One woman will turn the tide of battle by risking everything for the man she loves.
Taken from her village as a child, Ealasaid has lived under the iron rule of a Viking king for far too long. The only good to come out of her life is her son. As long as the king lives, their freedom and hope for the future seems dismal. Despite her contempt for the king and his bloodline, she's drawn to Hella Ingvasson, the man who kidnapped her, and the plight he faces when the king dies.
His father's final demand is that Hella must wed if he's to claim the throne. What better revenge than to marry the thrall his father hated most? Despite her fears Hella will become like his father, Ealasaid agrees to marry for her son’s sake, but she quickly learns her husband’s battle scarred body provides more pleasure than nightmares.
Word comes that her brothers also survived the raid and have assembled an army. They march toward a Norse settlement with the intention of revenge. Unless she can reach her brothers and convince them not to slaughter the man and people she's come to love, Hella may become another bloody stain on history's tapestry.
“You seem troubled, Hella.” His name rolled from her lips smooth as wind through the oaks. “Shall I send for Erik or Bjorn? Company might soothe your nerves.”
Erik would have to be informed of Ingvar's plan should Hella fail to marry, but he didn't want to share it yet. “They'll suggest we drink ourselves blind and let the problem wait for tomorrow. There are not enough tomorrows to prevent my trouble.”
Her lips puckered, a clear sign she wanted to ask, but there were limits to her curiosity.
There wasn't any harm in telling her. Everyone would learn his plight soon enough. “It's about my father's last wish.”
“Ingvar speaks from beyond the death veil.” She quirked an eyebrow. “What does the old king require you to do? Will you unite Northumbria to conquer Byzantium or Spain?”
“No, it's much more difficult.” He tore the end off the bread and ripped it into little bits. “I must take a wife or lose Solstad.”
Ealasaid stared, then burst into laughter.
“I'm pleased my troubles amuse you.” He smashed his hand on top of the crumbs. “Explain how my misfortune is a cause for laughter.”
She wiped tears from her eyes. “You've fought battles others would run from. You grew up in the White Raven's shadow. You take what you want and leave nothing behind. I find it difficult to see how marriage is a horror you cannot face.”
“Indeed, my sorrows are reason for mirth.” He shoveled scalding soup into his mouth and swallowed. She wouldn't have dared talk to his father this way, but Ealasaid had never held her tongue around him. “Be gone. Instruct another thrall to bring the rest of my courses.”
“You must have dozens of conquests. Surely one would make a suitable wife for the new king of Solstad.” She twirled a pale strand of hair around her finger. “Inga the butcher's daughter? She's fair of face and quick to laugh. Or Giera. The daughter of some jarl or the other north of here.”
“You're not helping. Go on, leave.”
“As you wish, m'lord.” She curtsied then turned for the door. “May the gods resolve your inheritance issues and favor you with a mighty queen and a hundred strong Viking babies born with clubs in their hands.”
***About the Author
A love of reading inspired Allison Merritt to pursue her dream of becoming an author who writes historical, paranormal and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. When she's not writing or reading, she hikes in national parks and conservation areas.
Allison graduated from College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri with a B.A. in mass communications that's gathering dust after it was determined that she's better at writing fluff than hard news.