Slade Saeter watched his mate, Magnus Tate, size up the frail woman before them, and had to hide his satisfied smile against Magnus’s chest. He’d waited centuries for this moment.

 

From the look on Magnus’s face, Slade was going to have more than he’d ever dreamed was possible.

 

It still shocked him that the stunning redhead with the glittering green eyes and broad shoulders was his. Slade had given up hope of ever being able to claim Magni, now known as Magnus. Slade had been hiding in his horse form for so long, trying to avoid detection from Odin, that the dream of claiming Magni had become just that, a wish that could never be fulfilled. And the dream of Sif, of her long golden hair and flashing blue eyes, had been so far beyond his reach as to be ridiculous.

 

To claim either of them would have meant an end to all their lives. Odin would have gone into a fury at being deceived. He would have destroyed everything Slade yearned for before he could have more than a taste of it. It was something Slade still feared, still had nightmares about that woke him shaking and sweating in the dark. So he’d waited, and he’d watched, and he’d used every ounce of his strength to silently protect the people he cared for most in the world. He’d taken everything Odin could throw at him and remained the loyal beast as he waited for the signs of Ragnarrok. He’d only acted when he’d been certain it was time, but he’d been terrified that he’d be caught, unable to get away, forced to share Odin’s fate in the final hour.

 

He’d done it anyway.

 

It was turning out to have been worth all the pain Odin had inflicted on him.

 

As Sleipnir he’d been thought of as nothing more than an animal, the favored steed of the leader of the gods. He’d died a little each day until he’d thought nothing was left. He’d watched Magnus take lovers one after another, and had his heart broken right along with Sif’s when Thor cheated on her. Both of them deserved so much more than what they’d gotten, and he’d desperately wished to be the one to take them and make them his own. He would cherish every ounce of affection they chose to give him. And he would fight to the death to protect them.

 

Once he’d revealed that he was just like his siblings Hel, Jörmungandr and Fenris, he’d finally been able to begin claiming one of his mates, Magnus. He’d even chosen a mortal name that honored his father, Logan: Slade Saeter.

 

His father had come to rescue him when Slade needed him most, proving to Slade that he was cared for, even if he hadn’t been aware of it. Logan, once known as Loki, was beyond thrilled that Sleipnir was in his home. He hovered over Slade, making sure he was warm enough and had anything he could possibly want. The only people who got that much attention from his father were Logan’s mates, Jordan and Kir.

 

It hadn’t surprised Slade to find that his father had finally mated Kir, once known as the god Baldur, and taken off with him. Loki had always longed for the younger, pretty god. Sleipnir could smell his desire every time Baldur was in the same room with him, but not even Loki had the balls to try and get Baldur to cheat on his wife, Nanna. Baldur had adored his deceased spouse, and only the worst of circumstances had separated them.

 

But when Odin tried to kill Baldur, things had changed dramatically. Loki had taken Baldur’s place, tricking the others into believing Baldur was dead. Instead, Baldur had freed Loki from the chains he’d been placed in when Loki was blamed for Baldur’s death. The two had run, Loki proving his devotion to Baldur over the years until Baldur could no longer live without the fiery jotun. When Jordan had joined them, their lives were complete.

 

Slade wanted that. He wanted the same thing his father had with his two mates. Logan, Kir and Jordan were inseparable, and utterly devoted to one another. Jordan carried the fruit of their love, their children growing inside her. One was of Logan, meaning Slade would soon have a tiny brother or sister to love. The other was of Kir, the new king of the gods, the man Logan had nearly given his life for. Slade would love that child like a sibling as well, for as far as he was concerned it would be.

 

He wanted to watch his woman swell with their children, children with Magnus’s fiery red hair and Slade’s dark eyes. Or maybe their mate’s golden locks and Magni’s pretty green eyes.

 

Magnus stood with him, holding him in his arms with all the care and tenderness Slade could ever want or desire. And still it was not enough. He wanted it all. He wanted Sif, who’d chosen the mortal name Sylvia Grimm. She stood before them with trembling lips and hope in her gaze. They needed their third, the one who would make them complete. And Slade needed his father to accept that she’d now be a part of their lives, whether Logan liked it or not. Slade hoped that Magnus would be open to what he was going to suggest.

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

Or maybe not. Magnus sounded far sterner than he ever did when speaking with Slade.

 

Sylvia bit her lip, looking so uncertain, so fragile.

 

Slade whimpered, hiding his face against Magnus’s chest as the pain of what Odin had done to all of them slashed through him. He was still hurting, still healing from the horrors Odin had inflicted on him. Only Magnus knew the true extent of what Odin had done to him, over and over, before Magnus had rescued him. He’d been there in the night, holding Slade, weeping along with him when the terror became too much for Slade to bear. Odin had murdered Thor, taken the god from his children. And poor Sylvia had been under his thumb longer than any of them, forced to watch as the Aesir crumbled under the weight of prophecy.

He wanted his mates to stand by his side, to help one another rather than fight each other. He just wasn’t certain how to accomplish that.

 

“I…” Sylvia’s voice was uncertain.

 

Slade felt sorry for her. She’d been constantly pushed aside, by Thor, by Odin, and now by Frederica, who used her whenever it was convenient and forgot her otherwise. Sylvia had once been a formidable goddess. To see her reduced to a woman with a quivering lip, lost and begging, broke his heart.

 

“You?” Kir and Logan stepped in front of Magnus, more than likely preparing to protect Slade. What they thought Sylvia would do to him, Slade didn’t know. She’d been fierce and brave when she’d been with Thor, but even she wouldn’t dream of challenging Baldur, or Kir as he was now known. With the God of Spring holding the Godspear, Gungnir, he should now be the undisputed king of the gods. It was the symbol of his office, showing that the mantle had officially passed from Odin to his son. Odin had shit purple kittens when he’d lost Gungnir to Baldur. It was one of the happiest days of Slade’s life.

 

“I want to join with you.” Sif…No, Sylvia’s tone was firm. Slade was still getting used to the mortal names of the Aesir. He’d been in Valhalla for so long he’d only heard the mortal names in passing.

 

Slade risked a peek at Sylvia. She had squared her shoulders, her expression determined, ready to do battle and win her verbal war. Sylvia needed them, and Slade and Magnus needed her. He just had to convince everyone to see things his way. Everything was within his grasp, and while he loved his father all the more for trying to save him, this time Slade didn’t want to be saved.

 

Logan edged a little in front of Kir. “How do we know you’re not a spy? Frigg could have sent you here to sabotage us.”

 

Sylvia shook her head, her expression sad. “I wanted to join you that day at Fred’s house, when you found Mjolnir, but I wasn’t certain I would be welcome.” She glanced at Logan, pushing her golden hair behind her ear. “Sydney wants to come too.”

 

He could only imagine Logan’s expression. His ex-wife would be an uncomfortable addition to their little family, especially since she still yearned for Logan with all her immortal heart. Whereas Sylvia had accepted Thor’s desire to be with the woman he loved, Sydney had never seemed to give up hope that one day Logan would return to her.

 

Logan shook his head. “Jordan won’t—”

 

Sylvia held up her hands in a pleading gesture that nearly broke Slade’s heart. “Please? She’s over you, I swear it. She wants the best for you and you have that. She…we just want to be free of Frigg.”

 

Slade understood. Neither was strong enough to withstand a woman who’d once been the queen of the gods. “But you can’t, not without someone strong to protect you.” He tried to hide his wince. It still hurt to talk sometimes, and he doubted his voice would ever lose the painful rasp. It was Odin’s last gift to him, one he wished he could give back in spades.

 

Magnus looked stunned at Slade’s words. “You think we should allow it.”

 

Slade looked up at him and went on tiptoe to whisper in his ear. “She’s ours.”

 

Magnus reared back and stared down at him with a mixture of hope, fear and longing on his face. “Are you sure?”

 

“As sure as I am that you’re mine.” Slade patted Magnus’s chest. Oh, muscles. Yum. “She needs us.”

 

Magnus studied him for a moment, ecstatic hope flaring across his face, before nodding. “All right.”

 

“All right? Are you insane?” Logan scowled at Magnus. “You really want her around my injured son?”

 

Kir watched Sylvia with something approaching disapproval. “You’ll need to prove yourself before we’ll allow you to join us. Either of you.”

 

Sylvia shivered, but stood her ground. She straightened her slim shoulders, the fragility now more like dignity and pride. “I can do that.”

 

Kir studied her for a few moments, then glanced over at Logan. When Logan grimaced, Kir smiled and turned back toward Sylvia.

 

Slade held his breath. Whatever Kir said now would determine whether or not Slade got his wish.

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Dana Marie Bell.

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