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Berserker (A Real Man #18)
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They were known to be the fiercest of all Norse warriors, charging into battle in a wild frenzy, no protection except the weapon they held in their hand.
Said to have the spirit of a wild animal inside of them, they were feared … revered.
And I had fallen in love with one.
I was a wanderer, a free spirit. I was paid to track and hunt, to kill. It’s what I did, how I survived. And I loved every minute of it.
But I found myself going to the same village because of one person … Greta.
I shouldn’t want her. She’s far too innocent for the likes of me. I’m more animal, more feral than the fiercest of Vikings. But I can’t stop myself from being drawn to her.
And then she’s taken from me before I can claim her.
Warning: This story is totally wild and unrealistic. And yes, it’s about an actual Viking warrior! But it’s filthy and sexy, features a totally over-the-top hero who only has eyes for one woman, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make her his. If you didn’t like Vikings before now, that’s about to change *wink*
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“She is not for sale.”
I heard my father say it, but I stayed behind the hide that blocked me from view. I pulled at my apron, saying a silent thank you to the gods for looking out for me.
“I’ve offered you more than enough for her. It’s an insult to deny me when she has no other offers for her hand.”
I looked around the corner and saw Egil standing in front of my father. His long blond hair was in plaits on each side of his head, his blue eyes narrowed as he stared at my father with annoyance.
“She’s worth more than you could ever afford,” my father said without looking up from the piece of wood he was whittling. He set down the small statue he was carving, kept the knife in his hand, and finally looked up at Egil.
Even from where I stood I felt my father’s anger, felt how tense and thick the air had become.
“I declined your offer and now I ask you to leave.” My father’s voice brokered no argument.
I could see Egil’s jaw working as he clenched his teeth. Although I knew what Egil offered would’ve helped my mother and father, my brother and sister immensely, I also knew that everyone in town was aware of exactly the type of Viking Egil was.
He was unlike most warriors in my village. He had this air around him, one where his anger was tangible. He drank copious amounts of mead, started fights, and was a womanizer. And I knew if I’d been married off to him he would’ve treated me as nothing more than a piece of property.
He glanced up then, his gaze clashing with mine. I wanted to dart back behind the tapestry, to hide myself from him, but I was frozen in place. He narrowed his eyes further, curled his lip in disgust. He projected all his anger toward me.
I took hold of my apron and swallowed, trying not to show fear.
Would he retaliate toward my father? Would he feel he was humiliated, denied his right?
But he said nothing, and instead turned and left.
My father looked at me then, gesturing me over. I moved toward him, the fire in front of us crackling, the flames moving over the logs. I sat down beside him, neither of us speaking for long moments. I wanted to ask him why he’d declined such an offer when I knew they could have used the silver so much.
“You’re my daughter,” he finally said and reached out to pat my leg. “No amount of coin would have me selling you off to a man like him. He brings a bad name to Vikings, is dishonest, and conjures disorder to our very village.”
I stayed silent, not sure what to say, how to respond. I wanted to thank him, to thank the gods. Instead I looked at my hands, my fingers twined together.
“Thank you, Father. I’ll do my best to make you proud.” He patted my leg again and smiled.
“Daughter, I am proud of you.”
I stood and walked to where I slept, sitting on the edge of my pallet and reaching out to grab hold of a silver platter. It was small and round, a treasure that had been brought back by my brother from the raids they’d done in the spring.
It was polished, the girl who stared back at me slightly distorted from the curve in the center of the platter. Blond hair hung in loose waves around my face, intricate braids around the crown of my head, ones my younger sister had done as we sang in front of the fire preparing our meal last night.
As much as I was grateful to my father for not selling me, I also knew that marrying me off would help my family immensely. The money they’d receive, the dowry of livestock and goods, would give them breathing room.
And as much as I wanted to marry for love, that wasn’t always in the cards. Sometimes you just had to take what the gods offered and smile through it all.
* * *
The next day
I crouched low and brought the bucket into the creek, the water rushing down from the mountains, the liquid cold and fresh.
“I think I’m in love, Greta.”
I looked over at my sister, Ilsa. Her long blond hair was in twin braids on either side of her face.
She was so young and beautiful, yet no doubt had fallen for the charms of one of the village boys.
“Love?” I asked as I brought the bucket of water out of the creek and set it aside, droplets splashing onto the pebbles on the ground beside me.
“Yes, with Asgard.”
“Son of Geir, the blacksmith?” I saw the way her cheeks turned pink, her lips curling into a smile.
“Yes.” She looked at me, her blue eyes the same shade as mine, so it seemed as if I looked at my own reflection. “He wants to marry, to ask Father for me.” She sat back, her grin wide, her happiness clear.