by Sandi Layne
Series: Éire’s Viking #2
Publisher: The Writer’s Coffee Shop
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: January 23rd 2014
Format: Paperback and eBook, 238 pages
Beginning ten years after the end of Éire’s Captive Moon, this is the story of how Agnarr Halvardson returns to Éire with the intention of settling there, marrying, and siring sons.
It is also the story of Aislinn, who was a child in Ragor when the Northmen raided eleven summers prior but is now a working physician in her own right. She spent a year in Bangor Monastery and became a Christian before Cowan and Charis returned to take the children to Cowan’s village in the kingdom of Dál Fiatach and returns there a decade later to finish learning all she can from the monks about their healing practices.
When Cowan brings her a patient, injured and temporarily unable to speak, she can’t help but find the strong, tall man attractive, even if such feelings unsettle her.
Although sparks fly immediately, Agnarr’s idea of wedding Aislinn—the physician who heals him when he is injured—is hampered by many factors, including language and cultural differences. There is also the matter that he is the man who kidnapped and enslaved Charis years before.
Believing strongly that God gave Agnarr to her as a patient, though, Aislinn does her best. Her knowledge of who he is wars with her unwilling attraction to him. That he makes his interest in her clear doesn’t help, as he goes so far as to seek her father’s permission to wed her. Can she forgive him for what he did to her village? Can she love him if she does? And will she be willing to accept a life at Agnarr’s side even if he does not love her?
Meanwhile, other raiders from the North come to Éire’s green coasts. Pledging his loyalty to the new king, Muiredach of Dál Fiatach, Agnarr prepares to defend his new home.
“You’re holding back?”
Screams split the heavy mist of morning as the Ostmen pushed through the wooden gates of the small village. They had skirted through the fields while three men crept up a gentle slope to get fresh meat. These islanders had sheep and pigs. The pigs were less particular in their eating habits, but the sheep were more docile. On a longship, that was of greatest importance.
Agnarr held in his wince as he saw a roof catch fire. “Their blood is hotter and Erik deserves the opportunity to lead.”
His own leader rested a heavy hand on his shoulder. “You haven’t wanted to go raiding for some time. I thought perhaps you’d lost your stomach for it.”
A memory slid through his mind of the first time he had come to doubt what he was doing; it had been in his own village of Balestrand.
A crash sounded within the nearest building, startling him back to the present, and Tuirgeis compelled him to move toward the village. Reluctance dragging at his feet, Agnarr did so. He could not confess to his leader what had changed within him, that day Vigaldr had sought to overcome Balestrand years before. “No,” he lied. “We need the plunder. It’s been a while, though, since I’ve come so far. I notice you did not lead the way in, either.”
Tuirgeis shook his head. “The One-Eyed believed his wyrd is meant to be faced here today.”
With an affirmative sound, Agnarr moved through the broken gate to the village and entered the chaos. The villagers here were not monks. Not weak men who thought that talking in their melodic tongue to their Man-God would protect them. These were men Agnarr would have known if they spoke Norse. Men of the land, though they wore knee-length, skirted tunics or what he could only call a half-tunic, belted at the hips. Broad-chested, some of them, but all of them were fighting. Smoke, dry and smelling of dirt and rushes, floated overhead. The clash of metal on metal sometimes louder than the shouts of fighting men, sometimes buried under other sounds.
Agnarr’s blood did not heat at the noise of combat. The men in his command were doing well and he himself still felt that odd, reluctant detachment.
“Agnarr! Look!” Erik the One-Eyed—so called to distinguish him from the Hard-Headed—held up a handful of shining gold. “There is more!”
A grinding roar caught Agnarr’s full attention as it rolled up from his left. A hairy-chested man with a long mustache rushed to him, upraised arms wielding a stout club.
It was instinct. With his father’s sword still at the ready, Agnarr spun, blade coming up at an angle to meet the downswing of the islander’s club. Gone were the sounds and smells of the village. His sight narrowed to just the man and the club. Though he had not been raiding in a few years, his battle training had never faltered. His arms jarred on impact, but his elbows were stiff and ready, muscles tight, wrists firm to keep his weapon cutting upward.
The momentum of his movement lodged his blade into the club—he noticed immediately, and a flare of fear heated his neck. Still, he was trained where the other man was not, and when his attacker paused, staring at the club with the sword blade lodged in it, Agnarr tugged hard and the islander’s weapon flew from his hand. Agnarr dropped his sword from his right fist, frustration bursting from his lips in a grunt.
The islander threw himself bodily at Agnarr. “Aiieee!”
With a quick twist of his torso, Agnarr countered the attack with his elbow. He felt his opponent’s jaw give way. The islander’s scream climbed in pitch and volume with his pain as he hit the dust at their feet. To keep the man from getting up, Agnarr stomped heavily on his shin. He was not wounded fatally, but this was one man who would not be rising to the attack again that day.
Satisfied, Agnarr bent to pick up his sword, dislodging it from the cudgel as he stepped over the bodies of the fallen.
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