by Gina Conkle
Norse Book Two
Survival’s in his blood…
Rough-souled Brandr’s ready for a new life far from Uppsala, but he can’t stop thinking of a certain flame-haired thrall named Sestra who gets under his skin. Before he leaves for good, the Viking has one final task —Protect her at all costs.
Saving others is her purpose…
A slave since birth, Sestra's life has been filled with hardship...until she learns of a treasure hoard. With war coming, claiming the riches will save lives, but only one Viking can help her on this journey —Brandr, the fierce silver-eyed scout.
Chasing more than silver and gold…
Brandr and Sestra have shared taunts and barbs. Now they must share trust in what becomes a desperate bid to survive. Passions flare as secrets unfold, leading one to make a daring sacrifice that changes everything on their quest To Find a Viking Treasure…
Genre: Historical RomancePurchase link(s): Amazon ARe BAM iTunes Kobo B&N
Content/Theme(s): Vikings, Treasure hunt, Enemies-to-lovers
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Excerpt & More
Brandr walked to her, sand crunching under his boots. A night breeze blew a fat red curl across her mouth. Sestra smelled of fresh water and clean earth, good smells to a man who preferred forests to longhouses and scented oils.
He stood dangerously close. “It pleases me to take care of you.”
“Oh.” Soft, brown eyes searched him. She had to have heard the husky note in his voice, same as he did. If he didn’t take control of his impulses, he’d steal more than a kiss.
“If you want to help me, take this,” he said, holding out his bag. “And wait by the pine tree.”
“What is it?”
“All my worldly possessions.”
She took the well-traveled bag, her cinnamon brows pinching as she tested its weight. “How is it a warrior of your stature and experience has so little?” Her gaze touched Jormungand’s hilt. “With the exception of your fine sword.”
He glanced at the shiny hilt, a smirk forming. “Maybe I stole it?”
“Maybe you did. You’re good at a great many things. Raiding, scouting, rescuing a woman in need. Why not add thief?”
He brushed the errant curl away from her mouth and tucked it behind her ear. “All those skills, yet I've never been able to keep a woman.”
“I’ve never known you to want one for than a night,” she said softly.
Behind him, water tapped the shoreline, the ancient tides teasing him with its wet back and forth rhythm. His body ached from head to foot from shoveling dirt and fighting. He should be tired, but awareness of Sestra hummed under his skin. Were the gods taking turns testing him? He was sure the wind carried a hint of the goddess Freyja’s seductive laughter.
His low, raspy chuckle was his answer. “Could be my lack of wealth.”
“Because you gamble away what you have.” She inched closer and the sleeping fur draped over her shoulders brushed his thighs. “It doesn’t matter. You’re rich in a good many things far better than silver.”
His chest swelled at the unexpected praise. Some women found him too rough. Those that didn't wanted him for one night and nothing more.
Sestra’s eyelids drooped, and she turned to pick her way across the sand. This had to be a sign of trust, this change from their usual jabs. Or was she too exhausted to insult him? Sestra had to be coming off the elation that coursed her veins from surviving the waterfall. He smiled grimly at the darkness.
Did she know what most warriors craved after cheating death?
“Keep your focus,” he whispered under his breath. “And get off this island in one piece.”
He snapped off a leafy branch with too much force and swept away their footsteps from the sand until he reached the grass where Sastra waited. With light scarce, he squatted at the pine tree’s roots. Scanning the heavens, he scooted around the tree on the balls of his feet until he found the perfect spot. Hands flat on the trunk, he felt his way up until stickiness brushed his palms.
At last. The island offered him a gift.
With his axe, he skimmed off a section of rough bark, exposing pale pine flesh. His axe blade bit bare wood with sharp slanted jabs. Nine slashes, a worthy number. The gods should be pleased.
Dried pine needles crackled under cautious footfalls. Sestra. Head bent, she inched into his side vision. “What are you doing?”
“Harvesting resin to fix the boat,” he said, keeping his attention on the tree.
“You’ll repair the hole tonight?”
Muscles tense, he stood up. There’d be no avoiding what was to come. “Tomorrow.” He grabbed her hand and took his bag from her. “Now we need shelter.”
He led the way into the forest not far from the boat’s hiding place. Sestra’s fingers curled around his, the easy hold like a tender arrow to his callous heart. She counted on him to keep her safe.
Wet clothes stuck to his skin, adding to his misery. With one sleeping fur, there was one best way for two cold bodies to get warm. Images of long freckled legs twining with his danced in his head, and a slow burn snaked down his torso.
Letting go of her hand, he scanned a ring of trees ahead. “We’ll stop there.”
Covered in his sleeping fur, Sestra perched on a fallen log. He walked the perimeter of the trees, collecting large branches under her watchful eye.
She stifled a yawn. “Do you need help?”
“No. I need to work alone.”
Sweat pricked his hairline as his armload landed with a thud. The less contact he had with her the better. With both hands, he rammed one makeshift pole after another into willing soil. Grinding the wood into soft earth taxed his growing lust. He slanted the branches together, the top ends nestling in a point. Their rough abode would protect them for the night and was wide enough for two.
“I’ve never seen the like before.” Sestra’s voice floated on the night breeze. “Yet another talent.”
He faced her, motioning to the inside. “It’ll capture our heat.”
Sitting in the dark, Sestra could be an elfin forest creature waiting to make her move on the unsuspecting interloper. Tales abounded of fair forest maids stealing a man’s life force. Other stories told of men falling prey to their forbidden love.
Teeth clenched, he knew where he’d failed Odin’s test. The kiss at the waterfall. He hungered for another taste.
There was only one way to resist her charms.
Folding his arms across his chest, he stood in front of the shelter. “Everything wet. Off. Now.”
Scant starlight filtered through the trees, touching Sestra’s red hair. Her head cocked at angle as if she tried to understand his rude tone and still found herself baffled. This was how it had to be. He opened his mouth to repeat the order, but she stood up and took her sweet time coming to him. When she got an arm’s length from him, the hudfat dropped from her shoulders with a quiet thump.
Tension coiled low in his trousers.
With careful hands, she gathered up her skirts and pulled the tunic over her head, her hostility a palpable thing. The garment coming off was necessary, not meant to be seductive. But it was.
Sestra's quiet chipped away at his stony heart. So did the sight of sopping white linen clinging to her curves. Did lust and affection live in the same place? He couldn't be bothered to answer. His hungry gaze was too busy devouring every inch of her, straining to see in the dark what he’d imagined all summer.
“Here,” she said, handing over the damp tunic.
He jerked his chin at her. “Your undergarment.”
“You want me completely naked?”
Heat singed his loins. Those words from her lips pushed him to a sharp edge. He fought the push-pull of wanting to touch her, knowing he shouldn’t, and lost. His free hand grazed her shoulder and her breath caught. The sound made his balls clench.
He pinched the sleeve. “You heard me. All wet clothes. Off.”
Tight-lipped, she eyed the shelter’s narrow opening. “I understand taking off the wet tunic, but not my undergarment.”
“At the waterfall, you were all too willing to take my clothes off.”
Her head turned fast. Facing him, she leaned in the way warriors did when battling for an inch of ground. “I liked the man at the waterfall.”
“You’ve got this one now.”
An owl sang his night song overhead. She shook her head as if she tried to read and found herself befuddled.
“Don’t talk to me like every other lout,” she snapped.
An angry Sestra was good.
“Keep testing me and I’ll tear it off.” He paused before delivering his harshest blow. “Remember, I could make you go home naked.”
Her chin dropped bit by bit. Cruel slave traders stripped women bare, stealing their dignity in a bid for dominance. Somewhere in this quest, he and Sestra became partners. Equal in every way. His rough-shod words set her squarely back where they began—thrall and freeman.
Better that she hated him. It’d make leaving tomorrow easier.
She reached for her hem and yanked the white linen over her head. “You want my undergarment, you can have it.” Voice shaking, she jammed the limp cloth at him and folded her arms over her breasts. “I should never have let you kiss me.”
“Thralls don’t have a choice.”
Her mouth flattened in an unforgiving line. He put a death sentence on what was started by the waterfall. Or tried to. Sestra bare-skinned in a dark forest stirred him better then ermine and silk. The lust for sex, for her, was winning over the need for sleep.
Women were creatures he appreciated, tarried with for a time, and left. Some highborn, some not. She was a slave, and he’d admit she was becoming his friend. And tonight he stood captivated by this lowly thrall, yearning to bury himself deep in the cradle of her hips.
What he wanted, he could never have.
Sestra gripped his forearm and crouched to the ground in front of him, her head brushing his knees.
Air hissed between his teeth. “What are you doing?”
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