|Publisher:||Lyrical Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.56(d)|
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A Calypso Novel
By Julie Anne Lindsey
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Julie Anne Lindsey
All rights reserved.
Every town has its secrets: creepy families, haunted houses, urban legends, that kind of stuff. Vehemently steering clear of all three had been my life's goal until six weeks ago when the Hale family moved into town and I uncovered the truth behind a few local legends. In fact, Six-Weeks-Ago-Callie, also known as Caution-Sign-Callie, would've died at the sight of Current Me dodging blows and sword strikes in an athletic bra and running shorts. Luckily, I couldn't see the future. Otherwise, I'd have stroked out or taken up day drinking.
I widened my stance and exhaled hard as a battle-ax swooped past my ear.
"Concentrate!" Oliver, my overzealous trainer, pounded the floor with the metal ax. "Or would you like to die again?"
Wiki version: Mythology was real. My boyfriend was a demigod. My biological mother was a goddess, and I was getting my ass kicked regularly during five AM battle training.
"Sorry." I rolled my shoulders and focused on the weapon he thrust toward me and yanked away. Dying had been easy. Quick. A blip on life's radar. Rising moments later as the prophesied leader of all Vikings was a whole other thing. For the past two weeks, my days had started with battle training, before the sun rose, inside Hale Manor, the town's most notorious location. The house wasn't scary, or haunted, though the term brought on a solid argument for semantics since everyone inside had died at least once.
"Concentrate!" Oliver threw down his weapon and waved both hands over his head like a lunatic. "What are you doing? Are you even trying?"
"Sorry." I raised my giant shield higher and shifted into a defensive crouch. "This is impossible. I can't see you if I raise the shield high enough to protect myself, and I can't know where the blow is coming from unless I lower this thing. I hate fighting. I'm better with words."
Oliver stepped into view, drenched with sarcasm and attitude. He ran a heavy hand through shaggy blond curls and lunged to retrieve a sword in place of the battle-ax. "Yes, but you can't talk your way out of a battle, sugar, and you aren't fighting. You're defending yourself."
"Hey." I dropped the shield to chin level. "Don't call me pet names."
His lips twitched. "You refuse to learn to fight, but you can't avoid it forever. It's been two weeks, Callie. Your men must battle. It's in their nature. A pep talk on peacekeeping isn't what they need. They need a leader who is strong. Someone who isn't afraid to fight. Someone who leads by example."
I circled him slowly on the mat. "I am leading by example. Maybe my men should stop being so quick to battle and spend a little more time looking at their options. War isn't always the answer."
Oliver's sword nipped my exposed shoulder and he smiled. "You anger too easily. You need self-control if you're to become a warrior." He tossed a smarmy look to his brother, aka my boyfriend, standing patiently against the wall. "I don't understand women. Is it their hormones?"
Liam exhaled audibly. It killed him to see Oliver attack me every day, but he couldn't bring himself to hit me, so he'd resolved to watch and mediate when Oliver pushed too far.
Oliver struck again and I whacked him with my shield. "Ex-cuse me? Did you ask Liam if I'm PMS-ing? Maybe you're the one who wants to die."
"Well, if you won't fight, we could use you as a secret weapon." He smiled like a game show host and turned his face toward Liam again. His sword remained trained on me. "We have the advantage. She's the only woman. We could send her to the battleground in one of those outfits." He flicked his chin in my direction. "The opposing clan would kill one another trying to claim her. They'd do our work for us."
Liam groaned. "Don't goad her, brother."
Oliver glanced my way and poked my unguarded side with his training sword. "We could take them out while they're distracted by all her skin."
I charged him and my feet were up over my head in a heartbeat. "Gah!"
"Enough." Liam pushed off the wall. By the end of my sessions, he always looked the way I felt, discouraged and exhausted.
Pain vibrated through my forearm. "See? I'm a danger to myself. Besides, I'm a pacifist, not a warrior."
Oliver scoffed. "Wrong. You're a warrior and a hothead."
"Am not." I pried leather training gloves off my sweaty fingers. "You're a chauvinist."
"Hardly." He tapped his temple. "I know my enemy. I'm clever. I decide what to say as a means of provocation. You take your feminism too seriously, for example, and if I meant to provoke my brother as well, I'd have been doubly successful today, seeing as you're both intolerable of comments on your figure." His unusual accent grew more pronounced with longer complaints like the ones he saved for me at battle practice. Fair hair and light eyes aside, how had I ever believed the Hales moved here from Iceland? Few beings spoke with their unique cadence and tenor, a mashup of assorted dialects and endless years on Earth.
Oliver sauntered toward me and extended a hand. His tone settled into something more fitting of his ageless existence than his teenage face. "If you won't fight, you need better defensive skills. This isn't like fending off a handsy jock at a bonfire. This is life or death, and we can't afford to lose you."
I waved off his assist in favor of my sports bottle and set my Volkswagen-sized shield aside. "I need water."
"You need to practice with the sword."
My gaze flicked traitorously to the instrument in question. Fluorescent overhead lighting glinted off a majestic silver sword hanging on the wall beside Liam's throwing knives. My sword. I refused to look directly at it. The violent hum in my blood whenever I thought of the sword made me nauseated. If I opened my hand, it would come to me. My fingers curled tight in my lap. "Not yet."
I squirted half the bottle of ice water into my mouth and wiped sweat from my face with the back of one wrist. Oliver offered me his hand again and I accepted.
Hoping to gain the element of surprise, I made a cheap lunge for his feet. My back hit the ground with a bounce, flattening my lungs. "Oof." Air rushed through my lips. Black dots swam in my vision.
Liam appeared, stepping into Oliver's space and blocking him from view.
I couldn't move or catch my breath. My eyes stung and watered.
Oliver relented, pacing swiftly away. He shucked off his gear and headed for the stairs with a chuckle. "Better luck next time, cupcake."
Liam lowered his sculpted body onto the mat beside me and a puddle of my gathering sweat. "You're clearly distracted. More than usual. What were you thinking about this time?"
"Irony." The word croaked out as I sipped in new air.
He leaned forward and pressed soft fingers to my scalp, probably looking for another goose egg or ruling out a concussion. Not that I could get a concussion. "How so?"
I forced my arms into obedience and lifted onto my elbows with a groan. "I didn't come near this house for eighteen years because I thought it was inhabited by ghosts. Now I come here seven days a week. The house is literally inhabited by ghosts and I'm one of them." I waved a limp hand between us. "I mean, not a ghost-ghost. A zombie? What are we technically?"
"We are Vikings."
I rolled onto my side and pushed into a seated position. "I know, but what does that even mean? Vikings. Until last month, I thought Vikings died off centuries ago. Viking isn't what I mean."
Liam quirked a brow. "We are demigods, the offspring of humans and the goddess Nike's siblings, Kratos, Zelus, and Bia; gods of strength, zeal, and force. You know this." He probed my head again for injuries.
I leaned away. "Not me." Thank goodness. Bia was Liam's mother. His actual mother. He was an original demigod. If I was like him, we'd be related. Distant or not, the creep factor would've been too high to contemplate.
Apparently Bia and her siblings got around because their lineage was abundant and far-reaching. Frustration mounted in my aching head and burdened heart. Not everyone in the specific bloodline became a Viking. Only a few rose again after death and those who did were always men.
I pulled my knees to my aching chest and worked to regain a normal breathing pattern. "We've all died. Resurrected by the transformation. This technically makes us zombies." A familiar chill climbed my spine. Understanding who I was and where I fit into the world was something I'd always spent a pathological amount of time on. I didn't have an answer before I died. I was light years away from knowing now.
Liam brushed sweat-dampened hair off my shoulder. "Zombies aren't real. We're eternal, reincarnated, destined beings. We serve great purpose." His eyes sparkled as his fingertips danced along the curve of my neck. "You are so much more than you realize."
"Yeah. Secret love child of Hermes the Olympian god and Calypso the sea nymph, prophesied to rise as the leader of all Vikings, destined to unite the warring clans." No pressure. I peeled sticky hair off my cheeks and took a long, cleansing breath. The ache had nearly gone. I waved my sweaty gloves between us. "What if I can't do this? What happens then?"
Worry pressed into my addled mind. If I kept up my frantic pace, I'd never get a swim scholarship or an ACT score higher than five. I wouldn't get into college. I'd work at the deli forever. I'd never make a difference. Be anything. Go anywhere.
Liam's lips curved down. "You're doing it again. Don't get lost in that head of yours."
I sipped my water. "I know."
He stared, heartbroken, as if he were the one burdened with reading people's emotions instead of me. "I thought I was the brooding one in our relationship."
"I'm not brooding."
"Well, you're definitely not a zombie either. Are you craving brains?"
I lifted and dropped one shoulder. "Not really."
"No?" Mischief colored his tone and lightened his mood.
"No more than usual."
He nodded in mock acceptance. "Is it human flesh?"
A tiny snort escaped my nose. Liam was my personal cheerleader and the only one, between the two of us, who believed I had any chance at uniting the warring Viking clans. His mouth fell on my bare shoulder. Rough hands shoved the strap of my sports bra away. He smiled against my skin. "You know, now that I think of it, I might have that second symptom."
I dropped my head back, enjoying the tingle of his warm breath and lingering heat from a trail of blazing kisses across my collarbone. I lazily traced the ridges and planes of his chest and torso beneath the thin cotton of his shirt, appreciating the benefits of daily battle training. Alone time with Liam was hard to find. "Keep that up and we'll be late for school."
He pushed the neckline of my top lower with his chin. His nose drew a line across my chest. "Don't care."
"I'm sweaty and gross." My warnings were feeble and borderline pathetic. Sweaty hadn't stopped us before.
His broad chest vibrated in a telltale growl of appreciation. "Sexy. Delicious." He cradled my head in one hand and lowered me back to the mats in a move so fast my old, human eyes would've missed it. Newfound speed and strength aside, my ability to resist Liam was minimal at best. He leaned over me, drinking me in with his gaze, heating me to combustion without a touch. I curled my fingers into the soft fabric of his shirt and enjoyed the fierce green glow of his eyes, a Viking's natural response to various ... stimuli. His lips captured mine and I repurposed my hands, fisting them deep into his blond hair and pulling him closer. Our tongues collided in a tidal wave of need and my legs locked around his waist on instinct. Liam rocked back onto his knees, taking me with him and our bodies melded together. He stood without effort.
I gasped against his mouth. "Keep kissing me like that and we'll both need a shower."
He wrapped his arms around my hips, wedging me in place and moved toward the stairs. "The shower it is. I'm here to serve."
How could a girl argue with that?
* * *
We were late for school.
I checked my missed texts on the way to homeroom. Mom had sent two. One message said to have an amazing day at school. The other said she'd missed seeing me when she got home from work this morning. Working midnights at the hospital meant she missed me every weekday morning during swim season. She assumed I was at the pool practicing my breast stroke before school, like every other November of my life, and I let her. I couldn't tell her the truth about battle training, so I lied to her the way I lied to everyone else I'd loved before Liam and his mythological world rocked into mine. My adoptive mother was no exception. Telling the truth meant putting people I loved in danger, and I couldn't defend myself, let alone anyone else. I pressed a palm against my stomach, where I assumed there was a giant ulcer.
I kissed Liam's cheek and hustled into homeroom. I examined my shoes as the teacher stared. My skin prickled with the fog of emotions creeping toward me. The teacher was unhappy, distrusting, and too curious for my good. This was my second tardy in two weeks. I needed the Hales' power of influence, not the empath gift of doom. High school was the worst place an empath could be, outside an insane asylum. Though, a decent mental ward could at least offer me a sedative.
Everyone gawked as I took my seat.
I ran through a mental checklist of homework assignments and my swim schedule in an effort to block the oppressive curiosity clinging to my skin. Yes, I looked different. Yes, something had happened to me. No, my life wasn't any of their business. Unfortunately, in a town as small as ours, any deviation from a person's predicted behavior was front-page news. This just in: Someone cut their hair. Quick! Send out the press and a cameraman, another kid got a new truck. News at six.
The bell released us from homeroom before I had time to cross my legs under the desk. Praise Zeus for small miracles. I hoisted my bag over one shoulder and followed the crowd into the hallway.
Tom Mahoning, leader of the Mahoning Clan, and self-appointed Callie Ingram bodyguard, smiled as I emerged. "My queen."
I stopped several inches away and lowered my voice. "Call me Callie, okay? I'm not a queen. I'm just me. Nothing's changed."
His green eyes flashed with satisfaction. "Everything's changed." He matched his pace to mine and moved with me toward my first period class. "You're my leader. Queen is a title of respect."
"Wouldn't Zeus's or Odin's wives be your queens?"
Tom slowed his pace. His brow furrowed. "Technically, I suppose, but when do I see them?"
"I'm not sure proximity's relevant."
"How about coach?" he asked.
"I'm definitely not your coach. You're the one teaching me. I know nothing. I'm like an infant."
I adjusted the bag across my shoulder. "I don't know the first thing about being a Viking, or leading an army of them. Battle training is a nightmare. I'm too afraid of my sword to touch it. What if I fail the clans?" What if the men saw through me? My spine stiffened. "Was everyone at breakfast this morning? I mean ... has anyone else left us?" Left me.
"All were accounted for. No word from the Stian rebels either. Another good morning."
The Stians were a bloodthirsty, power-hungry clan. They'd nearly killed my best friend Justin and had successfully killed my other best friend, Allison, and me, plus many others. Over the years, they'd strategically killed off the other Watchers, like Liam and his brothers, intending to stop the prophecy and lead the Vikings themselves.
I nodded on a loud exhale. "Good." When I'd resurrected as leader, most of the Stians joined me, but a few had held out.
Many clans had traveled the globe to see me and pledge their fealty, but no one knew where the renegade Stians went and two of my men had vanished last week. What if the holdouts were regrouping? Had I somehow chased the two away?
We slowed as my first-period classroom came into view. "Will you swim tonight?" Tom stopped at the door.
"No. No practice on Fridays." Swimming used to help with my worries. I'd always processed my life while in the water. Lately, nothing helped and there was only time for battle practice and keeping up mandatory human appearances like school and scheduled practices.
He rubbed his chin. "May I address you as princess?"
My feminism bristled. "I'm not a princess."
Confusion crowded his eyebrows. "I've offended you?"
"No. It's me. Around here being called a princess is an insult. It's like saying I'm weak or fragile or bratty."
Excerpted from Goddess by Julie Anne Lindsey. Copyright © 2015 Julie Anne Lindsey. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I absolutely loved reading this and am extremely disappointed in the fact that it ended as such with the potential to be continued!
Awesome story line with unforgettable characters!
Started it last night and finished it this morning. Could not put it down. A couple times I started to worry the story was falling into the trap of a strong heroine whose strength is only truly actualized when brought out by the even stronger hero... but the love of the characters kept me going, hoping. I was NOT dissapointed. Hear me roar indead. Quite the opposite, in the end. I can't wait to follow up them in #2.
Really enjoyed this first book and looking forward to the second. Fun, imaginative and the characters each came to life.
Greatest book ever!!!! ~Chalia`je`Kauli
Callie just found out that the gods and goddesses really do exist and she is caught in the middle of a war. To top it off, Callie is believed to be the Viking leader reincarnated. Training as fast as she can, Callie who didn't even know Vikings still existed is facing a seriously uphill battle. When frost giants threaten everyone she holds dear, Callie must do whatever she can to save her family and friends, even if they don't have much faith in her ability to pull them through. Goddess is a very creative and original take on gods, goddesses, demigods and vikings all existing in the modern world. I enjoyed the story but never felt that connection needed to completely pull me in. 3.5 Stars. I received this ARC copy of Goddess from Kensington Books - Lyrical Press in exchange for a honest review.