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Authors: A Tale of Two Vikings

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All right, so mentioning dogs was not the best mind-picture to give her. But, bulls and cows or stallions and mares probably wouldn’t have gone over any better
. “Well, this position is called dog-swiving.”

“It sounds awful.”

Time for a little damage control. I do not want to scare her off
. “Well, like I said, it is not a man’s favorite, but they
do it betimes to please their women.”
I am so good, I amaze myself
.

“Well,” she said. “Is it as good as that other trick you taught me? The Viking S-spot?”

“Nothing is as good as that, dearling. But close.” He sensed that she was softening. Time to go in for the kill, but first he must sweeten the pot. “Methinks I could even take two days off your tally if you agree to this. Trust me, Esme, you will not be sorry.”
Said the wolf to the lamb
.

“All right,” she said.

With those words, Toste whipped the fur pelt off the bed and began to spread it out afore the fire. Esme sat up and watched him carefully. She was not fooled by the rogue, not one whit. The Viking was up to no good, but two days off her tally? She couldn’t resist that.

Any more than she could resist him. The things he had taught her about her body and sex play were amazing. She would have to go to confession first chance she got, of course, and would be doing penance for years, but it might very well be worth it. On the other hand, she might be dead.

But now, the rogue stood unabashedly naked and aroused, beckoning her toward him with the fingers of both hands. She stood and walked toward him, not so unabashed about her nakedness but getting better at it.

“Down on all fours,” Toste instructed, pointing to the fur pelt.

“Like a dog?” she inquired, arching an eyebrow at him.

“Like a very pretty dog,” he said, smiling in such a winsome way that she probably would have stood on her head if he’d asked.

He came up over her from behind, placing one hand over her breast which hung embarrassingly loose and his
other hand over her woman-fleece. “See, isn’t this nice?”

“It seems crude.” She felt way too open to his wicked fingers this way. In addition, she had no control in this position with her hands and legs out of commission.

“Sometimes crude is good,” he said. Already he was proving his point by nipping at her shoulder with his teeth. He’d pulled her hair back above her ear to give him greater access. At the same time, he was alternately twirling the nipples of both breasts between his thumb and forefingers. “Do you like it yet?”

“I’m not sure.” But she rubbed her rump back and forth against his manpart and heard him groan against her ear. “Now I’m liking it.”

He bit at her earlobe and stuck the tip of his tongue inside, which caused her whole body to tense up with a fierce spasm of pleasure. “Let me do that again when my finger is inside you,” he said.

And he did.

And she went absolutely rigid, fighting the erotic ripples that passed over her entire body.

“Relax, sweetling.”

“Hah! As if that’s possible. Let me up. I want to go back to the bed where I can see you.”

“Not yet, sweetling. Not quite yet.”

His fingers were doing incredible things between her legs, and his hips were bucking against her from behind.

“Put your face on the furs and fold your arms above your head,” he directed.

Which would place her buttocks in the air. “I…don’t…think…so.”

“Please.”

Oh, that is just wonderful. Now he pulls the please ploy. Now I will never be able to resist him
. She put her face
down, though she was still on her knees, and even let him spread her legs wider. She was about to protest this horribly vulnerable position, and she was beginning to doubt that it was a favorite of women when Toste entered her woman’s channel from behind. She might have screamed—she wasn’t sure—at the shock of his filling her and going in even farther than he had before—not to mention the shock of her peaking suddenly with hard, clasping grasps on his staff. It was wonderful and humiliating at the same time.

“By the saints, what are you doing to me?” she whimpered.

“Making love.”

And then he began to thrust in and out of her, while at the same time strumming the bud which seemed to be the center of a woman’s pleasure. She peaked again.

And he stopped, imbedded in her. Even farther than before. Even wider.

“Don’t you dare stop now,” she gasped out.

“Shhh,” he said and began massaging her breasts with wide-sweeping, kneading motions till the nipples felt like points against his palms.

“You are torturing me,” she wailed.

“Good torture or bad torture?”

“I do not know,” she cried, then bucked her bottom upward to try to get him to resume his thrusts.

He did, so long and slow she wanted to scream in frustration. Mayhap she did. Her mind was roiling with emotion. She was beyond knowing what she was doing.

He put one hand on the back of her neck to hold her down, and plunged wildly into her now, so hard and fast that it was hard for her to distinguish pain from pleasure. Nay, it was pleasure…hard pleasure. And he was mim
icking his thrusts with a matching flick-flick-flick of his fingertips against her woman-bud.

She peaked and peaked and peaked then as he plunged into her one last time, hard and deep. Her convulsing woman’s channel and throbbing woman-bud brought her the most intense, unending pleasure. Almost too much pleasure to bear.

She collapsed on the floor, and he fell on top of her. For several long moments, neither of them spoke. They couldn’t.

When she finally rolled over on her back and gazed up at Toste, she saw the stunned look on his face. So this thing that happened between them was not a common occurrence.

Without saying a word, he carried her to the bed and lay down with her. He tucked her into his embrace with her face on his chest and pulled another fur pelt over them.

In that moment, Esme realized something awful. She had fallen in love with her captor.

A crazy little thing called love…

Toste stayed awake, shocked to the core by a realization that had struck him of a sudden. He had fallen in love with his captive.

Heart, soul, everything.

How had it happened? When? Why?

He shrugged. It did not matter. It just had.

After their monumental sex event in front of the fire, Toste had made love to Esme again. Slowly. With adoration. He hoped she understood what he was trying to say with his body. Or did she need the words?

Well, before he could declare himself, he had other things that must be done first. He slid carefully off the bed and covered Esme’s sleeping form more completely. She was snoring slightly. He smiled, realizing he’d worn her out. Well, she’d worn him out, too.

He dressed and returned to the castle, having no trouble making his way along the path by the light of the full moon. He went upstairs and got the items he required. When he came back down, he noticed Bolthor sitting alone before the fire. All around him, soldiers and servants slept in alcoves and on floor pallets.

“Bolthor, what are you doing up?”

“I could not sleep,” he said. “My leg wound bothers me betimes.”

Toste nodded, understanding fully. He still got megrims on occasion from his head wound.

“You smell like roses.”

Toste sniffed his own arm and grinned.

“So, how is the punishing going?” Bolthor asked with an answering grin.

“Wonderful,” he said, grinning back. They were a couple of grinning fools.

“I can see that,” Bolthor said. “You look different.”

“Happy?”

“Mayhap,” he replied. “Methinks I should compose a special rhyming poem for you. Methinks a good title would be ‘Rhyme and Punishment.’ Do you like that?”

“I do. I like it.”

Bolthor noticed the saddlebag slung over Toste’s shoulder then and said, “So, you are off. To Evergreen?”

He nodded.

“Are you sure you want to go alone?”

“It is something I must do alone. Take care of my Esme for me.”

Bolthor’s eyes widened at his words, but then he nodded and said, “Be safe.”

When Toste returned to the hut, he placed all the items he’d gathered at the keep on a chair. Walking to the bed, he looked down at Esme’s still sleeping form. Should he awaken her? Or not? In the end, he chose to let her sleep. But he leaned down and kissed her lightly on the lips.

I love you, Esme
.

Wait for me
.

Gone…gone…gone…

Esme awakened just after dawn with a smile on her face.

Toste was absent, but that didn’t concern her. He’d probably gone up to the castle to get them some food…and clean bed linens.

Replete from last night’s bedsport, she fell back to sleep and did not awaken till mid-morning. Almost immediately, she realized that Toste had not returned. And the fire was out.

Rising warily, she looked across the room and saw arranged on a chair, her gown, shoes, hose and a cloak. She did not have to check the door to know that it was unlocked. It was clear that Toste had left the clothing so that she could return to the Ravenshire keep.

And it was equally clear that he would not be there when she did. He was gone. He’d had his fill of her, even before her “punishment” was completed, and this was his way of releasing her from their pact.

She sank to her knees on the floor and sobbed out her
pain. It seemed that once again, her dreams were not to be fulfilled. She snuffled and wiped a hand across her dripping nose. Standing, she began to don her clothes. She would return to the castle; she would fight for Evergreen.

But she would never be the same again.

Love hurts…

By early afternoon, Esme was back at the castle.

Although her eyes were probably red and her nose puffy from crying all morning, she had no more tears to shed. And, surprisingly, no one at Ravenshire made any mention of the activities of the past sennight and more—not of her taking Toste captive, then his taking her captive, not even of Toste’s current abandonment of her. It was as if the past thirteen days had not even happened. She suspected that everyone had agreed ahead of time not to discuss those things to spare her embarrassment.

Ravenshire itself had changed dramatically in her short absence. Mistletoe and holly were arranged everywhere, even hanging in swags from the rafters. Esme was not surprised to see mistletoe amongst the other greens in this partly Norse household. The custom of kissing under
a piece of mistletoe was often associated with Balder, a beloved Viking god similar to the Christian Jesus Christ. Balder had been killed by a mistletoe arrow and restored to life by a sprig of mistletoe. Thereafter, Vikings considered the sight of it a signal that the kiss of peace and love should be given.

Fragrant candles burned in practically every corner. Delicious odors of foods being prepared for the upcoming feast wafted through the castle—roasted boar, red deer, chicken and duck; salted cod, pickled kidneys, creamed eels and the loathsome
lutefisk
; honey cakes, dried apple tarts and sweet raisin custards; hard and soft cheeses, including the Viking
skyrr
; mountains of breads, especially the loaves of circular manchet bread with the hole in the center which were arranged on long broom handles in the scullery. And of course Lady Eadyth’s famous mead, supplemented by a batch of Margaret’s Mead which had been left behind.

Many of the guests would arrive tomorrow, but already the castle overflowed with extended family and friends, all with children running hither and yon. Of course, there were Eirik and Eadyth’s twin seventeen-year-old daughters, Sarah and Sigrud, but two other daughters had also come home, twenty-four-year-old Emma who worked in an orphanage in Jorvik, and Larise, the twenty-six-year-old widow of a Northumbrian merchant, not to mention the darkly brooding son John of Hawk’s Lair, who was much too somber for his twenty-five years.

Also still in residence for the holiday season were Tykir and Alinor and their four wild sons. The boys had been teaching Abdul some yuletide ditties, some of which were rather naughty. Between the bird’s squawking and the
children’s squawking, it was hard to think…which was a good thing in Esme’s case.

Among the early guests were Adam from Hawkshire with his wife, Tyra, along with their baby Edward, who was crawling everywhere, an Arab servant named Rashid and a clumsy twelve-year-old boy, Alrek, who tripped over everything in sight. Adam was a noted healer; beautiful Tyra, a giant of a woman, was a soldier. Amazing people!

The guests that worried Esme most, though, were the ones who would begin arriving tomorrow, some of them members of the Witan, possibly even Archbishop Dunstan, who would represent the king. Despite all that she had done to Toste, she’d never thought he would abandon her to face these notables alone. Her life…her future…was at stake, and he had just ridden off.

She found Bolthor sitting at the far end of the great hall before a small hearth, sipping a cup of mead. Apparently, he had needed to escape the din and chaos, as well. Perhaps he felt abandoned by Toste, too.

She put a hand on his sleeve and sat down on a bench beside him. “I cannot believe the noise,” she said.

He nodded. “’Tis always this way when Vikings get together. And Eirik and Eadyth, though they can claim only one-fourth Norse blood betwixt the two of them, are more Viking than some pure-blooded ones. Comes from Eirik being raised mostly in Viking households, I suppose.”

“Do you…or Toste…have any blood connection to them?”

He shook his head. “No direct or close kinship, but we have been comrades for years in battle and at Norse al
things. I fought beside Tykir at the Battle of Brunanburh where I lost my eye.”

“And Toste—do you not feel abandoned by him now? Like me?”

He raised his eyebrows. “Abandoned? Why would I feel abandoned? Why would you? He should be back tonight or on the morrow at the latest, methinks.”

Esme shook her head to clear it of the fuzziness caused, no doubt, by so much weeping. “What mean you?” Suddenly, a question occurred to her. “Did he not go looking for his brother’s killer?”

“Nay.”

“Where did he go?”

“He did not tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“Where he was going.”

“Nay, he did not.” Esme felt like shaking the giant skald…as if she could! “Where did Toste go?”

“To Evergreen,” he said. “I thought you knew.”

Shock rippled over her. It was the last answer she would have expected. Softly she informed him, “No one told me.”

He shrugged. “No doubt everyone thought you knew.”

Now she felt like shaking Toste. But he had gone to Evergreen. For her? “Why did he go?”

“To help you.”

Tears, which she’d thought dried up, welled immediately in her eyes and her heart seemed to constrict in her chest. “For me?”

“Yea, we talked—Toste, Eirik, Tykir and me—and we have concluded that there is something odd going on at Evergreen…something unusual. Else why would your father covet such a small estate? Toste went to investi
gate. He hopes to return with information that can be used in your petition afore the Witan.”

She bit her bottom lip with worry. “It could be dangerous.”

“Mayhap, but Toste is dangerous, too. Do not worry. He will return. He specifically asked me to keep you safe till he does.”

Esme brightened and slapped a hand over her racing heart. Toste must care for her. He must.

With that, she went off to find Eadyth and Alinor. Suddenly her life seemed hopeful. Toste had not abandoned her, after all.

Eadyth and Alinor were in a storage room on an upper level, sorting through silver knives, wooden platters, spoons and goblets, and pretty cloths to put on the tables for the feast. They looked up and said, “Greetings, Esme.”

“Greetings,” she said. “Can I help?”

“Yea,” Eadyth answered. “Help us set aside anything that can be used by all our extra guests.”

“We will need more bed linens, too,” Alinor reminded Eadyth.

While they worked, Esme asked, “Why did you not tell me that Toste had gone to Evergreen?”

“You did not know?” Eadyth seemed genuinely surprised.

“The lackwit did not tell you.” Alinor remarked, more as a statement than a question. “How like a man.”

“Alinor is right in her assessment. Men do not think words are necessary. They think we can see into their thick heads.”

“Have you fallen in love?” Alinor inquired of a sudden, then immediately put up a halting hand. “Nay, you do
not have to answer that, Esme. It was impertinent of me.”

But she answered just the same. “I am sore angry with the lout for some of the things he has done, but, yea, I suspect that I have fallen in love with him. More the fool am I.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that. Does Toste love you?” Leave it to Alinor to get right to the heart of the matter.

Esme threw her hands in the air. “If he did not tell me he was going on a chivalrous errand on my behalf, dost think he would inform me of his inner feelings?”

“Betimes a woman can sense these things,” Alinor said.

“Well, his lovemaking was spectacular,” Esme revealed with a flaming face.

“Do tell,” both women said with avid interest, placing the objects they’d been sorting back on a table and giving her their full attention.

“I couldn’t speak of
that
, except to say that he did that thing for me that men don’t like but which women adore.”

“And that would be?” Alinor asked, a suspicious tone in her voice.

“You know—the woman’s favorite position in bedsport.”

Eadyth grinned at Alinor and said, “I cannot wait to hear this.” They both looked at Esme.

There was no escape now. So Esme said bluntly, “Like a dog.”

Eadyth looked at Alinor, and Alinor looked at Eadyth. Then they both burst out laughing. And they continued to laugh till tears rolled down their faces. Esme just gaped at them in puzzlement.

Woof, woof, woof…

’Twas said that, in many bedchambers at Ravenshire that night, dog-sex took place. Bolthor swore he would write a saga about it.

Next day, male voices were heard to make barking noises in jest as they elbowed each other. Many a woman walked about weak-kneed, with a perpetual blush on her face.

And they all had Toste to thank.

The road trip from hell…

“Stop touching me,” Helga said, slapping at Vagn’s hand which had once again crept up to the side of her breast.

“Stop jiggling your arse. You’re tempting me.”

“I was not jiggling…oh, forget it. Just put me down.”

Helga was riding in front of Vagn on Clod. They were on their way to Ravenshire, and everyone was getting tired of having to stop so often so that she could rest her churning stomach. It seemed that the bouncing rhythm of the cart had made her sick. Riding on the horse with Vagn made her feel better, but
he
made her sick.

“How is your stomach?”

“Just fine.”

“Do you have to piss?”

“Do you have to be so crude? Nay, I do not have to relieve myself.”

“Do your breasts hurt?”

“Vaaaagn!”

“Well, I was just concerned about your well-being. I would be willing to massage them, if need be.”

She exhaled with a whoosh of exasperation.

“Has the baby moved yet?” he asked, placing a hand on her flat belly.

“I am less than one month pregnant, Vagn. Babes do not move in the womb this early.”

“How was I to know? This is the first time I have been pregnant…I mean,…well, you know what I mean. When precisely will it be moving?”

“I have no idea.”

“Will you let me know when it moves?”

“Yea, if you are around.”

“I will be around.” There was a brief period of silence and then he said, “Marry me, Helga.”

It was only the hundredth time that he’d urged her to marry him. She had to admit she liked to hear him plead, but she was no more convinced now than she had been the first time around. “Give me one good reason why I should.”

“Because it is the right thing to do.”

“Wrong answer.”

“What do you want me to say, Helga?”

“Nothing,” she said wearily. “Nothing at all.” Soon she was nodding off to sleep, rocked by the soothing motion of the horse and the warm comfort of Vagn’s cloak wrapped around them both.

Through a haze of near-sleep, she heard Finn Finehair ride up and inquire too sweetly, “Have you won her over yet?”

“Nay, but methinks she is softening.”

“I could give you tips,” Finn offered magnanimously.

Vagn told him, “Go pluck some arse hairs.” Whatever that meant. Finn just laughed.

Her father rode up then. “Did you ask her again?”

“I did,” Vagn said.

“I presume she did not agree.”

“Nay, but methinks she is softening.”

“Best you soften her quick. Ravenshire draws near, and there will be little time for softening once we arrive.”

Dolts; all the men in my life are dolts
, Helga thought, yawning loudly.

An hour or more later, she was awakened from a sound sleep by cheers around her. She opened her eyes and turned to look up at Vagn in question.

“That is Ravenshire up ahead,” he said.

She turned to look forward. It was a magnificent timber and stone castle which had been added to over the years as the Ericsson family of Ravenshire grew. She had been here many times in the past. Eadyth, who was so clever about marketing the products of her beekeeping, had been a model to Helga from an early age. She’d given her much advice on starting her own embroidery business.

As they got closer, they became aware of fellow guests traveling toward Ravenshire from other directions. There were at least three other noble parties coming from what must be Jorvik and the eastern shires. And in the distance, a lone horseman on a hilltop also approached the vast estate.

They advanced to the drawbridge, which was down today with the wolf banner favored by the lords of Ravenshire floating on the wind to show that the lord was in residence. That was when Helga felt Vagn stiffen behind her and murmur, “By the gods, can it be?”

“What?” she asked, turning halfway to see his face, which was white with shock.

“Bolthor…that giant Norseman standing in the
courtyard…I swear it is Bolthor the Skald.”

“I thought he died at Stone Valley.”

“So did I.”

Vagn felt an odd prickling at the back of his neck. A warning. Something was not as it should be. In addition, he sensed the presence of his brother Toste, more strongly than he had since the battle. He could swear he actually heard Toste whistling in his head. The sense of Toste’s nearness was overpowering. It must be the presence of Bolthor that brought this on. Obviously, Bolthor, like Clod, had survived the battle.

Bolthor stepped forth with a puzzled frown on his face, and Vagn slid off his horse, handing the reins to a stable boy. Why was Bolthor not as shocked as he to recognize a survivor of the battle?

“Bolthor,” he said, rushing forth to hug the huge man warmly, then hold him at arm’s length to take in his good friend’s healthy countenance. “I thought you died at Stone Valley.”

“Huh?” Bolthor said. The poet nodded then at Gorm and Finn, who were alighting from their horses, and remarked slowly, as if sorely confused, “I thought you went to Evergreen. What are you doing with Gorm and his party? Briarstead is in the opposite direction.”

“What?” Even as he shook his head to clear it, Vagn noticed a beautiful black-haired woman staring at him, then at Helga. She appeared stricken by their appearance here together, though Vagn could swear he’d never seen her afore. But wait—this was the wench he’d seen in his dreams…dreams of Toste. Before he had a chance to comprehend what she was about, she stomped up with tears streaming from her eyes, slapped him across the face
and said, “You cad! Did you have dog-sex with her, too?” Then she stomped away.

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