Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kiss of Temptation by Sandra Hill


Ivak Sigurdsson had led a lustful life, leaving a trail of broken hearts--and lives--in his wake. Of course, a man can only live that way for so long, and when a vengeful husband finally breaks through Ivak’s defenses, he is given a choice: die, or serve the archangel Michael and become a vangel.

A thousand years later, determined to prove his worth to Michael and finally gain reprieve, Ivak is successfully avoiding temptation...until he meets Gabrielle Sonnier. The sexy lawyer is just his type, and Ivak wastes no time in telling her so. But Gabrielle has bigger problems on her plate than a horny Viking. So Ivak has no choice but to help Gabrielle, and in doing so, they might both discover there are more tempting things in life than work or play...like love.


Author Info:

Sandra Hill is a graduate of Penn State and worked for more than 10 years as a features writer and education editor for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Writing about serious issues taught her the merits of seeking the lighter side of even the darkest stories. She is the wife of a stockbroker and the mother of four sons.

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Excerpt 

PROLOGUE
The Norselands, 850 a.d., where men…and life…were always hard…
Ivak Sigurdsson was an excessively lustsome man.
Ne’er would he deny that fact, nor bow his head in embarrassment. In truth, he’d well earned his far-renowned wordfame for virility. On his back. On his front. Standing. Sitting. On the bow and in the bowels of a longship. Behind the Saxon king’s throne. Deep in a cave. High in a tree. Under a bush. On a bed. In a cow byre. Once even with…well, never mind, that had been when he was very young and on a dare and another story entirely.
He liked women. Everything about them. Not just the sex bits. He liked their scent, the feel of their silky skin, the allure of their secrets, the sound of their sighs and moans, the taste of them. And women liked him, too. He wanted them all.
You could say lust was a sixth sense for Ivak. He was a Viking, after all.
He’d been twelve years old when, swaggering with over-confidence, he’d tried his dubious charms on his father’s eighth concubine who’d laughed herself into a weeping fit afore showing him exactly which hole he should aim for. Now, twenty years and at least two hundred bedmates later--he’d stopped counting after that incident in Hedeby-- there was naught he did not know about sex. Men came to him for advice all the time. Women, too
The cold Norse winds blew outside his keep now, but he and his comrades-in-arms were warm inside as they sat before one of the five hearth fires that ran through the center of his great hall at Thorstead. Their body heat was aided by the mead they were imbibing and the satiety that comes from having tupped more than the ale barrel, and it not yet eventide.
When bored and having no wars to fight, or any other time for that matter, taking an enthusiastic maid to the bed furs was always a worthwhile pastime. Leastways, it was for Ivak. You’d think his jaded appetites would have waned by now. Instead, he found himself wanting more and more. And the things he tried these days pushed even his sensibilities for decency…but not enough to stop him.
And, of course, when bored and having no wars to fight, men did what men did throughout time. Drank.
In fact, Esbe, the widow of one of his swordsmen, walked amongst them now, refilling their horns from a pottery pitcher. When she got to him, she smiled, a small, secretive smile that Ivak understood perfectly. Women told him that he had an aura about him…a presence, so to speak. By leaning against a wall just so, or merely staring at them through half-slitted eyes, or gods forbid, winking at them, he sent a silent message. Here was a man who knew things.
He smiled back at Esbe, who shared his bed furs on occasion, and watched appreciatively, along with every one of his men, as she walked away from them, hips swaying from side to side.
Another thing men did when bored and having no wars to fights, and especially when drinking, was talk about women.
“Tell me true, Ivak,” demanded Haakon the Horse, a name he’d been given because of a face so long he could lick the bottom of a bucket and still see over the rim, not because of other bodily attributes. Haakon was a master at swordplay if ever there was one, a soldier you’d want at your back in battle, but an irksome oaf when drukkinn, and he was halfway there already. “There must have been times when your lance failed to rise to the occasion. It happens to the best of men betimes.”
Ivak exchanged a quick glance with his best friend, Serk the Silent, who sat beside him on the bench. Serk, a man of few words, did not need to speak for Ivak to know that he was thinking: Here it comes!
Ivak tapped his chin with a forefinger, as if actually giving the query consideration. He could feel Serk shaking with silent laughter. “Nay, it never has, though there have been times I’ve had to take a vow of celibacy to give it a rest.” He cupped himself for emphasis.
“For how long?” scoffed Ingolf, his chief archer. A grin twitched at Ingolf’s hugely mustached upper lip, knowing when Ivak was about to pull a jest.
“Oh, a good long time. Two days at most,” Ivak admitted.
Everyone, except Haakon, found amusement in his jest, including Kugge, the young squire he’d been training of late. Gazing at Ivak in wonder, Kugge blurted out, “Did it hurt?”
“The celibacy or the excess?” Ivak asked, trying to keep a straight face.
A blush crept over Kugge’s still unwhiskered face as he sensed having made a fool of himself.
Ivak patted Kugge on the shoulder.
Haakon glared at him, his question not gaining the results he’d wanted…a fight. Ivak returned Haakon’s glare, his with a silent warning that Haakon thankfully heeded. Haakon stood, tossing his horn to the rushes, and stomped off, hopefully to sleep himself sober.
Ingolf took a long draught from his horn of ale, cleared his throat, and proclaimed with a chuckle, “To my mind, a man’s cock is like a brass urn.”
“Oh, good gods!” Ivak muttered.
“How true!” Serk encouraged Ingolf and nudged Ivak with an elbow to share in his mirth.
“Now, hear me out,” Ingolf said, stroking his mustache. “Everyone knows that brass needs polishing from time to time, and--”
“Mine is especially shiny these days since I got me a second wife,” one of the men contributed.
Ingolf scowled at the interruption and continued, “Of course, a one-handed rub will do to ease the throb, but best it is if the polishing is done in the moist folds of a female sheath’s choke hold.”
“I don’t understand,” Kugge said to Ivak.
“’Tis a mystery,” Ivak replied with dry humor.
Ingolf, who fashioned himself a master storyteller, was on a roll now. ‘Twas best to let him finish. “The thing about brass is that too much rubbing and it loses its luster. Even grows pits.” Ingolf pretended to shiver.
“Pits? Like a peach?” Kugge whispered.
“Nay. Like warts,” Ivak told the boy. “You do not want warts down there, believe you me.”
“Even worse,” Ingolf told Kugge, “tainted oil in the sheath can spoil all it touches. Remember that dockside whore in Jorvik.” The latter Ingolf addressed to the other men. “Now that was a woman with teeth down there.”
“She had a lot more than teeth,” Serk remarked, “as many men soon learned.”
“The difference, my friend, is that some cocks are solid gold.” Ivak motioned a hand downward.
The other men rolled their eyes and guffawed.
“Mine is solid silver,” Bjorn No-Teeth said, his lips twitching as he attempted to hide his gummy smile. “I’m thinking about having it…etched. Ha, ha, ha!”
Others offered their own self-assessments:
“Mine is ivory, smooth and sleek, and big as an elephant’s tusk betimes. Not that I have e’er seen an elephant.”
“Mine is a rock. A rock cock.”
“Mine is iron, like a lance. A loooong lance.”
“Holy Thor! Do not make me laugh anymore lest I piss my braies.”
Someone belched.
Someone else farted.
More bragging.
Ivak sighed with contentment. It was the way of men when they were alone with time to spare.
Their merriment was interrupted by the arrival of Ivak’s steward announcing Vadim, the slave trader from the Rus lands, who had come from Birka before circling back home. He would probably be the last one to make it through the fjords before they were frozen solid for winter.
Ivak and Serk left the others behind as they went out to the courtyard and beyond that to an outbuilding that usually housed fur pelts. It was empty now, the goods sent to market, and cold as a troll’s arse in a blizzard. He waved to a servant who quickly brought him and Serk fur-lined cloaks.
Vadim was a frequent visitor at Thorstead. As often as he dealt in human flesh, Vadim also traded in fine wines, spices, silks, and in Ivak’s case, the occasional sexual oddity…dried camel testicles, feathers, marble phalluses and such.
Serk joined the steward who was examining some of the wares on display in open sacks while Ivak, at Vadim’s urging, walked to the far end of the shed.
“Come, come, see what delights I have for you, Lord Sigurdsson.”
Ivak was no lord, and he recognized the obsequiousness of the title dripping from the Russian’s lips, but it wasn’t worth the bother of correcting him. “So, show me the delights.”
Three men were roped together against one wall. Nothing delightful here. An elderly man that Vadim identified as a farmer from the Balkans. With the rocky landscape at Thorstead, Ivak had no need of a farmer and certainly not a graybeard. Next was a boyling with no apparent skills; Ivak passed on him, as well. The third was a young man that Ivak did want…a blacksmith’s apprentice. He and Vadim agreed on a price, although Ivak did not like the angry exchange of words in an undertone between this last man and Vadim that the trader dismissed as of no importance.
Next came the best part. The delight part. The women. Ivak always enjoyed checking over new female slaves. Serk, who had finished examining the household wares, joined him.
The five women were not restrained, but they were shivering with cold, or mayhap a bit of fear, not knowing that Ivak would be a fair master. They shivered even more when Vadim motioned for them to disrobe. While Ivak pitied them this temporary chill, he was not about to buy a piece of property without full disclosure. Once he’d purchased a prettily clothed slave in Jorvik only to find she had oozing pustules covering her back, from her neck to her thighs.
“I see several you would like,” Serk whispered at his side.
Ivak agreed, a certain part of his body already rising in anticipation.
The first was clearly pregnant, normally a condition that would preclude his purchase—there were enough bratlings running about the estate, including some of his own--but he had a comrade-in-arms who had a particular taste for sex with breeding women; so, he motioned for her to join the young blacksmith at the other end. With an appreciative nod of thanks at her good fortune, she quickly pulled on her robe and drew a threadbare blanket over her shoulders.
“This one is a Saxon, a little long in the tooth, but an excellent cook,” Vadim said.
“I already have a cook,” Ivak demurred.
“Ah, but does she make oat cakes light as a feather and mead fit fer the gods?” the heavy woman of middle years, whose sagging breasts reached almost to her waist, asked in Saxon English. The Norse and Saxon languages were similar and could be understood to some extent by either. She’d obviously got the meaning of his remark.
Ivak liked a person with gumption, male or female, and he grinned, ordering her to join the other two. Besides, a Viking could never have enough good mead.
All the thrall bodies were malodorous from lack of bathing…for months, no doubt…but this next one—an attractive woman of thirty or so years--had a particular odor that Ivak associated with diseased whores. He gave Vadim a disapproving scowl and moved to the fourth woman.
“This one is a virgin,” Vadim said. “Pure as new snow. And a skilled weaver.”
Ivak arched a brow with skepticism as he circled the shivering female who had seen at least twenty winters. He doubted very much that a female slave could remain intact for that many years. Still, she would be a welcome diversion. New meat for jaded palates. Not to mention, he had lost a weaver this past summer to the childbirth fever. He nodded his acceptance to Vadim.
And then there was the fifth woman…a girl, really. No more than sixteen. Red hair, above and below. Ah, he did love a red-headed woman. Fiery, they were when their fires were ignited, as he knew well how to do. He could not wait to lay his head over her crimson fluff and…
He smiled at her.
She did not smile back. Instead, tears streamed down her face.
He ran his knuckles over one pink, cold-peaked nipple, then the other.
She actually sobbed now, and stepped back as if in revulsion.
The tears didn’t bother him all that much, but the resistance did. Thralldom was not easy for some to accept, but she would settle into her role soon. They usually did. They had no choice. Not that he would engage in rape. Persuasion was his forte.
But wait. She was staring with seeming horror at something over his shoulder.
Ivak heard the growl before he turned and saw the smithy tugging to be free from the restraints being held by both Vadim and his assistant. At the same time, the young man was protesting something vociferously in what sounded to Ivak like the Irish tongue.
“What is amiss?” Ivak demanded of Vadim.
“He’s her husband, but you are not to worry--”
Ivak put up a halting hand. “I do not want any more married servants. Too much trouble.” He started to walk away.
“You could take one of them,” Vadim offered.
Ivak paused. The woman’s skin wasdeliciously creamy and her nether fleece was tempting. “I’ll take her. You keep him.”
The husband didn’t understand Ivak’s words as he spoke, but Vadim must have explained once Ivak and Serk left the building and headed back to the keep because his roar of outrage would be understood in any language.
“Is that wise, Ivak?” Serk asked. “Separating a man and his mate?”
“It happens all the time, my friend, and do you doubt my wisdom in choosing good bedsport over good metalwork?”
Serk laughed but at the same time shook his head at Ivak with dismay. In some ways Serk had gone soft of late, ever since he’d wed Asta, the daughter of a Danish jarl. Six months and Serk was still besotted with the witch. Little did he know that Asta was spreading her thighs hither and yon. Ivak knew that for a fact because he’d been one of those to whom she’d offered her dubious charms. He would have told his friend, but he figured Serk would grow bored soon enough, and then it would not matter. As long as she did not try to pass off some other man’s bratling as his own. When Ivak had mentioned that possibility to Asta, she’d informed him that she was joyfully barren. That was another thing of which Serk was uninformed.
And women claimed men were the ones lacking in morals!
That night he swived the Irish maid, and she was sweet, especially after having been bathed. It was not an entirely satisfying tup, though. The girl was too willing. He kept seeing her husband’s face as he was dragged away. No doubt Ivak’s distaste would fade eventually, but tonight he had no patience for it, especially as she begged him to be permitted to stay. Instead, he sent her away after just one bout of bedsport, wanting no more of her for now.
He drank way too much mead then, which only increased his foul mood. That was the only excuse he could find for his seeing Asta slinking along one of the hallways and motioning him with a forefinger to come to her bedchamber. Another round-heeled woman with the morals of a feral cat. He knew for a fact that Serk was serving guard duty all night.
Mayhap he should tup Serk’s wife and then explain to him in the nicest possible way on the morrow what a poor choice he had made in picking this particular maid for his mate. He would be doing his friend a favor, he rationalized with alehead madness.
Asta was riding him like a bloody stallion a short time later, and while his cock was interested, he found himself oddly regretting his impulsive invitation. Bored, he glanced toward the door that was opening, and there stood Serk, staring at them with horror. This was not the way he’d wanted his friend to discover his wife’s lack of faithfulness.
“Ivak? My friend?” Serk choked out.
“I can explain. It’s not what you think.” Well, it was, but there was a reason for his madness. Wasn’t there?
At the stricken expression on Serk’s face, Ivak shoved Asta off him, ignoring her squeal of ill-humor, and jumped off the bed. By the time he was dressed, his good friend was gone. And Asta was more concerned about having her bedplay interrupted than the fact that her husband had witnessed her adultery. To Ivak’s amazement, she actually thought they would resume the swiving.
Ivak searched for more than an hour, to no avail. It was already well after midnight and most folks, except for his housecarls, were abed. His apology and explanation to Serk would have to wait until morning. Without a doubt, Serk would forgive him, once he understood that Asta was just a woman, and a faithless one at that. Oh, Ivak did not doubt that Serk would be angry, and Ivak might even allow him a punch or two, but eventually their friendship would be intact.
Still, he could not sleep with all that had happened, and he decided to walk out to the stables to check on a prize mare that should foal any day now. What Ivak found, though, was so shocking he could scarce breathe. In fact, he fell to his knees and moaned. “Oh, nay! Please, gods, let it not be so!”
Hanging from one of the rafters was Serk.
His friend had hung himself.
What have I done? What have I done? She was not worth it, my friend. Truly, she was not. Oh, what have I done?
Ivak lowered the body to the floor and did not need to put a fingertip to Serk’s neck to know that he had already passed to Valhalla. With tears burning his eyes, he stood, about to call for the stablemaster in an adjoining shed when he heard a noise behind him. Turning, he saw the young Irish blacksmith, husband of the red-haired maid he’d bedded, running toward him with a raised pitchfork. Vadim and his crew were supposed to depart at first light. The man must have escaped his restraints.
Before Ivak had a chance to raise an alarm or fight for himself, the man pierced his chest with the long tines of the pitchfork. Unfortunately, he used the special implement with metal tines that Ivak had purchased this past summer on a whim in the open markets of Miklegaard, also known as Byzantium. Why had he not been satisfied with the usual wooden pitchforks for his fine stable? So forceful had the man’s surge toward him been that he pinned Ivak into the wall.
“You devil!” the man yelled, tears streaming down his face. “You bloody damn devil! May you rot in hell!”

1 comment:

Tasty Book Tours said...

Thank You for hosting!!