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Michelle Willingham

A Viking Maiden for the Marquess

A Viking Maiden for the Marquess

Series: Viking Voyagers - Book #2


Click here to read Chapter 1

Katarina Larsdottir strode along the rocky shoreline, the cool summer air biting her skin. The sun was descending into the sea, its rays gleaming upon the dark waters brushed with crimson. With every stride, she kept her hand upon the blade at her waist.

For she dreamed of vengeance.

In her memories, she could see the faces of her enemies. Geilir, son of Jósep, and Jokull, son of Áfalstr. Although both of the Norse warriors had left the shores of Rogaland, Katarina had sworn to the gods that she would find them…and they would die.

Her steps slowed as she reached the small cairn of stones upon the hillside. Bitter remorse flowed through her, and she rested her palms upon the limestone, dropping to her knees beside her sister’s grave. One day soon, the men would regret what they had done.

Even now, after a year, she could not forget what had happened. Gentle Ingirún had barely reached the age of thirteen. Her beautiful sister had been ravaged by those drunken men, and she’d died at their hands.

A hard lump formed in her throat, and Katarina clenched her fingers against the cool stones. “Odin, grant me vengeance,” she whispered. “Let me bathe my blade in their heart’s blood.” She would give anything in exchange for their deaths…anything at all. One day, her sister’s enemies would pay for her death with their own lives.

Perhaps then, Katarina could forgive herself.

When footsteps resounded behind her, she spun, her blade in hand. But it was only her brother, Hrafn. He wore a cloak, hiding the stump of his missing right arm. “You should not be out here alone, Katarina. It will be dark soon.”

She only shrugged and shielded her eyes against the setting sun. “If I choose to visit with our sister, what harm is there?”

“You are watching for ships,” he predicted. And in that, he was right. Each day, she watched to see if the striped sail would arrive, unfurled in the wind as the boat crested along the waves toward the shore.

“None of them has returned,” she said.

“Not yet,” he agreed. But her brother knew she would never stop searching. Her enemies had gone a-viking to East Anglia…but when they came back, she would be waiting.

Hrafn’s gaze narrowed, and he remarked, “Leave it be, Katarina. If they do not return by next summer, I will find their settlement and bring them here to face judgment.”

“If you go, I am coming with you.”

“No. This, I will not allow. You cannot travel with us,” he insisted.

She said nothing but turned back to walk toward their settlement. Hrafn didn’t understand. He had not been there, never suspecting that his sisters would fall prey to men of their own tribe while he was away.

Katarina closed her eyes a moment, pushing back the dark memories. Her sister had been attacked and raped by the raiders before she could save her. When she had found Ingirún, her sister was lying motionless while blood streamed from her head.

And then Katarina had been attacked. The men had beaten her, tearing at her clothing. She’d been battered and bruised, trying in desperation to fight them off. Thankfully, Valdr, the jarl of their tribe, had arrived, along with Leif Tormundsson, before she was harmed.

Katarina’s eyes blurred with hot tears. Even when she’d tried in desperation to bring Ingirún to the healer, it was impossible to save her sister. She’d never awakened, for the men had struck her head against a stone during the attack.

She slowed her pace, fingering the scar at the corner of her mouth. One day they will die for what they did.

Katarina continued walking toward the settlement before she cast a look back at Hrafn. Her brother had remained near the rocks, letting her return alone while he kept watch. He had looked after Ingirún and her during the past year, ever since their father died after a hunting accident. Their mother, Kolla, had died a few years earlier, from illness during a long winter.

Although Hrafn was only three years older, he considered himself responsible for her. He had hardly left her side since the night their sister had died, and Katarina had never told him that she, too, had been attacked. After Ingirún was dead, it had seemed unnecessary. He carried his own burden of guilt for not being there—and she saw no reason to make him feel worse. Especially when she had been rescued before any true harm was done.

Just inside the walls, she saw Móðir Gerda. The old volva was seated upon the dirt, her legs folded beneath her skirts. Both of her palms faced the setting sun, and she was chanting to herself in words Katarina had never heard. A strange chill crossed over her back, and the hair stood on end at her nape.

The volva was chanting a name, she realized. Arik Thorgrim.

Without meaning to, Katarina took a step backward, her face flushing. As a young girl, she had been deeply in love with Arik. She had once dreamed of sharing a life with the stoic warrior. She had twined locks of her hair with charms, hoping that one day he would look upon her with interest. But he had left the settlement, traveling across the sea with another woman, Svala.

Why would the volva speak of him? A cold fear slid over her spirits, for she was certain that Arik was dead.

She remained frozen in place, wondering if she should leave. But an invisible force seemed to draw her closer until she knelt beside the old woman.

“He is coming,” the woman said, her eyes opening. One blue eye was already blind, and she seized Katarina’s arm. “You must be ready. At dawn, he comes.”

“What do you mean? Arik is dead.”

The old woman closed her eyes again, rocking back and forth. “No. He will be the shield to protect you from what was never meant to be. But his life lies in your hands.”

The seer’s words troubled her. She tried to tell herself that Móðir Gerda was caught up in a vision, one that might not be true. There was no denying that Arik Thorgrim had once held more power than any man of this tribe. As the son of the jarl, he had been the one who was meant to rule them all.

But how could Arik’s life be in her hands? And what was she meant to do?

“At dawn, by the edge of the sea,” the old woman prophesied. “You must be there when he comes.”

***

OFF THE COAST OF NORWAY

ONE THOUSAND YEARS LATER

The moon glowed blood-red over the dark waters of the sea. It hung within the sky like an omen of death, and more than one sailor sent up a silent prayer for protection against evil. Eric Fielding, the Marquess of Thorgraham, knew it was only the moon—and yet this night held an otherworldly aura.

A cloud slid across the sky, and the winter wind began to shift and blow. The hair rose on his forearms, and the waves grew rough. Though he supposed it was only weather approaching, an air of tension tightened among the men. Eric approached the bos’n and asked, “Do you need help with the sails?”

“Mr. Thorgraham, stay out of the way,” the bos’n warned. “Our sailors know how to handle a storm. Go below deck where it’s safe.”

None of these men knew of his true identity as a nobleman. Eric had allowed them to believe that he was a merchant’s son, an ordinary passenger of no consequence. He preferred working among men who were content to earn their living with the sweat of their brow. They didn’t know what a gift it was to have that freedom. Many of his friends had envied his place as a future duke—he knew that. And yet, that life had never felt like his own.

The wind’s intensity heightened, whipping the sails and increasing their speed. The ship began to toss in the waves, and the night sky had turned so black, they could hardly see where the heavens met the sea.

“You need the help of every man,” Eric told the bos’n. “It’s not safe for any of us.”

After the man nodded permission, he joined one of the sailors and helped pull a rope tight, tying it off. But the ship lurched against a wave and tossed him backward. Eric struck his head hard against a barrel, and violent pain resonated through his skull.

Now the storm raged higher. The sea had become a monstrous being, spewing icy water while the wind howled.

You’re going to drown, an inner voice taunted. You turned your back on your estates and your father. Was this what you wanted?

No. But the idea of spending his days in Parliament, arguing over the laws and learning to become the Duke of Somerford, seemed like an excruciating fate. All his life, he’d been trapped among dusty ledgers and books, learning to govern the estates that his ancestors had built. The need for adventure, the fierce desire to sail across the sea, had burned within his veins. Even now, when he inhaled the sharp tang of the sea air, it held the scent of freedom.

It was possible that he might die this night if the storm continued to batter the vessel. He should have been afraid. But instead, Eric stared up at the moon, and a strange calm descended over him.

He ignored the throbbing in his head and seized a piece of rope. The hemp cut into his palms, but he tied himself to the upper deck, while the waves tossed the vessel within the tempest. An icy spray drenched him, and he shuddered against the frigid ocean water.

If the ship could not withstand the storm, all of them would die. And still, his uncertain fate felt preordained somehow.

The winds battered at his face, and he wondered if he would ever see his father again. His death would devastate Gregory, and Eric didn’t want to imagine how that grief would consume him. Regret cloaked him, along with stinging rain. He tried to imagine Gregory’s face, tried to hold the vision in his mind, as if it could push back the horrors of this night.

Bitter winds ripped the sail in half while waves pounded against his ship. The ship’s captain shouted orders to his men, but to no avail. The mast cracked, the wood shattering into jagged pieces. Salt water covered the deck, and all around him, men were praying for mercy.

But no pleas came to his lips. Instead, Eric turned his gaze to the clouded skies, his thoughts in turmoil. If the sea took him, there would be no redemption, no chance to see his father again. His father was the only family he had left, and he didn’t want to die with enmity between them.

A large wave crashed against the ship, and salt water sloshed against his mouth and nose. His ropes had come loose, and before he realized it, a second wave swept him overboard. The frigid water iced his limbs, dragging him under. For a moment, all grew still, and the cold seemed to freeze his very bones. Beneath the water, he saw the reflection of the moon, and the light was tinted red.

Eric clawed his way upward, fighting to break the surface. I will not die.

An unseen force seemed to hold him beneath the water as he struggled for life. The cold darkness surrounded him, like a ghostly embrace. He knew he ought to be terrified, but within his consciousness came the realization that he was not alone. Someone was with him, an unknown presence, speaking words in a foreign tongue.

He churned his arms, finally bursting through the waves and sucking down gulps of air. His body was numb, and when he looked around him, the storm had abated. The waves grew calmer, and the blood-red moon rose high above him, the rosy amber light illuminating the water.

Not yet, a woman’s voice whispered.

Eric took more breaths of air, not knowing if he’d imagined the sound. His skin tingled with awareness, as if something had parted the veil between life and death. Was this real? Had he survived the storm? Or was this his first glimpse of the afterworld?

He struggled to swim, not knowing where he was going. The water’s surface gleamed with the reflection of the blood moon. In the distance, the sky was transforming from dark blue to lavender. It would be dawn within an hour.

As he continued swimming, he grew somber at the realization that there was no ship remaining—only floating bodies and shattered pieces of wood.

I’m alive, he thought. Somehow, he had survived this shipwreck, though his friends and shipmates had not.

If he didn’t reach land, the ocean would become his watery grave. Eric continued swimming, trying to conserve his remaining strength while he searched for something to hold on to.

There. A large piece of the ship floated nearby, and he swam as hard as he could to reach it. His fingers seized the wood, and he crawled upon it, his heart pounding. He held tight, praying that the tide would bring him to land.

His cheek rested against the wood, and he shivered violently against the cold. Yet, he clung to life, refusing to surrender. He floated for what seemed like hours, until a tiny light caught his attention.

Was it the flare of a torch or a fire? The crushing fears lifted, for it meant land was surely nearby. Eric closed his eyes with thankfulness. He let himself drift toward the shore…and when dawn broke, he saw the light more clearly. It was indeed a flickering torch, though he could not see who held it.

The ocean waves slid across the sand and a rocky beach, while behind it, taller gray hills dotted with limestone rose up. He didn’t know where he was but suspected Norway. They had been sailing near the country on the way to England when the storm had struck.

The view of land encouraged him to swim harder, still holding on to the makeshift raft. When his feet finally touched the ground, he lifted his face to the sky. Thank God. Today was not his day to die.

Eric trudged through the water until he reached the shore. He sank to his knees, digging his hands into the wet sand. For a moment, he steadied himself, so thankful to be alive. He longed for home, wishing he could see his father again and apologize for all that he’d said and done.

He’d been so angry at the legacy of his forebears closing in around him…of his obligation to sit in the House of Lords, debate laws and, of course, marry an heiress from a good family.

Now, he didn’t care.

He would bind himself to the life he didn’t want if it meant he could see his father sitting by the fire, reading his favorite book, Gulliver’s Travels. He could envision the older man seated in his wingback chair, a cup of cold tea on the table beside him. And he imagined the joy on Gregory’s face when his only son returned.

And he would return to England, as soon as he could hire a new ship and a crew.

The wind whipped at his skin, and Eric forced himself to stumble forward along the rocky shore. His first priority was to find shelter and get warm.

As he walked, the sense of familiarity grew stronger, almost as if he’d been here before. Which was impossible, since he’d never set foot in Norway…or wherever this was. But he couldn’t shake the premonition that he knew this place somehow. He’d dreamed of it.

A narrow pathway led north toward the open meadow, tempting him to follow the road. Yet he’d seen the torch flare on the west side. Through the rocky hills, he would find shelter—he was convinced of it.

He trudged through the sand, realizing that his shoes had fallen off during the shipwreck. His clothing was in tatters, soaked and torn. But strangely, his head no longer hurt. When he studied his palms, they had healed, with no trace of the rope burns. An uneasiness caught him, for he couldn’t understand it. Another injury plagued him—something upon his back. He didn’t even remember being cut, but his spine burned as if someone had stabbed him.

Eric climbed through the rocks, and beyond them, he saw green grass and trees covered in leaves. Again, the disquiet passed over him, for it was February. There should be no leaves on the trees, nor green grass. If they were in Norway, he expected to see snowy fields. Instead it seemed to be…summer.

He gripped his hands together, willing himself not to imagine the impossible. Either he was dead and this was his new existence…or he had somehow lost the memories of the past two seasons.

There were too many questions, and he felt a dizzying sense of apprehension. But if he allowed himself to think too much, he would lose his grasp on control. Find shelter, he reminded himself. And food.

Eric took another step forward, and a dark vision came over him, of being struck down with a battle-ax by a…Viking. His spine burned with agony, and he nearly dropped to the ground from the force of the phantom ache. And yet, no one had touched him. With effort, he caught his breath and steadied himself. What was happening?

Strange words mingled within his mind in a language he’d not heard before…but somehow he could understand them.

Svala betrayed me.

His skin tightened with fear. Who was Svala? Was he hearing voices now and had he gone mad? Or was he, in fact, dead? Eric knew that the seasons didn’t change within hours. And he most definitely should not be hearing voices in his head. He blinked a moment, forcing himself to continue walking through the rocky sand.

You hit your head on board the ship, he reminded himself. Perhaps he was unconscious right now and dreaming. Yes, that was it. He had to be imagining all of it. The thought calmed him, and he decided to continue on with the dream, letting it take him where it would.

But with each step, he felt the sense of foreboding heighten. He stopped a moment to touch his head, trying to force back memories that did not belong to him. God above, what was happening to him?

He was Eric Fielding, the Marquess of Thorgraham. And yet…he was not. Another name came into his consciousness, Arik Thorgrim.

That’s not who I am.

He wondered if the violent storm had caused him to see and hear things that weren’t there. It was as if his life had been unseated, torn apart at the seams.

Before he could question it further, a beautiful woman emerged from the shadows. Her golden hair hung unbound below her waist, and several braids were pinned like a coronet across her head. Never had he seen anyone like her. She was taller than most women, and she moved like a warrior goddess, a torch in one hand.

Her blue woolen gown hung in folds, and a long apron was pinned at her shoulders with two golden brooches. The moment she spied him, she stared at him in shock. “Arik…I thought you were dead.”

***

Katarina couldn’t believe the sight before her. Arik Thorgrim was standing outside the settlement, just as the volva had prophesied.

A part of her hadn’t believed the old woman, but she’d awakened just before dawn, unable to sleep any longer. All night, the wind and the rain had battered her roof, filling her dreams with fear. Without understanding why, she’d hurried outside toward the shore, as if the goddess Freya had commanded her to be there.

Now, she understood why.

She hardly recognized Arik, for his dark hair was cut short. Even his beard was far lighter than she remembered, as if he’d shaved only a few days ago. He had always been a tall, muscular man, but now, he appeared leaner and less like a brute warrior. His clothing was in rags, and he walked barefoot.

But still, the sight of him made her heart pound faster. Only a few weeks ago, one of their kinsmen had returned with the revelation that Arik was dead, struck down by a battle-ax. It must have been a mistake, for clearly he was standing here now. She tried to quell the errant thoughts, pushing back the unbidden feelings. “I cannot believe you’re alive.”

The words were foolish, but she could not pull them back. It doesn’t matter, she told herself. She had made a different life for herself now, and her girlish infatuation with him would fade.

Arik’s gaze fixed upon her, and his dark eyes drank in her features. For a moment, she remained frozen, not knowing what to think or say. Goose flesh rose over her skin, and she felt her face flush. Why was he looking at her like this? Arik had never been attracted to her. Instead, he’d treated her like a little sister, a maiden to be ignored. He had been far more captivated by Svala, a fiery beauty with a heart of ice.

But at this moment, he was staring at her in a way he never had before. She was spellbound by the intensity of his interest, and her gaze drifted to his firm mouth.

Don’t, she warned herself. There was no reason to believe anything was different now. She took a step backward as her embarrassment heightened. “What happened to you? Where is your ship?”

He didn’t speak but instead closed his eyes, as if trying to steady himself. When she looked back at the dark waters, there was no sign of any vessel—only fragments of wood. She swallowed back other questions realizing that he’d survived a shipwreck…and the other men were likely dead.

She yearned to ask more questions, but he was likely freezing from the cool summer air. “Come with me, and you can warm yourself at my hearth. We will talk more there.”

He gave a nod to indicate that he agreed with her words. Katarina took his arm, guiding him toward the settlement. Odin’s blood, his skin was like ice. He jolted at the contact, and she pulled back, realizing that he hadn’t wanted her touch.

She never should have reached out to him. He was destined to be their leader, the jarl, and she had no right to cross that invisible boundary. Katarina walked alongside him toward the settlement, keeping her head held high, hoping he would disregard the gesture. But her cheeks burned with shame.

She’d known he would return to Rogaland, but she’d been unprepared for the emotions that had risen up within her. His very presence brought back a flood of memories she’d tried so hard to forget. Once, this man had been the reason to make her smile, the one she’d adored from afar. He’d been strong and bold, the warrior she’d dreamed of.

And now, she was a broken woman, haunted by nightmares. Her life had shifted, changing in ways she’d never anticipated.

It does not matter, she told herself. All that matters is bringing Geilir and Jokull to justice. She fervently hoped that they hadn’t drowned on board Arik’s ship. A death by drowning was far too good for either of them.

They crossed over the rocky hillside, the path winding toward their settlement. The sky was deep purple with creases of pink along the horizon. The torch she carried cast a faint glow upon the grass, and Arik followed her in silence.

Her brother stood guard outside their settlement walls. The moment Hrafn spied Arik, his features turned grim. He sent Katarina a questioning look, and she shook her head in warning. Neither of them knew what had happened, but Arik would tell them soon enough. Right now, he appeared confused, as if he had barely survived the shipwreck.

Worst of all was his silence. He hadn’t spoken a single word since she’d found him. It made her uneasy, wondering if his tongue had been cut from his mouth.

Hrafn stepped in front of them, blocking their path. Her brother’s gray eyes held no welcome—only suspicion. To Arik, he said, “I heard that Björn killed you.” His voice held a trace of doubt, as if wondering why that tale had been spread. “If that is untrue, then what happened?”

Katarina wanted that answer as well. She held her breath, waiting for him to speak, but again, Arik said nothing. Her brother stepped forward to demand an answer, but Thorgrim moved aside, causing Hrafn to stumble.

She was startled when Arik moved in front of her…as if to guard her from Hrafn. His dark eyes gleamed with an unspoken challenge, and her brother reached toward his weapon with his left hand.

“Don’t.” Katarina stepped between them, holding her hands up. “This is not the time for a fight. We will hear more about what happened once Arik has dry clothes and something to eat.”

Hrafn’s expression didn’t change. “He should go to his father’s house. Not ours.”

She knew that. But Arik and his father had argued fiercely before he’d left, and she suspected Valdr had not forgiven his son for leaving. It was better to wait a little while before Arik confronted the man.

Katarina touched her brother’s chest with a palm. “So he will. In a little while.” After I’ve had the chance to speak with him.

But when she looked back at Arik, she felt the strong sense that something terrible had happened. It was as if he had returned from the afterworld after being struck mute by the gods. Katarina wanted to know why he would not speak, but she had a feeling he would not tell her. She intended to delay his return to his father, Valdr, until he was prepared to explain the reports of his death.

Hrafn’s expression tightened, and he leaned down to whisper in her ear. “I do not want you alone with him.” Both of them knew he was not permitted to leave his guard post until the next sentry arrived for duty.

“I will be fine, Hrafn,” she reassured him, resting her hand upon her own blade. “I promise you that.” She had known Arik all her life and trusted him. But if he dared to raise a hand to her, their thralls would come to her aid. With a slight smile, she added in her own whisper, “Else I will gut him.”

Hrafn seemed unconvinced. “Send him away until I am there.” She understood that her brother trusted no one anymore—but she wanted answers and would not wait until later in the morning.

Instead, she took a step back and stood at Arik’s side. “Arik Thorgrim will not harm me.” She turned to face the man. “Will you?”

He eyed her and then Hrafn before he shook his head. She guided Arik toward her home, thankful the dwelling rested on the outskirts of their settlement. It was still early, and only a few folk had arisen. “Come quickly,” she urged, not wanting anyone to see him. She led him inside the wooden longhouse, closing the door behind them.

Inside the dwelling, her thrall, Astrid, was preparing a hot porridge, along with oat cakes. The young slave’s eyes widened at the sight of Arik, but she was wise enough to hold her tongue.

“Stoke the fire hotter,” Katarina ordered, and the girl added wood to warm the space. Arik remained quiet, and there was only the sound of the oak log cracking as it caught fire. She lit an oil lamp near the far end of the dwelling and moved to stand by the curtain that divided the living space. Though there was no reason to be nervous, Katarina wasn’t quite certain how to begin. She wanted to know how he had arrived back at their shores, where the ship was now, and which men had traveled with him. And most of all, whether any of them were still alive.

“Are you hungry?” she asked, stalling while she gathered her thoughts. Without waiting for his answer, she retrieved a hot loaf of barley bread and gave it to him. “Here.”

Arik paused a moment before he took it, but he nodded his thanks. Then he spoke in a language she had never heard before, foreign words that made no sense at all.

Katarina frowned and shook her head. “I do not understand you.” A cold chill washed over her with the worry that something wasn’t right. Arik Thorgrim wasn’t acting like himself. Although it looked like him, could she have been wrong? Her instincts heightened, that something was amiss.

He ate the barley loaf and closed his eyes a moment, lost in his own thoughts.

“Is your name Arik?” she asked softly, not even knowing if he understood her words.

He gave a single nod but did not speak again.

“What happened to you?” She stood before him, studying his features intently. His brown eyes were the same, as was his dark hair, though it was cut shorter. She studied his face and saw that there was no longer a scar across his throat—his skin was smooth, unmarred. Her heartbeat quickened, as she wondered if he had been changed by the gods. What if he had died, but Freya had sent him back to her in a spirit form?

Katarina took a step backward, suddenly afraid of this man. She took a step toward her thrall and reached for her blade. Discreetly, she unsheathed it and tucked it into a fold of her gown. It made her feel better to have the weapon, though she hoped she was wrong about Arik Thorgrim.

He walked toward the hearth fire and stood with his hands outstretched, welcoming the heat. His hair was still damp from the sea water, and his clothing was soaked. But when she studied him, she noticed that his garments were far different than those he had worn before. Instead of a belted woolen tunic and leggings, he wore a dark tunic closely fitted to his arms. It was unlike anything she had ever seen before.

He traveled to distant lands, she reminded herself. Perhaps it was clothing he had bought from a foreigner. But a strange tingling alerted her senses.

She moved closer and asked, “Do you remember who I am?”

He nodded again. “Katarina.”

At the sound of his voice, she let out a slow breath of air. So he could speak. And if he remembered her name, then he might truly be Arik Thorgrim. No one else had told him her name—not even Hrafn.

But her doubts lingered. There were enough physical differences that made her question the truth of his return. Scars never disappeared—she knew that, all too well. It set her trust on edge, making her wonder if he was an outsider who only appeared similar to Arik.

He adjusted the sleeve of his tunic, which was soaked, and she understood that he wanted to get out of the wet clothing. Katarina motioned to Astrid. “Bring him dry clothing from my father’s belongings.”

A flutter of nerves passed over her, for she knew that Arik had other scars upon his chest. Were those gone, too? She pushed back her own uneasiness, gripping the blade in her hand. Her brother had been right. She shouldn’t have gone with this man without being certain he was Arik Thorgrim.

“Take your wet clothing off while Astrid fetches you something dry to wear.” She sat down on the other side of the longhouse, near the door. Arik didn’t move, not even when her thrall returned with the clothes.

“Shall I help?” Astrid asked him, and he nodded. The slave tried to remove his tunic, but Katarina noticed that the edges were caught on small, round fasteners. When Astrid tried to pull the tunic apart, he stopped her, and slipped the circular object through a smaller hole. He continued unfastening the garment, and the dark blue outer tunic came off easily.

“Bring that to me,” Katarina ordered her slave. She took the tunic and studied it, noticing the quality of the foreign clothing. The stitching was hardly visible at all, making her realize that this was an expensive piece. The round fasteners were made of a strange metal, not gold, but they were so perfectly cast, and she saw the value in them.

Arik wore another layer beneath the tunic, also held together by the round fasteners. This time, he stared at her while he undressed. His dark gaze held hers, and she grew aware of the charged intimacy between them. He peeled off the second layer, but a third garment of linen remained soaked to his skin. It should have frightened her to see him so exposed. Instead, she could not tear her eyes from him.

He had lost some of his muscles, but this was not a weak man. His shoulders were honed, his body tight. She stared at the exposed part of his chest, wondering what it would be like to slide her fingertips over his skin. A sudden flood of heat warmed her, and she could not understand the reaction.

Arik’s brown eyes were watching her as if he wanted her hands upon him. His expression softened, and she jerked her attention away. It isn’t real. But even so, her instinctive response humiliated her. It was foolish, born of her own insecurities and idle dreams.

She was startled to see Arik removing the last garment, pulling the linen over his head. The sight of the man’s bare chest shocked her. The scars were all gone, leaving only smooth skin in their place. Instead of a ruthless fighter, he was sleek and toned.

Her heart pounded at the sight. He was still staring at her, and the sight of him unclothed made her breath seize in her lungs. But she could no longer deny the evidence before her. To Astrid she ordered quietly, “Go and fetch my brother.”

Then Katarina faced the stranger and revealed her blade. “I do not know what evil spirit you are. But you are not Arik Thorgrim.”

 

Summary:

Eric Fielding, the Marquess of Thorgraham, is shipwrecked upon the shores of Norway during a violent storm and brought back a thousand years in time. He finds a beautiful Viking maiden waiting for him, but Katarina Larsdottir needs a warrior to slay her enemies—not an English gentleman.

Katarina is fascinated by the man who returns to her. He looks similar to Arik Thorgrim, the man she has loved all her life…but the handsome stranger is nothing at all like the fierce warrior she remembers. His kindness soothes the wounded scars of her past, awakening her to a passion she has never known.

But when an enemy from Katarina’s past threatens to kill everyone she loves, Eric must cast off the civilized rules of his upbringing and fight for her…or lose everything.
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  • Returns

    Please see our Returns Policy for more information on returns and refunds.

  • Shipping

    Digital products are delivered instantly via BookFunnel. For all other products click here.