Authors: Joanna Davis
Wanted By The Viking
Copyright © 2014 by Joanna Davis
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, 2014
Three Years Later
Kendra glanced out the window and sighed. A huge dust cloud was heading toward the sleepy fishing village. It could mean only one thing.
She started rapidly gathering her herbs and placing them methodically into her shoulder basket. Jayson, the husband of the woman she'd just tended attempted to press hard earned coin on her. She shook her head, but accepted the flask of wine and loaf of fresh bread he offered her next.
"Jayson, you best tend to your wife and bairn. There are raiders on the road."
It hadn't been an easy birth, but with time and rest, both mother and bairn would heal. Unfortunately, they would have neither. She shook her head and prepared to go. She could do no more for them and would be no good to anyone during an attack. Afterwards, mayhap. But often the wounded were put out of their misery if they were too far gone to be of use.
She pulled her red cloak and hood on, concealing her face. The red signaled her protected status as healer. The hood protected her from
The hulking Viking warrior from across the sea. He was known far and wide for his prowess on the battlefield.
Known, and feared.
In fact, he was reputed to be next in line for the throne of his people. Not that she listened to idle gossip. Besides, what did Grayson Hendrick have to do with her?
She sighed deeply.
Kendra had a terrible feeling that she was the one who had brought the marauders down on this peaceful fishing village. Grayson had a habit of raiding the towns where she sought refuge, the tiny villages along her route where she plied her trade. She'd been afraid to admit it to herself but today's events made it as clear as the sea on a windless day.
There was no use denying it any longer.
He was stalking her, like a hunter after a stag.
Healers were rarely in one place for long, going where they were needed. She in particular preferred to stay on the move. Mostly because of Grayson and his damnable fixation on her.
He wanted her. To bed yes, but worse yet, she suspected that he wanted her to wife.
That was something she would not submit to. Everyone knew a healer lost the full strength of their powers when they lost their virginity to a man. Children would rob her of the time she needed to ply her trade. Marriage would put an end to her life as a healer. A life she valued.
Her skills were known far and wide. She saved lives and brought solace wherever she went. There was a touch of the mystical in her abilities she knew. So keeping herself pure was of vital importance. To her and to the people she tended.
Never mind that the man was irritating as a nettle in your boot! He was so smug and sure of his good looks and manly appeal. The sensual promise in his dark green eyes made her feel out of sorts when he gazed at her. His long dark hair looked too silky for a man by half! Never mind that his lips were as lush and pretty as a girl’s. It looked absurd on a man as big and strong as he was! She always found herself growing warm and flustered around him. This restless feeling coming over her must mean he was near, damn him.
She gathered up her herbs and unguents, leaving behind the soiled cloths. There was no time to wash them now. If she stayed any longer she would get caught up in the raid and unable to leave. Unable to escape Grayson's notice.
She reached for the door and cursed, hearing the sounds of the stampeding marauders.
"Jayson. Head to the shore, go now. They will be less enthusiastic by the time they reach the sea."
And with that, she ducked her head and was gone.
"She must be here somewhere!"
Grayson spun his steed in a circle, surveying the melee. He saw no sign of the tell tale red cloak that Kendra wore. His men were under strict orders to corner the damnable woman before she could slip away.
Kendra Roundtree was the most conniving woman he had ever met. And the most intelligent. And the most stubborn!
She was also the most deliciously tasty looking morsel on either side of the sea. He knew, he'd sailed it many times over.
The first time he'd met her, he'd been robbed of thought and speech. She'd been tending to an ill child and castigated him when his men tried to set the hut aflame, her blue eyes blazing and golden hair streaming out from a face of indescribable beauty. He'd been so transfixed by her face that he'd barely taken the time to notice her glorious bosom, narrow waist and gracefully rounded hips. They were the sort that cried out for a man to grasp them as he had his way with her. By the time he'd regained his wits, she'd been long gone, having bundled her charge away in a cart.
The second time he'd seen her, he'd been able to hold onto his thoughts, but barely. Long enough to command her to lift her skirts for him. She hadn't been as flattered as he'd expected her to be by his attentions. In fact, she'd looked at him much the way a mother looks at a slow witted child.
He was not slow witted dammit! At least, not usually. The woman had a strange effect on him, that was all. He was bound and determined to have her, if only to figure out what her strange appeal truly was.
For a Saxon, she had some good qualities beyond her exceptional good looks, he'd finally had to admit. Even after she'd refused his gracious offer to lay with him. He'd even offered to keep her! To put a roof over her ungrateful head!
But the woman had merely smiled and said 'No thank you.'
No thank you?!?
Nobody refused Grayson Hendrick. Particularly when it was such a reasonable request. It's not as if he had asked her to remove her head from her body! He swung his axe, making such a request from a running man with his blade.
He watched impassively as the man's startled head flew through the air, splattering the fleeing villagers with blood.
Sweet Odin the woman drove him to distraction!
And he would tell her so, as soon as he was done bedding her the first dozen or so times. Which he would do as soon as he found her! He'd been on her trail for months now, not having seen her since the start of the raiding season. Just the once, and that had been when she'd turned him down.
The thought still filled him with righteous indignation.
He rode to the edge of town, staring down the road. They would finish up here and send their ship back with the best of the goods. Then he would take a handful of men and continue on after her.
As long as he sent home riches, no one would be the wiser as to his true purpose.
Grayson narrowed his eyes and turned his horse back toward the burning village.
No one escaped the wrath of a Viking.
Kendra eased her tired body into the hot springs. She'd been driving her cart for seven days now and her bones ached from being rattled on the rough road. This part of the coast was less populated and she'd found no one in need of care. Nor any place worth stopping at.
If she was honest, she'd had this location in mind all along, even without the Viking hoard at her back. She could feel them there all week, sometimes just a few hours behind. Once she'd hidden just in time as a fast rider came galloping down the road.
It was dangerous for a woman to be on the road by herself. Foolhardy even. For a healer such as herself it was a necessary risk. She'd been lucky thus far, but she knew she would run into trouble eventually. Then again, there were some perks…
She sipped the cold ale she'd been given by the wily Innkeeper who had set up his establishment on the hill over looking the hot springs. As usual, she had no need for coin, but easing the head pain of the inn keepers wife had afforded her free food and lodging for as long as she cared to stay. Fine wine, a full belly and a soft bed. They even provided her with a new red cloak and soft flaxen gown.
The poor woman had been hidden away in a dark room, moaning and vomiting. Apparently she'd been having the spells since she was a child. They came and went without any discernible reason.
Kendra gave her a powder to mix into broth when she felt the pains coming on. It was a combination of dried white willow bark, garlic root and wormwood. She was to sip the healing broth and rest until the pains passed. In the three days since she'd been here, the woman had already circumvented an attack, earning Kendra her loyalty and friendship.
She rose from the hot springs and wrapped herself in the soft woolen cloth provided. She luxuriated in smoothing her prized lavender scented almond oil over her skin and dressed in the clean white shift and dark blue dress they had gifted her with. Her other garments were being laundered by the servants at the inn.
Slipping her bare feet into her soft leather boots, Kendra walked back to the inn, nodding to the servant who had been posted there to assure she was not disturbed during her bath. Once inside, she climbed the stairs to find her bed turned down and a fresh flagon of ale resting on the table by the merrily crackling fire.
Oh yes, she could get used to this.
The soft bed was calling her name so she lay down, pulling the covers up to her chin. The underside of the thatch roof was visible above her as she stared up, wondering which way she could go next.
The thought of leaving this place filled her with a feeling of sadness.
She had to admit to herself, she was weary.
Perhaps it was time to find a home base. She could tend to the local people instead of traveling far and wide. She could even train another healer to assist further off.
As long as it was near these delightful hot springs!
Her Grandmother had lived near a spring, though nowhere near as plentiful. It had made cool clear water bubble up in a small stone basin between three mighty oaks. The pristine water was right there, but only if you knew where to look for it.
Elswyth had known all the places to look in the forest for hidden things. Her own daughter had died from an ague that she'd been able to stop. But she had been able to save three year old Kendra from the illness. Elswyth had raised the little girl as her own.
As a result, Kendra remembered nothing of her own mother. She was lucky though as Elswyth had more than made up for any lack of mothering. Kendra had always known that she was safe and loved.
She could still see the older woman now, striding through the woods with her silvery hair streaming out behind her. She had aged remarkably slowly, only wrinkling at all during a broad smile or a belly laugh. She liked to believe that the old woman was still there in her hut, not the victim of thieves who had slit her throat as she'd tended the young wife of a wealthy land owner.
The hut was still there, tucked away in the thick forest on a hilltop. Perhaps someday she could return there. Then she would be the old woman in the woods who people travelled from far and wide to come and see.
"Sweet Odin my backside is sore!"
Grayson slanted his eyes at Ulric in annoyance. The man hadn't ceased his complaining in days. But he wasn't the only one. Almost immediately Valgar chimed in.
"We are Vikings! Not thieves. We take, not sneak around with hoods over our beards!"
Even stoic Halfred had something to say.
"I prefer the sea to the back of these unwieldy beasts."
Grayson rolled his eyes.
"Cease your complaining. You sound like old women."
"We should not be so far from the coast."
They'd been traveling steadily inland all week now. He knew that Ulric had a point. Grayson may not have stated his true mission, but the old man was not easily fooled.
"They are meeting us in three days at the high rock up the coast from here. We will only take as much as we can carry. Think of this as a raid."
"Think of it as a fool’s errand!"
Only Ulric dared speak to him this way. The old man was wrong though. The choosing of a woman was serious business indeed. The securing of her, even more so.
He was not getting back on his ship without the Healer no matter how much ribbing he had to endure. And when he was warm in bed with his new woman, the rest of them would not be laughing so hard. He was sure of that.
But first he had to find her. And that was proving more difficult than he'd first imagined when he'd led the small group of his best warriors onto the Saxon road.
As if things could not get any worse, it started raining.
"I see smoke!"
"There- a farm house! Let's take it!"
He held his arm in the air, halting the excited warriors from tearing forward and possibly burning the structure to the ground. Kendra could be inside.
"Nay- we will approach and ask for shelter."
The other Vikings glanced at each other with baffled expressions on their faces. All but Ulric, who wore a sly smile. The old man was onto him that was certain.
"Say hello to the kinder, gentler Grayson."
The men just shook their heads and followed Grayson to the small house. A stooped old man opened the door after a few strong knocks. He looked terrified when he saw the enormous Vikings outside his door. To put him at ease, Grayson grinned in a friendly manner. That seemed to make things worse as the man took a step backwards in fear.
"Greetings. We are seeking shelter and food if you have it. We'll pay."
He heard the men grumbling behind him about that. Vikings didn't pay. Not on Saxon land at least. Grayson pulled out a small bag of coins and waved them. The farmer visibly relaxed a bit and pointed toward the shack where the animals were kept in inclement weather.
"Ye can stay in there. I'll send my wife out with some bread and mead."
Grayson watched the men shuffle into the outbuilding and leaned closer to the smaller man in the doorway.
"There is one other matter- a woman- a healer. She would be covered in a red cloak. Have you seen her? There's extra coin for good information. But say nothing of this to anyone. Least of all my men."
The startled farmer nodded and waved him inside.