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Vikings taken the great.., p.10

Vikings: Taken (The Great Heathen Army series Book 1), page 10


Vikings: Taken (The Great Heathen Army series Book 1)

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  Once Rosfrith had finished, she placed her rake next to Hilde’s. She sighed, knowing it wouldn’t be long before the animals would be have to be cleaned out again. There were no crops growing at the moment, because of the snow, but the muck still needed to be piled up ready for the thaw and planting of crops.

  She glanced down. Her tunic and hands were a state. The tiny wooden bowl of water in the barn would not cope with the amount of muck on her hem. Sighing heavily, she realised she would have to go to the stream. It wasn’t that she didn’t like cleaning her clothes or bathing in it, she never felt better than when she was clean, it was the fact that snow lay on the ground and the water was freezing.

  As she left the barn, Rosfrith stretched out her aching muscles and scanned around, her eyes adjusting to the light. It wasn’t going to be long before night descended and she didn’t want Hilde to cut her hair in complete darkness, so made the decision only to have a quick wash down by the stream to get the muck off her hem and skin. She didn’t have a spare tunic, so she’d have to ask Hilde to borrow one of her older tunics. Tomorrow, she would then wash her tunic before people got up. Rosfrith hoped if she placed it on the dark stones, it would dry in the winter sun.

  From his hidden position, Gunnar quietly watched Rosfrith as she stretched. His eyes narrowed in on the straining material before his puzzled expression smoothed out. She had been troubling him over the last weeks, and not because she’d made herself scarce in the longhouse. No, what troubles me is my sire’s wishes before he left.

  Rosfrith, although once a lady, was only one of Ubba’s thralls. Ubba had many of them, keeping the running of his fortress smooth, and sharing the most attractive ones between his men to keep them happy. But Gunnar had known Ubba since they were knee high, and there was definitely something unfamiliar in his friend’s eyes when he glanced at Rosfrith. It wasn’t lust he saw in Ubba - Gunnar had witnessed that before many times. This seemed more of a connection. It was much more than Ubba protecting his property.

  Gunnar rubbed his beard, keeping his gaze firmly on Rosfrith. His sister, Astrid, would not be pleased if she realised. She’d been the chosen bedmate of Ubba for many years, all in the hope she would become his wife. But, much to hers and Gunnar’s disappointment, Ubba never took matters further. Yet.

  When Rosfrith walked towards him, unaware of his presence, he decided to matters into his own hands - try and work out if Rosfrith had designs on, or feelings for, Ubba.

  Rosfrith nearly jumped out of her skin when a hand appeared out of the shadows and grabbed her arm. Trying to shake the grip, she cursed loudly when she pulled her neck.

  Gunnar raised his eyebrows at her language. She was obviously spending too much time with the rest of the thralls. Once she’d stopped pulling away from him, and was steady on her feet, he let go and took a step back. “Rosfrith. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

  Rosfrith eyed him warily. He’d never done her any harm before, but that didn’t mean when the cat was away.

  “Where are you off, in such a hurry?”

  “To wash, my lord.” She grabbed her tunic to indicate the dirt on it. She watched Gunnar’s grey eyes narrow. She tensed. He was up to something - it was evident on the emotions flying over his bearded face. Standing a little taller, in an attempt to look less vulnerable, she added, “I need to go. Hilde is expecting me. She needs to cut my hair while it’s still light.”

  “Ahh,” said Gunnar reaching out to touch her hair that glanced her shoulders. “Such a shame to cut this off.”

  Rosfrith stood as still as she could when he pushed some behind her ear. When he took a step forward, she held her breath.

  “It’s the same colour as the midnight sky,” he said, fingering some strands, before his eyes narrowed back onto hers.

  Rosfrith hoped he didn’t notice her flinch. She didn’t want to upset him because she could be brutally punished - but she wished him gone. When his large hand moved to the back of her neck, holding her firmly, fear made her stay where she was.

  “Now, let’s see why Ubba has taken you under his wing.” Gunnar hauled her roughly towards him. He gave her no warning or time to protest, as his lips descended onto hers. Initially, it was never his intention to kiss her, but it was the first time he’d been this near to her. She was beautiful, even under a layer of dirt. Besides, in his reasoning, he was only going to test her, to see if she was loyal to Ubba.

  Rosfrith closed her eyes and stayed as rigid as possible while Gunnar’s lips explored hers. She felt his hands roam over the back of her body, attempting to mould her into his, but she still stayed emotionless. She was relieved when, as suddenly as it started, Gunnar broke off the kiss. She watched a small smile flicker on his lips.

  “Are you a maiden?” Gunnar asked quietly.

  Rosfrith felt her cheeks colour.

  Even without her uttering a word, he got his answer. His gaze narrowed on her face. “What is Ubba to you?”

  Rosfrith spluttered before answering. “My master,” she said defiantly. “Didn’t you hear him before he left? I am his thrall.” She hoped the hurt didn’t show in her voice.

  Gunnar grunted and yanked his gaze away, trying to find the distance for composure. Truthfully, she’d aroused him, and if she weren't a maiden, they’d be rolling in the hay right now. But, she hadn’t been with a man, and Gunnar had the idea that Ubba was saving her for himself, despite his parting words. She wasn’t worth the risk of falling out with Ubba, regardless of her appeal.

  When Gunnar glanced back at her, her swollen lips and flushed skin nearly had him changing his mind. Her appeal shocked him, so he gathered himself together. “You smell too much like an animal for me, thrall,” he said before stepping a safe distance back. He ignored the hurt look flicker across her face. He said what he did more to douse his arousal than upset her. He glanced around. The place was empty, most people already inside in the warmth. “Don’t stay out here long,” he said as he walked away. “After your hair is sheared, you’re needed in the longhouse to serve ale, thrall.”

  Rosfrith’s hands clenched at her sides. She didn’t know if she was angry, scared, or humiliated by what just happened. She only knew if it had been anyone other than the acting Chieftain, she wouldn’t care, she would have used her knee in his tender parts, just like Hilde had shown her and just like she’d used on many male thralls who thought they could put their hands on her. They thought wrong. Once Gunnar had gone around the corner, she started towards the stream, determined to get to Hilde’s as soon as possible.

  Watching their embrace from another darkened corner was Bard. A slow smile spread across his lips. So, the serving wench wasn’t just Ubba’s - Gunnar was obviously having some fun, too. He shifted deeper into the hut when Gunnar, not aware of his presence, passed him. When the noise of footfalls quietened, he stepped forward to watch Rosfrith. Maybe it’s time I get some of the action, too.

  Rosfrith’s steps faltered when she spotted Bard lurking by the opening of one of the store rooms. She glanced at him from under her lashes, and continued on her way without acknowledging him or, with any luck, gaining his attention. She took another quick peek, and he seemed too busy with something in his hands to be bothered with her.

  When Rosfrith left the buildings and neared the stream, she slowed. The stones and area around, although already slippery with a thin layer of snow, had even slimier moss underneath. The last thing she needed was to end up in the cold water. After rolling the arms of her tunic up, she bent down, leaning forward to wash her hands and arms. The water was frigid, but at least the muck was being removed. Once her arms were clean, she cupped some water to wash her face.

  A noise from behind made her stand quickly. Her speed as she turned, together with eyes full of water, made her stumble backward on the stones. She cursed as her soft shoe stepped in the water. It wasn’t long before the icy water claimed the bottom of her dirty tunic. Frightened, she stepped out of the water. Rosfrith scanned her surroundings, but she coul
dn’t see anything around.

  When her heart returned to its normal beat, her brain registered the cold. She examined the bottom of the sodden tunic. Annoyed, she realised she’d have to take the tunic off so she could wring it out properly. It would be too heavy and cold to walk back to Hilde’s otherwise.

  She checked checking around to see if anyone one was in the vicinity. When she was happy there wasn’t, she removed her cloak, and then reached to take off her hangerock, the shorter length woolen apron that was suspended by shoulder straps. Once it was off, Rosfrith folded it and placed them both, well away from the water’s edge.

  She checked her surroundings again, then bent down to grab the ends of her tunic. She tugged it over her head and took a sharp intake of breath - the air was cold only in a thin shift. Working quickly, she bent down and, keeping away from the water’s edge, washed the hem and wrung out her tunic. She was anxious to get to Hilde’s because it was getting late.

  “Well, well, what do we have here?”

  Rosfrith’s hands stilled. She closed her eyes hoping she was wrong. Bard must have followed me.She silently cursed herself for being so naïve.

  “I asked what you were doing, wench.”

  Rosfrith daren’t stand and turn. Staying still, she continued to look out over the water. “Wringing out my tunic, vikingar.” She cringed when she heard him take a step nearer.

  “Stand when you address me, thrall.”

  Taking a breath, Rosfrith slowly stood before turning. She held her tunic in front of her shift. She didn’t miss his eyes inspecting her from head to foot.

  “It’s a bit cold for that, isn’t it?”

  She felt nauseous when she became aware of his gaze narrow in on the front of her thin shift. “I am washing the hem of my tunic, vikingar. I will put it on now.”

  “Not on my account.” There was a sneer on Bard’s lips.

  Clutching her tunic close to her breast, she said nothing.

  “Anyway,” Bard said, looking around, “I think you left one of the gates open in the barn. The animals might escape.”

  Rosfrith’s frown furrowed. “Did I?” She was puzzled because she always double checked all the gates were closed, mainly because she’d been in awful trouble if any of the livestock got out.

  Bard’s eyebrows rose. “You question me, thrall?”

  Rosfrith glanced at him, even more confused. His request implied he was annoyed with her for questioning him, but his tone didn’t.

  “I’m sorry, vikingar. I will check right away.”

  “See that you do,” Bard said, before taking a step to the side and waving her past. “Thrall,” he added, his eyes narrowing on her.

  Rosfrith grabbed her tunic tight to her chest and hurried past him. It was only when she was half way to the barn, she remembered her hangerock and cloak were lying by the river. She hesitated briefly, but she didn’t want to go back down to the river. There was something in his eyes that told her he was trouble. I’ll pick my clothes up tomorrow.

  Once the barn was in sight, Rosfrith felt relieved. Clutching her side, she stopped to take a brief glance around, making sure Bard hadn’t followed her. Everywhere was empty. She took in a large steadying breath and continued to the barn. She opened the large door and stepped away from the cold and impending darkness.

  Once inside, away from the cold, Rosfrith bent slightly to catch her breath and to ease the ache in her side. After she had caught her breath, she tugged on her tunic – to cover herself and to ease the cold. She scanned the barn and walked deeper into its darkness. All of the pens were secure - just like I thought they were. A frown creased her forehead, while unease prickled down her spine. Why had Bard told me they were open?

  She blew out a breath and became irritated with herself. She’s sensed he’d been up to no good. She should have trusted her instincts and gone directly to Hilde’s. When Rosfrith turned to leave, the crunching of stones from outside had fear gripping her. She stopped and cursed. She hadn’t shut the door behind her. She held her breath, and waited silently. The noise disappeared. Letting go of the breath slowly, she sighed with relief. Satisfied all was normal in the barn, she walked back across the barn, needing to get to Hilde. No doubt she’d be wondering where she was. Halfway across, she stopped.Her heart sank. Bard stood in front of the doorway - a smile on his face, her hangerock and cloak in his hands. Her gaze flicked behind him, and she cursed. Somehow, he’d closed the heavy barn door behind him.

  This wasn’t good.

  “Forgotten something?” Bard said as he walked past her into the barn.

  Rosfrith lowered her eyes, not turning to look at him as he passed. In the silence, she tried to work out what to do. She glanced up and checked the closed door. She knew, despite the apparent ease Bard had closed the door himself, she wouldn’t be able to open it before he reached her.

  “Wench, I said, did you forget something?”

  “Yes, vikingar,” she said, before turning to face him. Nervously, she stretched out her hand for him to give it to her. She hoped he didn’t detect her hand shaking.

  Bard didn’t move. “What, no thanks?”

  “Thank you,” she stuttered out.

  Bard tutted and turned his head to the side. “I’ve made an effort to return these to you, and I get a half-hearted, thank you?” He turned to look at her, his gaze narrowing.

  Rosfrith felt her heart pound but calmly answered, “I’m sorry. Thank you.”

  A smile flickered on Bard’s lips. “That’s better, now come and get it.” He extended his arm.

  Rosfrith paused, uncertain, but she knew even though she was reluctant, she’d have to take them. Nevertheless, she didn’t trust him. The moment she stepped towards him, deeper into the barn, Rosfrith knew her instincts about him had been correct.

  Bard’s hand grabbed her wrist in a tight circle. He pulled her into his hard chest. His yank had her breath sailing out of her lungs. As soon as she was near, he forced her hand behind her back, while his other arm snaked around her waist, completely bonding her to him. He turned and pushed her against one of the barn’s wooden supports. The slam against the pillar hurt her head and emptied what air she had left in her lungs. Dread prickled down her spine when his breath made contact with her ear.

  “Now, let’s see if you can thank me properly,” he whispered before his head lowered to her neck and nipped her skin painfully.

  Fear raked its claws across her body, as goose bumps covered her. She tensed, refusing to yield, struggling against him, but he wouldn’t budge an inch.

  In response to her protests, Bard leaned on her more, forcing Rosfrith tight against the wooden pillar. He carried on his assault.

  Every muscle in Rosfrith’s body bunched. Wiggling, she used her free hand to push against his chest, trying to get some distance, but he didn’t move. The only thing she could do was move her head sideward, in an attempt to avoid his searching lips.

  Without warning, his hand moved from her waist to grab her chin, holding her in place for his plunder. While she fought to keep her lips together, his knee forced its way between her legs.

  Rosfrith whimpered. It was no wonder women feared men, they were so strong and brutal. Fight as she might, she knew was no physical match for Bard. He painfully pulled down on her chin, eventually parting her lips. As her lips parted in protest, Bard’s tongue pillaged her mouth, and his hand released to clutch painfully at her hair, keeping her still. She didn’t want this, so she struggled widely. I’m not going to make it easy for him.

  When his grip firmed on her, Rosfrith couldn’t stop releasing a gasp of pain in her throat. His hold was so tight, she would be left with bruises. His searching tongue made her gag, but he didn’t stop, grinding this mouth against her lips. Under his brutal assault, she felt her lips spilt, and tasted blood. Her eyes started to mist with tears. It didn’t take her long to realise her struggles aroused Bard. She would have to use her brain, not her strength, for she was no match. Forcing herself to rel
ax, she let his mouth plunder.

  Sensing what he thought was Rosfrith’s surrender, Bard let go of her wrist and moved his hand to cover one of her breasts.

  Rosfrith could have wept with the pain of blood returning to her tingling hand, but instead, she knew this was her window. Desire had made him lose his advantage. Using her free hand, she searched for the rake she knew was hanging on the other side of the pillar.

  Once she’d found it, she swung it around and hit the back of his head. She knew it wasn’t a strong blow, but as she hoped, the surprise had him releasing his hold on her. He stepped back and then let go so suddenly, she stumbled back onto the pillar and slammed her head. She had no time to think of the pain, as she used her hand to brace herself from falling. For a moment, she watched him rub his head and look around the barn, trying to work out what had happened.

  Rosfrith knew she didn’t have much time, so she stabbed him the area she knew would hurt. She watched him double over in pain. He cursed and when he half-straightened, she saw something violent flashed across his eyes before they narrowed into slits.

  “You, wench,” he said through gritted teeth. “I’ll kill you!”

  The sound of his angry voice brought her to her senses. Without looking back, she ran towards the door. With a super-human strength she didn’t know she possessed, she hurried to open it, leaving Bard behind.

  Rosfrith watched from a hidden spot, as not long after, Bard exited the barn. He looked both ways, a scowl marring his face. She backed away when he started to throw barrels and carts over randomly, looking for her.

  Desperately, she tried to think where she could go. Going back to the longhouse she shared would be too obvious, and she might put the others there at risk, so that was out. She couldn’t go to Hilde’s because she’d told him that’s where she was headed. Instead, she decided to hide in the shadows until inspiration took hold.

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