Tuesday, March 17, 2015

~~Happy Release Day~~ The Warlord's Wife by Sandra Lake

Sandra Lake
The Warlord’s Wife (Sons of the North #1)


A stunning historical romance from debut author Sandra Lake transports readers to 12th century Sweden, where a powerful Viking lord will discover a fierce heart cannot be taken by mere force.

Lida was married to the love of her life for just two months when she became a widow. Pregnant and disowned by her late husband’s family for suspected infidelity, she was forced to return to her family in shame. Eight years later, uninterested in the prospect of finding another husband, she finds herself the unwilling object of a marriage contract with a powerful warlord. In a day, she is wed, bed, and put on a ship headed for Tronscar; an unknown icy stone and steel fortress.

Jarl Magnus is pleased to have taken a strong wife who, however stubborn she may be, will surely produce sons. However, he is less pleased with his wife’s additional baggage—a young daughter. But despite himself, Magnus falls for the daughter just as hard as the mother, and Lida’s heart is warmed to see the cold, serious Jarl move surprisingly fast into the role of stepfather.

When enemies attack Tronscar, Jarl Magnus’s nerves of steel waver, as the warrior fears his love for Lida will weaken him. But when his family is threatened, he’ll go to war to protect them, discovering along the way that they have the strength to protect themselves.

Excerpt 1 

Lida surveyed her lavish confine. Rare furs lay across the velvet canopy bed, a stack of plush white linen pillows at the head. Braziers and scented oil lamps flooded the chamber with sweet-smelling spice and soft golden light.
Heaven help her. She was alone, awaiting an unknown fate in a warlord’s private chamber.
How had she even gotten here? The day had passed in a rapid blur of disjointed events. Nothing felt real.
Closing her eyes, dread washed over her. Lying with Urho before they wed, blinded by her love, had never felt wrong. Lawfully wed to the cold jarl, by the bishop no less, she felt soiled. She had no affection for the jarl, no feeling for him, no knowledge of this stranger she had meet only this morn. Husband or naught, she was selling her womb to him for a name for her daughter and a farm. Is that not the description of a whore, placing a price on carnal acts?
She drew in a deep breath. It mattered not what happened to her now.
Fragrant rose petals, surely acquired from a distant shore, floated on the surface of the bath. She ran her fingers through the warm, inviting water. She did not fear the act of mating. At times, coupling with her husband had been splendid.
He would deposit his seed in her—it was naught but farming, and she was the field, he the farmer. Her head dropped forward, and she shivered.
She stripped off her clothing, climbed into the steaming water and closed her eyes.
Lida had never allowed herself to dream of more children. The good men in Turku had no interest in taking on the burden of another man’s child, not when so many maidens were available to start fresh.
She slid her hand down the flat planes of her stomach. Another babe? Katia loved her infant cousins, treating them almost as dolls. She would be a most attentive sister. Lida smiled, envisioning her sweet girl protectively holding her cousin in her little tight grip.
By Thor’s toes, this one might be a mistake. He should have searched longer. Her feminine powers had the ability to lead him to more trouble than she was worth. Vixens should be stirring. Wives should be serviceable, nothing more. He had been distracted with winning his argument, with taking what she said he could not have. Now that he had her, he questioned if he had picked correctly.
As he idly disrobed while he gazed upon her nakedness, his male member thickened. Her jewel-toned eyes flashed open. Bath water splashed on the floor as his skittish bride sat up and covered herself, clutching her knees into her chest. He stepped one foot into the water and she flew up, preparing to leap out.
“You will remain.”
“I would prefer not,” she replied softly. “I am finished—”
“Sit, my errant bride.” His wife would require a considerable amount of training.
“There is not room for two. I am sure you will be more—”
“Sit.” He captured her hand, tugging her down into the warm water.
She reclaimed a corner of his oval travel tub, which in fact he had designed for two. He stretched his legs out and was amused to see her stiffen as he tucked his feet under her soft rump. She no longer had the mettle to hold his stare.
Wiggling his toes to toy with her, he said, “Why bother with this virginal display? We both understand that producing a child requires that you have experience with a naked male. After seeing one, is it not all the same?” His bride snapped her eyes back up. He grinned with his small victory.
No, ’tis not the same at all! Lida wanted to shout at him, but bit her tongue hard instead. This massive warrior in front of her looked nothing like Urho. Her husband had been but a boy compared to this man. The jarl had a chest the size of a mighty bear. His arms were longer, thicker, and harder, and he had the belly of a Roman shield. He was not slim and nimble as her husband had been. In contrast, the jarl was pure brawn, no doubt molded from his cursed Norrland steel. Muscular limbs wrapped in bronzed skin were covered with soft golden hair.
Embarrassed and determined to be done with it, Lida emboldened her heart. “May I await upon you in your”—she swallowed hard—“bed, Jarl Magnus?”

Excerpt 2

“The jarl’s gift did not please you
?” Tero asked, changing the subject. He looked to her brown cloak.
“My cloak is in excellent repair and very warm,” Lida replied.
“In Tronscar, the white bear is the symbol of great authority, of your new, elevated position,” Tero said, his tone climbing higher with his brows. “The jarl killed that bear himself in expectation of his new bride.”
Her daughter twisted her face back and forth, listening to every word.
“Did he indeed?” Lida smiled for her daughter’s benefit. “How nice for him.”
“Mama, are you that big man’s bride?” her daughter asked, pointing over Lida’s shoulder. Chastising herself internally, Lida remembered that she had not explained anything to Katia, and her little ears were certain to be pricked by the word “bride.”
“Yes, my sweet,” Lida said, tucking her daughter’s hair behind her ear. “Last night your mama wed Jarl Magnus. He has promised to take extremely good care of us, as long as we have proper manners to him.”
Her daughter appeared confused. That made two of them. “You are not wed to my father anymore? He is in heaven so you can be a bride two times?”
“Yes, my love, that is right. It does not change my love for your father or the fact that you are his beautiful daughter. It simply means—well—that now we will make a new family with the jarl. Would you like to have a sister or brother one day?”
“Oh yes, Mama, please. Can we have a babe just like Layla? She is so pretty, Mama, and her fingers and toes are so small.” Katia wiggled with excitement.
“I will do my best, I promise you that.” Lida’s smiled was torn from her lips when she heard a grunt and turned to see the razor-sharp glare of the jarl, who had been standing inches behind her, holding the white fur cloak. How much of that had he just heard? Should she offer him an apology to defuse his anger? No—she had nothing to apologize for. She had said nothing wrong. She had spoken the truth as simply as she could for her child. “Are you hungry, Jarl Magnus? I am about to fetch Katia and myself some refreshment.”
“Nay.” The jarl stared at her brown cloak and tugged at the garmnet. “Did your father kill this bear?”
Lida’s cloak was as much a part of her identity as her coiled braids. ’Twas not the most beautiful garment, but it was hers, and wearing it brought her comfort and security. On the other hand, the bold, opulent white fur screamed out for attention and would draw the eye of anyone within a hundred yards.
“Nay, my father has never killed a bear. It was a gift.”
“From the Lylasku boy?” The jarl’s back shielded Katia from the battle of wills taking place.
“He was not a boy,” she whispered. “He was a man. A very brave man.” Her heart raced faster as he continued to touch her cloak, a snarl on his lips. She glared at him, sucking in a sharp breath. He untied the leather strap of the cloak. Lida held on.
In one clean jerk, the jarl ripped the cloak from her grasp. Callously flicking his wrist, he tossed her beloved cloak over the side of the ship.
Lida lunged after it, but a powerful hand clamped around her, subduing her completely.
Her cloak was gone. She could no longer see it floating on the surface in the ship’s wake.
The crushing reality of her grave mistake in wedding the warlord overwhelmed her instantly. Tears came to her eyes, and she felt that this could not be real. Yesterday, she had worked in her mother’s root garden. Today, she sailed away, most likely never to return to her homeland. This could only be a night terror. Her barbarian slave owner had tossed her cloak into the sea without a thought. What prevented him from tossing her over when she ceased to please him, or grew old and useless to him?
The heavier, silk-lined, white cloak came down around her shoulders, suffocating her. He tugged her hair out from under the collar, freeing it to lie on top, whipping her face in the wind.
She had wedded the devil incarnate. What kind of danger had she recklessly put her daughter in? Thoughtless, stupid, selfish cow, learning nothing from—
“Mama, it is so pretty and soft. You look like a princess.”
Nodding, Lida swallowed hard. She stroked Katia’s hair, trying to reassure her that all was well, that her mama’s heart was not at this moment ripped out of her chest and sinking to the bottom of a cold, black sea. Ha! Cold, black sea—sounds like the perfect description of the jarl of Norrland’s heart.
“Friherrinna, your refreshment.” Mikko appeared and offered a chalice of wine.
“Gratitude, Mikko, but I am no longer thirsty.” She turned to her daughter. “Katia, would you care for some milk?” Her daughter nodded. In a daze, she returned her attention to the steward. “I believe my mother sent some goat’s milk.”
“Right away, Friherrinna.”
To keep her eyes from watering, she blinked rapidly. “Many thanks, Mikko.”
“You said you were hungry,” the jarl said from over her shoulder.
“I have lost my appetite.”

About the Author:

Sandra Lake was raised in rural Canada and married her childhood sweetheart (who, like the heroes of her novels, is blond and on occasion shirtless). They are currently living happily-ever-after along with their musical sons and unruly husky.


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