d arrived here crazy late because I’d had to pull my car over to wait out the hard, pounding snow several times earlier. Now I stood shivering outside in an unfamiliar neighborhood. One that was ridiculously bright because every light in the neighborhood blazed. Sirens wailed from all directions in the city. People were a bit freaked. But then, they had a right to be.
It was snowing. In Florida.
The house I’d come to find looked golden brown in the glow from the streetlights—kind of like butterscotch. The boy I’d come to find just looked pissed.
“And I’m supposed to believe you?” The cop started to push him down the porch steps, but must have thought better of it with all the snow. Instead he grabbed a handful of the kid’s thick black jacket as they descended. “I saw that youngster’s head—the one you hit. You’re one sick punk, Taran.”
“Punk? Who are you? Dirty Harry?” Taran snorted.
“You’re what? Seventeen? How do you even know who Dirty Harry is?
“My dad’s a cop and you have to ask?” He jerked away from the policeman’s hands. “Stark’s head didn’t look that bad. Plus, I didn’t do it. Alibi. Remember?”
“Not Stark. Rowlands. Jimmy Rowlands.” The cop did shove him once they were on the sidewalk. Taran staggered forward a few steps but didn’t fall because the policeman held him by the cuffs. “The kid might be eighteen but he’s pretty small. Did it make you feel good to bash him like that?”
Taran’s sharp features went slack with obvious shock, then there was a flash of complete, stunned devastation, before he tightened his lips and frowned again. “I didn’t hurt Jimmy. Wouldn’t. He’s a friend.”
“And your hammer just happened to be on the scene when it was supposed to be safely put away in the evidence room? How’d you pull that off anyway?”
Taran’s face paled so drastically I could see it in the light from the streetlamps. It made the red from the cold in his cheeks stand out.
“I don’t know, Sherlock,” he snapped. “How do you think I stole my hammer out of a locked room at the police station? Nobody told me smarts aren’t a prerequisite for your job anymore.” He slid but didn’t fall because the policeman grabbed him harder.
With his face down, the taller cops couldn’t see his expression, but I could. Taran had let his bangs fall into his face, covering his closed eyes. While fury made his movements jerky, everything he revealed in that moment...in his features...ripped into me like knives. Worry. Grief. There was no way he’d bashed someone’s head in. I knew it with every fiber of my being.
I watched him so closely, I jumped when the door to the police cruiser in front of me opened and another cop, bulky in a heavy winter coat, stepped out of it. He slid a little when he walked around the front of the car. “Hey, Birmingham, you’re being an ass. Taran knows the drill. And this isn’t an arrest—it’s a questioning, so you can’t cuff him. You know that.”
“Shut up, Warner. You and his daddy may be BFFs.” He sneered. “But I don’t think any stupid teenage punk should get special treatment just because he’s got a cop father.”
“Feeling lucky today, punk?” muttered Taran as his dark gaze came back my way. He’d schooled his features, successfully hiding the desolation I’d glimpsed there before.
“Special treatment?” The cop, Warner, stepped onto the curb. “You’re the one breaking the rules! If you’re going to arrest him, you have to read him his rights. And no more questions without his dad.” He waved his hand toward the noisy sirens outside the neighborhood. “I know things are kind of nuts out there, but what’s wrong with you?”
As he spoke a loud screech of breaks sounded, then a crash.
I winced, shivered and stared at the guy I’d come to find. Mention of the hammer was just further proof he was the right one. His name was Taran Breen, and this situation had gone from already bad to worse. This future warrior, one of the boys who carried the soul of a Norse god—
one who was supposed to help save the world
—was being arrested by Fort Walton Beach’s finest.
How in the nine levels of hell was I going to protect him from my mother if he was in jail?
I stood a few feet from the gate in the chain-link fence in front of his house, quivering in the cold as the snow suddenly picked up again. It sparkled under the streetlights and made soft pattering sounds as it hit the ground. Such a soft contrast to the harsh reality of what it represented. The puffy layers of white already coated everything—every tree, every bush...every car not in movement. If this picked up again, my little orange Neon, parked two houses behind me, would resemble an igloo.
Flakes stuck to Taran’s blond hair as he twisted his neck to keep watching me. The two cops leading him stood taller and broader than Taran, but they didn’t have his sort of fierce energy. He nearly glowed with the tempestuous emotions pouring off him.
His interest in me did surprise me though, because if I’d been the one handcuffed, I’d be a little more concerned with my own situation.
I suppose it was strange to see a small, heavily bundled girl standing on his sidewalk at ten o’clock at night while most were huddled, scared, in their homes. Not that I blamed them. The snow had started yesterday and every hour that passed, every new coating that rested over the last, only added to the layers of fear swelling inside me. I knew what was happening, and without my sisters around, I felt like the only person in the world who did.
The portents of Ragnarok began with three years of winter.
The Norse end of the world had started.
And because of some old, obscure prophecy, I believed my mother had come here to hurt this boy because she believed he might try to kill me.
Taran narrowed his eyes again. They looked nearly black in the glow from the streetlights. So unnaturally dark next to his blond hair.
I curled my gloved hand around the vial of poison in my pocket—a constant reminder that I’d lied to my sisters. We were triplets and closer than most siblings after being raised with only each other to rely on. So I was surprised they hadn’t picked up on the lie. To me, the guilt felt like a physical, visible thing—as if it oozed from my pores. And now it was lodged in a frozen, prickly lump in my throat ever since I’d watched them drive away to find the boys each hoped they could help.
Kat, Raven and I were triplets and we’d never been apart. But Mom’s recent bout with the crazies had been even more extreme than usual. Not that she’d been that stable to begin with—always dragging us around the country. Running from a prophesied threat. Then she’d fallen off a ladder while painting our house and her up-and-down mood swings had blown the charts. We thought she was going to try to hurt one of these future warriors carrying the souls of Norse gods. Turned out, Mom had been hiding her paranoia really well. We’d learned she’d spent years searching the internet for news stories about boys who could possibly be the ones carrying gods’ souls. We had no idea what she planned to do with them.
And neither Raven nor Kat had any idea how bad it had really become because I’d hidden this one thing from them. The vial in my pocket contained
. Belcher’s Sea Snake venom. One of the deadliest sea snake venoms in the world.
If I was right, this boy, staring so hard at me, carried the soul of the Norse god Thor. Thor, who, according to legend, would die because of a giant sea serpent during Ragnarok. The irony wasn’t lost on me, though it surprised me. My mother did
have a sense of humor.
Still, I couldn’t bring myself to believe she would have actually used the poison.
“Hey,” Taran yelled as they reached the car. “Hey, rainbow girl! What are you doing out here?”
Everyone hesitated and I froze as all eyes turned to me. The two people on the porch stepped directly under the light and I saw they were kids around the same age as Taran and me. I hunched my shoulders, hoping they’d all ignore me.
you doing here?” one of the cops asked as he stepped forward. He had one of those deceptively friendly faces, but I was no pushover—even if I looked it. Even if most of my family thought it. But after nearly eighteen years of living in mostly campgrounds, Raven, Kat and I had learned hard lessons about people with those kinds of expressions. Had learned to keep our expectations of people low.
Too bad Mom had never learned that lesson. Her parade of weirdo boyfriends would have made her front-page tabloid news if she’d been famous.
The cop took another step toward me. “You really shouldn’t be out in this weather at night. You could slip on the ice or get hit by a car because drivers will have trouble seeing you.”
“In that getup?” Taran snorted. “She looks like walking Skittles.” His grin turned sly. “You taste sweet, too, rainbow girl?”
Fire scorched my neck and cheeks. And here I thought I was past being surprised. I glanced down at my purple coat, yellow scarf and orange boots. My lemon-colored beanie probably made me look like one of those little tube-shaped minions in that kids’ movie.
So, okay, maybe he had a point, but he didn’t have to be a jerk about it. I’d had to buy the outerwear because “hello, it’s Florida” and not many of us had bulky winter gear. The choices, once I’d actually made it to the store, had been dismal. Though I kind of adored the purple coat. It was dark with big pockets and a cute, black felt collar. Wasn’t very warm, though. Shivering, I shot a frown at Taran, my lips tightening when his grin only widened.
The cop cleared his throat, pulling my attention to him. I took a careful step backward toward my car. “I was just on my way home now.”
My blind step was a bad, bad idea. My foot slipped despite the supposedly great traction on the new snow boots, and I slammed onto the sidewalk. Luckily the snow broke most of my fall, but my butt hit the concrete hard.
Fire burst along my tailbone as a wave of hot humiliation swept over me. I tried to sit up and fell flat when my hand hit another patch of ice. This time I landed in a snowdrift, my head sinking deep.
How could we have ice?
The ground had been summer-warm twenty-four hours ago.
Boots crunched snow, then hands gently lifted me to my feet. “That had to hurt. Are you okay?”
I blinked up at the cop, then reached to rub the snow off my eyelashes, wincing when I actually put more snow in my eyes. “I’m okay.” I pulled off my gloves and used my bare hand to wipe my face.
“Do you live close by? Maybe we should follow you home.”
I shook my head and shoved my glove back on. “No, I’m okay. I promise.”
The embarrassment roiling through my body actually warmed me up—despite the icy prickles on my cheeks—but snow had crept under my coat and scarf, and any second I was going to be shaking so hard the cop probably wouldn’t let me even get behind my wheel. It’d be like trying to drive while having a seizure. Glancing at Taran, I found him still by the police car with the same penetrating stare glued to me. One corner of his mouth turned up when he caught my gaze. He had a really nice mouth. With full, soft-looking lips.
As if he’d read my thoughts, he winked. I caught my breath because his expression warmed, showing real interest, and it threatened to steal all my breath because it had
written all over it. I could almost hear him murmuring, “I can warm you up and see how sweet you are.”
“Look, we have to get him downtown, so you need to go on home now.” The policeman said.
I watched Taran as the other cop opened the police car’s door.
Then it felt like Mother Nature sort of...sighed. Or took a deep breath and froze, because in the next instant, the door to the police car started to smear as it slid to the left. The car, the cop, the streetlights...everything jumped into the slow spin, and I cried out as I realized my magic—my
magic—had picked the worst possible time to kick in.
The cop beside me tightened his grip on my arm, then he turned into a living statue as everything else whirled around me. He didn’t—I guess because he held me. I sagged, desperate to grab onto something solid and hold on, but I couldn’t move away from the cop. I tried to pry his hand off me, then stopped. What if I broke his fingers? I’d never had anyone touching me when my
set in. Without anything to hold, I crouched, slammed my eyes closed and tried not to whimper like a baby. It was better to keep my eyes closed, but the cop—as stiff as petrified wood—threw me off. I looked out, and it was like being in the center of a tornado before everything around me disappeared. As if I squatted on the only piece of ground left while the outside world turned into this turbulent, yawning chasm of blackness that threatened to swallow me whole. Once the swirling stopped, the world would be back, looming stiff and silent around me, but I’d learned while still young that it was better not to watch this part.
Or I thought I’d learned.
Smashing my eyes shut, I held as still as I could until the world came to a jarring stop. As always, nausea slammed into me as if it came on the end of a swinging two-by-four. My sisters got a little sick, but it had always hit me so much harder, and sometimes, it came with visions. I
those. I moaned and curled up in the snow, trying to hold down the veggie dog I’d scarfed in my car earlier. Dizziness swirled inside my head even as everything around me stood thankfully still.
moved. She shifted and stretched within me, and I clasped my hand over my mouth, sure I was going to hurl. Nothing like having another being living inside my body.
She was the reason this happened to me. The reason every now and then I was taken over as if some giant puppeteer had wrestled control of my strings. I only had a little time before the norn would force my hands to write her runes. She did this when she had a message, and thankfully, it had been some time since mine had spoken up. My sisters, Raven and Kat, carried the souls of norns, too. The three Norse sisters of fate. Raven’s told the past and Kat’s the future. Kat’s was the most vocal. Mouthy—like her. Mine liked to give me messages of present happenings, which meant it was usually too late to do anything about them. And sometimes, she seemed to latch on to things that upset me. Like once she gave me a vision of the girl who’d been scarfing down my PB and Js when I was still in public school.