When mythologist and Florida resident Nira Larsen accepts a job as tour guide for a mysterious stranger, she’s drawn into a nightmare reality where ancient myths come alive and legendary evils seek to destroy her. To survive, she must awaken her dormant powers, but the only person who can help is the man whose touch inflames her passion.
After a dimensional rift in the Bermuda Triangle cracks open and an ancient enemy invades Earth, Zohar–leader of the galactic warriors known as the Drift Lords–summons his troops. He doesn’t count on a redheaded spitfire getting in his way and capturing his heart. Nira has the power to defeat the enemy and to enslave Zohar’s soul. Can he trust her enough to accomplish his mission, or will she lure him to his doom?
“There is mythology, romance, betrayal, sexy aliens and beasts who want to destroy Earth. If those are things that you like then this is definitely the book for you.”—Linda Tonis, Paranormal Romance Guild
“This book is such a mixture and once I got into it, I really enjoyed it. There are elements of sci-fi, fantasy, mythology, paranormal, and humor wrapped up in a steamy romance. There is quite a bit going on, but it works. Zohar is the leader of the Drift Lords and is trying to save Earth and everyone else and ends up getting involved with Nira who has special powers that she never knew about. A fun, action-packed, steamy read. The next book in the series is out now and I can’t wait to get to it.”4 Stars! —Brinda at Wilovebooks
“With a mix of humor and action this exciting intergalactic romance is based on an Old Norse legend brought up to date for a new generation…Warrior Prince is not only a great romance book but it’s about two strong people. This journey is fast paced and exciting as our characters fight the bad guys and find true love…Any romance or sci-fi fan would enjoy this book.” —Lisa Jung, Night Owl Reviews
“For a funny bone tingling non-stop action and adventure sci-fi thriller with a swirl of romance, Nancy J. Cohen’s Drift Lords series is one you won’t want to pass up. I encourage you to try Warrior Prince today if you are a reader of sci-fi romance. Cohen’s writing is very entertaining.” —Erin Al-Mehairi, Oh, for the HOOK of a BOOK!
“The sense of action and adventure and the feeling that you truly have fallen down the rabbit hole will keep you enthralled until the very end.” —NoraAdrienne’s Reviews
“The first Drift Lords romantic urban fantasy is a super thriller as Nancy J. Cohen brings ancient mythology to a city known for modern day mythos. The Cohen world feels real due to the warriors, their adversaries like the Trolleks and the mystery of Nira. Readers will relish this engaging save-the-planet before the protagonists can consider love.”—Harriet Klausner, Alternative Worlds
“This is a most enjoyable tale, with suspense in more than ample supply, leavened with romance, mystery, and mythology. Cohen excels, too, in creating memorable and quirky characters, both ‘real’ world and mythic. There’s something here for everyone to enjoy! I’ll be looking forward to the next in the Drift Lords Series.” —Stephanie Saxon Levine, Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore
“I can’t say enough amazing things about this book. It is so well written, plotted and thought out. It’s a beautiful merging of Sci-Fi and Norse Mythology. I strongly recommend this book and can’t wait for book two!!! Adding Nancy Cohen to my must read list.”—Sheena, Love in a Book Reviews
“Cohen’s Drift Lord series weaves science fiction, fantasy, and ancient Norse mythology into a sexy tapestry of action, adventure, and love. A fun read. Can’t wait for the next book!”—Muddy Rose Reviews
“Hi, I’m Nira Larsen, here for an interview,” she told the receptionist, whose solemn stare and black attire would have suited the funeral home she’d visited earlier.
“Please be seated until you are summoned.” The woman’s blunt-cut dark hair swung as she pressed a button on her console to announce Nira’s arrival.
Nira glanced at the small waiting area with its threadbare carpet, row of vinyl seats, and musty odor. Why was no one else here? And why did this place appear so seedy, with peeling paint and grime-coated windows? Maybe she didn’t want to work for people who treated their applicants with such disrespect.
Nonetheless, she’d like to land a position at Drift World. On her budget, she couldn’t afford a ticket to the role-playing adult theme park, but getting a job there would solve that problem. Plus she needed the money for other reasons.
She took a seat, an odd buzzing in her ears. It had started when she walked into the place. But even weirder had been the way the theme park’s temporary employment office appeared to materialize out of thin air.
The address specified on the classified ad had taken her next to a popular café on Orlando’s International Drive. Maybe she was just tired after her last two disastrous interviews, but she could have sworn this log cabin hadn’t been in the parking lot when she’d arrived.
Her thoughts scattered when the inner door burst open, and an attractive blonde smiled at her. “Come in, Miss Larsen. My name is Algie Morar. I understand you’re applying for a position as a makeup artist?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
Nira followed her into a corridor marked by closed doors on either side. At the far end, the hallway opened into a large room from which low male voices rumbled in a strange guttural tongue. A curtain made of fabric strips obstructed the view.
The woman halted and opened a door, gesturing silently for Nira to enter. But instead of facing a desk and chairs as she expected for an interview, she spied a treatment table, a sink, and a console like in a doctor’s office. A supply of cosmetics laid spread out on the counter: brushes, eye pencils, powders, and other familiar tools.
“Wait here.” Algie turned on her heel and left Nira alone. A moment later, she returned with a burly man in tow.
Nira’s mouth fell open. The stocky fellow had oversized ears, a long bulbous nose, and abnormally large hands and feet. His small beady eyes glared at her from beneath bushy brows. He wore a workman’s clothes, stained trousers and a plaid shirt.
“Jek is a test subject to see if you suit us for employment.” Algie’s brow wrinkled. “See if you can make him look more normal.”
Nira stifled a nervous cough. Aren’t those huge cauliflower ears prosthetics? “Uh, I’m not sure I—”
“Just use those makeup supplies.” Algie pointed to the counter. “Shadowing, for example, can de-emphasize certain features. You’ll know what to do.”
The blonde sauntered closer. Her porcelain features were so refined, she could have been a model. She leaned inward, her ocean blue eyes shining brightly, her rosy lips parting as though about to confide a secret. Nira couldn’t drag her gaze away. Her nostrils picked up a floral scent that held her spellbound.
It seemed so natural when Algie placed a palm on her arm like an old friend.
No. Nira sprang back, the buzzing sound in her head increasing to painful decibels.
Algie’s eyes blazed. “How are you resisting me?”
“Never mind, just do as I said. Fix Jek to look more human.”
Human? She shook her head. That annoying buzzing sound must be affecting her brain.
However, it didn’t affect her instincts. An inner voice hammered at her to leave. She backed away, but at a simple nod from Algie, the door slammed shut from an invisible force.
“You’re not going anywhere until I find out how you’re blocking me. Jek, seize her.”
The big man’s beefy hand clamped onto her arm.
“Let me go.” Nira fought to elbow him in the gut, but his strength overwhelmed her. He hauled her toward the treatment table. “Stop, or I’ll scream.” Panic laced her voice.
The woman’s sinister chuckle chilled her blood. “Go ahead. No one will hear you.”
The brute thrust Nira against the hard metal table and pressed her in place with his thighs.
“You’re different.” Algie’s smooth tone belied the enmity in her eyes. “You can block my spell. We haven’t met any humans like you before. It could be a danger to us.”
Nira swallowed against rising alarm. These people must belong to some cult. Get out while you can.
She stomped on Jek’s instep, hoping to dislodge his grip. He merely chuckled and dumped her supine on the table. When he reached for restraints, she screamed.
“Help! Someone help me!”
Jek had secured one wrist in a leather strap when a crash sounded from outside in the corridor, followed by shouts and loud blasts. The door burst open, and black-clad masked figures poured inside. They aimed weapons at Algie, who repelled their fire by dodging aside in a blur of speed and then vanishing. Air rushed by Nira’s ear. Then Jek was gone as well, leaving her at the mercy of these formidable men.
They stood in a huddle, murmuring in low voices. One of the terrorists slid his gaze her way and pointed.
“I’ll take care of the woman,” he said in a commanding tone. “Algie and her troops have probably vectored out by now, but search the place anyway and see what you can find.” As the others scrambled to obey, he strode over to where Nira lay helpless on the table.
Wriggling against the strap holding her down, she cursed when it wouldn’t give way. Now what? Was she a prize to be claimed by their leader? She cringed when he stroked her cheek.
“Who are you, little one?” His gentle tone surprised her. “And how did you resist the Confounding?”
“Untie me.” She attempted to twist away, but he gripped her shoulder, holding her down. Flat on her back, she gazed into his intense turquoise eyes. She couldn’t see the rest of his face, hidden behind a hooded mask that covered his head. He smelled like pine trees and peat smoke. Calm trickled through her, quieting the buzz in her mind.
Strange that she didn’t abhor this man’s touch as she had Jek’s. Far from it. She squirmed under his scrutiny, aware that her situation wasn’t much better and yet she felt no fear. The stranger in black continued to study her, his eyes narrowed as though he contemplated a decision.
Banging noises sounded from outside as his men searched the building as per his orders. A single lightbulb glared overhead, casting the room into a surreal light. Dust motes floated in the air.
“I will release you, but you must come with us.”
Ice water sluiced through her veins. She didn’t want to go anywhere with these fierce looking men. “Look, I won’t tell anyone what’s happened here if you let me go home.”
“I understand you are frightened. Be assured no further harm will come to you.” He spoke soothingly, as though to a child. “I promise to keep you safe.”
“Please, just set me free.” She hated the way her voice quavered.
“How about if we make a deal? My men and I will take you home, but then you must listen to my proposal. We could use your help.”
She nodded, having every intention of bolting for the door when on her feet. As he untied the strap around her wrist, tingling warmth raced along her nerves. Before she could jerk away, his strong hands grasped her by the waist and lifted her off the table.
Standing, she rubbed her arms, grateful for her mobility. Her glance skittered toward the exit. Unfortunately, the stranger obstructed her route. His tall physique overpowered the room.
“What’s your name?” Maybe she could gain his sympathy.
“I am Zohar Thorald. Let us leave this place before the displacement field reactivates.” While the man spoke in a soft tone, his authority brooked no arguments.
Whatever that means. He must be a foreigner, judging from his stiff manner of speech.
He stalked into the hallway, calling for his comrades to follow. Nira trailed after him, frustrated when she still couldn’t reach the main entrance. As if reinforcing her plight, Zohar snagged her elbow while he addressed his men.
“It’s too late,” one guy answered. “They must have taken anything of value before we arrived. It’s almost as though they expected us.”
The wall shimmered, and Nira blinked.
“Everyone outside.” Zohar yanked on her arm, dragging her into the anteroom and out the front door. Daylight pierced her vision.
“My sunglasses. I left my purse in there. Let me go.”
She twisted sideways but couldn’t break his grip. No way would she leave her Coach bag behind. It had been the first designer item she could afford, even if she’d bought it at the outlet store.
Zohar nodded to one of his men, who detached from the group and raced inside. He reappeared in the doorway and leapt onto the pavement just as the entire structure faded before her eyes.
“Okay, that wasn’t real. I must be hallucinating.” Nira accepted her bag from the man who’d retrieved it.
“No hallucination. You were nearly ensnared.” Zohar prodded her toward a parked white van. “This is why you need our protection. Secure her.” He handed her off to another masked man before heading toward the driver’s seat.
“I have my own car. I can meet you wherever we’re going.” Nira thought it worth a try.
Zohar whipped around. “Give your keys to Kaj. He will follow us.”
“I don’t think so. Hey, what are you doing?”
One of the men flashed a pair of stormy gray eyes as he snatched her purse. He fished inside until he found her key ring. Tossing the bag back, he strode toward her vehicle as though it emitted a beacon. Along the way, he ripped off his mask. She got a glimpse of unruly wheat hair, even features, and a taut jaw before he turned his back on them.
“All right, how did he know that’s my car?” She held her ground, refusing to budge.
“Your signals are strong, little one. You left your essence on your automobile. Even we are not immune.”
Zohar tore off his hood, making her inhale sharply. If kidnappers competed for looks, he could win a spot in GQ.
Deep set turquoise eyes sat under emphatic brows and above a straight, aquiline nose. A firm mouth spoke of a man who set himself high standards, his upper lip a bit narrower than its fuller bottom. He wore his dark brown hair swept back over a regal forehead like Captain Kirk on the original Star Trek show, although his was a bit tussled from the mask.
He grinned, transforming his stern expression into one of devilish amusement. An answering coil of warmth rolled through her.
Okay, get a grip. You’re trapped with four hunky guys who could easily overpower you, and you have no notion of their true intentions. She had to give them credit for rescuing her, though. Maybe they were undercover agents working with some federal agency on a drug bust case.
“Can we take off our masks, rageesh?” another man asked in a respectful tone.
Zohar shrugged. “Why not? The lady is one of us now. Tell me where you wish to go.” His deep voice flowed over her like warm honey.
The police station, big guy. Unfortunately, she didn’t know where one was located on International Drive.
She gave him her address while the rest of his men tore off their disguises. Crammed inside the second row of the van between two hulks, Nira clutched her precious handbag.
When her friend and mentor, Grace Miller, saw Nira trooping in with a gang of men, she’d probably call the cops herself.
Nira hoped so. Now that she was free to pursue her research, she didn’t want anything to interfere.
Her glance dropped to her wristwatch. She’d received the timepiece from her mother as a gift while her mother rested on her deathbed, along with a confession that Nira had been adopted. This keepsake, left by her biological parents, remained the only clue to her true identity. It ran with no visible mechanism and no battery.
Once Nira discovered the inscription on its face was runic lettering, she became fascinated with Norse legends. She studied comparative mythology in grad school, hoping to teach after she’d earned her doctorate degree. In the meantime, she’d meant to trace her origins but lacked the funding to carry out her plans. So far, she wasn’t having much luck finding a summer job.
She couldn’t worry about that now. First she had to get away from these men.
Twenty minutes later, they pulled up to the curb in front of Grace’s house. As the driver of Nira’s car joined them outside, the elder lady meandered into the yard. She wore a silk blouse and slacks with not a hair out of place on her teased gray head.
Nira’s heart swelled with affection. Grace was a kindly neighbor who’d offered support when her mother died six years ago. After raising her two younger sisters, Nira had moved into Grace’s house to save money. While the arrangement suited them both, Nira yearned for freedom, not to mention a measure of privacy. This was another reason why she wanted a job, to afford her own apartment. It would mean leaving Grace alone, though, and the eighty-two year old woman became frailer each year.
“Nira, what happened? I didn’t expect you back so early.” Grace peered at Nira’s companions. For her advanced age, her eyesight was still fairly sharp. “Who are your friends?”
The one with rangy black hair and a beard spoke up. “We are…cousins.”
“Really?” Grace propped her hands on her slim hips. “I didn’t know you had any relatives besides your sisters, dear.”
“No, I, uh—”
Zohar strode to Nira’s side and spoke in an undertone. “If you need credits, I am prepared to offer you a job.”
“Say again?” Leaning forward, Grace cupped her ear.
Nira shot Zohar an inquiring glance. She’d ask him what his remark meant later. In the meantime, she raised her voice so Grace could hear.
“These are cousins on my father’s side. Since he walked out on us when I was eight years old, I never knew much about his family. I was quite surprised when they showed up.” Glaring at Zohar, she waited for him to contradict her. He grinned back, a gleam of approval in his eyes.
“My word, you must be thrilled. Come inside and have some lemonade and cake.” Grace surveyed their attire. “No doubt you’ll want to lose those costumes. Your awesome guns add a nice touch, but they might frighten someone. Great choice of props, boys. I hadn’t realized a sci fi convention was in town.”
“This is Zohar,” Nira supplied when he appeared at a loss for words. “Guys, meet Grace. She’s a dear family friend.”
“Where will you be staying? I know some budget hotels if you need a place.” Grace’s face lit up as it always did when she offered advice.
A hunk with golden blond hair and a youthful face had been speaking softly into his cell phone, or at least a device that looked like one. Switching it off, he regarded his leader. “Rayne has secured accommodations for us at a local hostelry.”
“Oh, that’s good. I suppose you’ll want to visit all the popular theme parks while you’re here,” Grace rambled on as the sun broiled Nira’s scalp.
“What is a theme park?” Zohar cocked his head. “Our objective is Drift World.”
Grace wagged a finger. “Personally, sonny, I don’t see the attraction in adults role-playing their fantasy jobs. Get a real one, that’s my opinion.”
“Grace, it’s too warm out here. I’m going in the house.” Snatching her keys from the carjacker, Nira used the remote to lock her vehicle. Then she wheeled toward the front door, advancing only a few steps before she hesitated. These men seemed friendly, but was it wise to invite them inside?
She turned to Zohar. “Thanks for the escort home. However, please don’t feel you have to hang around on my account,” she told him with a hopeful lilt.
“We still need to talk.” A determined look on his face, Zohar gestured toward the house.
Her stomach sank. She wasn’t going to get rid of him so easily. Maybe she could figure out a way to ditch these guys after cooling off inside.
Their leader accompanied her forward, his boots pounding on the hot pavement. The others crowded behind as she resignedly led the way.
Inside the foyer, Nira tossed her purse on a side table. As soon as Grace was out of earshot in the kitchen, she lowered her voice. “Okay, who are you and what do you want? And where are you from? You talk like foreigners.”
“Our home is called Karrell.” Zohar’s eyes smoldered as he regarded her, his height and powerful shoulders making her feel small and feminine.
“Never heard of it. Must be a tiny country.” She swept her gaze over their belted tunics, side arms, and tailored trousers. “You could pass for invaders from outer space. Are you sure you’re not here for a convention? Because who else would dress like that, unless you’re with a SWAT team?”
“We are here to save your world, not invade it. What is this phrase, swat team?”
“I will research it, rageesh.” The man with a stubbled jaw, unkempt hair, and killer dimples could have been a double for Josh Holloway on Lost. Nira stared at him, wondering if this were some sort of reality show with hidden cameras.
“I told you not to call me that, Paz.”
“My apologies.” Paz bowed his head, making Nira wonder about his relationship to Zohar.
“So what did you want to tell me?” she asked.
His gaze darkened. “We have much to discuss, but not a lot of time. It is unwise to linger.”
His somber expression didn’t sway her. “Feel free to go and take your friends along with you. Your problems aren’t mine, although I do want to thank you for rescuing me from those nutcases in that employment office.” Her forehead scrunched. “Just how did that place vanish, anyway? It was some sort of optical illusion, right?”
“In a way. Look, you fail to understand the danger. We cannot leave you alone.”
“I’m home, and that’s all that matters.”
He shook his head. “Not so. The Trolleks will come after you. They will follow your scent.”
“What scent?” She sniffed the air. “Are you telling me I stink? I may have been running around in the heat, but—”
A grin transformed his face. “You misinterpret, little one. Your skin is fragrant, like purpura blossoms. It is a most pleasant scent and highly alluring.”
Her cheeks flushed as she latched onto his other remark. “Trolleks? Who are they? And what did you mean when you mentioned credits outside?”
He raised an imperious eyebrow. “I wish to offer you a position as our local guide.”
She gazed at him askance. Whoever these guys were, there wasn’t any doubt in her mind that they needed help. Should she accept?
With her track record, it was likely to be the only decent job offer in her future. Her temples throbbed while she debated her response.
Right now, when she could finally search for her birth parents, she didn’t want any roadblocks getting in the way. Was it worth tagging along with Zohar and his gang to earn the cash she needed for her research?
Maybe they were tourists from a backwater country, but that didn’t explain their raid on the log hut or their assault gear. Something more important was at stake here. Hooking up with them, even as their hired guide, could only spell trouble.
“Sorry.” She stood tall, giving Zohar a level glance. “Tempting as your offer is, I have to decline.”
“Wrong answer.” Zohar’s jaw tightened as he reached for her.