Northumbria, 867 A.D.Beautiful and courageous, the Lady Elgiva is as great a prize as the land the Viking conqueror now controls. Earl Wulfrum has taken her home, and now he will take her--as his unwilling bride.Wulfrum is a legendary warrior, but the strong-willed Elgiva proves the greatest challenge he has ever faced. Yet her response to his touch tells him she feels the all-consuming heat as much as he. Their passionate battle can end only one way--in the marriage bed!
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January 31, 2009
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Excerpt from The Viking's Defiant Bride by Joanna Fulford
Northumbria867 A.D.Elgiva sat on the goatskin rug before the fire, her arms clasped about her knees and her gaze on the flames. It was said that some had the skill to read the future there. Just then she would have given much for such a glimpse to help resolve the chaos of her thoughts. The present dilemma was desperate, but what to do for the best?She glanced once at her companion, grateful for that comforting presence. To Elgiva, Osgifu had been both mother and confidante. The older woman had entered the service of Lord Egbert as a nursemaid when her husband died. At forty she was comely still, a tall elegant figure, for all that there were lines on her face and white strands in her dark hair. Her grey eyes saw more than other people, for she was known to have the second sight, to see those things hidden from ordinary mortal view. Her skill lay with the runes, not the fire, but the accuracy of her words was sufficient for people to regard her with awe, even fear. Elgiva had never been afraid, only curious. Osgifu's mother had been a Dane, a trader's daughter, who married a Saxon husband. From her she had inherited the gift of the sight and a wealth of stories besides.When Elgiva was a child, Osgifu had entertained her with tales of the Norse gods: of Thor, who wielded the thunderbolts; of Loki the trickster of Odin; and Fenrir the wolf. Elgiva had listened, enthralled by stories of Jotenheim, the realm of the frost giants, and of the dragon, Nidhoggr, who constantly gnawed at the roots of Yggdrasil, the mighty ash tree connecting earth and heaven. Osgifu had taught her the Danish tongue too, albeit in secret, for she knew Lord Egbert would not have approved. When they were alone, the two of them spoke their secret language and knew their words would be safe from other ears. She alone knew the secrets of Elgiva's heart and it was to her Elgiva turned in times of trouble.The younger woman sighed and, turning her gaze from the glowing flames in the hearth, looked full at her mentor.'I don't know what to do, Gifu. Ever since my father's death Ravenswood has slid further and further into chaos. My brother did nothing.' She paused. 'Now he is dead too, and his sons are but babes. The place needs a capable hand.'She did not add,a man's hand,but Osgifu heard the thought. She also acknowledged the truth of it. Lord Osric, concerned only with skill at arms and with hawking and hunting, had taken little interest in the running of his late father's estate, preferring to leave it to his steward, Wilfred. A good man at heart, Wilfred had performed his duties well enough under Lord Egbert's exacting rule, but after, with no master's eye on him, he began to neglect small things, putting off until the morrow what should have been done today. The serfs under his control took their example from him, and Elgiva, on her daily rides, had begun to notice the results. Ravenswood, which had hitherto always looked prosperous, began to take on an air of neglect. Fences were not mended, repairs botched. Weeds grew among the crops and the livestock were not properly tended.The roofs of the barns and storehouses leaked, and she felt sure that the stored grain and fodder within were not as strictly accounted for as they had been. When she had mentioned these things to Osric, he had brushed her aside. The problem grew worse. She had spoken to him again and received short shrift.'A woman's place is in the house, not meddling in matters that do not concern her.''Ravenswood is my concern,' she'd replied, 'as it should be yours.''You take too much upon you, Elgiva.' He had eyed her coolly. 'If you had a husband and children of your own, you would have no time to interfere in the affairs of men. You should have been married long since.'Her brother was right about that and Elgiva knew it. Had Lord Egbert lived, he would have found a bridegroom for her. There had been no shortage of suitors. She had loved h