Excerpt for Kiss of Ice by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Alice Booke loves life as a geothermal engineer, searching the globe for her next adrenaline thrill. Falling down a crevice into a glacier and finding a frozen Viking of a man was an adventure she never saw coming.

Erik Volsung pissed off the wrong witch and she cursed him. Every living thing he touches…freezes. His only escape was to hide away and hope the curse died with the witch. The gorgeous woman who finds him is everything he’s ever craved, but he can never have.

Can Alice and Erik learn how to break the curse before it’s too late or will the ice freeze their chance for love?

Tag Lines:

Will the ice freeze their chance for love?




Kiss of Ice


Chapter One



Alice swung her arms wildly, digging her pick axe into the walls of ice surrounding her in a frantic attempt to slow her decent. Small chips of ice pelted her face, the grinding sound of the metal edge gouging strips in the glass like surface echoed around her. There wasn’t any time to think of life or living, the simple basic need for survival overrode every thought and filled her soul. If she didn’t stop she was going to die. Above her, the daylight dimmed through the ice the farther she slid, every split second drew her deeper into the black hole at her feet. She had no idea how far this went or when it would come to a sudden bone crunching stop.

A heartbeat later, she was weightless. The firm surface beneath her disappeared and the mental image of the cartoon Coyote hovering over a bottomless crevice flashed past her inner eye. Gravity asserted its power as her stomach lurched and she dropped. Thoughts ripped through her brain faster than light.

I’m not going to survive this. They will never find my body. I should have kissed Jason when I had the chance. Bemoaning her high school crush was short lived when the ground decided to make an appearance. A moment of relief, before white hot pain blasted through her hip and shoulder as they impacted first. She slid sedately down an angled edge before coming to a stop. Surrounded by darkness, completely blind she lay there terrified, she’d stopped precariously balanced on another ledge. Adrenaline pumped through her system, drowning out the pain radiating from her body. All she could hear was the pounding of her heart and the sound of blood rushing through her ears.

Fear and panic is what will kill me right now. Think first, freak out later. Chanting the five words she inched her fingers along the surface next to her, carefully feeling for any potential dangers. The black cavern robbed her of any ability to see things, but it allowed her to focus more on her surroundings. Meticulously, she felt around until she was as certain as she could be that she was on a wide solid surface. Next she took stock of her own injuries, better than I expected. Her hip and shoulder throbbed with a deep seated pain. She moved every limb and finger, one at a time, cataloguing her possible injuries. Dislocated shoulder or hip was a possibility, no broken bones that she could tell at the moment. Her head had survived any blunt force trauma thanks to her well-padded hood and tuque.

Next logical step…move. Fear gripped her as if the ice had seeped into her clothes and frozen her. If she couldn’t move, she’d die here. Probably from starvation, as she’d be able to stave off dehydration by all the ice around her. Hypothermia will get me first. At least that will be faster than slowly starving to death over a week or more.

The harsh sound of her breathing echoed around her, loud enough that she figured she had to be in an enclosed space but couldn’t be sure until she moved. With a deep fortifying breath and a quick prayer she hadn’t landed in an icy tomb, she rolled slightly onto her good hip and attempted to sit up. Pain radiated along her left side, sharp but bearable. Lifting her left arm she eased it up and moved it around, testing her endurance. It hurt like a bitch but she didn’t believe she’d dislocated anything.

Pushing into a sitting position, she groaned as her left hip ached with every move, “Let’s see where I’ve ended up and I hope to God I can get myself back out.” There were spare spikes and ropes in her backpack, maybe she’d be able to MacGyver her way back up.

Fighting the urge to panic she untangled her arms from her heavy backpack and released the flashlight from a side pocket. When it turned on without a hitch she promised herself she’d write a glowing review of it everywhere it was sold. Light went a long way to easing some of her anxiety, the beam reflected off the shiny surface and illuminated the area much more than she’d expected.

She could see a jagged hole in the wall about seven feet above her, that must have been where she fell through. There was a wide drop off on either side of the steep slide. She might be able to crawl back up it but reaching the crack would be a challenge, made more dangerous knowing that she could drop even farther. “Fuck” the curse echoed off the walls around her. Her hip ached as she moved and tried to get to her feet, pausing on her knees to catch her breath. She wouldn’t be climbing anywhere until she could be sure her body could withstand the strain.

The cavern was much warmer than she would have expected, her face didn’t feel burnt by the cold. The lack of wind certainly played a part in that. Swinging the flashlight around, the light continued to reflect around, illuminating the pristine untouched beauty of her surroundings. Ice stalagmites and stalactites stretched from floor to ceiling. Some had connected, creating pillars of frozen beauty. They looked like flowing water, caught frozen in time.

The wide beam of light illuminated icy fingers stretching from the ceiling turning them into a dangerous, sparkling, chandelier above her head. If any of them dropped… Shifting the light to the floor she scanned for shattered ice, but the ground was a glass sheet broken up by more ice spikes. Glaciers moved and surged over the landscape, kind of like the blob moving over and through a movie theater. Alice had no idea how old this ice cave was but it could have been here for centuries.

Her movements echoed around the cave, an eerie sound as there wasn’t any other noise. She leaned on her right hip, taking some of the pressure off her left and continued to look around. Bracing her flashlight on her leg, she dug into her backpack for her thermos. A quick snack of trail-mix, M&M’s and a couple sips of water did a lot for her optimism. This wasn’t the tightest spot she’d gotten herself into. Getting lost for two days in the amazon had her concerned at the time. But, this time it wasn’t just the elements she had to worry about. Glaciers and this spot she’d landed in could be gone as quickly as a couple days. This meant she needed to find an alternative exit because at this point she wasn’t going to be able to get her ass back up the hole she slid down.

Brushing away the morbid thoughts that threatened to take over, she pushed to her feet and took a couple tentative steps. The spikes attached to her boots helped her keep herself steady but her hip throbbed with each step. Crap, this sucks. She knew the odds of there being an easy way out was slim to none, even if she knew where she was, which she definitely didn’t at the moment. Looking at the compass strapped to her arm, the directional hand spun in useless circles. “What the hell, I didn’t just drop into middle earth.” She tapped it with her other hand but it was broken or there was some sort of magnetic material in the ice and rocks around her.

Bracing herself against the wall she tentatively swung the flashlight around, making note of the cracks and openings in the walls around her. In addition to the one she fell through, there was the drop-off behind her, and small tunnel that she might fit through. If I had the hips of a ten year old girl. Alice’s figure leaned more towards Marilyn Monroe than Kate Moss. I don’t relish the idea of being trapped in an icy coffin if that suddenly angles downward. Which left a narrow crack between the boulders she slid over.

Flicking the beam of light into the crack, wide enough for her to easily fit through and it appeared as though it passed into another open space about 6 feet away. Leaving her backpack behind in case this turned into a dead end, she braced her hands on both sides of the entrance and slowly moved into it. Her senses on high alert, she listened for any sounds of cracking, grinding or anything else that might indicate she needed to get out of there quickly.

The path opened up into a cave like room that looked like it had been carved out from the inside of the boulder. She swung the beam of light around but she couldn’t find any other exits. There wasn’t any ice in here at all except for one corner where it bulged out. “That’s probably what started the crack.”

Where her voice had echoed in the other cavern, in here it sounded as though it didn’t travel at all. Goosebumps rose up over her arms and an eerie cold tickle danced along her spine when the light hit the mass of ice. There’s something not right about that ice pillar. Stepping closer she swung the beam of light over the walls. If the ice had caused the opening then why isn’t there any at the crack I came through, or nothing inside this space?

As her eyes grew used to the reflections of the light on the ice, she began to pick out strange details… “Holy shit!”

For the second time, Alice found herself on her ass, only this time she wildly crab walked back until her back hit the opposite wall. Once her eyes figured out what she’d been looking at, she couldn’t un-see him. Her heart pounded wildly, the cold air burned her lungs as she gasped for air. The cave had felt like a void before, now the entire space vibrated with energy, pulling her towards the figure in the corner. Aches forgotten, she pushed to her feet and tentatively moved closer. “Who the hell are you, buddy?”

Taking each step painfully slow, she moved closer, wary that she was trapped underground with this massive guy who may or may not be a popsicle. Her brain ticked through possible, logical, explanations for him. Pranked? Punked? Fantasy movie? I’m dead too and now my spirit is moving through the glaciers for eternity? That last one was a bit of a stretch. The figure in the ice had to be about six seven or eight. God, his shoulders are massive. Wide and tall, his face was obscured by what might be hair or a beard. It was hard to tell through the thick layer the ice. “How did you end up in there?”

Intrigued she lifted her flashlight and tried to get a better look at him but the reflection made it almost impossible. “If I ever get out of here, I’ll come back for you. They better let me name you too.” She patted the ice in front of her. The glass like smoothness grabbing her attention, it lacked the normal dips and imperfections found in natural creations. Pulling her mitten off she ran her fingers over the surface, it wasn’t as icy as she’d expected. Pressing her palm against it, the cold crept up her wrist and arm like a snake. The sensation unnerved her and stopped the moment she pulled her hand away.

A low snap sound echoed around the cave as a distinct crack bisected the flawless surface. “Oh, wow. That’s bizarre.” She glanced at the palm of her hand feeling like a superhero for a moment. But, there wasn’t any magical markings appearing on her skin. “It must have been my natural body heat that caused that to happen.”

Intrigued, she placed her hand back on the surface and followed the crack with her fingertips, going up on her tiptoes to reach the top. This time the snap and crackle was louder, causing her to stumble back a couple steps as the surface splintered like a spider’s web. Cracks widened and shards slid off, shattering on the floor in front of him. “Oh, no! Oh, shit!” Visions of the massive man shattering and falling apart chilled her blood.

The ice continued to break creating a massive racket in the enclosed space. Afraid she might have set off a chain reaction; she hobbled back along the wall and shone her flashlight down the narrow passage she’d entered through. Assured that her exit was still safe, she swung the beam of light back to the ice man. The ice continued to crack and break off until his entire body was exposed. Deafening silence fell around her again, broken by the odd shard that pinged off the floor.

“Oh, my god. Please don’t be cursed and come back to haunt me okay. It was an accident.” Alice kept up her talking simply because the sound was comforting in light of what was happening. Curiosity dragged her closer to him, now that the ice was gone, she could see details the ice hid.

Thankfully the massive man didn’t tip towards her like she feared he might. She had a flash of him falling to the ground and shattering into a thousand pieces…eeewww. His skin was mottled a bluish white, ice crystals sparkled in his hair and in the beard that hid most of his face. His clothes didn’t look as ancient as she expected. Her earlier Viking theory didn’t hold up under the obvious zipper running up the front of his coat. A large wood medallion hung around his neck, runic symbols carved around the outside edge but the inside looked like a stone might have been mounted there at some point.

“Dude, how did you get here? Were you murdered? Did you slide down the same hole I did?” Angling her head she peered up under the hair in his face. A dark beard covered his jaw and cheeks, ice crystals clinging to the strands. He fascinated her. “I wish I knew your story, if…when…I get out of here I’m going to figure out who you are.” She wouldn’t allow herself to believe anything other than she would find a way out. Then she’d write an article about her discovery, and go on another adventure.

She leaned closer, sliding her fingers over the edges of the large pendant resting against his chest. The angle of her light shifted, and her eyes focused on the pattern the glare had hidden. “Holy shit,” pulling off her mitten again she stood up and dug into her pocket looking for her good luck charm. There were distinctive similarities between the odd shaped stone and the indentations in the pendant.

Once the idea took root, crazy as it was, she had to check. Sliding the crystal over the wood medallion she gently twisted and turned it looking to see if it would actually match up. Her fingers felt chilled but it wasn’t enough to stop her, especially when she felt the piece slide into place. It was like a Meerschaum Pipe, but how had the stone found its way into a dormant volcano in Hawaii when it belonged on the pendant of a man frozen in the Arctic? Fate? Destiny? Alice had been lucky enough to experience a few mystical things while she travelled through the Amazon, but this topped every experience to date. Her mind boggled at all the possible paths these objects had travelled.

Despite the Serendipitous of the situation…Nothing happened.

“Shit, that’s anticlimactic.” Her words echoed around her in the room, “and it doesn’t help me solve a single thing.” As her last word bounced around the space, she realized that something had changed. The insulated vacuum surrounding her had dissipated. Her heart rate increased, and she stepped away from the large figure in front of her. “As if you had something to do with the echo in here, my ears must have popped or something.”

I wonder what colour his eyes were. She stared at his face, the beard covered a lot but she could make out high cheekbones and his nose had a slight crook to it as if it had been broken. The fabric of his coat was frozen stiff, and she wondered what his skin would feel like. He looked so real and perfectly preserved. It was almost as if his eyes would open at any moment. He reminded her a lot of the hot man bun guy she’d seen pop up on her facebook feed. Before her fingers touched the strands of hair on his face, something gripped her arm. Between heartbeats, she flicked her gaze down to the hand gripping her wrist over her coat and back up to a pair of incredible emerald green eyes.

Rør mig ikke.” The not so frozen dude snarled as he pulled her hand away from his face.

“Fuck!” Alice’s high pitched screech reverberated around the room. She scrambled back away from him, swinging the flashlight in front her like a weapon. Only in her panic she’d moved away from the entrance and to the opposite side. She could feel her mouth moving but her throat was seized in panic. Gasping for air was hard enough, she couldn’t have spoke if her life depended on it.

“Hvad hedder du?”

His deep voice rumbled around the room, part of her brain registered that his words sounded Nordic. As the moments passed, he became more animated. As if his body was thawing out?

“Hvor kommer du fra?”

“I have no idea what the fuck you are saying but you are freaking me out even more.” Because the low gravel tone to his voice made her insides liquefy, and a needy ache pulsed deep in her core. A twisted fact, considering he was frozen solid a minute ago.

“Do. You. Speak. English?” Enunciating her words slowly, she hoped maybe he’d realize she didn’t understand what he said to her.

He braced his arm against the side of the ice coffin, and took a step out of it. “Go to hell.”

“Okay, that I understood, and it’s a bit harsh considering I just saved you… I think. You were dead. Frozen. Popsicle man. If this turns out to be some elaborate hoax or trick I swear I’ll knee your balls right into your throat.” Because that is the only logical answer, I’ve fallen into some massive practical joke, in the middle of the arctic, at the bottom of an ice cave I accidently fell into.

“Who are you?”

“Alice.”

“What is the year?”

“Huh?”

His beard hid most of his facial expression but the dark look in his eyes was enough to make her heart beat kick up a bit. She’d thought he was good looking frozen, he was gorgeous alive and pissed off. “What. Is. The. Year?” He repeated, taking another step he appeared to be getting used to walking again. His piercing gaze never left hers and she wondered if she could move faster than him.

“2016.”

Confusion clouded his eyes and he shook his head a bit. “2016? Can’t be. It’s not long enough”

“Not long enough? What do you mean?” Intrigued she lifted her flashlight to get a better look at his expression, maybe tell if he was lying. “Are you part of some elaborate cryogenics experiment? Shouldn’t you be in a hospital or medical facility of some kind?



Chapter Two

“2016”

Shit. “Not long enough.” I’m still in danger and now she is too.

The woman babbled questions as she shone her flashlight into Erik’s face again sending shards of pain ripping through is skull. The incredibly bright light hurt his eyes and increased the massive throbbing in his head. His ears were ultra-sensitive and he wouldn’t be surprised if they were bleeding from her scream. “Get that out of my face before I break it.”

The beam of light dropped away and he rubbed his eyes with his fingers. He was so freaking cold his bones ached. Nothing different so far. His thoughts felt sluggish and the fear that followed into his frozen state still clung to his emotions. His memories of what happened before were sketchy at best. He knew that he’d been hiding and she could easily be a follower of the bitch that cursed him.

“What do you mean not long enough?” A soft voice drew his attention back to the woman across the room from him.

He stared at her, looking for familiar characteristics that would prove she was part of the bitch’s family. She said it was 2016. Only forty years, this puts her in danger if she’s not a part of them.

“You said not long enough. What did you mean?”

“None of your business,” if she was an innocent bystander then he didn’t want her involved. But he’d been so careful with his calculations. He shouldn’t have been woken up until well into the 22nd century. He’d chosen this place specifically after months of research; it took another two weeks of digging and crawling through caves to find the perfect spot. “How did you get here?” he asked.

“I fell down a hole.” She crossed her arms over her chest. Curiosity blended with distrust flittered across her expression as she stared at him. “How did you get here?”

Fell down a hole? “I dug a hole.”

She pushed herself to her feet, but didn’t come any closer. She was tall for a woman, damn perfect height if he had any say in the matter. Some of his friends might have preferred petite woman but he’d never truly enjoyed folding himself in half for a kiss. A sharp pain radiated through his chest at the thought of his friends. Were they still alive?

“This isn’t an elaborate joke is it?”

Erik pulled his thoughts back to the present. He had more problems to deal with than his emotions. “No.”

“You were frozen.”

“Yes.”

“Dead?”

“Yes, but not exactly,” how can I explain something I don’t completely understand, “more like cursed.”

“That’s just not possible…I mean it’s not probable. How were you cursed?” The dim light prevented him from seeing her clearly but her face kept turning to the wall at his right. The entrance to the cave had collapsed at some point but the small fissure must have been how she got in.

“I pissed off a very powerful witch.”

She flicked the beam of light up a bit, but thankfully not into his face again. “Did you drop a house on her sister?”

He laughed, a short bark that sounded completely foreign but helped ease the tension pulling at his shoulders. When was the last time someone made me laugh?

“No, but I did sleep with her sister. You’re handling this better than I would expect you to.” For all he knew this was one of the witch’s daughters sent to finish him off. “Who are you?”

“Alice Booke. I’m a geothermal engineer, well if I was working I would be. I took some time off to focus on my PhD.” She shrugged one shoulder and he got the distinct impression there was more to that story. Or she’s lying.

“What about you?”

He had no proof that she wasn’t here to kill him, or that she wasn’t related to the bitch witch in any way. Her dry humour and obvious intelligence intrigued him. He couldn’t tell a single thing about her body under all her layers of clothes but a couple dark curls had escaped her knit hat, and she had vibrant blue eyes. He nodded his head at her, “Erik Volsung, I’m just a simple guy who pissed off the wrong woman.”

“A simple kind of guy who digs a hole and freezes…almost dead?” Her eyebrow twitched and then arched, as if she didn’t really believe him. “And then wakes up speaking another language.”

“Norwegian…I speak a couple languages but I still think in the language I grew up with.”

“My family originated in Norway, but none of us speak the language any more. My Mormor tried to teach me and I’ve often regretted not paying more attention.”

If her grandmother had tried to teach her their native language, he wondered if she shared any more information about their gods. “For a scientist, you’re very open to the idea of magic.”

“I’ve seen things in my life that can’t always be easily explained. You were an ice cube ten minutes ago, and now you’re speaking to me. Just because my only rational conclusion is that I’m insane…which I know I’m not, that means that there is something outside scientific knowledge going on…aka magic. Which is what the unexplained is always referred to until science catches up enough to explain it.” She shrugged again, “But, to be honest you might wish you were still frozen because I haven’t figured out an exit strategy here.”

A low rumble echoed around them, vibrating the ice around them. He could feel the tremors through his body as if part of him was still made of ice. Shock blasted through his skepticism and he quickly looked away from her as he processed the implications. That wasn’t an earthquake, it was Thor’s approval. A sound he’d only heard twice in his lifetime, never in relation to himself. The goddess Frigg, who had a soft spot for the Volsung descendants, and used her gift of foresight to alert them when in the presence of a Valkyrie destined to be theirs.

He’d given up the idea of ever finding the woman meant to be his, centuries of fighting in wars had jaded him into believing that it was a promise made to keep them in line. He was sick of the fighting, the constant death around the never ending cycle of battles, instead turning his attention to the frequency of conquests in his bed. Choosing to run, instead of fight, when he was cursed, Frigg had decided to punish him by placing a woman created for him at his fingertips knowing his touch would kill her.

“Shit, that’s bad. There shouldn’t be any glacial earthquakes around here and that’s the second one. I’m getting out of here, you coming?” Her words might have sounded brave and confident but she’d kept her back against the wall as she moved, keeping him in her sights at all times. Her movements were still and hitched, either from an injury or fright he wasn’t sure, but both were a cause of concern.

He didn’t take offense, given the situation and what she would have to try to understand. Even he was having a hard time getting his thoughts in order and deciding on the best course of action. “Do you know how to teleport?”

She stopped, her jaw dropping open for a moment. “What? That’s real too?”

It took a great deal of effort not to laugh at the shocked look on her face, but his absurd question appeared to help distract her thoughts. “No, not that I know of but it would come in handy right now.” He took a couple steps closer to her, thankful that his leg muscles decided to work properly. “I was hoping science had figured it out by now.”

She gave him a disgusted look, “you’re giving me a headache.”

Considering the pain still piercing his skull, from her flashlight, it seemed fair. “You said you fell down a hole, Alice?”

A frown crossed her expression a heartbeat before it lightened into humour. “Glacial retreat in the area, climate changes, global warming, I was stupid and didn’t pay attention.” She edged closer to the crevice again, but she didn’t appear as guarded. “One minute I’m trying to measure the distance between rock formations, the next I dropped down the most terrifying slide ever. But, no white rabbits to be seen.”

He moved closer to her, keeping one hand on the wall for balance. He didn’t feel as strong as did before his icy sleep but it was quickly coming back. When her foot slipped on a rock and she grunted in pain, grabbing her hip he closed the distance. The crevice was small enough that he filled it and didn’t have to worry as much about slipping. Bracing one arm against the wall, he slipped his hand around her waist to support her, careful not to touch any of her skin. “You’re hurt.” He said when her head whipped around to look at him.

“I landed on my hip and shoulder when I fell. Nothing broken, I don’t think but I ache.”

“How long have you been down here?”

“I think about an hour or so.” She pulled out of his grasp, “Not long enough for anyone to come looking for me. I had a sat-phone but it must have dropped out of my pack at some point during the fall.”

Erik had no idea what a satphone was but he imagined that a few things would have changed by now. Forty years It was an unnerving thought, that would have been more exciting if he didn’t know he’d be better off never been found or woken up. How did she do that? It suddenly hit him that she must know more than what she said because how else would she have woken him up.

His palm still tingled from where he’d touched her, his curse wouldn’t affect the artificial material in her clothes, but he wanted more. He wanted to run his hand over the generous curve of her ass, and peel off the layers of material hiding her body from him.

“Hello, I know it’s big but I don’t think it’s that fascinating.”

Erik jerked his imagination back from envisioning the possibility of some luscious curves hidden beneath her thermal clothes, and up to her face. “What’s big?”

“My ass.” Alice turned away, “Stop staring at it.”

“Unless you’re willing to show it to me, then I’ll have to stare and imagine.” He grinned when she gasped and turned around to glare at him again.

“Your brain must still be frostbitten.”

Memories of woman’s styles slowly filtered back to his brain, “don’t tell me your one of these woman who aspires to have a body like Twiggy?”

“Twiggy? Are you shitting me? She was popular in the sixties and probably considered overweight by the Kate Mosses of the world.” Alice didn’t turn around again but Erik prided himself on his ability to get past a woman’s guard. If his Valkyrie thought she was unattractive, then it was up to him to correct her. Touching her physically was impossible, but he needed to connect with her in some way.

The craving for her felt like sandpaper against the inside of his skin. The need to touch her, claim her rose up fast and hot within him. She stepped out of the tunnel, leaving his view as she stepped away from the entrance.

Panic flooded his system at her disappearance. “Alice!”

Her head came into view when she looked into the opening. “What?”

“Thought you fell,” he muttered feeling like an idiot for his overreaction. A couple more steps and he exited the crevice. “This is much different from what I remembered.”

Alice knelt down and he saw an oversized backpack leaning against the side of a boulder. She dug around in a side pocket and produced a black flashlight. “Here, you have this one. I have extra batteries in here for both of them. We might need to conserve power. Grunting, she rubbed her hip as she pushed herself to her feet.

“You okay?’

“Sore, scared, and I feel like I should be more freaked out about you.” She lifted the backpack, “but I’m too sore and scared to worry about that right now.”

Erik lifted the heavy pack from her hands. “Let me carry this, you’re hurt.”

She looked defiant, as if she was going to argue for a moment, but then conceded. “Alright, but not because you’re a man, it’s just because I hurt.”

He wasn’t going to argue with her, as long as he got his way. “Any ideas how to get out of here?”

“I slid down a hole and popped out through there.” She pointed up at a jagged crack in the ice wall with her flashlight. Erik flicked on his light, illuminating the area even more. The space was about five feet above an icy incline that she must have landed on and carried her safely away from the ledge.

“Sweet Frigg, you’re lucky you didn’t break something.” He turned his attention to the drop off. Moving close to the edge he pointed the beam into the depths, but the blackness swallowed up the light.

“It makes my stomach flip when I think how lucky I was. If I had landed an inch either way, I would have fallen off and died down there.”

“This is a little too coincidental to be luck.” Frigg’s gift of foresight would have alerted her to one of her Valkyrie’s life being cut short because of an accident. A few centuries allowing a perfect slide to build up to save Alice’s life wasn’t that much of a stretch.

“Well, if someone created that just for me to land on, an exit sign would have been a nice addition.” Alice rubbed her arms; her flashlight tucked under one arm. “We better get moving because it doesn’t seem to be getting any warmer down here.”

“The Gods don’t often hand out solutions to those who stand around and freeze to death. Come on, we’ll find a way out. Do you have any idea how far down we are?”

Alice’s nose scrunched up a bit when she started thinking, it was adorable and sexy and Erik wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around her shoulders and press his face against her neck. She’d be so warm there. His bones ached from the deep seated cold in his body, ever since the curse he’d felt dead inside, but from the moment he grabbed Alice’s arm to stop her from touching him, he’d felt a thawing in his soul.

“Twenty…thirty feet maybe?” Alice shrugged her shoulder, a quirk Erik had noticed her do a couple times. “I can’t be sure because I was panicking so my sense of time is off. But we’re deep enough that the light isn’t penetrating, and the fastest I could have been sliding was sixty miles an hour…” she muttered a series of numbers “Best guess, say one hundred and fifty to two hundred feet down. In other words, we’re seriously fucked.”

She leaned back against the stone wall, her breathing shallower than a moment ago. She looked down, the furred edge to her hood blocking his view of her face. “I’m going to die down here.”

Before he realized it, he’d moved closer to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, careful not to touch her skin, as he lifted her away from the frozen rock. “No, you’re not.” Her body warmth radiated out from her jacket, calling to him like a siren to a sailor. “I’ll get us out of here, Alice.” Erik knew he should step back away from her, but he wanted to bathe in her warmth, undo her jacket and press his hands under her clothes, feel her silky skin under his fingers. It’s been so long since someone touched me.

“Are you okay, Erik?” The panic in Alice’s tone snapped him out of the spiral his thoughts were taking. “Your eyes got a little wild looking there. Are you hungry? Thirsty?”

“You have no idea.” He hadn’t felt thirsty or hungry since the bitch witch cursed him. It was like she’d frozen every natural urge in him. Until Alice found me. He was waking up, and part of him wondered if she could break the curse. “But, I’m not ready to eat yet. Let’s get moving and fight off the cold. Maybe we’ll find a way out of here.”

“I have a homing beacon, I turned on but I’m not sure it’s transmitting this deep. If we get to a shallower space then we might have a better chance.”

“Who does it alert?”

“Home base. There are other researchers and scientists there working on projects, but we all keep an eye on each other.”

Erik remembered she said she’d injured her hip in the fall, fighting through the incessant hunger for her warmth. He slipped his arm around her waist to support her. “Let me help you.”

“You’re going to hurt your back, stand up and let me wrap my arm around your waist. “

“Don’t touch my skin, Alice. Even accidently.”

“Why not?”

“Because, it’ll kill you.”

Chapter Three

“Wow, that’s a little extreme,” Alice ignored the little voice protesting in her head and lifted her arm from Erik. “I can walk on my own.”

“Not for long you won’t.” He pressed her arm against him. “Let me help you.”

They started walking, shuffling really as Alice gingerly moved along beside him, his warning ringing in her ears. “Is it because of the curse?”

“Yes, if your skin touches mine, deliberately or not. You will start to freeze. Within a minute or two I can turn your body into a solid piece of ice.”

He waved the beam of light around ahead of them, there was a tunnel entrance ahead of them and that was as good a place to start. “Let’s try this one. If we sense we’re going down then we can reassess.”

“Sounds as good a plan as any.” Alice’s brain spun with curiosity. An ice curse? Is that even possible? What Erik said sunk in, raising another question. “How do you know you can freeze an entire human so quickly?” Much of Erik’s face was hidden by his beard and long hair but he had incredibly expressive eyes. The devastation and sadness that flashed across them made Alice sorry she asked.

“Don’t ask that.” He looked away and his hair fell forward blocking her view of his face.

“I’m sorry, Erik. I didn’t mean…” She reached for his hand but then stopped remembering his warning. The realization of how much she relied on touch to connect with people was a surprise but the knowledge that the curse denied him that was heartbreaking.

“The blame doesn’t lie with you. It was my arrogance and conceit that landed me in this situation, I’m sorry you were pulled into it as well.”

“You didn’t push me down here, Erik. I fell down a hole created by shifting glaciers and global warming.”

“So you said.” He glanced over but it was too quick for her to gage his expression. “Let’s find a way out of here and worry about the rest of it later.”

They moved through the icy channel, choosing their steps carefully on the surface. Thankfully it wasn’t a smooth sheet of ice, the ground had caused small bumps and irregularities, and left large exposed areas of stone. Her hip ached but using him as a crutch, helped. Neither of them said anything, instead concentrating on their footsteps. Some areas of ice were pitted and rough while others were like a treacherous sheet of pristine glass. Alice’s calves started to ache as well and she hoped that was because they were moving uphill.

The silence around them had been broken only by the sounds of their boots on the ice. At first she didn’t mind, it gave her time to process everything that had happened, but an hour later she couldn’t stand it. Her hip ached, and despite the layers of clothes she wore and their constant movement; it wasn’t enough to battle the cold that was pressing and seeping through her. She wanted to curl up somewhere and go to sleep.

“Erik, I’m tired and hungry, this trudging along is making me crazy. Tell me something, anything about yourself.”

He lifted the pendant from around his neck, running his thumb over the crystal she’d placed in the middle of it. “Who gave the crystal to you?”

“What my lucky charm?” Alice stared as his large hand, and thick, strong fingers caressed the delicate crystal. For a moment she imagined what his strong fingers would feel like against her skin. For the few minutes before I turned into an icecube? The mental reminder helped to rein in her libido which had kicked into high gear the moment she’d heard his low growly voice. “I guess it’s really your lucky charm. I met an old woman on the side of a volcano in South America. She gave it to me and said that it was the key I’d been looking for. I didn’t have any clue what she was talking about since I hadn’t been looking for anything of the sort. But I guess now it kind of makes sense.”

“What do you know about the Norse Gods, Alice?”

Erik’s question echoed off the ice covered walls, and as if in response she heard a louder rumble. Earthquake? Glacial collapse? Both? The longer they were down here the more possibility of danger they faced.

“Alice?”

“Oh, yea, sorry my brain was drifting. I think it’s the cold. I don’t know a whole lot, other than Thor of course. My mother’s family was originally from Norway. My Mormor used to tell me stories about Valkyries and when I was little I used to believe they were my ancestors.” Alice loved her grandmother so much and still felt a hole in her heart from when Alzheimer’s disease stole the strong vibrant woman from them.

“What made you stop believing?”

“Real life, I grew up and learned that my value in life was directly related to who I married. For all the talk of a progressive culture, we’re still very much in the dark ages at times. My mother believes that family lines and old money are more important than love and respect.”

“You’re married?” His voice echoed off the walls around them, a gravelly edge to his tone sent a primal thrill through her body. His eyes narrowed, an inhuman shadow drifted over his expression.

“Hell no. I’m not stupid.”

Five simple words appeared to take the heat out of his rage and his expression cleared as quickly. “Good.” He nodded. Anyone else and she would have taken offense over his chest thumping action, but deep down she feared he had a wife somewhere…waiting.

“I went to college, got an education and did everything I could to stay out of my mother’s shallow, materialistic world. What about you? I’ve been answering all your questions but you haven’t shared anything with me.”

“What would you like to know?”

“How did all this happen? I found that crystal thousands of miles from here, on another continent, it’s been in my pocket for three years. Do you have a wife waiting for you somewhere?” The last question unintentionally slipped from her lips, but she needed to know.

“No, no wife. I’m a descendant of the god Odin, through the warrior, Volsung.”

“Seriously? You’re going to tell me you’re a what? A demigod of some kind?”

Erik shrugged, “Immortal too. Remember, you’re the one who rescued me from the ice a few hours age.”

That comment took a great deal of wind out of her sails, for a moment she had forgotten. Part of her still couldn’t believe it really happened.

“It happens every few generations,” Erik continued. “The descendants of men who earned the respect of the gods are tapped for service and charged with keeping the stories and belief in the gods alive to avoid Ragnarӧk.”

“Ragnarӧk?”

“The End of times, Death of the gods, Armageddon, however you want to perceive it. There is a delicate balance between your world and mine. If mortals stop believing, then the gods have no power to maintain the worlds they created.”

“So you’re storytellers?”

“We’re warriors protecting those who hold the truth.” Erik paused and let her go for a moment. “After so many wars, and the horrors I saw that men could so easily inflict on each other, I didn’t want to fight anymore. I ignored Frigg’s call when she needed me and instead chose to indulge any woman’s attentions.”

“”Odon’s Frigg? You blew off the First Lady of Nordic gods?” Alice darted a glance up at him, and a heartbeat later she lost her footing on the ice. Grabbing for his coat, her foot slammed into his leg. The world tilted and she dropped, Erik falling over top of her. He’s going to crush me.

For the second time that day, pain sliced through her hip and down her thigh. Erik landed hard on his knees straddling her legs, one hand wrapped around the back of her head, preventing her skull from cracking back against the ground. He watched helpless as the stark pain exploded over her features when she hit the ground.

“Alice?” Her hood blocked his view of her face and he fought the urge to touch her. Fearful he might brush her skin with his hand. “Alice, talk to me.”

“That really fucking hurt.” She groaned as she tried to move, he scrambled off her and did he best to support her body as she moved. Keeping his hands on her clothing and never touching any live skin, he sat down on the frozen ground and tried to cuddle her as best he could.

“God that hurts,” Alice rubbed her mittened hand along her thigh, “I need a break Erik. I can’t walk anymore.”

“We can stop for a bit, but I’m concerned you’ll get too cold.”

“I have mylar thermal blankets in my backpack. They look like big pieces of tin foil.”

Erik slipped her backpack off his shoulders and unzipped it. Digging through he pulled out one of the blankets and laid it out, helping her to move onto it before wrapping the second one around her shoulders. “What about you?”

“The cold doesn’t really bother me, Alice. I’m already frozen inside.”

* * * *

“That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.” Alice muttered as she pulled the blanket around her shoulders.

Erik wasn’t certain she’d meant to say that out loud. He’d noticed her movements slowing, not only because of her injury but because of the cold getting to her. It could be my proximity to her as well. He knew that his direct touch could freeze her within a minute, but could the curse seep through her clothes if given enough time?

“I’ll get you out of here, Alice. I promise.”

“Am I just another woman in your long list of conquests?”

“You’re no conquest, Alice. If it helps, I never thought of anyone as a simple conquest.” Tired of death and dying, I’d been searching for proof of life.

“You’re stuck down here because you couldn’t keep your dick in your pants.”

“I’m not proud of it.” No one cared enough to get to know me either, nor did I bother getting to know them.

“That’s good…since you obviously think with it.”

“Never had any complaint, until that last one. I shouldn’t have chosen one sister over the other.” He kept his tone light trying to tease her anger to the surface. Perhaps some righteous fury would heat her up.

Alice shook her head, and smacked her mittened hand against his chest. “You’re a Neanderthal.”

“I wasn’t frozen that long.”

She snorted and relaxed back against him. He shifted his weight back against the rock wall behind him. The silver blanket offered a great barrier from the cold rock and he tried not to think about what would have happened if she hadn’t freed him from the ice. Would he have woken up in a hundred years and found her frozen body outside his tomb. Because, if there was one thing he was certain of, he and this woman were meant to find each other. If only I’d been more patient.

“What was it like?”

“Freezing?”

She nodded.

Erik wanted to tell her everything, convince her that the rumbling noise that unnerved her earlier was a sign that she was meant to be his. Trapped away in this icy world, just the two of them was too intimate, too tempting, and too easy to pretend that they could find a way to be together.

He’d sealed his fate when he chose not to respect the women in his bed. Now, he’d grab his own cock and freeze it off before touching her and risking her life. He never wanted her to experience the claustrophobic sensation of the ice closing in on her, freezing her lungs and body, leaving her screaming inside her own body until her thoughts blissfully went black.

“I don’t remember.” He pressed his hand against her hood, encouraging her to lean on him “Rest Alice, dream of white rabbits and red roses.”

“Very funny,” She rocked her body back against his, her ass rubbed against his groin, stirring his cock to life. “Aside from the genuine threat to life, this place is like a wonderland.”

Erik grunted in response, what else could he say? He had no interest in looking around at his prison, especially when the woman in his arms was far more fascinating. Building a fire would be preferable to trying to sleep on the cold ground but down here the chances of that were impossible. Building a fire out in the ice cave was a dangerous prospect with the stalactites overhead. If they were to drop, neither of them would have to worry about freezing to death.

Raven coloured curls had escaped her knitted cap and framed her face, lying against her delicate cheek. She looked like a porcelain doll and perhaps she was as fragile. The cynical bitterness that had coloured his thoughts faded as he watched her drift off to sleep.

Alice might be the strongest, bravest woman he’d ever met and his earlier assumption that she’d been a part of the forces to enslave him seemed paranoid now. Of course that might be what she wanted you to believe, she could be luring me into a false sense of security. The dark thought lingered before he dismissed it. She’d been completely honest with him, he would have sensed a lie in her words, seen it in the delicate flush of her skin.

The witch might be dead. Maybe the curse is broken already. Moving slowly, he lifted himself up so he could look over her. He lifted his left hand which still retained its pale grey colour. Experimenting he brushed his fingers over her shoulder fingering the soft fabric, but nothing happened. Moving higher he rested his fingers on the bare skin of her neck. She frowned and muttered. A shiver danced along her skin but he couldn’t have lifted his fingers if he’d wanted too. Fascinated, he watched the colour return to his hand, starting where his fingers touched her skin and then radiated out along the back of his hand to his wrist.

For the first time in what felt like an eternity, he felt warm. He felt her and the craving for more grew. She shivered under his touch and he lifted his hand away. The skin where he’d touched her had reddened with a small pale waxy strip the same length of his fingers. Frostbite. The curse hadn’t left him.

He’d give anything to turn back the hands of time.





Chapter Four

“Alice, wake up.”

She could hear Erik’s voice but it felt like there were hundred pound sandbags weighing down her eyelids. It didn’t seem worth the effort, the cold was gone and she didn’t relish the idea of trudging through anymore ice.

“Come on. You can do this.”

Nope I don’t wanna.

“You’re too cold, Alice. We have to get moving or you’re going to die.”

Die?

“Yes, that’s right. You heard me, Die. I saw your face move, fight back.”

Part of her wanted to let the wave of warmth carry her away, but something in Erik’s voice pulled at her. He didn’t sound as cold and detached as he had before. She clawed her way up through the layers of exhaustion, following the frantic sound of his voice. The cold seeped into her consciousness, as well and the realization that her body was shaking….no I’m being shaken. She forced her eyes open and the violent movement stopped.

“Thank Frigg,” Her vision cleared and Erik’s face came into focus, above her.

“Dude, I’m going to get whiplash, knock it off.”

“You wouldn’t wake up. I didn’t mean to let you sleep that long but I went looking for a way out and when I got back you were still…too still.”

“And you thought shaking me hard enough to snap my neck would help?”

“I wasn’t that rough. I’ve been trying to get you to wake the entire time I carried you.”

“Carried me?” Alice pushed up and looked around. “Where the hell are we?”

They were in a massive cave but the ice covered walls were gone, solid rock surrounded them, glittering from who knew what minerals or crystals imbedded in them. Why do they look wet?

“I found a hot spring.”

“In the middle of a fucking glacier?” Alice felt like her head was still wrapped in cotton wool and moving took greater concentration than it should. God, I need a coffee. When Erik helped her to her feet, she almost fell down again. “You weren’t lying.”

“I’d never lie to you.” He responded but she was too enraptured by the site in front of her to question him.

Three feet away was an actual hot spring, thick mist floated up around it, spiraling around the rocks. She pulled the mitts off her hands and touched the water with her fingertips. “Shit, that’s hot.”

“Your temperature is lower than it should be so it’ll feel hotter, but you need to get in there.”

“You need to come in too.”

“I won’t put you in that kind of danger.”

Alice understood the dangerous chance she was taking. Every time Erik had touched her coat, or hat or taken her hand, the need to feel his skin on hers grew. He didn’t want to hurt her. She got that and admired him for his restraint and control. But, she had a gut feeling about this idea. The same gnawing in her gut that had her carry that tugtupite sculpture everywhere she went for the last three years.

He watched her like a hawk watched its prey. His green eyes almost looked luminescent in the dim reflected light. The steam around them clung to her eyelashes and she blinked away the tiny droplets. Peeling each layer off, slower and slower, teasing him. A small thought shimmered through her brain that she might not look as good as she thought all things considered.

“Alice, I refuse to do anything that might hurt you. Don’t make me do this.” The way Erik’s hands were clenched into tight fists at his side as he continued to fight his own craving gave her the belief that he wanted her.

“I’m not making you do anything.”

She bent over and untied her boots, slipping out of her socks before tucking them back in. He tracked her hands as she stood up and lifted her arms out of the overalls and let the snow pants drop around her ankles.

That had been the last of the bulky clothing, leaving her in a tight t-shirt and long johns. Erik’s breathing grew laboured as if he was fighting to inhale. Spurred on by the devil that had taken on permanent residence on her shoulder, she stepped out of the mound of clothing.

Looking over her shoulder she saw the flash of relief in his gaze. Nope, not going to make this easy for you big guy. “It might be a better idea if I keep every layer as dry as possible.” She muttered as if she was speaking to herself. Grabbing the hem of her t-shirt she pulled it over her head, and pushed the long johns off her hips. A long low groan sounded behind her, looking back at Erik, she slid her hand over her hip and ass, than blew him a kiss.

The first step into the water took her breath away and she quickly pulled her foot out. “Holy shit that was hotter than I expected.” There goes my plan for sinking seductively into the water. I’m going to freeze my ass off before I get used to it. She placed her other foot for a moment but then had to take it out again. “I’m not sure if we’ll be able to get in here. It might be too hot.”

She thought she heard a muttered curse or two before Erik appeared behind her. He wrapped his coat around her body trapping her inside with him. He radiated a chill that should have had her pulling away but she wanted nothing more than to get closer. Instinctively, she arched her back reached up to wrap her arms around his neck but he blocked with his arms. “I’m not worth the risk. Now slowly, one foot at a time, let yourself get used to it.”

“I think I’d rather stand here with you. You feel hotter than the water.” She rocked her body against his, feeling the impressive ridge of his erection pressing against her lower back. The need to risk everything burned through her, she wanted more than anything to be held but when she tried to turn he tightened his hold.


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