Today for “Feature Friday” let us welcome the awesome Karissa Laurel with her book Midnight Burning the first book in the The Norse Chronicles.
We will have info about the book and author. Plus we have a great excerpt from the book and a guest post by Karissa.
Make sure to check everything out and go and give her some love and add her to your TBR 😉
Happy Reading 🙂
Solina Mundy lives a quiet life, running the family bakery in her small North Carolina hometown. But one night, she suffers a vivid nightmare in which a wolfish beast is devouring her twin brother, who lives in Alaska. The next morning, police notify her that Mani is dead. Driven to learn the truth, Solina heads for the Land of the Midnight Sun. Once there, she begins to suspect Mani’s friends know more about his death than they’ve let on. Skyla, an ex-Marine, is the only one willing to help her.
As Solina and Skyla delve into the mystery surrounding Mani’s death, Solina is stunned to learn that her own life is tied to Mani’s friends, his death, and the fate of the entire world. If she can’t learn to control her newfound gifts and keep her friends safe, a long-lost dominion over mortals will rise again, and everything she knows will fall into darkness.
Get the other books in the series
Moonlight Falling (prequel)
My brother, Mani, once told me Alaska was the first place he had ever travelled where he knew he was somewhere different—somewhere decidedly not home—before he ever set foot on the ground. I didn’t understand what he meant until now. Outside my airplane window, the glassy waters of Cook Inlet reflected a bright blue late-summer sky. Dark and looming, the Chugach Mountains encroached from the east. Far to the north, the ghostly, snow-crusted visage of Mount McKinley rose above the landscape, an ancient king, high on his dais, surveying his kingdom.
By comparison, Mani and I had been raised somewhere a little more commonplace. Home was a small town in the foothills of North Carolina, over three thousand miles away. And this was the first time I had ever left it. I probably should have eased into long-distance travel in the same way I eased into a cold swimming pool—one toe at a time. A trip over the border into Gatlinburg. A weekend visit to D.C. But no, I had taken a plunge from the high dive instead, and boy, was I in over my head.
The captain’s calm and assuring voice spilled across the cabin, announcing our approach and descent into Anchorage. Seatbelt signs chimed and flashed. A pair of flight attendants swept down the aisles, collecting trash and reminding passengers to raise seat backs and lock away tray tables. I closed my eyes, drew in a deep breath, and urged my heart to return to its regular pitter-patter pace, but it refused to obey.
I breathed in again and trapped the breath in my lungs. Chill, Solina, I told myself. It’s only a week. I could survive anything for one week, right? And I wouldn’t be on my own. My brother’s best friend, Val Wotan, was at the airport waiting for me. Val had texted me a dozen times to make sure I hadn’t missed my connecting flights or fallen out of the plane somewhere over Canada. Val was expecting me, and I was a glutton for fulfilling others’ expectations. I also owed this trip to my brother, to the honor of his memory. How could I ever look myself in the eye again if I gave in to my doubts? If I didn’t give Mani my absolute commitment?
Val deserved my loyalty, too. In the few years I’d known him, Val had risen from casual acquaintance to something I wasn’t quite ready to label, but just thinking of him made my heart beat a little faster, my breath come a little quicker. Val had earned my regard by being the sibling I couldn’t be for Mani after he’d left home. He had watched Mani’s back, made him welcome and comfortable in a strange and foreign place. He had even saved my brother’s life once.
I chuckled, remembering how Mani had loved to recount the story of the raging bull moose—deep in a rutting frenzy and crazed by the need to mate with anything female and fight anything that wasn’t. Not long after Mani had first arrived in Alaska, he and Val had gone off on a backpacking trip. They came upon the moose on the edge of a meadow and caught it off guard. The moose turned its hostile gaze on Mani, lowered its rack, and charged. Stunned and uncertain how to react, Mani stood frozen in place and watched his life pass before his eyes. Meanwhile, Val calmly drew a .44 Magnum from the side pocket of his backpack and fired off a warning shot. The moose reconsidered his challenge and lumbered away into the woods.
If only Val and his gun had been there the night my brother died. Then I might be coming to Alaska for an entirely different set of reasons.
After an uneventful landing and a short taxi to our gate, the other passengers filtered out from the rows of seating and disappeared through the exit doors. The cabin emptied, and still I sat. My presence drew the attention of a flight attendant passing through on his way to the back of the jet. His sudden halt and surprised expression woke me from my daze. “Is something wrong, miss?” he asked. “Can I help you with anything?”
I blinked and shook my head. “No. Sorry. I’m just… just…”
He patted my shoulder. “First time flying?”
It was a convenient excuse, and not a lie, so I took it. “Nerves got the best of me, I guess.” I rose and stumbled out of my seat. The attendant helped me collect my luggage from the overhead bin. I smiled and thanked him.
“It’s no trouble,” he said. “And it was my pleasure.”
When Val met me at baggage claim, he swept me into a crushing bear hug, and I sank into the comfort of his strength. “God, Solina,” he said. “It’s so good to see you.”
Val Wotan was a towering mass of rough-and-ready Alaskan adventure. A shaggy mop of auburn hair swept over his brow, and a day-old beard shadowed his jaw. He looked as though he could withstand any challenge the wilds of nature could throw at him. Broad shouldered, workman’s hands, ruggedly capable—he inspired my confidence.
“It’s good to see you, too,” I said. “A lot better than the last time, right?” The last time Val and I had seen each other was at my brother’s funeral, four months ago. Since then Val and I had e-mailed or spoken on the phone weekly. Sometimes more. There were few others with whom we could share our common pain.
Val leaned back and peered at me. “We were all in a bad place then.”
“To say the least.”
The sympathetic look on Val’s face stirred up my grief.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I miss him, too.”
I swallowed my tears and swatted Val’s shoulder. “Don’t get me weepy in the middle of the airport.”
“Look around, Solina.” Val gestured around the airport. “Everyone gets emotional at a homecoming.”
“This isn’t home.”
“They don’t have to know that.” A smile crept onto my lips. In return, Val rewarded me with a blazing bright one of his own, and it warmed my heart. The brotherhood Val bestowed on Mani had passed to me, like an inheritance. He told me when I started planning this trip that he’d be there for me in any way I needed. Before my brother’s death, I would have known exactly what to do with that offer, but now? Now my heart was bruised, raw, and full of grief. I didn’t know if there was room in it for anything, or anyone, else. It was so damaged and fragile. How could I risk causing it more harm?
Someone cleared his throat nearby, and Val released me from the hug. He motioned to a man standing a few feet away, watching us with eyes narrowed and arms folded over his chest in an austere stance. “Solina, let me introduce you to Aleksander Thorin. Mani’s boss… and mine.” Val grimaced at that last bit.
Modern-day Viking—that was my first impression of the man who had employed my brother for the past three years. Aleksander Thorin embodied the stereotype: icy blond coloring, an imposing physique, a subtle air of menace and threat. All he needed was a couple of braids woven through his long hair and a bearskin cloak instead of his blue flannel button-up. His dark eyes evaluated and dismissed me in one blink. Not much of a welcoming party, is he?
“My Jeep is in the shop,” Val said. “Thorin offered to give us a lift.”
I nodded by way of greeting. “I didn’t mean to impose, Mr. Thorin.”
“It’s no trouble, Miss Mundy,” he said in a deep and rumbling voice. “Although I’m not convinced your coming here was the best idea. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s only going to stir up trouble.”
His unsolicited opinion raised my hackles. What did this man, this stranger, presume to know about me or my situation? “I came here to close out Mani’s affairs. See to his personal things. My parents and I have put this off long enough.”
“Thorin,” Val said, stepping between us. “Don’t give her a hard time. She’s not one of your tour guides.”
“Of course.” Thorin relaxed his severe posture, unfolded his arms, and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I apologize, Miss Mundy. Let me make it up to you. Dinner and drinks—my treat.”
Before I could misunderstand Thorin’s intentions, Val explained. “Boss Man’s hosting a get-together tonight. He does it every once in a while. Employee appreciation, you know?”
Part of me wanted to refuse because I suspected Aleksander Thorin rarely heard the word “no” and I liked the idea of ruffling his cool demeanor. But doing so might have denied me the chance to meet my brother’s friends and co-workers, and that was one of my many reasons for making this trip. I curved my lips into what I hoped was an agreeable smile. “Sure. Sounds great.”
My brother had lived in the harborside village of Siqiniq, a good two hours’ drive from Anchorage along a highway that wound among evergreen forests, snowcapped mountains, and the gray-green waters of Turnagain Arm, Kenai Lake, and Resurrection Bay. Aleksander Thorin drove with single-minded focus and only spoke if directly addressed, but Val talked about inane things along the way and pointed out local attractions: a forlorn and solitary roadside moose, the Alaska Railroad (but no train), and Beluga Point (sadly lacking signs of habitation).
Once we reached Mani’s apartment complex, Thorin eased his Range Rover into a space beside my brother’s old 4-Runner. He shifted into neutral but stayed behind the wheel, letting his SUV idle while Val helped me unload and tote my bags up to my brother’s apartment.
Someone had shoved Mani’s things into haphazard piles when they painted and installed new carpet in his living room. The reek of fresh latex and acrylic burned my nose and obliterated any scent of my brother that might have lingered.
“You okay here by yourself?” Val asked. “You’re probably going to run into a few ghosts.”
I inhaled a shallow breath. “I’ll be okay. It’ll be nice to be in Mani’s place with his stuff. It’ll feel like he’s around somewhere, waiting to come home.”
Val arched an eyebrow. “And you honestly think you can clean out his apartment, box up his stuff, and move on?”
“It’ll be cathartic.”
He frowned. “Or masochistic.”
Val pulled out his wallet and rifled through the contents until he found a business card for Thorin Adventure Outfitters. He handed it to me. “I’m going to the store with Thorin. That card has the number on it. Call me there around seven, and I’ll come pick you up for the party. My Jeep should be out of the shop by then.”
The card displayed Val’s name in tiny print beneath the larger, bolder letters that spelled out M. Aleksander Thorin, CEO. “Chief Ego Officer,” I muttered.
I waved in a never-mind gesture. “I’ll see you later.”
“Tonight,” Val said as he stepped past me into the breezeway.
I pressed the door closed behind him and went into Mani’s bedroom. In his closet I found his dirty clothes stuffed into a bulging hamper. After gathering a bundle of denim and cotton in my arms, I buried my face in the fabric. The organic odors of Mani’s skin filled my nose. Still breathing him in, I sank cross-legged to the floor and let the shade of my brother envelop me in its memories.
Midnight Burning: Character Interview
Name: Solina Mundy
Occupation: I’ve worked at my family’s bakery for most of my life. Wedding cakes, cookie bouquets, pastries, bread, muffins. You name it, I’ve baked it.
Physical Description: About 5’5” with longish-blond hair. Slim but not scrawny. Golden brown eyes, or, as my dad would say, whiskey colored.
Likes & Dislikes:
Likes: Books and reading. I took photography in high school, but never had much time to pursue it. Being outside as much as possible, especially on hot, sunny days. The beach.
Dislikes: Being bossed around. Dishonesty. Lies. Wolves. Cold, ice, snow, darkness.
Relationship Status: Single and satisfied. There’s no way I’m letting romance get in the way of finding my brother’s killer. Although, there does seem to be a sudden abundance of very good looking men in my life, lately, and they seem to be trying their best to distract me.
Typical Friday Night: Nothing about my life is typical anymore. When I was home in North Carolina, I might go out with friends to see a movie or stay home and read a book. I rarely stayed up late because it was my job to open the bakery in the morning and that meant getting up at the crack of dawn. Now I can hardly keep track of the days, but I’m almost always doing something that involves looking for my brother’s killer or learning to defend myself against supernatural threats.
Drink of Choice: If they put Diet Coke in an I.V. bag, I’d consume it intravenously.
Favorite Food: Pretty much anything I didn’t have to cook for myself, but I especially love Chinese food and pizza.
Favorite Song: When I was little, my dad would put on his old Bill Withers’s record and dance me around the living room to “Ain’t no Sunshine.” I’ve had a special place in my heart for that song ever since. Who knew Bill Withers was a prophet and that we all should have been taking that song a lot more literally.
Choice of Transportation: I drove an old Honda Civic back home in North Carolina, but since I’ve been in Alaska, I’ve been getting around in my brother’s ancient Toyota 4Runner.
Best Memory to Date: I have a picture of me and my brother standing together in the surf at Kure Beach when we were little kids. It was one of the best days of my life—the sun was out, the weather was perfect, we swam and built sandcastles and fished. That night we set off fire crackers and ate so many steamed shrimp my stomach ached. Any time grief starts to overwhelm me, I think of that trip and my brother and how much fun we had, and I always feel better.
Words to live by: “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” ~ Gloria Steinem ~
Karissa lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Some of her favorite things are coffee, chocolate, and super heroes. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. She loves to read and has a sweet tooth for fantasy, sci-fi, and anything in between. Sometimes her husband convinces her to put down the books and take the motorcycles out for a spin. When it snows, you’ll find her on the slopes.