Two blissful days and nights passed. They made love and tried their best to ignore the approaching farewell. But after two days spent mostly in bed, the time came to say goodbye.
They had delayed it once already, making love soon after finishing their morning meal. But even as they lay together, their limbs entwined, a heavy silence fell upon them like a storm cloud. Her back was pressed against Magnus, his arms encircling her waist and pillowing her head. Idly his palm stroked softly over her hip and then down to her swollen belly. It seemed as if it had grown twice the size since his arrival, as if to mock her earlier lie.
‘Is the babe mine?’ The question was asked without censor or accusation, but softly, like a hesitant kiss against her neck. A plea for honesty that she could no longer refuse.
Kendra’s chest tightened, and then with a heavy exhale she answered, ‘Yes.’
The palm of his hand pressed ever so gently against her skin, as if he were patting their child’s head in greeting, and then he rose from the bed. She turned back to look at him, but he was sat on the edge of the bed, his shoulders slumped and his head low—whether from relief or disappointment she couldn’t be sure.
Gathering the blanket close to her body as if it could protect them both from what was to come, she shuffled closer. ‘Please…’ she begged, her voice a broken whisper, ‘your father will make us slaves again!’
‘He will not!’
‘He will know I lied! You cannot acknowledge us. Please, Magnus, for the sake of our child! Tell no one the truth!’
He did not turn to face her, but his shoulders flexed as if a great burden had been placed upon them and he was struggling to hold it. ‘Could you learn to love me? I swear I will make you happy.’
Her heart felt as if it would burst from longing, but she knew what she had to say. ‘I am sorry…’ If she told him that she loved him, she would be trapped, he would take her as his thrall, and even if he didn’t and she remained free, it would make no difference. She would still have to watch as he eventually married another, because that’s what sons of Jarls did: they married Norse women…not a Saxon thrall who had never been anything more than a peasant to begin with. ‘I could never be happy with you…I am sorry.’
He rose and walked over to her stores. She gasped when he moved the sack of oats and revealed the necklace and arm ring beneath. Tears welled in her eyes. ‘You knew where they were? All this time?’
Picking up both pieces of jewellery, he donned the arm ring and then walked back to sit beside her on the bed. Then, gathering her hands in his, he placed the necklace in her palm. ‘Wear it, or sell it. Whatever you wish.’
Then he rose from the bed and left.
Kendra managed to stop herself from crying out by burying her face in the blankets while she wept.
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