Unique, well written, and just the right amount of dark, this paranormal novella is a fun, quick read, yet signature Kitty in all the best ways! Loved it and highly recommend!” – Anna Zaires, NYT Bestselling author
I just released Berserker yesterday… and I didn’t even do a short pre-order like I normally do… I just put it out there. And the response has been INCREDIBLE. We are already up to 1,322 sales ranking in the kindle store (as of this post), and 16 in short reads! 20 in mythology!
Readers are LOVING this book and you will love it too. You don’t want to miss this!
And now I’m going to share the first chapter with you for free!
Excerpt from Berserker (c) 2021, Kitty Thomas. All Rights Reserved.
You hear people say all the time that they’re afraid of flying. I’m not afraid of flying. I’m afraid of suddenly not flying. I’m on a business class international flight to Paris to study art—I know, what a cliché, right? I’m in an aisle seat right next to the emergency exit. This is the first time I’ve flown over water, and I have to say, I’m not loving it. I’m worried this could turn into an unexpected cruise at any moment, and I don’t trust all the other morons on the plane not to inflate their toilet-seat cover—I mean life vest—before getting off the aircraft. Then we’re all trapped because you can’t get out if you’ve already pulled the tag to inflate the damn thing.
The flight attendant who gave the safety talk was a real comedian. That’s where I got the toilet seat cover thing—not my own material. I feel like I should at least be up front about that. I’m rarely witty when thinking about plunging to my death from 30,000 feet in the air.
I think they should get rid of that tag and make everybody inflate it with that red shoulder tube thing you blow into. At least then we wouldn’t have to worry about dealing with the risks of a pre-inflater.
My gods, I wish I had wings like a normal valkyrie. And I bet you don’t even know what a valkyrie is.
A lot of people don’t know what we are anymore, and it’s just as well because in the human world we mostly blend in to society. Or we really try to. People know about werewolves and vampires and witches and ghosts, but valkyries… unless you’re really into Norse mythology, probably not. Werewolves and vampires come from a different dimension than valkyries, though. But for some reason we all like to party here.
We don’t ever see each other except in this particular dimension. The earth plane is sort of a neutral ground we can all be in. And witches actually are already from this dimension. They’re just humans who are a little more hooked up to magic and other dimensions than your average person—just a little more awake.
For those who do know about valkyries, we have this reputation of being these sort of badass warrior queens, all terrifying shrieks and lightning and flying through the air. Our job is basically to collect the fallen slain who we feel would be best to fight for Odin.
And then some valkyries kind of just hang out in the mead hall and sleep with all the warriors. It’s a little bit of a party hall. I mean, Odin’s a smart guy. He’s not going to have all these slain warriors with all this pent-up testosterone and no ladies to enjoy. And before you get all offended, trust me, the valkyries engaging in this brothel behavior, do not mind. In fact, there’s a waiting list, and I’m kind of kicking myself right now for not putting my name on it.
If I got on the list now it would still be centuries before I could even get into the hall. This is a high demand experience. Masculine and growly does not even begin to cover what these guys are.
But that’s all stuff that happens in my world, not so much the human world—at least not anymore. It’s been pretty quiet in this dimension for my kind the last thousand years or so. Humans used to feed a whole lot of energy our way when they were polytheists, but then they got all hung up on this one god who none of our gods even hung out with, and it’s just been downhill from there.
Few humans believe in the old gods these days, and most men aren’t exactly engaging in any epic battles right now. The most epic battle I witnessed this evening was a guy yelling at some poor girl for not letting him on his flight five minutes late. It was a different flight—obviously—or I wouldn’t have gotten on the plane either.
Man, I’d love to be having that argument right now instead of sitting in this questionable aluminum construction flying over the ocean. Sorry, I got sidetracked, so valkyries… Even if we aren’t all legends in our own minds or particularly magically powerful, we all have one special gift.
We can calm a berserker, which is really about the most useless magical skill one can have in current year. I doubt I’ll run into a berserker any time soon, and if I do, I already know to run the other way. My mother—also a valkyrie, I know, what are the odds?—told me about a thousand times: don’t get involved. Crazy doesn’t begin to cover what these guys are. Berserkers are about as much the stuff of forgotten legend as valkyries are these days, so I doubt there are any on the human plane at all anymore which is just as well.
And yes I just said I’d be on the list to fuck the warriors but don’t get ahead of yourself… warriors and berserkers are not the same. Berserkers are warriors but not all warriors are berserkers.
I’ve listened to the same paragraph on my vampire romance audiobook about thirty times now. I can’t focus—and it’s the hot part. I’ve listened to this dude tell this girl how he’s going to drink her blood until she comes enough times to memorize it. Not at all how it works, by the way. They pretty much just drink you ‘til you’re dead. But it’s become this thing in these types of books where somehow the magic of his bite engages her nether regions and results in orgasm, which somehow also makes her blood taste sweeter to him. I can’t make this shit up.
And even though I know enough to know that’s not how it is, these are my guilty pleasure books because it’s hot, so hot that if it really worked that way I’m sure I’d go throw myself on the mercy of the first befanged man I encountered so we could engage in this sexy symbiotic relationship together. If only that was how it worked. I sometimes wish I could live in these delusions and believe in them, but almost no one in this dimension believes in magic anyway, so we’re all equally suspending our disbelief for the fantasy I guess.
I keep having to push the button to go back thirty seconds because I can’t stop thinking about water landings. Maybe I should have downloaded a book about how to survive a plane crash. I’m pretty sure I’d be able to pay attention to that.
I glance up to find some kind of altercation going on at the front of the plane about twenty rows up from me. There’s a huge hulking beast of a man waving his arms about and shouting. I can’t hear what he’s saying because of the audiobook droning on. The sexy biting has commenced, but I’m watching something far more compelling.
The angry guy is hot. So when I say he’s huge and hulking, I don’t mean he’s fat. I mean he’s like probably six foot four and the ceiling of the plane is about an inch above his head. I mean he’s very well-defined with tattoos that desperately cling to and wrap around his muscles, caressing each inch of flesh on display to me… Sorry. Where was I?
Yeah, he’s not wearing a shirt. I’m not sure where that went, but it’s not on him right now. He has blue eyes and long dark blonde hair and… I pull out the earbuds to hear what’s gotten him so upset.
But he isn’t speaking English. I have no idea what language he’s speaking. No… wait. Yes I do. He’s speaking Old Norse. No. No. No. No. NO! I shake my head in disbelief, willing this to not be happening. Right here, on this plane is the magical evil unicorn I hoped I’d never meet, a berserker. And there’s nowhere for me to run.
I glance to the emergency exit and imagine myself just jumping out of the plane, even though I know that wouldn’t end well for me. Come on, Odin, where’s a plane crash when a girl needs one? Because I’ve seen berserker rage and destruction, and right now I’m hoping for a plane crash to stop this guy. And remember how terrified I was of that outcome two minutes ago? My odds right now are better with a plane crash. Half the people on this plane—or more—could survive a crash.
No one survives a berserker.
I also find myself wishing I’d listened when my mother tried to get me to study Old Norse. But it’s a dead language! Nobody speaks it on this plane—except berserkers in a rage. I doubt he even knows the words he’s saying. They just come, like the possession of the rage itself.
I learned French instead, which is also useful, assuming I survive the flight to Paris.
The flight attendant he’s yelling at stumbles back, and the berserker is coming closer to my row as he pursues him. It’s our comedian flight attendant, the guy that was making all the safety jokes.
Why did I pick an aisle seat? With each step, the berserker eats up the distance between us, and even though his focus isn’t on me, my heart thunders in my chest as though it can beat fast enough to outrun him.
There are security people on this flight. I’m not sure if they’re air marshals or some sort of private security provided by the airline to keep each flight secure, but they have no idea what they’re up against. They can’t take him down. He’s too strong.
I can tell you what’s going to happen next, and I’ll be as accurate as the Oracle of Delphi. When this guy reaches full Hulk Smash, he’s going to get physical. Once he gets a taste of blood, there will be no stopping him. Every single person on this plane will die. That is a one hundred percent certainty because berserkers in a rage don’t stop until nothing is left breathing. There’s no guilt or innocence. No one to be spared. No thinking or considering or judging. Only mindless destruction and rage. It’s as impersonal and damning as a category five hurricane.
And I really never thought I would think this thought but, I’m the only thing that can stop him. Me: five foot five inches and a hundred and twenty pounds soaking wet. Good luck, passengers.
He’s right next to me in the aisle now. He’s so close that if I get out of this seat, I’ll be standing right in front of him. His attention is still on the flight attendant as he continues to rant in Old Norse.
“Sir, sir, if you’ll just calm down. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Does anybody know what language this man is speaking? Is there a translator on board?”
The flight attendant says this as though every plane carries several translators in all known languages. But the odds of an expert in Old Norse Studies being on this plane is even slimmer than the lucky-translator scenario. Then again, what are the odds of me being on this plane?
The security people or air marshals—or whatever they are—close in behind him. This is about to get physical. I have to act now before it’s too late and people start dying.
I’ve never actually used my powers. I theoretically know how they work, but I was kept far away from these guys, so it’s all theory. What if it doesn’t work? What if he turns on me? Of course this is crazy thinking. He’ll turn on me anyway if I don’t stop him. I realize there are tears tracking down my cheeks, and I’m shivering like I’m lost out in a snow storm.
I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and lay my hand over his bare arm. Snake tattoos entwine under my fingers, and for a moment I’m sure they’ll come to life and strike. The entire plane goes silent. Everything stops.
Some turbulence would be super great right now.
He says something to me, again in Old Norse, and now his anger moves in my direction. I can feel it, electric sizzle in the air. I rise on shaking legs out of my chair, leaving my right hand on his arm. I place my left hand over his heart and look up into his furious eyes.
“Just breathe, and put the beast back in the cage.”
His eyes widen as I watch his body visibly relax out of the aggressive stance he was in. I can’t stop trembling, the adrenaline is running too high. At the same time I’m so relieved it’s working. He’s calming down.
“What are you doing to me? What are you?” And he’s back to English. Great, because I can’t do this with a language barrier.
“Just breathe. Put the beast back in the cage,” I say again.
He looks like he’ll question me, as if he doesn’t know how to do what I’m asking him to do. But the berserker inside him speaks my language—well maybe not my literal language—but it feels the energy. It knows, and it settles and fades into the background, leaving only the man behind.
“Ma’am do you know this man?” It’s one of the security people.
We aren’t supposed to be doing magic otherworldly things in front of normal humans. There are good reasons few humans believe in magic and those from the magic dimensions are all in agreement on this. Humans tend to run around murdering their own at the slightest whiff of magic. And we’d all just rather not get burned to death, thank you very much.
Luckily nothing extreme or obviously supernatural just happened. I mean there were no fireballs or anything. No demons whizzing about the plane cabin. Nobody disappearing or levitating. Nothing turned into a frog.
All anybody saw was a woman touch an angry man, say soothing words to him, and him calm down. That’s sort of normal. Right?
“N-no,” I say, wondering if I should lie.
The berserker’s eyes are locked on mine, and I can’t seem to tear my gaze away or remove my hand from his chest. Finally I do pull my hand away because it’s gotten very inappropriate and almost in the borderlands of sexy. When I do, I look down to see a black tattoo where my hand was pressed: Two ravens encircling an eye. Runes are worked into the design in a way that seems like a specific message instead of random decorative characters. Usually when it’s just decorative, it’s a circle of all the runes, sort of like: “Beyold ye olden viking alphabet!”
I didn’t learn how to read runes either, so I don’t know what the tattoo says. But these are all symbols of Odin. Maybe I was wrong and this guy does know what he is. He certainly seems to have pledged his allegiance to the king berserker himself.
He reaches out and cups the side of my throat like he’s going to grip me and pull me into a passionate kiss or something. His eyes flash and glow golden then go back to electric blue so fast, anyone who saw it would think it was a trick of the light. Then he shakes himself out of whatever haze he was in and pulls away.
“Ma’am, I need you to step away from him. We’re going to have to take him into custody.”
I’m pretty sure if they try to take him into custody he’s just going to go berserk again, and if I use this parlor trick twice in front of all these people they’re going to know something isn’t right. And even though it’s a life-or-death situation and hundreds of lives are at stake—including my own—I don’t want to play fast and loose with the rules. There are consequences to being showy with one’s magic.
“Wait. I-I lied. I’m h-his sister. He has a condition.” I really hope they don’t ask me what condition makes a guy do something like this. Berserker Rage is not in any handbook or diagnostic manual that I’m aware of.
“We still need to take him into custody.”
I round on the security guy, buzzing a bit from the berserker’s rage and my close exposure to it. “And where are you going to take him into custody on a fucking airplane? You going to fingerprint and book him up here, too?”
The security guard actually takes a step back, which is hilarious because he’s only feeling the residue of the berserker’s energy, and he didn’t seem too troubled when it was coming out of the guy himself. Maybe it’s more jarring coming off me. I look too sweet and innocent for this kind of rage.
“Look, he’s calm now. We weren’t able to get our seats together, and he’s agitated, so if someone could trade seats so we can sit together…” I trail off.
The person who was sitting beside him farther back on the plane jumps up to switch seats with me. He isn’t keen on the prospect of sitting next to this guy for even one more minute.
Another flight attendant comes up holding a shirt in his hand. “Sir… we have a shirt and shoes policy on this plane. I’m afraid you’ll need to put this shirt back on.”
I’m so annoyed right now. I’m still trying to diffuse this energy safely out into the air, and none of these dimwits have any idea what I’m doing or the level of concentration it requires.
“Or what? In case you haven’t noticed we’re over the ocean. Are you going to kick him off the plane? And isn’t it about time for food? We were promised an in-flight meal. It feels like food time to me. So why don’t you all toddle on back to the area where the food is, do your jobs, and stop worrying about my brother’s fashion choices.”
At this point I’m far more enraged than he is, because energy doesn’t exactly just disappear. It’s not my berserker so it’s not a thing living inside me, but it’s still pretty intense. I’m probably the only person in the world who can claim supernatural energy interference for my current bitchy attitude. Except I can’t because of the secrecy rule. And no one would believe it anyway. It sounds a bit too much like blaming PMS.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes, pushing the remaining dark restless energy out until I’m calm again. Then I go sit with this guy several rows back from mine. I don’t want to sit with this guy. It’s far too risky; too much could happen in the two hours we still have on this flight. But if I separate from him, the berserker could come back. And I can’t risk doing that magic trick twice with this many witnesses. Even the stupidest human would figure out something unusual was going on. Probably.
I can sense he’s young. I don’t mean his human years, I mean the amount of time he’s had the berserker with him. Valkyries are born. Berserkers are made. And I’m not sure how this one was made, but he feels new, like this may be his first full rage. I doubt he has any idea what the hell is happening to him, but as my mother says, “Not your monkeys, not your circus.” And I swear, I’m not making this up, she stitched that saying on a pillow. There was a little monkey on it and everything.
“Umm, can I have the aisle seat, I don’t like to feel trapped,” I say to the man. As huge as he is, him being on the aisle would be even more disconcerting than usual. I’m still upset that my emergency exit is ten rows away from me.
“Sure.” He slides into the seat the other man just vacated and I take his aisle seat.
“I’m Cade,” he says, holding a hand out to me like we’re business partners now.
I stare briefly at his hand, then put my earbuds back in and pretend I’m listening to my audiobook. But even if I could focus, I can’t listen to my audiobook because this is still the sexy part, and I don’t need to be thinking these kinds of thoughts next to the berserker. It’s way too risky. Even just his proximity is… doing things to me. This is probably the most masculine man I’ve encountered in years. Yes, this dimension really is that sad now.
He taps me on the arm and I pull out one earbud. “What?”
“What did you do to me back there? What are you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” This lie sounds dumb even to me, but I’m not about to get into a conversation about our origin stories with so many people so close by. And I don’t want to bond in any way with this guy. Yes, he’s hot, but he’s a berserker and that’s a big no for me. Hard pass. Nope. No, thank you.
The inedible cardboard they call food interrupts us and we eat, then I put the earbuds in, recline my chair the whole two inches I’m allowed, and pretend to sleep. He taps me on the arm a couple more times during the flight, but I don’t break the ruse of my fake slumber.
When we land and are given the all-clear to disembark, I leap out of my new seat, race to my old seat, grab my bag, and get off the plane before most people have even managed to unbuckle their seat belts. They forget it’s not a button you push like a car seat belt. Nobody listens to the safety talk.
I run through the terminal, grateful I didn’t bring any luggage that had to be checked. I’m in Paris for a full glorious six months. I have a host family I’m supposed to be staying with, but they’re on a trip and won’t be back in the country for a few days so I’ve got a hotel booked until then.
I plan to buy whatever I need once I get settled in. I know the air marshals are arresting him, but he’s unlikely to go for that. I don’t know how much death and destruction will take place, but I can’t be near him again. I won’t sacrifice my life and freedom for a bunch of strangers. I don’t care how selfish that sounds, I just won’t do it. I’m not here to save the world from berserkers.
Thirty minutes later I’m locked safely in my hotel room. It’s simple and clean. I order some room service because the plane food was so bad I think my body didn’t even recognize it as food.
I wash my hands and my face and look up into the mirror to find my worst fear manifesting right before my eyes. The berserker marked me.
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