Maisy Karolson walked into to class and fell—literally, an arm-flailing kind of fall—right into arms of the prince of an extraordinary breed of humans, and her future boyfriend. She just didn’t know it yet. Maisy is your typical college senior. She works hard in school and loves her job as a waitress at the local college bar, Woodys. But her social life isn’t all that great, and her love life is non-existent. That is, until she meets Linc Floodpoika. He’s everything she should stay away from—arrogant, tattooed, and gorgeous. Exactly what Maisy needs.

Linc comes from a very powerful family in the Veden world, a special race of humans that can manipulate water. He’s next in line to be king, and his family isn’t all that enthused about the blonde human he’s brought home. Not to mention that she bares the mark of a Fiskare, another special race of humans designed to take out Vedens. His family isn’t the only ones who aren’t thrilled about their relationship. Someone has made it their mission to tear Maisy away from Linc, and they won’t stop until they get what they want…

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Across the Creek by Brittany Tollison, Maisy Karolson is a college student in rural Alabama. When she meets Linc Floodpoika, she thinks he’s a jerk and wants nothing to do with him. But Linc is persistent, and Maisy doesn’t stand a change. Then things get interesting. Maisy soon discovers that her new love isn’t even human…well, at least not a normal human but is a special breed of humans called Vedens who can manipulate water. In addition, one of Maisy’s best friends is a Fiskare, another special breed of humans who hunt the Vedens. As if it isn’t bad enough that she has to deal with learning there really are monsters out there who can kill normal humans with a wave of their hand, someone is out to get her, and Maisy has no defense.

With a solid plot, fun and fascinating characters, fast-paced action, and plenty of surprises, I had a very hard time putting this one down. A really great read.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Across the Creek by Brittany Tollison is the story of an average college senior in Alabama who has a not-so-average boyfriend. Maisy Karolson is unaware that the guy she is dating is special. Yes, he’s gorgeous, a hunk, and sexy as hell, but as far as she knows, he’s human, just like she is. But Linc Floodpoika is not just like she is. He is a Veden, a race of humans who can manipulate water. He doesn’t want her to know, but after she is attacked by another Veden, marked by a Fiskare—another special race of humans with magical powers—and sees Linc do things no human can do, she is forced to admit the truth: he has powers she can’t even comprehend. Naturally, her first reaction is fear, and then she wonders what the heck he is even doing with her in the first place. But what really concerns her is that someone seems determined to kill her, someone with power like Linc’s.

Across the Creek is well written, the characters both well developed and realistic, the action fast and tense, and the story full of twists and turns that will keep you on your toes. I really hope there is another book coming soon, because I couldn’t get enough.

Chapter 1

Having class at seven in the morning sucked balls. Luckily for me, that was when most of the Humanities courses were scheduled. It was exactly six-thirty in the morning, and I was in the car, ready to go. Unfortunately, my best friend and roommate, Sarah, was not. Ugh. Sarah, love her to death, was the most unorganized, scatter brained, carefree person I knew. Which was probably a good thing, because I, on the other hand, cringed at the thought of not being structured and organized. She kept me fun.

Seriously, what the hell was she doing in our rented three-bedroom home? I sat there, staring into the woods behind our house, tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, and thought about what too cook for dinner. Pasta maybe? Oh! Or Mexican!

She finally came out and locked the door behind her. She ran toward my car, pulling her thick brown hair up into a messy ponytail. When she opened the door, I gave a noisy huff so she could tell I was annoyed. Her green eyes were bright with humor. “We’re fine, Maisy, it’s only like six-forty-five or something.”

“It takes at least twenty-five minutes to get to school, and you know parking is going to be a bitch,” I whined.

“Not if you drive fast.” She checked out her bright red nails and then looked in my direction and waited.

We both stared at each other, her smiling, me not so much. I shook my head and started up my old Toyota Camry.

It was the beginning of the school year, so it was mid-August, which meant, even this early in the morning, it was already warm and humid for our little northern Alabama town. My hand dropped to my coffee mug full of scorching coffee. Taking a sip, I instantly regretted not making it iced. For once Sarah was quiet. When we hit a red light, I glanced at her. Her straight white teeth were nibbling on her bottom lip, and those red nails were restlessly tapping her knee. As a glass-half-full kind of girl, the collection of nervous movements was out of character.

She came from a good home with a loving family and had no shortage of friends, male or female. Being gorgeous didn’t hurt, and she lived for the male attention, loving every bit of it. At five foot six with tan skin and minimal make up, she was rocking the cut up jean shorts and flowery tank. She always looked perfect.

I, on the other hand, was a hot mess. I stood two inches shorter with blonde, frizzy shoulder-length hair, blue-gray eyes, the one thing I did have going for me was my boobs–all natural, even if they did a great impression of implants.

Sarah raised a perfectly groomed eyebrow. “What?” The defensive note in her voice indicated she was anticipating a snarky comeback.

Whoops, I was staring again. “Are you feeling all right?”

My unexpected question caused her to frown. She let out a long breath and gently tucked a piece of hair she missed behind her ear. “Yeah, fine, just not ready to start school. I feel like summer just started, and we’re already going back. And I’m a little disappointed that I don’t really get to see Todd as much.”

“Yeah.” It was the best thing I could possibly say to that statement. Todd was an ass who basically used Sarah as a trophy. He would parade her around to his friends and family and then treat her like shit later. Then there were his anger issues. He constantly got mad at Sarah for wearing the wrong clothes, laughing at things he considered inappropriate, and made these digs about her body until she was highly self-conscious.

“I hope there’s eye candy in this class,” she said, snapping me out of my thoughts. “Because something needs to keep me awake, or I’m definitely going to fall asleep and end up failing the class

“You and me both.” I pulled the car into a parking spot that was at least a mile away from the school. Great. We were already late, and it would take at least fifteen more minutes to get to class. I hated being late, but being late on the first day of class was torture because you became an instant center of attention. I hated that. Sarah, on the other, didn’t mind.

We grabbed our bags out of the back seat and headed for class. I beeped the car lock. Twice. Sarah turned and gave me a funny look as I sped up and passed her. “Just making sure criminals know I mean business.”

A few steps behind me, Sarah said loudly, “Seriously, Mais, chill, we’re already late. We don’t have to sprint to class.”

I slowed my pace. “Well, I hate being late, and next time if you’re not ready, I’m leaving you.”

She blew out an exasperated breath. “No, you aren’t.”

She was probably right. Since it took us less than ten minutes to get to our class, maybe I exaggerated a bit on the mile-away-parking job. Still, I made Sarah walk in first. That way everyone would look at her and not watch me sneak by in the back of the classroom.

I held the door open as she gracefully walked into the room. Our professor was a larger, older lady with shiny silver hair. It was all I caught because I made a beeline for the back. Honestly, if the professor couldn’t put my work with my face, it would be a win. I preferred to be invisible.

Sarah, of course, chirped right up, “Hi, Professor McNolan. Sorry we’re late. I’m Sarah Rodriguez, and the girl running to the back of the classroom is Maisy Karlson.”

Welp, there went my invisible plan.

“Welcome to Humanities Two-Thirteen,” Professor McNolan said. “Please take a copy of the syllabus.”

Hopefully, Sarah grabbed one for me. If not, I could make a copy of hers.

“Thanks!” Sarah smiled at the professor and joined me at the back of the class.

Looking around the back of the classroom, I couldn’t find two seats next to each other. Fine. I let Sarah take the closer seat and headed for the one three seats back. Making my way back to the empty seat, I heard something fall behind me. Shoot, it was probably my phone. I touched my back pocket–yup, definitely my phone. I turned around, and my foot caught on somebody’s bag, throwing me off balance. My arms flailed, and I sucked in a deep breath waiting to hit the floor. Great, this would cause a huge scene–exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place.

I braced for an impact that never came, or it did–it just wasn’t the floor. Something wrapped around my waist and tugged me against something hard. My eyes flew open to discover that a male chest dominated my vision. I didn’t know what was worse–falling and face planting, or falling and having some random guy catch me. He pulled me up slowly, and I stared at his chest to avoid making eye contact, but it didn’t stop me from noticing how his muscles bulged through his shirt because of my weight. I wasn’t fat, by any means, but I wasn’t a stick either.

Mumbling, “Thank you,” I tried to turn away and escape, but he didn’t let go.

“Are you okay?” His voice was low and a bit husky.

It ran through me, leaving goose bumps in its wake. “Yup. Totally fine. I…uh…just tripped.” I winced. No shit, Sherlock. As much as I didn’t want to meet his eyes, it was weird not to look when someone talked to you. I lifted my gaze. Shit. Really shouldn’t have looked. Dammit.

His eyes were the color of honey, and his messy light-brown hair fell over them. I never liked brown eyes. They were boring and normal, but this guy was definitely rocking ’em. There was scruff on his face, as if he hadn’t shaved in a couple days. His plain black T-shirt totally showed off his muscular chest, and I’d bet my life that there were abs under it. Gosh, I wanted to be that shirt. His jeans hung low on his hips.

“I got that.” His comment snapped my attention back to his face.

I caught his smirk. Damn, was there drool on my chin?

“Next time, let’s try to function like a normal human being,” he said.

Wonderful, he was hot and an asshole. I shimmied out of his hands, picked up my phone, and walked to the seat behind him. No way in hell would I say thank you now.

I sat down, still irked at what happened. Staring at his stupid head in front of me, I considered chucking my pen at him. Not worth my time. I turned my attention to the classroom. It was basically a big brown box made of tan walls with a little white board at the front. The rest of the room was lined with individual desks. You could easily fit sixty students in the class. Professor McNolan went over the syllabus, and I was stoked we didn’t have any papers to write, just three tests and a power-point presentation. Sweet.

I looked up at Sarah. She wore a full-fledged grin and was trying to stifle her laughter. She raised her eyebrows, and mouthed, “Whoa.”

I pretended to ignore her but stole a glance at the jerk in front of me to make sure he didn’t notice her. Yeah, whoa was right. He was good looking, if you were into the rugged-cave-man thing.

The professor passed out papers, but since I wasn’t paying attention, I missed what it was. Douche Bag turned and handed me a sheet. When I refused to look at him, I heard a deep chuckle. I scanned the paper. It was for a project, with a list of names grouped in pairs. Great, a group assignment. Locating my name, I discovered I was paired up with some kid named Lincoln Floodpoika.

“For the rest of the class time, please meet up with your partner and get to know one another,” Professor McNolan announced. “You guys will be working with each other the rest of the semester.”

Everyone started getting up and asking people who they were, trying to find their partners. I, being the socially awkward type, sat there and waited until the majority coupled up. In front of me, Douche Bag wasn’t moving either. Please don’t let me be partnered with him.

At that very moment, he turned to look at me. “I think we’re partners.” He sounded bored.

Great, I totally jinxed it. “How do you know? I don’t remember telling you my name.”

I tried to sound nonchalant but failed miserably.

“When you walked in, your friend said her name and yours out loud. Something you must have missed when you were running to the back of the classroom and tripping over your own two feet.”

Unsure how to reply, since I tried not be confrontational, I gave him a blank look. “So your name’s Lincoln?” Why am I Captain Obvious today?

“I go by Linc,” he mumbled as he continued to look over the assignment.

Okay, after class I would talk to the professor and beg her to switch my partner. Maybe if I explained I could get more work done if I was working with, say, Sarah, who lived with me. Sounded good to me. Until then, I’d go through the motions.

“How do you want to do this? Do you want to exchange numbers, or emails, or we could just meet–”

“Numbers.” He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. “What’s your number?”

The way his biceps flexed with the movement mesmerized me, but I managed to give him my number. Right after, he got up and started walking away. What was he doing?

“I’ll text you,” he grunted over his shoulder and walked out of class.

I stared after him, completely confused.

Seriously, what the heck was his problem? He didn’t seem to like me, which made no sense. We’d barely spoken, and tripping over his bag wasn’t a play for his attention. The only opinion he could’ve formed about me was that I was clumsy.

As soon as the door closed behind him, I bolted to Professor McNolan.

“Professor, is there any way to change our partners? I live with Sarah Rodriguez, so it would be a lot easier just to do the project with her, since we know each other’s schedules.”

“What was your name?” The old woman squinted in my direction. “I’m sorry, I just have so many students.”

“Maisy.” I gave her a little wave, don’t ask me why.

“Okay, Maisy, I understand it would be more convenient for you to work with Sarah, but this is college, and it’s about meeting new people and trying to form relationships. Once you get an actual job, you’re not going to like everyone you work with, so you’ll just have to stick it out.”

Stunned by her assumption, I blinked. Since I had a job at a local bar where I worked and waited on people I didn’t like all the time, I was offended. Still, she was my professor, and no use shooting myself in the foot before the semester even started. “Okay.”

I gave her a fake, polite smile and went back to my seat, fuming. Throwing myself on the floor and having a temper tantrum wouldn’t do a damn thing. When the professor finally let class out, I found Sarah waiting for me right outside the door.

“How are you feeling, boo?”

Since I basically ate shit in class and got the worst partner possible, I grimaced and shoved my hair out of my face. “Fine, it was a good way to start the week. Being late, falling–”

“Having that hot guy catch you!” she said, filling in the list of what went wrong.

“What’s his name?”

“Douche Bag?” I replied dryly.

“Mais, be nice.” Wide eyed, she hit my shoulder and then smiled, showing off her straight white teeth. She loved those teeth-whitening strips.

“Linc, but Douche Bag is more fitting.” I rubbed my shoulder. “And that hurt.”

She gave me a puzzled look but shrugged her shoulders and began walking to her next class, which was right next to mine. She started talking about what a good semester this was going to be, and how we had to make the best of it. Blah, Blah, Blah. I wanted to be done with school. Going to college for five years was long enough for me. At twenty-three, I should have had my life together, but that wasn’t the case.

We walked up to the building our classrooms shared, and Sarah finally wound down enough to say, “I’ll see you in a couple hours, unless you wanted to get lunch in between?”

Since she was going to meet Todd after this class, no thank you. “Nah, I’ll just meet you at the car.”

“Well, have a good first day!” She bounced around and through the doors of her class.

“Yeah, you too.” I turned and walked into my next Humanities class. Being a Humanities major was pointless, but I loved the classes. There was a huge range of topics to choose from. For example, my first class with Professor McNolan was on romantic love. The one I was headed into was called The Power of Jazz. Every topic was unique.

I walked into the room, head down, and didn’t notice anything or anyone. It was not that I didn’t like people, but making new friends wasn’t high on my list of goals. I was content with the good friends I already had. Since class didn’t start for another five minutes or so, I took out my notebook and started doodling with a black pen. My horrible morning would make a good story later. That almost made me giggle, but that urge quickly died when I looked up and locked gazes with a set of gorgeous brown eyes. Douche Bag was back.

Once again, I imitated a deer in headlights, staring at Linc. The moment he saw me, his face darkened. Wonderful. He walked to the back of the classroom, and I tried not to watch, but it was hard not to focus on someone that delicious. Muscles, scruff, tattoos–tattoos? For the first time, I noticed the tattoo on his left bicep. It was hard to tell what it was because half of it disappeared under his shirt, but it resembled a tentacle. He sat a couple of seats down in the row behind me.

I didn’t remember a thing the professor said because I was too busy trying to ignore the hot man behind me. I glanced back a couple times and caught him looking at me once. This resulted in me turning around instantly while heat washed over my face. Once the professor dismissed of class, I bolted for the door and didn’t look back.

With an hour and a half before my next class and Sarah’s decision to hang with Todd, I went to my car, hoping to take a nap or read. Once in the car, I reclined the seat and stared at the sky, eventually dozing off. When my phone buzzed, I jumped so high my knee hit the damn steering wheel.

“Crap!” Ugh. That frickin’ hurt.

I checked my phone, but it was an unknown number.

It’s Linc, Library tomorrow. 8pm.

Yeah, not happening.

I work till 11. Any other time?

Where do you work? I’ll meet you on your break.

Seriously? We had all semester to figure out our presentation. Why did it have to be tomorrow?

Can’t we just do a different day?

No. Busy.

Fine. I work at Woody’s bar. My break’s at 9.

When he didn’t text me back to confirm, I assumed he’d be there or not. With fifteen minutes until my next class, I grabbed my bag and started walking. This semester was going to suck. Between a superhot partner who seemed to hate my guts for no apparent reason, and Sarah spending most of her time with Todd instead of me, the next few months stretched endlessly before me. I could get a boyfriend, but if my choices were guys like Todd or Douche Bag, I didn’t need one. I just needed a hobby.

© 2018 by Brittany Tollison