Because I set my Viking books in a galaxy far, far away, I could play with the history, play with the dangers. This scene was the most fun I’ve had writing in a long, long while. Both Dagr and Honora must conquer their fears to save one another. Dagr was captured, feared dead, but he’s leading the enemy’s soldiers on a raid of his own castle. Enjoy!
“With the intriguing meshing of the past with the future this was an engrossing read…”
Top Pick!, Night Owl Reviews
“A steamy and fascinating adventure…”
Romance Reviews Today
“Clash of cultures, clash of myths, clash of powerful personalities…how many authors can bring out on paper the excitement and more-than-willing suspension of disbelief that old fashioned adventure stories once brought us?…a wonderful, action-packed, emotional roller-coaster of a read.”
What a Viking wants, a Viking takes.
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?
The fierce cold wind stung her cheeks, centering her thoughts. Her eyes watered and she blinked rapidly as she stared through the snowfall to see the shadowy figures spread out on the ice, marching toward them now.
They approached as quietly as a battalion of men could, likely hoping the whistling wind and the scurry of snow on the frozen surface of the sea would leave them undetected until the last moment.
Had they chosen this route or had Dagr? Arikan, the arrogant bastard, might have thought that seeing his men spread out would have the Vikings shaking in their boots.
If Dagr were alive, he might have bleated out this route during torture to ensure his people had warning. Dagr could already be dead, likely was.
Sorrow trembled through her, but she firmed her shoulders. She could still do one last thing for him. She could witness his enemy’s defeat.
She stared at the dark figures blurred by the snow, until they neared and clearer outlines formed. Her gaze narrowed on one with a familiar proud gait. Heart racing, she leaned over the parapet, gripping the edge hard.
A hand closed around the neck of her cloak and pulled her back. “Are you trying to kill yourself? Or me?” Odvarr muttered. “Dagr will have my innards for dinner if you fall.”
She shook her head and pointed. “Look!” she hissed. “At the front of the formation. It’s him!”
Odvarr squinted then leaned over the wall. “‘Tis him all right,” he said, nodding as though he’d never had any doubt about his survival. “I hope he plans to start running soon.”
“If he runs, they’ll know he he’s betraying them and they’ll kill him.”
“If he doesn’t, the serpents will eat him.”
She swung back to look at hundreds of figures, no longer shrouded because of diminishing snowfall. From her perch on a wallwalk, at the top of a rugged cliff, she could see the frozen ocean all the way to the horizon.
Another glance below and she sucked in startled breath. Long streaks of vibrant color skimmed below the ice. “Does he know?”
“Of course he does. ’Twas his plan,” he said, giving her a harsh smile filled with pride. He turned and bent over the railing. “Men! To the skiffs. Your king has turned dragons to our cause!”
Cheering arose, cries that didn’t diminish as the men below raised their swords and shook their fists. Their fervor filled her with exhilaration as though this were her own battle too.
Honora followed on Odvarr’s heels, racing down the steps. “Should everyone abandon the keep? What if the Consortium transports some inside?”
“The house guard will handle them,” he bellowed over his shoulder.
Voices shouted from below, the great iron gate that guarded the entrance to the keep was cranked up. Honora joined the press of men spilling out the gate, and followed them down a steep cliffside path to the beach below.
Along the edge of the water, a dozen or so skiffs stretched along a stone and timber dock with a steeply peaked roof.
Explosions sounded, and Honora stilled before looking out toward the advancing battalion, expecting the fire to be directed their way. However, confusion reigned on the ice.
The serpents’ presence had been noted.
Soldiers fired lasers at the ice beneath them.
Ice cracked and flew upward as large-headed beasts crashed through the thick layers. Men slid down the sides of the ice floes, tumbling into frozen water and the gaping mouths of the large beasts, gnashed and chopped by rows of long teeth.
Frozen in horror, she didn’t move until a Viking sped past her, knocking her to the side.
She caught the back of his cloak. “Take me with you.”
He scowled, but didn’t pause.
She took it as assent and ran after him to the end of the dock and the last skiff.
“I’ll steer,” he said, “you cling to the bow. When we fly past them, offer your hand.” With his sword, he cut the ropes cradling the boat. It fell onto gritty powder, and he dug his heels in and pushed with all his might to slide it out onto the ice.
Honora followed closely, unwilling to let him leave her behind and managed to jump onto the bow when the skiff glided free. She clung to handholds as he dropped the sails and the craft lurched and skimmed crazily across the ice until he steered with the ropes wrapped around his back and flowing through his hands.
Honora’s hood blew back in the wind, but she didn’t care. She didn’t want her sight obscured. “There,” she cried triumphantly and pointed as she spied Dagr and his contingent skimming on their feet across the ice just ahead of the men running for their lives on loud cleats behind them.
“The sound attracts them!” she called out to her fellow sailor, and he flashed a smile. “Won’t our noise attract them as well?”
He laughed and jerked a chin toward the crowd. “They are far louder.”
Honora watched the horror unfold. Sea beasts lifting the ice, crashing down over men, large mouths opening to clasp around their waists and carry them under the blue water.
Consortium soldiers ran until they were isolated on broken floes, then lay pressed against the ice, some with hands over their heads to shut out the screams, some sitting and firing over the edges at the beasts circling below them.
The Vikings stayed ahead of the front rank of ground-fighters. Before long, some of them realized the trick that had been played and raised their weapons to fire at Dagr and his men.
Faster boats skimmed across her skiff’s path, spears sailed, slicing through the air, arrows winging in delicate arches to thud into soft necks and eyes left vulnerable when the men threw down their shields in their helter-skelter run.
Once she saw a skiff closing in on Dagr, she shouted to the man behind her. “Get me closer to the front line! This has to end.”
When he drew near enough to be heard, she stood, one hand on the mast of the small skiff. “Put down your weapons, you can’t save yourselves without our help! Put down your weapons!”
Skiffs had already carried their own back to shore, but turned back to pick up soldiers who threw down their weapons.
In the rear of the scattered formation stood Arikan, his back straight, but unmoving. He’d figured out what attracted the beasts. Had he bothered to tell his own men or had he let them draw away the beasts’ interest to save himself?
Her companion skimmed along the edge of the unbroken ice, careful not to slow their pace because dragons streaked beneath them, their brightly hued bodies curling, and then shooting toward another hapless victim.
Open water separated her skiff from the rear of the battalion and the commander’s own guard.
His eyes blazed, promising retribution. Then a portal opened behind him. He and those closest to him hurled themselves toward it, barely beating one giant serpent whose head followed them through only to be cut off when the light blinked out. Its body slipped slowly into the water.
She only had a moment to wonder at the uproar the beast’s head would cause aboard the ship. A blast of light streaked toward her, too fast to avoid. The mast splintered beneath her hand and with a shout, she was tossed overboard onto the ice, skimming face down on the slick surface and watching a blur of orange swim beneath her.
Just as his skiff crunched against the rough edge of the beach, Dagr jumped to the ground then spun to see how the battle fared. What there was left of a battle anyway. The action was mostly a retreat—an ignominious run for safety. He counted heads quickly, assuring himself that every one of the men who had accompanied him had made it.
Frakki ran to his side. “Shall we save the bastards?” he said, disgust flavoring his tone. He nodded toward the Consortium soldiers doomed to die if the Vikings didn’t mount a concerted rescue.
Odvarr loped toward him, his chest heaving, his face creased with worry. “Dagr, your woman!” he shouted, pointing toward the open waters.
A woman was on the ice! Dagr turned in time to see a slender figure pitch over the side of a skiff and slide on her belly perilously close to the edge. He didn’t bother asking what Honora was doing there, or more precisely, what she was doing on the frozen water. He broke into a run, heading for the closest boat, Frakki on his heels.
They both swung up, Frakki taking the steering ropes, and Dagr balanced on his feet at the raised nose of the small craft. He cupped his hands around his mouth. “Stay still, Honora,” he shouted, although the wind, the hollow roars of the beasts, and the screams from the remaining soldiers drowned out his voice.
He ignored the slashes of laser light that pounded the ice around him, dared the soldiers sure to die a gruesome death to kill him because he wasn’t turning back. If the goddess Hel herself reached up from her frozen kingdom to drag him down, he’d fight her.
“Dagr…” Frakki said quietly, dread in his voice.
Beneath them a dozen of sea serpents in blue, green and orange swam, tracking them like prey, spiraling, shooting away for a few feet then circling in closer.
One tapped beneath the hull of their small craft, and the ice groaned and crackled.
Behind them, came the scraping sound of more skiffs joining them on the ice. His men were skilled with the boats, often skimming just off shore. Just far enough to drill into the ice to fish, but close enough to the keep that the guard on the wallwalk could give them fair warning. None of his men were as skilled as he at escaping the beasts because none dared travel the open seas.
Still they followed him, shouting and hitting the ice with the points of their pikes to draw the beasts away.
In the distance, Arikan’s men continued to fire, shredding the solid surface beneath their feet in their panic, drawing the creatures who banged their heads from below to crack the ice, then shoot upwards, mouths agape to catch the men before diving deep to devour them.
Dagr could only worry about one Consortium officer, who now lay on her belly on the ice, her face turned toward him, her eyes beseeching. That she was terrified was evident by the paleness of her skin and the roundness of her eyes. And by her silence. Honora was rarely silent.
When their skiff drew near, Frakki slowed only a fraction, just enough for Dagr to jump off the boat. He rolled, leapt to his feet, and ran for his woman, brandishing his sword and hoping that another of the boats was close enough to retrieve them once he had her before the dragons burst through the ice.
He prayed as never before—to Thor who’d blessed his fathers’ sword. Prayed, just like Thor who’d felled the giant Hrungnir with his mighty hammer, that his sword and his will would be enough to save the only person who’d ever made him feel complete, the woman who held the other half of his heart.
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Megan Hart — Read in bed!