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I don’t write separations much. In most of my stories, once the hero(es) and heroine are introduced, they’re pretty much together for the rest of the book working out their problems. Maybe that’s because that was always my own personal experience. *cough* In Ravished by a Viking, I gave Dagr and Honora a separation. He sacrifices himself, surrendering himself, his crew, and the ship he took as part of a larger plan. In the excerpt below, Honora knows he’s been tortured, likely already dead. But she’s made her own sacrifice, entering the Viking’s keep, without his protection, to tell them an army is coming. This scene preceeds my favorite scene in the entire book…where Vikings battle dragons…
2011 CAPA winner for Best Sci-Fi Romance!
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?
“They’ve come! They’ve come!” came the whispers up and down the wallwalk.
Honora ran to a guard who leaned over the parapet, his hand pointing.
Vikings scrambled from below, climbing the stairs and ladders to get to the top.
“Are they daft?” Odvarr exclaimed loudly.
And next to her ear. Honora shook her head to clear the ringing and aimed a glare his way. “Shhh! The wind will only carry away so much of our sounds.”
“Why bother being quiet? They’ve already proven themselves fools.”
“That is a whole battalion of Consortium ground warriors,” she said, whispering furiously. “Men trained well in hand-to-hand combat, and armed to the teeth. Shouldn’t you be sending your own barbarians out to meet them before they reach the walls? They carry small cannons!”
“We needn’t bother. Do you hear them?”
Sure, she heard the rhythmic, snow-muffled stomping of hundreds of feet. So why did he look so gratified? Her gaze ran over Odvarr’s craggy face. She’d never understand any of them. They seemed to thrive on conflict.
She and Turk had arrived at the keep the previous afternoon, bound like roasted geese and greeted with suspicious stares and muffled laughter. Honora bore the indignity, filling in Dagr’s man in charge, the surly giant Odvarr, on what had transpired since Dagr’s last stop for ore.
Odvarr’s shaggy eyebrows had risen, but he’d stayed silent throughout the retelling. Of course, she’d left out the more intimate details.
Not that that had saved her from scrutiny by his two concubines. Astrid had looked down her nose from her great height, her glance skimming her body, then sniffing as though Honora were of no consequence. However, Tora had chided Odvarr for leaving her and Turk bound.
Under her insistence, the giant had reluctantly freed them. “Do not think I won’t split the two of you from gut to gullet if you threaten anyone here.”
Tora’s eyes twinkled. “Do not worry about him. He’s still smarting over the trick the last guest we held here played on him.”
“Do you hold all your guests prisoner?”
Tora had folded her hands over her belly, and her friendly gaze had narrowed. “Well, you aren’t really guests, are you? Dagr never gave you leave to come here.” She’d sighed and her stern expression softened. “However, the great risk you took coming to warn us says a lot about you.”
Then she’d fussed over them, waving a team of servants through the great hall to feed them, asking endless questions about Honora’s home, her ship, the people she knew.
And especially how Dagr had been when they’d parted. “Did he seem grim?” she’d asked.
Honora shrugged. “Not any more than usual.”
Astrid’s eyebrows shot up. “You spent a lot of time in his company, then?”
Honora’s cheeks had warmed beneath Tora and Astrid’s fascinated stares. “He . . . demanded that I remain close . . . to ensure the good behavior of my crew.” She had been just as curious about the two women. Knowing he had his choice of Viking women, she’d been surprised that he hadn’t chosen the most beautiful or even younger women.
“It can’t be. She’s a tiny thing,” Astrid said under her breath to Tora. “He’d break her like a twig.”
Tora patted her hand. “My friend, you’ve known this day would come.”
“But she’s . . . not Viking. Her skin is
Honora had had enough of them speaking as though she wasn’t even there. She cleared her throat. “My skin’s bronze.”
Astrid’s hard-eyed gaze bored into her. “Her hair’s mud-colored.”
Pride inching her chin higher, Honora replied, “It’s actually a deep russet.”
Astrid snorted and aimed a confused glance at her sister concubine. “She knows nothing about our history.”
“And yet she’s human too,” Tora said softly. “We all have a common history, a common origin. Perhaps he sees a way to breach the divide between our peoples.”
A political arrangement? Honora shook her head. “You place too much importance on me. I’m a disgraced ship’s captain, not someone a noble would consort with for a political alliance.”
“And yet, you’ve slept with him,” Tora said, studying her.
Honora’s cheeks burned hotter, but she nodded.
“More than once. I’d hazard a guess that he didn’t wait long past the taking of the ship to claim you.”
Honora’s mouth dropped open.
Tora smiled. “It’s all right, dear. You’re among friends.”
“Friends!” Odvarr and Astrid exclaimed in unison.
“Friends,” Tora said firmly. “Our Dagr has made his choice.”
“But he didn’t even want her here.”
“Likely for her own protection. Am I right?”
Honora saw no reason to argue, since the woman had somehow guessed right about everything else. “That’s what he said, but he might have been sparing my feelings.”
The three Vikings sitting opposite her froze, their mouths half-open, then erupted in peals of laughter.
“He wanted to spare your feelings?” Astrid said, holding her sides.
“He’s a sensitive man. More so than I originally thought,” Honora said, feeling foolish for having mentioned it at all.
“Tell me,” Tora said, wiping her eyes. “Was he wearing a stone talisman when last you saw him?”
Honora shrugged, not understanding, and then remembered the amulet Dagr had given Birget. “He passed it on to Birget before she boarded the transport ship to follow Dagr’s brother.”
For the first time, Tora’s soft mouth pinched into a tight line. “He is stubborn beyond belief. The man needs to learn to pray.”
Honora had had enough of small talk and turned to Odvarr. “You have to believe me. Consortium ships are headed this way. They intend to attack this keep and seize the mines.”
Odvarr didn’t respond with a gesture or an expression.
“Are you going to do nothing?” Honora said, jumping to her feet, anxiety fueling her muscles.
“It’s already done,” Tora said, her voice soothing. “As soon as you were brought into the keep. Odvarr set guards on the wallwalk and scouts along every access road to the keep. We will know if anyone comes.”
“And if they teleport directly inside the keep?”
“They will be like fish in a barrel,” Odvarr said, crossing his burly arms over his chest. “There isn’t a wolf inside the keep that isn’t standing ready and armed.”
Honora sighed. “I can’t be idle. Please, may I keep watch too?”
“And do what?” he said, eyeing her as though she were an annoying insect.
“I can shout. I can pray.”
“Do you have a god you have a relationship with?” Tora asked.
“Not really. I haven’t believed for a very long time.”
“Then let me introduce you to our Dagr’s god. The one who blessed his sword and whose symbol he wore around his neck—until he decided to gift his well-being to that arrogant bear.”
Honora liked Tora from the instant they’d met. But as the evening had worn on, she’d warmed to the woman’s natural warmth and good humor, melting just a little beneath her coddling when she’d fed her, then insisted on bathing her and tucking her into bed.
In all her life, Honora had never been treated like that. The servants in her father’s house who’d seen to her instruction until she was old enough to enter the academy had otherwise left her to herself.
She wondered if Dagr knew how different his world was, how wonderful it was to someone who’d never felt she belonged. She’d fallen asleep admitting to herself that she wanted to belong here. Wanted to belong to Dagr.
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’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!”
* * * * *
Be sure to check out the snippets on these other authors’ blogs:
Megan Hart:Read in bed!
Mandy M Roth