Kirsten didn't know what to think about the kiss between them, but it was not easily forgotten. She should have shoved Jorund away, for she wasn't the sort of woman to kiss just anyone. Yet, she could not stop thinking about the softness of his mouth or the temptation of desire. He hadn't asked permission but had claimed what he wanted. There was no doubting that he wanted her. The question was her own response. She had been shaken by the kiss, for she'd never expected to feel such a rush of sensation. Jorund was a greater danger than she'd imagined—not because he had intimidated her, but because he had evoked emotions she hadn't expected.
He didn't seem at all sorry for it—to the contrary, he looked as if he wanted to kiss her again. With his body pressed close to hers, she was torn by the uncertain feelings. For a short time, they watched the ships arriving along the harbor. Some of the smaller ships remained so close to shore, the men waded through the water, leaving their slaves to guard the vessel.
"I don't trust them," she ventured. "They have too many weapons."
"They do," he agreed. "We will tell Sigurd and the others what we have seen." He led her out from the rocks, keeping low as they emerged from hiding. With her hand in his, he guided her back to the road leading to Maerr. Her palm was cold, and she was grateful for the warmth of his grasp.
They kept their pace swift, but as they drew closer, she started to question what had happened between them. She needed to understand why he had done this. "Jorund, why did you kiss me? We hardly know each other."
He reached out to touch her chin. "Alarr hurt your feelings and your heart. You deserved more than that."
His words unsettled her, and she didn't know how to answer. But she knew better than to believe that there could be anything between them. "You're going back to the north after this, aren't you?"
He nodded solemnly. "I will have my vengeance. Even at the cost of my own life."
Her hand tightened upon his, before she released it. It was a silent understanding that the kiss had been a fleeting moment of comfort, that was all.
"I'll speak to Sigurd," he said. "Go back to your brother's house and bolt the door. Let no one inside and keep your weapons near."
Kirsten understood that Jorund was trying to protect her. And yet, she had no desire to remain behind closed doors, hiding like a coward. She entered her brother's dwelling and went to find weapons. The ships might have brought wedding guests, but if they had not, she intended to be fully armed.
She strapped a dagger and sheath to her thigh, tying the leather tight. Then she lowered her skirt and reached for a second dagger. This one, she intended to wear in open sight, as a warning to any man who tried to threaten her.
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