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Vikings taken the great.., p.13

Vikings: Taken (The Great Heathen Army series Book 1), page 13

 

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


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  “Are you alright?” A frown marred Ubba features when he turned and noticed she had become pale.

  “Yes,” she managed to squeak out, her parched throat and heavy tongue made talking difficult.

  Ubba stood and slowly walked over to her, his narrowed gaze inspecting her. He wasn’t’ happy. Her pallor had changed and had an unnatural shine.

  “Sire - water…” was all Rosfrith muttered before she shut her eyes and surrendered to the blackness that beckoned her.

  “Rosfrith!” Ubba shouted in panic. When he reached her, he bent, pulling her up into his arm. “Rosfrith!” He grabbed her chin to wake her, but she didn’t respond to his calling. When her head rolled back in his arm, he swore profusely.

  Gently cradling her in the nook of his arm, he noticed his hand was visibly shaking when he touched her forehead. Her skin was hot and faintly damp. She was burning up with a fever! Ubba swivelled his body and tugged her tunic up to check on her wound. He cursed again. The smell told him what was wrong.

  Laying her back down, he turned his attention on to her thigh. He removed the bandaging. Her wound was red, hot, and obviously infected. He cursed again, annoyed he’d left her to tend to it herself. He should have dealt with it because he knew the signs of an infection. Or, he shouldn’t have kept her here, he should have taken to Ranaricii to the healer.

  He sighed deeply and rubbed his face. There was no point thinking about that now. Knowing what he must do, Ubba was glad Rosfrith was unconscious. He stood and grabbed a pot, intending to get some snow to melt. Once it boiled and his blade heated, he would have to mar her beautiful skin. He was not looking forward to it.

  Later, Ubba stood and wiped the sweat from his face with the back of his hand. Blood smeared over it. He glanced out through the open door, ajar in an attempt to cool Rosfrith’s fever. All was quiet outside, mirroring the scene inside – at last. It hadn’t been so peaceful when he’d had to burn and cut out her infection. She had screamed and struggled, but she never came out of her comatose state.

  After taking in a couple more calming breaths, he looked at Rosfrith. She was sleeping. He shut his eyes for a moment, trying to regain his composure. Ubba let a small snort. He’d killed and dressed many beasts, including men, but the sight of Rosfrith’s wounded thigh, for some reason, churned his stomach. Before he could think about it any longer, a moan had his eyes flinging open.

  He strode over to her, placing his hand on her forehead. She was hotter than before. He let out a deep sigh. He scanned around, wondering how best to help her. A rabbit, almost invisible against the snow, drew his attention towards the doorway. He had an idea. He’d have to keep her infected wound dry, but he could cool the rest of her down.

  With her eyes closed, Rosfrith dreamed. One minute, she was in a beautiful dream world, where a wonderful coolness bathed her burning body, and she felt light and free. The next minute, she was in a place where only pain and heat existed, where a force pushed against her. Try as she might, twisting and turning, she couldn’t get out of either.

  A couple of hours later, as night was drawing in, Ubba kicked the door open with his foot, his arms carrying a lifeless Rosfrith back into the cabin. He gently placed her onto the skins, which he had placed away from the fire, so she didn’t overheat. He pulled a thin cloth over her to cover her nakedness. He turned and grabbed the water bowl. Dipping in a cloth, he returned to Rosfrith to wet her lips. “Drink,” he urged, knowing she could barely hear him, but he carried on regardless.

  When he’d made her as comfortable as possible, he slumped back against a wall and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. Fear gripped his gut. In the quietness of the twilight, he made out her breathing – too fast and unsteady. Perspiration still clung to her skin, even without her clothing, and Ubba knew enough about infections to know she might not survive.

  He hoped she did.

  Over the next couple of days, Ubba dutifully carried Rosfrith to the two pools, which were up the snowy mountain. One was a natural hot spring, too hot for Rosfrith at the moment. The other, a small bowl of tepid defrosted snow, warmed by its proximity to the hot spring. Each time Ubba took Rosfrith there, he carefully bathed her; her head against his shoulder, her back along his chest. When he felt the fire within her cool, he returned to the cabin to clean her wound with warm water.

  In her semi-conscious haze, Rosfrith was aware of being carried into cold water. She wanted to protest about the chill but was vaguely aware she felt safe there. Besides, for a while, the intense heat and pain would dim enough to let her doze. Vaguely, through her hallucinations, she was aware of a strong arm curled around her waist, keeping her close, while water dripped over her head and face, cooling her.

  Time stood still for Rosfrith - night and day were the same. But, time was important for Ubba because each day meant more chance of Rosfrith’s survival.

  He smiled to himself at the absurdity of it all. If anyone saw him in the pool, talking randomly to a naked sleeping woman, they would think he had lost the plot! He had no idea if Rosfrith knew what was going on, but she must be aware of something. Even in her disorientated state, Rosfrith had protested about him seeing her naked. He let out a snort. Getting her temperature down was more important than her modesty, although he would confess not minding the view.

  When Rosfrith thrashed in her sleep, she woke Ubba who lay next to her. He got up on his elbow, and looked down on her, moving a hair from her forehead. “Sleep, Rosfrith. Your fever has broken. Your body needs the rest,” he whispered.

  She wasn’t aware of much, apart from his voice. Calm because she wasn’t alone, she closed her eyes and relaxed against his body. For once, she was glad of the warmth of his skin – it no longer burned hers.

  “How long have a been sleeping?” Rosfrith enquired when she felt strong enough to speak.

  “About five days.”

  Rosfrith was shocked.

  “Are you hungry?” Ubba smiled at her

  “A little,” she said, moving to get more comfortable. Suddenly, she sat back. She was obviously weaker than she thought.

  “Good, I have some good bone broth for you.” He turned to get a small bowl.

  Rosfrith watched him quietly as she had no strength to protest. But she was glad he wasn’t angry with her anymore.

  “Once you have your strength back, we’ll go back to Ranaricii,” said Ubba.

  Rosfrith felt deflated. She was glad his back was to her, so he couldn’t see the disappointment on her face. “Okay, when?” she managed to say calmly.

  He swivelled around on his feet, before stretching and passing her a bowl of stew. “Within the next couple of days.” He shrugged, keeping his gaze towards the floor. “I need to gather provisions first.”

  A frown rippled over Rosfrith’s forehead. His mood had changed with her again – he appeared down and wasn’t making eye contact with her. She watched as he stood and walked around the small area. “Why do you need provisions if we are heading to Ranaricii?”

  “Because this cabin needs to be ready, in case someone needs it in an emergency. Firewood must be left,” he turned around to face her but wished he hadn’t. He was struggling with his feelings for her. While she had been ill, he’d cared and looked after her - something he’d never done for anyone before. Apart from the times he panicked he would lose her, he’d enjoyed the time. But now she was getting better, he was missing the closeness. He couldn’t allow it to continue – she affected him too much.

  Rubbing his beard, he flicked a glance at her then tore his gaze away. She looked too tempting, sitting crossed-legged, on the furs. His furs. “Amongst other things,” he mumbled, losing his train of thought. He shook his head, trying to gain some composure. This was silly, expected from a unworldly youth, not from a grown man. They had to go back to Ranaricii, but the thought wasn’t bringing him any joy. He wanted to stay, locked away, with her.

  “Then I will help you,” said Rosfrith, her voice sounding unsure.


  He didn’t want her to help, he wanted to do things for her, but within a couple of days, they would be back to reality. She would once again be his thrall. It would be best if he remembered that. He tried to put his feelings aside, becoming firmer than he intended. “Of course you will, Rosfrith. You’re my thrall, after all,” he said, his voice gaining a hard edge. “And remember, I am no longer Ubba, but sire.” He felt his chest squeeze, but he couldn’t tell her.

  Rosfrith could feel herself physically recoil. “Have I done something wrong?”

  When Ubba’s icy gaze landed on her, she flinched, not realising his anger was aimed at himself. Her heart hammered against her chest. When he said nothing, she knew she was being emotionally nudged aside by him. And it hurt. She needed to flee the suffocating cabin, its atmosphere now oppressive. She stood, glad her shaky legs were keeping her upright. “Excuse me, sire,” she hated the use of his formal title, but he’d made it clear their social boundaries were back. “I need to leave.”

  “No. Stay and rest. I will leave,” Ubba said firmly, before turning to leave.

  Over the next couple of days, Rosfrith’s physical strength slowly returned, although her mental strength felt at its weakest. Ubba barely talked to her, that was, if he was around. He spent much of his days hunting. If they happened to be in the same vicinity, they both went about their daily tasks without hardly a word spoken amongst them. He did enquire once about her wound, but she supposed he was thinking about how she would manage the walk back down the mountain to Ranaricii, rather than caring for her. I might as well be invisible.

  Throwing down the rabbit by the dying fire, Ubba waited while his eyes adjusted to the darkness. That was strange, Rosfrith usually had the fire roaring at this time, ready to make food. He glanced around, expecting her to be near her furs, trying not to speak to him. He couldn’t blame her. He had been awful to her. But it was the best for the both of them. His brow furrowed. Where was she? She wasn’t in the cabin, but she couldn’t have gone far, her cloak was there. He felt his heart speed up as she tensed. He didn’t like her wandering around without him. He’d seen a bear while hunting. It seemed some of the hungrier ones were coming out of their dens already.

  Ubba turned and grabbed his axe. As he stepped outside of the hut, he looked down and smiled. Rosfrith would be in trouble if she were being hunted - her footsteps in the snow were so obvious. A chill went through him, and he sobered. He remembered Bard. He had been hunting her. Grunting, he shut the door and followed her steps.

  While Rosfrith washed in the warm water of the hot spring, her body became alert. Ubba was nearing. Her back was towards the spot where he would eventually emerge, so she closed her eyes. Should I retrieve my clothes now, or stay where I am? She chose to stay and felt her pulse quicken.

  Ubba quietly made his way towards the spring. He’d spotted Rosfrith in the water and briefly debated whether to turn around. But, he couldn’t stop himself walking towards her. From the shadows, he watched her bathe. His nerve endings tingled with the force of his attraction to her, but he rolled his large shoulders in an attempt to dismiss those feelings. He had come to apologise for his foul behaviour, that was all. He stepped out of the shadows. “I’m sorry, Rosfrith,” said Ubba. He reached the stones surrounding the spring.

  Rosfrith squeezed her eyes tight. Now he was so near, her emotions became off balance again. Oh, she knew she liked him, loved him even, whatever her experience of love was, but, to him, she was his possession. One he could rightly use, and then discard. She would have no say in the matter. Could I cope with that? To love someone, only to lose them again?

  “I’ve been a fool the last couple of days, but I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.” He waited for her to turn to look at him, but when she didn’t, he continued. “You’ve done nothing wrong. It’s just -” Ubba stopped and glanced into the direction of Ranaricii. “It’s just…” he let out a large puff. This was harder to admit than he thought. “It’s just, I’ve started to have feelings for you.”

  Rosfrith’s chest squeezed. He did feel something for her – it wasn’t just her fantasy.

  “But when we arrive back to Ranaricii, you will have to forget about this place, and become my thrall once again.”

  Even with his final words, her decision was made. Whether she regretted at some later point, it didn’t matter. She slowly stood up out of the water, her back still to him. She took in a steadying breath and gradually turned around until she was completely exposed to him.

  Ubba stayed silent. Not that he could say anything. He watched her intently, trying to work out what she was doing. Although his face betrayed no emotion, his insides were churning. Does she realise how difficult it is for me not to reach out and touch her? Does she know what she’s doing to me? Whether she remembered or not, she’d been naked in his arms on many occasions, but she’d been lifeless. Now the glow on her skin and the faint smile on her lips made her breath-taking.

  “Would you join me, Ubba?” Hoping he didn’t notice her arm shake, Rosfrith held out her hand.

  All he managed to do was gulp when she nodded at him.

  “I would like you to,” she whispered.

  There was an eerie silence between them.

  Before he moved a muscle, Ubba’s gaze made a thorough appraisal of her assets.

  She resisted the urge to cross her arms, to protect her modesty. After all, she was offering her body to him, it would be silly to act coy. She noticed the tension within him, but only because his hands were flexing by his sides. “Come to me, Ubba.”

  He didn’t need any other encouragement. Hastily stripping his clothing off, Ubba almost ran into the spring, stopping short when he reached her. Once again, he couldn’t move. She overwhelmed him.

  While he stood, his hand wavering, as though it didn’t know what to do, Rosfrith’s heart pounded, so hard she thought it would burst. “Touch me, Ubba.”

  A lazy smile spread on his lips when he got his senses back. He moved forward, the water rippling around this legs. Reaching out, he gently took her hand – it was so small next to his. He could feel her tremor through it. So, she wasn’t as sure about this as she seemed. That made him feel better – at least both of them were unsure. He rubbed his thumb along the sensitive skin of her wrist, then bent and sensually kissed the center of her open palm.

  Rosfrith watched as Ubba placed a kiss on her hand, her pulse kicking up a gear. Her breath caught when he glanced up at her. His piercing blue eyes probed her soul, asking her so many questions. She smiled and nodded and within seconds, he claimed her mouth - tentatively at first, as though he might break her, but before long, it was possession he sought.

  Moving towards the edge of the water, he gathered her into his arms, arching her backward with his kiss. When he felt the rock he’d been aiming for, touch the back of thigh, without breaking the kiss, he sat and pulled her astride him. Carefully breaking the kiss, he moved his hands to cup the sides of her head. “Rosfrith, are you a maiden?” He asked gently.

  She nodded, biting her bottom lip with concern. She noticed him let out a short puff of air. Is he displeased with me?

  He gave a small smile. “Okay, Rosfrith. It’s going against everything I want right now, but we’ll take this slowly, and I’ll try not to hurt you.”

  She gave a little nod, not entirely sure what he meant, and was glad when he started kissing her again.

  Later on, when the cooling air made shivers over their skin, Ubba carried Rosfrith back to the cabin, as though she didn’t weigh anything. When his hard body pressed her down into the furs, it felt utterly right to them both.

  Chapter 14

  Back to Ranaricii

  Much to Rosfrith’s alarm, a welcoming committee waited for them to descend into the village. Rosfrith knew they were there to welcome their sire back, not her, but the side glances and nods didn’t go unnoticed by her, regardless of how discreet they thought they were being.

  “Welcome back, Ubba,” Gunnar said,
a genuine smile on his face. He leaned in to whisper into Ubba’s ear. “You can take your seat back as soon as possible. Ruling is not as easy as it looks.” He laughed as he straightened.

  “I’m glad someone realises that,” Ubba chuckled, knowing his friend would have found it easy. He glanced around the gathering crowd, nodding and greeting as he went. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a couple of women whispering. He glanced in the direction they were looking. He sighed. Regardless of him being their Chieftain, there would be gossip.

  He walked over to Rosfrith, who at the moment, looked as though she hoped the earth would open and swallow her. “Look who I found on the way down the mountain,” he said as he raised her hand that he’d grabbed. “My wandering thrall.”

  A couple of the people standing around gave a little snigger, not understanding what was going on.

  Ubba drew her to his side. He ignored her reluctance. He noticed Bard quietly standing to the side, obviously wasn’t so happy his Chieftain was back, even less that Rosfrith was with him. Ubba directed his voice in Bard’s direction. “I’m keeping her close.” He let her remove her hand when she tugged it. “I want to know how she survived up there – on her own.” He added, knowing full well people wouldn’t believe him, but they would never question him.

  He looked directly at Bard and narrowed his eyes. He was glad when Bard lowered his. He had decided to send him back to Britain to fight with his brothers so he’d be out of the way. He’d tell him later, without the crowd.

  Rosfrith watched the silent exchange between the two men and didn’t know if to be thrilled or more scared that Bard would get his revenge somehow. When she watched Ubba stride over to Bard, she was unsure what to do.

  “Bard.”

 
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