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my latest book has gone to the publisher

This is not the final cover, but one I knocked up as a temporary measure.

On Saturday I sent the manuscript of Jealousy of a Viking to my publisher. This one has been long in the making. I don’t know why, but I seemed to want to go over it and over it.

Eventually I decided I had to bite the bullet and send it, so there it is—residing with the publisher until they can get around to dealing with it.

I know they have a load of books to publish, but it’s this waiting time I find so difficult. I’ll let you know as soon as I know something, of course. When that will be, who knows.

This book tells the story of Helgha, a young Viking girl who has to come to terms with jealousy both in herself and her lover’s wife.
This eventually leads to disaster, of course.

When I know a bit more of what is happening I’ll let you know, but until then, here’s a taster.

CHAPTER 1

Helgha wrinkled her nose while digging up the bulbs of the ramsons plants. The pungent smell that arose as she dug tickled her nostrils. She looked at her spoils, decided she had gathered enough and picked up her basket.

The sun was sinking toward the horizon making the shadows of the trees creep like hands reaching to grab her. She shivered. Soon the wolves would be hunting.

A swishing sound, like footsteps in the dead leaves fallen from the trees sounded in her ears. She whirled around, her ash blonde hair whipping her face. No one from her village would be coming from that direction. The road led deeper into the forest and all the villagers would be at home now. Could it be an outlaw? Strangers were not to be trusted.

She looked around. She should not have stopped to gather the extra ramsons, even though, with the winter approaching, it would be needed for the inevitable coughs and colds.

Helgha listened. A blackbird scrabbled in the leaves under a small bush. A squirrel chattered at her from high in the tree above, angry at her presence. She drew her brows together. What had she heard?

Concentrating, she discerned a voice muttering, but could not make out the words. Who was this person speaking to? Did it mean more than one person approached? She looked at the shadows of the trees. They would help to hide her, but her walk back to the village would be in near darkness; dangerous for a girl out alone.

A young man leading a grey horse appeared from around a bend in the road. He murmured to the animal as he walked. Seeing the stranger, Helgha backed toward the bushes at the edge of the track. She hoped to make herself invisible in the shadows, but his eyes turned in her direction, the movement giving her away.

“Hey,” He looked toward where Helgha had pushed her way into the undergrowth. “Can you help me? I’m lost.”

Helgha backed farther into the bushes looking for somewhere to run. Perhaps the narrow animal track behind her would lead to a wider one where she could make her escape and run back to Thoringsby.

The branches snatched at her long skirts. I wish I were a man. Then I’d wear breeches. She pulled her grey woollen overdress from an elder bush.

The man called again. “I won’t hurt you. I only want to find a way out of this endless forest and back on the road to Jorvik.”

Helgha stopped. She could not go any farther. A large bramble bush prickled her back, its thorns penetrating the woollen cloak she wore.
The man dropped the horse’s reins and animal stopped, obedient to the signal. The stranger walked toward where he had seen Helgha before she pressed into the undergrowth.

“I understand why you’re afraid. I know strangers can be scary.” He smiled, making his grey eyes light up. “My name’s Erik.” He stopped walking and continued to speak. “I’m assuming there’s a farm or a village ahead and that’s where you’ve come from.”

Helgha stepped out from the bramble bush. She had to wrest her cloak free from the wicked thorns trying to pull her back. The man had seen her, so it was no use pretending she was not there. If he wanted to he could come after her. Anyway, she could go no farther with the dense brambles blocking her way.

“My home is a few minutes away.”

“Will you help me find a way out of the forest?”

Helgha looked at the man. He had light brown hair, a beard and a long moustache, as did most of the Danish men. His clothes looked of good quality and an expensive brooch pinned his cloak at the shoulder. She estimated him to be about eighteen years old—a few years older than herself.

As she looked at him, a hundred butterflies took flight in her stomach. She pressed her fist against it to try to stop their fluttering wings.

He’s not a beggar, nor even a poor man. Certainly not an outlaw, dressed in those clothes. And he has a friendly face. A handsome face. He’s lost as well.

She made a decision to help this man. As she began walking along the road, she beckoned Erik to follow. He picked up the reins and pulled his horse forward. It shook its head as if in denial before beginning to follow.

Helgha stopped and walked back to where the reluctant horse limped forward. She patted the animal talking gently to it. “You’re a beauty, aren’t you. Does your leg hurt?”

She turned to Erik. “What happened to your horse?”

“She tripped over something as we followed some game. I hope she’s not done too much damage to her leg. She’s a good horse.”

Helgha smiled. “Father’ll have a look at her when we get home. He’s good with horses. Have you walked far?”

“It seems like hundreds of miles.” He shrugged. “But it’s probably only a few.”

“How did you come to be lost?”

“My friends and I went hunting. As we cantered along, Stjarna tripped. The others rode on and I started to return to Jorvik. We’d ridden into a part of the forest we didn’t know—chasing a stag.’ He laughed. “He gave us a good run. I hope the others caught him. On the way back I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere.”

“You must have. We’re almost a day’s journey from Jorvik.”

“No wonder I felt I’d walked for weeks. I’ve gone in completely the wrong direction.”

They continued to walk along the forest road that wound between tall trees, mainly oaks, with bramble and bracken growing beneath their canopies. The leaves had begun to turn a yellow-gold and many had dropped to form a carpet beneath their feet. They swished like the sound of waves invading the beaches as their feet and hooves passed through them.

Helgha sniffed the air. A familiar scent reached her nose. This time of year fungi grew in abundance and people used them to flavour their stews.

“Wait a moment.” She rushed toward a fallen tree trunk where she picked some edible fungi from its bark. “These are good to eat. Mother will be pleased to have them.” She continued walking, looking back to see if he followed.

After a little while, the ground began to rise and the forest thinned. Shortly, the trees stopped altogether. Ahead a cleared area at the top of a little hill came into view. Fields surrounded the village with partially harvested crops growing in them. A small coppice of hazel grew on one side of the hill. The villagers used the wood for making everything from baskets to houses, and the nuts were a valuable crop for the winter.

As they climbed to the top of the hill a palisade with an open gate appeared. This was Helgha’s home. A large longhouse stood in the centre of the village surrounded by smaller ones in the same style. All the houses had thatched roofs that came almost to the ground. A frame of wood made up the walls, with a lattice of sticks woven between them. The houses had been made weatherproof by having a sticky clay substance daubed on thickly.

“Tie your horse here, Erik, then come into the house.” Helgha pointed to a post next to the palisade.

The Dane did as she bade him and followed her into the large longhouse.
The pair entered through a door set in the middle of one of the longer sides of the building. Compared to outside, the house was dark, but their eyes soon became accustomed. A fire pit glowed in the centre of the single room, the smoke curling toward holes cut in the thatched roof. These holes allowed light to enter as well as letting the smoke from the fire to escape.

One end of the longhouse was closed off. Animals shifted around in that space, and occasionally there came the lowing of a cow. The scent of the animals permeated the large room, mingling with the smell of the smoke from the fire. At the other end of the longhouse, a wooden wall closed off another room.

A double row of wooden pillars ran the length of the house. Wide benches filled the gaps between them. A sheepskin and a blanket lay on each bench.

Three boys, all younger than Helgha, sat on one of the benches playing some sort of game while farther down two women gossiped as they span wool into yarn.

A pot hung over the fire and a woman with ash blonde hair, very like Helgha’s, stirred it. The woman straightened and rubbed her back smiling at Helgha. “You’re back. I was becoming anxious as it’s getting dark. Who’s this you’ve brought?”

“This is Erik. I met him as I started for home. He was lost.”

As they talked, the door opened to admit a tall man with light brown hair. He walked over to the fire and warmed his hands. “It’s getting cold in the evenings,” He looked around and noticed Erik. “Who’s this?”

Erik stepped forward and introduced himself.

“So, my daughter found another stray. This one’s a bit bigger than most.” He laughed and put his arm around Helgha to give her a hug. “She has a kind heart and often finds something that needs looking after.” He turned to the girl. “Speaking of your waifs, you’d better go and see to that orphaned fawn you brought home. He’ll need to go back to the forest soon.”

Helgha turned with a glance toward Erik that set all the butterflies off in her stomach again. She dragged her feet through the door, pausing once more to look back at Erik and her father.

Helgha’s father was big and had the look of a warrior. He had a full, bushy beard and twinkling blue eyes that he now turned toward Erik.

“I’ll show you the road to Jorvik tomorrow,” Helgha heard him say as she left to feed the orphaned animal. “It’s going dark now and it’ll be dangerous to leave. Stable your horse with the other animals. Over there.” He pointed to the room holding some cattle and pigs.

Helgha left and entered the stable end of the house. She pulled some hay over to a young deer as Erik led his horse through the door. She stood and patted the mare. “What’s her name?”

Erik gave the horse some water. “Stjarna.”

“A pretty name,. But she’s a pretty horse so should have a name to match.”

Helgha’s father pushed the door open. “Let me have a look at your animal. She looks to have hurt herself.” He knelt down and ran his hand down the leg. The mare shifted as he touched a sore spot.
“ I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. It’s a bit bruised that’s all. Rabbit hole, was it?”

“Yes. I didn’t see properly. I was too busy getting up and looking where my friends had gone. I noticed she was limping, so I couldn’t chase after them.”

Although it was not close to the fire, the warmth of the animals kept the stable end of the house warm. When he had made his horse comfortable, Erik returned to the main part of the house, Helgha following.

Once they were back indoors, Helgha’s father said, “If you’re staying here tonight, I should introduce you to the family.” He laughed—a loud and cheery sound. “I’m Biorn. My wife is Ædelflaed. Helgha you know. Boys, come here,” he called to the three sitting in the shadows. “This is Hartvigg. He’s seen eleven summers. Then there’s Laeff. He’s seen nine summers and little Sigmund five. Helgha has fourteen, or is it fifteen? I forget sometimes.”

Ædelflaed shook her head. “Really!” she scolded, with a smile at her husband. “She’ll be fifteen in three weeks time. You know that as well as I do.”

“Well she’s fourteen now,” her husband argued and turned to Erik. “It’s late. You must stay tonight and I’ll show you the road to Jorvik tomorrow. Your friends? Will they be anxious about you?”

Erik laughed. “I expect so, and when they return to Jorvik without me, my father will no doubt punish them before sending them out to find either me or my body.”

When Ædelflaed served the stew and they all sat eating, Helgha watched Erik and followed his gaze as he looked at the round shield and battle-axe hanging on the wall opposite him.

He turned to Biorn. “You were a warrior then? When did you come here?”

“With the Great Army. We conquered this area. The Anglo-Saxons are weak fighters. It wasn’t too hard.”

“And you decided to stay?”

“Not straight away. I went back to Denmark. Then I came again. There was land here for the taking. Good land. Rich and fertile. I met Ædelflaed soon after that and we married.”

“Many came to settle,” Erik said. “My own family did. My father fought with the Great Army, too, and was there when they took Jorvik. He still tells tales of that battle; how the Anglo-Saxons tried to fight back, and we killed their leader.”

Helgha gazed at Erik throughout this conversation. She tried to memorise his features. She knew when he left she would not see him again. She thought he was the finest man she had ever seen. He was handsome and tall with the muscular body of a warrior.

He turned to look at her and she blushed. Erik smiled and that made her face heat up even more. The idea that he might know she liked him embarrassed her. She was only a young girl, but she was of marriageable age. Many girls as old as she was were married already.

Her parents would find her a suitable husband, and she would endeavour to be a good wife, but she wanted to remember Erik. She could dream of him at night and imagine his kisses, but only if she could remember exactly how he looked.

She had been watching him, remembering how he held his head and threw it back when he laughed. She noted the way he smiled. He loved his horse, too. She had watched as he patted it and spoke in a low voice so as not to startle it. Yes, she had enough stored to remember this man who had come so unexpectedly into her life and would as quickly leave it.

That night as she lay on the bench in her furs, she wept in silence for what could not be.

I hope you enjoyed this little taster of my latest work and are as anxious looking to read the rest as I am to hear more from the publisher.

What did you think about this first chapter? Does it whet your appetite for more?

If you want to find out more about me and my writing, then sign up to join my quarterly newsletter by clicking on the join button.

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Vengeance of a Slave

There are only 4 weeks left until the big moment.

Vengeance of a Slave


Will be released on Thursday December 26th

Make a note of it in your diary


or


Go to Amazon now and pre-order it.

This is my first venture into historical fiction. I really had an amazing time researching it and found out such a lot about the Romans and the way of life of the Celts who lived here when they invaded.

As a special thank you to all my readers, I am publishing an extract from the book on my blog on Thursday to mark the 4 week point.

You can order the book by clicking here, and it will take you to Amazon where you are. Or you can click on the book in the sidebar.

A Sneak Peek at Jealousy of a Viking

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I’ve not yet got any images for the cover of this book, or I’d post them here. However, there are a few of Viking people and Viking life. (Why has ‘of’ not gone into italics?)

I’m currently in the editing and rewrite process. I did hope it would be able to be released in time for Christmas, but that is now impossible. Anyway, here’s a bit of what I’ve already written. Please bear in mind that this is still only a draft.

This is Chapter 2. In Chapter 1, Helgha, a young Danish girl living near the Danish city of Jorvik, (York) met a young man called Erik, lost in the forest. She helped him to her home and he left his injured horse to be tended by her father, Biorn. After he collected his nirse, she thought she would never see him again, although she had developed an infatuation for the young man.

Each night for the next two weeks, Helgha recalled Erik’s features before falling asleep. She could see them as clearly now as she had when she first saw them. She thought about how he moved his head and how he walked. His laugh sounded in her ears as sleep found her. She dreamed of him walking into her home and asking her father’s permission to court her.

Aedelflaed spoke to Helgha about the herbs she would need to understand before she became a wife. ‘It will be your job to tend to the sickness and injuries of your people. You will need to know about what herbs you use for each job.’

‘Mother! I’ve been watching and learning all my life. I know almost as much as you do about tending the sick and injured.’

‘I know, Helgha, but your father is going to talk to Gunnar Janson about you marrying his son. You might think you know everything, but there are still many things you need to understand.’

Aedelflaed stretched, put down her spinning and stood. ‘Come with me, girl,’ she said, walking towards the streroom where she kept her dried and fresh herbs.

Helgha followed.

Aedelflaed reached, lifted a pot from the shelf, and turned to the girl. ‘Sometimes, Helgha, no matter how much you care for each other, a man will hanker after other women. You need to understand how to prevent him from straying. Now, I will teach you how to stop that. It involves herbs added to his drink, but also words said over it. Magic words.’

Helgha’s eyes opened wide. ‘Magic? You know magic? Isn’t that dangerous?’

‘Not if you know what you’re doing, and do it right.’

‘But someone could accuse you of witchcraft.’

Aedelflaed smiled at her daughter. ‘That’s why I’ve told no one except you, and you must never tell anyone, either, or we’ll both be in a lot of trouble.’

One morning, about ten days after Erik’s final departure, her father came to her. I’ve chosen a husband for you. I’ve decided on Gunnar Janson’s son. I spoke with Gunnar yesterday and he is in agreement.’

Helgha hung her head. She must obey her father, but her dream of becoming Erik’s wife dissolved as she foresaw a life lived with a man she did not like.

Gunner Janson’s son will not make any woman a good husband, she thought. On the few occasions they met, he had treated her with disdain. He did not seem to like women, and had told her once that he thought them weak. They did not know how to fight, and fighting was life.

But she must do as her father said and so she whispered, ‘Yes, father,’ hoping she sounded acquiescent but with a feeling of tightness in her chest, and her hands clenched involuntarily.

Helgha took a deep breath then carried on with her tasks with a heavy heart. She would have to obey her father, but all her dreams of a life with Erik came crashing down around her ears. Thoughts of rebellion flashed through her mind, but immediately disappeared. She did not know if Erik felt the same way. Most probably he did not. They had been beautiful dreams though.

Crushing those thoughts, she left the longhouse and walked to the well. Hearing the drumming of hooves on the road, she looked up. Her stomach turned over and her heart beat faster as Erik rode through the gate. He slid from his horse and jogged over to where she stood. Taking the buckets from her he looked into her eyes. Helgha thought she saw something there. Something that made her think perhaps her dreams were not in vain.

‘Hello, Helgha,’ Erik said, then looked away.

Had she imagined what she saw in his eyes? ‘Hello, Erik,’ she replied, feeling the redness creeping up her neck and infusing her face.

Leaving the other women who were at the well staring after them, the pair walked to the house in silence.

Why had he come? Surely her dream had not come true and he intended to ask for her hand in marriage. He must have some other reason to come here. Yes, that was it. He was on his way somewhere else and stopped at Thoringsby because it was convenient.

They entered the house, Erik following Helgha. He put the buckets down and spoke to Aedelflaed. ‘Thank you for your hospitality the other week. I would not be alive now if it weren’t for your kindness.’

Aedelflaed smiled at the young man. ‘No thanks are necessary. We did what anyone would do. You could have been killed by wolves or bears out there in the dark.’

‘I have something for you. To thank you. Wait a moment and I’ll go and get it.’ Erik ducked through the door, and a moment later returned with his saddlebags over his arm.
First, for you, Aedelflaed, I have this.’ He handed over a necklace of glass beads.
Aedelflaed gasped. ‘This is beautiful, Erik.’

‘It was made in Jorvik. We don’t make much glass there, but what we do is usually made into beads or rings, and is of fine quality. Now, for Biorn I’ve got some wine. I’m sure he’ll enjoy it when he comes in.’

Helgha smiled at the thought. Biorn drank more ale than wine, but she felt sure he would enjoy the change.

Erik pulled something else from his saddlebags. ‘For Hartvigg I have this wooden sword. He needs to learn how to fight like a true Dane. I have a Kubb set for Laeff and for Sighmund this toy boat.’

Then he turned and smiled at Helgha. Her stomach turned somersaults.

‘And for you, this amber necklace. The amber comes all the way from the Baltic Sea.’
Helgha blushed as Erik fastened it round her neck.
Aedelflaed frowned. Helgha looked at her mother and knew what thoughts passed through her mind. Similar to the ones passing through her own head. Why had Erik brought her such a valuable gift? Did he want to court her? Neither she nor her parents knew anything about him. He appeared to be well off if his clothing were anything to go by, but would Erik’s father want his son to marry someone from a family of lower status?
Helgha sighed, pushing those thoughts away. If it were the case that Erik wanted to marry her, then his father would speak to hers. She would be the last to know.

After this, he came every week on some pretext or other, but no message arrived from his father to Biorn suggesting a marriage. Erik, however, behaved as if he and Helgha were already betrothed.

One day, Biorn tackled Erik on this subject. Helgha held her breath, half-hoping Erik would say his father would send a message to Biorn about a betrothal.

‘You’ve been coming here a lot, Erik,’ Biorn said. ‘You spend a lot of time with Helgha, but we’ve heard nothing from your father about a betrothal.’

Erik went red, and hung his head. ‘I would truly like to be betrothed to your daughter, but my father would never agree. You cannot pay the dowry he would expect.’

Biorn’s face grew dark, and his eyes flashed. ‘You come here courting my daughter, yet you have no intention of marrying her. This is an insult to my family.’

Helgha held her breath as Erik continued to look at the floor. ‘I mean no insult to you, Biorn. My father will not agree to me marrying Helgha, but if I could, I would do so.’ He looked up and into Biorn’s eyes. ‘I’m afraid my father wishes me to marry someone who can bring wealth and influence to our family. Someone, I suspect, who is closer to Halfdan than he is.’

‘Then this means I will have to defend the honour of my family. I will not have you dishonour my sons and myself.’ He went to the wall and took down his shield and battle axe. ‘I must kill you. You have insulted my family. Have you amused yourself with my Helgha? Is she ruined?’

Erik faced Biorn. ‘Should we not fight outside?”

Biorn grunted. Helgha stood with her hands over her mouth and her eyes wide. As the two men went through the door, she ran after them screaming.

‘No! No! No!. Don’t fight over me. Please. Father, don’t kill him.’

She rushed over to Biorn and tried to pull his axe from his hands. He shoved her away. ‘This is man’s business. Go back to your mother.’

Helgha fell to the floor, scrambled up and ran back towards the longhouse where her mother appeared through the door. ‘Mother! Stop them. They’ll kill each other.’

Her mother looked at her. ‘One of them will kill the other. That’s the way it is. Erik has insulted our family by coming here as if to court you, but making no offers. Your father has to have his honour satisfied. If he fails, then it will be up to your brothers to kill Erik when they are old enough.’

Tears started to run down Helgha’s cheeks as she turned to her mother. ‘Please stop them. I can’t bear that one will die.’

Her mother turned away from her daughter. ‘You are a Dane, Helgha. Behave like one. People die in battle, you know that. Your uncles died with honour fighting for the Jarl to gain all this land. They now feast in Valhalla for ever. Whoever dies in this fight will join them.’

Helgha reached out to her mother. ‘You aren’t a Dane. How can you talk like that? You’re an Anglo-Saxon.’

‘I became a Dane when I married your father. I became a Dane when I decided to follow the Danish religion. I became a Dane when I learned how to act like one. Now, daughter, you must act like one too. Dry your eyes and stand and watch.’

Helgha forced her eyes to stay open as the two men circled each other, each looking for an opening. Erik was young but Biorn was a seasoned warrior who had fought hard to gain this land. Helgha knew he had more experience than the younger man and was full of tricks and wiles. She worried that her father’s experience would overcome Erik’s strength. Then her anxiety turned to anguish as she thought Erik’s youth and more recent battle experience would prevail and he would kill her father in this battle.
As the workers returned from the fields, they stood around to watch the contest as the pair continued to circle each other.

Helgha felt the sun’s rays on her back as it struck through a hole in the cloud. It felt as if one of the weapons struck her. She felt sick, but could not give in to the feeling. She felt her mother watching her, expecting her to behave like a true Dane. At that moment. Helgh felt anything but a true Dane. She felt like one of the despised Anglo Saxons, full of fear and cowardice. She turned to watch the fight.

Erik lunged but Biorn avoided his thrust. He struck at Erik who parried with his shield. Biorn made a flurry of attacks, hacking at Erik’s shield and forcing him backwards.
Backed against a store building, the younger man ducked and rolled away. He came up behind Biorn. The older man whirled round just in time to catch Erik’s sword on the edge of his shield. Helgha drew in a breath as he thrust the shield’s boss into Erik’s face. With no helmet to protect his head Erik was forced to duck. The edge of the shield cut a deep gash in his cheek.

Helgha screamed.

To the watching girl, it seemed hours passed. In effect, it was only a few minutes. She closed her eyes so as not to see, then opened them because she could not see. The two men were evenly matched. Erik was quicker, but what Biorn lacked in speed he more than made up for in experience and craft.

Eventually the fighting began to tell on Biorn. He slowed. Erik took advantage of this, and forced Biorn backwards. He rained .fast blows of his sword on Biorn’s shield. Biorn had to fend them off with no chance to retaliate.

Helgha once again screamed and put her hands over her face as she saw the blood-lust in Erik’s eyes as he pressed his attack. That look frightened her.

Biorn slipped. He did not go to ground, but his shield split under the assault from Erik. He regained his balance and held up his axe as defence. Erik slipped. Biorn lifted his battle axe to deal the final blow as Erik twisted his body and thrust upwards, skewered Biorn through the belly.

Blood gushed over the young man as he rolled from under his assailant. He stood and leaned on his sword, gasping for breath as Biorn’s four men rushed towards him, pitchforks in hand. Erik sheathed his sword and ran towards Helgha. He grabbed her by the hand and dragged her to where his horse stood. Leaping into the saddle, he pulled a crying Helgha behind him and turned his horse’s head towards the gates, kicking the animal into a gallop just as the first of the workers reached him.

In a clearing in the forest, four miles from Helgha’s home, Erik pulled his horse to a stop and dismounted. He lifted Helgha down. She had stopped crying, but as she looked at Erik, she wondered what had happened. Her father was dead. She knew that. Erik had killed him. She knew that too. Should she be here with the man who had killed her father? Should she not exact revenge on him?

Erik spoke gently to her. ‘This was all because I can’t marry you. Your father was right. I should not have come calling on you as if I wanted to court you. But you are so lovely, and have such a kind heart.’

Helgha looked up into Erik’s grey eyes. She felt confused. What had happened? Her father was dead, killed by the man in front of her. This same man had abducted her. What should she do?

Erik continued speaking as he wiped away the tear that appeared at the corner of her eye. ‘I would like to marry you, Helgha, but I can’t. My father is a Jarl, and I will be Jarl after him, assuming I can keep his followers. You are a ceorl. You understand?’

Helgha nodded. She understood his words, but did not understand why he had brought her with him.

He went on to explain. ‘I love you, Helgha, and I want to be with you. I can’t marry you, but we can be together. You can be my mistress. I’ll make sure you have everything a wife would have.’

She backed away from him. ‘My family? My mother? My brothers? What of them?’ This man had killed her father and carried her away. There would be blood feud between them now. She should exact revenge on him for breaking up her family. But did she want to?

‘Your brothers are honour bound to kill me, but they are young yet. It will be a long time before they are old enough. Then, I don’t suppose they’ll try. They’ll be up against a Jarl and all his followers.’

Helgha nodded her understanding. Despite everything, Erik still wanted her. He wanted her enough to fight her father for her. He wanted her enough to risk his life for her. But the certainty dawned on her that when her brothers were old enough they would come looking for Erik. Her feelings did not seem to matter.

Did she want to be with her father’s killer? She did not know. That Erik had no choice in the matter she knew. Her father had instigated the fight. It was kill or be killed. Still, her father was her father, and she had loved him.

Now she had to be with this man, like it or not. A part of her said she did like it. She had always been attracted to Erik and the butterflies gathered in her stomach when he came. They fluttered whenever he spoke to her, or if his hand brushed hers. They did so now, as she looked up into his eyes.

She came to a decision and she smiled. ‘I understand. Now let me clean the blood from your face. I can’t do much about the blood on your clothes though.’

She walked to a small stream flowing alongside the road and, tearing a piece of cloth from her dress, dipped it into the water and wiped Erik’s cheek. He winced.

‘It’ll leave a scar. It’s deep.’

‘Better a scar than being dead.’

‘In order to help it heal, I need yarrow. It’ll also help to prevent infection of the wound, too.’

‘There’s bound to be some at my father’s place. We should have a drink and carry on. It’ll be dark before we get there and I don’t want to be out any longer in the dark than needs be.’

Before lifting her back onto his horse, Erik lifted Helgha’s chin with his finger,  bent his head and kissed her.

Helgha felt as if she were hurtling down a steep hill on an out-of-control sledge, her stomach turning over in excitement. Her heart beat harder and faster as she responded to his kiss.

All too soon the kiss ended. Helgha wanted more but she knew she would have to wait. More would come once they arrived at Erik’s home so she sat quietly on his horse as he kicked her to a canter.