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?
Wearing a golden-brown apron-dress underneath her fur cloak, with her hair tightly bound in braids and covered with a blue, silk scarf, Runa looked so much like their mother. Roald nearly choked when he beheld her.
“Brother.” She curtsied respectfully. “I know we haven’t had much time alone. I wish to thank you for your generosity.”
For a brief moment, Roald regretted his doubt in her. She looked and acted every part the true lady, a pillar of respectability and modesty, the way their father had raised her to be. She even kept her green eyes downcast while she waited for him to acknowledge her presence. But it wasn’t her eyes he worried about; it was her heart.
“Rise, sweet Sister,” he commanded.
She did, meeting his gaze then.
“I wish you safe travel.”
“And I wish you much happiness, dear Brother.”
“Do you?” He leaned in so only Runa could hear his words. “If I were to judge you at first glance, I’d have every confidence that you were a reformed woman, ready to fulfill your duty to this family. Just as you appear peaceful on the surface, so do I. But I have a war raging inside me—whether I should trust you or not.”
She batted her eyelashes prettily and whispered, “Shall I rip my beating heart from my chest so you can have a spaewife read my true intentions as she would the runes?”
The stubborn girl didn’t seem to understand the affect her sharp tongue had on him. The man who could seal her misfortune if she continued to defy him. Roald grinned as he drew a short knife from his weapon belt and offered it to her. “Would you like the honor of the first cut?”
“Roald? What are you doing?” Eva asked, looking from him to the weapon.
“Nothing violent, my sweetest,” he lied to his wife. “I merely offered Runa a weapon for the long trip ahead. Gods forbid if she ever had to use it.”
“A sage gift,” Eva said.
“Yes,” Runa agreed, her fake smile eating away at Roald’s patience. “I thank you.” She took the knife and tucked it in her own embroidered belt. “I will miss you, Sister.”
Eva embraced Runa as if she’d never see the girl again. “The spirits will guide you, Runa.”
Roald struggled to stay quiet as Thorolf took Runa by the elbow and guided her to the awaiting horses.
About the Author
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.