Hello everyone! I tried my hardest to crank this chapter out as fast as I could. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Thank you so much to my fantastic beta, ExquisiteEdward! Every time I see all of the red she sends back to me, I remember how much I need her.

Be patient with the Norse. Bella doesn't understand it either, but you get the benefit of translations at the end of the chapter.

The Viking's Woman

Part 7

Eidard's lips follow the curve of my jaw up until he is brushing the shell of my ear. "I have missed your smile, fagr."

I close my eyes and sigh as he softly kisses my cheek and then the tip of my nose. How can I possibly deny him when he is so gentle, so sweet? I tilt my chin upwards, and my lips find his.

"Hniga dyrr!"

I gasp into Eidard's mouth, shocked at the sudden noise. He grunts with annoyance, lifting himself away from me. "Esema," he mutters.

I've never heard him say that word before. I'm about to ask him what it means, but then something loud thumps against the wooden door. I flinch, startled.

"Bida!" Eidard shouts, and then rises from the bed, walking towards the door. He looks back at me for a short moment, lips thinned with exasperation, before pulling on the handle.

I'm taken aback—the woman who was the source of such a loud commotion is quite elderly. Her skin is pale and wrinkling, and her light brown hair is streaked with grey. She is small in every sense of the word. Thin and frail, she looks to be half Eidard's size.

She stares at my husband, blue eyes filled with fire, and starts shouting at him in rapid Norse. I've never seen anyone address Eidard in such a scolding manner; even his warriors do not dare confront him. But this slight, slim woman is not afraid. She waves her arms in Eidard's face, speaking so quickly that the only word I can make out is Irland.

"Hljod!" Eidard replies harshly, but the woman pays him no mind. She pushes past him, turning on me.

"Risa!" she shrieks. I recoil, gripping the fur blanket more tightly. There's hatred in her eyes… for me. What have I done wrong to deserve such loathing?

"Esema," Eidard barks, warning clear in his tone, but she ignores him completely.

"Do you not hear?" she hisses at me. "Risa! Up!"

I gasp, surprised to hear her speak my language. Questioningly, I look towards Eidard. He's grimacing, but his expression is more irritated than angry. "Esema wishes for you to stand, Isabella," he tells me quietly.

The woman—Esema—lifts her arms instructionally, as if she thinks I'm too daft to understand.

With hesitation, I rise from the bed and stand up straight. Esema's frown does not lessen any. "Look what he brings me," she spits, her accent thick and hard to understand. "A child in man's clothes."

My face heats with a blush. I must look indecent, dressed in Eidard's dirty tunic and breeches.

Esema moves towards me, staring me up and down. "What is your name?"

"Isabella," I reply quickly, my voice breaking.

She stops in front of me, standing uncomfortably close. "Look at her skin," she calls over her shoulder to Eidard. "Pale. Sickly." Before I can react, she roughly grabs my chin between her cold, boney fingers, pulling it down so that we are face to face. "Did your father let you drink mead?" she inquires.

"Yes," I whisper, looking downwards to avoid gazing directly into her icy blue eyes.

"You need more. That'll add some color to your cheeks." She lets go of my chin, only to move both hands to my hips. She presses down on them firmly. "Too small," she says definitively. "She will not birth you many children."

Children? I am so distracted by her words that I do not see her reach up. Abruptly her hand grabs my breast, her palm pressing down against the mound. I cry out and try to step out of her reach, but she ignores me. "No baby inside of her," she says, and then releases me.

I exhale with relief as she walks back towards Eidard. My mind is reeling from her words—she will not birth you many childrenno baby inside of her…. How could she know such things?

"She is no good," Esema declares.

Eidard's face darkens, his eyes narrowing into slits. "She is minn kona, Esema."

"Irish filth," she retorts. I cringe at her fervent tone.

"Hljod!" Eidard's voice echoes through the room. Both Esema and I step back, shocked by his outburst. "We are wed. It is done. You will not address my wife in such a manner!"

"Wed beneath a foreign God! Your father would take his blade to you—"

"Enough! Leave!"

Enraged, the woman storms towards the door, shouting insults in Norse all the while. She grabs at the door's handle and thrusts it open, but hovers briefly in the archway. "The council has gathered. Your fodurbrodir demands that he sees you… immediately," she mutters ominously. And with that, she slams the door shut behind her.

A loud crash echoes through the cabin as Eidard kicks a table, sending four clay plates tumbling to the floor where they shatter into a thousand pieces. "Insufferable woman!" he hisses, and then turns to me, filled with fury. "She will suffer for saying such things!"

"Eidard," I try to soothe, frightened by his temper.

He ignores me, reaching for his cloak and securing it over his shoulders. Then he grabs his sword and scabbard.

"Where are you going?" I ask, panicked. Does he mean to go after Esema? Despite what that woman said, I couldn't bear it if Eidard hurt her.

"I cannot keep the elders waiting," he answers vaguely. "Stay here and rest. I'll have someone bring a meal for you."

I'm reluctant to let him leave. Eidard and I haven't been separated since our wedding, and I've grown strangely dependent on him. I won't know what to do with myself if he goes. But I can't be so weak that I ask him to stay. Slowly I walk back to the bed and sit down.

Sensing my uncertainty, Eidard's expression softens. "I won't leave you alone for long, kona."

"I know," I say quietly, entwining my fingers together nervously in my lap.

"I will come back shortly," he promises, and then opens the door, disappearing behind it.

After days of sleeping on the ground, the bed feels like a luxury. Still exhausted and sore, I sink into the mattress and let myself drift. But even in my dreams, that woman's words continue to echo in my mind. Irish filth

It feels as if only moments have passed when a shuffling sound awakens me. I sit up abruptly, my eyes snapping open.

"Beklager!" cries the dark haired girl standing in the corner of the room. She looks more startled than I am, her hazel eyes wide and anxious.

I blink at her, unsure of what to do. "Hello," I say, although I'm certain she can't understand my language. "Can I, um… help you?"

"Eh… I…" she fumbles. "I… Yfirmadr sa…"

She looks as if she's about to burst into tears. "It's all right," I try to soothe. Then I notice the steaming bowl in her hands. "You came to bring me food?"

"Food!" Her eyes lighten, encouraged. "Ja! Eating. I know, eh… words... little words…"

She already knows more of my language than I do of hers. Smiling, I gesture with my hands for her to place the bowl on the table in the corner of the room. She does so hurriedly, eager to please.

As I walk towards the table, my stomach begins to growl. How many days has it been since I've eaten anything warm? Anything besides that disgusting dried meat? My mouth waters at the sight of the creamy broth.

"I make," the girl says proudly as I sit down and lift the bowl to my lips.

"It's wonderful," I sigh, closing my eyes and savoring the taste on my tongue.

When I open my eyes again, the girl is still standing beside me, staring at me with ill-concealed fascination. Awkwardly I try to ignore her as I take another sip of soup.

"You…" she struggles for the correct word, "ah… kona?"

This word I recognize. "Wife," I tell her. "Yes. Kona of Eidard."

At the sound of my husband's name, her face darkens, her eyes flashing with anxiety. "Eidard…" she repeats tentatively, as if she's afraid to even speak the word. "I… you…" Struggling to speak, she closes her eyes and inhales deeply. When she opens them again, the vulnerability in her expression is gone, replaced by grim resolution. "I, uh… Plate break. I clean."

I watch with curiosity as she bends down to pick up the plates Eidard broke earlier. I cannot fathom why she reacted so at the mention of my husband's name. She seemed worried, frightened even. Now I can see her hands trembling slightly as they pick up the sharp shards of clay.

Hoping to divert her from her distress, I ask, "Where did you learn to speak my language?"

"I learn… uh…." She cups a hand around one of her ears.

"Hear?" I supply.

She nods. "I hear. The speaking. Minn herre snakket mange mal…"

She learned simply by hearing others speak? Already I feel inadequate. Eidard has been peppering me with Norse words for days, but I haven't retained anything.

I'm raising the bowl of soup to my lips for another sip when, without warning, the door of the cabin thrusts open. "Isabella," Eidard calls.

The girl, still kneeling on the floor by my feet, lets out a panicked gasp. She hunches over, lowering her head. "Yfirmadr," she says.

"Ales," Eidard barks at the girl. "Out. Na."

Wide eyed and frightened, she stands up quickly, dropping a plate shard in the process. Swiftly she falls back onto her knees, sweeping up the pieces with her hands.

"Out!" Eidard bellows violently.

The girl is so terrified that she drops the shards again, but this time she ignores them, rising to her feet. Without a word, she runs desperately for the door and disappears outside.

I look towards Eidard with a grimace. "Why did you do that?"

He lets out an exasperated huff. "Do what, minn kona?"

"You were cruel to that girl."

He seems unconcerned as he removes his cloak and loosens the sword belt from his waist. "Ales never does as she's told."

"She did nothing wrong," I insist. "She was helping me."

Eidard exhales heavily. "You're fond of her?"

Fond? I've only just met her. But she was kind to me, and I can't deny that I've taken a liking to her. "She's a sweet girl," I answer.

"Then she is yours," Eidard says simply. "Now may we speak of other things?"

I blink at him. "What do you mean, mine?"

Eidard steps towards me and takes my chin between his thumb and forefinger, lifting my face so I am looking directly at him. His lips are curled upward in a wry, amused smile. "If you want Ales, I will give her to you. I never gave you a wedding present, fagr."

I'm still reeling from his sudden change of heart concerning Ales when Eidard pulls my face upwards and presses his lips hungrily on mine. Instinctively I clutch his tunic in my hands to balance myself, bringing our bodies closer. Eidard groans into my mouth, wrapping his arms around my waist and lifting me completely out of my chair.

"How do you feel?" he asks distractedly as his lips move downward, biting gently at the sensitive skin below my jaw.

"Much better," I gasp, shocked by how quickly my body heats under his touch.

"All the time on the ship," he murmurs against my neck. "I craved you so desperately…"

I crave him too. Ever since that night when he made love to me so tenderly, holding me in his arms, pushing away my nightmares with his kisses… Every time he touches me I remember, and I want it again.

"I'll be gentle," he promises fervently as he carries me towards the bed. "Please, fagr… I swear I'll be gentle with you."

"I know," I breathe. I trust him. Deep within me, I know he won't hurt me again.

"Minn konaminn hjarta…" His voice is desperate, his hands eager as they trail over my hips and grasp the ends of my tunic. Quickly it is pulled over my head and discarded on the floor.

He kisses me again fiercely, hurriedly, as if he fears he only has so much time. "Eidard," I whisper against his lips, startled by his passion.

"My wife…" He leans down and buries his face against my chest, pressing his mouth against the top of my breast, just above my heart.

There's some strange, hidden emotion behind his eyes. Something anxious. Slowly I run my fingers through his hair, hoping to calm him. "Eidard, what's wrong?"

He lifts himself up onto his forearms so he is hovering above me. "Our marriage is one in truth," he says softly, green eyes gazing down upon my face intensely. "You are minn kona."

"Of course I am," I say, but I'm barely able to finish before his lips are on mine once more, ravishing me, consuming me.

He releases me, only to fumble with the drawstrings of my breeches. I can hardly think; my breaths are shallow and quick. How can a single kiss affect me so?

Eidard exhales sharply as the last article of clothing on my body is removed. He stares down at my nude body blatantly, eyes filled with want. "Freyja herself could be no more beautiful."

I flush red at his unwarranted compliment. He brushes a finger against my blushing cheek, grinning. Yet still I can see that strange hint of anxiety in his expression.

"Eidard," I try again, reaching up to hold a hand against his cheek. His eyes flutter closed, his face leaning into my palm. "What is it?"

He ignores my question. "I'm sorry," he says instead. "I said I would be gentle."

"You haven't hurt me," I tell him truthfully. "But you're upset."

"No," he differs, opening his eyes again. One of his hands covers mine, pressing it firmly against his cheek. "No, fagr, at this moment I feel only joy."

He bends downs and kisses me again, but this time it is slower, lighter. It's heavenly. A hum of pleasure escapes me, my fingers uncurling and falling limp at my sides. At the same time our lips part, his tongue searching for mine.

I'm lost to the world; I can only think of him. Only feel his hands upon my body, his lips trailing across my shoulder, the weight of his legs tangling with mine. I can feel my hips rising, begging for him to touch me where I want him most. And to my relief, he obeys, brushing his fingers over my belly and downward until he's cupping my sex and delicately parting my folds.

"You want me," he groans against my neck. "Oh, my wife… minn kona… my…"

"Yes," I promise him, wantonly pressing myself against his hand. "Yours."

"Mine," he says again, his voice filled with heat, and then he thrusts a finger inside of me, stroking and delving and making me cry out wordlessly.

I can feel my insides curling, the delicious tension building in my belly, but he suddenly draws his hand away before I can find release. "Eidard," I gasp, reaching out to pull him back to me.

But he does not stay away for long. Rid of his breeches, his lowers himself over me again, and now I can feel the pulse of his manhood against my thighs. Once again he kisses me deeply, thrusting his eager, muscled hips towards mine, bringing himself closer to my sex.

He's so close… one firm stroke and he'll be lost inside of me. I grab his back and pull him towards me, silently begging, needing…

At last he enters me, slow and tortuous. Deeper and deeper until I can't tell where he ends and I begin. He is mine, and I am his, and we are one. One being, two halves joined at last.

"Eidard…" I can't stop saying his name. It's the only word I can conjure. "Eidard. Oh, Eidard…"

He thrusts again, never quickening his pace, allowing me to feel every stroke, every graze. Everything. And the tension inside of me builds, curls tighter.

"Minn hjarta," he whispers close to my ear, andI don't even know what it means, but I can hear the emotion in his voice, the fervor, the adoration. It brings me to the edge, and helplessly I fall, crying out, clutching him to me as tightly as I can as he spills inside of me, his breath warm against my skin.

I cling to his neck, never wanting to let go. I want to stay like this always, warm in his embrace.

His grip on me tightens slightly. "How can you want me, Isabella?"

His question is uncalled for. I lift my head and try to meet his gaze, but he won't look at me. Instead, he focuses on the curve of my collarbone, dragging a finger across the arch.

"Why do you ask that?" I say.

He does not reply immediately. "I've failed you so many times. Over and over…"

"No." I touch my hand to his chin, just as he always does to me, urging him to look at me. Hesitantly he does, eyes filled with a vulnerability he so rarely lets me see. "You have goodness in your heart, Eidard. It was my own pride that prevented me from seeing. You've not failed me."

He looks uncertain, but doesn't argue with me. Instead, he rises and kisses me softly.

"Minn kona," he breathes once more, and then lowers his cheek to rest against my chest, above my heart.

New characters, yay! Esema's not your usual Esme stereotype, is she? And sorry to all you readers who were banking on Bella being preggo... hehe. Not yet.

Thank you to all of those who have read, reviewed, and recc'd this story! You're all fantastic!

I like to tease the upcoming chapters mercilessly on twitter (LifeInkognito)

Happy Mother's Day tomorrow!


(Minn) Fagr: (My) Beauty

Hniga dyrr!: Open the door!

Bida!: Wait!

Irland: Ireland

Hljod!: Silence!

Risa!: Stand up!

(Minn) Kona: (My) Wife

fodurbrodir: Uncle

Beklager!: Sorry!

Yfirmadr sa…: The chieftain said…

Ja: Yes

Minn herre snakket mange mal: My master speaks many languages

Yfirmadr: Chieftain

Na: Now

Minn hjarta: My heart

Freyja: Goddess of beauty and love