By Gary Kriss
Saturday morning at Starbucks had become a ritual for her, one she hoped to break.
A cinnamon dolce latte, as usual, the copy of Wittgenstein’s PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS from her Smith days spread open on the table, a conversational lure in case the right man happened to take the table next to her.
Not that she was trolling. Trolling. What a strange word, she thought. Like trolls themselves. What was it Nancy J. Cohen said? “Trolls are nasty, mean creatures that are fun to depict.” And Nancy should know. She depicted in them perfectly in WARRIOR PRINCE, the first of her Drift Lords novels, where they were really, really bad guys called Trolleks.
Nancy J. Cohen was her favorite author. She knew everything about her: how she’s lived in Florida for thirty years, how she loves to read, dine out, go shopping, watch TV and movies, cook new dishes, meet friends for lunch, and cruise to the Caribbean. But the most important thing she knew about Nancy J. Cohen was that Wild Rose Press would be releasing WARRIOR ROGUE, her second Drift Lord novel, in print form on April 26.
She opened her tote and took out the Circa junior size notebook she had gotten from Levenger, soft tan leather with her initials NEJ—Natalie Evelyn James—engraved discreetly on the lower left corner. It was much more impressive than an electronic planner, especially if you wanted to be taken seriously both for your skills and your intellect. Turning to April 26, she used her elegant Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique pen to add a third star next to the note “Get WARRIOR ROGUE.”
How could she not. It continues the saga started in WARRIOR PRINCE where Zohar, the leader of the galactic warriors known as Drift Lords, has to battle the Trolleks who’ve emerged through a crack in The Bermuda Triangle. If the Trolleks aren’t sent back and the rift closed, the universe will be destroyed. But to even have a chance of succeeding, he needs the help of mythologist Nira Larsen, an earth woman with special powers. Nira is a “daughter of Odin,” one of six, each of whom, according to an ancient prophecy, is fated to help her “son of Thor” soul mate prevent a return of Ragnarok, the great battle that brought about the end of the world.
She took a sip of latte and closed her eyes. And now WARRIOR ROGUE. This time fashion designer Jennifer Dyhr loses her lead actor for a video game commercial, but a replacement, Paz Hader, literally drops naked from the sky. Reluctant to let him leave, Jen hires Paz 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. Will she be able to keep her heart safe from the sensual man beside her?
Eyes still closed, she sighed. Jen and Paz, another daughter of Odin and Drift Lord son of Thor, on a wild ride to destiny, both with personal issues to overcome before they can be together. Jen has to accept herself rather than the sophisticated image her mother wishes for her. Paz has to take a leap of faith and trust himself. It’ll be a fast-paced story, of course, but because Nancy considers that “character is the root of everything,” character growth will play a large part.
And so will sex. She pressed he eyelids together more tightly in anticipation. “Spicy hot” is where Nancy said WARRIOR ROGUE falls on the steamy scale. Why couldn’t Wittgenstein write like that? Maybe he could. In truth she never finished the book, but so what? It was only an icebreaker and once in open water she could navigate just fine. Would this be the day she finally got the chance?
She lowered her head, about to pretend she was reading, when she heard a chair being pulled away from the adjacent table. Looking up, she saw a hulking figure in jeans and a tee shirt, both of which could barely contain the ripples of his bronzed muscular body. His long brown hair was drawn back from his stubble-strewn face and fell just short of his broad-beamed shoulders. She caught a whiff of the drink he set down. Plain coffee, black! What was he doing in Starbucks? He could have gotten that anywhere and cheaper. He didn’t have to get it here. And he didn’t have to sit next to her. Another Saturday morning shot.
He smiled and casually leaned over. “Interesting book,” he said, then leaned a little closer. This time she detected a different scent, musky masculine and she felt a dampness in her nether regions. She glanced at her skirt just to make sure she hadn’t accidentally spilled a little latte. No, this was an inner moistness, obviously some involuntary, primordial response, an evolutionary reactive throwback.
As she lifted her eyes, she caught sight of his crotch. Just a fleeting peek, but enough to bring on another wave of wetness, this time accompanied by a slight hardening of her nipples. Surely he’s past the stage of sticking some toilet paper in his pants, which must mean . . . . With a quiver, she blocked the image that had popped up in her mind.
“Actually, I prefer his TRACTATUS,” he said and drew away to take a sip of his coffee.
The TRACTATUS? She stifled a sneer, certain that at any moment, he’d probably pull out a folded, well-thumbed copy of “Biker Babes” from his back pocket. A back pocket above an ass as taut as the rest of him, an ass that . . . . She was drifting again and immediately snapped alert.
Suddenly a small boy who had broken free from his mother banged into both tables and was about to fall when two bulging arms grabbed him. That’s when she noticed the tattoo on the man’s forearm, a lightning bolt, which contained the word “ZAP.”
“Whoa, buddy, slow down,” he said as the boy pushed his hands against the man’s rock-like chest and took off.
She surveyed the damage. Her latte was unscathed, but black coffee was splashed all around. “Trolleks are always trouble,” the stranger said good-naturedly as he began mopping up the mess with one of Starbucks’s signature brown and green napkins.
Her eyes widened. “What did you say?”
“What? Oh, sorry. I have a habit of calling kids who misbehave Trolleks, which are kind of like trolls on steroids. Seems fitting. I took it from a novel where Trolleks are the villains.”
“WARRIOR PRINCE by Nancy J. Cohen.”
“That’s right.” He appeared taken aback, yet pleased.
“You like Nancy J. Cohen?” It was both a question and a statement of disbelief.
“Like her? I love her. I’ve read all ten Bad Hair Day mysteries. Guess I’ve got a thing for Marla Shore, the hairstylist detective. Then Nancy started writing her Drift Lord series, which is entirely different. Nancy said she hoped her mystery readers give these books a try because they’ll be pleasantly surprised. I did and I was. A wonderful mix of romance, adventure, sci-fi and fantasy. Nancy refers to her Drift Lord novels as ‘paranormal romance because of the magic and romantic elements.’”
“But she also says they could be seen as paranormal thrillers because of the fast-paced action.” Fast-paced action. Merely uttering the words made her heart beat faster and her face flush.
Nancy got the idea for the series “while on the Maelstrom boat ride at Epcot’s Norway pavilion. When the boat entered a forest where trolls appear—Poof! The Drift Lords series was born. She immediately bought several books on Norse mythology in the pavilion shop and, in her words, she was ‘off and running.’”
She stopped abruptly, afraid that he might think she was trying to show him up.
“The six daughters of Odin must join with the six sons of Thor to utter the ancient words and defeat the coming darkness,” he said.
“The prophecy that ties all the books together!” If her jaw dropped any lower in amazement, it would collide with her heaving breasts.
“Exactly. I’ve got the next book on pre-order.”
“WARRIOR ROGUE.” She could hardly get the words out of a mouth that was focused on things other than speaking.
“That’s the one. The next Drift Lord and earth woman with special powers pitted against the Trolleks.”
“And WARRIOR ROGUE will be followed by WARRIOR LORD.” Could he detect the breathiness in her voice?
“And three more books after that. Six books in all, one for each pairing of a daughter of Oden with a Drift Lord son of Thor.”
“But Drift Lords work in teams of seven,” she reminded him.
“Don’t you think Nancy knows that?” he said, his voice so throbbing with authority that she started to tremble, mainly over the throbbing part. “That gives her the latitude to do more books if the fans want,” he continued. “Nancy’s smart, And funny. She likes humor in the books she reads, and so humor filters into her stories. Ever hear what she said about that?”
“No,” she responded, all the while shouting “yes” on the inside. Yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
“She said, ‘I’d rather provoke a laugh than a tear. I’d prefer you to smile your way through my stories.’ I especially enjoy the clever ways she plays with words. Her claim that she didn’t intentionally name the male protagonist in WARRIOR PRINCE Zohar after the greatest of the Jewish Mystery Books, which, by the way, just happens to be imbued with eroticism? Yeah, right.”
It was something he said. Something besides “imbued with eroticism,” even though he could imbue her with eroticism any time. No, it was the part about playing with words and names. She focused her mind. The ZAP tattoo. ZAP. Paz spelled backwards. And Jen? Jen backwards is. . . NEJ! The initials on her Circa: Natalie Evelyn James! ZAP and NEJ! Paz and Jen! Fate! Just like the prophecy! This can’t be happening. She wanted to pinch herself. No, actually, she wanted to pinch him, to claw his big, bare back and scream so loudly as he made passionate, uninhibited bad boy love to her that they would be able to hear her in Valhalla itself. Feeling faint, she pressed her palms against the table top. How would it look if she suddenly swooned?
“What’s the matter?” he asked. “You look a little weak.”
Yes, but you can revive me with your naked body of steel. How she longed to say that. Instead she said, “It’s just that I’m surprised that a man is so into Nancy J. Cohen,” which was also the truth.
“Why? Her books would appeal to anybody who likes great mysteries and thrillers. I’m more partial to thrillers, and I really like the advice she offers for crafting them: ‘Lose the back story. Cut the laundry list descriptions. Eliminate the travelogues. Don’t forget to include your characters’ emotional reactions. Stay in viewpoint and make the central character proactive, not reactive.’ I don’t see that as a woman’s thing. In fact—.” All at once, he wrinkled his brow and then grinned. “Unless you mean because of the romance and the sex. Hey, men can be romantic too. And as far as sex goes, well, I’m a big boy.”
Oh, I bet you are, she thought. I bet you are. And if you’d like to prove it. . . .
But his attention was elsewhere. “Looks like our Trollek is leaving.”
She watched as the boy was dragged outside by his mother. Should she make her move? Nancy always said that her romances are “adventures at heart,” which take her “to a place where my imagination can roam free.” Right now her imagination was roaming free and feverish at the prospect of the adventure that might possibly ensue. Now or never. “What if the kid really was a Trollek in disguise? He touched you. That means your brain would be altered by the chemical substance that Trolleks secrete and transmit through touch.”
“Only if I was a Drift Lord, a warrior with the ability to detect rifts between dimensions that Trolleks have learned to open.”
“And only if you haven’t polarized yourself every twenty-four hours to protect against a Trollek’s touch,” she added, feeling totally tingly electric herself.
He laughed. “Well, I certainly haven’t polarized myself, so I guess it’s all over for me.”
Was he actually confessing? Could he in deed be a Drift Lord? Preposterous. There are no Drift Lords, right? Still, it was an opening. Nancy always said that openings were the weakest part of her writing, but that that means she works extra hard to get them right . This wasn’t writing, but it could be writhing. Orgasmic writhing as spasms of pleasure erupted within her body. Should she? She couldn’t. But, then, no risk, no reward. And this reward could be huge. “It’s not necessarily over.”
“What that’s mean?”
She reached over and placed her hand on his knee then slowly began to work her way up. “You know exactly what I mean.”
“Mingling?” His face lit up. “Sexual intimacy with an earth woman who has the power and is immune to the Trollek touch?”
“It worked for Zohar and Nira.”
“But how do I know if you have the power?”
“Only one way to find out,” she said as her hand drifted to his little lord. “Unless you’re scared.” She already knew the answer to the stiff part.
“A true Drift Lord wouldn’t be scared.” He rose, swept everything from his table, and gently lifted her upright from the chair.
It was then that she realized she did indeed have the power. The power not only to see exactly how Nancy would describe a similar mingling between Paz and Jen in WARRIOR ROGUE, but the power to turn description into reality.
“Her arms wrapped around him of their own volition. She parted her lips and pressed her body
closer. Her breasts ached as they encountered his broad chest. A vision of them naked together made her breath come short. His strong arms hugged her against him while she relished his strength and power. The man might be confident, cocky, and arrogant to boot, but he sure could kiss. His mouth changed angles and hungrily devoured her. They started to slide downward, and so did his hands. She felt a low ache in her belly, a surging need as he found her breasts . . . .”
Finally! Her Saturday morning ritual was about to end. But it would come at a cost—a cost that, like the mocha syrup in espresso, was bittersweet. She knew that she could never have a latte at Starbucks again.
Nancy J. Cohen is an award-winning author who writes romance and mysteries. Her popular Bad Hair Day mystery series features hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, while Nancy’s imaginative romances have garnered rave reviews. Active in the writing community and a featured speaker at libraries and conferences, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets.
T0 learn more about Nancy, please visit her website.