As the only sister of Jarl Roald Blood Axe, Lady Runa is expected to do her duty and choose a husband from among the five noblemen her brother has invited to a feast in her honor. An advantageous marriage means a new alliance for her family. Runa has other plans though, including a lifelong dream to join the temple maidens where she can serve Odin and the other gods. Captain Thorolf is the most respected man in Jarl Roald’s personal guard. Tasked with safeguarding the beautiful Lady Runa, he works hard to keep the obstinate girl out of trouble. But every time he thinks she’s ready to accept her fate, Runa finds another way to disobey her brother, which forces Thorolf to cover up her mistakes. When an uninvited guest shows up at the feast and insults Runa’s family, she immediately takes matters into her own hands and threatens the intruder with a knife. Thorolf responds quickly, but Runa has gone too far. She’s embarrassed the only son of a neighboring jarl. In retaliation for her bad behavior, Roald gives her an ultimatum. Choose a husband now or he will marry her off to the most decrepit lord in the farthest reaches of Norway he can find. Under advisement from Captain Thorolf, Runa asks permission to visit the home of one of her suitors so she can get to know him better before she decides if he’s a worthy candidate for marriage. However, Runa has no intention of marrying anyone. In fact, she’s secretly infatuated with Thorolf. But nothing can ever come of it. Jarl Roald reluctantly agrees to let her go, but sends Thorolf along as his eyes and ears. On the road to the north country, Runa’s party is attacked, leaving many dead and Captain Thorolf missing. Runa escapes the violence and seeks assistance from the high priest at the temple. Reunited with Captain Thorolf, Runa realizes she can longer hide her feelings for him. What they find is mutual admiration and an attraction that could cost them both dearly. Will Thorolf risk everything he’s worked so hard to accomplish for the love of a forbidden woman? Will Runa once again defy her brother and take a chance on true love?
“Why did you threaten Olvir? Do you think you’re strong enough to kill a man of his size? Any man?” He pulled her blade from his belt. “This is a paring knife, meant for fruits and vegetables, not to maim someone.”
She reached for the weapon, but he refused to give it to her. “I am sure if Jarl Roald wished you to own a weapon, he would have provided you with one.”
She arched a brow. “My brother would do no such thing. He likely fears I’d stab him in the middle of the night.”
His throaty laughter wrapped around her like a warm blanket, heating her insides. “So you’re a dangerous one?” He eyed the blade, then her. “Perhaps I should return this to the kitchens.”
She shrugged. “Do as you must, Captain. I’ll only fetch another in the morn. I prefer being armed. This is a dangerous place.”
“Aye.” He offered her the blade. “If you’d allow me the privilege of getting you a real one.”
She smiled. “You’d do that for me?”
“Tis my duty to keep you safe.”
That was the last thing she wanted to hear from the ridiculously handsome warrior. She’d rather he kissed her and held her close. “Thank you.”
He rubbed his chin. “For what?”
“For getting rid of Olvir.”
He nodded. “The past has a way of catching up, doesn’t it?”
“A very much unwanted past,” she admitted.
“I cannot account for your taste in men, Lady Runa. But as long as I am within earshot, no one will insult you without answering to me.”
There he was again, the honor-bound Thorolf. Though she truly appreciated it, she wanted to see the other side of this man. The one who let his guard down and overindulged in drink, laughed uncontrollably, challenged his brother-in-arms to a wrestling match, fondled a beautiful girl … the kind of man who lived dangerously sometimes. But after observing him closely for nearly a year, she doubted he did any of those things.
“Tis a lovely evening.” She hugged her middle and gazed up at the star-filled sky.
“Aye,” he agreed. “On a night such as this, one cannot doubt the existence of the gods. Allfather is mighty.”
“Yes,” she said, visually worshipping him while he focused on the heavens. “He surely is.” Especially if he made you in his image.
Raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, Violetta Rand spent her childhood reading, writing, and playing soccer. After meeting her husband in New England, they moved to Alaska where she studied environmental science and policy before attending graduate school. Violetta then spent nearly a decade working as a scientist, specializing in soil and water contamination and environmental assessments. Violetta still lives in Alaska and spends her days writing romance. She enjoys time with her husband, pets, and friends. In her free time, she loves to hike, fish, and ride motorcycles and 4-wheelers.