First to Burn (Book One of The Immortal Vikings) by Anna Richland
A soldier with secrets. Immortal Viking Wulf Wardsen once battled alongside Beowulf, and now serves in Afghanistan. He trusts the mortal men on his elite special operations team to protect his secret, until an explosion lands him in a place more dangerous to him than a battlefield: a medevac helicopter.
A doctor with questions. Army captain Theresa Chiesa follows the rules and expects the same from others, even special forces hotshots like Sergeant Wardsen. She’s determined to discover the secret behind his supernaturally fast healing, and she won’t allow his sexy smile to distract her.
An enemy with nothing to lose. Even as Theresa’s investigation threatens to expose him, Wulf is stirred by her passion. Dreaming of love and a normal life, he wants nothing more than to build a future with her. But the lost Viking relic needed to reverse his immortality is being hunted by another–an ancient enemy who won’t hesitate to hurt Theresa to strike back at Wulf.
Book one of The Immortal Vikings series. 118,000 words
“What’s wrong?” Theresa demanded as her leather-soled ballet flats skidded across the church’s marble floor.
“Guy was too nosy.” Despite Wulf’s size, his feet skimmed noiselessly through the interior as he dragged her between columns.
“Nosy? What do you mean?” Behind them the door to the courtyard opened. Outside light penetrated as far as the first aisle, but didn’t illuminate the entire nave.
“Had his phone out.” Wulf pushed her through an almost unnoticeable door into a short hall. Each wall canted differently, and none of the corners formed right angles, as if the room enclosed a void where separate buildings failed to join. “He was taking pictures.”
“It’s a tourist spot.” She rolled her eyes. “That’s what people do.”
“Of us. Only us. Not the Mouth.” He shoved something from the floor—a wedge—under the door behind them and drove it deeper with the heel of his shoe. Clearly he wasn’t joking. “Didn’t you notice?”
She’d noticed his behavior change, nothing else, but she wasn’t the trained threat sensor that he was. “Are you sure?” Even asking that made her tense, as if she stood at the top of a stadium, looking down a hundred rows.
“Yes.” He opened one of the two other doors to reveal an ascending flight of steps, and then he whipped the new hat from her head and tossed it to the point where the stairs vanished at a turn. The soft swish as it toppled one step lower was followed by the whine of ancient hinges as he partially closed the stairway door.
And then followed by a squeak next to her.
The brass knob on the door between her and the sanctuary rotated first one way, then slowly back. Someone wanted to come in. Part of her brain inventoried her systemic reactions like she would a patient’s responses. Respiration speeding to produce more oxygen? Check. Muscles from neck tendons to foot arches tensing for flight? Check. The rest of her watched as faster spins rattled the knob mechanism, and then she heard a thunk as something heavy, heavy like a man’s fist, hit the wood.
Someone really wanted in.
She smothered a gasp as the person pounded again, but the metal-bound door held square in its frame and the wedge didn’t shift. When she would have stared, transfixed by the shaking knob, Wulf grabbed her wrist and pulled her through the third opening and into a hall. A carpet runner with a grayed path down the center led to a massive door. Thrusting it wide, he revealed sunlight, and then they were out, away from the pounding that beat alongside her heart.
She followed him around a corner and faltered in front of Santa Maria’s arches. A line of oblivious tourists stretched from the portico to the sidewalk. “Why back here?”
“There.” He pointed to another double-decker bus and ran, still holding her wrist.
To stay connected to her arm, she sprinted with him to the end of the block, and he hauled her on board a moment before the doors snapped at their heels. They’d made it. Eyes closed, she panted against his shoulder while relief turned her knees to overcooked linguine. She clutched his waist to stay upright. His scent, evergreen and soap, wrapped her in safety as the bus lurched from the curb. A man hadn’t held her like this, with his arm looped around her shoulder and his hip bumping her hip, in too long. She’d missed that connection of curves and planes, the feeling of two different-size bodies filling one space.
“People on the bus go up and down.” Under her cheek, his chest vibrated like a big cat, a very big cat, whose paw kneaded her spine in time with his words. “Up and down, up—”
“Stop that.” Her order, drawn out and trembling, held no authority. “This isn’t the place.” Her cotton dress left no doubts about every corded muscle and bulging whatever that Wulf pressed against her hip. Jammed next to him in the doorway, she could feel that he was hot and, she strongly suspected, half-hard.
“Stop,” she whispered again, despite the stupid-crazy part of her that wanted to arch closer in a bus vestibule.
“Negative on that request.” His fingers snuck past her intentions and circled into the small of her back. “After a successful E-and-E is the perfect place for—” he nestled her deeper into his body, “—this.”
“You’ll be escaping and evading without that hand if you don’t move it.” Women at Caddie joked about guys with boners after successful missions, so she knew his post-adrenaline reaction had jack to do with her. Just like her trembling and wide-open senses had nothing whatsoever to do with him. Nothing.
Q: Romance readers have a lot of choices these days. What makes First to Burn (Book One of The Immortal Vikings) stand out in the crowd?
A: Writing First to Burn, I realized that on paper I didn’t have to be a nice mommy. I could have adventures or destroy all that plastic junk every house accumulates. In my writing I could relive candlelit dinners with the man of my dreams in Rome. And have a secret life where I vanquish bad guys without my mother calling. Or maybe my heroine will return phone calls, not me.
If you have fantasies like these, or you just like sexy immortal Vikings in fuzzy handcuffs, First to Burn is for you.
Q: We like to include our favorite quote in our reviews of the books we read. What is your favorite quote from First to Burn (Book One of The Immortal Vikings)?
A: My favorite quote from First to Burn (Book One of The Immortal Vikings) is:
Sure, ask me to pick my favorite child next:
“He swung a second bag of cookies in the air as he pulled away and gave her the free-form salute perfected by Special Forces.
She squeezed the box until its seams creaked. The shameless bastard had grabbed her butteroons.”
About Anna Richland
Anna lives with her quietly funny Canadian husband and two less quiet children in a century-old house in Seattle. Like the heroine of her debut paranormal romantic suspense novel, Anna joined the army to pay tuition, a decision that led to a career spanning four continents (if standing on the bridge in Panama that divides North and South America counts).
She will donate a portion of her book proceeds to two charities: the Fisher House Foundation, which provides housing for families of wounded soldiers in the US and Great Britain, and Doctors Without Borders, which delivers emergency medical care in more than sixty crisis zones world-wide.
The Author Wants To Know:
Has a story ever inspired you to go beyond thinking about an issue, and take a positive action in the real world or to make a change in your life? Some authors subtly or blatantly raise social issues in their work, from classics like To Kill a Mockingbird to Gary Trudeau’s support of veterans and The Fisher House Foundation with his Doonesbury collections. What books have you read that increased your awareness about an issue? What do you think when authors try this? Do you notice, for good or bad?