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 wolf-like in the darkness. “—and you’ll be rewarded.” Rising, he towered over her. “Fail in your purpose, and you will suffer the consequences.”
An excerpt from Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle