“I want to talk about the mark,” I say, skimming right past all of that. If he thinks he can distract me or pacify me with ice cream and cherries like a small child, he’s crazy.
“We don’t need to talk about it. It doesn’t concern you,” Odin says.
My spoon makes a loud clanking sound against the bowl. “Excuse me, but a glowing magical handprint on my throat one hundred percent does concern me.”
“No it doesn’t. You don’t have to worry about it. It’ll go away on its own.”
“I thought you said it couldn’t be undone and that it’s beyond you,” I say, mocking his overly serious tone of only moments ago.
“It can’t be undone and it is beyond me. I have no control over that mark, but I do know it will fade on its own as long as no further steps are taken.”
“But what does it mean? And steps for what?” He’s not going to slither off the hook that easily.
“I have control of the berserker. You don’t have to worry.”
“The berserker? Is that the name of that thing I saw you shift into?”
He levels me with a hard, serious look. “You haven’t met the berserker.”
“Oh Odin, teach me to be scary like you,” I singsong.
“Little girl, you have no idea the fire you play with.”
“I am fire.”
He considers me for a moment and nods. “I think that’s a fair description. You’re also a valkyrie. And it’s clear you didn’t know that before today.”
“What’s a valkyrie? Or does that not concern me, either?”
He just stares at me for a long time. Only this time it’s not lust, it’s a power move. I bet all his little underlings look away. I bet he thinks I’m about to look away. I don’t. I just hold his gaze.
“Can you tell me the rules? Is blinking allowed or do I lose if I blink?”
“You are the most infuriating…”
“I don’t have to be here. You could have chosen to leave the Vanir alone. I don’t even know why I’m here. What do you need me for, Odin? Besides the obvious.”
The one thing I’ve been able to ascertain that he wants from me is the same thing every man wants from me, and Odin hasn’t disguised his desire to have me in his bed.
He leans closer, speaking each word slowly, clearly, and precisely as if I need this all spelled out again. “You signed a contract… with your blood… and if you think I’m letting you out of it or that you can annoy me to death…”
“I may have to stay in Asgard with you, but I don’t have to stay at this table. And since dinner is over and you seem to have no intention of telling me anything worth hearing, I’ll take my leave.”
I stand and turn to go, but his hand wraps around my wrist, stopping me. Just this simple touch sends a harsh bolt of desire spiraling through me.
His voice is low and calm when he speaks. “The mark is a partial mating claim. My berserker thinks you’re his fated mate.”
I whirl back around at this news. “I’m sorry… what? Oh, no, absolutely not… I am not going to be mated to… that thing… or to you for that matter.”
“That’s right. You’re not. I have control of the berserker. I don’t know how long it will take for the mark to fade but it will fade if the mating remains incomplete. I’ve never marked anyone, but with most berserkers it’s two or three weeks.”
I realize he’s still holding my wrist, his thumb softly stroking the back of my hand.
“Why does the berserker think I’m his mate?”
“Because you’re a valkyrie.”
“I’m not going to ask you again what a valkyrie is.” I’m tired of his childish games.
He sighs. “Valkyries work for me. They collect the bravest fallen warriors in the human world for an army I’m building.”
“The army the Vanir fought?”
“There were a few berserkers in that fight, but no, it’s a different army, for a different purpose.”
He’s still stroking the back of my hand. I’m not even sure if he realizes he’s doing it. But I can think of nothing else.
“I don’t work for you,” I say.
“Oh really? You signed a contract… in blood…”
He seems prepared to pull this speech out at my every protest. “I meant, in my capacity as a valkyrie… I don’t exist to serve you.” I don’t even know that I believe his valkyrie line. And it does sound like a line, probably just more of his seduction tactics.
He chuckles. “I’ve never met a valkyrie that was also a goddess. Maybe you’re supposed to lead the valkyries, the way I command the berserkers.”
“I think you should let go of me, now,” I say, holding his gaze.
He jerks his hand away as if burned. His shocked expression tells me he didn’t even realize he was stroking me like that for so long.
“Sure, you’ve got control of the berserker. No need to worry.”
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