He could remember the day they met like it had happened moments ago, like the months that had passed were nothing but the blink of an eye. He remembered the taste of salt on his tongue when he'd stormed the beach, running in wet sand until his calves burned for rest. The air had been bitter cold and the sky a bleak grey when their small band had torn into the kingdom of Northumberland. Their target had been a modest village, but the plunder had been great.

And the women. Rollo remembered the golden-haired women of England. After being on a boat for two days and seeing nothing but ocean, he had thirsted for more than just a meal. The maids running for their lives had served that purpose. He remembered his fingers caught in the soft curls of a plump one, her body pinned beneath his on a table.

That's when he'd felt the sharp point at his groin. Never in his life had he held so still, his cock in his hand like a piece of meat.

"Take your hands off her, Northman, or I'll cut your balls off and feed them to the hogs." A voice, low and even, had breathed into his ear and he'd slowly done as instructed. But only for as long as he'd needed to. The maid at his back fell as they all had that day, her brown hair strewn in hay as he'd hit her in the belly with his elbow.

He'd had the choice right then and there to kill her. Ragnar had been holding her arms with Arne, their eyes bright from fighting. And yet, he'd spared her. He had spared her and taken the fiery English woman as a prize instead of gutting her where she stood. Looking back now, Rollo knew it was because he'd thirsted for her fire. Only one woman had ever dared deny him, and she was his brother's bride. Then, he'd burned to feel a woman's spirit as she took him, riding him as hard as Lagertha took Ragnar in the night.

But as a slave, the woman was no less submissive. More than once, he'd been forced to chose between her death and her life. And he'd mysteriously chosen life. Though she'd bitten him, fought him, degraded his honor, she never let him take her.

Which had only made him want her more.

Then the Earl had sent his men. After Ragnar had risen up, the Earl had struck, killing anyone who dared fight beside Ragnar, dared to dream of a better leader. Rollo had been one of those targeted by the Earl's slaughters. And when the men had come, he'd stood to fight for what was his.

Eda, as she called herself, had been working in his home. Tied to a post to prevent escape, she was defenseless when the screams sounded from over the hill. And Rollo had made another choice. One that could have ended in disaster.

He'd cut her binds, and handed her a blade. And when she'd taken it, their eyes had met and a silent understanding had passed.

He wondered if that was when he'd known she was no longer his slave. Granted, her freedom didn't come until several moons after that bloody day, but Rollo hadn't considered the woman his property long before then. Eda had kept his home, nursed his wounds, and then –despite his treatment of her– she'd defended his land.

The English woman had been given her freedom, and yet she'd said nothing when he'd told her. Her eyes had shone in the evening's fire, and then she'd returned to washing the blood from her hands.

Yes, that's when he'd known. She wasn't his slave any longer. She was his woman. The woman. There was no other in his heart. Not anymore.

Now, he was watching her fold blankets. The day had been long and the work had been endless, but she still continued, her hands rough from the chores she'd endured at his will.

"Woman, have you eaten?" Rollo called to her, but she didn't turn her face.

"I'm not hungry." She muttered. He couldn't help but grin in the shadow of the dying fire. She was stubborn, unwilling to allow him the smallest of demands, even when they were to her benefit.

"Eat. You're no use to me if you cannot work." He replied, faking a tough voice in his deep drawl.

"I'll eat when I am hungry." The final blanket was folded and tossed hard atop the pile, and Rollo had to close his eyes to keep from moaning. Stubborn and fearless. She wasn't slight, but he still loomed over her at full height. He could snap her neck with little trouble, but she acted as though he could never hope to win in a fight.

"Eat your supper, woman."

"You eat it." She moved to rush past him to the outdoors, but his hand caught her arm, ripping her back into the light of the fire. Eda glared up at him with such a fierce gaze that his chest tingled with desire.

"Maybe I will." He growled, lowering his head to snarl in her face. She smelled like water from the river, the scent of spring strong on her skin. Rollo let his eyes drop to her mouth, wondering if she tasted of spring too. He hadn't put a hand on her in many months. And it amazed him that she hadn't tugged her arm from his grasp. No, they were standing inside the doorway of his house, his bed only meters away, and she wasn't pulling from his touch.

"Do you plan to force me?" Her voice was low, full, like the day he'd captured her and torn her from her home. But the look in her eye was a knowing one, speaking to the many days they'd spent together since.

"Never." His reply was solemn, and the tilt in her brow brought him relief. "I know better than to force a meal to your lips, woman." Her smirk was slow and hidden, but he saw the flicker in her expression.

"Would you take from me?" She lifted her chin in defiance and Rollo wanted to hold her delicate jaw in his hand, smooth his fingers along the tanned skin.

"I know you, woman." Moving his hand down her arm, he lowered his grasp to her wrist, gently egging her closer. "I'd only be takin' a dagger to the balls." Her mouth parted and his heart leapt. Her sweet lips, only inches from his own, and he could almost taste her. He was starving for her.

"Too right you are." She murmured, allowing his tug on her wrist to close the space between them. "I can promise you, Rollo Lothbrok, you will never take what I do not offer." Then her eyes darted to his mouth, making his thighs tickle and his cock harden. "Or I will take your head from your shoulders."

"This I know." He was practically panting now, his body rippling with awareness. Never before had his respect for her been rewarded. This heat between them had only ever occurred in his dreams. But her words were not fantasy.

"Know this as well…" Her hand gripped his wrist with a sudden strength, and she yanked him off balance, sending him to his knees with a hard drop. Rollo grit his teeth to keep from making a sound, his eyes never leaving her face while Eda grasped his hair in one hand, pulling his head back until his throat was exposed. "…I will not be addressed as 'woman'." He moaned as she took a step into him, her thigh brushing his cheek. Much closer and he would be dining on the sweet cunt between her legs. "I am no longer your slave."

"Gods." He cursed as her fingers tangled in his hair, his mouth hovering over the rough material of her skirt. "Eda." The sigh from above him forced a shiver down his spine. He was going to fill this woman with his seed, and claim the fiery goddess as his wife. Forever. She may fight him for that as well, but he would have no other.

"Lift it." Her demand took a moment to sink in, but Eda's hips tilted towards his face and Rollo moaned with comprehension. His hands slid up her shins to her thighs, lifting the fabric from her legs as they went. And when she was bare to him, Eda raised her left leg, settling it over his shoulder.

Rollo feasted on her warm flesh as hungrily as he had his supper. His hands grasped the cheeks of her ass, bringing her closer to his mouth as he lapped and sucked. He penetrated her with his tongue, swallowed her until he knew her taste, then purred his approval into her swollen bud. All the while, she directed him with a rough grip on his scalp, her moans breathy and frequent. Her thighs shook as she bucked into him, grinding with a rhythm that gradually sped with desperation. He bellowed with delight and she dropped her head, gasping with a hand on his shoulder.

When her body was aflame, her voice tore from her throat.

"Take me, Rollo. Now." Her hand vanished from his hair and she straddled him on the floor, their bodies meeting in a clumsy clamor of movement. But his thick cock was freed from his pants in seconds, and she mounted him so swiftly he gasped loud enough for the whole house to hear. Then they were flying, Eda riding him with frenzied rolls of her spine, their moans mingling in the air. He clawed at her hips, thrusting from the floor to move deeper into the delicious heat between her thighs. And when she cried out with pleasure, her head falling into the curve of his neck, Rollo released with a hungry snarl, buried in a silky vice.

They breathed together. They rested together. And when Rollo lifted his head, looking into the eyes of a happy and sated Eda, he knew they would spend the rest of their lives together.

Because only fire consumes fire.