The Viking's Highland Lass

BOOK: The Viking's Highland Lass
2.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
The Viking's Highland Lass
The Highlanders, Book 7
Terry Spear

PUBLISHED BY:

Terry Spear

The Viking's Highland Lass

Copyright © 2016 by Terry Spear

A
ll rights reserved
. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.

D
iscover more about Terry Spear
at:

http://www.terryspear.com/

ISBN-13: 9781633110113

ISBN: 978-1-63311-011-3

T
o Sandi Carstensen
, my prayers go out to you and I wish you every success. Keep your chin up, lassie, and my thoughts are with you as you go through radiation treatments. Big hugs.

Foreword

B
lurb
for The Viking's Highland Lass

Gunnolf was left for dead when he was young as he went on one of his kin's raids, but finds his way to the Highlands and a home with the MacNeill Clan. The clan's seer warns him he must rescue a woman in need, only he rescues the wrong woman. Yet, Brina is in need. Her father, wounded in battle by Gunnolf's own kind, must oust the tyrant who has taken his place if he is to rule. Yet he needs Gunnolf's help, but Gunnolf learns Brina's father had killed Gunnolf's brother.

Brina is torn between hating the Viking who has rescued her, and knowing that his kin had killed her grandfather in an age old tale of fighting between their people, and loving the man who took her under his protection, and the wolf cub she insisted on rescuing.

Now, Gunnolf must make a choice: wed the lass as her father has insisted and restore her father's position as chief of his clan when he's not sure her father is trustworthy, hoping he can obtain a peace between his people and hers, or leave well enough alone and stay with the MacNeill clan, his family for the past ten years. The problem is one sweet Highland lass that makes him want a woman—this woman—to warm his bed and have his bairns and to protect and cherish, when having a wife was the furthest notion from his mind…until one prediction changed his whole life.

Prologue

1
097
, England

A
thick fog
coating the whole area, Gunnolf drifted in and out of consciousness. At the age of five and ten winters, he was lying on the ground in the wet grass, a sword wound in his side hurting something fierce. Was this how it felt to die?

Somehow, he'd always imagined he would just…die. Quickly.

“You will be lost to us,” Gunnolf's amma, his grandmother, had said before he had left his homeland in the north with several of his kin in longboats to rescue one of his older brothers captured by the Sassenach. “Many will be lost to us.”

Her words of warning had haunted him the whole way to England and now, lying here, gasping for breath, he couldn't put them out of his mind. His amma knew things no one should have known.

But if he fought well, he would die a warrior's death. He welcomed it, was ready to join his kin that had fallen this very day and those who had died in the past. He had been going on raids since he was ten winters and he really hadn't thought he would die this day or any other. Such was the hazard of youth.

“Will I die in battle?” Gunnolf had asked her, not really believing he would die in battle, but he had always questioned her visions, and she had seemed to appreciate that he didn't readily believe everything he was told.

She had shaken her head, her white hair braided, her wrinkled face soft, her blue-gray eyes saddened. “You will be lost to us.”

Now as he lay bleeding on his back, a piece of cloth tucked against the sword wound on his side, he stared up at the mist cloaked sky in the lands of the Sassenach. The woods all around him where he had crawled were quiet, except for a falcon calling out a rasping kack-kack-kack-kack from a nest somewhere high above.

“But you will not die this day.” His amma's words whispered in his ear.

Tomorrow then, he thought, as he felt he would surely die soon while the pain rippled through his weary body. Then he heard a horse snorting nearby, pawing at the ground. A rider-less horse? Or had one of the Sassenach survived or had more arrived and they were looking for the injured among the dead? If they found him, he would disprove his amma's words and he would die this day.

He couldn't see his fallen kin from where he'd crawled to, but he'd seen them struck down, saw the life leave their eyes. He'd captured his father's gaze at one point, willing him to fight well, to be proud of who he was.

Then a gray-bearded Sassenach, bloodlust in his narrowed blue eyes, stabbed Gunnolf in the side, and he had fallen too. He thought he had gone to Valhalla, but he hadn't remembered being led by the Valkyries into the great hall. When he had opened his eyes and seen all the carnage and felt the pain, he knew he was still alive.

But then his older brother Hallfred had appeared before him, his red hair dangling in Gunnolf's face. Had his kin freed him? Or had Gunnolf just imagined his brother leaning over him, his blue eyes hard as he stared back at Gunnolf, their gazes locking, his hand on Gunnolf's chest as if he was ensuring he was dead.

“Is Gunnolf dead?” another man had shouted.


Ja
. He no longer breathes. He has gone to Valhalla,” Hallfred had said. “Brave warrior that he is,” he added, sneering.

Then Hallfred had run off and Gunnolf had slipped away into blackness.

Now, he was well awake, in agony. Had he really seen his brother? Gunnolf couldn't be sure. He finally managed to grab hold of a low tree branch, and get to his feet, but jagged sharp jolts pained him something fierce. He sank to his knees, gasping for breath.

God's wounds, he had to get to the longboats before they left. He had to leave with the rest of his kin who had survived, if any had, before the Sassenach arrived, if they were not here yet. He heard no voices, no sounds of dying men, just of the pounding of the waves upon the shore below the cliffs. Except for the horse and the falcon, he felt all alone.

Shouting in the Sassenach tongue from a distant place spurred him to get up off his knees and leave…now.

Unsteadily, he staggered to his feet, pressed the heel of his hand against a tree and lowered his head, everything spinning beneath him. Finally able to see the fallen leaves on the ground more clearly, he raised his head and saw the white horse as a silhouette in the mist. No rider anywhere. The horse was watching him, brown eyes soulful, and he moved toward him. He meant to do so carefully, cautiously, but he couldn't manage as much as he was hurting, and stumbled over fallen branches in his path. Even where there were none.

He spoke quietly, reassuring the horse as he made his slow, painful progress to close the gap between them. “I will not harm you,” he whispered. The horse's ears twitched.

He continued to speak softly when he was able to grasp its reins, and brushed his hand over the horse's neck. Then he attempted to climb into the saddle, once, twice, and the third time finally managing to seat himself in the leather.

He nudged the horse in the direction of the sea, but when they reached it, he saw the longboats off in the distance sailing home without him.

“You will be lost to us,” his amma's words whispered on the chilly breeze.

He believed then he would not die this day.

M
idday
, a low fog clinging to the loch and pine trees surrounding it on the warm summer's day in the Highlands, Brina Auchinleck saw a beautiful white horse eating grass nearby. Her quiver of arrows at her back and her bow slung over her shoulder, she'd been searching for birds to hunt. But she hadn't expected this. A horse so white, she'd never seen such a sight, as if he was a gift from the old gods themselves.

A branch snagged her hair, yanking it and hurting, instantly snapping Brina out of the vision she'd been having. She quickly looked around the area, the same place where the vision had occurred, the blue loch before her, no breeze stirring so it was glassy and reflected the pines surrounding it. A low lying fog covered part of the loch and clung to the pine trees. Then she looked to the north.

And saw the white horse. He was real.

Panic filled her breast as she feared an enemy clan was in the area. But where was the rider of the beautiful beast? What if the horse was just…lost?

She moved toward him.

He lifted his head from eating grass and watched her approach. Her heart beating hard, she paused, afraid she would spook it. Gathering her courage, she moved closer and saw the sole of a boot in the tall grasses and gorse. She came to a dead stop. The rider was sleeping in the grass? But wouldn't he have heard her approach? Was he dead then?

She knew this was a dangerous idea, but she had to see. She had to know. Her da had always said she was too curious for her own good.

On the other side of the gorse, she saw the lad belonging to the boot—a lad who looked to be not much older than she. Blood soaked his tunic, his eyes were closed, and he wasn't stirring at her approach. Was he dead? She observed him further and saw that his chest was rising and falling and heard his labored breathing. A sword was sheathed at his waist, a dirk in his boot. Was he a young warrior?

She had to do something. She rushed forward then and secured the horse's reins on a gorse bush. The lad groaned, and she jerked her head around to see him looking wide-eyed at her.

She quickly pulled off a blanket rolled up behind the saddle and then rejoined him. “Where are you wounded?” His side, it appeared, though he was a bloody mess.

Had he stolen the horse? Only he'd gotten away after a swordfight?

His eyes studied her. They were a sky blue that pulled her right in until he lifted his hand to his waist, and she remembered her duty. She hurried to pull out her dirk and cut a strip of the cloth from the blanket to bind his wound. “What is your name?”

“Gunnolf, son of Gustavson,” he hoarsely whispered. “Are you the goddess Freyja?”

“Goddess?” She smiled, but she didn't recognize his strange dialect. The words, but not the accent.

Then she struggled to help him to sit up. He groaned, and she feared he was going to pass out on her the way his eyes rolled back in his head.

“Nay, nay, dinna pass out on me. ‘Tis too difficult to get you up.”

Her words seemed to bring him back to this time and place, and she quickly secured the strip of cloth around his waist to help to stop the bleeding. Then she pulled her flask from her belt and lifted it to his lips. “Drink.”

He was so fair haired when she was not. While he gulped the ale down, some of it streaming down his chin, she observed him further. His dark golden hair fell about his shoulders, curly, beautiful as if kissed by the golden rays of the sun. He wore no whiskers, but his arms were well-muscled, his brown tunic embroidered with strange black stitching, a fur brat secured at his throat.

No one had ever likened her to a goddess. But she'd never heard of that goddess either and frowned at him. “Can you stand? Mount your horse? ‘Tis your horse, is it no'?”

No matter what, she couldn't help a horse thief get away with stealing a horse, yet he was so beautiful, so injured, she wanted to save him like she had done so many times with birds, a wolf pup once, even a wild cat, and aye, men who had been wounded in battle.

Gunnolf lay back down as if unable to sit any further and stared at her with a look of peace in his expression. She feared he was dying. She'd seen that look before when a warrior no longer felt any pain and was ready to leave this world behind, had accepted his fate, and was ready to move on.

“Can you stand?” She was determined to get him to her shieling and from there, she would run to the castle and get help for him. Before she ran off though to get more help, she would do what she could for him like their healer had taught her.

He didn't respond, just stared at her as if she was just as beautiful to him as he was to her.

“Come, I must get you to my shieling.” She tried to lift him, but he was heavy and too injured he couldn't push himself up. “Gunnolf, you must help me.”

“Is…this…the field of Fólkvangr,” he rasped out.

“Where are you from?” She had never heard of such a place.

He closed his eyes, and she was again afraid he was near death.

Then she stared again at his clothes, the furs he wore, and the strange markings on his scabbard. Heart pounding, she shifted her gaze to his face. “You are a Finn-Gall,” she gasped, her skin chilling at once. Her kin had fought the Norwegian Vikings who had raided their land last winter and killed her grandfather. Yet he spoke her language, even though it sounded strange to her ears. And he seemed to understand her.

Were the Vikings near her lands again? But her people hadn't been fighting anyone or she would have known.

She was torn. She knew she couldn't take him to her shieling or she could be cast from the clan for aiding a Viking warrior, lad that he was, if she was caught caring for him. It was her duty to tell the chief a Viking lay bleeding near the loch.

If her da wasn't on the mountain with the sheep for the next several days…

She glanced back in the direction of her aunt and uncle's shieling. She couldn't see it for the distance, but she was to call on her uncle or his son, Christophe, her older cousin by four summers, if she needed help. Even Lynette, who was his age, raised by her aunt but not truly kin, could help. Though her da had forbidden her to see her after Brina's mother died. And she didn't want to get Lynette into trouble.

So why was she now running to get a cart in the byre, fully intending to take him to the shieling and aid the Finn-Gall further?

G
unnolf watched
the beautiful lass run off into the woods, her dark hair flying behind her. Thought about her warm hands on his cold skin, the way her blue eyes had caught his gaze and he'd fallen right under her spell. Breaking free of the image of the lass, he knew he couldn't stay. She might be willing to care for him, but when she had called him a Viking, he assumed her people must have had trouble with his kind. He was certain her people would kill him, or chain him up in a dark, dank dungeon.

BOOK: The Viking's Highland Lass
2.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

London Falling by Paul Cornell
Darkling by Sabolic, Mima
Shifting Snows by Paulin, Brynn
Demonkin by T. Eric Bakutis
Ladykiller by Light, Lawrence, Anthony, Meredith
La espada oscura by Kevin J. Anderson
Primal Cravings by Susan Sizemore
Something Going Around by Harry Turtledove
Never Say Never by Tina Leonard