Neither of them is prepared for the heat they generate.
All Amber Mentor wants is a clean house. She never suspects her idea to teach her sloppy cousin a lesson will lead her to a different time - literally.
Soren Elrickson is on the hunt for food, real food. The delectable treat he finds tangled in a bramble bush won't satisfy his hunger, but she will serve another purpose. His lust ignites in the same instant he understands his colony can=t support another mouth to feed. He knows how his helpless find will pay her way - on the flat of her back.
Amber and Soren can't resist each other, but passion doesn't put food on the table in the unforgiving land of fourteenth-century Greenland. Soren will have to make a decision, one that may not only compromise her heart, but her life.
Time is a sort of river of passing events and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight then it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
It’s a thankless job, but I’ve got a lot of Karma to burn off.
February 2007, Suburban DC
“Gina, I wish you’d put your stuff away,” Amber shouted from her place in the living room. Already exhausted from her frustrating day at work, Amber shook her head in dismay.
How can one woman create such destruction? Leave it to her cousin to make a mess. This go round, the devastation wasn’t just the minor transgression of a Ouija Board left out, or Regina—Gina as she was more often called—leaving out one of the working tools she used during her Wicca ceremonies.
Hell, no. The living room looked as if a hurricane had hit. Tables were toppled over, and pools of vibrantly colored wax streaked across the floor to spatter on the walls. Even Amber’s favorite abstract painting sat askew on its hook above the fireplace. Thankfully for Gina it hadn’t been smashed, or there would be hell to pay.
If Amber didn’t know better, she’d think a homicide of magical proportion had occurred here. The thought chilled the blood in her veins and set her nerves on edge. “Gina?”
No response, not even a groan from the supposedly haunted house they shared. No creaks of wood or cries for help. “Gina, answer me,” she shouted this time.
Panic, pure and virginal, pulsed through her nervous system. Okay, she mused as she worked her way around the room, this is weird. Sure, the turn of the century Victorian creaked and groaned and was a general nuisance, but it didn’t mean it was haunted. Things, normally ones that had special meaning to her, fell off the shelves to smash into shards, but nothing had ever happened like this.
She’d pretty much ignored her cousin’s prediction about the home was a portal merely needing a key to open it up to its true purpose. That was a bunch of hocus-pocus mumbo jumbo.
Portal. Amber silently scoffed. More like a haven for a slob.
With a resigned sigh, Amber plucked the planchette to the Ouija Board from the carpet. She glanced to the left then right, a lame attempt to determine from where the destruction originated. She caressed the smooth wood of the pointer and the glass eye, as Gina called the thick, transparent lens embedded in the teardrop-shaped article.
Twinges of terror tripped up her spine. The house was eerily quiet.
Should I call the cops? First, I’ll have to find the phone.
Panicked, she forced herself to stop the major freak-out she clearly saw looming on the horizon. “Okay, calm down,” she told herself when she almost tripped over one of the big pillar candles on the floor. “Think logically.”
Logic wasn’t in her repertoire. Nope, the more she stared at the living room, the sicker her stomach became. Her gaze kept jumping from overturned piece of furniture to overturned piece of furniture. Even her couch was lying on its back.
Forcing calm to the fore, she gripped the planchette tighter. The windows were all closed. Since she’d unlocked the front door herself, she knew whatever had destroyed the room hadn’t entered through there. The porch door couldn’t be opened with a crowbar and six burly men because the last owner had painted it shut. The fact she couldn’t enter the house through the porch area was a pain in the ass, but she could handle walking around the house to get to the garden when necessary.
So, the chaos didn’t come from a blast of winter wind. Then what? Or who? She thought of vandals and robbers, and gulped hard.
No. Absolutely not in this area of Washington Grove. She doubted the local law authorities did much more than drive up and down the streets. She was sure that every once in a while the cops would tell some kids it was past curfew, then return to the station on the east side of town. But this was one of the safest communities in Montgomery County.
Nothing happened in Washington Grove. It was what had attracted her to the area. It was a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the DC Metro. Here, life moved a little slower. Everything about the community was subdued—simple.
A distant rumble of thunder nearly scared her straight out of her skin. Snow? Yeah, they got thunder snow, but the weatherman hadn’t predicted a flurry, let alone a blizzard. “Dammit.” Her heart thudded hard in her chest.
Refocusing her attention on cleaning the living room, Amber set the planchette on top of the mantel. To think, her aunt thought she’d be good for the flighty Gina, especially after she’d rejected her Christian roots to turn toward Paganism. Sympathetic to her cousin’s plight and somewhat lonely in the big house, Amber agreed to let the off-the-wall woman move in five months ago.
From the start it had been apparent that Gina didn’t care if she lived with a hobgoblin or a hobo as long as they didn’t play with what she called her working tools. The same tools she had left lying everywhere and all the time. Candles, clay bowls, cauldrons, crystals. Books and parchments, athames and knives, herbs and powders. This clutter-fetish had become the bone between them. Not that there weren’t other reasons for her to take issue with Gina, but most of those were small personality conflicts which they’d both learned to live with.
The woman’s habit of using the garden to cast circles in the middle of the night had gained the whispers of all their gossipy neighbors. So much so, the paperboy refused to collect the monthly payment unless a throng of his friends or his father accompanied him.
She answered the slurs with a smile, uninterested in the community’s attitude. Hell, she didn’t care if Gina worshiped God or the Devil as long as the house stayed clean. All right, a little sloppiness she could handle since she’d been lax in her own kitchen duties lately, but come on, this was frickin’ ridiculous.
She peeked at the few tumblers sitting on the counter next to the stove, her anger nearly boiling over as fear swerved to ire. “Gina, if this is some sick joke, you aren’t funny.”
A scant inch closer to sending her roommate packing, she picked up the Ouija Board, and the thick tome supposedly enchanted by some high priestess. Setting one atop the other, she plucked up the cauldron and placed the small dagger inside the brass vessel. She plucked the pointer from the mantel and dropped it in the cauldron too. “I’ll show you that my house is not a pigsty,” she warned, walking toward the loft and the crawl-space attic. “You want your stuff? Good luck finding it.”
A small smile crossed her lips. It was the perfect revenge. All of Gina’s excess was stored up there in mounds of open cardboard boxes procured from the Beer and Wine Store. Most of the boxes were packed only half full and would make a phenomenal hiding spot for this stuff. “I’m tired, Gina. Really tired of this.”
A spurt of frustration mingled with her anger. Half-expecting her cousin to jump out from a closet or something, Amber’s determination to teach the slob a lesson grew. She climbed the steps, prepared to find the most obscure place in the dark hole of the attic to stash the nonsense.
Working her way up the narrow staircase past the loft that was her bedroom, she turned on the toe of her sneaker to the corner gable and the access panel to the attic. The unstable armload of personal belongings teetered when Amber nearly caught the toe of her sneaker on the corner of the area rug.
Goosebumps rose on her arms and chill coursed the length of her. She peeked over her shoulder. Swearing she felt as if someone was watching her, she decided that once her task was done she’d high-tail it out of the house.
The wind rattled against the dormer windows. The icy air blasted over her when she finally pulled down the retractable stairs built into the access ladder. Cautiously, she stabilized her burden before climbing the wooden treads.
She was nearly at the top when the planchette and dagger suddenly began to spin in the brass pot, creating a horrifying scraping noise. “What the hell?” Terror shrieked across every nerve in her body. She shoved the items away from her, deciding to leave them just inside the attic.
Another, more powerful blast of icy air took the decision out of her hands by wrenching the items out of her arms. Thrust back by the force, she gripped the side of the ladder as if her life depended on it. Her long hair whipped around her face, half-blinding her, but she caught a glimpse of something that chilled her more than the wind had. The objects hadn’t fallen. Instead, they were suspended in mid-air, still twirling madly. She shook the hair from her eyes in time to see that their movements had become more erratic.
She ducked away as the heavy book narrowly missed her head. The sudden movement caused her to lose her balance. Wide-eyed, she watched as Gina’s working knife came at her.
* * * * *
February 1345, Nordic Greenland
Soren Elrickson eyed his quarry. The caribou trudged along the snow pack. With his arrow nocked and his arm steady, he waited for the beast to take one more step toward him.
Hunger for real food made him anxious but still, he bided his time. He willed the caribou to come a foot closer and a step truer on the path to his supper.
Pulling back on the bow string, he inhaled deeply. He held his breath as the caribou raised its head. On his exhale he’d release his breath and, at last, supper.
Gritting his teeth, he watched his meal startle then run off. “A curse upon me and the master of my demise,” he muttered. He rose to his full height.
Unlike many of his contemporaries on the island, he was still healthy in appearance, but only because he was a late addition to the struggling colony. His skills as a hunter also served him well.
‘Twas strange to gaze upon people who hailed from the same land as he but looked naught like their forefathers. His shock had quickly worn off, however, and then determination set in. He’d not become like them.
Nay, he’d fight for his health and not turn into the many in his tribe who were crippled from years of starvation and emaciated by disease. He’d remain one of the faint few who had the strength to tend their livestock. It disgusted him that so many of his tribe had resorted to literally living with their beasts of burden, or if the worst came about, they ate from the frozen carcasses of those animals not lucky enough to find shelter before a hearth.
He wasn’t that desperate.
Not yet, at least.
Not ever, he vowed. His fingers gripped his wooden long bow as if the item was his only weapon against the tough weather now bearing down on them.
The nagging rumble in his stomach reminded him of what he’d lost—food. Turning toward the cause of the caribou’s start, he scowled at the image set before him.
“Come on, Gina, this isn’t funny anymore.” The thorn bush’s captive ranted in a language vaguely familiar to him.
“Damn it all straight to hell! Will somebody help me?” Her voice rose a full octave in direct proportion to what, he assumed, was her frustration.
Soren chuckled at her predicament, knowing full well her struggles only trapped her more. Sobering, he scanned the scrub for signs of another human. Raids were not unheard of this far north. Though that was unlikely, especially as the weather had worsened over the past sennight. Still, they did happen. ‘Twas a matter of survival to steal from those who had more than you did.
He inspected the ground with a slash of his gaze over the pristine snow. Naught. Not even the tracks of a hare dented the snow. Assured she was alone, he heaved a sigh. “What do you here?” he asked, pulling his arrow from the bowstring with a soft thunk of the sinew snapping back. He returned it to the quiver laying across his back, and then looped his long bow over his shoulder. “Woman, I asked you a question.”
Her confused expression deepened his scowl. “Where are you from?” he demanded. For certain, she dressed like no woman he’d met before. Her strange leggings were made from cloth foreign to him. The loose-weave tunic impaled with spiny twigs carried an unrecognizable knit pattern. From what plant the maker had gained the vibrant hue of purple, he’d no idea.
A deep, guttural growl escaped his throat when she continued to stare at him with frightened eyes. What did she think he planned to do? To practice his skill with a bow and arrow while she played his target?
Not in his seven and a score years of life had he harmed a woman, he would not start now.
“Are you mute?” he asked harshly while she slid from the sweater ensnared in the bush only to tangle her hair all the more. ‘Twould be a pity to cut her long, sable locks, but necessary if they were to make the village before nightfall.
Walking forward, his boots crunching through the thin coating of ice to find traction in the snow, Soren took her in. She was a true beauty. He ignored her strange chemise, but focused on the tight buds of her hardened nipples clearly visible through the thin fabric. For a change, his brain was not concerned with the gnawing ache in his stomach but a different hunger, a base need. The sensation of his manhood filling the crotch of his chauces brought a smile to his face. He could almost feel her soft skin beneath his hands and hear her tiny gasps of pleasure in his ears. His gaze narrowed on her when he imagined her legs clinging to him while he drove into her. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders when he brought her pleasure.
Yes. He might have lost supper, but he’d found her, which in his opinion was nearly as good.
She was a woman not so weak with starvation or stoop-shouldered from disease that he could bed her without fear of breaking her in two.
According to their laws and since he’d found her, she belonged to him—as his slave.
Recognizing that letting her freeze to death was not in his best interest, he completed his trek. His bone-handled hunting knife was in his hand before she could tangle herself more. Five flicks of the blade later, she was free. Rescuing her thick woven tunic with a snap of his wrist, he held it out for her. “Dress yourself,” he commanded her in a tone that brooked no disagreement.
Soren whistled for his horse. The shrill shriek rode the tidal wave of gusts battering the already barren land. “Come,” he commanded her.
“What the fuck is going on?”
“Come,” he repeated. He inspected her from the top of her dark-haired head to the tips of her odd footwear. Then, critically inspecting the few words she’d spoken to him, he took in where he’d found her and the fact she’d not left any prints in the snow.
His brain worked through the scenario again and again. “Join me,” he said in another language. The words were troublesome on his tongue, but the events of the day coupled with her clothing and mysterious appearance was drawing him to a conclusion. One that boded ill for the young miss standing afore him.
The wild tales of another young woman who had supposedly fallen from the sky were nay longer a fantastical jest. The realization took him aback.
It was Ginta’s owner who introduced them. Intrigued by her wild tales of a mythical place called America, spoken in her lilting Norse, he’d learned some of her language from his frequent visits to their home, and more when she entertained the visitors who took freely of Frederick’s hospitality.
The tales the woman could spin kept her in good graces with the tribal elders. Like all Norse, they enjoyed a yarn and then some. Yet her predictions that the Greenland colonies were doomed to fail made him even more concerned about his tribe’s future.
Soren threw a glance over his shoulder. Seeing his slave still standing like a shaking statue, he sighed. She hadn’t sprouted from the earth, he informed himself, so he tested a theory and spoke in Ginta’s tongue again. “Either come with me or freeze,” he told her plainly. “You will not survive long out here.”
“You speak English?”
“I speak Ginta’s tongue,” he told her, trying to interpret her meaning. ‘Twas proving tedious. She spoke quickly and the few words he could catch held a very different accent from the woman he’d come to call friend. “I know of the Britons.”
His suspicions grew when her chattering teeth cracked into a smile. “They are my enemy.”
“Oh, I’m not British. I’m American.”
“I know another of your kind,” Soren delivered the truth to her in a stilted voice. “She is very old.”
“Okay. So you’ll take me to this woman?”
“I will not.”
“Because you are mine.”
“Um...” She faltered. She watched mount move toward them. Scrubbing her hands up and down her arms, she took the last few paces separating them.
“Hey,” she squawked when he picked her up and set her on the saddle. Somewhere between leaving the ground and sitting astride the monstrous horse she grabbed his shoulders. Soren scowled at his body’s reaction to the innocent touch. The tingle shooting down his shoulders hardened his cock.
“Could you warn me before you get all macho again?” she snapped.
“I will do as I wish,” he said, gaining the saddle in a single fluid move. He arranged his cloak around her, shifted her so she sat closer to his body, then gathered the reins. He prodded his mount into a walk.
“That feels wonderful,” she commented lazily. “Thank you...” She paused. “I’m sorry, I don’t know your name. I’m Amber.”
She tipped her face up to stare at him. He was entranced by her bold, brown gaze. His fingers itched to weave into the silken strands of her hair and claim her mouth.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“I am Soren Elrickson. You will call me Master.”