When fashion designer Jennifer Dyhr loses her lead actor for a video-game commercial, a replacement literally drops from the sky. Reluctant to let him leave, she hires him as a model for her studio. But when terrorists attack their flight home, Jen must awaken powers she didn’t know she had to protect them both. Now will she be able to keep her heart safe from the sensual man beside her?
When space ops warrior Paz Hadar falls through a spatial rift onto Jen’s set, he soon realizes she is essential to his mission. Not only must he protect her, his success depends upon her special powers. But as they struggle to stay one step ahead of the enemy, he discovers that fighting his attraction to Jen is as much a challenge as keeping them both alive.
“I am officially hooked on this series. It is a combination of sci-fi, fantasy, mythology, action and steamy romance. The story grabbed me from the beginning and didn’t let go. Now I can’t wait for the next book! This is something different, and if you like steamy romance combined with action, fantasy, sci-fi or mythology, check out the Drift Lords.” — WiLoveBooks
“Norse mythology brings some elegant splendor to the plot. Highly recommend this epic adventure filled with passion and drama.” — Eclipse Reviews
“Cohen’s futuristic, paranormal romance series blends aspects of science fiction with magic and mythology then tops it off with steamy sexy scenes that are so hot you will need a fan and a mint julep drink to cool off…The Drift Lords are warriors who adhere to a strong sense of chivalry; they are protective of their mates and chocked full of sex appeal…I love the Drift Lords so much I dream of having one of my own.” — Manic Readers
“This is a book you will devour in one fell swoop! Nancy J. Cohen has created a very realistic world with characters you cannot help but love!” — Faerie Tale Books
“It had a Romancing the Stone feel to it that I really liked…Here’s to a great follow up.” 4 Stars! —Judith Cauthan, Musings and Ramblings
“This is an exciting read set in a rich, detailed, and fascinating world peopled with interesting characters. Even without reading the first book in the series, I was able to jump right in and catch up to the story so far. It almost had too much going on, but the author pulls it off, mixing aliens, heroes from space, Norse mythology, and creatures from that mythology together to create a fast-paced read with a dash of romance added to it.”—Llaph, Coffee Time Romance & More
“Most of the story is strictly fast paced action, but there is a nice dose of romance thrown in…I was more intrigued by the mythological side of the story – the Six sisters, the runes on the watches, Loki, the Norns – than the Alien aspect, and wish the story would have focused more on that. But, it all managed to work well together, and I ended up enjoying the book more than I thought it would.”—Jessica Loves Books
“Fantabulous book! I really enjoyed this unusual mix of sf romance and fantasy romance. Both main characters were interesting and grew during the book. The pace of book was excellent, with no slow parts and a lot of surprises along the way. The secondary characters were well-done and distinctive… I will look for more books by this author.” Score: 9.7—Michele Callahan, RomCon®
“If he doesn’t show up in the next ten minutes, I’ll kill him.” Jennifer Dyhr paced back and forth on the Tokyo film set for a video game commercial. Their lead actor, Keith Monroe, was more than an hour overdue. Where the hell was he?
“I called his hotel room.” Sandi tapped her pen on the clipboard cradled in her arm. Dressed in a prim suit, she looked more like a schoolteacher than a fashion designer’s assistant. “He didn’t answer, so I left a message. Ditto for his cell.”
“The jerk. You’d think he would be more reliable.” Jen tucked a stray hair behind her ear. Her twist was coming undone, same as her composure.
“It’s the producer’s problem, not yours.”
“Oh, yeah? Who else could we get to look the part of a vengeful Norse god?” She waved a hand.
“If you recall, I’m the one who recommended Keith for the role. I wouldn’t have won this project without him.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. Like, your costumes have nothing to do with Keith’s no show.”
Sandi’s calm tone failed to reassure her. “The producer might not see it that way. He’ll lump us Americans together and blame me for Keith’s behavior.”
“Oh, come on, Jen. He’s lucky to have you. You’re the best in the field.”
“True.” Jen squared her shoulders. Inspired by visions from the past, she’d made her mark on the fashion industry and garnered numerous awards for her designs based on Viking influence. She’d become as much a celebrity as the stars who wore her garments.
Nonetheless, Jen had yet to introduce her line overseas. If she wanted her company to expand, she needed gigs like this one to show she could compete in the global marketplace.
“I hope Keith wasn’t in an accident.” Her heart raced at the thought. “Maybe we should call the hospitals.”
“You can suggest that to Mr. Nakamura.” Sandi bobbed her head in a warning nod.
Jen braced herself as the director hurried over. A lanky man with black hair, Mr. Nakamura wore a perpetual scowl and his tense posture like a seasoned samurai.
“Keith Monroe is passed out drunk in his hotel room,” the translator interpreted after a rapid-fire dialogue by the director. A boyish-faced youth, Akeno had confided to Jen his wish to work on the film crew someday.
“You’re kidding,” Jen blurted before remembering her place. “I mean, I’m so sorry. Please accept my apologies for Keith’s irresponsible behavior.”
She bowed her head in deference, expecting a tongue-lashing in response. Her Japanese associates would need someone to take the blame. Jen only hoped this snag wouldn’t damage the reputation she’d worked so hard to build.
“The producer has already called the casting office for a replacement,” Akeno said after another spate of dialogue from his employer, whose irate tone matched his angry eyes.
“We need a guy with the right build,” she reminded them. “Blond hair and blue eyes would be a bonus.”
While they waited for the stand-in actor to arrive, Jen inspected the stitching on her costumes.
“Jen, this woman’s seam is splitting.” Sandi indicated one of the extras portraying a villager.
Jen cursed under her breath. “Did she sit down? I told her not to bend. This shift barely fits around her hips.”
She grabbed a needle and thread from her kit as the director herded everyone to take their places on set. The storyline involved a barbarian ravaging a peaceful village until a Norse god appeared to battle him.
It amazed her how the sound stage looked like a real Viking town with thatched roof houses spewing smoke from holes in the roofs, vendors lining a busy market street, and wood planked walkways leading toward a fake pier rimmed with barrels of wine.
The village street bustled with action as actors walked through their paces and chatted amongst themselves. She could almost smell the sheep dung and wood smoke.
Uh, oh. Her visions often started with a sensory impression. Quickly, Jen wrapped up her repair and stashed away her kit. Reality receded as a white haze swept into her mind.
When her eyes focused again, she was strolling down the village street in the distant past.
Her gown swished against her leather boots as she beamed a friendly smile to the blacksmith. Across the road, the fur peddler waved. She nodded him a greeting, her nose wrinkling at the smell of fish emanating from the wharf. Shivering, she drew the edges of her shawl closer together, as a stiff breeze blew off the sea.
Shrieks of surprise made her vision evaporate. A man charged into view from around the corner onto the studio set.
A naked man.
Jen stared at him, aghast. What kind of joke was this?
Lacerations marred his body, and heavens above, what a magnificent body the man had. Her glance dropped from his massive shoulders to his muscled chest and then down to his very masculine package. The glory of him stole her breath.
“Where am I? What’s happened?” His wild-eyed look and combative stance froze the actors on set.
His American accent startled Jen. Brilliant, just brilliant. Who else but their stand-in for Keith Monroe would show up with such melodrama? She should have recognized him at once from his wheat blond hair and blue eyes, but she’d been too focused on his, ah, other parts.
She fought an urge to fan herself, the heat from the spotlights raising her temperature. Or maybe that wasn’t what caused her to feel so hot all over.
The man’s gaze slammed into hers, and time stood still. The distance between them shrunk, blotting out their surroundings, until only the two of them stood facing each other on a plain where mist swirled at their feet. Their heartbeats pounded a sensual rhythm in harmony.
In her mind’s eye, she shed her clothes as a hunger she’d never known swept through her. A hunger for him.
Shaking her head, she reoriented herself. Much as she’d like to admire his physique all day long, they had to get moving. Time was money as far as the producer was concerned. This guy needed to be clothed, fast.
“Sandi, get me Keith’s costume and tell the makeup artist we need her.” Jen’s voice came out as a high-pitched squeak. She cleared her throat. “Our new stand-in has done a great job on those fake wounds, so he shouldn’t need more than a touch-up.”
Mr. Nakamura hustled over with the translator in tow. He jabbed his finger at the new guy. “You there, what is your name?”
The actor stiffened but didn’t respond. He glanced at the other crewmembers who had stopped to watch. A look of confusion spread over his face. His jaw tightened, a day’s growth of bristle adding authenticity to his role.
“What’s your name?” Jen spoke in a loud tone like people did to foreigners who could hear perfectly well but didn’t understand.
“I am Paz Hadar.” His dimples deepened as he regarded her. “Who are you?”
His slow, lazy perusal made warmth curl through her. Those devilish eyes roamed from her hair, to her rayon maxi dress, to her low-heeled sandals. A gleam of appreciation entered his expression, making her heart beat faster.
“I’m Jennifer Dyhr, the costume designer.” Jen pronounced her last name like deer. “You are inappropriately dressed, Mr. Hadar. Or undressed, I should say.”
Mr. Nakamura’s lips compressed. “Tell him he has ten minutes to get ready. I am not amused by his dramatic entrance. He is only a substitute for our star.”
“Hai, Mr. Nakamura-san.”
Jen gave him a deferential bow. After he walked away, she signaled to Paz. The man sauntered over as though strolling about naked was a normal occurrence. Had he meant to disrupt the set and attract everyone’s attention?
No matter. She had to make him look like a vengeful Norse god. Standing before her, the man towered over her five foot eight frame by at least six inches.
Moisture glistened on his skin. His hair hung in damp clumps, as if he’d just come from a swim. He must have been near the studio to rush over, disrobe, and apply his makeup.
However, he’d forgotten to remove his watch. Having been so focused on his other attributes, she hadn’t noticed the fancy dial before. Further up his forearm was a broad gash. When she touched the edge, he winced as though it hurt for real. Unable to help herself, she let her fingers slide up his arm, outlining his firm bicep. He drew in a sharp breath but didn’t move.
Her glance roamed to his chest, where a tangle of golden hair tempted her to feel its texture. His scent entered her nostrils, a strange mixture of sea air and salt.
Her temples pounded. Oh, no. Afraid she’d segue into another vision, she grabbed the trousers Sandi brought over and thrust them at him.
When he just stood there, she clucked her tongue. “What’s the matter with you? Put these on. And take your watch off. It doesn’t belong in this scene.”
He plucked the pants from her fingers and pulled them on while she averted her gaze. When he muttered under his breath, she dared to look again. Poor fellow fumbled with the drawstring ties at his waist as though he didn’t know what to do with them. Good God, what planet did he come from?
She grabbed the ends, pulled tight, and tied a bow, all the while conscious of his proximity and powerful musculature.
Standing so close, she had a terrible urge to feast her eyes on him. He was quite the man, and it had been a while since she’d split with her last boyfriend.
Resolutely looking into his crystalline eyes, she moistened her lips. Her throat had gone dry when she touched his skin. “I hope you’ve been briefed on your role.”
His brow furrowed. “Of course. I know what to do.”
His deep voice resonated through her like warm honey, turning her bones fluid and making her belly flip-flop.
Best to finish this as fast as possible.
She offered him a linen shirt next followed by a brick red tunic. When she’d studied what Vikings had worn, she had been pleased to learn they dyed their fabrics in bold shades. Wealthy people wore clothing trimmed in silk with gold or silver threads. These styles became the inspiration for her unique designs.
Paz donned the garments and stuffed his watch into a pants pocket. After he secured a leather belt around his waist, she gave him a cloak to fasten at his shoulder with a faux gold brooch. The cobalt color brought out the ocean blue of his eyes. He glanced at her, and she blushed to be caught staring.
She stepped away as he tugged on his boots. The makeup artist bustled over to bring some order to his unruly hair and to dab coverup on the dark shadows under his eyes. Odd that he hadn’t fixed that problem when he’d applied his fake lacerations. And was that scratch on his cheekbone starting to smear?
The director called for everyone to take their places. Jen retreated with Sandi to a spot off to the side where they could observe. Ready for any wardrobe disasters, she prayed they’d get this done in as few takes as possible.
Mr. Nakamura issued instructions, but the new guy wasn’t listening. He tensed as the pace picked up. Jen swallowed. Did he understand what his role required?
“Action,” the director yelled in the equivalent Japanese.
Lars Anderson, the Scandinavian actor hired to play the bad guy, charged onto the set wearing what accounted for full battle armor in those days: a chain mail tunic and conical helmet complete with metal eye and nose guards. He looked ferocious with his full beard, blazing eyes, and feral grin. Swinging a long-handled battle-axe, he gave a chilling war whoop.
Fake blood sprayed as he attacked the villagers. Carnage resulted. Or rather, what would appear to be carnage on screen. While the other actors screamed in mock fright, the man called Paz reached behind his back. A startled look crossed his face as though he expected to find a weapon there.
Chaos broke around him. Jen hoped he knew his moves. He was supposed to use his magical power to stop the villain dead in his tracks.
That didn’t appear to be his intention. Instead, Paz launched himself at Lars as though the hounds of hell were on his heels.
Pow, thunk, thud.
His fists and feet aimed practiced blows at his opponent.
Lars didn’t even have time to feign a defense. He raised his arms, but Paz’s punches hit home with unswerving accuracy.
Along with the cast and crew, Jen watched in fascinated horror. Were the cameras getting this? The director observed in stunned silence as his cameramen kept filming.
Paz smashed the hapless actor on the jaw. With a howl of pain mingled with surprise, Lars wheeled around. Jen’s heart leapt into her throat when Paz lunged for a stick on the ground.
Her eyes widened. Was that a yardstick? Someone must have left it there by mistake. What did Paz want with it?
Stop, she wanted to say but her mouth wouldn’t form the word. Wrong prop. And you’re playing a Norse god. You don’t need a weapon.
Paz twirled the yardstick like a staff before striking Lars at mid-thigh. The stick snapped, but Paz kept his motion flowing, following through with a kick to the same spot. Lars cried out, his legs crumpling. He went down—flat on his back.
Immediately, Paz planted a foot on Lars’s chest and pointed the broken yardstick at his throat. His arms tensed.
In another instant, he’d put a lethal vent into the guy’s trachea. What was the matter with him?
“Don’t move,” Jen hollered, recovering her voice.
Paz hesitated, stick poised in the air.
“You’re hurting him. Haven’t you filmed a fight scene before?”
“Fight scene?” Paz’s brow creased, as he regarded her with puzzlement.
Meanwhile, crew members rushed forward to break the men apart. One man put out an arm to hold Paz back, while another helped Lars to his feet.
“Where’s the first aid station? Ow, my leg.” Lars cast Paz a scathing glance. “What’s wrong with you, mate? You cudda killed me.”
Blood oozed from a cut on his bottom lip. He yanked the helmet off his head and swiped his mouth. “I’m bleeding, you idiot. If I have any marks on my face, my career is ruined. Ruined! You’ll hear from my lawyer.” With a growl, he limped backstage and out of sight.
Jen scuttled over. Could this day get any worse?
She gripped Paz’s arm. “Didn’t you study fight scene choreography when you took acting classes? You could have seriously injured Mr. Anderson.”
Across the room, the director spouted a torrent of words at the crew. Jen was sure he must be chewing them out. It wasn’t their fault, for heaven’s sake.
“What do you mean?” Paz shook her off. “He was butchering those villagers. I couldn’t stand by and let that beast murder people.”
She stared into his confused blue eyes. “Paz, they were acting. You know, pretending,” she explained when he shook his head in bewilderment. “This set, all that blood, it’s fake.”
“I don’t understand. People were screaming, fleeing in panic.” He lifted his chin. “It is my duty as a Drift Lord to protect them.”
“You’re playing a Norse god. You were supposed to use magic to defeat your enemy and not pick up a stick on the ground. A yardstick, no less! Didn’t you get a script?”
“Your words have no meaning for me.” He rubbed a hand over his weary face. His fingers came back stained with crimson. “Is this fake, too? My head pounds as though hit by a hammer.”
“Good Lord, you’re really bleeding.” Jen examined the gash on the side of his head. “These wounds are real. No wonder you’re so out of it. What happened to you?”
“I remember an impact, and then…nothing.”
Her mind somersaulted on what she knew about the guy. He showed up here naked and confused, and everyone assumed he’d prepared for his role. Had the poor fellow been in such a rush to take the job that he’d had an accident along the way? A concussion would explain his strange behavior.
She crooked her finger, signaling Sandi who’d been consulting with the makeup artist.
“Yuki says she didn’t touch the cuts on this man’s face because he had done such a good job of applying paint.” Sandi squinted at him. “That stuff is smearing, but she’s afraid to come any closer to fix it.”
“That’s because his wounds are real.” Jen turned to Paz. “This is my assistant, Sandi. We’re both concerned about you. Tell us what happened on the way here. You must have been in an accident.”
“Accident…yes. No. The images are—how do you say it? My mind is unclear.”
Mr. Nakamura broke off from his conversation and strode in their direction. From his taut posture and pinched face, Jen expected a reprimand.
“Security said no one drove through the studio entrance.”
Poor Akeno looked as though he had swallowed a lemon pit as he translated the director’s words. “How did this man get here?”
“I think he may have been in an accident.” Jen glanced at Paz. His lips were clamped together, his complexion pale. Don’t pass out, she pleaded silently. We need to get you to a doctor. “He could have left his car behind, walked the rest of the way, and stumbled through the gate. A head injury would account for his confusion.”
Sandi’s eyebrows lifted. “I’ve known a lot of desperate actors in my time, but this? If he really got whacked on the head, he belongs in the hospital.”
“You’re right. I’ll take him.”
For some reason, she felt drawn to the newcomer. Maybe it was the lost look in his eyes, or perhaps his unstable state of health. Being ill in a foreign country could be terrifying, and he could use her support.
Sandi drew her aside. “Are you nuts? You don’t know anything about this guy. Like, he could get violent again.”
“I’ll be all right. He seems to respond to me, so I can get him through the hospital hoopla. In the meantime, check on Keith and see if he’s on his way yet. I’m counting on you for damage control.”
The translator gestured to her. “Miss Dyhr, the director wants this actor’s contact information.”
Did he plan to press charges against the poor guy, too? She shouldn’t be surprised. Mr. Nakamura would need to save face in the producer’s view. Forget their opinion of her—it must be blown to hell by this incident.
Jen had been completely unaware Norse mythology interested video gamers until Sandi pointed out a couple of games titled Viking Warrior: Bridge to Asgard and Valkyrie Knights. This revelation had opened a whole realm of possibility for her. She’d designed wardrobes for feature films and magazine shoots galore, but never an ad for a video game company.
She’d been so excited when her hairstylist brought the Japanese producer into her Manhattan showroom, and he’d called afterward to offer a job. It gave her the perfect opportunity to extend her brand.
“Mr. Nakamura, this man needs medical attention.” She thrust her chin forward, determined to salvage her reputation by assuming responsibility. “With your permission, I’ll take him to the hospital. If Keith still isn’t here by the time I return, I promise to call the casting office myself for a replacement. I’m so sorry for the delay.”
After giving him another respectful bow, she turned to Sandi. “I’ll order my driver to bring the car around. Try to appease the big wigs while I’m gone. We have to find some way to salvage this situation.”
Jen led Paz backstage to change into some borrowed street clothes. Then she herded the newcomer out the exit and into the busy midday traffic.