For the next week, Magnus threw himself into the list of tasks Kendra had mentioned, as well as some she had not. He wasn’t sure why he did it. He knew where she had hidden his property, and she had even offered it back to him more than once, but he’d ignored her.
Perhaps because it gave him a reason to stay, and he needed the excuse. It didn’t matter to him that she no longer cared for him. By all rights, she should never have wanted him in the first place. His family were responsible for stealing her from her homeland, stripping her of her honour and dignity. The fact that she had once come willingly to him made no sense.
The sweet aroma of a venison stew wrapped around him as he entered the cabin—a delicious blanket of scent only improved by the sight of Kendra humming to herself as she ladled the meal into dishes and set them down on the table. ‘Nattmal is ready,’ she said proudly, as she placed a platter of steaming bread in the centre. ‘Enjoy the mead…it’s the last of it.’
He frowned as he took his seat. ‘You need more supplies.’
‘The spring water from the mountain is delicious, and I can melt fresh snow when the weather gets bad.’
‘But you are feeding two people instead of one.’
‘Yes, but you have done so much to help me. The roof is repaired, my firewood is fully stacked, and you even hunted that deer for me. I have nothing to complain about,’ Kendra said cheerfully, ladling an extra portion of stew into his bowl. ‘I will manage, so please eat, you deserve it after working so hard.’ He let her, simply because it gave her joy to watch him eat.
‘But what about when the midwife comes to live with you? Will she not expect payment? Do you need silver?’
Kendra shrugged, and to his relief she didn’t look worried. ‘Gyda is a good woman. I gave her Heimdall’s silver brooch, and promised her half the fur while she’s here…and now that you have fixed the traps, I should catch enough meat to last us.’
‘That is not enough.’ Magnus sighed as he tore off a large chunk of the bread and dipped it into the rich gravy. ‘I am glad I asked Torben to send up supplies. Otherwise, I would feel guilty about enjoying this. They should arrive tomorrow.’
‘What?’ she gasped.
He ignored the horrified look in her eyes. ‘I said I would pay you Heimdall’s wergild…after seeing what you needed. I thought it best to save you a trip to the market, and send what you needed directly. No dog though—you’ll have to wait for that. It’s just a few things, including some fresh clothes for myself—it is getting cold, and I can’t continue to walk around here bare-chested, no matter how much you like it.’ He pretended to shiver, covering his chest with his hands as if he were a blushing maiden. ‘I have my reputation to consider.’
She laughed, her grey eyes bright with amusement. ‘When have you ever cared about your reputation?’
‘This week, when I realised you thought badly of me,’ he said softly, before taking a large sip of his mead. He wished he could drown in it, and forget every bad thing he had done.
No such luck. Kendra barely has enough to get a rat drunk!
He set down his drink, and when reached for more bread, Kendra’s hand covered his and squeezed it gently. ‘I do understand why you said it. I… It’s not what I want.’
I am not what she wants.
It almost made him laugh. He was the son of a Jarl—everything should come easily to him, either by right or by sword. But not Kendra. He could not buy her, in the same way that he could not own the sky or the sea.
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