Bear of the Midnight Sun by Holly Bargo - Chapter 2 Excerpt
Miranda inhaled the faint, fresh scent of bleach and rubbed her cheek against the smooth linen beneath her cheek. Awareness seeped in slowly, bringing with it a certain knowledge that she wasn't supposed to be in bed. She inhaled and realized the room didn't smell like her hotel room, which had a faint odor of used cat litter. She’d decided that morning she’d never again stay at that particular hotel.
Thus far, Las Vegas hadn’t impressed her. It was crowded, taw-dry, and artificial. She longed for the quiet of her back yard where flowers bloomed, birds chirped, and occasionally the donkey down the road brayed.
No, she wasn’t in her hotel room. And the air didn’t have that antiseptic-and-vomit smell of a hospital.
Memory returned with a gasp of horror. She bolted upright, eyes wide open with terror. She launched herself toward the open door and never made it. A steely arm hooked around her middle and drew her against a newly familiar body.
“Let me go!” Miranda shouted.
“Shhh,” Sindre soothed and wrapped his other arm around her as she thrashed against his hold. She could not overpower his size and strength, yet he took care not to harm her.
“Shhh,” he repeated.
“Don’t shush me! Let me go!”
“I can’t,” he said.
“You mean you won’t,” she retorted in a bitter tone as her struggles subsided. She felt him move behind her, felt the press of his lips against her mussed hair.
“I can’t,” he reiterated. “You’re mine and I am yours.”
“Possibly,” he acknowledged in a mild tone. “If I release you, will you bolt?”
Miranda wanted to answer honestly, but wasn’t that stupid. She wanted to lie, but knew he wouldn’t believe her. Hell, she wouldn't believe herself either. So, she pressed her lips together in a thin, firm line and said nothing.
“I suppose that wasn’t a very smart question,” he admitted with a small chuckle. “Now I know how Atlas felt when he saw his Chloe.”
“Who?” she blurted.
“And old acquaintance,” Sindre dismissed the question. “Of course you’ll run.”
He shifted his hold on her and scooped her up in his arms. She yelped and started struggling again with as little effect as before.
“Stop thrashing about or I won’t be responsible for how I sub-due you,” he warned. She immediately went limp, though he felt the heat of her enraged glare. “Good girl.”
“This is illegal,” she snarled.
“What? Carrying you? You’re my wife. Tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people watched our wedding this morning.” He carried her from the bedroom to the sofa in the small suite.
“You coerced me.”
“A little.” He sat down and positioned his bride more comfortably on his lap, anchoring her against his body with the light, immovable pressure of one big hand. He reached over and plucked her glasses from a small table adjacent to the chair and held them in front of her. With a mutinous expression, she accepted the offering and settled her spectacles in place. Somehow it was better to see clearly, even when the vision offended her.
“A little?” she shrieked. He winced at the shrill tone piercing his ear drums. “I want an annulment now!”
“Oh, we won’t need an annulment,” he promised her, his voice a deep purr that sent shivers down her spine.
“Please don’t rape me,” her voice went weak and hoarse with dread.
Her terror pinched his conscience. “I have no intention of doing anything to harm you.”
She jutted her chin, because that sounded like a vow from a man she absolutely, positively did not trust.
“Listen to me.”
“I can hardly do anything else,” she muttered.
He sighed, the warm breath ruffling the fine hairs at the back of her neck. “You’re lucky I’m civilized.”
She snorted in utter disbelief. He supposed he couldn’t blame her.
“Let me tell you a story,” Sindre began, having decided to bare all and begin their shared life with honesty. He waited for her to say something, but Miranda held her silence. “There are beings in this world who are not quite human.”
“Oh, God, you think you’re a vampire?” she sneered.
“Hardly,” came the repressive retort. “Be quiet and let me speak.”
She snorted again.
“Twelve hundred years ago, the world was a much different place. Men still believed in magic and many still worshipped the old gods, especially in the northern climes where Christian missionaries had yet to gain a foothold.”
He paused, but she held her silence.
“That is the world in which I grew up: the so-called Viking Age. I spent my days as a young man sailing dragon ships, raiding seaside and riverfront villages, and even conducting a little trade with those cities too large for reivers to conquer. I carried a sword fashioned by the Ulfbehrt forge and wore leather, coarse, heavy linen, and chain maille.”
He paused again. Miranda said nothing, although the stiffness in her posture told him she most certainly did not believe a single word he said. He continued anyway.
“Yes, I’ll say it: I was a Viking, although my people never used that term. I watched Erik the Red set sail across the ocean and even traveled with Leif Erikson for a few years. I watched the relentless advance of the Christians and the disappearance of the old ways and the old gods. I served Norway, for a warrior’s honor is found in noble service and my people were warriors to the core. Even the women.”