In Time For Christmas
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by Cheryl Alldredge
Category: Historical Fiction/Romance
Description: A Short Story - Beth awoke, lying on the hard ground. Had she fallen off the couch in the night? The radio she'd left on seemed to be playing a foreign talk show. The crackle of the fire worried her. She'd never left a fire blazing in the hearth before. The air smelled of smoke and?baking bread. Directly in front of her, men and women stood gawking at her as if she were a museum exhibit rather than they, themselves, being the oddity. The boy caught her attention first. Stick thin with yellow hair that capped his head like a bowl, he seemed perfectly fine despite his earlier shout. He smiled at her warmly--a direct contrast to the man standing beside him with a hand resting protectively on the boy's shoulder. The huge, monster of a man scowled down at her. To be fair, he was more giant than monster. He wore plain woolen trousers with a shirt and overtunic of woad-blue. They looked like they came out of a costume shop, only they fit his powerful physique as if they'd been tailored for him. His icy blue eyes, just a shade paler than his tunic, softened as he squatted down to her level. The tip of one long, blond braid brushed against his knee, then slid along his leg to dangle between muscular thighs. Despite her best efforts, Beth's attention strayed beyond the braid. He was real. It was all real. The truth hit her like a punch to her chest. Her heart seemed to pause beneath her ribs, then pounded back to life at a rabbit's pace. Frantic, she looked around the room. A row of wooden tables and benches ran the length of the nearest wall. Behind the center table, a pair of wooden uprights had been carved and painted in vivid reds and blues. Along the opposite wall, a raised area was covered in tidy piles of woolen blankets. Every detail was as real as the man gently warming her toes. She'd gone to sleep in her living room and woken up in the Middle Ages. Impossible! What did the future hold? Would she reawaken to find herself in her toasty warm -- and very lonely -- living room? Or was her future actually in the past? The past she currently shared with a ruggedly handsome Norseman?
eBook Publisher: Highland Press/A Wee Dram, 2006 2006
eBookwise Release Date: November 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [82 KB]
Reading time: 49-68 min.
Summer 830 AD, Longstone Abbey off the coast of Northumberland
* * * *
"Nay. Do not look at me like that."
Gunnar glowered at the image of the Christian God hanging above the altar, then looked down to the boy cowering at his feet. The child muttered desperate prayers to his God, in his native tongue. Gunnar had an ear for languages and had picked up many dialects in his years of summer raiding. He looked again at the accusing eyes in the rendering of the boy's God.
"I am not a despoiler of children," he said to the image.
Reaching down to the child, he clutched a handful of the flea-ridden rags on the boy's back and lifted his shaking form to eye level.
The boy pressed his lips together in a tight line as his eyes went wide. He clutched a small iron box to his chest. Probably a relic from the altar. Some bit of flesh or blood stained rag--the Christians always collected such. Despite the child's current state of terror, Gunnar suspected the boy had courage. His eyes told him the boy remained behind to protect the relic when more than half the monks had fled the abbey the moment they'd spotted the dragon heads of his longships.
When Gunnar reached for the small box, the boy began to fight in earnest, proving Gunnar correct in his assessment. The whelp had courage, indeed. Gunnar wrenched the box away and the boy fell limp, defeated.
"What are you called?"
The boy lifted his head and looked at Gunnar from tear filled eyes. "Be warned, monster. You will regret the day you besieged God's house."
A tingle of something fearsome ran down Gunnar's spine. He'd been threatened many times, by far worthier adversaries. Why did this small child unsettle him so?
"Your name!" Gunnar shook the boy, determined to win this small concession.
"I am called Jon," he squeaked.
"If you wish to live, you will obey without hesitation and make no trouble." Gunnar would never intentionally harm a child, but sometimes they were easier to manage if they thought he would. He pushed the small box back into the boy's trembling hands. "And if you trouble me not, I will leave this in your care. It will be yours to safeguard always."
Jon wiped tears from his cheeks with the back of his hand, leaving dirty smudges in their place. He took a deep breath and nodded.
"Good." Gunnar sat the boy on his feet. "Stay close."