Happy Wednesday boys and girls. I’m starting a new feature called First Encounters. Every month I’ll spotlight first meetings between heroes and heroines from an array of talented authors. Do you like high-spirited debutants? The girl next door? Women unafraid to pick up a sword? Alpha males with big hearts? Vikings? Highlanders? Cowboys? Whatever your taste, first encounters can be sweet, steamy, shocking, or even uneventful. Regardless, I’m drawn to this part of a story… How about you?
Please welcome romance authors Gina Conkle and Ally Broadfield.
Author Gina Conkle knows how to write Vikings… Here’s a first encounter from Norse Jewel…
“What happened to that one?” Hakan asked about her.
A flush of warmth poured through Helena, alert to his
attention. She stiffened and couldn’t look higher than the
chieftain’s silver armbands, where a blood-eyed beast carved in
silver winked at her, a trick of morning light’s reflection.
“An unfortunate mishap.” Magnuson shrugged a massive
shoulder under his bearskin pelt. “One of my men…she fought
him, his knife slipped, caught her jaw…” The Dane slid his finger
from jaw to ear, mimicking her wound. “…but, if ‘tis old you want,
come this way.”
The chieftain turned his back on her.
Helena dropped her forehead to her knees. If she met him as
a freewoman, would he have lingered? Or asked her name? The
unbidden questions faded as the overbearing Magnuson spoke,
and the men moved away. She scolded herself for her lack of
courage in failing to meet the Norseman’s stare. Was her cheek
truly awful? Her fingers gingerly tested the scab.
“Stop,” she whispered and lowered her hands.
Beside her, Sestra greeted a be-ringed Castilian merchant,
whose rich robes boasted silken tassels. Near the Dane’s camp,
rough warriors emerged from a tavern. Their crude jests abraded
Greater is the need to flee this place than feel sorry for myself.
Her stomach growled and Helena checked the bread nestled
in her lap; best she ration the fare. Her fingers pulled a bite-sized
morsel from the loaf, as Magnuson’s rumbling voice played in the
“Older, quiet…women who know their place…” He extolled
the virtues of the poor woman whose name he didn’t know. “…
give you a good day’s work.”
Half listening to his merchant’s pitch, she rolled her eyes. So
disgusted was she, Helena almost missed a rarity. But she didn’t.
Her hand stopped mid-way to her mouth.
The chieftain, the one called Hakan, spoke gently to the older
The slave, huddled and silent on the ground, failed to respond.
He knelt in the dirt and touched the woman’s shoulder with
care—an odd thing for a warrior. The captive had been too far
away for Helena to render aid when the Danes first brought her
to camp. Yet, she was close enough to see that she stayed curled in
a tight ball, sometimes rocking and moaning.
Drawn to the scene before her, Helena’s gaze followed the
Norseman’s large hands as he cradled the silent woman’s head.
She leaned forward, straining against her tether for a better look.
He could have been holding a newborn babe, so tender was he.
Then, his thumb cautiously brushed open the corner of the thrall’s
“No tongue?” His hard look shot accusation at Magnuson.
“You’re trying to sell a woman who cannot talk.”
“Not always a bad thing.” The Dane shrugged at his weak jest.
“Not when I need her to speak Frankish.”
“She is the oldest here.” Magnuson waved his hands over the
array of women.
The chieftain stood up and silenced Magnuson with a
thunderous glare. He did not draw his sword as other affronted
warriors might have done. Instead, he opened his coin pouch and
counted a few gold pieces.
“For the goats and sheep already on my ship.”
The Dane closed thick fingers around the coins dropped in his
hand and joined the Bear Man and the Castilian, both charmed
by Sestra. The whole camp, a blend of voices and laughter, played
background noise to the interest threading from Helena to the
chieftain. All faded to a hum. Her bread slid to the ground,
forgotten. She sat up taller, studying the Norseman as his long
fingers retied his coin pouch.
Embers of attraction flared for the unusual warrior. He moved
with fluid ease for one so large. Or was it simply his care with the
older woman that made him appealing? One could even call him
kind. Hope of finding strength and kindness in one man poured a
balm on her soul, and left her curious for more.
Her guarded survey inched upward to his broad shoulders,
the sort that promised safety and protection. ‘Twas an odd notion
about a man who came solely to purchase a woman for labor.
Helena’s lips twitched at such foolishness, and her gaze drifted
higher to a square jaw and firm lips, then higher still.
Ice-blue eyes stared back.
A strange enchantment mesmerized her. She had once
crossed paths with a lone wolf in the forest near home. Such a
beast would devour the weak. To her relief, that wolf had turned
and disappeared. Though dangerous, she willed this two-legged
wolf closer. The price was tension coiling inside her.
Like a predator measuring prey, the Norseman’s hard stare
traced her frame, lingering at the curve of her hips. Peculiar
warmth poured through her as she stared back. He did not leer as
other men had, but Helena recognized male interest.
Sunlight broke through mist, bouncing off the sword strapped
across his back. A large, red stone glimmered from the hilt.
Something of a smile crossed her face. This chieftain’s clothes
were faded and well-used, but his armbands and sword were
finely crafted with matching designs and matching red stones.
The chieftain scowled and crossed his arms.
Her smile wilted. Was she over-bold? Her manner was nothing
like Sestra’s. Helena swallowed hard and licked her lips, working
to put her smattering of Norse words to work.
“Smiles…you do not like,” she said in soft, faltering Norse.
“A woman’s false smiles, no.” His voice was deep and smooth
to her ears. “You speak Norse.”
“Some, but I smile…friendliness only.” She cleared her throat
and dared to say, “I seek freedom…nothing more.”
The chieftain’s head tipped with interest. “Strange words for
“I wasn’t born to this.” She held her head high, ignoring that
she sat in dirt at his feet.
A light flashed behind the Norseman’s eyes. He loosened his
stance, and Helena knew she had penetrated some unseen shield,
drawing him closer.
“Status of birth matters little. How you live each day…that’s
your true measure.”
A breeze blew thick blonde hair that fell past his shoulders.
The stoic chieftain stood like a rock, staring at her with unnerving
intensity. A kernel of interest sprouted betwixt them, but she
needed to nurse this cagey conversation. Her hair blew across her
face, a momentary mask.
“A warrior who speaks like a…” She paused, searching for
the right word. “…a wise man…’tis rare.”
“Fools don’t live long.”
Helena motioned to his belt. “Marks of a warrior?”
“I have…been places.”
“I have not.” Her bound hands tapped her chest. “But, you
need one who speaks—”
Suddenly, wild bellows cut her short. The chieftain pivoted,
alert and ready, facing the clamor. Danes emerged from red-striped
tents, cheering and pointing at a dark rider who came from
the forest. Iron battle rings clanked across the horse’s chest, a
nerve chilling noise to raise the dead. The rider’s bulky frame and
bald head were familiar. Helena’s heart pounded hard and fast
long before Magnuson raised his fist and roared her worst fear.
Cold flushes gripped her as the old woman’s singsong words
played in her head.
Night’s when he’ll get revenge.
Staring at the menacing warrior, Helena’s hands squeezed
together as a worried supplicant. She would beg this Norseman,
this one called Hakan, to take her. He was her only hope.
When she turned around, the chieftain was gone.
Gina’s a lover of history, books and romance, which makes the perfect recipe for historical romance writer. Her passion for castles and old places (the older and moldier the better!) means interesting family vacations. Good thing her husband and two sons share similar passions, except for romance…that’s where she gets the eye roll. When not visiting fascinating places, she can be found in southern California delving into the latest adventures of organic gardening and serving as chief taxi driver.
Where to find the book…
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1lurENx
Where to find Gina…
Next up, the lovely Ally Broadfield and her latest release, Just a Kiss (such an elegant cover)….