Twin Passions(133)

By: Miriam Minger


"Well, and what say you to this, Lord Hakon?" Earl Godric queried loudly. His expression was inscrutable, though his gaze was not unkind.

"It is as Gwendolyn has said, my lord," Hakon answered, summoning all of his strength to stand proudly before him. "I love her . . . and would have your daughter as my wife."

Satisfied with the Viking's bold answer, a slow smile spread over Earl Godric's face. "Very well. So be it."





Epilogue





Gwendolyn glanced over her shoulder. Hakon was waiting for her aboard his longship, his blue gaze meeting hers across the sandy stretch of beach, beckoning to her. She turned back to Anora and hastily wiped the tears from her eyes.

"I must go," she murmured, her lips trembling as she attempted a smile.

Overcome, Anora could manage only a nod. Her emerald eyes also glistened with tears, joy and sadness all melded into one. She reached out and hugged her sister fiercely for a long, long moment. "You have my thanks, Gwendolyn," she whispered.

Gwendolyn pulled away from Anora's arms, shaking her head. "Nay, I played only a small part," she murmured fervently. "All that has happened was meant to be." She clasped Anora's hand. "Now, I must go." She stepped back, her emerald eyes locking with her sister's in an unspoken message that only the two of them could share. They had been through so much together, yet she knew they had both found their happiness at last. She flashed a tearful smile, then turned and hurried along the beach toward the longship.

Lifting her face to the sun, she felt the warm, morning breeze dry the tears streaking her cheeks. A flood of excitement coursed through her. She and Hakon were going home . . . to Norge!

The past two weeks had gone by so quickly. So many wonderful things had happened. The very day after they arrived in England, Thorolf and his two warships had sailed at once for Trondheim, in his possession a signed charter from Wulfgar Ragnarson forswearing his intent to bring war upon Haarek Jarl. And he had also carried a charter from Earl Godric, stating that he had given his consent to the union     between Hakon Magnuson, Jarl of Sogn, and his daughter, Gwendolyn.

Gwendolyn smiled as she remembered the joyful reunion     with her parents at the stronghold, then the flurried preparations for the marriage of Anora and Wulfgar. The candlelit ceremony in their family chapel just a few nights past had been one of poignant beauty. She knew she would never forget Anora's radiant look of happiness when she at last became Wulfgar's wife. But the evening had become even more memorable when Father Leofwine, their family priest, had blessed her own union     with Hakon after he had sworn he would forsake his heathen Norse gods and adopt the Christian faith.

"Welcome, mistress of Sogn!" Hakon laughed as she approached the longship, breaking into her happy thoughts. He held out his hand to her as she hurried up the gangplank, then drew her into his strong arms and lifted her to the deck. He crushed her to him, breathing in the familiar fragrance of her silver-blond hair. "Are you ready to sail, my love?" he asked softly, his warm lips brushing against hers.

"Aye, my lord," Gwendolyn replied, a wave of intense happiness surging through her as she looked up into his handsome face.

Hakon kissed her smiling lips once again, then drew her with him over to the dragon-headed prow. "Oars to water!" he shouted, his deep voice ringing out above the crashing of the waves on the shore.

Gwendolyn turned around as the longship slid easily into deeper water, her eyes searching the sandy hillsides. She swallowed hard, tears glistening on her thick lashes as she spied first her beloved parents, then Wulfgar and Anora, standing not far from them. She waved her hand in farewell. She did not know if—or when—she would ever see them again.

Suddenly she felt Hakon's strong arm encircle her waist. It gave her the strength she needed. She lifted her trembling chin and looked up at this man who had so captured her heart, her love, her soul . . . with his searing kiss of fire. "Take me home, my lord . . . to Norge," she whispered fiercely, as the longship glided over the waves like a mighty serpent of the sea.

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