Kept by the Viking
Forgotten Sons Book 1
by Gina Conkle
Genre: Historical Viking Romance
Loyalty to the Brotherhood comes before all. Including women.
Formidable Viking leader Rurik knows the law. His loyalty to the Forgotten Sons is his bond, and no woman will threaten what he’s built from the ground up. But the Sons are a roving band of Vikings, and Rurik is growing restless—so when Normandy’s chieftain offers land, the proposal intrigues him. And the sultry Parisian thrall he finds in his tent intrigues him even more…
Safira is cunning and clever and full of secrets. Rurik’s men have no interest in securing her safe passage home, but, piqued with lust, Rurik views Safira’s wiles as a captivating challenge—one he’s determined to conquer, even if lying with her is as defiant as it is inevitable.
Traveling with Safira has been a fantasy come true—what started as lust is quickly turning to the kind of partnership Rurik could never have dreamed. But their arrival in foreign lands marks a new chapter, one that demands a Viking wife. With impossible decisions to be made, Rurik’s alliances are fraying, and past promises may not be enough to save him from having to betray those he’s sworn loyalty to—including Safira.
This book is approximately 83,000 words
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!
They camped in a graveyard of deserted Viking ships. Moss and ferns crowded splintered dragon prows. A breeze riffled a torn sail. Northmen wrote their stories in blood on this riverbank, counting gold and silver, repairing ships, planning their next attack.
A place of brotherhood and battle.
Rurik breathed the magic of past warriors. Skalds sang of the Arelaune Forest, a mystical woods worthy of Yggdrasil’s seeds. His third time here and the gods still whispered to him. Winds of change were coming. Less pillaging, more trading. Vikings and Christians living together. Raids ending in defeat or the Danegeld puny.
He was young enough to crave conquering kingdoms; old enough to yearn for land and want to nurture it.
Rurik dismounted his warhorse. His booted feet landed in tall grass—good soil to carve out his story.
But the pain in his chest...
The heel of his hand rubbed his breast bone. Pain twisted, the coil getting tighter. Three days they had journeyed. One more day and they would arrive in time for Rouen’s Midsumarblot bonfires. Safira would know his deception. So too would the Sons.
His men set up camp, working with pride and understanding that came from years of friendship and fighting together. Gunnar and Thorfinn hefted a fallen mast across two boats in the tree line, creating a fence for the horses. Erik and Bjorn set their hudfats by a fire ring already in the ground. None wanted to stop their wandering ways. Taking the land would be hard on the Sons, but his silence about the jarl’s offer would be harder. His men wouldn’t forgive him.
“What is this place?” Safira dismounted, landing agile as a cat.
“An old Viking camp.” Rurik took the reins from her and nodded at a once grand ship split in half in cattails. “Behold the glory of the Northmen.”
She smiled. “Not very frightening.”
Pride was a mantle on his shoulders nonetheless. If he was quiet, he’d hear men of old sharpening axes, speaking of farms and fishing, of raids and far-flung journeys. Wind in the towering trees carried their wisdom. They’d tell him to honor cleverness, courage, luck, and fame—the Viking seeds planted here.
“The Arelaune Forest.” Safira’s head tipped back. “What manner of things have these trees witnessed?”
Without a word, he led their horses to the Seine. Vikings had owned this snake-like river for years, stealing from it and living on it. Peaceful water flowed, lifeblood for kings and highborn men and the humblest farmer and fighter.
Safira trotted to catch up with him. She tromped through tall grass, studying his profile. “Something bothers you.”
The maid saw too much. Her face was open and curious in his side vision. Silence was his best ally.
Her gentle laugh was intimate. “I can see it in your mouth, but it is not a thing you want to tell me.”
“My mouth?” He dropped the reins and let the horses drink.
Dragonflies danced at the water’s edge. Grass was thicker and longer, the mud rich and black. A deer and her fawn darted from dense cattails, bounding for the woods. Safira watched them go, her face full of delight at the simple beauty.
“Yes. Your mouth—” she turned to him, her finger drawing a line across her lips “—the corners, the way it is set. One side is crooked when you are troubled.” She tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear. “You say much with your mouth when you are quiet, Viking. Sometimes with your eyes.”
Arms folding across his chest, he hummed a neutral sound and gave his attention to the river. His mother and sister had said as much when he was a boy. Safira was a keen observer of him and his men. She soaked up details, little habits like Thorfinn’s skill with horses and their ailments and Erik’s need for precision in everything he did. But when her amber gaze honed in on him...it went deep and left him naked.
She stood shoulder to shoulder with him, staring at the river. “We do not have to talk about you.”
“I wasn’t going to.”
Her soft laugh was a balm. “I expected you to say that.”
These three days were a dance of sharing and revelation, his past for tidbits of hers. They’d come to an easy alliance since the afternoon sitting by Bermon village.
“Why not tell me about these broken ships?” she suggested. “Your famed Ragnar Lothbrok camped here, no?”
“It was a base camp for his raids, but that was long before I was born.” He paused to follow two dragonflies at the river’s edge. “He led thousands of men, and he fathered great warrior sons.”
“You revere him.” Safira angled her face to his, searching for eye contact he wouldn’t give. “I think you wish to be like him.”
“He was a great warrior.”
“He was a plague.”
He understood the disdain in her voice. What enriched his people was a blight on hers. Vikings deserved their reputation. Northmen from one generation to the next had pillaged Paris to the bone. Now they lived as uneasy neighbors. The maid had sound reasons for thinking ill of his kind.
“Ragnar Lothbrok was the past. As you can see, no one has used the camp for years.”
“No one uses it because Vikings rule this land now.” She slanted a smile at him. “No need for Vikings to steal from each other.”
Her gentle humor was infectious. He could tell her the season of raids was changing, and that Vikings did turn on each other, but the river was calming. So was this moment with Safira. He would savor it.
“I’m surprised you’ve not seen this place before.”
“I’ve never been west of the Epte River.” She spun a slow circle, taking in trees taller than Greek pillars, her dirt-smeared arms stretching wide. “I imagined something different.”
“What did you imagine?”
She stared into the forest, twilight limning her profile in gold. “Death, but what I see is...beauty.”
“An end for one is a beginning to another.”
Wisps of hair blew across her mouth. “You sound like a court philosopher.”
Each time she spoke, he gathered little facts about the Paris maid. Trust was growing between them. Not once did he touch her. Male wisdom told him Safira wanted him. Her hot glances. Eyes dark with longing. Wetting her lips when he was near. There was no denying her reaction to his kiss at the Cailly River. It had rattled him too.
Men, young and old, often made the mistake of forcing themselves on the fair sex, when casting a net of desire drew a woman to him. A quick tumble sated simple hunger. Deep, sensual connection with a woman was a long, perfected art. It should never be rushed. The feast would be worth the wait.
Her Viking Warrior
Forgotten Sons Book 2
When an outcast goes home and meets a woman seeking justice, hearts will clash…
Eighteen years ago, Bjorn was exiled from Vellefold. Honor-bound to return, he’ll fight for the settlement…then walk away. First, he must work with his childhood friend, now a beautiful, high-ranking Viking lady.
Fierce of spirit, Ilsa will do anything to save her people, including convincing the banished son to take the jarl’s seat. But she has her doubts about the stone-hearted Viking, despite the lust between them. It’s only a matter of time before Bjorn discovers that Ilsa is hiding dangerous secrets, secrets that may jeopardize all they’ve worked for.
When the darkest hour comes, the once-rejected warrior must choose: rescue his men, the Forgotten Sons—or Ilsa, the woman he craves, body and soul.
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!
He rested both forearms on the table. Someone had gone soft in the head to let a plan for Vellefold’s safety come to this. “No wonder you’re asking for help. Some things can only be learned in the doing. Fighting is one of them.” Sex is another.
Beautiful sea-green eyes speared him. The glint behind them was vibrant and wise, sending a thrum to his core. He’d swear Ilsa sensed his last thought—and considered answering it. The connection was akin to water rippling through him, peaceful yet stirring. It made him open his mouth to nurse their conversation when a smart man would walk away.
“What things have you learned from your dusty scrolls?”
“There is a great deal of strategy.”
“But nothing about how to fight.”
Pretty lips flattened. “No.”
He acknowledged a seed of respect for the lady. She strove to use her brain for whatever fight was ahead. That was more than most. But, no matter how hard Ilsa tried, one truth would never bend: Vellefold’s warriors followed the strongest in battle. It was the Viking way. None would obey someone untested in war. Strength, courage, honor, and trickery lit a fire in a warrior’s eyes, made him or her thirst to serve a great leader because great leaders forged a path to wealth and fame.
“The women follow me without trouble,” she murmured. Who followed his father? The question lingered, but he refused to voice it. Asking meant caring about the answer. Fingers drumming the table, he’d at least make sure Ilsa grasped one or two points of war before they parted ways.
“You’re skilled at what weapon? The sword? A Norse hammer? Fighting hand to hand?”
Her eyes narrowed. “I do well with a bow and arrow.”
“A hunter’s weapon. It works if you’re fighting from a distance, but there’s no dignity in it. A Viking wages war face-to-face. You know this.”
Ilsa stiffened at him stating the obvious. Good. He was getting to her. Warrior leaders weren’t born, they were made, tested in battle, rising to their place after tasting blood and dirt and doggedly coming back for more. To think she could simply put on a leader’s mantle and fight would only get her and others killed.
He leaned in close enough to see the texture of her lips. “You can’t be a leader and stand far from battle. You’re in it. Teeth to teeth with your enemy. Only one gets to walk away.” His voice dropped to barely a whisper. “Sure you’re ready for that?”
Ilsa didn’t back down. “I need to learn how to fight. Many of us do. It’s why I’m here.” Have Vellefold’s people gone lazy? “It’s a crazed plan, and I already have plenty of reasons to say no. I won’t go back, nor will I take orders from a woman.”
“You have no problem fighting with them.”
“Shoulder to shoulder, yes. But I’ve yet to meet a woman worthy of being a leader of men.”
Certainty danced in her eyes. She took his words as a challenge. Willful woman.
“I think the sun has roasted your brain. Too much time in southern kingdoms has ruined you.”
“My brain is fine,” he said through a curt smile. “You can’t accept that I don’t easily give my var.”
“Yet you and your men have a reputation for selling your vow of service to the highest bidder.” Her words were as light as spring rain. She was proud and unrelenting, with color high on sun-kissed cheeks.
“Now you think I can be bought.”
Ilsa traced the rim of her cup. “Can someone…buy you?”
Gina's fate was sealed when her mom read 'The Highwayman' for a bedtime story. She was five years old at the time, but from then on, Gina was doomed to love history and romance.
Some days she pens sparkling Georgian romance. Other days, she writes evocative Viking romance full of heat and adventure. Gina spent most of her life in southern California but now lives in Michigan with her husband where snow days are perfect for reading and writing. Her books have won awards and garnered critical acclaim. Poke around her website and you'll run across those accolades.
The True Tale of the Viking Woman Who Took Charge
by Gina Conkle
Get cozy because I’m turning back the clock to the real life story of Audr the Deep Minded, a leader in Iceland.
Iceland’s settlement began in 874. Vikings like to claim they first settled the island but there’s evidence Celtic monks lived on Iceland in the 7th or 8th century before abandoning it. Little wonder! The island of fire and ice sits close to the Arctic Circle. Early settlers contended with a landscape bubbling with geysers and hot springs on one hand and isolation in frigid climes on the other.
Yet, none can deny Iceland is beautiful. And a little like Viking woman—mysterious, strong, and having little patience for fools.
When Viking nobleman, Ingolfur Arnarsson, settled first Iceland, he knew he’d need capable leaders. Icelandic life was too harsh and the beginning too fragile to mess around with weak people at the helm. Ingolfur divided the island into four parts and selected four of the best Vikings to lead each quadrant. One of them was Audr the Deep Minded. A woman.
This is her story…
The daughter of Ketill Flatnose, a Norwegian chieftain, Audr came from wealth and privilege. Nothing is known of her until she married a Norse king of Dublin. Historians say Audr enjoyed even greater freedom in Dublin than she did (or would have in Norway). She was certainly quick to take charge when things went sideways.
By all accounts, Audr was not a shield maiden or a young woman when history records her greatness.
Upon hearing her husband and son, Thorsteinn, died in battle, she decided it was time to leave Dublin. Iceland was her destination because she had two brothers there. Calm and decisive, Audr prepared a ship in secret with the help of twenty men who served her (thralls). All were loyal to her and she managed to slip away with her considerable household.
Family-minded, she took in Thorsteinn’s daughters. On the journey to Iceland, one granddaughter married in Orkney and the other was married in the Faroe Islands.
Despite having married off two granddaughters, her retinue was so vast that one brother balked at hosting Audr. He offered to host half her household which is a slight in Vikingdom. No matter how rich or poor the longhouse, no one in need of food and shelter is turned away. Ever. Especially with winter approaching.
Incensed, Audr went to her second brother where she and her household stayed until spring. Warm weather got the older woman exploring new lands. Audr took off to Breidafjordur, deciding to settle there.
Here is where she sets herself apart with wisdom and generosity.
This was about the time Ingolfur Arnarsson divide Iceland into four sections to be ruled by four capable Vikings. In the northwest, he asked Audr to lead. She would have to secure the loyalty of her people and settle the land.
Audr already had twenty loyal male slaves. She could’ve kept the status quo. Instead, Audr told those twenty men, if they pledged allegiance to her, she’d give them their freedom and land to own.
Was it a wily political move on her part? A show of gratitude for men who stayed by her side through tough times? History never tells us.
What we do know is she settled in Hvammur. We also know man sites have funny, anecdotal names because of her such as Kambsnes, which means ‘Comb headland’ because she lost a comb there. A Christian, she raised a cross in Hvammur (though her descendants later chose paganism.)
Audr was all about family, making sure the rest of her granddaughters married well. Kind and giving to the end, the deep-minded woman invited relatives to a magnificent feast that went on for three days. During that time, she gave lavish gifts and wise advice to those she loved. At the end of the three days, Audr bade her household hold the feast another three days-a funeral feast. She knew she was dying and she wanted to spend her last days celebrating with the people she loved.
Now that is a wise, wise woman.
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