A Night Witch battles for a second chance at life. A Resistance Soldier fights for humanity. Are they strong enough to change the course of war?

Natalya Volkov’s dream is to fly, but when she’s killed in a plane crash defending Mother Russia, the Norse goddess Freyja gives her a second chance at life—for a price. For immortality, she must hunt down the most powerful man in Europe or give up the man she loves.

Romani-Jew Mikhail Abramovich has known hardship. He escaped a Nazi camp, became a Resistance soldier, and the love of his life died in his arms. Yet, when Natalya miraculously returns to life, he is plunged into a world that is no longer black and white.

Is the hunt for Hitler and immortality worth giving up everything they have ever known and loved?

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Prologue

Asgard

“What valor!” Freyja exclaimed, her gaze riveted on the battle scene playing out in the Gods’ Glass. Millennia ago, Óðinn had stolen the looking glass from a Greek oracle to see anywhere in the nine worlds, and Freyja had stolen it from him. Her hand gripped the edge of the huge glass disc suspended from the ceiling by thick, black metal chains. “Look at how the pilots maneuver the nimble planes to avoid the German cannon and machine gun fire. I believe these planes are called U-2s, but there are several models, so I could be wrong. The differences are slight, and in the Glass, they are too small for me to be certain. I do know they are called PO2s near the end of the war.”

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Idunn stepped up beside her, a frown marring her beautiful face. “Why do you insist on watching the humans battle each other? Nothing good will come of their war. They will continue to kill each other until no one’s left.” She leaned forward and stared hard at the unfolding air battle. “Who’s flying the planes anyway?”

“Women. Russian women.”

Idunn’s frown deepened as she followed the two-winged planes. “There are how many—forty? Why are half of them veering off like that?”

Freyja leaned closer to her best friend. “Watch as the lead planes maneuver away from the others, drawing the German spotlights.” She pointed with a purple-tipped fingernail. “There. Did you see that?”

Idunn peered closer, her face almost touching the glass. “What? What am I looking for? They’re all moving too fast!” Idunn’s gaze followed Freyja’s purple fingernail to another lead plane. A flash of light dropped from the back of the plane. “Did the pilot drop a flare?”

“I think they’re marking the targets for the second planes to hit.” Freyja shook her head, a look of wonder on her face. “Truly amazing. And the Germans can’t seem to hit the target planes.” She grabbed Idunn’s arm and pulled her around to the back of the Gods’ Glass.

“What are you doing?”

“Shush.” Freyja closed her eyes and concentrated, trying to remember the words to the ancient spell. Raising her hands, she laid them in the center of the glass. Opening her mind, she let the power of seidr, or fate, flow through the fire opal amulet hanging from her neck as she searched for the hidden passageway through the Well of Urd.

The bronze backing swirled, turning darker in the center then swirling out, blending the colors together. The farther out it expanded, the lighter it became. Suddenly, a bright burst of white light exploded outward like a million crystal shards.

“Freyja, this isn’t allowed—I’m not allowed to go through the glass!”

“Hold onto me—wrap your arms around my waist and don’t let go, no matter who or what you see,” Freyja commanded. Her necklace glowed, and the magic swirled around them, siphoning the air from the room and pulling them into the back of the glass.

Freyja held Idunn as they flew through the center of Yggdrasil. The tree of life opened up around them as they sped through the cosmos. Cosmic dust clouds of vibrant golds and purples billowed in a giant rolling fog and blended into larger gas bursts as they became massive nebulas. These ethereal wonders contained every color imaginable, as if the artist’s color palette was unlimited. 

“Why are the nebulae and galaxies always named after Greek or Roman pantheons and none of them our pantheon?” Idunn whispered.

Freyja smiled, her gaze scanning over the galaxy the humans had named Andromeda. The magnificent white center swirled outward and faded to a beautiful shade of blue. “I guess we’re not exciting or romantic enough for them.”

Idunn made a coughing noise in her throat. “What hogwash. We have Vikings and berserkers for goodness’ sakes! What more do people want?”

“Handsome Scottish men in kilts with muscles and a sexy accent?”

“Oh, well, there is that. I’ve read some of those books too. Hard to beat Scottish muscles. Now focus, Freyja. Where are you taking us?”

Freyja wrapped her free hand around the amulet hanging from her neck and centered her magic, letting it flow through her mind as she pictured the pathway through the center of the tree to Midheim—Earth in the ancient Norse language. “Hold tight and brace yourself. This may be a hard landing for both of us.”

As she said the words, their acceleration slowed. Freyja didn’t flinch, her smile widening as she stared at the expanding Milky Way galaxy. She focused her magic on the small blue planet, and they found themselves traveling through the outer Oort Cloud. They sped through the thousands of comets, then traveled inward through the Kuiper belt and its icy rocks. Closer to Earth, they came perilously close to being pummeled by several hundred of the millions of rocks speeding through the asteroid belt orbiting between Jupiter and Mars.

“Hold tight to me, Idunn!” Freyja screamed, her words pulled away as the force of the magic drew them toward the planet. Idunn did as she was told and squeezed her eyes together. Together, with the force of several large bombs, they hit the ground, sending large chunks of dirt, trees, and rocks skyward.

The two women lay at the bottom of the crater while all around them, bombs fell, their bright yellow-orange blasts lighting up the night sky.

“The next time you tell me to hang on tight, remind me of this so I’ll walk away. I don’t think I have a single bone in my body that isn’t shattered,” Idunn complained. “Heimdahl guards the bridges between worlds and is bound to know what we’ve done—and what’s wrong with traveling by the Rainbow Bridge? It comes directly here without us being beaten to death by asteroids or landing with the force of a bomb.” 

“Don’t you dare say a word to anyone about this. Heimdahl won’t know. If he knows, then Óðinn knows and my plan will be for naught.” Freyja sat up, gingerly patting her sides and legs then slowly stood, peeking her head out over the top of the crater to see where they’d landed. “Oh good, we’re hidden from the armies. We’ll be able to see everything from here just fine.”

“Did you even hear what I said?” Idunn asked.

Freyja turned and held out her hand, puzzled by the scowl on Idunn’s face as she stared at her long blonde hair. “If it bothers you that much, just braid it like I did mine.” She patted the thick, auburn braid hanging over one shoulder. “Now, come on, get up. If I’m fine, then so are you.”

Her friend glared from her prone position then slowly put her hand in Freyja’s and stood, wiping the dirt off her pretty light blue gown, perfectly matching the color of her eyes. “I’ll never get the stains out.”

Freyja flicked her wrist, and their clothes changed from their usual Asgardian court dresses to military-styled clothes the humans favored. She ran her hands down the fur-lined leather bomber jacket then adjusted the fur-lined cap she’d seen a pilot wearing, her ears no longer cold. “This is nice, don’t you think? And, it takes care of your hair issue.”

Idunn gave her a droll glare. “At least I’m not as cold, but the style leaves a lot to be desired. I feel like a man in this.” She plucked at the jacket with her finger and thumb, her lips forming a distasteful moue. “Now, please explain why we are here?”

An explosion sounded directly above them, and the two women dropped to their knees, their arms above their heads, both forgetting they were immortal and, thus, couldn’t die. However, being hit by a bomb would definitely cause extreme pain. A low whine grew louder until their bodies vibrated and their ears swelled as if they could burst at any moment. Just when they couldn’t take the agony any longer, the whining abruptly stopped. Half a second later, a brilliant explosion lit up the sky behind them.

“That was a bit close,” Freyja muttered, trying to pop her ears. “I brought us here to see the war up close, so it is more meaningful. You will understand better why defeating the Nazis is so important to me.” She pulled Idunn toward the edge of the crater, hefted her to the rim, and pushed her out. Sticking the toe of her boot on an exposed root, she half-climbed, half-jumped over the edge of the pit. Idunn grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her the rest of the way out.

The two women hurried toward the trees in front of them. German soldiers shouted orders to hurry and prepare more cannons. The Nachthexen, Night Witches, were coming around again!

Freyja smiled. “This is why we are here, Idunn. Look at the chaos surrounding us. Feel how it energizes our power? Without Earth’s wars to fuel our powers, Asgard and the Nine Realms will fall and Ragnarök will begin. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want our current world to end. I rather like it; however, if Hitler wins this war and his Third Reich comes to fruition, there will be no more wars on Earth. He will kill all those who oppose him. I have seen the future, Idunn. The power Asgard and the other worlds use will be gone. There’s no turning back once Ragnarök starts. Our world and everything and everyone we know within it will be forever changed—if not lost altogether.”

“What do we have to do?”

Freyja glanced at the incoming planes as the small engines roared overhead. The flares dropped to their strategic targets then scattered as the phut-phut-phut of German anti-aircraft guns filled the air. “Look and listen, Idunn. What don’t you hear?”

Idunn glanced toward the incoming U-2 planes and frowned. The flames from the burning trees in front of them reflected in her eyes. “Why can’t I hear the incoming planes? The only sound is a strange whooshing noise…like a broom?” She gave Freyja a confused glance then turned back to the planes. As the aircraft flew in front of them, dropping their bombs, the explosions were deafening. Making it past their targets, the quiet engines started up again.

Idunn smiled.  “Amazing. They idled the engines to go silent.” She glanced at Freyja but quickly turned her gaze back to the exciting events unfolding before them. “Have you used the God’s Glass to watch all the worlds?”

“Of course. What good would I be as a goddess if I didn’t? We have the ability to see throughout the universe and learn what other worlds do…or create. Such as these humans and their tanks, automobiles, and planes.”

“I admit, I’m fascinated by their planes and have studied them—learning how they work is so interesting.”

Freyja chuckled. “And here I thought your only interest was flowers.”

They continued to watch as another wave of planes came through. Large spotlights highlighted the front planes, darting back and forth as they attempted to draw the gunfire away from the second wave of planes. The German units spread out, not paying attention to anything but the attacking planes. The anti-aircraft fire was deafening in the small area of trees as they shot at the canvas biplanes. The plane closest to the women banked a hard right to avoid gunfire. A spray of bullets cut across the tail, leaving the canvas material shredded and flapping in the wind.

“Magnificent,” Freyja breathed, her fingers digging into Idunn’s arm as she hung on to her friend for support. Standing on her tiptoes, she tried to follow the plane’s trajectory. The damaged aircraft turned around, heading straight for the Germans. Another plane flew overhead and dropped its two bombs. Both planes banked and headed back in the direction they’d come. Two seconds later, the damaged plane sputtered. Freyja held her breath. The Germans quickly repositioned their anti-aircraft guns and began firing. The damaged U-2 exploded from a direct hit to its already damaged tail as Idunn let out a horrified gasp. The distinct whine pulled at Freyja’s heart as the plane disappeared into the thick forest not too far from where they stood.

“Where did it go?” Idunn asked.

Freyja turned and jogged through the trees until she came upon the downed plane. She jerked to a stop, unable to keep the horrified gasp from slipping out. The plane was nothing more than splinters. The only thing left recognizable were the wings, which stuck up into the air like massive tombstones above the wreckage. Smoke billowed from the midsection where she could barely make out the top of the pilot’s brown helmet. One arm was hanging out through the canvas skin of the plane. Red blood ran along the top of her hand and down her finger, only to pool in the snow beneath the tip of her nail.

She shook her head, sorrow running through her for the loss of such a valiant warrior. Crossing her arms over her slim torso, she wrapped her hands around the sleeves of her jacket with a shiver. “I want others just like this woman.”

“What do you mean?”

Freyja spun around. “It is too late for this poor soul, but there are many others out there who deserve to be honored for their bravery. She is my reason for helping. These Night Witches are as valiant a warrior as any Valkyrie…and worthy of life. They can help change the tide of this war and stop Hitler along with his Third Reich. My idea is this…I will create my own race of warriors, like Óðinn’s Valkyries, to stamp out the heinous crimes this führer and his SS commit.”

“Freyja, you can’t be serious! These pilots are Russians and know nothing of us. We cannot just pluck them out of their world on a whim. It simply is not done! Besides, Óðinn would never approve.”

Freyja smiled. “Óðinn will not know anything until after my plan is already in motion. As far as the Russians not knowing who we are, they used to know us long ago. Vikings settled the land centered between the three seas: the Baltic, Caspian, and Black Seas, using the waterways for trade. They are the ancestors of the people who live there now. We are in their legends and songs whether they realize it or not.”

Freyja moved closer to the dead pilot, her gaze never moving from the slowing drips of blood. “It’s sad, really. As gods, we have magic, immortality, and power over others, yet we lack the most important thing of all.”

Idunn wrapped her arm around Freyja and hugged her friend close. “What do we lack, Freyja?”

“True love.”

Idunn stared at the body of the Russian pilot and sighed. “I’m afraid your pilots won’t help us there. We’ve been on this path too long. Maybe Ragnarök would be a good thing. It is, after all, a sort of startup. Perhaps it’s what we need to rediscover basic emotions again. Like Thor and his human?”

Freyja nodded. “Jane was good for him, wasn’t she? Of course, after the Aether corrupted her…but that will happen in the future, and we need to focus on the now.”

Idunn grabbed Freyja’s arm. “The Aether is nothing more than a parasite that must be eradicated now or it will turn all matter dark within all realms. If it’s free, we must concentrate on it, not the human’s war.” 

She patted Idunn’s hand, which still gripped her arm. “Óðinn has our own scientists working on a plan for that very thing. Let’s go home, my friend. We have lots to talk about if we’re going to get this plan in motion before the month’s end. The next battle will be fierce, and the Russians must win. Hitler cannot gain access to Stalingrad. I will need your help if we are going to succeed. In order to pull this off, I will take a few fallen pilots from the field of battle and offer them a second chance at life—and love—if that is their heart’s desire. To do this, your apple of immortality will come in handy.”

Idunn shook her head. “You’ve been drinking too much of Thor’s mead, that’s what you’ve been doing. You aren’t thinking straight. This plan of yours will never work and will get you into nothing but trouble. Besides, my apple won’t give them immortality. Actually, I’m not sure what it will do to humans.”

Freyja’s smile widened. “Then you’ll help me?”

 

Chapter One

Lucerne, Switzerland 

August 1942

Mikhail Abramovich sipped the last of his chocolate-laced coffee and set the porcelain cup on the scarred wooden table. With a quick glance at his watch, he noticed his old university friend was late. He frowned up at the beautiful alpine skyline above the quaint village structures on this end of the medieval Swiss town.

Lucerne had always been one of his favorite places to visit growing up. Traveling Europe with his parents had been magical during his youth. Sitting with his mother in their private box at the concert hall and listening to his father play the piano had brought a beauty into his everyday life.

It had been hard living in Russia while his father traveled Europe as a concert pianist. One day his father returned from one such trip, and Mikhail hadn’t recognized him, so from then on, they traveled as a family. During those years, he had seen so many wonderful things—centuries of art in the French Louvre, the Grand Place in Brussels with its thirteenth-century merchants’ market, and Russia’s own Red Square in Moscow. His favorite places, however, were the natural ones. He felt at home in the wild mountain ranges scattered across Europe.

He remembered the day his family moved back to Smolensk to live with his grandparents while his father fought in the Great Patriotic War. He’d been unimpressed with the rustic town and had only wanted to return to his previous life in Germany. His father never had a choice either. The German army made that decision for him, so he fought. 

Lamenting his ill fortune and trying to escape his overbearing babushka, Mikhail had hidden himself in the woods close to his grandparents’ house. Instead of finding the tranquility he desired, he’d been accosted by a blonde-haired neighbor who refused to leave him alone. Mikhail smiled at the memory of Natalya’s cute button nose and freckled face peeking at him through the tree branches. He’d never met a girl who could climb trees and had been astounded. He’d also fallen from his perch and landed flat on his back while she laughed at him, her legs dangling from her branch.

What I wouldn’t give to see her…hold her in my arms right now.

He glanced at his watch then raised his gaze to the street, wondering what was keeping Rudolf. Being late wasn’t like him, and Mikhail was beginning to worry. He tugged his jacket sleeve over his watch and turned his empty coffee cup in circles.

Reminiscing about the past wasn’t healthy, and he couldn’t help but wonder how his family was faring in Montreuil-Bellay, the French concentration camp for Romani. His family had been lucky the German officials hadn’t questioned his father’s claim they weren’t Jewish. After watching what the Nazis did to Jewish friends and family, his father knew blatantly lying would save his family from torture and death at a worse concentration camp. Proclaiming his wife’s Romani heritage would save the family. So far, it had.

The fact that his father had been a well-known concert pianist, even playing for Hitler himself, had helped somewhat. He’d been given the task of playing on demand for the camp commandant, his wife, and other officers. His mother’s gift of voice allowed them to live apart from the other prisoners and receive a bit more food. They lived in a small home, basically a shack, but it had a stove that gave them heat in the winter. Summer could be sweltering, but they weren’t too far from the coast and occasionally received a small sea breeze. It was better than nothing, he supposed.

Mikhail refused to think about the time he’d spent in the camp. From the moment of his escape two years ago, he had focused solely on fighting against the Nazi war machine and finding a way to liberate his family. Even though Russia was so far away from the camp where his family was held, he thought of them and prayed for them daily.

He relaxed his fierce grip on his cup and pushed it away. Thoughts of Russia filled his mind. The first six years of his life had been spent on his maternal grandparents’ farm, so returning to Smolensk had been the natural choice for him. He shared a special relationship with his grandmother, who had been influential in helping him understand his heritage. Even in his youth, his Romani roots were strong, both nomadic and psychic, and moving around Europe, enjoying his father’s rising popularity as a pianist, had been the perfect cultivation for at least one of those aspects. His grandmother never could get him to accept the psychic ability and he fought against the visions with everything he had.

Checking his watch again, he worried about his old friend from university. Rudolf Rössler was nothing if not punctual and was one of several people who used their particular talents as resistance fighters.

“Would you like another cup of coffee, Herr Abramovich?”

Mikhail glanced up at the older waitress, the ravages of war rationing lining her thin face, glad for the interruption of his maudlin memories.

He gave her a quick nod. “And if you can spare another tiny piece of chocolate? I have truly missed the decadent flavor of Swiss chocolate.”

She glanced through the cafe’s window then back to him, and his grin widened. A blush covered her cheeks. “I think I can spare one more piece since you ask so nicely. Nowadays, most visitors just demand.” She turned her scowl to several men sitting a few tables away.

Mikhail’s gaze narrowed. He’d seen them sit but had been so lost in his own thoughts and almost comfortable sitting in front of the cozy pub, he hadn’t paid them as much attention as he should have. Now, though, he noticed how the three of them kept their heads down and never looked around at the beautiful scenery surrounding the cafe or even talked amongst themselves. It was as if they were just listening….

His jaw clenched, but before he could figure out what to do, Rudolf walked up to the table with a jaunty grin. Mikhail stood and leaned over, greeting his old friend with a quick kiss on each cheek before once again taking his seat. He hid his concern at Rudolf’s gaunt appearance. His skin carried a sickly pallor, and he seemed to have aged a decade since he’d last seen him. He also sported dark bags underneath his brown eyes.

The moment they sat, the waitress returned with two coffee cups and a plate of square cakes. Mikhail glanced up with raised brows, and the waitress blushed again.

“As I said a moment ago, most visitors aren’t nice, and my grandmother always told me good behavior should be rewarded—always. Thankfully, there is no flour or sugar in our honey cakes, so the ingredients aren’t rationed. The owner, however, insists we serve them to paying customers only. I only serve them to nice customers. Guten appetit, die heren.”

Rudolf smiled at the waitress. “I’m sure we will enjoy them, fräulein. Danke schön.” He raised his cup to his thin lips and, without blowing, sipped the hot liquid. His eyes widened. “Do I detect a hint of chocolate?”

“You do,” Mikhail said with a chuckle and sipped his own drink before it cooled. Cold coffee wasn’t his favorite.

“I think you gave our tired waitress one of your dashing smiles, and, as usual, she simply couldn’t resist. If I remember correctly, you had that effect on all the girls while the rest of us would stay in the shadows.”

Mikhail bit into a honey cake and groaned as he slowly chewed the sweet treat. “Yet, you are the one married to a beautiful woman, my friend, are you not?” He popped another cake into his mouth and picked up a third as he swallowed.

“Speaking of women, how is your wonderful Natalya?”

“My Talya is good, as far as I know. She was accepted into the 588th Night Bomber Unit, so she is in her element.” He placed the cake he’d been holding back on the plate. “I just pray she is safe.” A cloud-filled night sky filled his mind as he saw the small plane looking lost and alone as it sailed through the air. A brilliant flash of fiery orange-red exploded nearby, and he saw a spark light on the canvas-covered body. The material smoldered, and a dark stain spread across the plane’s side. He pulled himself from the vision as the plane’s nose dropped toward the ground.

“You have broken our cardinal rule, my friend.  When we are together, we do not speak of the war.” Rudolf took a bite of his cake, chewed, swallowed, and then jabbed his finger at him several times, uncaring that he scattered crumbs over the tabletop with each thrust. “One never knows when their life on earth will end, and in these dire times, well….”

“You are right,” Mikhail agreed, still unsettled by his vision—if that’s what it was. He hoped it was just worry fueling his imagination and not something worse.  “I am sorry. Now tell me, how is Olga?”

“My wonderful wife is fine, although I fear one day she may put a private investigator on me to find out if I am truly meeting you. She is, after all, a jealous woman, you know.”

Mikhail laughed. “You are delusional, my friend. Olga doesn’t have a jealous bone in her entire body, and she adores you. You are probably spending all your spare time at the library, not eating or sleeping, and she is simply worried about her husband. How is your book coming along?”

Rudolf shook his head and frowned, setting his empty cup on the table. “Not as well as I’d hoped. Living in this picturesque town provides such a backdrop for my muse, and I have nothing but trouble. I sit for hours, staring at a blank page. My typewriter, silent.”

“You are too hard on yourself. Always have been. Maybe if you had an unbiased set of eyes to read over what you have so far? I’m no editor, but creative writing was one of my better subjects.”

“You are nothing but creative, Mikhail. You have more talent in your little finger than I do in my entire body. That being said, I get more enjoyment from my research than anything else. I could read for hours on a favorite subject without realizing the passage of time, but trying to type a simple sentence in this book and I watch the seconds tick by at a snail’s pace. Maybe slower.”

“You are trying too hard.”

“Maybe. However, I did come across something during my research I’m quite certain your dear father would have enjoyed. A piece of sheet music by a relatively unknown composer, yet the music is insightful and unusual. A real treasure, if you ask me. But who am I to say when it comes to music? That is your domain. Would you like for me to send it to you?”

Mikhail smiled. “I would, thank you.”

“Do you still play?”

“I try to play as often as I can, when I’m around a piano, but I have nowhere near the talent my father had. As you know, when we left France, we had to leave my father’s treasured piano behind. It all but killed me. I can’t imagine what it did to him. It was as if we left behind the last bit of him we had.”

“But he is not dead. The piano is but an object, easily replaced. Besides, you give yourself too little credit. You are every bit as talented as your father, if not a more. You give music a life he could not,” Rudolf said. “As soon as I return home, I will make a copy and send the music to you. Make sure you find a piano and enjoy the piece, for it is truly magnificent.” He patted his jacket pocket a couple of times then dug into the one over his right breast and pulled out something small and handed it to Mikhail.

“I found this handsome geode in a quaint little store and thought of you. When the light strikes it just so,” he said, holding it in front of his face at a slant. “the resulting prism is striking, isn’t it?” With a pointed stare, Rudolf dropped his gaze to the tabletop.

Mikhail bit back his surprise when he saw tiny rectangles projected from inside the crystal onto the stained wood. He cleared his throat and reached for the crystal, quickly tucking it into his shirt pocket. “Very thoughtful of you to remember my rock collection. It’s been years since you’ve seen it—it’s grown quite large since university.”

“Think of it as an early birthday present, my friend. With the war, you never know if the post is getting things through to other countries, and I didn’t want to take the chance of it getting lost. It’s such a pretty little specimen. I also found a nice blue rock I knew our friend, Allan, would appreciate. If all goes well, it should arrive at his home sometime in the next few weeks.”

Mikhail mentally deciphered his friend’s message. He knew the intel Rudolf mentioned would not reach England in time for Churchill or the American Allies to help much in the upcoming attack on Russia. Yet, maybe they would be able to send supplies and reinforcements—if they honored the signed accord between their countries. As it was, it would be up to him and the Resistance to make sure whatever was hidden inside the crystal made it to the Russian military.

Operation Barbarossa had been devastating to the Russian people living along the lands bordering Poland. When the Nazi army invaded, they had killed indiscriminately, but the Russian people fought back. As the German Wehrmacht advanced farther into Mother Russia, the people packed up their belongings and set fire to their homes and fields, leaving nothing but ashes for the German soldiers to find.

“My family and I are keeping low, but for my wife’s sake, I must head home. She gets worried if I’m out too long.” The distant sound of aircraft muffled Rudolf’s low-spoken words. Mikhail covered his eyes with one hand and glanced toward the northwest but was unable to tell if they were German Luftwaffe or Swiss planes. Not that it mattered...no planes were supposed to be flying over Switzerland.

“It’s time for me to leave as well. Traveling, even in Switzerland, isn’t safe anymore.” Mikhail placed a few Swiss notes underneath the empty plate and motioned for Rudolf to lead the way. Both men waited until they were at a safe distance from the cafe before speaking.

“I’m glad you remembered that if I begin our conversation by asking about Olga, it means we are being watched,” Mikhail said, shortening his pace so his friend could keep up with his long strides.

“Of course. That joke is an old one, but handy. I take it you were talking about the three men who kept staring at their empty plates? I didn’t see anyone else nearby but nowadays, they could have been looking at us through sniper rifles.”

“They were so obvious. The Germans must be getting desperate to send such untried spies. Now, I take it the crystal contains information of some kind?”

“It does, but I won’t tell you any more than this—get it copied immediately and deliver it personally to your highest Russian general. It is of the utmost importance, Mikhail. Promise me you will be vigilant.”

“Aren’t I always, Rudolf? What about the music you mentioned?”

“All I know is that it has something to do with diamonds and Hitler’s Fourth Reich…oh, and werewolves.”

Mikhail stopped, stared at his friend who walked a few more steps then glanced back at him, his dark brows raised above his round glasses. “Mikhail? We don’t have time to waste.”

“Did I hear you correctly? Did you just say werewolves?”

Rudolf adjusted his glasses. “Yes, although I assume it’s just a code name for a new weapon Hitler’s come up with. He is known as The Wolf, you know.”

Mikhail frowned and moved forward again. The hairs on the back of his neck rose, and the air around him turned heavy. Letting the familiar sensation wash over him, a hazy scene superimposed itself over reality. He still saw Rudolph standing a few steps away, staring at him with a concerned gaze as Mikhail stared back. The vision suddenly took on a life of its own, morphing and changing into something new. He saw the three men spying on them at the café walk up behind him. From the way the lead man flailed his arms in wide arcs around him and the angry expression on his face as he glared at them, Mikhail realized he and Rudolf were being questioned.

The vision glitched, and the scene turned staticky and stuttered a few times. Suddenly, it cleared and he saw the men coming up behind, as if to surround them. The vision showed the lead man pulling a pistol from his coat pocket and slamming it against Rudolf’s temple. Mikhail stepped between them and felt a searing blow to the back of his head, surprising him. He’d never felt his visions before. Concentrating on the events unfolding through his Sight, he grimaced as his arms were wrenched behind him, and he was forced to kneel on the sidewalk. They were being arrested.

“Mikhail?” Rudolf’s soft voice broke through Mikhail’s vision, pulling him back into the present.

He grabbed Rudolf’s arm. “Hurry… We must hurry.” 

Rudolf didn’t argue but kept pace beside him. 

Mikhail dropped his friend’s arm and sped up. The tall arched entryway of the train station came into view. “We are about to have company—and not the good kind, my friend,” Mikhail whispered. As they hurried past the ticket agent, he glanced at the time board behind the desk and saw his train was scheduled to leave in only a few minutes.

“Go,” Rudolf said and pushed him toward the stairwell leading down to the waiting train car. The car’s doors stood open as people continued to board the train. “I will lose them without a problem. Lucerne is my home, and I know my way around.” Without glancing behind him, Rudolf laid his hand on Mikhail’s arm as he moved by him, heading toward a small back gate. Where it led, Mikhail had no idea.

Hurrying down the stairs, two at a time, he passed several of the train’s cars before ducking into one farther back in the shadows. Watching from the rear corner window, he recognized the lead man as he stumbled off the last cement stair and onto the platform. Waving his arms, the man regained his balance and pulled on the bottom of his tight jacket. He peered into the first car, looking at all the passengers before moving to the next car. The train let out a lonely whistle and jerked several times as it pulled away from the station, leaving the three Germans standing on the station platform.

Mikhail breathed in a long sigh of relief at the close call, praying Rudolf made it safely home or that the men hadn’t recognized him. Growing up, he never understood his visions. Why did they show him some things and not others? They also never gave him enough warning. His gift had shown his own family’s arrest only moments before it happened. He’d had just enough time to grab a few things and stuff a pick and a razor blade in the soles of his shoes before the Gestapo arrived.

After his escape, he’d asked his grandmother about their Sight. She told him if he used the gift, practicing and letting it grow with him, he would know the answer. The last time they’d talked about it, she’d told him to practice his gift more. He would need it in the dark days to come. How he wished he had listened to her. She had been right, of course, and now, more than ever, he needed his gift of foresight.

He pulled out his grandmother’s worry stone, rubbing his thumb over the smooth surface. The etchings, or runes, on one side of the stone had faded over time, so much so he could barely make out the separate lines. The beautiful swirls of blues and greens reminded him of the ocean or pictures he’d seen of the universe. He ran the pad of his thumb over the slight etching, the edges worn almost smooth.

His grandmother had said the stone was labradorite and would help him focus and strengthen his magic, his gift, or whatever his Romani legacy could be called. He remembered the first time he’d seen his babushka rubbing the stone between her fingers. She’d said it was special—given to her great-grandmother by the goddess Freyja herself and when invoked would bring either the goddess’s help or her wrath. Through the centuries, the stone’s true gift had been forgotten, and his ancestors had never been willing to take a chance on incurring the goddess’s wrath.

Should he?

Idunn returned her smile and shrugged. “Of course. That’s what best friends do.”

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Mauireader wrote:

5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome romantic tale set in WWII with a paranormal twist.

Two meddling Norse goddesses set their sights on stopping Hitler and saving Midgard (Earth). I loved it and definitely lost myself in this story and could not put it down once I started it. How can you not love some action not only from the war but also from Asgard where some time travel, magic and fierce scheming is going on. Natalya and Mikhail are both great and very likable main characters who are just magical together. They both are so selfless and dedicated to their country and family. I had never heard of the Night Witches, real women fighter pilots of Russia involved in the war and I found that to be fascinating. There was enough depth to give the reader details for the story, but not so much to be dragged down. Plenty of tension, a little humor and a wonderful plot that flowed effortlessly. I received this book for free and voluntarily reviewed.

Beth I. wrote:

5.0 out of 5 stars What an unexpected jewel of a story!

The author took what was already a nail biter of a story in the mode of the old blockbuster war movies of the 1960s and gave it an unexpected supernatural twist that somehow was inherently logical to the story. This has it all - tragic romance, the perils of intelligence work and combat flying during World War II, all wrapped in Norse mythology. A perfect fit for the time, place and characters. The hero is a Romani Jew, the heroine one of the legendary for real Russian night flyers, and the whole thing far grander and heroic than anything Hollywood has turned out in years. Needless to say, it was a fascinating read.