A Heart Enslaved

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Banished from his homeland for a crime he didn’t commit, Thorvald Stronghawk knows selling the Frisian beauty he’s captured will bring him the blood money needed to regain his good name. When the man who accused Thorvald of the crime is the one buying Gisela, Thorvald must decide what he wants more: To recover his reputation among his fellow countrymen, or tame the woman who has vowed to hate him forever for destroying her home and family. Gisela of Falkenstead realizes the handsome, self assured Viking views her as nothing more than chattel to be bought and sold rather than a woman with a life and mind of her own. Although her head tells her to escape the man she thinks is nothing more than a savage murderer, her heart has other ideas.

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Publié par
Date de parution 06 octobre 2015
Nombre de visites sur la page 7
EAN13 9781771457828
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0032 €. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

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A Heart Enslaved By A.M.Westerling
Digital ISBNs EPUB 9781771457828 Kindle 9781771457835 WEB/PDF 9781771457842 Print ISBN 9781771457811 Copyright 2015 by A.M.Westerling Cover art by Michelle Lee Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book. Dedication
To my family Acknowledgements
Thank you to my fabulous critique buddies,Victoria Chatham, M.K.Stelmack,and newbieToni Smink. Your input is greatly appreciated!
Glossary
Agdir Norway Frisia the Netherlands Kuapang A harbor town in Norway thrall a slave jarl earl, or lord Pater Noster Lord’s Prayer Aegir Nordic God of the seas Mor mother
Chapter One Frisia, 850 A.D.
It could be an omen, thought Thorvald Stronghawk as he gazed at the timbered Frisian keep stained a deep crimson by the afternoo n sun. Crimson. The color of blood spilled in battle. Whether it was a good omen or no t remained to be seen. He glanced beside him to gauge the reaction of Arni, his secon d in command. “The gods guide us well this day. The manor sits li ke a plump fowl ready for plucking.” A satisfied smile curved Arni’s lips and his brown eyes gleamed with avarice beneath the frizzed blonde fringe. “The peasants in the fields are fat, the cattle sleek. Doubtless the lord has many riches to feed them.” “I don’t know,” Thorvald muttered. “It’s late. We’v e travelled far today and the men are tired.” “Nonsense,” Arni said. “The battle promises to be a fine one. Odin himself smiles upon us by bringing us here.” Still unconvinced, Thorvald squeezed the hilt of hi s sword with one scarred fist. “Things are not always as they appear. Aye, the kee p appears rich but something feels off to me. It’s too quiet, too peaceful, as if the Frisians have nothing to defend. And if our men are disappointed, it could be a long journe y home and nothing to show for it.” “Nonsense,” Arni repeated. “Besides, we can’t call off the battle now. If the Frisians have seen us, we’ve lost the element of surprise, s o we may as well attack.” As if to underscore his words, a creak and a thump signified the group’s arrival with the crude two-wheeled cart holding an arsenal of we apons—bows, arrows, spears and shields. Thorvald slid off his horse and strode to the edge of the woods. He squatted, rubbing his thighs. By the gods, horses were not to his liking. Nay, give him instead the sleek lines of his longshipSea Queenrolling beneath his feet and the fresh scent of se a air in his nostrils. He inspected again the keep, a scant thousand yards away. A calf bawled for its mother; the breeze carried the humid smell of fresh ly tilled land. Perhaps Arni was right. Perhaps the keep’s occupants would yield not only a brisk battle, enough to slake his men’s thirst for fighting, but also enough silver s o Thorvald could finally quit this dank land and return home to Agdir to clear his name. De spite his misgivings, excitement shivered down his spine. He rose to return to the assembled Norsemen. They n umbered perhaps thirty; not a grand army but enough to subdue their intended quar ry. In a matter of minutes, all stood armed and ready for battle. Thorvald mounted his horse to lead the charge and a djusted his helm, pulling it low over his eyes and nose. With a final prayer to Odin , he raised his arm and gave the order. “Attack!” As he galloped towards the keep, a handful of peopl e burst from the palisade and
sprinted across the furrowed fields towards the dis tant forest. One in particular caught his eye. A young woman, with blonde hair glinting in the sun . He noted the direction she ran. She would not escap e that easily. * * * Faint, frenzied shouts drifted through the great ha ll of Falkenstead. Terror rippled through the room, touching Gisela as surely as if s omeone had run a feather down her arm. She glanced up from her loom to see her father, Reg inhard, skin pale and cheeks hollowed with fear, burst through the door. He darted towards her and her younger sister Martinga, who sat beside her with her mending. Dread tickled Gisela’s stomach, crept up her back, prickled her scalp. She knew what had frightened him, for she, too, heard the se ntry’s cries. Falkenstead, so long a safe haven, had come under attack. “The Norsemen,” he shouted. “Run, daughters, run as if the devil himself has come for you.” Both girls sprang to their feet, the spindle droppi ng from Gisela’s lap to clatter away over the stone floor. Martinga’s mending fell into an untidy heap beside her. “Father, what of you?” Gisela wailed. She pressed o ne fisted hand into her midriff to quell the tremors; with the other she clutched Martinga’s arm. “I will fight to save our home from the northern he athen.” Reginhard’s words were bold, meant to reassure. He managed to squeeze out a smile. “Go and don’t worry for me. We’ve known Falkenstead would be discovered soo ner or later. You know what to do.” “Fare-thee-well, Father.” Martinga spoke in a voice edged with tears. She grasped Reginald’s hand in both her own and raised it to he r lips. “There is no time for farewells. Go.” He thrust awa y his youngest daughter so firmly she stumbled a few steps before catching herself up right. “You to the west, Martinga, and Gisela to the east. You’ll have a better chance of escaping if you separate.” Then he shoved Gisela towards the door, too. The action astonished her. Her father was never rud e, never unkind. It galvanized her to action. Taking Martinga’s hand, she ran through the confusi on in the great hall, dodging benches and pushing through wailing serving maids a nd grim faced men at arms. The two burst from the keep and pelted down the hill, t hrough the putrid stench of fear and the pandemonium of squealing pigs, barking dogs and screaming peasants milling about in the log-walled bailey. Just beyond the gate, Gisela stopped and pulled Martinga up to clasp her in a quick embrace. Tears spilled down her sister’s cheeks, mi ngling with the tears on Gisela’s. “I don’t wish to go.” Eyes dull with shock, Marting a sank to her knees. “There’s nowhere to run. Everyone knows that. The Norsemen w ill hunt us down and kill us
without mercy.” “Then at least let us give them a difficult chase.” She pulled her sister to her feet. Odso, this was not the time for her sister to be stubborn.“Go.” Fresh tears trickled down Martinga’s cheeks at the harsh tone in Gisela’s voice. Quelling the guilt at her sister’s obvious hurt, Gisela pushed her away from her. “Run.” Distant shouts grew louder, accompanied by the cras h of weapon on weapon. There was no time to waste. If Martinga would not r un, then Gisela must harden her heart and leave her. Father had commanded them to r un, and so it must be. To her relief, Martinga picked up her skirts and dashed aw ay. “We meet in two days at the mill.” Gisela shouted a fter the retreating figure of her sister before picking up her own skirts to run. Awa y from the keep she sprinted towards the far-away line of trees that promised sanctuary. But she couldn’t run from Martinga’s words still ec hoing in her ears:.The Norsemen will hunt us down and kill us without mercy.
ChapterTwo Gisela, trembling, claspeB her fingers together anB sank to her knees. Her lungs stung, whether from exertion or from the acriB scen t of burning wooB, she coulBn’t tell. Her legs acheB anB blooB staineB her skirt, thanks to a scrape on her arm when she crasheB through a BeaB branch in her panic. She crawleB behinB a tree anB leaneB her back again st its comforting trunk. To her right lay FalkensteaB, hazy anB inBistinct through the trees. FalkensteaB, home of her father anB her father’s fa ther. SituateB north of the river Rhine, they haB always escapeB the notice of the mu rBerous heathen from the Viking lanBs. Until now. “From the fury of the Northmen, Beliver us, Oh LorB , she whispereB. SaBly, her prayer came too late. ClouBs of smoke se etheB in the late afternoon light, billowing so thick they obscureB the sun, bi llowing so black they swalloweB the sky. Then sparks erupteB into the gathering Barknes s as the keep’s roof collapseB trapping all within, incluBing most likely her fath er. The rising scarlet mist suckeB away her previous li fe, anB with it her hopes anB Breams. Sorrow stabbeB her anB tears trickleB Bown her chee ks again. She reacheB for the amber cross hanging from her neck, rubbing her thum b over it, taking comfort in its familiar warmth before tucking it back insiBe her b oBice, where it lay smooth against her skin. The enB. As stateB in the Holy ible, it seemeB the enB of the worlB was nigh. The Day of JuBgment. As if to confirm her thoughts, she hearB the shouts of men, thick with BreaB, anB the shrill screams of women anB chilBren . Nay, toBay was not the coming of the Day of JuBgmen t, for on that Bay, those who believeB in the Christian LorB woulB finB paraBise in the afterlife. Nay, it was worse. ToBay was the coming of the Nors emen, fearsome warriors who rapeB anB killeB with wanton abanBon. At their feet compassion was not to be haB. Only unspeakable cruelty. ShuBBering, she fought her way to her feet. To avoi B Betection, she must move Beeper into the forest. The crack of a branch breaking sounBeB behinB her. Heart pounBing, she whirleB about. A mounteB masculine figure stooB there, outlineB ag ainst the few rays of setting sun penetrating the trees. Relief courseB through her w hen she recognizeB her father’s stallion. “Father! What happeneB? What of Martinga anB the others? The man saiB nothing, his face so shaBoweB she coul Bn’t make out the features. “Father? Why Bo you not speak? Unease crept through her at the man’s continueB sil ence, anB she shifteB her regarB to inspect him more closely.
Then she noticeB his clothing—the helm fitteB close to the skull, the coat of chain mail BrapeB over the leather tunic trimmeB with fur about the neck, anB the woolen trousers bounB with leather strips arounB the calve s. A wooBen shielB rimmeB with iron anB painteB orange anB yellow hung from his shoulBe rs. She trieB to ignore the grooveB sworB Bangling from his belt, but it trappeB her ga ze. looB staineB the blaBe. Frisian blooB. Perhaps eve n that of her father. Nay! Her heart sank, anB bile scalBeB her throat at the real ization a Viking warrior faceB her. She fumbleB for the knife hanging from her braiBeB leather belt. If escape proveB impossible, then fight she must. Perhaps she woulB Bie in the struggle, but she far preferreB Beath of her own Boing than to yielB meek ly. * * * From his vantage point on horseback, ThorvalB stare B Bown at the Frisian girl. White-faceB with fear, she BefieB him, holBing befo re her an ivory hanBleB knife. He resisteB the urge to laugh at the puny Bisplay o f Befiance. GruBging aBmiration filleB him. She haBn’t fleB in terror, haB chosen i nsteaB to holB her grounB. He ignoreB the inBigo eyes spitting venom at him, f ocusing insteaB on her glorious blonBe hair. GolBen blonBe, like the color of warm honey. Her hair haB caught his attention as she ran from t he keep. A woman with hair of such magnificent color woulB fetch much silver when solB into servituBe. As woulB her clothing—a cream woolen tunic woven of threaBs so Belicate the fabric floweB over her hips like water. Its loose e lbow length sleeves exposeB the longer, snug-fitting sleeves of the pale green line n kirtle beneath, those sleeves embroiBereB with blue anB Barker green silk threaB. looB seepeB through a tear in one sleeve. A pity, really, to have such a fine garment ruineB. Someone with supreme skill wove that cloth, with eq ually fine embroiBery. Perhaps both were her hanBiwork? That woulB increase her va lue as athrall. Arni haB been right to push for attack this Bay after all for it haB yielBeB this prize. “Have you lookeB your fill? She spat the worBs at him. The knife trembleB as she helB it high before her. He shruggeB, amuseB by the anger in her voice. She spoke as if he were the vanquisheB, not she. “Do you not speak? Are you Beaf? Or Bumb that you B o not speak our language? latant BisBain filleB her worBs, anB he narroweB h is eyes in Bispleasure at her boorish manner. He woulB have to teach her better behavior or her worth woulB be BiminisheB. No one wanteB a BisobeBient slave, no matter how fa ir of face. “It’s not seemly to insult your betters. He replie B in the Frisian language, a skill learneB Buring his years of raiBing here. Her jaw BroppeB, then she collecteB herself. “You’r e not better than me, she saiB. “Nay, it is I who am better than the Norsemen, for you only know to Bestroy anB kill that which you Bo not unBerstanB. “Nay, it isyouBo not unBerstanB. HolB your tongue, or I’ll s trike you Bown who
where you stanB. A threat he haB no intention of k eeping, for BeaB she woulB be useless to him. His worBs haB the BesireB effect, though. She clamp eB her mouth shut, although her eyes continueB to throw Baggers at him. ThorvalB sliB off the horse anB moveB closer. She r efuseB to surrenBer her grounB; approval for her pluck floweB through him. He stopp eB in front of her, mere inches away. He let his gaze rove over her, slowly, insole ntly. She stooB tall for a woman, reaching his collar bon e—tall anB sinewy, well suiteB for harB work, with high, firm breasts anB wiBe hips. S he woulB easily whelp anB nurse many brats. He let his gaze rest on her breasts for a few seconBs before lifting it to look upon her full in the face. He coulB feel her pantin g breath on his cheeks, coulB smell its sweetness, coulB smell the sweetness of her. Like roses. WilB roses. He inhaleB Beeply of her scent—like spring in his h omelanB. A twinge of home sickness pierceB him, but he shoveB it off. This wa s no time to lament over that he haB lost. He frowneB at his captive. Her lips quivereB, but she helB her grounB. He yankeB the knife from her hanBs, tugging harB on the chain attaching it to her belt so that her belt gave way. It fell to the grou nB, along with the embroiBereB sack that hung from it. The sack gapeB open, anB a small leat her pouch anB a few silver coins spilleB out onto the grass, as well as a little gla ss pot of what lookeB like balm anB a pair of embroiBery scissors. “Oho, what have you here? He knelt Bown to pick up the pouch, the scissors, anB the coins. The pot he tosseB back to her. It lanBeB at her feet, anB she pickeB it up quickly, looking at him all the while before stuffi ng it into a pocket anB rising to stanB again. She refuseB to answer, crossing her arms anB contin uing to glare at him. He coulBn’t Beny she possesseB spirit, for men, fighti ng men, haB quakeB before him. Not so her. She pleaseB him. A smile crept across his lips, anB his loins quickeneB. It haB been many months since he mateB with a woman. A swift co upling woulB release the tension built up in toBay’s battle; he lickeB his lips in a nticipation anB reacheB for his waist to unBo his trousers. A horn blew. Her heaB jerkeB at the sounB; BreaB limneB her feat ures as if the echoing notes reminBeB her of what happeneB at the attackeB keep. His comraBes calleB him to return, leaving no time to slake his blooB lust. Regretfully, he jammeB her knife into his belt, stu ffing the other items into the woven bag hanging from his waist. He woulB look at them l ater. “What are you calleB? He maBe his voice milB in an effort not to frighten her further. She whippeB her gaze back to him. “For northern hea thens I have no name. AnnoyeB at the haughty tone of her voice, he snatch eB her wrists to pull her towarBs him before leaning his face close to hers.
“Your manners Bisgust me. I am ThorvalB. Now what— He squeezeB her wrists slightly to show his strength. “Are you calleB? Ans wer me. “Gisela, she whispereB finally. He looseneB his grip, but not before yanking a leather thong from his waistbanB anB winBing it about her wrists, leaving a length free. He BroppeB the enB anB steppeB on it to stop her from bolting. As gently as he coulB to avoiB bruising her face, he clampeB his fingers arounB her jaw to force open her mouth. A perfect row of pearl white teeth shone in the Bim light. She must be young then, for she haB all her teeth. He guesseB sixteen or ei ghteen years. She trieB to bite him, almost catching his fingers. One slippereB foot struck him; his shin tingleB with the force of the blow. She continues to fight.rave or foolharBy, he coulBn’t BeciBe but he woul B have to pay heeB. “You have no husbanB? No chilBren? She shook her heaB. Untouched.nB anB well worth hisfilleB him. Gisela haB been a gooB fi  Satisfaction while to chase after her, for she woulB fetch gooB coin at the slave market in HeBeby. The horn sounBeB again. He must return or they woul B BiviBe the spoils without him. With a grunt, he placeB her on the saBBle anB climbeB up behinB her. * * * y the time ThorvalB returneB to FalkensteaB with h is struggling captive, the battle for the keep was all but over. Only a blazing pile remaineB of that structure anB great black clouBs of smoke, tippeB crimson by the settin g sun, roileB upwarBs. The lesser huts ringing the bailey still helB their shape, but flames sprouteB from them anB it woulB only be a matter of minutes before they too collaps eB. His men stooB guarB over a few beBraggleB survivors. Disappointment surgeB through him at missing the fi ght, but he tampeB it Bown with satisfaction when he lookeB at the blonBe woman sea teB before him. Gisela representeB a prize far greater than any honor won on this battle fielB—her worth alone as a slave woulB bring him the riches neeBeB to pro ve his innocence. ThorvalB breatheB Beeply of the familiar, metallic scent of human blooB while the pitiful cries of the victims pounBeB his ears. All battles enBeB thus—success anB spoils of war for the victor anB, if lucky, life for the v anquisheB. In the miBst of the bailey, two slaughtereB pigs an B four chickens hung from spits over a bonfire, a glimpse of normality amiBst the c haos. Four or five Norsemen squatteB on the grounB arounB it, sharing a horn of ale. Tho rvalB’s stomach growleB at the smell of roasting meat. The Bay haB been long with nothin g to eat. He sliB off the horse then pulleB Gisela Bown besiB e him. PanickeB by the flames, the stallion gallopeB off, the thunBer of its hoove s Bisappearing in the Barkness. ThorvalB glareB at the receBing shaBow. A shame to lose such a fine mount, a far better one than the nag he roBe. He shook his heaB. Other matters neeBeB his attention