A sea dragon king and a witch seeking her lost brother are a dangerous match...
Nia’s half-brother disappeared in Norway. He’s either in hiding…or dead. Nia’s coven is after the grimoires he took, and they think she might be involved. That’s why she’s freezing her ass off in a tiny Norwegian village, looking for him.
Magnus is the worst king in the history of their sea dragon clan. Considering his father - and his father before him - was a brutal tyrant, that’s saying something. But his problems just keep piling up. His mother destroyed the one clue that could shed light on his younger brother’s murder, and someone is sniffing after the dead witch at the village, meddling in things better left alone.
Whatever happens, Magnus must keep his clan safe and protected from humans and witches both. And the woman he saved from being fish bait is a complication he can’t afford. Even if she’s stirring feelings inside him he hasn’t experienced, ever. Even if she might be exactly what he and his clan need.
Deep Sea Love is a steamy paranormal romance, the second book in the Norse Sea Dragons duet. Order it today and dive right into the cold, mysterious waters of Norway!
Release date: May 26, 2021
Publisher: Zoe Ashwood
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (1) creative magic (1) entertaining story (1) escapist/easy read (1) great world-building (1) high heat (1) imaginative (1) sex scenes (1) strong chemistry (1)
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Deep Sea Love
The water lapped at the pier, sending the small fishing boats bobbing on the waves. Nia stood at the edge of the weathered wooden platform, watching the fisherman she’d just spoken to about renting a motorboat. His gray beard hid half his face, and his knit hat obscured the rest, rendering him unapproachable at first glance.
“So you’ll be here tomorrow morning?” she confirmed, trying to keep apprehension out of her voice.
He nodded in response, his jaw clenched. “Tomorrow.”
Nia sighed and pulled her jacket tighter. “And there’s nothing I can do to convince you to let me have the boat today?”
The man shook his head, his expression stern. “A storm is coming. No one should be out on the water tonight.”
Nia faced the open sea, noting the whitecaps farther out in the bay. A steady breeze ruffled her hair, and she let the wind caress her face, its scent and temperature confirming the man’s opinion. The night would be rough, so she would stay inside and start the search for her brother tomorrow.
Nia exchanged contact information with the fisherman. He’d been nice enough to her and had let her prove that she could navigate the choppy sea around the village of Brundal, Norway, unlike two of the other men in the marina who wouldn’t even let her try. Nia understood their reluctance—these boats were their livelihood, and she was a foreigner and a stranger without documents that would prove she could handle herself out on the water.
But with this man, she’d managed to communicate despite their language barrier, and she’d even convinced him she was a wildlife photographer come to find rare seabirds, whales, and sea otters. It was the same story she’d sold to the pale young man who’d welcomed her to the Sverdfisk, the local restaurant and the only place that served as an inn in this hidden little settlement.
Far from the typical Norwegian tourist attractions, Brundal hadn’t been easy to reach. She’d had to fly from London to Oslo and from Oslo to Ålesund in a small plane with only a handful of passengers. Then she rented a car to drive to Brundal through the wild countryside. Stunning vistas had accompanied her journey, and she’d felt the pressure of the last months lift from her shoulders. She was finally doing something. Escaping England without her mother noticing had been difficult, and she was very proud of her newfound deception skills. She had tracked her brother here using a powerful locator spell that had taken her two days to execute, and she was almost sure this was the last place he’d been before…
Before something had happened to him.
Nia refused to even think of the possibility of him being dead. The word had such awful finality to it, and Bram Cawthorne was a force to be reckoned with. Their coven had searched for him in the four months since he’d disappeared, and they hadn’t found anything, so Nia had—for the first time ever—resorted to using her own blood to find his last known location. They were only half-siblings, true, but blood called to blood. The spell had left her feeling tainted and oily, and she’d vowed never to use it again, but if it helped her find her brother, she would.
The only issue was that the actual coordinates for the place he’d been last were somewhere out there. Tension squeezing her chest, Nia stared at the distant horizon, where clusters of small, rocky islands dotted the surface. Had Bram gone sailing and had an accident? She couldn’t figure out what else he could have been doing since from this point onward, the maps she’d consulted only listed uninhabited islands.
She turned back to the Sverdfisk, shivering in her too-thin jacket. She’d brought her winter parka along, and she’d need it, even though it was only early October. Her feet slipped on the wet boards, and she threw her arms out for balance, then wobbled to the shore, hoping no one saw her. Casting a look back at the fisherman, she saw him staring at her, his eyes narrowed suspiciously. He was probably questioning her competence and wondering whether he’d be complicit in her death if he lent her his boat and she killed herself while using it.
Nia showed him a thumbs-up, the universal sign for ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got this,’ and hurried up the shore to the red-painted restaurant before he could change his mind. A small group of locals huddled at the door, puffs of smoke curling around them as they chatted in Norwegian. They eyed her curiously, but no one tried speaking to her, for which she was grateful. A woman traveling alone was an easy target for weirdos, yet so far, Norwegians had proven themselves to be polite, friendly people.
She pulled open the door, and a gush of warm air flowed through, the currents swirling around her like a lover’s embrace. She let out a tiny sigh, relaxing marginally. The wind on the pier had felt ominous, somehow, and even though Nia hadn’t inherited her mother’s gift of premonition, she hadn’t tried testing her powers out there. Here, though, she let out a small tendril of magic to taste the air, almost snake-like, and sighed in relief. Her sixth sense confirmed what her other five were already telling her: this was a safe, happy place where they served good food to good people.
For the first time in days, Nia took a deep, unhurried breath. She picked a stool at the bar and hung her small backpack on the hook at her knees. She’d taken the rest of her luggage to her room earlier, but this backpack contained the stuff she didn’t want any maid to find: her current Book of Shadows, her rune stones, and her athame, the silver dagger she used for collecting herbs and directing energy. The crystals and the candle stubs she’d left upstairs—those could be explained by telling people she was into New Age stuff, but humans tended to balk at knives.
“What can I get you?”
A female voice jolted her from her thoughts, and she looked up to find the waitress watching her with a slight smile on her lips. She’d spoken in English, which likely meant the word was out about her arrival. Nia scrambled around for a menu, and the waitress pushed it her way without a word, leaving her to decide what she wanted. The menu mostly listed seafood and sandwiches. Nia ordered fish and chips, figuring she couldn’t go wrong with a classic, and a celebratory glass of white wine.
She wasn’t going to do any magic tonight, so a glass of wine wouldn’t hurt. It might even help with letting go of that persistent knot of anxiety still lodged beneath her breastbone, despite the fact that she was hundreds of miles away from home and, for once, free to do as she pleased. The coven’s elders were no longer breathing down her neck. She was on a mission to find her brother and the coven’s grimoires he’d taken with him, but she would do it on her own godsdamned time.
Resentment coursed through her at the thought of her brother. He’d left the coven without notifying anyone, not even his mother, and absconded with the books. They were his to protect, yes, but the rest of the magical families in her village weren’t impressed by his disappearing act. They didn’t care that Nia had been mostly estranged from Bram her entire life, or that she’d had zero knowledge of his plan to nick the spell books.
With a shuddering sigh, she tried to relieve her tension. This was her reprieve. A chance to really think about possible solutions away from the blood-pressure-raising company of her mother, who was always upset over something.
No more. She was in Norway, not Wales, and she would think of nothing but dinner for tonight.
The food arrived on a large warmed plate, a mound of crispy fried potatoes and a salad accompanying crunchy fish that melted on her tongue. Nia forgot all about the locals chattering in the background, closed her eyes, and inhaled the savory aroma wafting to her nose.
A low chuckle had her looking up, then to her right. On the other side of the pale wooden bar, a broad-shouldered man sat nursing a half-empty glass of beer. His golden hair gleamed under the lights, almost long enough to reach his chin, and he’d been blessed with chiseled Nordic features, a strong jaw, high cheekbones, and a straight, proud nose. He wasn’t staring at her, but Nia had a niggling feeling he’d seen her sniffing her food just now. Heat rose in her cheeks, and she dipped her gaze back to her food. She took another dainty bite of the fish, then mentally smacked herself for caring what the stranger thought. Deliberately blocking him from her thoughts, she focused on her first hot meal of the day. It was delicious, the fish fresh and prepared with obvious skill, and she silently congratulated herself on finding this little gem of a place in such a remote location.
All the while, the stranger at the bar kept her attention, even though she pretended otherwise.
She would not look up.
Not even a peek.
She would definitely not check if he was as handsome as she’d noticed at first glance.
Nope, especially not since she was almost sure he’d turned in her direction.
Nia counted her breaths between bites of scrumptious food and made it all the way to fifty-seven before she darted her gaze up at the man. The strength of his stare had her sucking in her breath, and that was saying something considering air was literally her element. His blue eyes widened slightly when he realized she’d caught him looking, and he focused down on his drink, a pink flush appearing on those amazing cheeks.
She grinned, delighted at this new development. What was this guy’s deal? And did being here count as a vacation? She could damn well use a hot vacation fling, and this prime human specimen would be a great candidate.
Nia had avoided dating in her home town, given the fact that half the boys her age had been members of their coven, and she definitely hadn’t wanted to get involved with any of the families who’d despised her and her mother. They’d had their reasons, of course, but that didn’t make their snide smiles and whispers any easier to bear. After she’d left for university in Cardiff and then for her master’s in London, however, she’d dated guys both human and magical. She’d even been in love once or twice, though that had never turned out well.
But she’d never seen a guy this impressive in her life. His presence filled the room, and others instinctively veered around the man when they passed. She couldn’t see auras in color, but she’d bet his was a shining cyan shot through with gold, or a pearlescent white. Nia dropped her gaze back to her wineglass and shook herself.
Pull yourself together, or he’ll think you’re a weirdo, and you’ll lose your chance for an amazing, hot evening with him.
A shiver passed down her spine at the thought of having that man in her bed. With those strong arms and broad shoulders, he likely stood well above her in height, and if the rest of him matched that big body… Nia swallowed a sip of her wine and dabbed her lips on the napkin. Another glance in his direction told her he was looking at her again, and she allowed her lips to curl up just a little to see if he’d respond.
Instead of smiling back at her, he said something in Norwegian to the waitress, who nodded and disappeared through the swinging door to the kitchen, returning minutes later with a large plate of grilled fish fillets. No sides, just fish that he cut into and ate in methodic bites, working through the stack with surprising speed.
Not wanting to disturb the guy during dinner, Nia pulled out her phone and tapped the messaging app icon. Her mood soured immediately. Her mother’s contact was at the top of the list. Sighing, Nia clicked it open. The sooner she got this over with, the better, or her mom would keep texting and calling.
Where are you? You haven’t been home in weeks.
When are you coming? I need you to help me with something.
Nia released a long, steady breath. ‘It’s urgent’ was her mother’s favorite way of getting her daughter to hightail it home at every whim. It had taken Nia a long time to stop responding to those emergencies, and even now, her stomach twisted with guilt. What if her mom really needed her this time?
With a ruthless jab, she pushed down the unwanted feeling and texted back.
Sorry, stuck at work. I’ll be around in a couple of weeks. We have a huge restoration project going, and it’s all hands on deck at the library. Talk to you soon! xx
Stomach churning, she put the phone to silent, clicked off her screen, and shoved the phone into her backpack. She would not check it again tonight. The lie was necessary. If her mom knew where she was, she’d have an aneurism, and Nia did not need the lecture and the screaming that would follow.
This was her trip. Her mission. And if she wanted to have a little fun while doing it, she was well entitled to it.
A furtive glance at the gorgeous stranger told her he was done with his meal. His plate lay empty, his cutlery to the side, and his glass of beer was down to dregs. It was now or never. A chance to turn this evening into a night to remember. Nia drew in a fortifying breath, picked up her wineglass and backpack, and sidled along the bar to where an empty barstool stood next to him.
“Uh, hi,” she began, grinning. “Is this seat taken?”
The man turned to her, his piercing gaze slamming into her. Up close, she realized his eyes weren’t just blue. No, that was such a common word to describe them. A starburst of gold radiated from his pupil, and the hue of his irises reminded Nia of stormy seas. But it was the force of his stare that shook her down to her center. And his scent. Gods, his scent hit her nose on one frantic inhale, and her knees went weak. He smelled of the ocean and the wilderness, unlike anything she’d experienced before.
From afar, she’d thought she could handle this man, with his blushing and his furtive glances. Now, she wasn’t so sure anymore.
He held her gaze a moment longer, then seemed to wrench himself away. Without a word, he pulled a yellow five-hundred-kroner bill from his jeans pocket and slid it beneath his plate. Then he left without a backward glance, leaving Nia to gape at his retreating back. The front door of the restaurant opened, and he disappeared into the darkness of the evening.
Nia blinked, still holding her wineglass in one hand, her backpack in the other. Slowly, she turned to the empty barstool she’d meant to take and slid onto it. She wasn’t sure her legs would hold her much longer, and despite her wish to disappear and pretend the last minute never happened, she needed to take a breath and process what happened.
“Would you like another glass of wine?”
Nia jumped at the voice. The friendly waitress’ eyes held a touch of pity. Nia glanced this way and that along the bar, but the other patrons weren’t paying her any attention. Still, she wouldn’t make this moment worse by drinking more than she should.
“No, thanks,” she said. “I’m okay.”
A hangover was not going to help her search for her brother. Which was why she was here. Not to have an affair, but to find the man who’d disappeared and left their coven at home without a leader. To find the coven’s books he’d taken on his trip without permission, hobbling the entire community through his actions. No one else was going to do it, so it had to be her.
The waitress’ expression turned kind. “It’s not you, by the way.”
“Hmm?” Nia lifted her head, unsure of what she was talking about.
“He doesn’t date,” the older woman explained and inclined her head toward the door.
Nia’s face heated. “So you know him?”
“He’s the boss’ brother. He doesn’t come here often, but I’ve never seen him with a woman.”
Nia mulled over this. “Does he speak English?”
She’d been happy to learn that most of the younger Norwegians spoke it quite well, which had been an immense relief at both airports and the car rental service because she didn’t speak a word of Norwegian beyond ja and nei.
“Yes, of course,” the waitress replied, looking appalled at the question.
Nia motioned with her hand. “No, I didn’t mean to offend, I just thought he might not have understood me. But I guess he was just…in a hurry?”
The woman smiled slightly and pushed a plate with a wedge of blueberry pie in front of Nia. “On the house,” she said, then turned and left to serve another customer.
Nia stared at the plate, her cheeks warming again, and considered refusing what was surely a pity offering. Then she shrugged and cut off a bite with her fork. Who was she to turn down free dessert? The pie was as delicious as the main meal had been, the pastry crumbly and sweet, the blueberries tart and flavorful.
And it did improve her mood.
Nia had learned to roll with the punches early in her childhood, and a stranger turning down her admittedly clumsy come-on wasn’t going to pierce her thick skin. Still, she picked up and left for her room soon after. The full day of traveling had left her tired and sleepy, and she was going out on the water early tomorrow morning to search for Bram.
As she tucked herself into her bed, she rested her palm on the malachite pendant lying in the hollow of her throat, attached to a delicate silver chain. She’d spent days imbuing the stone with a powerful protection charm, working her magic late into the night as she prepared for this trip. Her air magic wasn’t very useful for this, so it had taken her longer than anticipated, and she’d employed all her knowledge of power runes, crystals, and energizing herbs to get it done.
Even though she was sure it would do its job and prevent anyone—but especially her mother—from finding her or spying on what she was doing, a curl of trepidation rose at the thought of what she was doing here. The coven in Sandwyn, the bustling Welsh fishing village not unlike Brundal, had grown impatient over the months following Bram’s disappearance. Either Nia would locate him and the books he’d stolen, or they’d take matters into their own hands.
She did not want them to make that decision for her.
Nia’s mother might murder her if she knew what Nia planned on doing after she located the coven’s spell books, so it was imperative that she complete her mission before her mom got wind of it. She had a week, maybe, before her absence was noted at the library archive and before her mom went into a panic, so she would need to put in long days to locate Bram and discover what on earth had happened to him.
Nia curled on her side and tucked the pendant beneath her PJs. Still, on this trip, her life was her own for once, and the realization brought her more peace than she’d expected. This was stolen time, yes, a respite she would pay for dearly, but now that she was here, she wouldn’t let her mother’s ambition overshadow her own mission.
Her brother was out there somewhere. She just needed to find him and bring him back, make him resume his duties in the coven, and she’d be free once more.
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