“You don’t understand what you do to me.” His whole life, Gunnar has felt unworthy of love. Then one unforgettable night, his childhood sweetheart Kadlin offers herself to him. Knowing he will never truly deserve her, he leaves the next morning… The memories will have to last a lifetime. Kadlin was devastated when Gunnar left. Now, two years later, he returns, wounded from his battles across the sea. And Kadlin must decide whether to trust him again, and tell him about the true consequence of their one night together!
Kadlin awoke to the disturbing knowledge that she was not alone in her bedchamber. She lay perfectly still, listening for some sound that would betray the intruder, but she failed to hear anything past the pounding of her heart. The fire had reduced to only a smoulder, so she blinked, urging her eyes to adjust to the absence of light. There was a heaviness in the room, a presence that wasn’t her own. She was certain that it wasn’t a trick of her imagination. The presence prickled her skin and sucked out the air in the small chamber.
Where was her dog? The realisation that her faithful companion had abandoned her set off a cold flare of terror and her heart froze in her chest. If someone had been able to take Freyja, then—
‘It’s only me, Kadlin. Don’t be afraid.’
Gunnar! She would have known his voice anywhere. The deep cadence was followed by a spark of orange as the fire flamed back to life. Its warmth caressed his beloved features, making his amber, wolfish eyes appear to glow at her from across the small distance. The flickering flames highlighted the deep red of his hair and drew her attention to the angular planes of his face as they played hide-and-seek with the light. He was the fire god come to life.
But he was Gunnar, decidedly flesh-and-blood male. Her heart resumed its pounding, but for an entirely different reason. She’d not laid eyes on him in well over two years; he’d been gone, fighting across the sea. Even before that, her knowledge of him had become sparse and relegated to stolen glimpses and awkward meals when their fathers met. They had still been children the last time he had made the long trek, alone through the forest, from his home to her bed.
Now, he had the broad shoulders of a seasoned warrior, made even wider by the fur cloak draped across them. She could barely tear her gaze from their solid strength, but he prodded the fire and she noticed how large and strong his hands had become. Much different than the hands that had held her so many years ago. A trembling began somewhere deep within her.
‘I didn’t know if I would see you again.’ Her words came out a bit breathless so she forced herself to take a deep breath as she sat up in bed. She wanted to touch him, to reassure herself that he was really there and this wasn’t some dream, to know the feel of his shoulders beneath her hands so she could compare it to her dreams. She wanted to reach out and hold on to him before he left and she never saw him again. To shake him for taking himself away from her.
But it had been so long since they’d enjoyed the easy camaraderie of their youth and he seemed so fierce and remote from the boy she had known. ‘You returned with Eirik in the autumn.’ They could have had the whole winter to know each other again. She didn’t give voice to the words, but the accusation hung silently in the air between them. ‘Why have you stayed away?’ A shadow moved in the corner behind him and she realised that her dog had been given a large hank of dried meat to chew. Gunnar had come prepared, it seemed.
He took a deep breath and seemed to come to some decision, because when his gaze lit on hers, he looked at her so directly that she was left speechless. There was no jesting there, no artifice, or even a veneer of civility. There was just a restless energy that he seemed determined to harness so that it focused completely on her. When he finally spoke, his voice was textured with longing. ‘You were betrothed to my brother. If I saw you again, I knew that I would have challenged him for you.’
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Harper St. George was raised in rural Alabama and along the tranquil coast of northwest Florida. It was a setting filled with stories of the old days that instilled in her a love of history, romance, and adventure. By high school, she had discovered the historical romance novel which combined all of those elements into one perfect package. She has been hooked ever since. She lives on Florida’s Emerald Coast with her husband and two young children. When not writing, she can be found devouring her husband’s amazing cooking and reading. She would love to hear from you. Please visit her website at harperstgeorge.com. Facebook: www.facebook.com/harperstgeorge Twitter: www.twitter.com/harperstgeorge