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My Fair Viking
By Sandra Hill
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2004 Dorchester Publishing
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHawkshire, Northumbria, A.D. 962
"With all due respect, Master Adam, you need a harem."
"No harems, Rashid."
"Not even one."
"A Nubian concubine?"
"Triplets from Cordoba who could give a man thrice the pleasure?"
"Nay, nay, nay!"
"Hmpfh! The male species was not intended to live this way. Truly, I do not understand how you can be contented to live as a ... a ... hermit. 'Tis unnatural."
"No harems," Adam repeated.
Rashid muttered one of his usual proverbs ... in this case, "Even paradise is no fun without people." With a grunt of disgust, he gave up, for the moment, and returned to his work.
Adam, on the other hand, stared off into space, realizing with some amazement that he actually was a contented man, just as his faithful assistant had inferred. That intuition came to him with such suddenness that Adam, rather stunned, set his quill down, and smiled to himself. For a man of thirty and two years, the insight should not be of such importance, but it was, considering the tragedies in his life these past few years. In all the misery and grief-and, yes, self-pity-peace had somehow crept up on him. Mayhap his inner wounds were finally healing.
But wasn't that an irony in itself ... that a man who had been renowned for his adventuresome spirit, wicked sense of humor, and wanton ways now took great comfort in contentment? It was a gray-beard's word. Next he would be calling for a hot posset and a cane.
Before he had a chance to catch himself, Adam sighed aloud.
"There are harems, and then there are harems," offered Rashid, misinterpreting his sigh. Rashid, a loyal friend, had accompanied him back from the Arab lands two years ago when tragedy had summoned him home. "I'm especially fond of women who can dance the Ritual of the Veils. Or those who are double-jointed. Or those with an ample set of buttocks. Or those with breasts like pomegranates. Or those-"
"Pfff!" was Adam's only response.
Rashid's biggest, and ongoing, complaint about the Saxon lands was its dearth of women ... especially talented women. He was of the firm conviction that the answer to any male difficulty could be found between the thighs of a comely woman, with or without talents, and he did not mind sharing that conviction with one and all. 'Twas best to ignore him betimes.
"If this lowly servant could be so bold," Rashid broke the silence, "a harem could be just the spark you need to fire up your life again."
"I do not need a woman. I sure as bloody hell do not need a harem."
"There is no gaiety in your life. What you need is gaiety."
Adam's lips twitched with suppressed mirth. "And that gaiety would come from ... let me guess ... a harem?"
"I knew you would agree with me." Rashid puffed his chest out with self-satisfaction.
"I do not agree with you. Stop being unreasonable."
Rashid unpuffed his chest. "You could start small, with one or two females. That would be reasonable. You wouldn't need to have a full harem right away. You've heard of that famous Arab proverb regarding harems, haven't you?"
"The one that says, 'If there is no nubile female about, a camel will suffice.'?"
"For shame!" Rashid exclaimed, but his lips were fighting a grin, too. "Nay, I refer to the one which says, 'A man's staff needs constant polishing."
Adam shook his head with amusement.
Rashid's dark-skinned face turned somber. He put a hand on Adam's shoulder. "In all seriousness, my lord, I worry about you. You have become a recluse here in your own land. You do not mix in society. You make no attempt to refurbish your keep so that others may visit. Most worrisome of all, you continue to refuse treatment for the ill and dying who come seeking your healing skills."
Adam should have been affronted. Rashid went too far, for a servant. But then, he was not really a servant. He was a friend. And Adam had given him good cause to worry.
Adam squeezed Rashid's hand on his shoulder and motioned for him to move to the other side of the table where work awaited him. "I'm getting better, Rashid. Really, I am. I know I have been morbid overlong, but-"
Rashid made a snorting sound of commentary on just how morbid he had been of late.
"-but I have been thinking of establishing a small hospitium in that old weaving shed near the moat. What think you of that?"
Rashid gave him a look that said, without words, that he would have been much more impressed if he'd said he was thinking of establishing a harem ... even in the old weaving shed.
"I knew you could not walk away from medicine permanently," Rashid said. "Why else would you maintain your studies? Why else would you continue to gather herbs? Why else would you correspond with healers of other lands? You may call yourself knight or landowner, traveler or hermit, but at heart you will always be a physician. Till the day you die. For the love of Allah, 'tis time you stopped fighting your fate."
Rashid's wise words did not require comment, but Adam did ponder all he had said. A long silence followed.
Adam worked with great concentration, writing in his journal. Rashid, giving up on his harem exhortations for the moment, sat on the bench across the table from him, looking for more work to do now that he was finished with the beeswax balm. After years of noisy towns and battlefields, after the frustration of primitive medical limitations, after the turmoil of personal tragedies, after so much death ... well, the familiar, peaceful sounds of his quill scratching on parchment and Rashid's pestle now moving rhythmically against fragrant herbs in a stone bowl were oddly soothing.
Alas, their solitude was broken of a sudden.
"CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!" they heard, accompanied by huffing-puffing noises and a few muttered expletives. There was also the neighing of horses and the rhythmic clatter of shod hooves on wood, probably the drawbridge planks.
He and Rashid turned as one with surprise toward the windows that looked out over the bailey, then toward the open doorway which led down to the great hall. The sounds seemed to emanate from somebody, or somebodies, stomping through the courtyard and up the steps to his keep.
"Did you forget to pull up the drawbridge?" Adam asked sardonically.
"Ha, ha, ha! May Allah be laughing at your marvelous wit," Rashid answered back. He, Rashid, the cook, a chambermaid and a stableboy were the only people living in this cavernous wood castle. There was nothing worth stealing. And the drawbridge was rusted into a down position, as they both well knew. "No one ever comes to this desolate place. You live like a hermit."
"You already said that."
"Some things bear repeating."
"Mayhap it is your step-uncle, Lord Eirik, returning with yet another invitation to spend the coming Harvest season at Ravenshire."
Adam peered out through one of the arrow slit windows. "Nay, these men appear to be Viking soldiers, hesirs, by their attire and weapons." Although Eirik was half-Viking, he had long ago adopted Saxon ways, including manner of dress.
"Your other stepuncle, Tykir, then? He is a full-blooded Viking, is he not?"
Adam shook his head. "Tykir is Norseman to the bone, but he would not venture past the bounds of Dragonstead in Norway ... not at this time of year ... not with his lady, Alinor, breeding yet again ... at the advanced age of five and thirty, no less."
Adam shrugged with unconcern. They had naught to fear here, living in such sparse conditions. Even so, they both grabbed short swords lying nearby and made for the doorway.
"CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! Huff, puff, huff, puff. Bloody damn hell!" The noises made by their intruders were getting louder as they climbed the steps. He heard a female screech of dismay ... probably Emma, the cook. No, there were two female screeches, combined. It must be Emma and Bridget, the chambermaid. By the timbre of their screams, you'd think a dragon had entered his keep.
The huffing-puffing, the clanging, and the expletives he understood immediately. After all, there were thirty-seven steep stone steps leading up from the bailey to the double doors of the great hall. He knew because he'd counted them on innumerable occasions and cursed fluently in several languages, especially when he was suffering from the mead-head.
Adam and Rashid were making their way down the interior stairway when Adam stopped abruptly at the bottom, incredulous at the sight he beheld. Rashid slammed into his back.
"Oh ... my ... God!" he muttered.
"For ... the ... love ... of ... Allah!" Rashid muttered.
They were standing next to each other by now, gaping at the other side of the great hall where a small entourage of Viking warriors stood, broadswords drawn and battle axes at the ready.
They were a fearsome group of fighting men, massive in height and breadth, clad in furs and armor, wielding weapons that could cleave a grown man from head to groin with a flick of the wrist. That's what had caused Emma and Bridget to scream, no doubt; both women stood leaning against a nearby wall, fanning themselves with their aprons.
"May God help us!" Adam exhorted.
"Hah! I prefer the proverbial wisdom, 'Call on your God, but avoid men with sharp blades.'"
In truth, these hesirs did not frighten Adam, his words speaking more of surprise than fear. Even though he was Saxon by birth, he and his sister Adela had grown up in a Norse household from a young age. Nay, that's not what had caused Adam and Rashid to go slack-jawed with amazement. It was the leader of the Norse troop that drew their attention. No apologies offered for entering his estates, without invitation or welcome. No lowering of weapons. No explanations. Tossing aside a full-length, midnight blue, wool cloak lined in gray sable, the Norse chieftain stood before them, arrogant and proud.
It was a woman.
A woman warrior.
A sudden thought occurred to Adam and he turned on his assistant. "Rashid! You didn't! Surely, this is a coarse jest, even for you."
"Me? What have I done?" Rashid slapped a palm over his heart, as if suffering some great insult.
"The harem nonsense," Adam reminded him. "A short time ago, you urged me to start a harem, and now this," he said, indicating the female Amazon who had resumed her bold approach toward him, followed closely by a dozen soldiers. The woman even walked like a man, in an exaggerated, swaggering, lumbering sort of way.
"Are you mad? That ... that man-woman is not what I would consider for a harem." Rashid practically sputtered with indignation.
"What then? A Valkyrie?" He'd heard the tales of the legendary female gods who led brave warriors to the afterworld.
"That is no Valkyrie," Rashid asserted. "That man-woman is live and human ... I would swear it on Muhammad's grave."
As the group got closer, Adam got his first good look at the woman through the hazy, dust-moted light provided by the open doors and meager arrow slit windows. And he had to agree with Rashid's assessment. This was no goddess, come from the other world. She was flesh and blood ... and definitely woman.
The oddest thing happened then. Fine hairs stood out all over Adam's body. His heart stopped beating for a second, then raced wildly. Most remarkable, a surge of energy slammed into his loins, pumping hot blood into the region, and settling there, thick and pulsing. Like the drawbridge, he'd thought his manpart was rusted down. He was wrong.
She was tall, for a female. In fact, Adam was very tall himself and he had only a half-head on her. Despite being slender, she was well-muscled, as any soldier would be. The short-sleeved tunic she wore, belted at a narrow waist, left bare her arms, which bore etched silver armlets over well-defined muscles in her upper arms. Even her forearms displayed the raised tendons and ropey muscles of a swordsman. Exceedingly long legs were encased in skin-tight, soft hide leggings that also showed delineations of musculature ... no doubt from long hours atop a warhorse.
That image-female legs spread wide, the rhythmic up and down canter of the horse pressing against her womanplace-caused the throb in his manhood to intensify. Bloody hell! It feels as if I have a heartbeat there.
She must have been wearing flexible chain mail because he could see its hem beneath the thigh-high tunic, and because it molded her body in such a way that her breasts were upthrust and extended against the fabric of her tunic. From a distance, she may have resembled a man-woman, as Rashid had referred to her but up close she was all woman, in Adam's opinion.
To his utter shock, the woman did the most outlandish thing. She scratched at her groin ... like men were wont to do. He could swear she did it deliberately, to reinforce the notion that she was a manly woman, or mayhap just to startle them, especially since she seemed to be watching one of her companions and belatedly mimicking his actions. Repulsed as he was at the crude gesture by a female, his manpart knew no better ... it still throbbed.
Two years without a woman, and the first one that arouses me is wearing chain mail ... and scratching at her groin. Some celestial being must have a twisted sense of humor.
Who is she?
The richness of the jewel-brooched garments and gold-studded belt she wore, along with the silver-scabbarded weapons, bespoke a personage of high rank. He thought he knew all the families of Viking nobility, but this one did not strike a memory.
Even as he stared at her with rude hospitality, the woman pulled the fitted leather helmet off her head, causing thick, pale blonde braids to fall out, then cascade loose from their leather ties into what could only be described as skeins of golden thread.
And throbbed some more. Good thing he wore the loose Arab robe he favored when in his own home, lest he embarrass himself.
Under his breath, Rashid murmured in Arabic, "On the other hand ..."
Adam arched an eyebrow in question.
"On the other hand, yon man-woman might make a magnificent harem houri. Dost think she would consent to pierced bells on her breasts?"
"Shhhhh," Adam cautioned, then added, also in Arabic, "It would be more likely she would pierce your balls with bells, my friend. This is no tame desert damsel who aims to please her master."
Eyes of cerulean blue pierced them both, almost as if she understood their words. Her men snickered under their collective breaths.
"Which of you is the healer?" she asked, speaking for the first time.
Her voice was deep and husky, but not at all manlike. Nay, Adam could imagine its grainy tone whispering wicked things to a man when they were both stoked to passion. He could imagine it suggesting ways to cure the pleasure-pain that continued to envelop his loins. He could imagine-
"Well?" she interrupted his reverie. "Enough time have I wasted, traipsing across this wretched land. Which of you is the healer I have been searching for?"
He and Rashid exchanged a long look, not sure if either of them wanted to be the subject of her search. Finally, Adam admitted, "I was ... am ... Adam the Healer."
Rashid piped in, "And I am Ibn Rashid al Mustafa. Your humble servant." He performed a peculiar obsequious bow native to his country then, involving the rapid touching of his forehead, nose, mouth and heart.
"I have been trained as a physician," Adam continued, "but I no longer treat patients. Perchance, I could recommend another doctor for you ... there are several monk healers in St. Peter's ministerium at Jorvik. What exactly is your problem?"
"It's not my problem that causes me to seek you out," she explained, the whole while motioning with hand gestures to Emma and Bridget that they provide drink for her men who were sitting down at the long trestle tables. Adam should have been embarrassed at not offering the hospitality himself, but he was too confused by this woman and her mission. "'Tis my father, King Thorvald of Stoneheim, who needs your help. He is gravely ill of an unknown malady. Dost know of him?"
Adam shook his head slowly.
"He is called Thorvald the Wolf."
"Aaaah. Now I recall. His kingdom is in far northern Norway ... Halogaland." Adam's stepuncle Tykir lived in Dragonstead, which was located at the end of beyond in Norway. Men had body parts frozen off there if they were careless enough to venture outdoors overlong during the winter months. Stoneheim was even farther north in the most primitive, mountainous area ... a land nigh uninhabitable.
Excerpted from My Fair Viking by Sandra Hill Copyright © 2004 by Dorchester Publishing. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Known for infusing her romance novels with humor as well as passion, Sandra Hill is the bestselling author of more than thirty books, including Rough and Ready, Kiss of Pride, and Snow on the Bayou. She is also the author of multiple romance series, including the Vikings series, the Vikings II series, the Cajun series, and the Deadly Angels series.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Like alot of readers, I read Vampire, Time travel and various other romance novels. I almost didn't buy this book. I am so glad I did. It was fast paced and humorous! I was so impressed with her writing style and ability to paint a picture with words that I will keep her on my wish list and buy anything she publishes.
Viking warrior Tyra is bigger than most men and can outfight many too. In fact she acts more manly than most males do. However, when her father in injured, Tyra vows to return home with the best healer available. She and her men visit physician Adam the Healer, but he insists he is retired and refuses to accompany Tyra back to her father. As he watches her men take bets making her an overwhelming favorite, Tyra knocks Adam out, tosses him on her shoulder, and leaves. To his chagrin, Adam is very attracted to the amazon though he would prefer to bar her scratching habits. He agrees to try to save the life of her father if she sleeps with him. Her sisters notice the lure between Adam and Tyra and play matchmaker hoping to marry off their older sister so they can find spouses too. Her men want a gentler Viking leader hem into battle help. However, Tyra has other plans leaving a frustrated suitor to heal his own heart as he fails at his quest of becoming the warrior¿s spouse. Sandra Hill, known for her Viking tales, provides a gender bender novel starring a literally strong warrior heroine though her beloved is bigger and taller; as audacious as this might sound for romance novels, this seems wrong for this plot. The story line is action packed and loaded with the customary humor expected from Ms. Hill with the secondary characters furbishing much of the amusement with their desperate measures to make Tyra a wife. Fans of Viking tales will relish the uniqueness of MY FAIR VIKING. Harriet Klausner
I couldnt believe she had characters from her previous novels killed off the story like tat.... I put the book down and couldnt finish it as sooon I got to that part and still havnt finished it.....