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“Be still woman and no harm will befall you.” Rolf loosened his hold, but instantly tightened his grip when, with another string of abuse from her tongue, she tried to escape. There would be no escape for her—he fully intended to keep this prize as his own.
His men now laughed and cheered, their words abusive, as befitted a victorious warrior. “Let us now take the other women,” one cried, waving his sword above his head, while Rolf thanked his gods that his men dared not make a move without his consent.
When Rolf pressed his mouth against Brigid's ear, she squirmed away, but relentlessly he held her fast. “Tell your womenfolk to come out willingly and no harm will come to them this night,” he said, taking the opportunity to taste her skin before she pulled away, twisting her neck aside. Her scent filled his nostrils. She smelled of bracken, lavender, but mostly female. His body reacted instantly, and she froze like a wild animal that knew it was in the sights of its hunter.
“You think they will believe that any more than I do?” she hissed, a tremble in her voice. “They have probably already taken their own lives.”
“And the lives of their children?” Rolf knew very well that Celtic women valued the lives of their children as much as any Norse mother did. Perhaps the virgins might be tempted to end their lives rather than submit to his Norse warriors, but he doubted a mother would leave her children undefended.
When he moved his arms until one hand rested beneath the soft swell of her breast, she spat another Celtic word at him. Rolf swallowed hard and closed his eyes at the rush of sensation surging through his blood. In all his life no woman had ever caused such a reaction. Usually he took what the willing females of his clan offered and shared the spoils of victory with his men.
But this was different. This woman would be shared with no man—he would kill them before they set a hand on her. He wanted this woman to succumb willingly. If it took him until his dying breath, he would make her his own.
When she kicked at the front of his lower leg, it caught him so off guard that he almost toppled sideways, but he held her fast and at the last moment righted himself. “Do that again and I will show you no mercy,” he lied.
“I will fight you to my last breath.” With that fervent vow, she twisted away from him and scratched at his arms. His clothing protected him from her nails, the sturdy fabric of his over shirt covering him to his wrists. Doubtless, the chains of his armour were hurting her tender skin, and his sword would also be pressing into her side.
Relaxing his hold, while still ensuring she could not escape, Rolf whispered, “Why fight?” His men were now shifting restlessly, while brandishing their weapons and mumbling curses, and Rolf knew he must do something—and quickly. “Accept your fate. Tell your clanswomen to come out peaceably and none will be harmed this night. We have no reason to fight you or harm your children.”
She made a small sound of derision before muttering, “You have already harmed us by taking away my father and our brothers and kin.” The forlorn note in her voice made him want to console her.
But even if he wanted to, Rolf knew that he must not show this woman tenderness in front of his fighting men. “We are men; it is our way to fight. Your men knew this fact also and fought valiantly. And be warned, my men will take what is rightfully theirs if you do not order your women to come out now. I am sure none wish to die, and you will find that Norsemen are not wicked.” Some were, but he was not about to admit to that. The other Celtic women must take what was their fate and make the best of it.