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Susan Krinard

Black Ice

Susan Krinard Black Ice
$5.70 New
$2.97 Pre-owned
Out of stock rare item. We will try to get it for you.

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Excerpt from book:

1

 

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA PRESENT DAY, LATE DECEMBER

Anna Stangeland woke abruptly, clutching the pendant so hard that the worn edges nearly cut into her fingers. The sheets were halfway off the bed as if she’d been thrashing, though she knew a person didn’t move when she dreamed.

Orn hopped down from the headboard and settled on the bed, cocking his head so that one bright eye was fixed on hers. She shivered, expelled a shuddering breath, and released her hold on the flat piece of stone, letting it fall back to her chest.

“Another one,” she whispered to Orn. “At least this time wasn’t bad. But sometimes…”

Sometimes it didn’t matter if it was bad or not. She still felt she was living someone else’s life.

And she was.

She threw her legs over the side of the bed and peered at her alarm clock. Only four a.m. She felt as if she’d hardly slept, and all the dreams she’d had before seemed to march through her mind like an army of ghosts.

Leading that army was Mist Bjorgsen. The dreams about her had always been vague before she’d come here, filtered through the weave and weft of time and memory.

She didn’t want to believe what she saw in those dream-memories.

Half-blind with lack of sleep, Anna stumbled to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Orn rode on her shoulder until she sat at the small table, the mug cupped between her hands a spot of comforting warmth in the chilly apartment, and then hopped down to the table top.

“Yes,” Anna said wearily. “You were there. You usually are, except—”

Except when Mist strode through her dreams.

Anna dropped her head into her hands. The dreams were becoming more and more nonsensical and bizarre, and here she was, unemployed and just moved into a very small and expensive sublet apartment in San Francisco. She still had no idea why she’d taken it into her head to leave New York, where she’d had a perfectly good job and a very decent life.

“Okay?” Orn croaked.

“Fine.” She reached across the table to stroke his breast feathers. “I’m going to have to look for job leads today. No one’ll be hiring during the holidays except the stores, and I have enough to tide us over until January. But at least I can check things out and see what might be available in the new year.”

Orn bobbed his head as if in approval, and once more Anna wondered how much he really understood. He was smart. Very smart. But he was still a bird, even if he was the best friend she’d ever had.

With a sigh, she finished her coffee and braced herself to face the very thing that scared her the most. Orn in his usual place on her shoulder, she dragged herself to the small second room she’d set up as an office and opened the desk drawer.

The photograph was buried underneath a pile of unsorted papers, as if Anna could somehow forget it had ever existed. Until the end, Oldefar had never spoken of the young woman who stood beside him in the snow, both of them armed with Sten guns, determined and relentless. Geir had kept the photograph hidden until Anna’s great-grandmother, Helga—once called Horja—had died in a boating accident.

Anna knew why he’d kept it to himself. Mist had been a remarkable woman. She was beautiful in a strong way, with her bold, high cheekbones, firm chin, and direct gray eyes. Very Norse, and very much a warrior.

Geir had loved her very much, Anna thought. He had hidden that love deep in his heart during all his faithful years with Helga, though Helga and Mist had also fought side by side and regarded each other as sisters. So Anna’s dreams had told her.

Orn nibbled at her ear, his powerful beak as gentle as a mother’s caress. She closed the drawer, fingering the pendant with its crude etching of a raven and the Runes inscribed above. The etchings were almost invisible now, rubbed away by the caressing fingers of those who had worn it.

But the stone still carried a heritage of unflinching courage and dedication to freedom and the good. Anna had tried to live up to that heritage, but she had never done anything heroic. A computer programmer generally didn’t get many opportunities to perform acts of daring, gallantry, and valor.

Discouraged all over again, Anna returned to the small living room and turned on the TV, soothed by the drone of mindless infomercials as she dozed on the couch. It was still an hour before sunrise when she surrendered to hunger and made a breakfast of yogurt and toast, puttered around on the computer and prepared to wait until a reasonable hour to venture out—if there was such a thing as a reasonable hour in a city that still hadn’t adapted to heavy snowfall and single-digit temperatures.

Another stupid reason for moving here, she thought, when New York was having something of a warm spell.

She was blearily examining her two business suits when Orn flew in to settle on the brass footboard of the bed and chirruped like an inquisitive cat.

“Find Mist,” he said.

She swung around, doubting what she’d heard, certain that she’d misunderstood Orn’s cartoonishly squeaky voice.

But she’d been with him too long. She hadn’t imagined it. Orn simply stared at her, and for a moment she felt as if she were gazing into the eyes of a very intelligent and determined human being.

“Find Mist,” he repeated.

Anna jumped back into bed, covered her head with the blankets, and pretended she’d never woken up at all.

*   *   *

Mist paced out the perimeter of the battered chain-link fence that surrounded the factory compound, considering where she ought to place the reinforcements. They wouldn’t be literal in the physical sense; with luck, they’d be much stronger.

Since the sudden and unexpected arrival of Mist’s sister Valkyrie, Bryn—along with Bryn’s biker club, the Einherjar—Mist had been helping the newcomers set up camp in the abandoned factory and adjoining warehouse across the street from Mist’s loft. It was up to Mist to make the place as secure as possible, especially since the Jotunar, Loki’s frost giants, would be watching for any weak spots in Mist’s defenses. And she still had to set up another barrier ward to prevent her neighbors from noticing how weird things were likely to get in the vicinity of her loft. As long as they could be hidden.

But after the energy she’d expended in fighting Loki Laufeyson—gods, was it only twenty-four hours ago?—and especially since she hadn’t been consciously aware most of the time she’d been using it up, Mist wasn’t sure she’d be able to handle even the most basic magic.

The prospect of failure scared her, but not nearly as much as the threat of Loki’s ultimate victory. She put her doubts out of her mind and drew on the tools of her former trade as a swordsmith and knife maker, recalling how she’d used the same images to dispose of certain frost giants’ bodies after the savage battle with Loki’s Jotunn lieutenants in the gym. It took surprisingly little effort to create and fix the images of the weapons in her mind and inscribe their blades with the appropriate Runes, tracing the staves with imaginary fire.

Once each one was complete, she chanted a spell that pulled steel from the wires themselves, turning them molten and fusing the blades into the fence. Soon there was no indication that the Rune-blades had ever existed, but they were there, invisible and potent guards against intruders&


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