On a Red Horse
Revelations, Book 1
Ebook ISBN: B01EVJA6U4
Print ISBN: 978-1508664727
[ Paranormal Romance, MF ]
Tyr, god of justice, hunts his wife across the realms. From Hell to the Golden Throne, he travels until he finds her working as a phone operator. Scarlet is no longer the woman he fell in love with, and he is determined to bring that woman back to him if it takes the rest of eternity.
[bctt tweet=”Read #excerpt of On a Red Horse by @monica_corwin #PNR #romance”]
Men like him were the reason aliens hadn’t yet made contact with Earth. For twenty minutes Scarlet sat at a small table in The White Horse Café and watched the man prowl from one woman to another. He seemed intent on picking someone up with the focus of last call as opposed to first thing in the morning. As he struck out with lucky lady number five, his crosshairs fixed on her. He approached with a swagger and for a moment Scarlet longed for the bite of a sword hilt against her hand.
She answered before he spoke without even glancing up from the screen of the iPhone clutched between her palms. “If you plan to start this exchange with some sort of cheesy pick up line involving a piece of my anatomy, I’m going to stop you right there.”
His posture stooped in her peripheral vision. “I just wanted to say that you’re beautiful.” His tone held a surprising note of vehemence, but he did nothing more and slinked off without another word.
The proper human emotion might be remorse for speaking to him that way, but she felt nothing as he finally left the shop. A shadow fell across her screen a moment later, and she looked up to find the café’s owner and her friend, Katherine. Her friend’s black hair stuck out wayward and free around her face, hanging against her neck in kinky curls. It only made the light olive of her skin stand out against the bourbon color of her eyes.
“You know you should try to be nicer to people.”
Scarlet noted the tone of reproach in her voice but didn’t care. “Is everyone in the building still alive?”
“Then I’m being nice.”
Katherine huffed in that way that made Scarlet very aware she was in the wrong before gently tucking a strand of Scarlet’s long straight brown hair behind her ear. “Cloris wants us to try harder.” Katherine always mothered the group. The gentle soul hadn’t yet realized she didn’t need to take care of two-thousand-year-old immortals.
Scarlet put the phone on the table with a clatter and stared up at her friend. “She asked you to speak to me, and you’re trying to be nice.”
Katherine’s lip curled up at the corner. “So you’re really not as bad at this interaction thing as you let on.”
“I don’t understand humans, but I understand you and the others. That’s enough for me.”
“If you need help or have questions…ask me. I’ve gotten good at this.”
“It’s not sex ed, Katherine. I can’t just get the run down and hope for the best.”
Scarlet gave her one last scowl and picked up the phone again bringing the conversation to a close. They’d spent the last three years trying to fit into the human world, and by all accounts they had succeeded. But everyone else seemed to have a niche where Scarlet really didn’t fit in. She swallowed a pang of guilt as it attempted to claw up her throat from her chest. Tyr entered her mind, but she resolved not to think of him and how he’d always been the only being who ever made her feel normal. She never had to be anyone but herself. The others made her feel guilty for wanting to fight, for not wanting to give up a destiny two thousand years in the making. But where her friends went, so did she.
Katherine set a glass of espresso in front of her and disappeared behind the vast counter again without a word. Work started in an hour, and heaven knew she needed the caffeine. Her morning workout had been somewhat brutal even by her standards.
She made a note to apologize for snapping at Katherine and try to make an effort. The thought of finding a boyfriend to appease them crossed her mind every couple of months, but she didn’t think a mere human could withstand her constant deluge of depression and paranoia. Scarlet tried to recall if she had always been that way or if it surfaced since they joined the human world. She stopped herself from thinking on it too hard because she honestly didn’t want the answer.
As the bitter espresso coated her tongue she sighed out loud and swiped through the daily news on her CNN app. News and coffee. If humans suddenly stopped making them both, she would gladly open her seal and end the world because she’d have nothing else to live for. After a few minutes of reading, she switched to a new app moving through the world’s media in small bites. It took some time, but she had learned the biases of each news station so she could try to filter it out. When she discovered the ease of which these people could ignite a war, she became entranced by the causes. The skyrocketing gas prices or a bombing in a village were just a few of an entire array of reasons and excuses to bring out her bad side. As she read each story she longed to feel the grip of her sword in her palm, the jar of metal pounding against metal. A fight, she wanted a fight, but not a person or being on this God forsaken planet could stand against her and live.
A voice interrupted. “I don’t know why you watch that crap.”
Scarlet glanced up to find her friend Bianca staring down at her. She gave a matching scowl to the one she’d given Katherine before Bianca kissed her on the cheek and danced out of reach. Scarlet watched her go behind the counter and tie on her apron before returning her attention to her phone.
The time passed too fast. Scarlet tossed back the rest of the espresso and grabbed her coat. The cold pressed around her as she exited the café, nearly suffocating in its bone biting intensity. She slipped her phone into her pocket and donned the cashmere-lined gloves Cloris had given her during the last holiday season. The scarf Bianca had knit for her lay forgotten in her gym bag, and now she regretted not grabbing it before leaving the house. The gloves didn’t help because her hands had already taken up a dull ache. Of all the things she despised about the human world, the cold was the worst. It sucked the warmth from her body like a leech and remained unrelenting against clothing and heat sources.
Scarlet also abhorred the holiday season accompanying the cold. Had a child been born in such a magical way, why would humanity still celebrate that birth and do so with tinsel and overpriced marketing? Not to mention the fact that she’d never even seen this Almighty, and she resided in the same pantheon. But in the void they often didn’t encounter any others so that really wasn’t saying much.
The family part she understood. Her companions were her family, the only thing left to her in this world. She endured this torturous life for them. When Cloris suggested they leave the void, Scarlet thought it some sort of practical joke meant to discomfort them. She certainly had a strange sense of humor. As time passed, she realized her companions were unhappy in the void and remained because of her reticence. She had finally relented and followed them to Earth.
She let herself reminisce about her life before weather and rent payments, but all too soon her thoughts drifted to Tyr and she locked down the memories like a bank vault door slamming shut. She walked the rest of the way to her office building counting each step to avoid the sounds in her own head. When she arrived at work, she only wanted to leave. Scarlet entered, her heart somehow heavier.
“Good morning, Scarlet,” the security guard said as she scanned her badge allowing her access to the heart of the building. She gave him her usual perfunctory nod before proceeding to the elevator and her workstation.
Her computer log-in screen glowed at her. If she didn’t know it to be an inanimate object, she might have described the way it sat there leering at her as malicious. She enjoyed the fantasy of swinging a club through it. Often the delusions involved sparks, flying metal, and on very special occasions, a small fire. Instead of indulging in another deluge of the fantastical, she sat down in her swivel chair and spun to face the beast with a sneer. Once she pressed the correct combination of keys, her workload for the day popped up.
At one point she had worked the sales section and part of her job had been to cold call individuals, but that turned out to be a terrible job for her. Apparently she lacked the necessary cordial personality to sell things. Her current job required her to field help calls from users who didn’t understand the basic functions of the equipment they had been duped into buying.
She scanned the list and found a few regulars. One kindly old gentleman she didn’t even mind speaking to every week. He had yet to figure out how to connect to the Internet after weeks of talking to her. She began to suspect it was a ruse in order to have someone to talk with. He’d recount stories about his goldfish and the nurse who brought him meals every day. Scarlet would listen because he never asked anything of her.
As she started to dial her first help call of the day, a deep voice bellowed through the room. “Scarlet!”
She froze. Surely the voice hadn’t meant her. No human alive dared raise their voice to her. After a moment of confusion, she popped her head up and looked around. A tall man towered over the workspace, definitely out of place. She ducked down so fast her knee slammed into the desk. Scarlett muttered a soft curse. Her heart shot into her throat, and she tried to swallow the fear rocketing through her. Her mind skittered to formulate a strategy. If she stayed there, he’d hunt her down to the very last cubicle. She could crawl out the side door, but more than likely he would see and find her anyway. She recognized his voice, and it promised vengeance.
“Woman, I know you’re here. I can smell you. Come out,” the man bellowed. She heard the menacing growl in his voice as he shuffled closer to where she hid.
Her face flamed hot. He would have no idea how much he embarrassed her at that moment. She looked down at her outfit: a sensible black pencil skirt, short black pumps, thick black stockings, and a purple cardigan. He might not even recognize her dressed like this, or wearing clothes for that matter. She wanted to ignore him, but he would look through every cubicle until he found her and wouldn’t be quiet about it. After a moment she swallowed her nerves and stood up to face him. He had moved further down an aisle but caught sight of her as soon as she showed herself.
“I finally found you, woman,” he shouted with a lopsided smile and stalked toward her. The closer he got the higher she had to trail her gaze up or risk being reminded of better times. He was barely dressed, save a few pieces of leather and some fur. The man descended on the NYC streets in the dead of winter like that? Certainly not the craziest she’d seen people dress around town though. Once he made it to her, she pulled him into her cubicle by his good left arm and shoved him into the open seat across from her, away from her nosy coworkers’ eyes.
He smiled at the close quarters and reached out to her, but she pushed him away so the chair sat against the opposite wall of her workspace.
“What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you,” he said as if the answer was obvious. His forehead scrunched in the cutest way, but the softness that action inspired withered as his eyes roamed down her body.
His leer was the least of her concerns as she looked at his leather pants and animal fur stole. “And what are you wearing?”
“What I always wear. And is that how you greet your husband after so long an absence?”
“What were you expecting?” she asked, squinting at his furs. “Does that animal even exist on Earth?”
“A kiss perhaps, and of course it’s a—”he broke off to lift the face of the beast to his”—it’s a fox.” He didn’t sound very confident in that assessment.
The truth: once upon a time they shared more than one passionate embrace. The memories of the last time he had cupped her face and kissed her lips surged forward as if by their own volition. But that Scarlet and the current Scarlet were two different beings, so she pushed the images away. The mortal world broke her like nothing else in existence had even come close to before. All Tyr would do here was corrupt the life of simplicity she had painstakingly created to preserve any remaining parts of herself.
“I will not kiss you, Tyr. I no longer know you. Nor myself for that matter.”
He lifted her chin gently with his one huge hand and forced her to meet his eyes. The god of justice had an intense gaze with emerald eyes that seemed to burn through one’s soul making it impossible to keep a secret if he wanted the answer.
“What has become of you, my love? Why do you hide your eyes from mine?”
“Why are you here, Tyr? It’s been three years.”
“Aye, and I have been searching heaven and hell to find you during that time. I finally went to the All Father—my father—and asked his guidance. On his advice I found you here.”
Great, now the All Father knew where to find me. Not that any sort of subterfuge mattered with him.
“I’ll say it again, go home. There is nothing for you here.”
At first he didn’t respond only forced her to hold his gaze. He gripped her face a little tighter, and she scowled at him before wrenching away. Tyr knew better than to touch her like that.
The look on his face said she had proved a point he wanted desperately to make. “You would have ripped off my hand and fed it to me had I touched you like that three years ago.”
“No, I wouldn’t have. I would hate to deprive you of your love life.”
A squat man who looked distinctly gray, both in appearance and personality, stuck his head into her cubicle looked at both of them for a second before scuttling away. Both immortals stared after the man, but Scarlet recovered first. “That was my boss; you need to leave.”
He sat back as if he might get more comfortable squeezed into a small bit of metal and plastic. “War answers to no man.”
“Except you, you mean.”
“You said it.”
“Say goodbye and leave,” she warned, her anger simmering now. As much as this reminder of home was comforting, she still had no intention of going anywhere with him, even if he begged. The image of him nude doing just that clouded her mind for a moment, and she pushed it away. But for one fleeting second a fire entered her blood. A jolt of exhilaration she hadn’t felt in years. Damn, it felt good.
“Goodbye and leave?” he repeated, dragging her from her reminiscence.
“I will not. Not until you agree to see me later.”
“Then I won’t leave.”
“You’re going to cost me my job.”
“You don’t need to be working. I’m your husband and I’m meant to take care of you.”
“Yeah, if this was 1900 and I was some random human chick looking to simply become a homemaker and create babies,” she shot back.
He reached out and gripped her hand reverently before placing a kiss on the back of it. Her center melted from the inside out, as it always did when he kissed her.
“Even after all this time there is something between us. I feel it, and I know you do too.”
She wanted to deny it, to push him away, but there had always been that connection between them, even from the moment they’d met. In his presence her heart speed up and her palms grew sweaty. He touched something inside her she couldn’t deny. Denying it would be as bad as depriving herself of oxygen or food, in other words, unnatural.
She recalled how she had made him feel self-conscious about his hand and the nickname given to him by the All Father’s children. She agreed to a bet with him that night. He’d claimed he could give her more pleasure with one hand than any man with two. She didn’t know, even to this day, why she took that bet, but it changed her life and his. Her skin grew hot thinking about the night they’d spent together. She tried to duck her head so he couldn’t see the tell-tale pink tracking up her neck and into her cheeks.
“If I agree to see you later, will you please go? And also buy real clothes. People don’t dress like that here. Or anywhere for that matter.”
“If you give me a place and time, I’ll make the agreement.”
She scribbled her gym address on a yellow sticky-note and shoved it at his chest. “Be there at five thirty; we can talk then. You better be dressed properly.”
He kissed her hand and left the cubicle. All she could do was drop her head onto the edge of her desk and hope she was still employed.
What if she had stayed with him? She couldn’t fathom others being given the mantles her and her companions wore for the past few thousand years. Nor did she think Cloris would even allow another take that position. If she had stayed in the void maybe the destiny they’d shared would have just slipped away, unknown, and never come to pass…or maybe something worse.
Scarlet didn’t want to dwell on it. For now this was her life, her job, and that squat little man was her boss. She scooted toward the desk and picked up her headset determined to finish the day without another interruption to her routine.
[bctt tweet=”Read #excerpt of On a Red Horse by @monica_corwin #PNR #romance”]