It’s that time… Black Friday is here and we’re discussing the season with Nicki J. Markus’s Cassandra and Sarah. If A God Who Has Everything? gets your interest, make sure you check out The Ragnarök Chronicles.
For Ragnarök will be completed….
Nothing marks Cassandra out—except her visions. She’d only ever seen small, insignificant things. That is until the strange frost arrives.
With her normal life turned upside down, Cassandra is plunged into an extraordinary and terrifying world of Norse gods and rampaging giants, ancient feuds and broken prophecies.
A handsome stranger offers aid. But can Cassandra really trust him? More importantly, can she trust her own judgement when his slightest touch sets her heart and her body aflame?
A God Who Has Everything?
“I mean it, Cass. Last year you’d finished your Christmas shopping at the end of August. Every year you tell me over and over why I should get in early and avoid all this madness.” Sarah tried to make an expansive gesture, but the mass of bodies pressed around them limited the action.
Cassandra strained her neck to take in the view, which was the same in all directions. She and Sarah were in the midst of a shopping orgy. She knew the shops got busy on Christmas Eve, but having always avoided going anywhere near them at that time of year, she had not realised how bad it truly was. Did everyone wait until the day before Christmas to do their gift shopping? How was it a pleasant experience to be pushed and shoved, everyone reaching for that last item on the shelf? It was more brutal than battle with an eldjötunn, and yet Sarah seemed unconcerned by the mayhem.
“How do you do this every year?”
“It’s a mindset, Cass. So, tell me, why are you here with me anyway? You usually go out of your way to avoid crowds, and I know you already sorted all your gifts.”
“Not quite.” Cassandra had to force her way through a particularly dense throng to keep up with Sarah, who surged ahead as if the way were clear. “I still need something for Loki.”
Sarah halted, oblivious to the grumbles from those whose path she blocked. “Seriously? Does he even celebrate Christmas? Doesn’t accepting another religion’s festivities go against his godly dignity?”
Cassandra glanced left and right, anxious about what bystanders were making of their conversation. She need not have worried. No one paid them the slightest attention, all expressions focused and surly as people made their way around them. She could probably shout, “Fire!” and no one would budge or relinquish their full-to-the-brim baskets.
“We’ve not discussed it, but my family are hardly the church-going type, and he’s going to spend the day with us, so it would look weird if I didn’t have anything to give him at present time.”
“Hmm. That’s true. I’m sure your parents are confused enough about him as it is. You do realise one thing: he’ll either need the biggest and best present or the greatest number of them. You don’t want him going into one of his wounded-ego sulks. He’s such an attention-seeker.”
Although it was true, Cassandra found herself bristling on Loki’s behalf. “He’ll grow out of it. This is still very new to him.”
Sarah did not look convinced, but she let the matter drop. “So what are you getting him?”
“I can’t make up my mind and—”
“And now you’re out of time. I get it. Novelty Christmas socks?”
Cassandra pulled a face in response to Sarah’s grin. “I can’t give him Christmas socks; I’d never hear the end of it. What do you think he’d like. Really.”
Sarah flung up her hands. “Hey, you know him better than I ever will, or want to. He does have that thing about oxen.”
“I don’t think we’ll find a bovine section in this department store. Besides, we already drew a line firmly under anything of that sort. It’s not as if he actually needs it anymore.”
Cassandra shook her head and peered about. All imaginable gifts packed the shelves—when she could glimpse them through the crowds—but nothing seemed suitable. This was a nightmare. What were you supposed to buy a Norse god for Christmas? It wasn’t one of the options in the dropdown boxes on gift idea generators. She had hoped seeing everything laid out would provide a sudden burst of inspiration, but so far she continued to draw a blank.
They continued walking, or rather shuffling, until Sarah made a sudden dash for one of the displays.
“Ooh, what about one of these?”
Cassandra took the proffered item, only to immediately throw it back on the shelf. “Sarah, I’m not giving him blank cheques for sexual favours.”
“They aren’t all sexual, some are merely romantic.” Sarah shrugged. “Seemed right up his alley to me. Well, don’t say I didn’t try to help.”
Tears sprang unbidden and unexpected in the corners of Cassandra’s eyes. It was all too much—the noise, the crowds, her empty basket. The atmosphere closed in on her; she felt stifled. There were too many people and far too many options. She’s wanted Loki’s first Christmas to be perfect and memorable, but it was hopeless.
“Whoa, Cass.” Sarah flung her arm around Cassandra’s shoulder and pulled her into a hug. “I’m sorry. We’ll find something. I know; why don’t you bake?”
“You make those great pebber nodder. They’re culturally compatible, being Nordic. Make a special batch just for Loki. We can find a nice tin or something for them here and then swing by the supermarket on the way home to stock up on ingredients.”
“Sarah, you’re a genius.”
Biscuits wouldn’t be the most magnificent gift ever, nor were they something to keep and treasure as she’d initially planned, but Cassandra thought Loki would appreciate the gesture. The pressure weighing down on her diminished, and even the hustle and bustle wasn’t as oppressive as it had been a moment ago.
“It has been said from time to time. Bake them at my place before you go home, to keep it a surprise. Otherwise he’ll eat them the second they come out of the oven and you’ll be back at square one.”
Sarah made the last of her purchases, Cassandra found a suitably festive container, and then they joined the long queue to pay. They left the store twenty minutes later, Cassandra’s mood considerably lightened, and headed for the Tube station. Behind them, an alarm sounded, but when they turned, they saw the security guards standing in the street, looking about them, clearly confused, no fleeing thief in sight.
“It really is a lot harder to shop these days.”
The voice sounded close to Cassandra’s ear. She jumped and Sarah squeaked, nearly dropping her armful of bulging bags. Loki gave them both a withering look.
“Where did you come from? What are you doing here?” Cassandra felt heat rising in her cheeks. It was a normal reaction to Loki’s presence, particularly when he appeared unexpectedly like this, so she did her best to ignore it. She wondered if she’s ever be able to set eyes on him without that rush of love and lust, but then again, she wouldn’t want to lose it either.
“Is that all the greeting I am to expect? It is hardly very welcoming. But to answer your questions, I came from home—I was bored out of my mind waiting there for you—and I am doing what anyone does at the shops: shopping.”
Cassandra was not unfamiliar with Loki’s ideas about shopping, and she thought back to the alarm. “Please tell me you didn’t take something without paying again.”
“You failed to provide me with any money and there was nothing in your sock drawer. How else am I to get what I need?”
Cassandra tried to remain calm. She reminded herself that Loki was still learning. She couldn’t expect him to grasp all of modern society’s rules at once, and she knew that, beneath the bluster and jokes, he was trying.
“You do remember our talk about right and wrong?”
Loki pouted beautifully. “But it is for a special occasion. I understand it is usual to exchange gifts tomorrow. Mutual offerings.”
“Well then. I will see you at home later.”
With that, Loki offered a lewd wink and disappeared into the crowds, leaving Cassandra to ponder how she could reimburse the store for whatever he had taken without drawing undue attention, considering the fact that sourcing official identity papers for him was still a work in progress.
The next day Cassandra and Loki exchanged gifts. Loki gobbled down all the pebber nodder in ten minutes flat, earning bemused looks from Cassandra’s parents. Meanwhile, Cassandra accepted her adult chequebook with good grace; although, she wondered how long Loki had trailed them around the shops. Even without his powers, he needed constant supervision. Still, at least the shopping venture had ended well enough. It was proving to be an enjoyable festive season and she intended to introduce Loki to New Year’s resolutions next. The first on his list: I shall no longer shoplift.
Meet Nicki J. Markus!
Nicki J. Markus was born in England but now lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She has loved both reading and writing from a young age and is also a keen linguist, having studied several foreign languages.
Nicki launched her writing career in 2011 and divides her efforts between MM (writing as Asta Idonea) and mainstream works (writing as Nicki J. Markus). Her stories span the genres, from paranormal to historical and from contemporary to fantasy. It just depends what story and which characters spring into her mind!
As a day job, Nicki works as a freelance editor and proofreader, and in her spare time she enjoys music, theatre, cinema, photography, and sketching. She also loves history, folklore and mythology, pen-palling, and travel; all of which have provided plenty of inspiration for her writing.
Please help spread the word: Tweet: Celebrate the chaos of #BlackFriday with holiday stories & contests by 20+ authors. Missed one? Here they all are: http://www.literaryescapism.com/49224/blackfriday-2016-master-list