It’s a risk of a lifetime loving a man you’re supposed to hate…
Betrayed by a brother she hardly trusted before the bloodthirsty Viking, Jarl Randvior Sigurdsson, attacks her home, Noelle Sinclair is conveniently bartered as a means to save her cowardly sibling’s skin. Forced to leave her homeland and accompany the petulant Viking to the untamed wilderness of central Norway, Noelle is ever-aware of the burgeoning dangers around her—including her weakening resolve to resist Randvior. Should Noelle surrender to his resplendent charms and seduction, or fight with every ounce of strength she possesses to get home?
Randvior chose to take the longest route back to the great hall to give Noelle a chance to recover her dignity. As they exited the cellar, the bitter cold overpowered them. She shivered and squeaked hoarsely. If she persisted in screaming, she might lose her voice altogether. Not a bad thing. But if she sucked in too much cold air, she risked catching her death.
He spanked her bottom and gave her a firm shake. “Enough!”
In turn, she slapped at his arms.
“Didn’t you learn the first time that armor scars hands?”
“I’ll risk it again if it means you’ll put me down instead of carrying me around like a sack of turnips!”
He rewarded her with another deep-throated chuckle, which seemed to irritate her even more. Her flailing feet made contact with his chest. Like a fish on a hook, she flopped around until he stopped abruptly.
“I’ll give you one chance,” he said, and she went stiff. “Your sister or yourself—fate rests in your hands.”
“Violence and trickery,” she said. “Not as stupid as you look.”
“Bite your tongue, woman,” he warned, thrashing her backside, reminding her of her rightful place. He did have limits. If he were any other man, she would have been spread across a bed hours ago, feeling his manhood deeply rooted inside her, no regard for her feelings at all.
He tossed her into a snowdrift. “Perception is everything.” He grinned.
When he saw the rage in her eyes, he regretted not doing it sooner.
She stood and dusted snow off her front and backside. “Yes,” she agreed. “And shall I tell you my first impression?”
“I think you made that clear—never call me that again.”
She pointed angrily at him. “Never put your oversized paws on me again!”
Randvior wished he had a muzzle—she had a wicked tongue as fiery hot as a branding iron.
Blood stirring, he stepped closer. “Make your choice, now.”
“Did you ever really give me one? Are you teasing or simply testing my allegiance? I’m not the kind of woman to push my misery onto someone else, especially my sister. Don’t underestimate me, Norseman. I may be younger and weaker, but I’ll fight you every chance I get. This is my home. No matter how flawed it seems to you, it’s all I have.”
She held her ground as he came even closer. Nearly on top of her, he pressed his forehead to hers. “We’ve reached an understanding. If I must tie you up and carry you away for all of England to see, so be it.”
She opened and closed her mouth, wet her lips, and stared hard and long before she spoke again. “Try me …”
Mediocrity never graced Noelle’s life, always feast or famine. The Viking, whose name she didn’t even know yet, manipulated her into agreeing to go with him. Oh, that she had a blade to run him straight through! Trailing slowly behind, she imagined a hundred different ways to overpower the libertine. But a girl’s fantasies and stone cold reality were anything but the same. The form walking in front of her couldn’t be taken down by ordinary measures.
There were ways though, big men required plenty of rest, and unless he slept with his eyes open, a moment of opportunity would eventually present itself. She’d already challenged him. And what did he do? Laughed in her face and embarrassed her beyond comprehension.
It struck her that she might never see Durham again, her sister, or her father. She twirled slowly and absorbed the open countryside covered in snow. The forest and ocean, the open meadows and sandy beaches. This land had something to please anyone. This is my playground, not some frozen tundra where men live lecherously beyond the grace of God. If Brian’s babbling nonsense about her father going to Ireland to finalize a marriage contract for her was true, she’d be forever bound to some faceless groom and still forced from her homeland. Why must she be the one to rescue her family from the brink of poverty, when she had an elder sister more than willing to marry?
They reached the courtyard and he introduced her to one of his captains guarding the doors, Harud Ostberg. The man towered a full head taller than him, if that was even possible. She offered no salutation, but didn’t resist as the man took her by the arm and led her inside, leaving the Viking lord to his business.
“A moment with your sister,” Harud said, pointing to a tiny closet by the stairs. He paused in front of the archway and flashed his weapon. “No games,” he said, patting the blade like a dog.
Margaret was waiting, and flung herself into her arms. Touching Noelle’s face tenderly, she began to weep. “Everything is falling apart at the seams. Brian is completely unrepentant, claims his actions were justified because Ophelia posed a threat. Father is overdue and you are leaving me forever.”
Noelle wrinkled her forehead and sucked back her own grief, again. Margaret’s body quivered in her arms like a terrorized child. After a long time, they broke apart and she brushed strands of falling bangs aside so she could see her sister’s eyes.
“Don’t let these heathens have the satisfaction of seeing you shed tears.”
Margaret’s body jerked one last time. “Your clothes …” She pointed to a chair.
An overdress, chemise, and pair of wool stockings were neatly folded and waiting. She looked around the small space as she kicked off her ruined shoes. Her leather boots were on the floor. Margaret stepped aside, picked up a sheet, and spread it wide for privacy while Noelle stripped out of her damp garments.
Modesty forced Noelle to keep her face to the hall while she changed, just in case roving eyes tried to peek inside. Harud was only a stone’s throw away, which did little to settle her nerves. This is the most shameful thing I’ve ever experienced. Resentment grew as she tied the silver ribbon at her neckline. Margaret balled the sheet up, threw it aside, and laced the back of her gown.
“There’s little time, Noelle. Have faith and remember I love you.”
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About the Author
Violetta Rand holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy and a master’s degree in Environmental Management. Serving as an environmental scientist in the state of Alaska for over seven years, she enjoys the privilege of traveling to remote places few people have the opportunity to see.
Violetta has been “in love” with writing since childhood. Struck with an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age, at five, she wrote short stories illustrated by her best friend and sold them in her neighborhood. The only thing she loves more than writing is her wonderful relationship with her husband, Jeff. She enjoys outdoor activities, reading whatever she can get her hands on, music, and losing herself in the ancient worlds she enjoys bringing to life in the pages of her stories.