The Gripping Beast
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by Charlene Teglia
Category: Erotica/Erotic Fantasy
Description: The wild magic that brought them together is nothing compared to what they find in each other's arms. A Sirens series story. Lorelei Michaels, flamboyant lead vocalist of the all-female rock band The Sirens, has a passion for myths and legends. She just never expected to find herself actually living one. While touring with the band, a Viking armband with an interesting history and a design known as the gripping beast throws her into a time warp -- full of Norsemen, macho attitudes and a lamentable lack of modern amenities. Upon seeing the strange, beautiful woman being auctioned off, Erik Thorolfsson was mesmerized. Until the slave trader put his hands on her. With a roar of rage and sword drawn, he charged forward to take that which he wanted for his own. But he discovers owning her isn't enough, he has to make her his--for all time. 2006 Fantasm Finalist for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal Romance 2006 RT Reviewer's Choice Award nominee for Best Erotic Romance.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2006
eBookwise Release Date: February 2011
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [278 KB]
Reading time: 179-250 min.
"You would do well to look for an advantage in trade, not battle," Erik lectured as he kept a firm grip on Harold's broad shoulder and drew him along. Harold would do even better to learn to think before acting, he continued silently.
Harold responded with the crooked smile that never failed to charm a woman and was indirectly responsible for the fact that Erik was stuck with him for the summer.
"Brother, where is the fun in that? Four long weeks I've spent, watching you haggle in the marketplace. It lacks excitement. If that is all you come to Hedeby for, you may continue alone. I for one must have some sport before I find myself at sea with you once more."
His intent was clear in the longing gaze he fixed on a curvaceous wench.
Erik sighed inwardly. A woman was the reason for Harold's banishment from home for the summer. Apparently, he had failed to learn a lesson from the beating Gudred's brother had given him for stealing a kiss.
The reminder that Harold was not alone in his needs irked him further. But duty must come first, Erik reminded himself. While he had nearly completed his trading, he thought he might still find some small and profitable items to add to the goods already loaded onto his longboat in exchange for its former cargo of rich Northern furs, amber and falcons.
"There will be time for that when the ice keeps us home." Erik delivered the firm reminder with a stern look.
Then he cursed his choice of words inwardly. If Harold did not learn to behave himself at home, his penchant for indiscriminate wenching and brawling would soon have him outlawed and banished permanently. Their father, Thorolf, might be jarl, but he could ill afford failure to enforce the laws on his own family.
The northern summers didn't last long, and it was only once a year that they could venture out on the long trading voyages so vital to the prosperity of the Norse settlements. Cloth they couldn't weave themselves like the fine brocades from the Byzantine, patterned silks from China and the blue wools dyed with woad from Frisia were much in demand, as were the spices, metals and leather goods to be found in the large trade centers.
"You are well acquainted with ice," Harold muttered under his breath in reply.
But he followed Erik's wide strides along the wooden planking that covered the muddy streets.
Then he brightened, seeing the direction Erik was taking, a direct route to a slaver displaying his wares. "Ah, I take it back," he teased. "I see we think alike after all."
Erik paused to shoot a mistrustful glance at Harold. "You have an interest in trade now?"
"Of a certainty," his brother vowed.
Erik shook his head. He did not believe for the time it took to take one step that Harold shared his interest in the Egyptian glass works in the temporary tent set up between the town's permanent traders and the outer ramparts. The flattened glass oblongs were used to press pleats into linen skirts. The opportunity to supply such a fashionable novelty struck him as a good choice to round out his return cargo, likely to prove highly lucrative.
"Oh, by Thor, what a fine idea," Harold continued. He gave Erik an affectionate clout which that recipient longed to return in force. "I like the look of that one." Harold waved a cheerful hand towards a group of girls that stood between the two men and their goal.
Erik sighed inwardly again. He might have known. The day Harold grew interested in serious matters, Loki would be running loose and Ragnarok would begin. He doubted that Harold had even noticed the Egyptian's tent the previous day.
"So does the crowd," Harold went on. "He is offering her up first. What an odd dress she has on," he added in surprise. "Perhaps she comes from the far east."
Distracted from his purpose, Erik stared first at his brother, then at the object of his attention.
The foreign woman was indeed dressed oddly. And very beautifully. The flowing green gauze hid little and the upper part of the dress, if it was a dress, revealed even more. Erik felt his heart slam against the wall of his chest and stop.
Beautiful. She was a vision of loveliness. Erik had never seen a woman with the look she had, not in any part of the world he had visited. Sleek black hair fell in a glossy swath to her narrow waist and light green eyes sparkled like emeralds above exotic high cheekbones.
He didn't realize he had come to a complete halt and was gaping at the dark woman like a man ensorcelled. He knew only that she was beauty come warmly to life, and at that moment he wanted nothing more than to simply look at her for the rest of his days. That was his only thought, until he realized that every other man, save a blind beggar, was looking at her, also. And that the slaver, probably thinking to get a higher price for her, had ordered her to strip.
He wasn't quite certain what happened next, and perhaps it all happened simultaneously. The man put his hands on her. She started to shriek and fight like a berserker. And Erik drew his sword.
He didn't notice when his brother and the crew, trailing behind them, followed suit. He didn't know they took up his roar of rage and charged into the fight at his lead.
He only knew he would kill every man standing who saw what he wanted for himself alone.
The hapless slave trader might never know what provoked the Vikings to charge down on him, but he demonstrated an instinct for self-protection as he thrust the woman between his own body and the crazed Norse giant ready to cleave him with a sword.
Through a red haze of fury, Erik caught the woman around her waist and yanked her against his side as he thrust the point of his sword against the coward's throat. Then a thread of sanity returned and stayed his arm.
He could not start a bloodbath in the trade port.
He could not set such a terrible example for Harold. As it was, he cursed inwardly at the sight of his delighted sibling exchanging blows with a burly Moor. And his men. They lived in adjoining farmsteads. They looked to his father for leadership, and expected him to prove himself a worthy leader.
He would not lead them into lawlessness. The days of going Viking were in the past. With the establishment of the Danelaw and the treaty with Alfred of Wessex, as well as the settlement in Normandy by conquering raiders, peaceful trade replaced plundering as a means for gaining wealth.
Decided, Erik flipped a silver coin in the air and slashed sideways with his sword.
The halved coin fell at the slaver's feet. He felt at his throat as if checking to be certain it was intact before he reached down for the coin.
"Half," Erik grated out in rough Arabic.
"All," the man returned slyly, glancing around. "I'll need to replace the girl. Do you think I can make an honest living in this way?"
It was the wrong tactic. A flash of the ornate sword hacked the coin again and left one quarter lying in the dirt. The rest he handed to Harold. "The bargain is done," he stated, holding the cowardly little man's eyes.
Defeated, the man nodded.
Erik scanned the crowd gathered around the fighters with equal directness. There were no challenges. They'd witnessed the bargain struck.
Satisfied, he turned and strode to the tent displaying the flat glass oblongs and pointed at them. "I want some of these," he informed Harold, speaking Norse once more. "Take care of it and deliver them to the ship."
Then he left the Egyptian merchant facing the band of Vikings and made for his longboat with the woman under his arm like an unwieldy package.