Norse Jewel, book 1
Norse series

What does the wolf-eyed Viking want?

Stolen by marauding Danes, Helena’s desperate to escape their camp. Her unlikely savior comes, a fierce Viking chieftain named Hakan, who takes her to the frozen north. Hakan wants to lay down his sword and live a peaceful farmer’s life. Past betrayal left him cold to love, yet the Frankish woman who keeps his longhouse thaws his icy heart.

Helena wasn’t born a slave. She wants nothing more than to return home, yet her stoic master fascinates her…he’s as bold as the wild northlands.

But war is brewing —a kingdom’s in the balance and Hakan must take up his sword. Can the Viking warrior defend his homeland and keep the woman he loves?

   

Reader nominated for
Best Historical romance - 2013
Best Alpha Male Hero - 2013
"A master at piquing the reader's interest, Gina Conkle has crafted a mesmerizing story that evokes strong emotions in readers."
4.5 star review, RomanceHistoricalLovers.com

An Excerpt

Helena clutched the water bucket, wanting sorely to toss
it at him. “Doesn’t even a thrall get privacy?”

“Keep your garment on…you have privacy.” The chieftain
tipped his head against the barrel as if the whole exchange
bored him.

Are all Norse barbaric? Can’t I have a moment to myself?
At least my thoughts are my own.

She craved setting this brute in his place. Barbs and
insults would do. That was when a wayward smile crept to
her lips—a small sense of power—as the barest seed of an
idea grew.

He doesn’t know Frankish.

Dipping her head, Helena smiled. Better to let him think she’d bow and scrape her gratitude for this morsel of kindness, allowing her to bathe. She moved behind a larger
barrel and began to speak Frankish in soft, honeyed tones.

“You. Are. A. Lout.” She whispered the insult as her
fingernails dug crescents into the bucket’s soggy wood.
“Many days I suffer from neglect, but heaven forbid one
hair’s out of place on your horse. You whip that comb out in
the blink of an eye. How I’d like to smash it over your head.”

He sat in that closed, impassive way that defined him,
studying the shoreline.

“You give more care to your four-legged chattel. I cannot
understand you Norse. You pagans are beasts…worse than
beasts.”

Helena took a deep, calming breath and rolled up her
torn sleeves. She dunked her hands, reveling in the luxury of washing, then splashed water on her face and neck. The cool trickle was heavenly.

“You’re no better than the Danes.” Helena exhaled her
anger through each refreshing splash and worked to regain
her composure. Self-control was not a luxury. She could not
let her ire slip any more than it already had. She lifted her skirt mid-thigh and scooped water onto her legs. Glistening droplets slid down her limbs. She huffed and vigorously rubbed her skin.

“I can’t imagine you have a wife. You lack all tenderness.”

Her eyes focused on the cleaning. She leaned her hip against the barrel, pulling the skirt higher. Her tattered hem clung high on her thighs as she splashed more water down her legs. She exposed too much flesh and edged behind the barrel. One skittish glance at the chieftain, and she worried for naught: his head tipped back, eyes closed. At least he spoke the truth about not bothering thralls.

“Not even a sliver of soap to clean my hair.” She groaned
and lowered tangled tresses into the bucket, finger-combing the mess and wincing at the tug on her scalp.

“I once thought you different than the Danes…I even thought you gentle.” She rolled her eyes behind the curtain of hair. “How wrong I was. You heathens are all alike.”

Sea water rippled softly around the ship, and her
defiance kept building.

“You want to learn Frankish? Aye, I’ll teach you Frankish,” she said, her tone sly. She planted a hand at her
waist. “But not so well, I think. I’ll make sure you have need of me for a future voyage.”

A door opened on the shoreline; noises of revelry spilled
from that open portal, a slight diversion. Lord Hakan stirred pulling small green leaves from a pouch. He chewed them as he watched the merrymakers stumble across the sand. Helena dipped fingertips into the bucket and touched her jaw.

“I’ll bide my time. Earn your trust. Someday…someday
you’ll return to my homeland and need my help. Then, I’ll
flee. Aye, I’ll run away.”

The bucket nearly empty, she unrolled her sleeves.

“You are more endowed with brawn than brains. I doubt
you’ll even be able to grasp the Frankish language.” Her
voice was sweet and lightly mocking. “You’re as thickheaded as those brutish Danes. When I think of how I’ve learned so many Norse words in so short a time.”

Bitterness and pride tinged her voice as she brushed back wet hair.

“’Twill take years to teach you.” She shrugged her
indifference. “Time will tell.”

The bucket was empty. Helena walked to the impassive chieftain and presented her hands to him for the dreaded tether, a submissive gesture that failed to match her defiant
heart.

“My Lord,” she said in Norse.

He stood up and covered calloused hands over hers. His size, his warmth and nearness, made her uneasy as he led her to the chest that was her perch. When he knelt down, the curling hairs of his arms grazed her damp skin. He smelled of sea and leather and curiously a fresh scent…mint. Those leaves he chewed. That pleasant surprise was lost when leather bindings swung from his hand—the same ties from which he had freed her for her bath.

Lord Hakan crouched close, and his knuckles caressed her chin as though entranced by her. Little shivers danced along her spine from the feather-soft touch. Her body sung a traitor’s tune, and she gritted her teeth, trying not to like his nearness, his smell. Torchlight splashed the chieftain’s face, revealing a smile that failed to reach his eyes.

“I do not have to bind you. But I will.”

She shrunk in horror.

He spoke stilted Frankish.

“Some have said I have a quick mind. As you say, ‘Time
will tell.’”

He shifted and his face was in the shadows, but the
white flecks of his wolfish eyes glowed. “Do not think to
escape. I’m a fair man but care not for deceptive maids.”

His massive size closed in, blocking all light. Wedged
between a barrel and the ship’s side, sturdy wood
imprisoned her. His skin grazed hers as he wrapped the leather around her wrists. She glanced down at the
detestable strap, and a burst of rebellion flowered.

“Why the tether? What harm can one woman do?”

His eyes widened at her show of courage, or so she guessed from the way he tipped his head in acknowledgment.

“Aye, one woman.” His mouth made a grim line and
bitterness threaded his voice. “I have seen the destruction
one woman can do.” He knotted the leather. “The bindings
stay.”

Helena licked her lips, choosing silence. The chieftain’s
nostrils flared like some predatory beast scenting prey. Was this anger barely restrained? Or something else?

He touched the wet rope of hair that hung over her
shoulder, letting his fingers slip between tangled strands. His thumb and forefinger found a single lock and stroked the hair down to the curling tip. Goose bumps skittered across her flesh from the intimate touch.

“What is your name, thrall?” He asked in the gentlest
voice.

“Helena,” she whispered.

“Helena.” He repeated her name softly. The corner of his
mouth twitched. He seemed pleased to know her name, but the pleasure was fleeting, replaced by fierceness. “I care not about trust, but I require obedience.”

Helena swallowed the hard lump in her throat.

“Serve me, as well as Agnar—” His teeth gleamed wolflike in the darkness. “—and you’ll be rewarded.” Rising, he towered over her. “Fail in your purpose, and you will suffer
the consequences.”

The chieftain stalked away and, true to his word, he did
not harm her. ‘Twas as if she did not exist for the way he
ignored her. The Norseman kept his distance as one day slid
into another, and the dragon ship carried her farther from
home. Each day left her stewing over a baffling riddle: If neither deception nor fleeing would get her home, what else could she do?

Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle