Saving her people could mean losing her man.
In the months since an unexplained sickness wiped out most of their women, Sif and Ragnor have managed to hold their people together. Yet nothing can overcome the tribe’s overwhelming grief, and their future as leaders—and as a couple—is at a dangerous crossroads.
A series of sensual omens convinces Sif that a fertility ritual to honor the goddess, Freya, is the only path to healing, but it requires a sacrifice. One Sif is more than willing to make—but puts Ragnor’s heart in the middle of an emotional tug of war. He would give his life for his people, but share Sif’s body with his greatest rival? The goddess asks too much.
Refuse, and Ragnor will fail his duty and doom the tribe to violent destruction from within. Accept, and their trust could be rewarded with renewal for their people and themselves. Or shatter a love already stretched to the breaking point.
This title contains m/m/f sex, gay sex, anal sex, double penetration and good, clean fun with two hot Vikings and an ancient spring.
Copyright © 2010 Corrina Lawson
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Desire and grief warred within Sif as she watched her husband swing his warrior’s long axe. Would that Ragnor would handle her again with the same easy skill and power he applied to the axe.
Her husband was stripped to his leggings, his long, red hair was pulled back behind his head, and his muscles gleamed with sweat as he demonstrated to the crowd of young warriors surrounding him.
Once, Ragnor’s powerful hands had held her, gentle, loving and passionate. He would seize her, laughing, lift her off her feet and kiss her until she could not think. He would toss aside her clothes and run his mouth and his fingers all over her until she quivered with the need for him. They would take each other, and then they would do it all over again…
She hugged herself, chilled. That had not happened for far too long. It might never happen.
Ragnor had held their tribe together through the sickness that had taken nearly all the women. He had been a rock of calm leading them to their new home where they hoped to escape all that death. He had been all a leader should be.
But he was not the husband he used to be.
His brother Leif’s insanity and grief had driven a wedge into their marriage. Why else would Ragnor look at her with such cold eyes and stay away from her bed? Leif was a solid ghost between them.
Her husband stopped swinging the axe and ordered the warriors to begin their drills. Sif glanced to the left and noticed another watching, a grown warrior who was leaning against a large oak tree with his arms crossed.
While Ragnor was the symbol of their survival, Gerhard was the symbol of what they had lost. Once their best warrior, now Gerhard sometimes did not speak for days. He had lost his wife and the baby son she carried. Since then, he’d been half a man.
How could Sif help Gerhard and the others if she could not even heal herself of grief? She must find a way.
Sif heard tiny footsteps coming closer. Eric, her brother’s son, pumped his little legs hard across the square, running toward her. He reached her, gasping for breath, and tugged at the hem of her deer-hide tunic. He held something tight in his hand.
She scooped him up in one arm and gave him a big hug. He giggled, his dark hair falling in front of his face. Eric was a blessing. Children were what her people needed.
And I never will receive a blessing like Eric, a child of my own, if my husband does not return to my bed.
“What’s that?” Sif smiled, pointing to something clutched tight in Eric’s stubby hand.
He held it up. A crude carving. She narrowed her eyes and looked closer. “It’s wonderful. Tell me about it.” Some sort of animal?
“It’s a cougar!” he said. “Papa said cougars mean good luck in the spring.”
She took the carving from him and studied it carefully, treating it like a precious object. “So they do. Big cats are sacred to Freya, goddess of fertility.”
“What’s that mean?” He frowned.
“She makes plants grow.”
“Oh.” He squirmed.
She laughed and put him down.
“You keep it!” he said. “I’m gonna go play warrior.”
Eric danced away, back toward his longhouse, probably to search for sticks and rocks to make into an axe.
Sif closed her hand tight around the wooden cougar. Maybe it was a good sign that Eric had been moved to make it for her. Or perhaps she was merely grasping for any good omen from the gods, no matter how slight.
In the square, Ragnor handed his axe over to a student. The young warrior, fumble-fingered, nearly dropped it. Ragnor cursed at him. The warrior gritted his teeth, spat and tried again, working hard to make up for his mistake. He raised the axe, his arms shaking and his body drenched in sweat. Would that they all had the young man’s determination.
The young warrior kept at it and the others joined him, practicing with their own axes. This was no game. They’d moved to this place to escape the Lenape threats, but Ragnor was certain they would encounter new enemies. When the Vikings had come across the ocean several generations ago, the new world had seemed full of hope and promise. Now, it seemed full of danger and death.
Ragnor finally called an end to the lesson, clapping the young man on the back for his efforts. He pointed toward the river, where they could all cool off.
Ragnor turned and walked to Sif, still holding the axe. Hers. He belonged to her. He’d waited so long to take a wife but once he’d looked at her, he’d never looked at anyone else. In her ignorance, Sif thought their union unbreakable.
She clenched the wooden cougar tight in her hand and closed her other hand over the long scar on her forearm, a scar that was the physical legacy of Leif’s crazed attempt to rape and kill her. If only the emotional scars had been as easy to heal.
Ragnor’s face did not change expression as he saw her. He set the axe down carefully against the side of the longhouse. “Sif. You wake early today.”
“I am feeling better.” Sif almost reached out to lay her hand on his chest. He smelled so sweet, so musky, so much like he did after lovemaking. She still found him irresistible. But she’d always known he’d welcome her attention before.
“Good.” Ragnor nodded.
Behind Ragnor, men carrying spears, bows and arrows gathered in the square.
“A hunting party?” she asked.
“It will do the men good.”
Meaning that it would be something to occupy him. “Yes, it will.” Her tongue nearly caught in her throat.
He set his hand on her hip. “Sif.”
“Ragnor.” She felt her face flush and fought the urge to fall at his feet and beg for him to touch her further.
A chief’s wife does not beg.
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