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Warrior of the Realm

Written by Shannon Curtis

Chapter Six

“Are you from the north?” The woman persisted in her quest for answers.

He frowned. “Canada? No.”

She shook her head. “Nay, the land of ice and longboats. Your eyes are the blue of the sea. Your hair—it is the same as the men who sail from the north, when they come a-viking. Are you one of them?”

“Viking? No, I’m not a Viking.” That was the first time he’d ever been asked that. He sighed. “Nobody sent me. I fell into a river and came out here.” He turned around to survey the cave. The flaming torch shed only so much light. No natural light, and only one door. One exit. He frowned. Two, if you counted the well. “I need to get out of here. I need to go home.” Moretti would be livid once he heard about Arty, and Luke didn’t want the crime boss to use it as an excuse to again lengthen the term of his service.

“Where is home?” Nieve asked softly. “You speak—oddly.” She reached out to touch his leather jacket, and he held still while she walked around him, keenly aware of her observation. “You dress oddly.”

Luke frowned. She thought jeans were odd? Had she looked in the mirror? “I’m from Chicago.”

She gazed at him blankly. “I know not of it.”

He frowned. “Chicago. Home of the Bears, the Blackhawks, the Cubs, the Bulls…”

“All those animals. It sounds like a rich place,” she said softly, almost wistfully.

He blinked, then shook his head. “Not animals. Teams. You know, Chicago. St. Patrick’s Day parades, the mafia…” His voice trailed off as she shook her head in confusion. She didn’t know. “Where do you think you are?”

Her eyes widened. “I know I am a guest of Balor of the Wicked Eye. We are but a stone’s throw from the Way of the Giants.”

“The Giants? That’s New York, baby. I don’t think you’re in New York.” Luke felt his head. Had he knocked it, falling into the river?

She frowned. “I am no babe, sir.”

He eyed her. Even in the drab brown sack of a dress, it was easy to see she had curves. Sweet, luscious curves that tempted him. No she was most definitely a fully developed woman.

She gestured to the tunnel. “We are but three days’ ride from my home, Tara.”

“Tara?” Wasn’t that a girl’s name?

“Tara,” Nieve repeated. “The jewel of Erin, some say.”

Maybe Tara should give Erin her jewel back. “Look, wherever the hell we are, I have to get back home, okay?”

She walked over to the naturally formed well and looked over the rim of the wall. “They say this well is so deep that it takes you to another world,” she said softly, absently.

Luke frowned as he stepped up next to her and looked down. He raised his eyebrows, as he hadn’t realized he’d climbed so far. Even now, any sign of the water was hidden by the shadow of the well.

When he’d spoken with Arty, it had been late morning. Then he’d fallen into the river, and when he’d surfaced, he’d found himself in this cave. At night. Somewhere, somehow, he’d lost time. He raised his hands to his head, feeling over his scalp for a telltale bump that could explain a period of unconsciousness, hallucinations, or perhaps some temporary amnesia…

Nieve gazed up at him, less wary now, but very curious. She reached out to touch him, her hand skimming over the damp cloth of his black T-shirt, as though making sure he was really there. His heart thudded in his chest at the light caress, and suddenly his jeans felt uncomfortably tight. She was so slight, so dainty, but so damn womanly. His body was reacting as though she was the first woman he’d been close to in—well, a long while, when he thought about it. She lifted her gaze to his, then blinked as she realized she was stroking his chest. She lifted her hand, but he caught it, placing it back against his chest. He liked her touch. Liked it a lot.

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