Viking Warrior

Title: Viking Warrior

  • Author: Connie Mason

When his brother gives him Reyna the Dane, a beautiful healer, as a gift, Wulfric the Ruthless finds his destiny in the arms of this fair-haired temptress who eases his torment.

He would Never Forgive

After a brutal attack on his farmstead, Wulfric the Ruthless had sworn vengeance on the Danish raiders for killing his young wife. But when he laid eyes on Reyna the Dane, all he could see was a woman of extraordinary beauty, with flowing hair the color of moonlight and a body any Valkyrie would envy. She was his thrall, gifted to him by his brother to warm his bed. Could this beautiful healer also ease the fire burning in his heart?

She Would Never Forget

Stolen from her home by wild Noresmen, Reyna would always remember the face of the barbarian who'd destroyed her life. When she first caught sight of her new master, she thought he was the very man she'd vowed to hate forever. But Wulf's golden body and seductive kisses awoke very different feelings within her. As one deliciously long Northern night blended into another, she realized he was no longer her enemy but her beloved...Viking Warrior

Chapter 1
A Farmstead on the Norwegian coast, 860 AD

Wulfric the Ruthless, son of the late jarl of Horgaland, Rollo Redbeard, rose gloriously naked from the fjord near his farmstead. Tall, golden and magnificently male, Wulf strode toward shore, water dripping down his powerful body in rivulets.

Wulf had earned his name and reputation because of his prowess in battles with raiders like Danes and Finns, wielding his sword, Blood-Seeker, and his battleaxe with skill and dexterity. During a raid by Danes on their farmstead two summers ago, Wulf had lost his wife and unborn child, and the loss had turned him into a ruthless berserker. Skalds told and retold the saga of Wulf the Ruthless during long winter nights, embellishing his heroic exploits with each telling.

Wulf had just reached for his clothing when a shout brought him spinning around toward the fjord. Shading his eyes against the glare of the late autumn sun, he stared at the dragonship skimming across the water toward shore. Wulf’s first instinct was to reach for Blood-Seeker. Then he recognized the square red and white striped sail of his brother’s dragonship and relaxed.

Hagar had finally returned. His arrival had been expected through somewhat overdue.

The dragonship rode low in the water, laden, Wulf suspected, with silver, glassware, spices and silks from the Byzantine, where Hagar had gone on a trading expedition. Wulf had also gone a-Viking but in a different direction and with different goals in mind. Wulf had spent the summer raiding the land of the Danes, seeking vengeance for the death of his wife, Astrid. Having had his fill of killing and plundering, Wulf had returned home to the farmstead earlier than usual.

Wulf pulled his fine linen breeches over his powerfully muscled legs, slipped into a sleeveless linen tunic and belted Blood-seeker about his narrow waist. He wore no mail shirt this day for no enemy was expected to invade their farmstead this late in the year. Then he pulled on shaggy fur boots and turned to wait for Hagar’s ship to reach the shore.

Hagar was the first to leap out of his ship when it scraped against the sandy bottom of the fjord. As tall and broad as Wulf, Hagar was but two years older than Wulf’s own twenty-eight years. His generous beard was red as the hair on his head.

“Ho, brother!” Hagar greeted as he splashed through the surf toward Wulf.

The brothers embraced. “Your ship rides low in the water, Hagar,” Wulf observed. “Your voyage to the Byzantine must have been a profitable one.”

Hagar threw back his head and laughed. “More profitable than even I expected. What about you, brother? When did you return?”

“Some days ago. Why are you late? Your arrival has been anxiously anticipated.”

“Odin’s blood!” Hagar exclaimed. “I would have returned sooner if Thor had not brewed a storm that sent us off course.”

“Come, I will walk with you to the farmstead.”

“In a moment,” Hagar replied. “I bought a you special gift from Constantinople.”

A frown darkened Wulf’s rugged features. “You bought me a gift? What are you up to, Hagar?”

“You have become morose and overbearing of late and needed something to cheer you up.”

Wulf’s frown deepened. “I do not need cheering.”

Hagar rolled his eyes, suggesting otherwise. “Do not look a gift horse in the mouth, brother. Enjoy it with my good wishers.”

“Why am I suspicious of your largess, Hagar?”

“There was a woman with hair the color of moonlight on the auction block at the slave market in Constantinople. Her previous master could not tame her and was eager to sell her.”

“What does this have to do with me?”

“I wanted to make life a little more interesting for you. All you’ve known since Astrid’s death is grief and vengeance. Your grief weighs heavily upon you.”

Wulf slashed his hand through the wet strands of his golden hair. “Enough, Hagar, I have better things to do than talk nonsense with you.”

Grasping his shoulders, Hagar turned Wulf toward the fjord, where men were unloading trade goods from the beached dragonship. The moment Wulf saw her he whipped around to glare at his brother. “Thor’s hammer, Hagar, what have you done?”

Hagar laughed. “Her name is Reyna. She is a Dane. I bought her for you. You can thank me later. I hope you have better luck taming her than her previous master.” Then he strode off toward the farmstead, leaving Wulf with the terrible urge to kill his brother.

Reyna waded ashore, angry at the Norsemen and at the world. She hated men but Norsemen most of all. She wondered why the Norseman had purchased her and what the future held for her. Fortunately she and the Norseman named Hagar had been able to converse. She had learned the Norse language from a Norsewoman concubine in her master’s harem. Hager had refused to answer her questions, however, and had even laughed at some private joke when she asked about his plans for her.

Reyna had no idea what she was supposed to do when Hagar strode off, leaving her stranded on the shore. She started to follow and stopped abruptly when she saw a man staring at her, his expression one of abject horror. At first she didn’t recognize him and thought him the most impressive man she had ever seen. He was beautiful in a rugged, masculine way. With his blond hair ruffled by the wind and his clothing hugging his powerful muscles, he rivaled Odin, the great god of war.

Then, to her utter horror, she beheld a man she hoped never to see again. He was the Norse berserker who had raided her farmstead the summer before, ravished her without remorse, and taken her captive. Though he had not touched her again during the long voyage to Byzantium, she had lived in fear during those dark days. If either the Norseman called Wulf the Ruthless had attempted to touch her, she would have jumped overboard. But he had simply brooded during the entire voyage to Constantinople, where he sold her to a slave trader without a hint of remorse.

Wulf stared through narrowed lids at the woman approaching him. With the setting sun behind her, obscuring her features, she might have been a seductive Valkyrie, one of Odin’s handmaidens who carried a warrior’s soul to Valhalla.

She was tall and slim and shapely, her head crowned by a coronet of braids so pale they gleamed like molten silver. Dressed in a white tunic belted at the waist with a silver girdle, her feet barely seemed to touch the ground as she floated toward him. A vague sense of recognition washed over him. Who was this woman Hagar had identified as Reyna the Dane?

Reyna reached Wulf and stopped in front of him, gazing with unleashed fury into his silver fire and ice eyes, her hands curled into fists. Her eyes dropped to his hard, flattened mouth, sculpted with harsh disapproval and bracketed by two sharp lines. Did he remember her? She certainly remembered him.

“Wulf the Ruthless, we meet again,” she snarled, and spat on the ground at his feet. “You are the Norse berserker who destroyed my life. I hope you burn in hell.”

Suddenly Wulf remembered the woman. He had scooped her from the ground and carried her aboard his dragonship after Rannulf Haroldson had climbed off of her. She had been curled into a ball and weeping. Though she had wept all the way to Byzantium, Wulf could find no compassion in his wounded soul.

“Wulf laughed; a bitter sound that sent chills down Reyna’s spine. “I already reside in hell. Your people made sure of that.”

“Why was I brought here?”

“My brother purchased you and gifted you to me.” Wulf had no intention of keeping Reyna. A Dane thrall with the body and face that would tempt a statue was the last thing he needed in his hall. Apparently she was under the misapprehension that he had been the one to ravish her during the raid on her farmstead.

Reyna drew back in horror. “You are a rapacious beast. I refuse to serve you.”

“You accuse me falsely. Rest assured that I want you in my hall no more than you want me for a master. Follow me, I will take you to Hagar’s hall. My mother can always use another thrall.”

Wulf grasped Reyna’s arm and pulled her along with him, trying to ignore the softness of her skin beneath his hand. Thank Odin, the trek to the farmstead was not a long one.

The yard was filled with activity. Thralls trod back and forth between the many buildings comprising the farmstead. The various buildings were built of rough pine logs, their pitched roofs covered with turf. There were so many buildings it looked like a village. Beyond the farmstead, thralls and karls were harvesting crops such as oats, wheat and barley with curved sickles while others toiled in the garden. Cattle and sheep grazed on the nearby hillsides while pigs, hens and geese rooted around in the yard between the outbuildings.

Wulf headed directly toward the hall, the principal dwelling where family and thralls lived in a log and wattle longhouse eighty-four feet long with curved sides and windows along each side. The walls looked to be at least seven feet thick and the roof was supported on rows of posts.

“Do you live here?” Reyna asked, indicating the impressive hall.

“Nay, the hall was too crowded for my liking when I wed so I built my own hall on the farmstead. You will serve my brother and his family.”

Reyna bristled. “I am a jarl’s daughter, not a thrall. What you did to me and my family is despicable. You are a ruthless killer who took my innocence and sold me to a foreign master.”

Wulf regarded her with contempt. “Your people took my wife from me. I raided your farmstead in retaliation. I cannot recall if anyone was slain during the raid for I was half mad with rage.”

Wulf opened the door and walked into the hall. Reyna followed, stopping once she passed beneath the lintel to survey her surroundings. The hall was crowded with people, some clothed in rich fabrics and others wearing rough woolen tunics. Reyna decided the family must be wealthy one for she saw several men and women wearing silks, brocades, silver jewelry and leather shoes. Once she had lived in a hall such as this and dressed in imported silks and fine linens. Then she was assaulted and ripped from the bosom of her loving family. She thought of her brothers and Rannulf, her betrothed, and wondered if had he wed another.

Though plain on the outside, the hall was decorated with carved and painted woodwork touched with gilt. Wide wooden benches for sitting and sleeping lined the walls with the focal point of the hall being the central hearth, which provided not only heat and light but also the means of cooking. Even now cauldrons of iron were suspended over the fire from tripods, emitting mouth-watering smells.

Reyna’s stomach rumbled. During the voyage from Constantinople she had eaten whatever the Vikings fed her, mostly dried meats, hard bread and cheese.

Hagar saw Wulf and hailed him. Wulf turned a sour look on his brother. “I am returning your gift. Let Mother put her to work.”

A tall, richly dressed Norsewoman joined them. She was handsome rather than pretty with dark blonde hair and a muscular build. She was also heavy with child.

“Who is this woman?” Olga asked.

“She is your husband’s new thrall, Olga,” Wulf said before Hagar had a chance to explain.

Olga glared at Reyna and then at her husband. “I will not tolerate this woman in my hall and I am sure your mother will agree. She is too beautiful and will disrupt the harmony. Your brothers will fight over her favors.”

She sent Hagar a look that did not bode well for him. “What were you thinking, husband? If you intend to bed her yourself, forget it. I will geld you with my knife before I let that happen.”
Hagar clutched his crotch protectively. “The thrall belongs to Wulf,” he explained. “I purchased her for his bed.”

“What?” Wulf and Reyna exclaimed at the same time.

An older woman dressed in rich fabrics strode over to them. “What seems to be the problem? Who is this woman?”

“Wulf’s new thrall,” Hagar quickly answered.

“I don’t want her,” Wulf replied heatedly.

“And I won’t have her in my hall,” Olga stated, folding her arms across her ample bosom. “Look at her. I won’t have that kind of temptation in a hall where young girls and lusty boys live.”

“Does she speak our language?” Thora, Wulf and Hagar’s mother asked.

“Aye, she speaks and understands our language. Do not ask me how, but she does,” Wulf replied.

“I found Reyna on the auction block in Constantinople and thought her perfect for Wulf,” Hagar explained. “My brother is far too dour and lacks joy in his life,” Hagar sniffed. “I thought he would appreciate my gesture to provide him with entertainment on the long winter nights to come.”

“I find your humor perverse,” Wulf returned. “Reyna is a Dane.”

Hagar laughed. “I know. You cannot deny she is a rare beauty, however. Don’t be so grim, brother. Perhaps one day you will thank me.”

His face dark as a thundercloud, Wulf took a menacing step toward Hagar.

Thora stopped him with a single word, “Wulf!” Wulf subsided, though the look he slanted Hagar promised painful retribution.

Olga made a gesture toward Reyna. “If this woman has lived in a harem in Constantinople, she doesn’t belong with decent folk. Just imagine all the evil things she has done. If you don’t want her, Wulf, sell her to my brother. Rannulf mentioned he was in the market for a new bed slave.”

For some reason, selling Reyna to Rannulf didn’t sit well with Wulf. He recalled Rannulf climbing off Reyna’s body and walking away in search of another woman to assault. It wasn’t as if Wulf hadn’t participated in the same sport in his younger days. But not since he wed Astrid.

Thora stroked her chin. “The woman is lovely. I agree with Olga, Wulf. If you do not need another thrall, sell her to Rannulf.”

“I am a jarl’s daughter,” Reyna protested. “Your son raided our farmstead, did despicable things to me, carried me off and sold me to a slave trader. I will never consent to serve a Viking berserker.”

“My brother purchased you, you belong to him.”

“And I gifted her to you,” Hagar shot back. He offered his arm to his wife. “Come, Olga, this is Wulf’s problem. My brother is being surly and unappreciative. He no longer knows what to do with a beautiful woman. Shall we inspect the trade goods I brought back from the Byzantine? There are some particularly fine silks for you to choose from.”

Wulf glared at Hagar’s back.

“Wulf,” Thora said, garnering Wulf’s attention. “What are you going to do with her? She claims you assaulted her and I am inclined to believe her.”

“Return me to my homeland, Wulf the Ruthless,” Reyna pleaded. “My family had nothing to do with the raid upon your farmstead. They didn’t kill your wife. My father is a farmer and fisherman. He gave up raiding years ago. My brothers were away, trading along the Volga; they couldn’t have been involved in the raid on your farmstead.” Her green eyes sparkled with tears. “If you left them alive, eventually they will find me.”

“Wulf turned his icy gaze on Reyna. Why hadn’t he noticed before how lovely she was? During the voyage to Constantinople, he had barely looked at her. She had been a pitiful sight with her torn clothing, matted hair and red-rimmed eyes, and he didn’t want to feel compassion for her. Filled with hatred and grief, he had seen her as the enemy instead of a great beauty.

“Thor’s blood, Mother,” Wulf muttered. “I did not assault Reyna. I am guilty of selling her but naught more. Are you sure you can’t use another thrall?”

“Since your father’s death, Hagar is the new jarl. He and Olga choose who is to live in the hall and ‘tis obvious Olga doesn’t want the thrall here. She is increasing and we cannot upset her.” She spread her hands. “There is nothing I can do.”

For the first time in his life Wulf wished he were the older brother instead of the younger.

Thora look at Reyna. “What skills do you have? Can you cook? Do you weave? Are you skilled at brewing ale or mead?”

Reyna squared her shoulders. “I cannot cook. Nor can I weave or brew ale or mead. I am a skilled healer and knowledgeable in herbal medicines.”

“At least that’s a skill we can use,” Thora said, nodding. “But you must deal with Wulf yourself for I cannot help you.”

Reyna spared Wulf a withering glance. “I do not wish to belong to you, Wulf the Ruthless. Think you I don’t remember the pain and degradation I suffered at your hands? Sagas of your nefarious exploits are sung far and wide. You are a berserker. Your sword drinks innocent blood.”

Thora threw up her hands. “She is a bold one, Wulf. Punish her, put her to work, or sell her. The decision is yours to make. But before you take her to your hall, I will provide her with a garment more fitting to her station. The silk tunic she wears is too good for a thrall.”

Turning, Thora strode away. Reyna folded her arms across her breasts. Her former master had provided her with the silk tunic and silver girdle to display her assets while on the auction block. She loved the sensual feel of it against her tender skin despite the way it revealed her womanly curves.

“What is my fate to be, Wulf the Ruthless?” Reyna asked, chin jutting in defiance. “Will you ravish me again, sell me, punish me?”

Wulf surprised her by looking directly into her eyes. Their gazes locked, held. What Reyna saw in his eyes stunned her. She had expected an icy flash of hatred, or even lust, not the tiny flame of heat emanating from their frozen depths. Wulf was the first to look away.

“This should do,” Thora said, her voice shattering the sexual tension building between them. She thrust a rough woolen garment at Reyna.

The garment felt coarse and unevenly woven. Reyna knew its rough surface would abrade her fair skin and hoped she could keep her silken tunic to wear as an undertunic.

Thora dismissed Wulf with a wave of her hand. “I have no more time for your problems, Wulf. I will see you tonight at the evening meal.”

There turned her back on Wulf’s pleading look. She left him no choice but to install Reyna in his hall. “Come with me,” he said gruffly.

“If you touch me I will kill you.”

“Go ahead if you think you can.”

Turning on his heel, Wulf walked away. He walked so fast Reyna had trouble keeping up with him. He led her though the compound to a smaller version of Hagar’s longhouse and stormed inside. Reyna followed. Her first glance revealed a modest hall richly decorated. Two thralls, a man and young woman, looked up from their chores as Reyna trailed behind Wulf.

Wulf summoned the thralls and they came to him immediately.

“Uma and Lorne are Normans,” Wulf explained. “Though their native tongue is English, they speak and understand our language well enough. Uma will show you where to change your tunic and assign chores to you.”

Reyna shuddered. “Have you decided to keep me, then?”

“I have decided nothing.” His gaze swept over her, settling on her breasts. “Perhaps,” he mused, “I will make you my bed slave. You seem useless for anything else.”

Reyna drew up to her full impressive height. “Hear me, Wulf the Ruthless. Touch me in that way again and you will find a dagger in your heart when you least expect it. I do not make idle threats. My former owner was smart enough to believe me, for your sake I hope you are too.”

Wulf threw back his head and laughed. “Are you, a mere female, threatening me, a Viking warrior? I am called Wulf the Ruthless with good reason.”

“I know that better than anyone.” She drew back her hand as if to strike him. He caught her fist and pulled her against him. The allure of her femininity and her soft body made his cock harden. He released her instantly and stepped away.

“Never raise your hand to me again,” he warned through clenched teeth. “Though your family may not have killed my wife, your people did.” He raked her with a scornful look. “I would take you to my bed if I wanted you, but you do not appeal to me.”

Wulf was lying through his teeth. He hadn’t had a woman in a long time, and bedding Reyna would not prove difficult. Hagar had urged him countless times to buy a bed slave and even advised him to bed Uma, who was both young and attractive. Though Wulf had thought about it he had yet to act upon Hagar’s suggestion.

Before he met Astrid he’d had no problem taking women for the sake of sex. Admittedly, when his blood ran hot during battle he had occasionally used women captives to assuage his bloodlust, but it was not the same as actually taking a woman to his furs and making love to her.

Wulf scarcely recalled the days after the raid on Reyna’s farmstead for he had been mindless with grief, but one thing he did know was that he hadn’t raped Reyna. That deed had been accomplished by Rannulf, Olga’s brother. Wulf had a strong suspicion, however, that bedding Reyna would be no hardship despite the fact that she was the enemy, albeit a temptingly seductive one.

Reyna breathed a sigh of relief as she was led off by Uma to a curtained cubical, where she was told to don the rough woolen tunic. Hopefully her words had discouraged the Viking berserler from bedding her.

Recalling the terrible day Wulf had carried her off, she distinctly remembered his blond hair, clean-shaven chin and iron helmet. He had taken her maidenhead, sold her, and promptly forgotten her. She would never forgive him.

Reyna removed her silver girdle and prepared to don the rough woolen garment over her silk tunic.

“Remove the silk tunic first,” Uma ordered.

“The rough wool will chafe my skin.”

“You are a slave, only the master can grant favors, and he doesn’t appear inclined to do so. Give me your silk tunic.”

“Admit it, you want it for yourself,” Reyna hissed.

Reyna was too surprised to react as Uma reached out and ripped the fragile silk garment from her body. Aware that Uma was studying her naked body with pursed lips, Reyna slipped the woolen tunic over her head and belted it with the silver girdle. Then she followed Uma into the hall.

Uma eyed the silver girdle enviously. She pointed to it and demanded, “Give me your girdle. It is too grand for you.”

“No, you cannot have it.”

“Obey me, I am in charge here. Give it to me now or I will tell the master to beat you.”

“Go ahead. I’m not giving up my girdle.”

Reyna could tell that Uma was going to be neither friend nor ally. She acted as if she disliked Reyna intensely.

Uma flew into a rage. Grabbing a broom leaning against the wall, she began beating Reyna with the handle. Taller and stronger than the Norman woman, Reyna wrested the broom from Uma’s hands and pushed her to the ground, looming over her like an avenging Valkrie. Uma began wailing like a banshee, bringing both Lorne and Wulf running to her defense. Wulf tugged the broom from Reyna’s hands and tossed it aside.

Lorne helped Uma to her feet. “What is going on here?” Wulf growled.

“Your new thrall is vicious,” Uma wailed. “She turned on me for no reason.”

Reyna pointed to the remains of her silk tunic Uma still clutched in her hands. “Uma tried to steal my possessions,” she shot back. “She took my silk tunic but I will not give up my girdle. Am I allowed nothing of my own?”

Angry at Reyna, his brother, and the world in general, Wulf yanked the girdle from Reyna’s hands. “You belong to me, as does everything you own.”

“I need something to gather the excess material about my waist,” Reyna dared.

“Come with me. Uma, return to your chores.”

Glaring at Reyna, Uma obeyed Wulf without question as Wulf led Reyna to the other end of the hall, where he removed a coil of rope from a cabinet. He measured out a length, cut it with his dagger and handed it to Reyna. “This should serve.” He watched while she tied the rope about her slim waist. Then he turned and disappeared inside a curtained alcove, taking the silver girdle with him.

“Stubborn Viking,” she muttered as he walked away.

Uma appeared before her, holding a broom in her hand. She shoved it at Reyna. “Make yourself useful. The hearth needs sweeping.”

Gritting her teeth, Reyna took the broom and headed to the hearth. Though her stomach was growling hungrily, no one had offered her food. Were they going to starve her? The cauldron bubbling over the hearth on a tripod gave off a delicious aroma, making her mouth water. Spying some crockery bowls, eating utensils and a loaf of bread on a nearby shelf, Reyna decided to help herself.

Setting the broom against the hearth, she cut a generous slice of bread, ladled out a portion of stew from the cauldron and dipped a hunk of bread into it. She dipped and ate with gusto, until Uma spied her and let out a shriek.

“What are you doing?”

“I am eating. I have put nothing in my stomach since yesterday. This is wonderful. You are a good cook, Uma.”

Uma grabbed the bowl and tried to pull it out of Reyna’s hands. “You cannot eat without permission! You must wait for mealtime like the rest of us.”

A tug of war began. At first Reyna refused to relinquish her food, but then she thought better of making another fuss and released her grip. Unprepared, Uma flew backward. The contents of the boiling hot stew splashed on her bare arm. Uma screamed, bringing Lorne and Wulf running for the second time that day.

Reyna hadn’t wanted to hurt Uma, it had just happened. Now she knelt beside her and picked up her arm to inspect the damage. The girl had suffered a superficial burn, painful but not life-threatening unless it festered.

“What happened now?” Wulf demanded as he helped Uma onto a bench.

Before Reyna could answer, Uma wailed, “The witch threw hot stew at me. She wanted to kill me. Sell her, master, before she kills us all.”

“I did no such thing,” Reyna scoffed. “I was famished and merely helped myself to the stew simmering over the hearth. I hadn’t eaten since yesterday and no one thought to ask if I was hungry.”

She paused, glaring up at Wulf. “Uma took exception with my helping myself and tried to tug the bowl out of my hands. I didn’t want to cause trouble so I released my hold. The stew was hot. What you see is the result of Uma’s clumsiness.”

“Is that true, Uma?” Wulf asked.

“No,” Uma denied tearfully, “the witch lies. She threw the bowl of stew at me.”

Wulf turned to Lorne. “Did you see what happened, Lorne?”

Lorne hung his head, stammered a bit and then said, “Reyna lies. It happened just as Uma said.”

“I do not lie!” Reyna vehemently protested. Your thralls do not like me.”

Wulf sent her a heated look. We’ll settle this later. First I must determine how badly Uma is hurt.”

Reyna grasped Uma’s arm and inspected the burn.

“The burn is not serious, Wulf the Ruthless. Fetch your medicinal chest.”

“Lorne, go to my brother’s hall and fetcj the medicinal chest.” The young thrall took off. To Reyna, he said, “Can you treat the burn?”

“Aye, it will be fine. I hope your mother keeps the chest well stocked.”

Wulf sighed. “My aunt was the healer in the family. She died in the raid along with my wife. My mother isn’t much of a healer so I cannot attest to the contents of the chest.”

Lorne returned with the medicinal chest and placed it on the bench beside Uma. Reyna opened the chest and frowned. The herbal preparations inside were not as adequate as she had hoped. Searching among the various jars and vials, she found the jar she was looking for, opened it and sniffed the contents.

“Is something wrong?” Wulf asked.

“This salve will do though it is not fresh.” Cradling Uma’s arm, she began slathering a thick coating of salve over the burn.

Apparently Uma didn’t appreciate Reyna’s efforts. “She is trying to kill me. Stop her, master.”

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing, Reyna?” Wulf asked.

Reyna sent him an affronted look. “I am a healer. Of course I know what I am doing. Tomorrow I will search the forest and hillsides for fresh herbs and roots.”

“You do not have that freedom unless I give it to you,” Wulf growled.

Reyna finished bandaging Uma’s arm with clean linen clothes she found in the chest and slammed down the lid. Turning, she rounded on Wulf. “If you wish for me to be useful, then let me do what I do best.”

The fire in Wulf’s eyes melted the ice as he pulled her aside and growled in a low voice, “I am beginning to believe that what you do best should take place in my bed.”

Reyna stared up at him with huge green eyes slightly slanted up at the corners. Her mouth was beautiful, Wulf noted, her lips full and lush. A man could lose himself in her mouth.

His head lowered. But before he could complete the act his body demanded, Reyna pulled away. “No!” she cried, “never again will you touch me with lust!” Stunned by what he had nearly done, he glowered at Reyna. “Do not try to seduce me, wench.” Spinning on his heel, he stalked off.