The two men were still talking as Kendra walked into the woods to check her trap.
She cursed when she saw it. The old trap was broken—an animal had taken her dwindling bait and escaped, leaving the cage empty. Usually, it would not have bothered her—she had been meaning to repair it for some time. But after her earlier scare with Torben, the sight of one more thing that required fixing broke her.
I can’t keep him here forever.
She sank down on a nearby tree root, her volatile emotions overpowering her. The tears fell silently at first, and then became louder as she helplessly wept, not only for herself, but also for the babe in her belly that would never know a life of ease.
Her life had never been as she’d hoped. Her father had left when she was young, and her mother had struggled for years until she’d been too weak to work. In a way, it was a blessing that she’d died before the arrival of Vikings. Kendra doubted she would have survived the attack or enslavement, and it had proved to Kendra that she could rely on no one but herself.
Except she was so tired of relying on herself. Letting the tears fall, she allowed herself a moment to wallow in her misery.
A moment later a worried-looking Magnus entered the trees. When he saw her slumped on a tree root he began to run, leaping over fallen branches and ferns to reach her.
She hurried to apologise. ‘I am sorry, Magnus! I should not have taken them from you. I will return them—you do not need to stay! I never should have—’
‘Shhh,’ he urged, kneeling in front of her. He wrapped his arms around her trembling shoulders and pulled her into a warm embrace. ‘Torben has gone…this is between us. No one else need know of our bargain.’
‘I did not mean to do it…’ She struggled for breath, to find the words to explain why she had deceived him…why she still deceived him. ‘I was afraid, and I was…lonely.’
It was a confession, not only for why she had taken his things, but as an explanation for why she had gone to him that night. She had risked it all, simply to know what it would feel like to be with him. To sleep with the man she had loved from afar for years, and to know true happiness…just once.
But like all rash decisions, she had lived to regret it.
‘Shhh,’ he repeated, kissing the top of her head. ‘I know. But I am here now—for as long as you wish, and everything will be well.’
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