Ravished by a Viking
|Read an Excerpt
Format: Trade Paperback
On Sale: January 4, 2011
When his younger brother goes missing, Dagr, Viking warrior and Lord of the Wolfskin Clan, will do whatever it takes to get him back. But nothing could have prepared him for Honora—a feisty, intelligent woman who is nothing like the women of his world—women who are content to serve their men in all things. Drawn to her despite her recalcitrant nature, Dagr is determined to show her who’s boss both in bed and out.
When the two enemies-turned-lovers join forces to find Dagr’s brother they are thrown into a rousing adventure full of danger, intrigue and erotic abandon. Can their passion truly unite them or will their different worlds lead to destruction for them both?
Note for Readers: You must be of legal age in your country of origin to read this excerpt.
The great hall of the Berserkir king’s keep was filled to capacity with the clan’s warriors. Light cast from the iron chandeliers high above the black marble floors gleamed on the muted metal-fiber composite of their armor and the steel nozzles of the laser-spears they held.
Birget stood among the Valkyrja contingent, which formed a half circle around King Sigmund’s throne. As his personal guard, they were the only females allowed inside the hall on this night. True to the traditional nature of the tiny band, they wore hammered metal breastplates over their modern black uniforms, the gold outer plate embossed with the figure of Freya, their patron goddess, standing in her feline-drawn chariot. Because a truce had been called, their swords remained sheathed, their shields stayed locked inside the armory, and they’d left off their gold, conical helmets.
Word had come that Dagr, clan-lord to the Wolfskins, had been spotted offshore, his plain, unadorned skiff sailing between the frozen peaks of Hymir’s Sea until he’d skidded onto the rocky beach beneath the fortress walls.
Soldiers had been dispersed to keep watch along the shore to find the rest of his floti, but strangely, none was spotted. He’d come alone.
“Has he gone daft? Or does he believe his own legends?” her sister Ilse asked, clutching her pike.
Dagr, the leader of the Wolfskin clan, struck awe in the hearts of all Berserkirs. His many fierce battles with their army had grown his stature to epic proportions, some even saying that Thor himself had bestowed his blessing on the sword of the great warrior king.
“Quiet, daughters,” Sigmund said. “Whatever brings him here alone cannot bode well for the rest of us.”
“We should capture him,” Birget muttered, unimpressed with the Ulfhednar warrior’s reputation. Dagr was a man like any other—complete with faults. “If he is stupid enough to enter this hall alone,” she groused, “we should enjoy the spectacle.”
Her father shot her a reproving look. “He comes under a flag of truce,” he said for her ears only. “We won’t dishonor our promise to leave him unmolested upon his arrival. We will listen to what he has to say—before we decide whether to detain him.” He gave her a little waggle of his eyebrows.
Birget suppressed a smile and straightened.
The large metal doors at the entrance of the keep creaked open. Bearshirt soldiers marched into the hall, the contingent surrounding the enemy king. When they parted in front of the dais upon which Sigmund’s throne sat, a tall black-haired warrior strode fearlessly from their center.
Birget’s breath caught, her incredulity forgotten. If her future husband was cut from the same cloth, she was doomed.
Dagr, the Black Wolf, stood taller than most of the Berserkir warriors around him. His thickly muscled body radiated strength the way the “pure light” did heat, blaring potent masculinity and power.
His features were harsh and colder than the gray stones cut from Odin’s Mountain peaks to build this fortress. Black brows sheltered deep-set, piercing blue eyes. The sharp-bladed nose, chiseled cheekbones, and square jaw reflected granite will.
Rustling sounded as the warriors inside the hall tensed, and Birget understood their anxiety. Yes, he might stand alone, but who would want to be the first to draw a weapon against such a man? He looked and dressed like a savage, like the legendary warriors from their shared past.
A black wolf’s head sat atop his long dark hair, the eyes of the dead beast seeming to glitter with menace. Bearskin cloaked his massive shoulders. A silver metal breastplate spanned his broad chest. His thick, muscular legs were encased in leather and fur, as were his boots.
His only weapons were the large, double-headed ax that peeked above his head from where it rested between wide shoulders, the famed sword that hung at one side of his hips, and a long, thick-bladed knife sheathed at the other. Primitive weapons, but no one now staring at him doubted he’d be deadly in a fight.
Fury emanated from every inch of his taut frame.
“Lord Dagr,” her father intoned, lowering his chin in a decidedly undeferential manner.
Birget wondered how her father managed to sound so confident when her whole body was strung tighter than a bow.
“My brother,” Dagr ground out in a deep, raspy baritone. “Is he with you?”
Her father’s breath drew in slowly, and then his gaze sharpened on Dagr for a moment before he spoke. “We haven’t had the pleasure, even after the announcement of his coming marriage to my daughter. A slight I have not forgiven.”
Dagr’s features stilled.
If not for the curling fists at his sides, Birget might have thought his anger cooled a fraction of a degree.
“What is your mission here today, Dagr?”
Birget started at the slight note of compassion in her father’s voice. These two men were sworn enemies, and yet her father didn’t gloat over the missing heir.
“If you are not responsible, then what I have to tell you must be said in private.”
Sigmund’s gaze raked the stoic warrior. Then he pushed up from his seat and turned, signaling to his guard. “I will only bring my most trusted.”
Dagr’s jaw ground audibly, but he nodded. “Quickly, then.”
Sigmund signaled the Valkyrja, who followed the two great jarls of New Iceland a step behind.
Ilse dug an elbow into Birget’s side and lifted her chin toward the tall, broad frame of the Wolfskin. Her lips pursed around a silent whistle.
Birget gave her a hard glare. Now wasn’t the time to ogle the legendary warrior. There’d be plenty of opportunity later—after he’d been tossed into a dungeon cell.
They strode from the hall, down a long corridor, toward Sigmund’s private chambers, and halted in front of the oaken door.
Rather than wait for a servant to open it, Dagr slammed both palms against the thick wood and shoved.
Ilse’s brows rose. “He’s in a snit,” she whispered.
Birget shook her head, irritated with her sister. Only Ilse would find the Black Wolf’s ill humor funny. Five female guards were all that stood between the angry man and her father.
Not that she didn’t think they were up to the task. No one trained harder than the Valkyries. Where brawn was prized among the men, the women’s dexterity and speed won many contests.
Still, eyeing the giant’s muscular form, she felt her first misgivings and vowed to stay close to her father.
“Have a seat, Dagr,” Sigmund said before sitting in an armchair set beside the brazier steeped with ore in the center of the room.
A muscle along the edge of Dagr’s jaw flexed, and he reached behind him for the ax.
Every Valkyrie rushed forward, drawing her sword and pointing the tip toward Dagr’s throat.
Ice-shard eyes gave a chilling stare, but he continued to slowly draw up the weapon, then lowered the heavy blade to the floor with a clank. “I would sit.”
His words were soft, but the deep, stony tone did little to still the hammering of Birget’s heart.
A dark brow arched, and his gaze slammed into hers.
Birget took a deep breath and forced anger into her voice. “Lower your swords.”
The women pulled back, but Birget kept her blade aimed at his throat and continued to meet his stare, an instinct she immediately regretted. She’d never felt so drawn by a gaze—as though her soul had been captured and weighed to determine its worth.
Without blinking, he murmured, “You’re my brother’s betrothed?”
She gave him a curt nod, quelling the urge to snarl.
“She’s strong, well built,” Sigmund said. “I did tell you that.”
Birget didn’t have to look to know her father’s eyes snapped with humor.
“My sister has courage,” Dagr said, his voice uninflected.
“More than most men,” her father murmured.
“But she’s not very bright.”
Birget gave him her own flinty stare but bit her tongue to catch the scathing retort he deserved. Instead, she’d show the savage discipline worthy of her position. She schooled her face into an impassive mask and lowered her weapon. Then with one last warning glance she stepped behind her father’s chair.
“What brings you here, Dagr?”
Dagr’s glance swept to her father as though she was of no consequence. His rigid mask didn’t slip. “Eirik’s been abducted.”
“Is it pirates seeking ransom?”
“He was spirited away from inside one of the mining camp’s barracks.” Dagr’s dark brows lowered. “Gone in a flash of light.”
“And you thought it might have been me?” Sigmund’s voice rose, and he leaned forward. “We don’t have that kind of technology.”
“You’ve been the lead negotiator for all the kingdoms with the Outlanders. You’ve met with them alone.” Dagr smacked the chair arm, causing them all to jump. “You could have traded ore for a transporter. Under the table.”
Her father’s face reddened. “The Consortium set embargoes against that sort of machine centuries ago. You know that. We can only trade for drills and equipment to aid the mining, and for building materials and foodstuffs.” Sigmund sat back and sniffed. “Besides, I would not betray our treaty for such a scurrilous use. You would have been contacted immediately to arrange a suitable ransom.”
Dagr gripped his armrests so hard Birget expected the sturdy wood to snap.
Within seconds, the great warrior loosened his grip, slumping in his chair. “I had hoped it was you.”
“So that you would have a reason to war with us again?” Sigmund asked, a hint of wry humor in his voice.
Dagr’s lips curled into a snarl. “Warring with cousins is much more enjoyable than fighting cowards who can swoop in and out at will.”
“Enjoyable?” Her father snorted and waved his hand. “But I do understand your meaning. We have a long history of warfare, interrupted by brief moments of harmony when marriage or games bring our clans together—our interactions always contained within the bounds of our codes of honor. I had hoped for a lull in our warring so that I could secure my clan’s future. And yet, this marriage I proposed wasn’t to your liking.”
Dagr’s gaze lifted to Birget again, spearing her with an unspoken challenge. “It’s not that your daughter isn’t suitable.”
“Is it because she will be a Berserkir among Wolfskins? Do you fear she will wreak havoc within your keep?”
“Once your daughter takes a Wolfskin husband, she ceases to be Berserkir.”
Birget’s body tightened with fury. Never would she subjugate her will or her heritage to wolves!
“Sigmund,” Dagr continued, his gaze narrowing in challenge. “We’ve raided each other for centuries for women and plunder. This woman will be like any other . . . easily conquered.”
The swift intake of breath she couldn’t stop didn’t go unnoticed. Her father’s head turned slightly toward the sound.
Dagr’s cold gaze met hers and she would have sworn he smiled, except his lips remained pressed into a firm straight line. “I simply find myself restless. A lull in our battles will make my men and myself lazy.”
“I have no fears that you will grow fat, Dagr.” Her father cleared his throat, drawing the Ulfhednar king’s gaze again. “If what you believe about your brother is true—that others have kidnapped him—it explains much. We’ve experienced more disappearances than usual. Too many to put down to ice-madness. And all men in their prime.”
“There can be only two reasons for the Outlanders’ return.” A muscle flexed along the edge of Dagr’s square jaw. “They either wish to ransom the men back to force us to lower the price of our ore, or they may be preparing another invasion to conquer us and return us to slavery.”
“But it’s been so long,” Sigmund replied. “Surely they’ve given up wanting to subjugate us again.”
Dagr grunted, apparently unimpressed with the argument. “They say that they stay in orbit to protect the shipments, but we both know their true intent is to intimidate us. Would you surrender so much wealth and power?”
“If they intend another attack, why take our men one at a time?”
Birget nodded. Exactly what she’d been thinking. Dagr might be a fearsome fighter, but his intellect lacked. Her father, although twenty years Dagr’s senior, was still feared for his physical prowess, but he had long ago embraced the value of logic.
Dagr’s expression hardened again. “They’ve learned they cannot defeat us from the sky. They must occupy the ground they seize. To succeed, they need stronger warriors to oppose us in battle.”
“Do you think they plan to breed stronger warriors from ours?” Sigmund scoffed. “But that could take decades.”
“Only months,” Dagr said, leaning forward in his chair. “One of the Outlanders who sought refuge with us has seen what they work on in their laboratories. They can take a child after birth and force speedy growth.”
Birget barely suppressed a snort at the ridiculous idea.
The Berserkir king’s fingers drummed on the arm of his chair. “Neither scenario bodes well for either clan. You’ve come under a flag of truce to seek an audience. What is your request?”
“To defeat them, we must combine our forces. Once I put my plan into motion, I need you to spread your army to provide protection for the mines bordering your lands.”
“You would trust me not to take them?” her father said with sly humor in his voice. “The temptation might be more than I can resist.”
Dagr’s cold blue eyes narrowed. “I would ask for a hostage. Someone I swear I will put to the dagger if you fail me.” His glance speared Birget. “She will do.”
“You want my daughter? But you’ve already said that upon marriage she will cease to be a Bearshirt.” Sigmund waved his hand. “Why would I care, then?”
“Because she is not yet wed. And because you love her.”
“I have affection and respect for my Valkyrja captain. But you know as well as I do that warriors don’t love. Deep emotion makes us vulnerable. There is no one I would not sacrifice for my people.”
“And I think you lie,” Dagr said slowly, his gaze narrowing as he studied the other king’s face. “Why else would you insist that Birget wed here? You refused to allow her to travel to Skuldelev. Did you fear we would not make her ours after all and use her against you?”
“You are an honorable man, Dagr. My daughter was the one who insisted the wedding take place here. She is the one who feared you only bargained to get your hands on one of the ruling family for foul purpose.”
Dagr’s head canted slightly, and if possible, his stare intensified. “And yet, you are a king and a man, and you did not insist that a female in your household obey.”
Sigmund sighed and nodded his head. “My daughter will be your hostage. I will do nothing to cause her harm.”
Birget’s throat tightened. Not once in her life had she heard her father say he loved her, and yet he’d conceded it here and now. She’d known he was proud of her but she had thought, like all Viking women did, that their men were too hardened to ever love.
“How do you plan to battle a foe that lives in the sky?” her father asked.
This time, Dagr’s smile wasn’t a ghost lurking in his eyes; it spread across his face, making him handsome, and every one of the Valkyrja drew in a deep breath.
“By joining them there.”