She had never killed a man before. Kirsten was trembling with shock as Jorund caught her in his arms, holding her tightly. "You did well."
"I was so afraid." She gripped him close, burying her face in his chest. "I thought we both were going to die."
"I knew you had the courage to save yourself," he said. "You trained for this."
"Not long enough." She reached out to take his face between her hands. "I'm so glad you came back. I thought I would never see you again." Her heart was still pounding with fear and thankfulness that he had returned.
"Leaving you was a mistake," he admitted. He leaned down to kiss her, and she kissed him back, feeling so grateful that he was alive and whole. "I rode with the men because it was the reason why I had come to Maerr. I wanted vengeance for my family. But after I left, all I could think of was you. I realized that fighting the raiders would never bring back my family, nor seal up the wounds inside me." He took her hands and brought them to his heart. "But you could, Kirsten. When I'm with you, I don't think of the pain of losing them."
"Stay with me," she said. Though she understood that it would take time for him to accept the loss, it was easier to endure it when they were together. She reached up to wind her arms around his neck. "I don't want you to leave again."
His hands moved around her waist. "This isn't over yet, Kirsten. There will be more fighting as Sigurd's sons try to find out who killed their father."
"But we can stay and help them rebuild Maerr," she murmured. "They will need fighters now, more than ever."
Jorund nodded. "They will need all of us." He kissed her again, and she surrendered to the warmth of his mouth on hers. She welcomed his touch, wanting so badly to be with him again. Though she had never imagined she could feel this way for another man, there was a sense of gratitude and hope. She was falling in love with Jorund, and the revelation brought only joy.
"I will be at your side," she promised. "If you wish it."
"I do." He retrieved his weapon and gave her the other sword. Although the tribe had faced devastating losses, they could count themselves among the survivors. The invaders were now gone, and despite the bloodshed, they would do what they could to help the wounded.
He kept her hand in his as they walked, and she squeezed his palm. Whatever came next, they would face it together.
"Hold it like this," Jorund instructed his daughter, Lina. The wooden sword he had carved was still heavy for her, but she gripped it with a determined expression. Behind her stood his wife, smiling as he guided their child.
He had married Kirsten only a few moons after the attack. It had taken years for the kingdom of Maerr to return to its former state. As for himself, he had not returned to the north. There was nothing for him there, and he had a greater purpose here.
He had joined the fighters and had helped to rebuild the longhouses while Kirsten had aided the volva in tending the wounded. There had been a great deal of unrest and fighting, and Sigurd's sons had scattered in search of those who had caused the attack.
As for himself, he was content here with his wife and daughter. Kirsten was already expecting another child, and he was grateful to the gods for the blessings.
"She will be fierce," his wife predicted. "Like her father."
Jorund turned to her and his gaze narrowed. "More like her mother, I would say."
She laughed at that and took his hand while their daughter played with her sword. "I'll not argue with you there. But sometimes you like it when I am fierce."
He leaned in and claimed her mouth. "Every night, Kirsten." With that, she kissed him back, offering promises of what was to come.
And he could not be more thankful.
If you enjoyed The Viking's Redemption, find out what happens to each of the Sons of Sigurd in this new series by Michelle Willingham, Harper St. George, Michelle Styles, Jenni Fletcher and Terri Brisbin. Dive into Alarr's story in Stolen by the Viking by Michelle Willingham. Available now!
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