Ransom For a Viking
Rivals, Galen Odgers and Cam Fawst have shared many things. Gifted athletes and favored sons of Eagle River Wisconsin, both have been quarterbacks for the same legendary football team, the Warriors. Each was raised by a strong woman, and both love the same beautiful girl, Kjersten Solheim.
Though they despise each other, they are inexorably linked. But there is a secret about one of them, a secret that a mother took to her grave, that a high school coach swore never to reveal, and one whose consequences continue to reverberate.
Can love survive the ultimate betrayal and the revelation of a decades old secret?
Free on Kindle Unlimited
Release Date: May 26, 2016
Genre: Historical | Short | Romance
One of the Orkney Islands around 740 AD
Though it was well into the evening, the last rays of the summer sun lent the sky an eerie redness. Blood, it looks like blood, Astrid thought with a shiver of foreboding. How disquieting and strangely fitting that on this night, one on which the Vikings had returned to raid her village, the evening sky would bleed. Determinedly, she looked away from the sunset and hurried along the path to the chieftain’s long house. Her arm ached with the heavy kit she carried which was filled with healing salves and herbs. She had been sent for to tend a Viking who her own people now held.
She should feel relieved, she knew. After all, no one from her village had been killed. They’d managed to capture the Viking and prevent the impending attack because several of the Viking’s own men had betrayed him. After the capture of their leader, the other Norsemen had climbed back into their dragon ships and sailed away. Astrid’s village was spared, but now they held an angry and wounded Norseman, the one for whom Astrid had been sent to tend. For this man was chieftain, or nearly one, and surely worth a fortune ransomed.
A salty breeze blew in from the sea, billowing her mantle. She took a deep breath, ducked her head low, and stepped over the paving stones at the entrance to the long, low, turf covered house. Once inside, she straightened and allowed her eyes to adjust to the smoky dimness. The house smelt foul after the fresh out-of-doors and the only light was provided by the fire and small oil lamps. Many of the important men of the village were gathered about the hearth.
“Iona, bring more mead,” Keir, the blustery, red-bearded chieftain of this island village, demanded of his wife. “Our throats are dry from this day’s work.”
A harried-looking pregnant woman left her chair and her mending by the fire and moved to obey.
It was then that Keir and the others noticed Astrid. He nodded in acknowledgement; “Healer.” The ripple of unease that always accompanied her presence moved through them. She raised her chin, meeting Keir’s glance. She was used to their fear of her. It had taken several years to cultivate and it kept her safe.
“The Norseman’s back in the hut.” He referred to the small structure behind his long house where he kept tools, weapons, and the cattle and swine that he couldn’t fit into his main lodging. As the chieftain, he was entitled to such extravagances.
“Keir, there’s not much mead left,” Iona, Keir’s wife, protested. “Tomorrow, I can get more.”
“What?” Keir demanded. “Wife, you shame us before our guests!”
Astrid spoke up quickly. “I’ve a goodly supply of mead. One of you men go and get it.” There was only the briefest of hesitations before Athol, one of the youngest of the men gathered, rose to his feet, and after receiving a brief nod of acknowledgement from Keir, made his way out the door. Astrid was a very fine mead maker, the best in the village. Her brews were so sweet and rich in flavor that they were always the most sought after at the market fairs. So, going to her supply was no hardship.
Iona offered Astrid a grateful glance and returned to her mending and her seat by the hearth.
“I’ll see to the Viking now,” Astrid reminded them. Clearly, Keir and the others were well into their cups, inspired by their unlikely triumph and the promise of a hefty ransom.
“We need him alive, Astrid,” Keir stated, attempting some gravity and decorum despite the way he slurred his words. “We can’t ransom a body.”
While his cronies guffawed, Astrid resisted the urge to roll her eyes. It would serve them right if she simply left their Norseman to die. Keir and the others were intolerable enough without another feather in their cap. Still, they did protect her and allowed her to live as she chose, asking only that she per-form those healing skills which she regarded as a sacred duty anyway.
“I’ll do what I can.” Astrid turned to leave; as she did so, the inevitable whispers began.
“She’s like to cast the evil eye on him,” someone muttered.
Another of Keir’s cronies snorted. “The witch will probably make his male parts shrivel up.”
“Male parts or not,” Keir announced. “We’ll still ransom him.”