Title: Rowena and the Viking Warlord
Author: Melodie Campbell
Publisher: Imajin Books
Genre: Paranormal Romance Time Travel
He was her enemy and her lover…
As Cedric fights battles down south, Rowena unwittingly rides into an enemy war camp and is taken prisoner by her old friend Lars, who is not what he seems.
Yet Rowena is not helpless. After all, she is a hereditary half-witch with a whole lot of magic in her. Too bad she doesn’t know how to use it. Escaping from the camp, she continues to botch up spell after spell. Soon Kendra joins her on the trek back to Huel, along with the latest magical mistake, a flame-burping dragon called Cinders.
When war comes to Land’s End, it brings the one man who threatens to conquer everything in Huel, including Rowena’s heart. Now she has to make the biggest decision of her life. Will she return through the wall to safety in Arizona? Or will she stay in Land’s End for good, and fight to save her people from the Viking Warlord?
My name is Rowena Revel and I am the last hereditary witch of Land's End.
Unfortunately, I'm not a very good one.
The trouble is, I have a magic bracelet but no idea how to use it. My mother died before she could teach me. And it won't come off. Spells are a matter of trial and error, so the outcomes are rather sketchy.
I honestly didn't mean to conjure up that Roman Legion in mid-battle.
And apparently I screwed things up by moving back time.
Val, my wizard friend, told me there would be a price to pay for messing with dark magic. But I had to stop the pending war. Thane and Cedric were about to kill each other. Things were so desperate I couldn't wait to find out the penalty.
So I went ahead and used dark magic to turn back time. Now I was finding out how steep that price would be.
If I could use only one word to describe Land's End, it would be 'luscious.' The colors are deeper and richer than home, the scents more intoxicating. And emotions are heightened…
I stood on a hill overlooking the dark green grass below. The sun was a brilliant ball of orange in the sky. The river below sparkled deep blue and teemed with life.
It was gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. But it was different from home. And I was different from home while in Land's End.
How can I explain the change to my desires, in this, my ancient homeland? My inhibitions were like a filter on a camera, suddenly removed. Life was more sensual, intense, and dangerous because of that.
At times, it scared the bejesus out of me.
I turned away from it all to travel back through the portal to Arizona.
But only for a little while.
I smiled at this adventure, so excited was I to escape from the constant guard.
My lover Thane, the king of Land's End, was engaged with his troops to the north. Kendra had promised to cover for me back at Sargon, Thane's castle. No one would know I had slipped away for just a few hours.
I had a chance to go home through the wall to Arizona. Thane wouldn't approve of this trip, of course. He refused to consider anything that might jeopardize my safety or that of my unborn baby. This had the effect of ruining paradise for me. Yes, I loved the man, but I felt trapped.
This feeling had been coming on for days. It haunted me now. Was I the kind of woman who could spend her entire life within the walls of a medieval castle?
It had only been a month, and already I was desperate to get free. A trip back home might be just what I needed. It had been weeks since I had seen my Dad, and I just needed to hear his voice on the phone.
Val said he would help me by opening the portal. I would have exactly one hour…
Earlier this morning, Kendra had helped me to dress for the occasion.
"Wear the white linen. It won't look so out of place in Scottsdale. Luckily it's summer so dresses are everywhere," she said.
"Thanks for shortening it." I gave her a big hug.
"Enjoy yourself," she said. Her big brown eyes twinkled. "Next time it's my turn. Oh, and don't forget to buy chocolate."
I had traveled by horseback to the clearing in the forest. Now the split oak was directly in front of me. I put my hand through the air to the side of it to test for the opening. My hand disappeared from view.
The portal was open between our worlds.
With a deep breath, I walked forward.
The forest disappeared. All around me, the air shook and shimmered. One foot, then the other hit hard floor, and I wavered slightly.
The classroom was empty, as I knew it would be at this time on a weekend.
Pure yellow sunlight streamed in through the windows. The sizzling hot Arizona sun…I was home at last.
I walked to the window and just gazed out over the college grounds for a moment. The Palo Verde trees were a soft powdery green. Agave and teddy-bear cacti rose from the pebbled gardens between the parking lanes. Pure bliss.
First I would phone Dad. Then I would get a large coffee across the street at Starbucks. I would bring one back for Kendra, of course. She wouldn't be expecting that. It would be cold by the time I got it back to her, but we could heat it up in the castle kitchen. I smiled thinking of her reaction.
There was a whoosh behind me, and then some vulgar cursing.
I spun around.
A man stood on this side of the wall. He was tall, with wide shoulders and massively muscled arms. Red-gold hair streamed down his back. He wore a dark green tunic with leather belt and dagger, but no armor.
He was absolutely magnificent, and I knew him well.
"What the hell?"
He laughed, a throaty, good-natured bellow. "By the gods, what a ride!"
I stared, mouth gaping. Cedric on this side of the wall? In Arizona?
"How did you get here?" I blurted.
"The same way you did. I followed you through the portal."
His head whipped from side to side. One hand was on his dagger hilt. I could see he was assessing the place for danger. Instinct, of course.
Crap. Crapity crap. Cedric was here in Arizona. And Thane was way the hell up north in some blasted field, a whole wide world away.
Thank God there was no one around. How the heck would I ever explain a medieval warrior-knight in my classroom in Scottsdale, Arizona?
Think, Rowena. Think!
"What is this room?"
My mind was whirling, but I tried to keep cool. I leaned back against the window sill for support. "This is my classroom. I told you I was a teacher."
He nodded and moved forward. One hand went to touch the back of the chair nearest him, which was plastic. For a moment it had his attention. He gazed down at it, his hands exploring.
I didn't wait for the inevitable question. Instead I asked another. "I meant, how did you know I was coming here?"
"Oh that," he said. His green eyes sought mine. "The second you left Thane's castle, I detected you. I've been waiting for weeks to catch you alone. That man is like a leech by your side. I don't know how you stand it."
"You're no better than Thane," I retorted. "You would keep me trapped like a prisoner just as he."
Cedric stared at me then. I could almost see the workings of him mind click over.
"Not so. At least, not now that I've had time to think things through. I merely seek to convince you that your place is with me."
He strode around the desks to face me. "It's time to come home, Rowena. Not here. Home with me to Castle Huel, where you belong."
No, I have to get you back to where you belong, I wanted to scream. I plunked down in the nearest chair.
Cedric wouldn't know what trouble he was in if he ever left this room. I knew him. He would blunder forth like a raider on a rampage, challenging every man who stood in his way. One crosswise look from a stranger, and he would use that dagger without a second thought.
I could just imagine the tactical squad taking him down in a hail of bullets.
Crap. He was far too dangerous. I had to get him back to Land's End.
"That gown is indecent," he said, staring at my legs.
Okay, that was the wrong thing to say.
"It's perfectly appropriate for this world," I snapped back.
Cedric snorted. "All the more reason to get you back to Land's End. How will the men keep their hands off you here?"
"This is a test." A male voice came over the PA system.
A siren blasted through the air, so loud it hurt. I clapped my hands over my ears.
Cedric moved like a man possessed. Every muscle ripped to action. He bounded in front of me and pulled a dagger.
"Show yourself, Demon!"
"It's okay," I yelled. "That's the fire alarm."
He turned to face me, eyes wild.
"What do you mean?"
I could hardly hear the words over the siren. I signalled for him to wait. It was too loud to talk over.
Cedric lunged to the door, opened it and charged out into the hall. The siren was even louder with the door open. He vaulted back in, then slammed the door and shot to the window. Shock crossed his face as he glimpsed the cars in the parking lot.
The siren switched off.
I sighed with relief. "Phew. Glad that's over. They're testing the fire alarm to make sure it works. It's awfully loud, so they do it when school is out."
"But that is foolish. Surely they know when there is a fire?"
I giggled now. "The alarm is connected to the fire station, where the firemen are."
He gasped. "You have men of fire here? This is surely hell."
My mouth flew open.
"No it's not. It's Arizona." Although in the summer it could be as hot as hell, but no need to further confuse him with that little tidbit.
He returned his dagger to the scabbard. "This world is madness. We leave now."
"I'm not leaving," I announced. "Don't even think you can boss me around in my own country. This is the United States of America and I'm an American citizen. We have rights." Oh yup, I was telling him.
He crossed his big arms and frowned. "Don't think you have erased my memory, Rowena. I know that you have moved time. And I know why you did it." His voice softened for the last bit.
I sat paralysed. But that wasn't possible! Val said he and I would be the only ones who would remember the weeks that were lost when we turned back time.
"How do you know?" My voice was breathy.
He smiled then. "The book remembered you."
"I was in the cellar room. The book of spells was on the altar. It started to glow and I went over to examine it. The tome reeked with your scent. Did you know you have a scent that I can smell across a crowded room? It's tantalizing."
Not good. My cousin Jon had said the same thing to me, months ago. It had nearly been the cause of something tragic.
"So I knew you had held the book and even used it. But there was no time you could have done that. I acquired it after you left Huel."
He started to pace. "I reasoned then that most likely I was missing a block of time. Things had happened that I could not remember. You had been there and read the book, even performed spells from it. I did my best to conjure the past, to see what I had forgotten."
He shook his head. "It's vague. Like dreams. I think I must have died."
The relief I felt was palpable. Cedric didn't remember everything!
"You did die," I said.
"And that's why you moved back time. To save me."
I gawked at him.
"It's a haze. I don't remember everything. But this part is seared upon my brain, Rowena—you looking down at me, frantic with despair, and you cried 'why didn't you teach me the magic to save you?'"
I couldn't look at him. What was I to say? It was true. I did turn back time. I did it to protect Thane and Gareth too, of course, but even before that I had tried to save Cedric.
It occurred to me I could use this to my advantage.
"So you owe me, Cedric. I saved your life. Go away and leave me alone."
"I can't. Not until we talk." He moved closer.
The words were so simple. I met his eyes, compelled, as I always was when he stood close to me.
"This has to stop! Cedric, have a heart. I can't go on like this."
"Have you given one thought as to how I have been affected?"
That confused me. No, I hadn't. It was uncharacteristic and supremely selfish of me, I now realized. I had never considered how this strange bond between us would affect anyone other than me.
Cedric stopped pacing and appealed to me with his arms. He was so close I could see the gold hair that covered his arms and legs. I flushed.
"Before you came to Land's End, I was content to lead my men, increase my mastery of magic, and maintain my fighting prowess. Now, I am only content when I am one with you."
The shock ripped through me.
"Harsh words, and even those are not entirely true. I am never content, not even then. Elated…euphoric perhaps, but not content. This thirst for you will never be sated. Rowena, know it now. You are my heaven and every minute I am away from you is hell."
I swallowed hard. "Then lift the spell."
"It is not mine to lift. I can no more mess with our destiny than my Lord Lucifer can turn night into everlasting day."
"I don't understand. I thought you invoked the draw between us."
"I merely make use of it to keep you near, so I am not in constant agony."
Wow. This was a confession I had not expected. Cedric was baring his soul to me. I sprung up from the chair and turned away.
"When you feel the draw, you are experiencing what I feel," he said. "That is all. My mind reaching out to yours."
This was far, far worse than I imagined.
"Are we never to be free of it?" My voice was strident.
"It is only unbearable when we fight it. Why won't you see that your place is with me, as the old gods have ordained?"
Holy freaking old gods.
"Now you carry my child. The circle is complete. There is no way for me to break free of it, Rowena. Not unless I am dead, and that can't happen now."
What did he mean that couldn't happen? Was he not human anymore?
But I was. He conveniently forgot to mention what would happen if I were dead. We would be free of it then. But that wasn't something I wanted to consider.
"I know they call me the Dark Lord. But I am not evil, despite what the others say. I would not keep you chained to me. In fact, I have a proposition for you. We need to talk."
The draw swept over me then, seeping in, enveloping my mind. I moaned with desire.
"Stop doing that, Cedric. I can't think."
"I'm not doing anything. Magic doesn't work here. You said so yourself."
Then what was this? I swayed, unsteady on my feet.
He crossed the distance between us in an instant and grabbed my arms. "What are you feeling now? Tell me."
"Get away from me!" I moaned. "All I want is…this is unbearable. We can't. This is a school."
"Ha!" He drew me to his chest. "Magic does work here. At least, the magic between us does."
The pain receded as I inhaled his scent. Already I was drunk from it and would have fallen if he hadn't been holding me.
"We'll go now." His one arm caught me under my knees. He swung me up into his arms.
"No!" I cried. "Not yet. I haven't phoned Dad—"
But he was already at the wall, and with one stride was through it.
Never had I entered Land's End this quickly. The air was ripped from my chest. I tried to cry out but nothing came from my throat.
Cedric landed firmly on his feet in Land's End. No unsteadiness, like Gareth and Thane had experienced on their first time through.
He strode forward, away from the split oak, and into the small clearing where I had nearly been killed by brigands. Cedric had rescued me that day. Out of the mist he had appeared on his giant palomino, as if by magic, with several ghostly knights on horseback.
It had been magic. The brigands hadn't stood a chance.
Cedric held me firmly in his arms. The scent of him was driving me senseless with desire.
"Put me down now," I pleaded.
"Not yet," he said. "Not until we're safely away."
I felt a shiver at his words. He chanted something low and rhythmic. A swirl of dark mist started at his feet and wound like a cyclone around our bodies. I screamed as it whipped us up into the sky.