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Come Back to Me (Viking & Saxon, #3) Come Back to Me by Josie Litton
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“Utterly still,all but invisible against the wall of the stable, the Dragon kept watch over his Saxon bride.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“She woke from dreamless rest to find her lap filled with wildflowers-blue and gold violets, white starworts with bright yellow centers, wild geraniums, purple heather, pale lavender bellflowers, creamy butterworts...a treasure trove of nature's jewels.
"Where did these come from?" she asked her warrior husband.
He leaned back on his elbows and studied the sea. "Some trolls came by and left them."
"Trolls picking flowers?"
"More believable, surely, than me doing it?"
She laughed and surprised him by competently weaving the summer's late blossoms into a garland for her hair.
"How is it you know how to do that," he asked, "when you are so thoroughly undomestic?"
She threw a purple aster at him and laughed again. "I thought I was managing to conceal that."
"Oh,certainly.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Lord,I love you truly with all my heart. Every moment with you is precious to me but I would give up even that if it meant peace between our peoples. Nothing else can be allowed to matter so much as that."
Dragon did not reply. He was staring at her very oddly. Of the others, she had no awareness at all. Only he existed for her just then.She felt as though there was no ground beneath her but this time instead of falling as she had off the cliff, she soared frantically, desperately,not knowing if at any moment gravity might reclaim her but soaring all the same.
"What did you say?" he demanded.
"Nothing else can be allowed to matter so much as the peace between our peoples! I understand full well how angry you are. The insult done you was profound,but I beg you,think of what you do.Do you go against my father,he wins!"
Slowly,Dragon shook his head as though trying to clear it. His gaze locked on Rycca's like a man holding fast to the rudder in a mighty storm. A dull flush crept over his high-boned cheeks. "Insult? You think I want to kill your father because he insulted me? For pity's sake, woman, I damn near lost you! Don't you have any idea what that means to me?"
Her eyes widened, never leaving him as he stalked across the stone floor of the Saxon's king's great hall and took firm hold of her by her shoulders. He dragged her up against him even as he near yelled, "Dammit to hell, woman, I love you! What care I for insults? Nothing matters to me save keeping you safe and-"
"Love?" Rycca repeated in a daze.
"Loki take you, lady, you are not the easiet woman in the world to get along with, you know! You are strong, spirited, stubborn, not a meek bone in your body! Your body...Never mind that, the point is you have stolen into my heart and I lack any will to get you out, so do not dare you think of dying! I absolutely forbid it! Did you say you love me?"
Oh,my,Rycca thought, she truly did have wings after all.Strong, sturdy wings that would carry her as high as she wanted to climb. And that was very high indeed.
A smile crept over her clear to her toes.She cupped her husband's face between her hands and took his mouth with hers.Well and thoroughly did she kiss him right there in front of everyone. That took some time, and when she was done she was rather breathless. Yet she managed to say, "I love you, lord.More than life,more even than freedom.You are dearest to me above all."
And for just a moment, there in the hall of the king,Rycca of Landsende saw the sheen of tears in her Viking's eyes.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“There is no other way," she insisted.
"Nothing else but to use you as bait? Madness!"
"Don't make me say it."
"Say what?" Wolf asked. He was leaning against a pillar, Cymbra close by, observing his brother with the air of a man torn between sympathy and amusement.
Gritting his teeth,Dragon said, "That I used her as such to lure out Magnus. It almost got her killed."
"Me? What about you?" Rycca demanded, momentarily forgetting her purpose. That night of terror still lived too vividly in her memory. "It almost got you killed. You're the one who had to fight him, naked, unarmed, and him having your Moorish sword."
Hawk and Wolf exchanged a look. "That's how Magnus died?" Wolf asked. He grinned. "Pretty damn good,brother."
The women looked to the ceiling and sighed in exasperation.
It was left to Hawk to break the deadlock. "I hate to say this, but Rycca has a point. Unless Wolscroft is lured out,this can't be resolved."
"So you would use my wife-" Dragon challenged.
"Fully protected," Hawk hastened to add, "surrounded by all our might. There is only one road and the forest on both sides is very thick.We could hide a hundred men within a few feet of that road and no one could detect them."
Dragon was silent for a moment. He gave every appearance of waging a battle within himself. Finally,he said, "A hundred men isn't enough."
Rycca's heart leaped,for she recognized that as just the tiniest concession to the plan they were discussing.
"Don't forget Krysta's friends," she said quickly. "They will help too."
Her husband scowled. "What friends?"
"It's a little complicated," Hawk replied. "Let's just say my wife has friends in high places...and low ones. Wolscroft won't be able to belch without our knowing it."
"I still don't like it..."
Rycca took her husband's hand in hers. She looked up into his eyes. Gently, with all the confidence and courage she coud muster,she said, "We will never be free until this is over.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“The day wore on.While yet Rycca slept, Dragon did all the things she had said he would do-paced back and forth, contemplated mayhem,and even honed his blade on the whetstone from the stable.All except being oblivious to her,for that he could never manage.
But when she awoke,sitting up heavy-lidded, her mouth so full and soft it was all he could do not to crawl back into bed with her,he put aside such pursuits and controlled himself admirably well,so he thought.
Yet in the midst of preparing a meal for them from the provisions in the pantry of the lodge,he was stopped by Rycca's hand settling upon his.
"Dragon," she said softly, "if you add any more salt to that stew, we will need a barrel of water and more to drink with it."
He looked down, saw that she was right, and cursed under his breath. Dumping out the spoiled stew, he started over. They ate late but they did eat.He was quite determined she would do so,and for once she seemed to have a decent appetite.
"I'm glad to see your stomach is better," he said as she was finishing.
She looked up,startled. "What makes you say that?"
"You haven't seemed able to eat regularly of late."
"Oh,well,you know...so many changes...travel...all that."
He nodded,reached for his goblet, and damn near knocked it over as a sudden thought roared through him.
"Rycca?"
She rose quickly,gathering up the dishes. His hand lashed out, closing on her wrist. Gently but inexorably, he returned her to her seat. Without taking his eyes from her,he asked, "Is there something you should tell me?"
"Something...?"
"I ask myself what sort of changes may cause a woman to be afflicted with an uneasy stomach and it occurs to me I've been a damned idiot."
"Not so! You could never be that."
"Oh,really? How otherwise would I fail to notice that your courses have not come of late? Or is that also due to travel,wife?"
"Some women are not all that regular."
"Some women do not concern me.You do,Rycca. I swear,if you are with child and have not told me, I will-"
She squared her shoulders,lifted her head,and met his eyes hard on. "Will what?"
"What? Will what? Does that mean-"
"I'm sorry,Dragon." Truly repentant, Rycca sighed deeply. "I was going to tell you.I was just waiting for a calmer time.I didn't want you to worry more."
Still grappling with what she had just revealed,he stared at her in astonishment. "You mean worry that my wife and our child are bait for a murderous traitor?"
"I know you're angry and you have a right to be.But if I had told you, we wouldn't be here now."
"Damn right we wouldn't be!" He got up from the table so abruptly that his chair toppled over and crashed to the floor.Ignoring it,Dragon paced back and forth,glaring at her.
Rycca waited,trusting the storm to pass. As she did,she counted silently, curious to see just how long it would take her husband to grasp fully what he had discovered.
Nine...ten...
"We're going to have a baby."
Not long at all.
She nodded happily. "Yes,we are, and you're going to be a wonderful father."
He walked back to the table,picked her up out of her chair,held her high against his chest,and stared at her.
"My God-"
Rycca laughed. "You can't possibly be surprised.It's not as though we haven't been doing our best to make this happen."
"True,but still it's absolutely incredible."
Very gently,she touched his face. "Perhaps we think of miracles wrongly. They're supposed to be extraordinarily rare but in fact they're as commonplace as a bouquet of wildflowers plucked by a warrior...or a woman having a baby."
Dragon sat down with her still in his arms and held her very close.He swallowed several times and said nothing.
Both could have remained contentedly like that for a long while, but only a few minutes passed before they were interrupted. The raven lit on the sill of the open window just long enough to catch their attention,then she was gone into the bloodred glare of the dying day.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Don't go!" Rycca said urgently. "It's a trap."
Her husband looked down at her with amusement. "Of course it's a trap, sweetling.There are a dozen men out there.They assume they've got us neatly caught."
"You could be killed before anyone got near enough to stop them."
He shook his head. "I'm not going to be killed.But I am going to get Wolscroft to talk.It's the only way." He turned toward the door,turned back,and said, "Do not, under any circumstances, even think about so much as poking a finger outside.Do you understand?"
Every obedient,Rycca nodded.
Again he turned to go,again he looked back. "Let me rephrase that.Do you promise me you won't come outside until I tell you to?"
Her reponse was a glare but she followed it with a nod.
If nothing else,this husband of hers was learning caution,which was all the good since he surely had need of it.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“The bonds of family can be wonderful but there is a time to know when to stand apart.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“She had three days to ponder what that truth might be.Three days during which Dragon scarcely let her out of his sight. He went so far as to try to accompany her to the queen's solar, only to be shooed away by Ealhswith even as she smiled and took pains to reassure him.
"I promise you, my lord,the Lady Rycca will be as safe here as a babe in arms. Believe me, the quarters of the queen are not entered into by miscreants."
"That is all well and fine, majesty, but-"
"Should you not be aware,my lord, we had an incident here last year when the Lady Krysta was taken from Winchester by stealth. Since then, my lord husband has spared no effort to assure nothing of the sort can ever happen again." She gestured toward the grim-faced guards on watch in the corridor. "You will find the same beneath my windows, Lord of Landsende,and even above us on the roof. Not even an errant bird can enter here."
Even as she spoke, through the open door where she stood Dragon saw a raven alight on the sill of one of the solar's windows. Rather oddly, he thought, Krysta walked over and began talking to it.
"There are four new books in the scriptorium, my lord," the queen said, unaware of what was going on behind her, "and a young priest-a friend of Father Desmond, who is now at Hawkforte-who is responsible for one of them. By the way,he has a yen to travel."
That said,she shut the door not quite in his face but as close to it as that gently lady could ever come. Dragon hesitated. He eyed the guards,who eyed him back,reminded himself that he was in the house of the king,and finally decided to go look at the new books. While he was at it,he just might have a word with the priest.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“So what to do?
Rycca knew perfectly well. The problem lay in convincing Dragon.
Every time she tried to bring up the subject, he cut her off, which made her suspect he already knew what was in her mind. That he did this by drawing her into his arms and dazzling her with his lovemaking was beside the point.Or at least it was after she recovered enough to think again.
"Some place with no bed," she murmured to herself, "no pile of straw, no mossy riverbank, no chair, bench, or table, no field, or tree,or..."
She sighed and tried hard not to smile, without success. Loving Dragon and being loved by him put all the world, even Wolscroft, in a different perspective.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Besides the Hawk's own men, the men of the Wolf and the Dragon kept watch as well. Night and day,hour to hour, never eased for a oment,three warlord husbands kept guard over their beloved wives.Out beyond the harbor, boats patrolled. In the hills beyond Hawkforte, sentries stood their posts. No one entered the town without being indentified. No one came near the stronghold without being approved.
At this rate,they would never catch Wolscroft.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“It is not safe for a woman to be traveling on her own."
"I was perfectly safe until you crossed my path."
"Well may you see it that way,but if I hadn't come along,someone else would have and you could be in great difficulty right now."
If she hadn't known it would hurt, she might have laughed. As it was, she had to content herself with a grimace. "Oh, you mean I could have been chased over a cliff?”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Except for Thurlow,there was not a person she would have missed and many a one to whom she would gleefully have said farewell forever.But that had changed now,utterly changed. She longed for Dragon, the sound of his voice, the touch of his hand,the warmth of his smile. For a moment she closed her eyes and saw him behind them.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Eat, my lady.I will come back shortly and you will be released to see to your needs."
Startled, Rycca said the first thing that came into her mind. "I think you, but you must not do this, Magda. I would not see trouble brought down upon you."
The older woman straightened slowly, a look of worry on her gentle face. She hesitated but finally said, "Do not be concerned about that,my lady." Then she was gone,back into the fog.
Rycca sighed deeply. She had one friend at least,so it seemed,and for that she was grateful. But gratitude did not unto the huge knot in her stomach and make it possible for her to eat. Not even the delectable aroma of Magda's stew could tempt her. She set the bowl aside and burrowed deeper into the blankets. They,at least,offered warmth.
She wasn't eating. Dammit, she needed to do that to stay warm. There was no telling how long this could go on. On the verge of sending Magda back to try again, Dragon reconsidered. The serving woman had followed his instructions precisely. If this was to have any chance of working,he could not appear overly concerned. As it was, he was taking a chance staying so near. From his position near a corner of the stable,he could see the post through the fog but,he hoped,could not be seen himself.The sight of Rycca tied there tore at him. Not even a stern reminder that she might truly be guilty helped. He simply could not bring himself to believe it.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Don't you think Rycca would like to hear about Hadding, the warrior Odin rescued from his enemies? Indeed, so would I for as I recall, the last time I asked about him, you told the story in great haste without the scantiest details." There was a gleam in her eyes that Rycca had come to understand meant she was up to something, but she had no idea what might lurk behind so seemingly innocent a suggestion.
Dragon grinned and looked at his brother, who leaned back in his chair and laughed. When Rycca appeared puzzled, Cymbra said, "I confess, when I noticed how attentive you are to Dragon's stories I was reminded of myself. At Wolf's and my wedding feast, I persuaded Dragon to tell a great many tales. He was the soul of patience."
"He was?" Wolf interjected. "I was the one with the patience. My dear brother knew perfectly well I was sitting there contemplating various possibilities for doing away with him and he enjoyed every moment of it."
"Now how could I have known that, brother?" Dragon challenged. "Just because the wine goblet you were holding was twisted into a very odd shape?"
"It was that or your neck, brother," Wolf replied pleasantly. He looked at Rycca reassuringly. "Don't worry, if I hadn't already forgiven him, that sword he gave me would force me to."
"It is a magnificent blade," Dragon agreed. "They both are. Every smithy in Christendom is trying to work out what the Moors are doing but..."
"It's got something to do with the temperature of the steel," Wolf said.
"And with the folding. They fold more than we do, possibly hundreds of times."
"Hundreds,really? Then the temperature has to be very high or they couldn't pound that thin. I wonder how much carbon they're adding-"
Cymbra sighed. To Rycca, she said, "We might as well retire.They can talk about this for hours."
Wolf heard her and laughed. He draped an arm over her chair, pulling her closer. Into her ear, he said something that made the redoubtable Cymbra blush.
She cleared her throat. "Oh, well, in that case, you might as well retire, too." Standing up quickly, she took her husband's rugged hand in her much smaller and fairer one. "Good night, Rycca, good night, Dragon. Sleep well." This last was said over her shoulder as she tugged Wolf from the hall.
Her obvious intent startled Rycca, who even now could not think herself as being so bold, but it made both the Hakonson brothers laugh.
"As you may gather," Dragon said in the aftermath of the couple's departure, "my brother and his wife are happily wed.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“He burned,his body drawn bow-taut. If he did not sheathe himself soon within his wife's silken depths...
She looked at him directly, her eyes wide and candid. "All day I have wanted to...touch you."
His dark brows rose. All day? Well that was certainly pleasing but it didn't make his condition any easier to bear. Harshly, he said, "You don't have to ask permission to touch me."
She shrugged her lovely, almost bare shoulders. "I know,but under the circumstances..." Her gaze drifted down his body, rather pointedly, he thought.
Which definitely did not help matters at all.
"You can touch me later," he said and reached for her again.
She pressed her palms against his chest, tossed back her gleaming hair, and laughed. Really,he was going to die from this.
"Just a little now...please?"
Dragon squeezed his eyes shut and reached deep down inside for the control that was so instrinsic a part of his warrior's nature.It had to be in there somewhere.Any moment now he'd stumble across it.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“He was there,keeping watch over her, which meant he expected something to happen.What? That she would be so foolish as to try to escape? Not for a moment did she believe he would seek to trap her like that. No,he was waiting for someone else,the real villain who had sought to harm them both.
Waiting and hoping to lure him out by the simple expediency of using her as...bait.
That husband of hers-that dear, darling husband of hers-was going to have some serious apologizing to do when this was over.
Fearing that the sheer expanse of her smile would give the plan away, Rycca pulled a corner of a blanket up over her face. A short time later, she drifted off to sleep again,secure in the knowledge that she lay under the watchful eye of the Dragon.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“About two years ago," Cymbra went on, "Wolf conceived the idea of an alliance between Norse and Saxon to stand against the Danes.He thought such an alliance would be best confirmed by a marriage between himself and me.This did he propose in a letter to my brother. With the help of a traitorous house priest, Father Elbert, Daria intercepted that letter and stole Hawk's seal as well. She sent back to Wolf a refusal in Hawk's name and mine that not merely rejected the alliance but also insulted him deeply. His repsonse was all too predictable, although it is certain Daria herself never thought of it."
"What did he do?" Rycca asked,trying very hard not to sound breathless.
Cymbra smiled in fond memory. "Wolf came to Essex and took me by stealth. We were married as I told you and only then did he send word to Hawk as to where I could be found. Naturally, my brother was very angry and concerned. He came to Sciringesheal, where I did my utmost to convince him that I was happily wed,which certainly was true but unfortunately he did not believe. So are men ever stubborn. One thing led to another and Hawk spirited me back to Essex. Winter set in and it was months before Wolf could follow.During that time, Hawk realized his mistake. Once Wolf arrived, all was settled amicably, which was a good thing because this little one"-she smiled at her drowsy son-"had just been norn and I was in no mood to put up with any more foolishness on the part of bull-headed men. It was while we were at Hawkforte, waiting as I regained strength to return home, that Wolf suggested Hawk and Dragon should also make marriages for the alliance."
"Such suggestion I am sure they both heartily welcomed," Rycca said sardonically.
Cymbra laughed. "About as much as they would being boiled in oil.Hawk was especially bad. He had been married years ago when he was very young and had no good memories of the experience. But I must say, Krysta brought him round in far shorter time than I would have thought possible."
"Do you have any idea how she did it?" Rycca ventured,hoping not to sound too desperately curious.
"Oh,I know exactly how." Cymbra looked at her new sister-in-law and smiled. "She loved him."
"Loved him? That was all it took?"
"Well,to be fair,I think she also maddened, irked, frustrated, and bewildered him. All that certainly helped.But I will leave Krysta to tell her own story,as I am sure she will when opportunity arises.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Yet the very smell of food made her stomach oddly unsettled and she set down the bowl of porridge without taking a spoonful.
That infuriated Dragon,still watching from the stable. As though the circumstances were not bad enough,a night without sleep had left him even more on edge. It was all he could do not to stomp out into the yard and demand she swallow every bite.
After which he would take her in his arms, kiss her lingeringly, beseech her to tell him he could not possibly be wrong to trust her,and generally make a slobbering fool of himself to rival those great dolts Grani and Sleipnir.
No,that he would not do. He would instead have a word with the men on the watchtowers, telling them to keep an eye on his wife and leaving them to make of that what they would while he went off to the river, there to immerse himself in blessedly cold water and cast off the shadows of sleeplessness.
When he returned, freshly garbed but not having taken time to shave, he found the day unfolding much as usual. People were coming and going about their daily tasks,now that the barn was rebuilt, apparently determined to ignore the fact that the lady of their manor was tied to a punishment post. Not Magda,though. That stalwart passed him with as close to a glare as she would ever come and bustled out to ask Rycca advice about something or other. The sheer ludicrousness of that struck Dragon and he was chuckling when Magda passed by again,which earned him another stern frown.
That was the height of levity for the day.Hours passed and nothing happened. Magda came and went,clucking over Rycca's failure to eat and glaring more at Dragon every time she saw him. Several of the other women began to do the same. He took that as an indication that those who had gotten to know Rycca best held her blameless. His venture into Byzantine intrigue of the previous day rankled all the more. He tried not to think about it.
The day dragged on. With the stronghold as busy as ever, Dragon told himself no one would be so foolish as to approach Rycca with intent to do her harm. Yet he found excuse after excuse to be in the yard himself.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“You have such strength," she said softly, "but you have never hurt me. I find that remarkable."
"I am very careful not to hurt you," he said, his voice thick.
Rycca nodded. "I appreciate that."
She touched his lean hips and beyond, lightly caressing the hard muscles of his buttocks. He gritted his teeth and swore to himself that he could bear this. She was very close to him now, the thin cloth of her chemise brushing against him.He found that barrier intolerable. Plucking at the fabric, he muttered, "Take it off."
She looked a little surprised, then smiled. "The truth is,I feel safer with it on, a little bolder."
"Little?" He wanted to say more, something about her being any bolder and he would burst, but he couldn't get the words out. Probably because he wasn't breathing very well.
Rycca hesitated but only a moment. With the gracefulness so natural to her, she lifted the chemise over her head and discarded it. In the silvery moonlight, her skin glowed like polished alabaster, pale but for the rosy fullness of her nipples and the fiery curls between her thights. He reached for her urgently, but once again she eluded his grasp.
"Please..." she said again and took his thick wrists in her hands. Drawing them away from her body, she reaised her head and met his eyes. "You can't realize how much I want to..."
"Thor's thunder,lady,do whatever you will before I perish!"
Her eyes widened yet more and a startled laugh broke from her. Then her expression was suddenly wistful. "Do not think badly of me."
Badly? How in all creation could he manage that? She was a dream brought to life, the most exquisitely seductive enchantress he had ever imagined. And she was his by the law of man and God. In all the wide world, how could a man ask for more?”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Do you not think you could share this with Dragon?"
"Dragon,who was reluctant enough for this marriage and who now finds himself with a wife he can never hide anything from. Who will always know whether he is telling the truth or not. You think he would welcome such a wife?"
Cymbra thought for a moment. "Well...I don't know...Perhaps if you rubbed his feet."
Rycca stared at her in shock, saw the look of pure deviltry in Cymbra's eyes, and burst out laughing at the same moment as her new sister-in-law-and friend-did the same.They laughed and laughed, not quieting until Lion stirred, gazed at them reproachfully, and opened his mouth to unleash a bellow that reverberated off the nearby hills and sent the sea birds scattering to safety.
"Oh,my heavens," Rycca said when it was finally quiet enough to say anything at all.
Cymbra sighed.She rose, picked up her son, and tried to settle his head back against her shoulder. "It has been ever such.He almost brought the rafters down in the chapel at Hawksforte where he was christened."
"It is most impressive," Rycca said as she, too,stood. "I suppose that accounts for his name."
"It's actually Hakon,to honor Wolf and Dragon's father,but he is called Lion and I suspect he always will be."
Just as he would be satisfied only to be set down. On his own two feet, he toddled off determinedly toward the top of the hill, leaving the bemused women to follow.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Dragon! My lord...oh, please, wake up-speak to me! Don't you dare just lie there!" Tears all but blinded her and slid unheeded down her ashen cheeks. Clasping his shoulders, she tried to lift him. "Please...wake up...don't-"
He was too heavy, she couldn't budge him. And he just lay there, his eyes closed,all the life seemingly gone from him. A sob broke from her. She grabbed hold of his tunic and pulled so hard that the sturdy cloth came close to rending. "Don't you dare! You can't be hurt! Think of all the battles you've been though, all the adventures! Are you going to let a horse you don't even like do this to you?"
One eye opened and looked at her balefully. "Would it be better somehow if I did like him?"
Rycca gave a shriek of delight and threw her arms around Dragon's neck, damn near choking him. By the time he managed to disentangle himself, his vision had cleared enough to see that his wife was crying and laughing at the same time. That rather pleased him.
"It's all right," he said gruffly. "I'm fine.Only let me get up."
"Careful," Rycca admonished and stood by to help him. "Here,put your weight on me."
Dragon started to laugh and thought better of it when he realized his head was pounding. "Lady,if I do that, I will crush you.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Get some sleep," Magda advised as she bustled by on her way to bring Rycca yet another meal she likely would not eat.
"Find out why she isn't eating," he shot back. For good measure, he added, "And tell her she damn well better."
Magda rolled her eyes but knew better than to say anything more.
Dragging the whetstone out in front of the stable, Dragon settled down to sharpen his sword. It was a proper enough activity, one he engaged in frequently. No one ought to think anything of it.The Moorish blade truly was remarkable, enough so to give him a few minutes' surcease from his constant worry over Rycca.
The day warmed. He noted that Rycca had on a fresh gown and was trying once again to eat. Magda was going her job. From the nearby paddock,Grani and Sleipnir nickered.They refused to quiet until he got up, went over, and fed the fools apples.
"She'll be all right," he told them under his breath. "I probably won't be but I don't expect you to concern yourselves with that."
They bobbed their heads in what, he suspected,was agreement.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“You did what you had to do."
He started,sure he had heard her wrong.
"Oh,don't mistake me, I have no more liking for being staked out like a goat than would the next person. Still, it was a good plan, all things considered.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Do you have any idea how humiliated I am to be related to such a man, much less to have to call him father?"
"Take comfort. Perhaps your mother strayed."
"Oh,dearly would I like to believe that!”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Their gazes locked,he said,"I made a mistake."
"Confusing your wife with a goat?"
What was that he had thought about the difficulty of having a wife who was a truthsayer?
He took a breath,let it out slowly, and sent with it a prayer. "There was a time-a brief time-when I considered you might be guilty."
Truth.
Rycca smiled. She freed her hands, cupped them to his face,and rose on her toes to touch her mouth to his.
"What is that for?" he asked, caught between relief and bewilderment. Likely she would always keep him so off balance and likely he would always be glad of it for truly fortune smiled upon him. A great knot seemed to be untangling in his chest.
"For believing me."
"I only briefly didn't," he repeated.
"No,I mean for believing I am a truthsayer."
"And you know that because-"
She laughed and took his hand again. "Because you are a wise and canny man, Lord Dragon. You could as easily have insisted you never even flirted with the thought that I might be guilty and thereby saved yourself what must surely have been an uneasy moment for a husband."
He was slightly stung but not too much, for her ready forgiveness was as a balm over all else. "Generally speaking, I do tell the truth for its own sake."
"I never thought otherwise. And I would be as truthful with you. Last night, I realized suddenly that I was not afraid. All things considered, that was rather ridiculous but it was how I felt nonetheless."
The knot was definitely gone. Indeed, a great warmth seemd to suffuse him. If a woman who had every reason to fear Vikings could be tied to a punishment post by her own Viking husband and not be afraid, that could mean only one thing.
"You trust me."
"And you trust me."
At that moment, looking down at her, his face held nothing of the mighty warrior and jarl. He looked instead like a boy handed the world. She wanted only to give it to him again and again.
"I would say," Rycca murmured, "that for a rocky beginning, we are managing well enough."
It was an incongruously happy note upon which to discuss a dead man.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Under cover of darkness, not a hundred men but three times that number slipped away from Hawkforte. Saxon and Norse alike, led by the Wolf and the Hawk, they took up position along the road that passed the lodge. By dawn they had so blended into the surrounding forest that as day came, the birds,deer, rabbits,foxes,and all the other denizens of the wood behaved just as they always did, with no awareness of the deadly presence come among them.
Not long after, Dragon and Rycca rode out of Hawkforte.They made no secret of their departure or where they were bound. A spy would have had to be deaf and blind to miss what they were about.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“I have yet to see the sauna," Rycca said.
She was a damn distracting woman. He could scarcely remember what he'd been thinking about a few moments before, except that it had been ridiculous. "You can't actually see much in there," he said absently, studying how the rays of sun played in her hair. "It's dark."
"Really? I guess we'll just have to go by touch then."
Anticipation rippled through him and with it his merry fellow surged happily. Dragon sighed. A day begun hurtling over a horse's head might as well include a little relaxation.
"Is it very hot?" Rycca asked as she ducked her head to enter the low stone building cut into the side of the hill.
Vividly aware that the deep bruising he had felt only a short time before was eclipsed by far more urgent sensations, Dragon smiled. "Extremely."
She looked at him over her shoulder. "I won't get burned,will I?"
"Quite probably," he said and came up close behind her,urging her into the chamber.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“Her head fell back as she cried out. She reached for him, drawing him down to her, loving the weight of him, the heaviness of him inside her, driving away memory, making the taunting vision of his fall shatter into a thousand pieces even as she herself did, again and again. Firelight gleamed, revealing and concealing the ancient poetry of possession.Flame-burnishing limbs entwined, voices cried out together, and fierce driving strength and power yielded up their tribute, there in the dark heart of the earth's tomb.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“It was as she remembered, a haven of comfort and serenity. With a glad sigh, she kicked off her shoes and sat down on the side of the bed.Smiling, she patted the mattress beside her.
Her husband scowled. It seemed to have become his habit. "We aren't here to relax."
"Wolscroft may not even be in the area. It could take days for this to be settled."
"He's here," Dragon said with certainty. "He will know what happened at Winchester, and he will be looking for a way to stop us before we can threaten him further."
Privately, Rycca believed the same but she saw no reason to stress it. Nothing would happen until dark. Of that she was confident. Which meant...
"We have hours to fill.Any ideas?"
When he realized her meaning,he looked startled. With a laugh,she scrambled off the bed and went to him.
"Oh,Dragon,for heaven's sake, do you really want to mope around here all day? I certainly don't. I still haven't gotten over being afraid Magnus was going to kill you,and I simply don't want to think about death anymore. I want to celebrate life."
"There are three hundred men out there-"
"Which is why we're in here." She raised herself on tiptoe, bit the lobe of his ear, and whispered, "I promise not to yell too loudly."
A shudder ran through him. Even as his big hands stroked her back,he said, "Warriors don't mope."
"No,of course they don't.It was a poor choice of words.But you'll be pacing back and forth, looking out the windows, or you'll go get that whetstone I noticed in the stable and sharpen your sword endlessly, or you'll be staring off into space with that dangerous look you get when you're contemplating mayhem. You'll be totally oblivious to me and-"
He laughed despite himself and drew her closer. "Enough! Heaven forbid I behave so churlishly."
"Speaking of heaven..."
With the covers kicked back,the bed was smooth and cool.They undressed each other slowly, relishing the wonder of discovery that still came to them fresh and pure as their very first time.
"Remember?" Rycca murmured as she trailed her lips along his broad, powerfully muscled shoulder and down the solid wall of his chest. "I was so nervous..."
"Really?" Fooled me....Ah..."
"I'd never seen anything so beautiful as you."
"Not...beautiful...you are..."
"I can't believe how strong you are. Why am I never afraid with you?"
"Know I'd die 'fore hurting you? Sweetheart..."
"Ohhh! Dragon...please..."
His hands and lips moved over her, sweetly tormenting. She clutched his shoulders, her hips rising, and welcomed him deep within her. Still he tantalized her, making her writhe and laughing when she squeezed him hard with her powerful inner muscles. But the laughter turned quickly to a moan of delight.
She looked up into his perfectly formed face,more handsome than any man had a right to be, and into his tawny eyes that were the windows of a soul more beautiful than any physical form. A piercing sense of blessedness filled her that she should be so fortunate as to love and be loved by such a man.
Her cresting cry was caught by him, hismouth hard against hers, the spur to his own completion that went on and on,seemingly without end.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me
“That's a bad bruise."
"I scarcely feel it." Indeed, she probably could have been smacked over the head with a log just then and would scarcely have noticed.”
Josie Litton, Come Back to Me

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