Historical Romance (Viking)
Date Published: 5/24/2016
One woman's desire will unite enemies and raise heroes.
Weary of battle and loss, Idunna Fundinsdottir has two desires--peace and to hold a child of her own. As a war widow, her one chance at happiness rests in the hands of Eoghann Kentigern, a man who was once her enemy. Despite their differences, she saves the mysterious Saxon from the noose and binds herself to him in marriage. She longs for a child, but the fair Saxon tempts her heart as well.
In a moment of clarity, Eoghann killed his brother in battle to save his long-lost sister, then vowed his fealty to a Norse king. When a plot to murder the king and his family comes to light, to repay his debts, Eoghann takes his family's life in his hands and flees for safety. Forced to return to Suibhne, his childhood home, he faces the choice of becoming the man he wished to be, or remaining the coward who stood in his brother's shadow for too long. To keep Idunna safe and his vows to his king, he must stand and fight or lose everything.
“If you hurt her, I will gut you.”
Eoghann Kentigern swallowed, but held the iron hard stare with his brother-in-law, King Hella Ingvasson. To break it would show cowardice and he didn't mean to reveal his underbelly to the most powerful man in the settlement.
Hella's threat was unnecessary. Hurt Idunna, the woman who had saved his life when she had every reason to hate him?
“You have my word, Your Grace.” His voice wasn't as strong as he would have liked, but even weak, it was better than having no voice at all. Without Idunna's intervention, his head would be rotting on a pike somewhere.
Hella narrowed his eyes and jerked his chin at the curtain separating Idunna Fundinsdottir's room from the hallway. Eoghann's room now too since he'd vowed to protect and honor her a few hours earlier.
He sucked in a breath and pushed the curtain aside. On legs stiff as aged wood, he crossed the floor. Idunna waited for him blank-faced and rigid in a bed piled high with blankets and a shaggy gray wolf pelt. She didn't meet his gaze when he lifted the bridal crown of woven vines. It tangled in her seal brown hair and she flinched as he gave a little tug.
“Forgive me,” he murmured. He didn't need Hella, the king's faithful brothers, nephew, and the other two men tagging along as witnesses to this charade believing he'd harmed her on purpose.
She said nothing as she folded her hands together.
He carried the crown to Hella, then held it out. The king took it with another sharp look, then allowed the curtain to swing into place.
Eoghann's shoulders slumped as the sound of footsteps retreated from the doorway. Norsemen seldom invented an excuse not to attend a celebration. Apparently the queen's traitor brother's wedding claimed the exception as an event few of them could stomach. Aside from Hella, Ealasaid, Erik, Bjorn, their wives and children, the turn out had been abysmal. The shame of marrying a woman only to save his life almost caused Eoghann to flee. Might have, if Hella hadn't been guarding him all day.
He faced Idunna, but his feet froze and dread weighed him down.
They were alone for the first time since he'd come to Solstad. Alone with a woman who couldn't possibly love him because of the slaughter he'd helped bring to the neighboring village of Freysteinn. One of the warriors he'd marched with to slay the vikingrs had killed her first husband. Only a mad man would pretend Idunna could ever forgive him.
In Norse custom, they were supposed to consummate their marriage, which would tie them together as one in the community. The rituals of cleansing steams and baths before the wedding were meant to help them cast off their old lives. No amount of scrubbing or herbs would fix him. Not after what he'd done. He was the reason her first husband—the one she loved—was in the ground.
A love of reading inspired Allison Merritt to pursue her dream of becoming an author who writes historical, paranormal, contemporary, and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. It's not unusual to find her lurking in graveyards, wandering historical sites, or listening to ghost stories.