“If you struggle, the bindings will tighten.”
Sable’s eyes slid open. She ceased all movement.
She was sprawled on a dark fur pelt. She shifted her hips and the pelt caressed her naked body, a sensuous surprise she didn’t want to notice. Immediately she realized her arms were bound above her head, her legs tied to two sturdy stakes and her war paint had been washed off.
The position made her vulnerable—a situation a Wolf Warrior never wanted to be in.
Eyeing the man sitting in front of her, Sable sucked in a strained breath. It was the Norseman who had struck her in the woods. The man was huge, his muscled, veined arms folded over a wide chest. A metal armband in the shape of some sort of animal adorned his right bicep and a tattoo of the same design decorated his left. His sculpted legs were bent, his bare feet rested on the ground. He wore only a leather loincloth draped between his powerful thighs. Light brown hair streaked with platinum-blond highlights fell his to shoulders. His bright blue eyes watched her. As he leaned forward, a gold cross dangled from a chain on his neck down to his breastbone.
If Sable didn’t know any better, she would assume she was dead and in the presence of an angel.
She thought about her own tattoo, the one on her shoulder—two intertwined Celtic circles, the sign of the Solarians, with a sword uniting the circles. A Wolf adorned the middle of the lower circle. She wondered if he had noticed it. Women did not have marks like that outside the Realm. She didn’t want to reveal the Realm, or her people, to her enemy.
He was applying a salve to a cut on his stomach. Apparently, he had also sustained injuries from their battle. He appeared calm and nonchalant, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. His face was regal, a straight nose, and high forehead—perhaps from a royal line, she thought. He smiled at her, displaying a dimple in each cheek. If she wasn’t in such an undesirable place, in that moment she might have fallen in love with him.
She tested the bindings around her ankles, tugging her arms down. Just as he had promised, the rope tightened. The man’s smile disappeared, and he frowned.
Rotating her head from side to side, Sable did a quick assessment of her situation. She was tied naked in front of a barely clothed man, alone. They were in a tent of some sort, she guessed, in the middle of the Scottish woodlands. A fire pit in the center of the structure warmed the tent and her nakedness, the smoke wafting up a hole in the tent roof. Pelts of her dead fellow protectors were piled around her.
I’m in trouble.
A low whine alerted her.
An answering muffled ruff made her turn toward the noise. She growled and arched toward her wolf. Midnight was trussed to another steel post, muzzled and bound more tightly than her. Ropes were wrapped around her brave companion’s legs, torso, and nose. Sable’s anger elevated as she struggled to free herself and assist her wolf. The more she fought the bindings, the tighter they became. The man arose from his bench, showing Sable his great height. Towering above her, he knelt at her side and reached for her wrist.
“Release my wolf,” she demanded, jerking away from his hand.
“I think not, my lady. That animal,” he nodded at Midnight, “would kill me first before rescuing you. And right now,” he shifted to her other hand, “I am the only person who can rescue you from harm.”
His voice was strangely accented, a unique mixture of her native Gaelic tongue and another origin she couldn’t identify. To her dismay, Sable found the combination sexy. Her nipples peaked, and she grunted, closing her eyes. Why did this man have such an effect on her?
She opened her eyes when she felt his hand wrap around her wrist. His hand was so large, his fingers overlapped on her wrist. With a twist, he released some of the pressure from the rope.
“I will not harm you. Please follow my instructions. You are bound for your own protection. If I did not do this, the others would kill you. This is not my Clan. If I stray from their laws, your life will be forfeit. I am here at their mercy, with only three of my men.” His face hardened. “Two men now. The other was killed by your warriors.”
Sable strove to understand what he was saying, trying to ignore the spiking sensations his hand produced when he loosened the binding on her other wrist. He bent over her body and ran his thumb lightly over her cheek where he had punched her, knocking her unconscious. The soreness made her wince. She was sure the skin had darkened and split from the blow. His eyes softened, and he stroked gently.
“And if I release your wolf, he will be immediately murdered. The bounty on his pelt is high. High enough to feed these men’s people for a fortnight.” His hands left her face and reached for her ankles, where he began massaging the skin under the bindings. His palms and fingers were callused, as if he worked with them or fought often. A mercenary, mayhap? Yet his touch was gentle, almost reverent. Against her will, he stirred her.
“Have no doubt, my lady, I will protect you. A Viking’s vow is pledged with his life.”
Sable tilted her head and studied him. He seemed intent on what he was saying, leaning over her, watching his hands touch her skin with an expression on his face she couldn’t read. She hid her arousal with anger.
“I need not your vow, Viking.”
Then a series of loud shouts outside of the tent drew her captor’s attention. He turned his head, his brows furrowed. He looked like a fierce warrior focused on a fight to the death.
“Who are you?” she asked. “Why am I here? May I clothe myself?”
She bristled when he chuckled. The hand holding her ankle began to travel up her leg, the transition from fighter to lover flawless as he inched his fingers up her inner thigh. She tried not to be affected by his touch, but failed miserably.
God, he is incredible.
As his hand glided up her leg, he moved closer. She got a whiff of his scent, sweat mixed with horses and earth. It was a heady blend, very appealing. Sable shook her head, trying to clear her befuddled brain. He was barely clothed himself. She could see the smoothness of his skin stretched tight over his muscular frame. There were scars, but the marks didn’t detract from his appeal, instead they enhanced it.
He’s got me caught in some sort of spell.
His fingers reached her core. At first he hesitated, but when she didn’t protest he slid closer and began to stroke her vagina. Gently circulating his fingers around her clit, he rotated his hand and slowly pressed a finger into her damp heat. At the same time, he lowered his handsome head to her breast. With his tongue, he circled her peaked nipple.
Sable arched in pleasure. The sensations he created in her were beyond normal, almost as if he had swept a magic wand over her and commanded her body to mate with his. The craving was so strong, so hard to deny or fight; it was uncanny.
The most primitive urgings to mate replaced Sable’s common sense. She closed her eyes and dropped her head back as he matched the actions of his mouth with his fingers. He glided in and out of her wetness, taking her higher than she had ever been. Her eyes rolled back, her neck arched. As she climbed closer to an orgasm, she creamed against his fingers. This arousal she was experiencing—it was almost as if she had a Wolf Warrior bond with him. Impossible. Bonds of that sort were only formed with other Wolf Warriors. That bond was a mating ritual older than time among her people—to ensure the future of the Realm.
What the hell am I doing?
She tried to interject some logic into her body, which seemed to have a mind of its own. She had never been so impassioned in her life. She could feel her wetness leaking onto his busy fingers. He switched to her other breast, sucking, licking. He drew her nipple into his mouth and worshipped it, while he withdrew his fingers and pinched her clit.
Sable was mindless. She saw stars; the breath left her body and huffed out in a loud moan, her body bowed as she rode the orgasm. Her inner muscles convulsed, and she closed her eyes.
Then it was over. She sagged back against the pelt, feeling boneless.
He withdrew his fingers. Running his fingers up her abdomen, he linked his hand behind her head and brought her face to his. Sable opened her eyes. Her brown gaze met his bright blue one. He lifted his body over hers. Flipping up his loincloth, he positioned his body and hardened penis against her. He stroked her face with his thumb. If Sable had been a cat she would have purred, she was so aroused and satisfied. It had never been like this with a man before. She wanted nothing more than to curl around his cock.
“Scream,” he commanded.
He lightly nipped her lips then ran his mouth down her neck. Passing her pounding pulse, he settled to the tender place where her shoulder and neck met.
Sable shook her head in confusion. Had he just loved her like no other and then asked her to scream?
“For the love of Odin, woman, scream. I’ll explain later.” Just as he whispered the words against her shoulder, he opened his mouth and bit her. Hard.
Struggling underneath him, Sable screamed. Her wolf thrashed and tried to howl. Before she could demand what was going on, three burly men threw open the tent flap and walked in.
“Ah, Eirik, taming your slave, are you?”
The men slammed their fists on each other’s backs and howled in laughter. The man they called Eirik surrounded her with his muscled arms and made eye contact with her. The men couldn’t see his expression. His eyes beseeched her. She sucked in a breath to talk, and he gave a small negative shake of his head. She shut her mouth.
Eirik leaned his body over her, effectively blocking the view of her nudity from the other men. Then a mask fell over his face, the same warrior expression she had seen earlier. In that second, she feared what he had become, her body tensing. After giving her one final look, he turned his head toward the men.
“I consider this interruption unwelcome.” The manner in which he articulated the words, the strange accent, his silky sexy voice, made the words sound like a death threat from the king to his peasants.
The men stopped laughing, their expressions serious. Eirik’s glare didn’t waver.
“Fair enough,” the tallest man said. “We expect to take our due during the claiming ceremony. Gunthar will guard our spoils, outside the tent.”
The smaller man’s hand crept toward the sword on this side, as if he didn’t agree. Eirik looked hard at him, the expression on his face ferocious. Sable watched the two men war with their stares. The smaller man’s eyes dropped first. Eirik won.
Eirik nodded once and turned back toward her, but his gaze didn’t touch hers, instead falling to the side as if he was weighing whether his words had been taken seriously. Grumbling, the men filed out of the tent. He let out a long breath he had obviously been holding.
Hauling off her, he grabbed a fur off the ground and draped it over her body. He tucked it around her limbs before easing down onto the wood stool. Placing his elbows on his knees, he ran a hand through his blond-streaked hair. He looked tired. Although she tried not to feel emotion toward him, Sable couldn’t help but soften. She remembered the battle. For a week she and the other Wolf Warriors fought these men to save the wolves. She recalled watching how Eirik battled. Fierce and untiring, he had been spectacular. He was a fighter to be feared and a man not to cross. She learned this the hard way.
“I think now would be a good time to explain what a claiming ceremony is,” she said.
Sable tried to breathe deeply, but her chest clenched in stress. The feeling that she was in trouble had not alleviated and was intensified by his actions.
He inclined his head at her. “They call me Eirik the Fierce. I am an Icelandic clan leader. I came with this sister tribe to collect the bounty on the wolves. My people are starving.” He shrugged his shoulders as if his declaration was of no consequences. “What are you called?”
“Ah,” he nodded. Reaching for something at his feet, he picked up a small wooden bowl. He set it down next to her. Lifting a strand of her long dark brown hair, he brought it to his lips and ran it through his fingers, like water.
“I can see why you are called this. You are very beautiful.”
The statement hung in the air. Surprise prickled through her mind. He had knocked her out during the fight between the Wolf Warriors and the Norseman. They had come hunting for the wolves, ending up in a war neither of them had expected. Many had died the day he had taken her. The situation didn’t sit well with her. The fact she had let this man touch her—and enjoyed it—shamed her. She sighed.
“I am not your enemy.” He gently wiped a sticky substance over the sore spot on her cheek. As if he could read her thoughts, he said, “I struck you to save your life.”
He slipped down the fur and applied the salve to some of her other cuts, his touch gentle and erotic at once. Her breath sucked in and she told herself to think of him as a healer. Although she was not gravely injured, the small cuts, if unattended, could fester.
“What do you mean?” she asked, her voice huskier than normal.
“What I am saying is you were destined to lose that fight.” He attended a particular nasty cut on her thigh but she hardly felt any pain, instead concentrating on the slide of his fingers. There was something so sensual about having this man bend over her and touch her. She began to spin back to a highly impassioned state. Her pulse skipped, her heart pounded, and she could smell her own arousal.
His head snapped up. She guessed he felt her accelerated heartbeat.
“Sable, you were surrounded by a dozen Norsemen, Viking descendents all of them, war trained and experienced. These men are killers, every single one.”
Sable nodded. She knew she had been fated to die before he had struck her. In the half sleep she’d been in before she had awakened to find herself bound and naked, she’d assumed she was dead.
“You should have left me to my fate.”
He stopped applying salve and stared at her. Gently pushing a lock of her hair behind her ear, he caressed her cheek. His eyes burned with a blue flame. “I think not. You are my slave now.”
She stiffened. “I am a Wolf Warrior of the highest order. Sentencing me to the life of a Norseman’s slave is a fate worse than death.”
“I know not what this Wolf Warrior order is. What I do know is you are now my slave, and my slave you will remain. If you fight me, the men who surround me will claim you.”
“First,” he said, returning to tending her wounds, “they will rape you. All of them.” He finished, setting the bowl next to her. “Then they will either kill you, making you suffer first—they will enjoy that—or they will sell you in the slave market.”
“I am not afraid to die,” Sable said, watching for his reaction.
“I am afraid for you.” He reached over and began untying the bindings that held up her arms. After massaging her hands and wrists, he rebound them in the front. Then he undid her feet, but not completely, leaving the rope wrapped around her ankles. He slid another fur blanket over them.
Sable was confident he wasn’t going to harm her. For some reason, he had chosen to save her life. Why, she didn’t know. Taking her arms, he pulled them over his head so she was hugged next to his body. His skin was rough, yet smooth, lightly sprinkled with blond hair. His chest hairs tickled her breasts, making her nipples pearl.
Sable swallowed a groan of dismay. Her traitorous body wanted this man.
“If you try to escape in the night, I will know it.”
Sighing, she settled against him.
“You have been with a man before.” It wasn’t a question; it was a statement. There was no way he couldn’t have noticed her broken hymen when he was stroking her intimately.
His arms tightened around her.
“I will explain the claiming ceremony in the morn. I will prepare you, worry not.”
Sable nodded and resigned herself to sleep. She was exhausted. First, she needed to know one thing.
“She will be fine. Trust me. I vow I will keep you both safe.”
For some reason, Sable believed him.
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