Date Published: June 25, 2014
The past is something he’d sooner forget…
Aaron McNally hates his past. Banished from his home for betrayal, he trades his tartan for a Norwegian title and sword to win back his honor.
She has a warrior’s heart…
It’s difficult for Kara Dalgaard to act like a lady, even when her father demands it. After the handsome Jarl Aaron McNally arrives at her home recruiting for the king’s army, she’s forced to participate in a cruel deception to humiliate him.
Drawn to his strength and passion, she quickly regrets what she’s done. But duty comes before happiness.
Aaron wants a second chance at life—and Kara is everything he’s dreamed of. But the past always has a way of catching up with you. Will Kara trust him or condemn him to a life of loneliness?
Kara Dalgaard spit blood on the ground. Her latest mistake, dropping her shield too soon. Marteinn clipped her in the chin with his fist, causing her to bite her tongue. She growled fiercely and attacked, slamming her sword into his wooden shield, then pushed with all her strength. Marteinn laughed as he stumbled backward.
“Follow through, Kara,” her brother urged from the side. “One push isn’t enough, use the edge of your shield. Clap him over the head and kick him in the balls, now.”
“Leave my future children alone,” Marteinn countered as he covered his ballocks with his left hand.
She took advantage of her opponent’s fear, kicking him savagely in the shin.
The six and a half foot warrior dropped his weapon and hopped on one foot. “You little cretin. That hurt.”
“It’s supposed to.” She raised the visor on her helmet, then stared at her target. “Do you yield?”
Before Marteinn replied, Geilir inserted himself between them. “I think you’ve practiced enough today. For the love of Odin, sister, I’ve never seen a woman love swordplay so much.”
“Perhaps the proper parts would heat in my bed.” Marteinn grinned ear to ear.
“Your fantasies are unattainable,” Kara said, thumping the back of his head. She rejected him nearly every day, but her adopted brother only heard what he wanted to hear. She would know the right man when she saw him. She’d believed that all her life. Whether she’d accept him depended on what her heart told her. Although she dreamed of love, giving up her freedom scared her more than anything.
She steered her thoughts back to Marteinn. Raised in her father’s household, he enjoyed the same privileges as her own brothers and teased her as ruthlessly as they did. He baited her constantly, a favorite pastime of all the men in her family. Only now, she was no longer a weak, grubby child. Father wanted her to learn how to fight to protect herself and had appointed Marteinn and Geilir to teach her.
Kara removed her helmet and leather gloves, then dropped them on the ground. A basket of food waited under a nearby tree where the horses were tethered. All three headed in that direction. She arrived first and reached inside the basket—fruit, cheese, bread, and several skins of mead. Her stomach growled as she shoved a hunk of bread in her mouth.
“Give me the bread.” Her brother grabbed the loaf.
“Animal,” she called.
Laughing, she sat cross legged on the mossy ground and emptied a skin of mead in minutes.
“Where does it all go?” Marteinn gazed at her in wonderment. “Do you have a hollow leg?”
“No.” She smiled. “But you have a hollow head.”
Truly, it wasn’t. Her father had appointed Marteinn as captain of the guard three years ago because he was a talented strategist. Since then, their home survived four attacks. Christian rebels often targeted the pagan lords in Lagenheim. But with fearless men like Marteinn to defend them, none had succeeded.
She admired her foster brother’s face. Chestnut curls framed his magnificent features. High cheekbones and slightly slanted eyes revealed his birthplace. His mother came from an Icelandic province.
Marteinn loved her. She struggled with it, cringed at the idea of regarding him as more than a kinsman. How could she? The boy who used to hold her arms down and force feed her dirt and bugs. It seemed unnatural. The way he stared at her while she ate, reminded her of the way he gazed at her backside whenever she walked by. She’d grown shapelier over the last two years. Breasts too big for her small frame and a curvy arse drew unwanted attention from men in her household every day, further justifying her father’s desire to train her to fight.
Men, including ones as honorable as Marteinn, are soulless creatures in the presence of beauty.
Her sire’s philosophy, not hers. She wholly disagreed. Whenever Kara looked in the mirror, she didn’t see comely features, only someone who refused to embrace womanhood. At nineteen, all her personal interests revolved around charting the stars, riding horses, and learning the healing arts. She hated her body, especially once she realized why her father’s men treated her differently. Some avoided her altogether now. Why? She couldn’t stop the hand of the goddess Frigg, who eventually beckoned all women to the marriage altar.
Over time, Marteinn had grown more aggressive about spending time alone. He asked to go on long walks and expressed the joy he felt sitting with her in the moonlight while she star-gazed. Mapping the heavens meant everything to her. Although she wasn’t opposed to Marteinn’s company, whenever his hand slipped over hers or he scooted too close, she always found an excuse to leave. She refused to give the household slaves reason to gossip about her. What her favorite childhood companion needed was a wife. Perhaps she’d help find him one.
Violetta Rand holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy and a master’s degree in Environmental Management. Serving as an environmental scientist in the state of Alaska for over seven years, she enjoys the privilege of traveling to remote places few people have the opportunity to see.
Violetta has been “in love” with writing since childhood. Struck with an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age, at five, she wrote short stories illustrated by her best friend and sold them in her neighborhood. The only thing she loves more than writing is her wonderful relationship with her husband, Jeff. She enjoys outdoor activities, reading whatever she can get her hands on, music, and losing herself in the worlds she enjoys bringing to life in the pages of her stories.