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Authors: Sandra Hill

Tags: #Historical Romance, #Romance, #Viking, #Vikings, #Love Story, #Pirate

The Pirate Bride

BOOK: The Pirate Bride
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The Pirate Bride
Viking I [11]
Sandra Hill
Avon (2012)
Rating:
****
Tags:
Historical Romance, Romance, Viking, Vikings, Love Story, Pirate

A Viking to bed, not to wed!

Medana Elsadottir, known as the Sea Scourge, never planned to become a pirate, but there's no denying her talent. Her female-only tribe has an island hideaway, food aplenty, goods to trade... everything except the means to breed. That's where the strapping Norsemen tied up in her ship's hold comes in handy. Eight godly specimen - and Thork Tykirrson is the most virile of them all. Once their, eh, work is done, they'll be free to leave. Medana had naught to do with this gods-awful plan, but she wouldn't mind reaping the benefits.

Wed or bed... this Viking has plans of his own.

Renowned as the wildest Viking of his time, Thork was returning home to regain his father's favor. Mayhap even
(
shudder
)
marry. His brazen - and very beautiful - kidnapper has likely done him a favor in preventing such an irksome fate. That doesn't mean he'll let her off easy. No one takes anything from a Viking that he's not willing to give...
not even a violet-eyed vixen who sets off the wildest fantasies.

Dedication

This book is dedicated to my longtime fans, who have been with me from the beginning. You know who you are. I won’t mention you by name for fear of leaving someone out.

These are the folks who write me now, as they have over the past eighteen years, saying, “I have been reading all your books since the very first one.” They tell me that they glom some of my novels multiple times. They buy e-book editions of novels they’ve already read in print. And when I meander off into other genres—time-travel, historical, contemporary, Viking Navy SEALs, Cajuns, and Vikings—they might at first say, “Whaaat?” But they always give me a try, and most times, follow that new series.

It’s particularly appropriate that I dedicate
The Pirate Bride
to those longtime fans because it is the eleventh book in Viking Series I, which began in 1994 with
The Reluctant Viking
, my very first book. In fact, Tykir, the father of Thork, the hero of
The Pirate Bride
, was a little boy in that first book. Boy, does time fly!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Chapter One

When he was bad, he was very bad. When he was good, he was still bad . . .

T
hork Tykirsson sat in a bustling tavern in the trading town of Hedeby, brooding.

He’d tupped the ale barrel. A mere once.

He’d done another type of tupping. Once.

He’d engaged in an alehouse brawl. Once.

He’d told a ribald joke. Once.

He’d tossed dice for a vast amount of coins. Once.

Ho-hum.

His virtuous behavior—
Bloody hell! Whoever heard of a virtuous Viking?
—followed on his having quit pirating a year ago when that evil Saxon king Edgar had finally gone to his eternal reward. Everyone knew that Vikings were pirates of a sort. Not him anymore.

He could go a-Viking, he supposed. A respectable occupation that he enjoyed on occasion. He freely admitted to having plundered a monastery or two for gold chalices or silver-chased crucifixes. How many chalices does one church need, anyhow? You could say Vikings did the priests a favor, helping them avoid the sin of greed. And the hated Saxons deserved everything a-Viking Norsemen sent their way. Same went for those arrogant Scots and the foppish men of Frankland. But, truth to tell, he had more than enough treasure.

The most appalling thing was that Thork was actually considering marriage, something he’d avoided with distaste for years. In fact, he had already made a preliminary offer to Jarl Ingolf Bersson for his daughter Berla. He planned to set sail in the morning for the Norselands and his father’s estate at Dragonstead, where he had not been nigh onto five years now. Barring unforeseen circumstances, he would return to Hedeby before winter when a final betrothal agreement could be made. That should please his father.

But married? Me? I will become just like every other man I know who succumbs to marital pressure. Wedlocked and landlocked. No doubt I will soon have baby drool on my best tunic, doing my wife’s bidding like a giant lapdog.

“Bor-ing . . . I have become bor-ing,” Thork exclaimed aloud with horror. “I was once deemed the wildest Viking to ride a longship, a wordfame I worked good and well to earn, and now”—he shuddered—“I am becoming a weak-sapped, sorry excuse for a Norseman, and I have not even wed yet. What will become of me?”

“Methinks you are being too hard on yourself,” said Bolthor, once a fierce warrior, now an aging skald noted for his big heart and bad poems. “Your father will be proud of you. That counts for more than a bit of boredom.”

And that was the heart of the problem: his estrangement from his sire, Tykir Thorksson, and his determination to restore himself in the old man’s good favor. At just the thought of his father, Thork instinctively tugged on the silver thunderbolt earring that hung from one of his ears. It had belonged to his father, and his father’s father before him. There had been many a time in the past ten years when his father would have liked to take it back . . . if he could catch him.

Just then, there was a commotion at the door.

“The crew is missing,” Alrek, the clumsiest Viking alive, said breathlessly as he rushed into the alehouse and tripped on some object hidden in the rushes, almost landing in Thork’s lap. His blond hair, sun-bleached to almost white, stood up in unruly spikes, and his green eyes were huge with worry.

“What crew?” Thork asked.

“Your crew.”

Thork crossed his eyes with impatience. “The crew of
which
ship?” He’d brought three longships here to the trading town of Hedeby to sell the amber he’d harvested in the Baltics these many months. And wasn’t that respectable occupation yet another sign of dullness growing in him like a blister on a Saxon’s arse?

“Oh.” Alrek blushed. “
Swift Serpent
.”

Thork’s smallest, but one of his favorite vessels. “Are you saying all of the
Serpent
’s seamen are missing?” That would mean about sixty rowers.

“Good gods, nay!” Alrek was momentarily distracted by the serving maid who smiled at him as she poured ale into the horn he lifted off the loop on his belt, making sure Alrek got a good look at her mostly exposed bosoms. Alrek blinked several times . . . with amazement, no doubt. It
was
a voluptuous view, although the maid’s hand shook nervously as she refilled his and Bolthor’s horns, as well. Odd that a tavern maid, dressed to entice, would be so nervous.

But that was neither here nor there.

Alrek shook his head to clear it and turned his attention back to Thork. “Only a half dozen.”

“Only a half dozen,” Thork repeated. “Alrek, the men are no doubt off somewhere wenching, or they are too
drukkinn
to walk back yet.”

“But you told everyone to be on board by midnight so that we could set sail at dawn,” Alrek persisted.

Bolthor jerked with surprise as the serving maid trailed a fingertip over his shoulders as she walked away. Not many women approached the old man, who had seen more than fifty winters, when there were younger, more comely men about. Not to mention the black eye patch over his one eyeless socket, due to an injury in the Battle of Ripon many years past. But then Bolthor said, “Alrek, Alrek, Alrek. When will you learn? A Viking man does not take well to orders, especially when bedsport is available.”

Thork agreed. “The men will be there in good time, or left behind to find their own way home.”

Alrek shook his head vigorously, causing ale to slosh over the lip of his horn. “Nay. Something is amiss, I tell you. There are strange people about Hedeby this night.”

“There are always strange people in Hedeby,” Bolthor remarked. “Why, I recall the time there was an archer from Ireland who could shoot three arrows at one time. Or the man who could touch his eyebrows with his tongue. And then there was—”

“Not that kind of strange. These men I see skulking about . . . they are small in stature and curved in the wrong places. Like those two over there staring at us.”

Thork and Bolthor both turned to see the two men leaning against the wall, wooden cups in their hands. They were, indeed, shorter than average, and they had hips like a woman, if the tunics that covered them down to their knees over tight braies were any indication.

“By the runes! They must be sodomites,” Bolthor declared.

“Sodomites?” Thork exclaimed.

“Yea. Sodomites are men who prefer men to women.”

“I know what a sodomite is. One of my best friends was . . . never mind!” Thork said, waving a hand dismissively. “Alrek, surely you are not saying there are vast numbers of man lovers about this night, waiting to prey on innocent seamen. As far as I know, they seek like-minded males.”

“They are not all like those two. Some are taller. Some wider. But they are shifty-eyed and move in a sly manner. And there were a goodly number near
Swift Serpent
.”

Alrek ever was fanciful, and a worrier, besides. But Thork did not want to offend the man. No need to worry. Bolthor was launching into one of his awful poems. And Thork did not want to offend him, either, though betimes it was the only way to stop his poetic musings.

“Men are as different as night and day.

The gods molded them like clay.

But there is one part that is prized most.

The one of which they are most likely to boast.

Like homing pigeons those bloody things are

Seeking out whate’er nest is close by.”

Bolthor is getting worse, instead of better, I swear.
“Well, best we get back to the ship ourselves. In truth, I am beginning to feel a bit shaky,” Thork confessed, downing the rest of his ale, and attaching the horn to his belt.

Bolthor did likewise, swaying on his feet as he stood. Being the giant he was, no one wanted to be near when he fell, so Thork took him by the elbow and steered him toward the door. He noticed with seeming irrelevance that the two “sodomites” were gone.

Alrek followed behind them, muttering something about the bitter aftertaste in his mouth from the ale.

Most of the stalls were closed for the night as they made their way slowly along the raised board walkways that crisscrossed the well-ordered market town. Thork had erected his own stall earlier that day and sold all the amber he’d brought to market, saving one large, pale yellow stone with a tiny bumblebee inside to gift his mother, Lady Alinor.

Ahead he could see the palisaded harbor with the earthen ramparts that rose over Hedeby in a half circle. They approached one of two gates in the wall that regulated traffic in and out of the city. Hedeby was situated at the crossroads of Slien Fjord and the Baltic Sea, from whence they’d come after harvesting the amber. In the daytime, it was a bustling center for commerce because of its strategic position linking trade routes of eastern empires with the west . . . the Norselands, Frankland, and Britain.

As they turned a corner, Bolthor lurched for a hitching post outside a stable, bent over, and began to heave the contents of his stomach over the side into a muddy trench. Thork leaned against the railing for support, his knees suddenly feeling weak as butter. Alrek had both hands on his stomach and was groaning at the pain.

Suddenly, Thork felt a hard blow to the back of his head. Even as he fell, he saw that Bolthor and Alrek were following his path to the ground, Bolthor with a loud thud that broke a few planks.

It was then that Thork gazed up woozily to see that they were surrounded by a
hird
of little men led by the two from the tavern.

They seemed to be discussing him, Bolthor, and Alrek, as if they were goods.

“How are we ever going to get them back to the ship?”

Ship? What ship?

“I forgot.
Pirate Lady
is at the far, far end of the wharf.”

Pirate Lady
? What kind of name is that for a ship? Ah, she must mean
Pirate’s Lady
. Still, pirate? I do not like the sound of that.

“Drag them, I suppose.”

Do not dare!

“Where’s a horse when you need one? Ha, ha, ha!”

I’ll give you a horse, you misbegotten dwarf of a man! Pirate or not, pirate’s whore or not, when I get up, you will regret your sorry jests.

“Wrap them in ells of sailcloth and lift them up onto yon wagon. If anyone asks, we can say that they are graybeards who died of old age, and we are carrying them to the funeral pyres.”

I am not a graybeard. I am only twenty and eight.

“I get the big one. Think of the bairns I could have with his seed.”

Bairns? How do they expect to carry babes in their wombs if they have no wombs?

“The clumsy one is adorable. Did you notice his dimple?”

What about me?
Thork thought, then immediately chastised himself for caring.

“We’ll draw lots when we get back to the island.”

Island? Uh-oh!

Just before he blacked out totally, Thork realized something important. The men’s voices sounded female. Very female.

Oh, good gods! They were being taken captive.
By women!

The women went a-Viking . . . a different kind of a-Viking . . .

Medana Elsadottir, best known as Sea Scourge, had never intended to become a pirate. In fact, when she’d left—rather,
escaped
—her home in Rognvald, land of the Danes, ten years ago, she’d never even heard of female pirates.

And she’d certainly never intended to take other women with her, nor continue to gather recruits to her unlikely
hird
of sea soldiers. Her followers now numbered an amazing one hundred and ninety-three, including nineteen children—fourteen girls and five boys, ranging from ages one to eight. They lived—women only, except for the boys—on a hidden, mountainous island named Thrudr, or Strength, appropriately named because that’s exactly what each and every one of them had gained with their independence. Their stronghold was accessible by a narrow landmass that connected a smaller, visible island to the hidden cave in Thrudr, but only when the tide was down once a day.

“I could scarce recognize you in that disguise, Medana,” Agnis the Weaver said. “ ’Tis much better than the last visit when you pretended to be a leper.”

They both laughed at the memory. It had taken Medana days to soak off the false pustules made of mud and sand and tree sap.

On this trip to Hedeby, Medana was dressed as a nun, complete with a simple brown homespun gown and veil over a tightly bound white wimple. The only thing showing that might identify her as the sister of three powerful, greedy Viking chieftains were her thick, dark blonde brows, violet eyes, and bruised-looking, overly lush mouth, a trait of men and women alike in the line of Bjorn, one of the legendary first kings of early Norseland. But it had been ten years since she was sixteen years old and had last seen her evil siblings; they would scarce recognize the woman she’d become, even without a disguise.

“Being a nun in July was not my best idea. It’s hotter than the depths of Muspell, but I’ll be back on the ship soon and change into my tunic and braies,” Medana remarked as they sat at a table in Agnis’s small house behind the permanent merchant stall they maintained in the market town. The walls were adorned with the products of Agnis’s gift for colored patterns in the cloth she wove on the large loom in the back corner. The room was perfumed with the sweet scent of dried herbs hanging from the ceiling rafters—lavender, verbena, and such.

BOOK: The Pirate Bride
12.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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