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Fates Illuminated by Aimee Vance Call of the Norns Book 1

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Fates Illuminated by Aimee Vance Call of the Norns Book 1 Read Online And Epub File Download


Overview: "If saving you brought me here, then I am glad fate stepped in, guiding me to you..."

The dawn of Shelbie’s 31st birthday found her melancholy, adrift in a world where she felt bound to be always a side character, never the star of her own story.

All of that changed when she spontaneously booked a trip to Sweden with an itinerary full of hiking and horseback riding - two things that weren’t exactly in her comfort zone.

She expected to see the Northern Lights, nurse sore muscles, and, heaven forbid, pee in the woods. Those things she had time to prepare for, even if none of her preparations went as she had planned.

What she didn’t expect, though, was for her Fate to be tied to a much larger story, one that had unfolded long ago, and would immerse her in a world of people and things she’d only ever read about in novels.


Fates Illuminated by Aimee Vance Call of the Norns Book 1 Read Online And Epub File Download More Ebooks Every Category For Go Ebooks Libaray Online Website.



Fates Illuminated by Aimee Vance Call of the Norns Book 1 Read Online Chapter One


Usually, the sound of the birthday song filled me with joy. Each repeated verse forced my smile a little wider, ending in a finale of happiness gushing from head to toe. After all, I was the self-proclaimed queen of birthdays.


Any excuse to throw a party, you could count me in. In college, this was a handy skill to have. No one could pull together a theme party quite as I could, and I wasn’t talking about your run-of-the-mill luau or Athletes and Mathletes. I could pull together that too, of course, but I liked to be different, original, one of a kind.


The usefulness of this skill set followed me into adulthood. But now, I was cornered by my young nieces at holiday gatherings to brainstorm very elaborately themed parties months prior to their actual birthdays. Themes were now based on cartoon characters, movies, animals—you name it, I’d done it. 


I was the master of balloon arches, a crepe paper whiz, and the inventor of new and ridiculous party games for kids. It was my own brand of magic, weaving together a party sure to leave everyone in the room smiling.


I still loved parties, but the high of seeing everyone around me happy and enjoying themselves wasn’t the same anymore.


Today, the birthday song was for me. I glanced around my best friend’s adorable suburban kitchen at the banner, the kid-decorated cake, and the giant number “31” balloons. Combine that with three of my favorite people in the entire world — my best friend Sabrina and her two little daughters, Annie and Jasmine — were singing their hearts out at max volume, and this easily should have been my favorite day of the year. 


I forced a broad smile, as that was what they expected, and finished the song with them, harmonizing the end the way my mother always did growing up. Leaning forward, I exaggeratedly blew out the obscene number of candles covering every square inch of available space on the top of the cake.


“I put all 31 candles on, Aunt Shelbie!” Annie squealed in delight, clapping. That much was evident from the flames licking off the cake, ready to take off an eyebrow or two.


“No lo toques!” Sabrina cried, too late, as Jasmine ripped a large chunk from the side of the cake. “I’m so sorry. We had her hearing checked and everything. It turns out she is truly a terrible listener and doesn’t give two shits about anything we say,” she said in an exasperated sigh.


Now covered in icing, Jasmine climbed into my lap and shoved her toddler fingers in my mouth. I chuckled, leaned into her poufy black pigtails, and kissed her head. It was impossible to resist loving on this cute little hellion my best friend was raising. 


“That’s okay,” I replied, licking Jasmine’s sticky brown fingers now covered in white icing. Her giggle floated through the room, warming me from head to toe. “Annie, did you decorate this for me?”


“Yes!” she cried excitedly. “Do you love the sprinkles?”


“I sure do. Especially the way you put them on only the left side.” I tried not to laugh while I eyed Sabrina. I knew how much it must have driven my perfectionist best friend nuts not to fix it. “Thank you for my wonderful party, girls. I feel so loved!”


Sabrina handed me a slice of funfetti cake, arguably the best flavor, and gave me a side hug. She rounded the table to sit with her little girls. “This is going to be your year, Shelbie. I can feel it.”


 

* * *


After I helped Sabrina get her girls in the tub and ready for bed, I grabbed my bag to head home.


“I love you. You know that, right?” Sabrina said as she walked me to the door.


“I sure do.” I leaned in and kissed her cheek. “That cake was something. I can’t believe you didn’t fix it. You’ve loosened up a little, it seems.”


She punched my shoulder, and I mock-rubbed the sore from my arm. “Did you hear Annie give me the blow-by-blow of each part of the box-mix funfetti cake? She was ready to present her show stopper to the judges.” 


Sabrina laughed, shaking her head as her silky brown hair swayed with the motion. “She does that with everything now. That kid took it a bit too literal when she was named after you. Shelbie Ann. You’d think I would have been more prepared for her extra behavior and the massive mop of curls.” At that, I got one of her signature eye-rolls. I earned many of those from her over the years with my ‘extra’ behavior.  


Annie’s hair, though, that was all André. I refused to be blamed for that. Any genetic traits that Sabrina had brought to the table with her shiny, straight brown hair had been overridden completely. Both of her girls had pretty black textured hair, like their dad, and it had been an uphill battle for Sabrina to learn to deal with it. Curl care was no joke.


I laughed as I hugged her again. “How did I get so lucky to land you sixteen years ago?”


“If I remember correctly, you decided we’d be friends and then wouldn’t stop talking until I answered,” she reminded me with a sarcastic tone. The memory caused her to bubble out a laugh, no matter how much she tried to stay serious. 


She was right, though. I happened to love introverts. Once you put in the time to make them comfortable, they made the best, most loyal companions.


“I’m the greatest thing that happened to you other than André and those two little girls, whether you admit it or not. I knew I was just what you needed before you could even see it.”


“That I can’t argue with. You’re the over-the-top extroverted yin to my ‘leave me alone’ yang.” She nudged my shoulder, and I leaned in for another hug. I loved this woman fiercely. “Drive safe, okay? Give Thor some extra pets for me tonight.”


Even though we lived only a thirty-minute drive apart, I always hated leaving Sabrina. She was the best friend that every girl dreamed they’d have one day — the balance in my life. 


This late in the day, her usually perfect bob haircut was a little messy. Even still, it showcased the face lit with a now tired smile after a long day spent with her kids. 


We were the opposite in every way physically. She had a petite frame that I towered at just under six feet, and I had the bone structure to match. Her deep tan tone and chocolate eyes sharply contrasted my pale, freckly skin and ice-blue gaze.


But really, I always felt like her sleek brown hair, compared to my frizzy, wild mane of golden curls, was the perfect depiction of our personalities; organized and orderly, practically perfect in every way, versus… me? Not so much. More like Hot Mess Express. 


I waved as I headed down the front path to my Jeep parked on the street and hopped in. Who knew that the quiet, new girl I met on the first day of ninth grade would change my life for good? Sabrina was always supportive and wanted me to be happy. At the same time, she wasn’t afraid to tell me her honest opinions on the many questionable decisions I’d made in my twenties, particularly in my choice of men. 


I turned over the ignition and waited for the air conditioner to kick in. It was late, but the heat of the day still permeated the inside of the car. As I was buckling my seatbelt, my phone rang.


“Hi, Mom,” I answered.


“Happy birthday, Bee!” she proclaimed in her high-pitched voice. “Hang on; your dad is here too. STEVE!! DID YOU FIND MY GLASSES? I CAN’T SEE MY PHONE!”


“Honey, you’re talking on the phone, not FaceTiming her. There’s nothing to see, Janet,” my dad said in the background. I had heard this same conversation so many times in my life. My parents were more than a little technologically challenged. 


“Thanks, guys,” I said, shaking my head with a smile at their side conversation. “I’m leaving Sabrina’s house from a little birthday party the girls threw me and headed home. I can FaceTime you after I take Thor out, though.”


“Oh, that’s okay,” Mom answered. “We just wanted to make sure your day was as wonderful as you are, sugar. Dad and I always love to reminisce on the day you were born. My perfect, plump little girl. Nothing like your brother who came out with a big cone head, right, Steve? As a first-time mom, I felt so bad that I didn’t think my baby was the cutest one I’d ever seen, but man, Jacob was funky. You, though, darling, were my angel baby.”


I listened to her ramble the way she did every year on my birthday. I smiled as she went on about how my big, macho football player dad had adored Steel Magnolias, hence my name Shelbie. But since “Smith” was such a boring name, she had to spice it up with the “ie” on the end. That was my mom’s definition of spicy. 


She always told me how much she’d dreamt of having a girl and the years she’d spent trying, to which I could only cringe. My parents trying was not an image I needed in my head.


“It’s dark, so I think I’m going to hang up and concentrate on driving home,” I interrupted her monologue, which is what this always turned into. “I love you both. Thanks for calling!”


“Make sure you check your oil levels in your car, honey,” Dad added before I disconnected. He was always looking out for me in whatever way he could. 


How fortunate was I to have such loving friends and family around me? Deep in my bones, I knew that I had so much in my life. And yet, today, of all days, I couldn’t escape this empty, sinking feeling.


Today, I was 31. Not even 30 anymore. I was now in my 30s. For some reason, that fact hit me differently. 


At this point in my life, most of my friends were either living the suburban dream with kids and a husband or on some big career path with their plans laid out before them. Me? I was just getting by. 


The highlight of my days was my dog, Thor. Not that there’s anything wrong with being obsessed with your dog, but even I could recognize his and my bond was borderline overboard. What could I say, though? I was a sucker for the big dude.


My car rolled to a stop at a red light, and I leaned my elbow on the window’s edge, resting my head in my hand as my thoughts swirled. I wasn’t depressed, but I didn’t have much I was looking forward to in my life, either.


A tap on my car window had me jumping to attention. I spun to see a young woman panhandling at the light. Immediately, my heart hurt to see someone so young, with so much life ahead of her, already in this position. She had a folding chair set up in the median with a suitcase of her belongings and a cardboard sign propped next to it. I turned, grabbed my purse off the passenger’s seat, and pulled out what cash I had.


As I rolled down my window, I smiled genuinely at her, hoping that kindness emanated through my eyes and my gesture as I handed the money across.


“Oh, bless you,” the young, blonde woman proclaimed as she leaned towards my car. She was wearing an oversized dress hanging from her tall frame, and her long hair hung loose down her back. I couldn’t help but notice that she’d be stunning with a shower and clean clothes, standing tall and straight.


“Of course!” My heart warmed, happy I could be of help. I was rolling up my window when she spoke again.


“Much change is coming your way if only you open yourself to it, Shelbie. So many have been waiting for you, Promised.”


My head whipped up as my eyes expanded in shock. How did this woman know my name? Did I know her? I didn’t think so.


And what the hell was a Promised? The way she had used it, it sounded like a title. The word sent a jolt of electricity through my body, spine straightening. I leaned back in my seat and took a second look at her. 


She had changed. The dirty, homeless woman of before was no more. Instead, I saw exquisite, clean, long platinum hair curled in waves. Her clear, white-grey eyes blended into her pale, almost glowing skin.


A horn honked at me, jostling me out of the odd moment as I stepped on the gas and drove through the light. I glanced in my rearview mirror as I searched for an explanation for whatever had just happened. 


But she wasn’t there. The woman was gone, her bags and sign nowhere to be seen. Goosebumps broke out over my arms as I drove the rest of the way home. I cranked my music up, blasting 90’s grunge rock to distract myself from the odd encounter.


I parked my car at my apartment, waving at my neighbor Sandra as she walked her tiny Pomeranian before bed. These apartments were fine, but nothing special. Three stories rose above me, with a long hallway and stairs running between the units. I was on the first floor, which I preferred with Thor.


I would have loved to own a house like Sabrina’s that I could make my own, but that seemed pretty far-off in today’s real estate market. Especially on one income. 


As I walked down the hallway, I could already hear the thundering bark coming from my apartment. 


“Thor, I’m right here!” I announced, putting my key in the lock as I talked through the door. “I see you’ve decided that a bark collar is useless, huh? I’ll have to apologize to the neighbors again, I guess. I hope you haven’t been doing this all day at every passing squirrel and falling leaf.” His bark turned to a growl at my comment, and I chuckled. “I’m coming, bud. Ready for your walk?”


I turned the knob and was greeted by his hulking frame pushing through the door, ready to cover me in furry kisses. 


Thor was huge. He was some kind of mutt, but he was entirely too large to be just a black lab like the rescue shelter had advertised when I brought home a puppy eight years ago. His hair was long and fluffy, silky like a black fox pelt along his shoulder blades, and his tail curled slightly up at the back. 


I grabbed his leash off the wall, and he shoved past me once I had it clipped onto his collar. We headed down the hall, across the parking lot, and around the apartment complex to a walking trail nearby.


It was mostly empty this time of evening, which was excellent considering Thor loved to growl at other passing dogs for no reason. He’d never actually done anything other than growl. Even still, combining his deep rumble with his hulking size, I’d received more than a few complaints from the property management company. 


I didn’t care, though. This apartment was short-term, and Thor was a lifer. This pup was made for me, and I adored him, surly personality and all.


July in Denver meant that I could still feel the heat radiating off the concrete, even this late in the evening. Thor, of course, managed to find the one puddle left from yesterday’s summer storm to run in, drenching his paws. 


The fact that he could still maintain his scowl while splashing in a puddle like a toddler had me laughing at the sight. I let him play for a minute, wandering around the trail and sniffing everything.


“Come on, boy.” I tugged on his leash after a while, leading him home. “I’m hot, and I want a glass of wine for my birthday. Let’s go inside.”


Fortunately, he turned to follow me. I wasn’t sure I had the arm strength to force him to do anything. We headed inside, and Thor walked over to his bed in the corner of my living room.  I was glad I had the foresight not to let him on the furniture. The tiny couch in my little apartment would certainly not be big enough for us both. 


My apartment was small enough as it was — tiny living room, tinier kitchen. My queen-sized bed hardly fit through the bedroom door, the space just big enough to squeeze it in with a dog bed next to it.


I’d been living here for two years but hadn’t done much to the space. A few pictures hung on the walls of Sabrina and my family, but nothing of any true meaning to me. 


I had told myself this was a temporary stop until I figured out where I might like to be long-term. But two years had gone by. I still had no idea where I’d rather be, and this apartment certainly wasn’t home. I didn’t know where that was yet.


Making my way into the kitchen, I opened a cabinet overhead, grabbing a wine glass and the bottle of wine Sabrina had given me for my birthday. It was a pinot noir, my favorite, and a much more expensive brand than I would have purchased myself. “Thanks, Sabrina,” I said as I gave myself a heavy pour.


Glass in hand, I walked into my bedroom to change into pajamas. Last year for my birthday, Sabrina gave me matching pajama sets. Plural.  She was convinced that a thirty-year-old (now thirty-one) shouldn’t still be sleeping in free party t-shirts I’d gotten in college. I happened to like the memories of an era gone, thinking fondly of the many days I’d spent planning those elaborate parties for our friends.  


Plus, I’d been alone for so long that I didn’t see the purpose of upgrading my old college tees and oversized shorts. Thor had never seemed to mind what I slept in. Considering he was the only one who was ever-present here at bedtime, I didn’t know why I bothered to listen to her. 


I slipped into a blue and white short set that made me feel like a ritzy mom of three from New England waiting for my butler to bring me breakfast. “Breakfast, James, please,” I said aloud in a nasally voice, a terrible impression of a life I could hardly imagine.


I ran my hands over the silky cotton and couldn’t deny they were comfortable. I just wasn’t sure I’d ever actually admit that to Sabrina. 


Grabbing my wine off my nightstand, I headed to the living room and plopped down on the couch. I dug around for a minute in search of my remote, finally locating it stuck between two cushions. Some stale popcorn and a Swedish Fish that I didn’t recall even eating recently were also jammed in there, but that was beside the point. I tried to keep my house tidy for the most part, but my life was a far cry from being neat and organized.


Vacuum under the couch cushions next time, I added to a mental checklist. 


Remote in hand, I flipped on the TV to the newest home improvement show and curled my feet under me. Several minutes had gone by while I sipped on my wine, mindlessly watching them renovate a house I could never afford, even if it was in semi-rural Waco, Texas.


“Shiplap is overrated, don’t you think?” I muttered, apparently to Thor. 


He and I often did this. I talked aloud and waited for him to answer. If this were one of my favorite fantasy novels, he totally would. That was my most recurring dream: talking to dragons. Who wouldn’t want that?


I purposefully chose not to think too heavily about why I talked aloud to a dog or dreamt of talking dragons. Instead, I flipped channels to find something more interesting. Thirty minutes had passed, and nothing had caught my attention. I finally turned the TV off and grabbed my phone from where I’d tossed it onto the couch earlier.


“Maybe I’ll download a new book,” I said again to Thor. He looked up at me in annoyance for interrupting his nap. Swiping to unlock my phone, I noticed several new notifications. All were warm wishes left on the cute social media post Sabrina had added of the girls and me posing with my cake. Most were from people I hadn’t talked to in years, but it was nice to read through them, even if they were shallow, generic responses.


Swiping further, I scanned through the rest of the app. The next thing I knew, I’d been scrolling for an hour, mindlessly flipping from one pointless video to the next.


A low groan escaped me as I dropped my phone down at my side. I hated when I did this. There were so many other, better things to do with my time. Why on earth was I watching stupid videos of moms dancing badly? Or humorous extreme sporting accidents my brother Jacob loved to send me? I didn’t know. 


Taking a large sip of wine, I picked up my phone again. It was my birthday, so today I’d give myself a pass. I scrolled some more, stopping at a beautiful mountain scene. 


I grew up in the mountains, so maybe that’s what drew me in right away. Whatever the reasoning, I watched, mesmerized, as green and purple wisps danced through the night sky above the mountains. 


The Northern Lights. 


They were heavenly, weaving across a star-painted sky. The video had looped several times before I was jogged out of my focus at the sound of Thor yawning loudly next to me. Rubbing my foot through his fur, I clicked on the profile of this video. Something was calling to me, and I needed more. The next swipe landed me on a video of the hottest man I had ever seen. 


“Oh,” I turned the phone for Thor to see and took another sip. “Now, this is what I need. Someone should have found him for my birthday, don’t you think?” 


Thor picked his head up from his bed and shook it at me. Did that mean no? Or was he adjusting his collar? I sighed and took another sip, not drunk enough to think my dog was talking back to me yet. 


I glanced down at my phone as the video looped. This delectable man was riding bareback on a horse along the edge of a forest. Everything about it was captivating, from the snow-tipped evergreens to the sun streaming through the branches. Even the horse was magnificent, tall, black, and shining coat as it galloped so smoothly it seemed to fly. The man, though, looked straight off the cover of a romance novel. He had dark hair, and his beard ruffled in the wind. I was spellbound. 


“He looks like he might be named Thor, too.” 


I’d gone too far as, this time, a growl came from deep in Thor’s throat. I chuckled as I leaned forward to pet his head. “Don’t worry. You’re the only one for me.”


Scrolling again, I looked for more of this man because yum. I needed more. Sipping my wine, I read through the profile of a travel page detailing trips to Scandinavia. 


“Oh, look! He’s a modern-day Viking! Now, do you like him?” Thor huffed, more than likely over the fact that I kept talking and interrupting his nap.


I had traveled through Europe some in college, determined to use my French minor at least once, but knew nothing about the Scandinavian countries. Diving head-first down a rabbit hole, I clicked on the link to read through the company’s webpage. 


Nordic Riders, the page said. I topped off my glass of wine as I read through their information on an all-inclusive two-week vacation in the Swedish countryside. 


That could be fun.


“Think Thor will be on the trip, too?” I asked, disrupting my pup. This was apparently the last straw for him. He got up and walked into the bedroom, done with my one-sided conversation. Thor could pretend he didn’t love me, but I knew it wasn’t true.


Downloading a new book was forgotten as I spent the next hour sipping wine in a Swedish trance. 


Mountains, lakes, beaches… this all sounds spectacular! 


Views of the Northern Lights? That’s always been on my bucket list. 


I used to ride horses as a kid and grew up in the mountains of Colorado. A two-week trip of hiking, camping, and horseback riding would be no big deal.


I wonder what it means by “expert riders only.” Surely, that’s to warn travelers that this was not a trail ride.


Somehow, before I knew what had happened, I was on the payment page and mindlessly entered my credit card information to book the trip. 


Maybe it was the wine. Perhaps it was my melancholy feeling over my birthday; I didn’t know. Something felt right about this.


Screw it. I was going to Sweden.




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