She’s a single mama searching for her twins’ father. He’s a sea dragon shifter trying to protect his clan.
When Lottie moved to Norway, she never expected to become a single mother. But the father of her twins doesn’t want anything to do with them - and has disappeared entirely. Now his brother says the man is dead. And that her babies might not be entirely human.
Eiric’s search for his brother’s killer is derailed when Lottie pops up on his doorstep, claiming his brother knocked her up. Now he has to explain that his entire family is different, to say the least. Sea dragon shifters are the world’s best kept secret, and he can’t allow Lottie in. But as much as he resists, Lottie’s easy charm and sunny attitude set his blood boiling.
But danger looms over their fledgling family, and the twins have to be protected at all costs. Lottie needs to trust Eiric and his family of sea dragons to keep her babies safe, even though the price might be her heart.
Deep Sea Kiss is a steamy paranormal romance, the first in the Norse Sea Dragons duet. Read it now!
★★★★★ - “This had everything I love in a paranormal read...a sexy sea dragon shifter hero, a strong & sassy heroine, and cute twin babies.”
Release date: March 17, 2021
Publisher: Zoe Ashwood
Print pages: 146
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (1) entertaining story (1) escapist/easy read (1) sex scenes (1)
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Deep Sea Kiss
The lights were on in Mikkel Siemensen’s house.
Lottie stopped in the road, her heart skipping a beat. Finally. After months of being away, the man she was searching for was home.
She pulled her phone from her pocket and killed the Taylor Swift song, then texted Mrs. Enstad, who was watching the babies while Lottie was at work.
Her Norwegian was rusty, but the older woman’s English was worse, so they made do with a broken version of both. Lottie managed to compose a message that said, Can you watch Aksel and Elise for half an hour longer?
At least she hoped that was what she’d written. Even after six years in the country, her grasp of the weird vowel letters was shaky at best.
Yes, they’re asleep.
The answer lit up her screen, and Lottie breathed a sigh of relief. If this was her one chance to catch the babies’ father while he was in town, she had to grasp it with both hands. Rooting through her purse, she unearthed a slightly wrinkled envelope holding the papers she needed him to sign. There was a coffee stain on the letter, and the edges had gone all soft and fuzzy, but she’d been carrying the thing around in her bag for five months, hoping she’d finally meet him.
Damn the man.
Lottie gritted her teeth and stomped off in the direction of the pretty cottage on the shore. Mikkel Siemensen had been one of her very few bad decisions in life. Usually, she was the picture of propriety, and if you searched for ‘dependable’ in a dictionary, the entry would have her photo next to it. But last February, when the nights had been so awfully dark and cold, she’d gone home with him one evening after a couple of drinks at the bar. Her friends had cheered her on; the Siemensen men were supposedly fantastic in bed.
Sleeping with Mikkel had certainly been memorable, in that she’d never had a lover with that much endurance. She’d been on the pill at the time, and after her third orgasm, her good judgment had flown out the window. She’d questioned him on his health, then allowed him to take her bare against the wall. And on the couch. And on the rug in front of his fireplace.
Lottie swallowed, stamping hard on her misplaced lust. The man was a ratbag and completely irresponsible. There would be no reminiscing about his strong, tattooed arms or his long, thick…
This was a man who’d refused to acknowledge her ‘situation,’ as he’d called it, even after she’d shown him a sonogram of the twins. They’d been pea-sized at the time, and she hadn’t been showing yet, but he’d merely scoffed at her and told her the babies weren’t his. Now she would force him to get a paternity test, and he’d have to pay child support. Or she’d be able to get benefits from the government. Norwegian authorities were good at taking care of single mothers.
Maybe if he saw the babies, he’d like them.
She couldn’t imagine there was anyone who would hate her beautiful twins. Their soft blond hair smelled sweet, and their chubby hands had little dimples in place of knuckles. Aksel had learned to roll from his back to his tummy just that week, and Elise would soon follow, eager even now to copy her brother.
Keeping them had been the best—and hardest—decision she’d ever made.
Now she stood at the front door of Mikkel’s house, her heart hammering. This was it. Her speech, the one she’d rehearsed, was composed to let him know just how disappointed she was, but would also encourage him to take an active role in his kids’ lives. She didn’t want her kiddos growing up without their dad. Maybe he was just afraid of responsibility. They could work together on that, if only he gave them some time. She had one chance to make a case for her babies. She couldn’t screw this up.
The door flew open. Light spilled out, flooding the steps and momentarily blinding Lottie. It was April, and while the days were lengthening even here in the north, it was dusk now, and cold. The warmth radiating from the cabin pulled her in, and she stepped forward.
The man in the doorway retreated, and the light glinted off his red hair.
Mikkel’s hair was a pale blond, and short. Or it had been the last time she’d seen him. The stranger in front of her was built similarly, a mountain of a man, but his hair was long enough to be scraped back into a bun. And red, a deep, burnished copper that could only be natural.
“You’re not Mikkel.”
He snorted. “And you’re trespassing.”
“Sorry.” That came out in English. She corrected herself and added in Norwegian, “I’m trying to find Mikkel. Is he around?”
The man scanned her from head to toe, his expression wary. Lottie blushed, feeling he’d judged and dismissed her all in one glance.
“No,” he replied. Then he went to close the door.
“Wait!” She pounced ahead and threw her weight against the wood. “Please, wait.”
His weary sigh had her looking up at him. They were standing close now, peering at each other. His beard, neatly trimmed, was a shade darker than his hair. There were shadowy circles beneath his eyes, like he hadn’t slept in a while, and his thick, auburn eyebrows were drawn into a frown.
“He’s not coming back,” he grumbled.
Lottie leaned her ass on the door to keep him from closing it, though she suspected a big guy like that only needed to give a push, and she’d be thrown down the steps. He was allowing her to stand there, and she would not waste that opportunity.
“Do you know where he lives now?” She extracted the papers from the envelope and unfolded them for him to see. “I just need him to sign these. For the babies. It will only take a minute, and I’ve been trying to get a hold of him for months.”
The man blinked at her. His eyes were a remarkable light brown, surrounded by thick, dark eyelashes.
“Babies?” he repeated.
“Yeah, Aksel and Elise.” She gave him a smile she hoped was enthusiastic without being desperate. “Mikkel is their father?”
He stepped back, and Lottie lost her balance as the door opened wide. She tumbled back, landing on her butt at his feet.
The guy stared at her for a beat, then sighed. He offered her his big hand, and Lottie took it. It was warm, too warm, as though he was running a fever, but she resisted the urge to touch his forehead. In this moment, she wasn’t a nurse, and this man wasn’t her patient. Besides, his eyes seemed clear, and he wasn’t shivering, so maybe he just ran a little hot.
Come to think of it, Mikkel’s warmth had been very welcome when she’d been with him. He’d been so hot on that cold winter night, she couldn’t resist him.
She pulled herself up to her feet and reluctantly let go of his hand. “So, how do you know Mikkel?”
The man glanced at the open door. He stepped around her and closed it, and Lottie tried not to feel weird about being in a house alone with a stranger. It was hard: he was taller than her by more than a head, and if he wanted to hurt her, she didn’t think anyone would hear her scream. The cabin stood as near the water as land would permit, and the sea was rough tonight, choppy and high. Even through the insulated walls of the cabin, she heard the waves crashing against the shore.
She retreated a step and grabbed the phone in her pocket.
He was staring at her as though he was mulling something over. Then he said, “He was my brother.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” Lottie said. Then she deciphered the Norwegian declension of the verb and said, “Wait, what do you mean, he was your brother?”
The words were blunt and emotionless, and his expression didn’t change. Lottie searched his face for any sign that he was lying, or kidding, even though that would have been the world’s worst joke.
Pressure built in her chest, painful and crushing, making it hard to breathe. She hadn’t known Mikkel, and wouldn’t miss him for herself, not really. They weren’t friends or partners, they weren’t even lovers, and she knew she’d just been a fling for him. But if this was true, her children would never get to know their father, and somehow, that seemed too tragic to bear.
The man took her elbow and steered her into the living room, where the fireplace stood unlit and empty. The space was colder than it had been the last time she’d seen it, and dusty, as though nobody had been here for a while. Which made sense since Mikkel was dead.
He led her to a couch, where she sat while he dropped in a chair opposite her. Lamplight illuminated one side of his face, casting the other half in shadow. Lottie gripped her hands in her lap, waiting.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Charlotte Shaw,” she said. “Lottie.”
He leaned his elbows on his knees. “I’m Eiric, Mikkel’s brother. You said something about babies?”
Lottie swallowed thickly. “Yeah.” Her voice came out a whisper, so she cleared her throat. “I have twins. They’re five months old.”
“And they’re Mikkel’s?”
She sat up straight. “What are you implying?”
His freckled cheeks turned a shade pinker. “Nothing, I…” He coughed. “Mikkel wasn’t exactly the type to want kids.”
Lottie’s cheeks burned, too. “No, he wasn’t. He said he didn’t want anything to do with them, so I needed him to sign the papers saying so. And to get a paternity test so I could either sue him for child support or get benefits for single moms.” She stared right into his eyes. “But I’m one hundred percent sure they’re his.”
Eiric rubbed his face with his hands. “All right. I believe you. It’s just… We’re never that stupid.”
It seemed an odd thing to say, but Lottie knew she was partially to blame for that.
“I was on the pill.” This was embarrassing as hell to admit to this handsome stranger, but there it was. “I’m pretty sure I didn’t forget one, and they should have worked.”
She shrugged helplessly. She’d gone through the scenario a thousand times in her head, and she couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong.
He glanced at her sharply. “He didn’t use a condom?”
As a nurse, Lottie was used to her fair share of awkward conversations, but discussing her sexual mishaps with her ex-lover’s brother had to be up there with the worst of them.
“No.” She waved her hand, wanting to move on from the subject. “I mean, it’s not important. What’s done is done, and I can’t exactly take it back.” She paused. “That came out wrong. I’d never take my babies back.”
His lips twitched in a ghost of a smile, and she thought he would be devastating if he ever stopped scowling. He didn’t seem the type, though. He likely brooded like this all the time.
His brother is dead, of course he’s brooding.
Lottie leaned forward. “You said Mikkel died? How did that happen? And when?”
Eiric’s jaw worked for a moment. “About two months ago. He drove his car off the road. Crashed onto some rocks. He was dead on impact.”
His words punched the air from her lungs. She stared at him in shock. Mikkel had been dead for two months, and she hadn’t even known it.
He hung his head and shook it as though he wanted to escape the memory. “I’m sorry,” he said finally. “It’s been a while, but I still haven’t…”
He paused and looked past her to the kitchen area. Lottie followed his gaze, taking in the stack of unwashed dishes and dirty countertop. The kitchen was small compared to the vast living space with panoramic windows. This was a bachelor’s pad, for sure. Mikkel didn’t seem to be making any changes to incorporate her or their children into his life prior to his death. Not that this was a surprise. He’d made his opinion on her pregnancy absolutely clear.
She composed herself as best she could, though her throat was tight. Mikkel’s brother was grieving, and there was no use lamenting what was in the past.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” she managed to whisper.
He glanced back at her. “Thank you.”
The words were raw with pain, and she wondered whether he and Mikkel had been close. She was an only child, and while she had a number of friends she adored, she couldn’t imagine the catastrophic pain of losing a sibling.
“Can you…?” She paused, thinking of her next steps. What would she need to do for her children now?
Then she kicked herself for being selfish. He was grieving. Her paperwork could wait.
“Where is he buried?” she asked. “I’d like to pay my respects if that’s okay with you.”
Eiric was silent for a beat. “On our home island. It’s…very remote.”
Lottie waited for him to continue, but he clammed up again. Okay, then. Maybe he was content to sit there, looking handsome in his blue jeans and a plain gray t-shirt. The fabric looked soft and worn, and Lottie’s fingers itched to touch it. She curled her hands into fists at her sides and focused back on the conversation.
“Do you have any other family?” she prodded.
Maybe there were grandparents who would want to meet their grandkids? Even if they were born without their knowledge. Mikkel clearly hadn’t confided in anyone about her, and that made her angry. She and her twins weren’t some dirty secret to be hushed up.
Eiric’s face clouded further. “Another brother.”
Lottie tried for a smile. “You’re uncles now. Do you have any kids?”
He met her gaze at that, his golden eyes wide. “Uncles.”
Ah, maybe that’ll get through to him. He didn’t answer her question, so he either didn’t have children or didn’t want to talk about them.
“Want to see their photo?” she asked.
He jerked his head, and Lottie decided to take that as a nod. So maybe he wasn’t the most talkative—she could deal with introverts. His demeanor was subdued, as if a light had gone out inside him, which was perfectly normal. Maybe the sight of babies would cheer him up. She took her phone out and scrolled through her gallery for a cute photo with both twins.
“Here,” she said, turning the screen toward him. “That’s Aksel in yellow and Elise in blue.”
They were pretty, even though Lottie suspected every mother thought that about her kids. But their toothless smiles were adorable, and Elise had inherited her dimples. Their chubby cheeks were a point of pride for Lottie, because she’d been afraid of how nursing would go after she returned to work. They’d mastered everything beautifully, and the twins were now almost old enough to try solids.
“They’re…” His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “You gave them Norwegian names?”
Lottie went to put away the phone, but he grabbed her wrist with one large, warm palm to stare at the photo a moment longer. She glanced at him, at the worried line that appeared between his eyebrows. The screen went dark, and he released her.
“Yeah,” she answered, a tad breathless. The man’s touch had sent a spark through her, and she wasn’t sure what to do with it. “I figured they’d grow up around here, so they’d fit in better that way.”
He frowned at her. “You’re staying in Norway?”
Lottie lifted her eyebrows. “I’ve been here for six years. It’s my home.”
He seemed to ponder that. “And your family?”
She sighed. “My parents live in the US. They’re saving up to come stay here in the summer for a month, maybe more if they can get enough time off work.”
It hadn’t been easy, uprooting her life and moving to the other part of the world, but she’d come to Oslo for a year of study abroad and fell in love with the country. The bureaucracy of moving here hadn’t been pleasant, but she’d managed to stick around. Now, she couldn’t imagine going back to the US. Her life was here, and she wanted her kids to grow up in this beautiful, wild place instead of crowded Seattle where she’d spent most of her childhood.
Eiric watched her closely. “Those papers,” he said. “Can I help?”
She shuffled through them, skimming over the convoluted Norwegian forms. “Hmm. I think I’ll need his death certificate if you have it.”
He pressed his full lips together but nodded.
Okay. At least he was more cooperative than Mikkel.
“Thank you.” She paused, thinking about everything she needed done. “Do you think I could stop by another time to chat with you about your family health history? Dr. Teigland said none of the Siemensens are patients of his, so he’d like to have some sort of idea about any chronic diseases your family might have.”
Eiric barked out a laugh, though the emotion didn’t reach his eyes. “Yeah, I can imagine.”
Since that was neither a yes or a no, Lottie waited, raising her eyebrows.
He shook his head. “No chronic diseases.”
She couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to his answer than he was letting on, but short of launching into full interrogation mode, she wasn’t going to get any answers out of him.
Take it slowly.
At least he was talking to her. Trying to help in his own brusque way. That was something. Mikkel’s brother could be her ally. Maybe in time, she could get to meet his family. The kiddos were still too young to know what they were missing.
That wouldn’t last for long, though. Every day, they grew more aware of their surroundings. Every day they missed out on having a large family. Partly, that was her fault. When she’d learned of her pregnancy, she could have flown back to the States before she was too big to fly. And her belly had been huge. The twins had both been big newborns. Considering Eiric, she now knew why: apparently, the family’s genes could be traced back to Viking times.
And yet, she’d decided to remain in Norway, because this was her home. It had been for several years, and she wasn’t leaving anytime soon.
She glanced at the clock on her phone. “I better get going. Thank you for telling me. About Mikkel.”
She stood, and he did as well, looming above her. As she passed him on her way to the hall, she caught a hint of his fragrance, just the scent of his fabric softener and maybe body wash, too subtle to be a cologne. Mm.
Then she shook herself and hurried toward the door. Her sense of smell was still haywire from pregnancy, which was likely why she was attracted to the scent of clean clothes. Anything that didn’t smell like poop was welcome in her life.
At the door, she turned back to Eiric and found him standing close enough to touch. She hadn’t heard him come up behind her, and it was disconcerting that such a large man could move so silently.
“Um. Yeah. Where can I reach you?” she asked and lifted her phone.
He stared down at the device. “I don’t have a phone.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Okay. Do you have an email address? Somewhere I can contact you for when I get that meeting with the social services?”
Eiric mulled her questions over. “I’ll find you,” he said at last.
Well, that wasn’t cryptic at all.
Lottie opened her mouth to protest, but he added, “I’ll be staying here for a week or two. To get the house in order.”
That would have to do. Hoping Mikkel’s brother wouldn’t disappear in the dead of the night, Lottie left, hopping off the front stoop and hurrying toward the garden gate. With one foot on the road, she glanced back at Eiric.
He remained in the doorway. She couldn’t see his expression because the light was behind him, but she was sure he was staring at her. She raised her hand in farewell, and instead of waving back, he retreated farther inside and closed the door.
Lottie sighed. If the entire family was this reticent, she was in for an uphill battle. But she wouldn’t give up, not until she was sure her babies had enough family to dote on them and love them as they deserved.
Straightening her shoulders, she marched down the road. If Eiric Siemensen thought he could get away with vague statements and non-answers, he had another thing coming. She hadn’t got to where she was by giving up. If she were a quitter, she would have escaped from Norway the first time she’d tried ordering coffee in Norwegian.
Everyone had laughed at her then, even if they’d been good-natured. But she’d persisted and learned, and now she’d created a life for herself that she was proud of. Her kids would have the best future possible, and if she needed to charm the Siemensen family to achieve that, so be it.
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