The Viking’s Chosen
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“At least he does not resemble the back end of a boar,” Dayna whispered.
I shot my sister a quick nod of agreement and then covertly turned back to peer at my future husband who was currently conversing with my father. After our morning ride, my sister and I had found a hiding spot behind some large drapes just to the left of the room occupied by our guests. It afforded us the surreptitious ability to listen and watch with the two kings interact. Thomas had taken his leave, but not before he informed me of what he thought about our childish behavior. I did not care if I was being childish. I was not ready to meet King Cathal just yet, at least not without a little advance warning of what I would be dealing with.
“You are correct,” I murmured back. “He is not ugly, but his handsomeness is marred by that tight lipped frown. He looks cruel.”
I had been surprised to find that my future husband was not nearly as old as I had thought he would be. If I had to guess, I would put him at eight and thirty, or, at the very oldest, two and forty. His hair was dark, cut close to his head. He had deep green eyes, a hawkish nose, and thin lips that seemed to hold a perpetual scowl. Standing at a little over six feet, King Cathal was lean but obviously muscular. Yes, he was handsome, but the cold, detached look in his eyes ruined any favor I might have found in him.
“Do you think it hurts to hold his face like that?” Dayna asked.
I bit my bottom lip to keep from laughing. “Perhaps he was just born that way.”
“Tis a shame to be so handsome and yet such a pompous ass.”
“Shh,” I chastised. “That pompous ass could have your head if he felt your offense warranted it.”
“Father would not allow me to be beheaded, Allete” Dayna assured me. “I am his favorite.”
I made a motion with my hand to quiet her so we could hear what it was our father was saying to the king of Tara.
“She has to know by now that I have arrived,” King Cathal was saying. His words came out clipped and low.
“Allete tends to have her own mind about things. I am sure she will join us when she is ready,” King Albric said, attempting to placate his irritated guest.
“And who allows such independent thinking?” Cathal challenged. “A woman should know her place.” His pointed look was aimed at the queen who stood quietly next to King Albric.
Allete was sure her mother was going to smack the rude man, but a subtle hand placed on her mother’s wrist held her in place.
“I understand your frustration, Cathal, but please be considerate of Allete’s situation. She is being courted by a man she has never met. She will be expected to leave with that man in a month’s time and travel to a place that is not her home, where she has no friends, no family. She deserves time to adjust.” King Albric, ever the diplomat, attempted to ease his counterpart’s temper. Based on Cathal’s pinched lips, however, his efforts were wasted.
“Could you at least send for her?” The other king asked in a more civil tone. And then added, “Please,” all be it a bit begrudgingly.
I snatched Dayna’s sleeve and gave it a gentle tug, indicating it was time for us to go. Like mice being hunted by a cat, we scurried from our hiding place and snuck to my bedchamber. We had barely made it inside when there was a knock at the door.
“Enter,” I said, attempting to keep my voice from sounding breathless.
Lidia entered. The look on her face was one of trepidation.
“The king requests your presence,” my handmaiden said in a soft voice.
I smiled at the girl. “Chin up, Lidia. All will be well.”
Lidia let out a huff, her manners momentarily forgotten. “You have not met the man. He is positively awful.” Her hand flew to her mouth and her eyes widened. “Forgive my frankness.”
Dayna laughed. “Allete would never punish you, especially not for telling the truth.” She lowered her voice conspiratorially. “We already saw him. We spied on them.” Dayna winked, looking completely unrepentant.
Lidia lowered her hand and made an ‘O’ shape with her mouth.
I straightened my dress and pulled my shoulders back. “Might as well face the music. I doubt he is going to turn around and sail back home without me.”
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