Erik bounced from foot to foot in an attempt to stay warm. The last few days had been brutal at the blacksmith’s shop as they geared up for the summer months, and the Duke d’Orleans was everywhere, his meetings increasing ten-fold overnight. Erik had proved his worth the evening before when a disgruntled politician had stood outside his home with an axe, waiting for the Duke to leave. The man had been sent straight to the Bastille, a horrid place, Erik had heard.
As frigid as Norway was, there was something worse about the winds of Paris; it could bite through leather and wool, snaking its way to your heart before it choked you to death. He refused to shiver, though, out of pure pride and stubbornness, something all Norwegians had bred into them.
Anna had been more argumentative with him as of late as well. She wanted to stay in Paris, even though she’d yet to find a job. Erik saw where this ship was headed, and refused to be on it when it sank. He knew he would have to give Anna a dose of reality, and if that meant dragging her back to Medja by her blond locks, then so be it. She would only hate him for a short while.
He knew he could make a better living at sea, anyways, either as a fisherman or sailor. Saltwater ran in his veins, and he found that he missed the spray of the sea, the scent of fresh air untainted by the dregs of the city.
He watched the iron gate as twilight fell, waiting for the Duke so they may resume their now-nightly rounds. A single crow flittered by, wings black against the deep pink sky, before it perched atop a nearby tree and let out a hearty caw. Erik smiled. Most southerners hated crows and ravens and thought them an omen of death, but Erik’s ancestors had revered the animals. Since his mother’s passing, he often thought the sight of those black wings was her, checking in on him and saying hello.
This crow, however, stared Erik down with its black, beady eye, and continued to berate him, bouncing on the branch with the force of its calls.
He lurched, pulled from the lure of the dead, when the gate opened a fraction. The Duke’s wife, Franciose Marie, stood at the entrance, her brown eyes glistening with desire as she stared at Erik.
“Bonsoir,” she called, voice light and airy as she stepped over the threshold. Erik nodded in her direction, offering her no smile as he returned his gaze to the crow, but it had disappeared. He frowned.
She sighed as she neared, watching the way Erik’s muscles moved beneath his clothes. His hair was always pulled back in a strange way, half down, half up, as though he’d tossed his locks in a tether and continued his physical labor. She’d never seen a man so fit before, a man so full of the wilderness that the very thought of him made her cry out in her sleep. She wanted him, and she would have him, however aloof he remained.
He jumped out of his skin when he felt her tender palm slide across his shoulder, as she pressed her bosom against his upper back. She was tall for a woman. He spun around, catching her wrist, seeing for himself the lust-filled eyes as she bit her fat bottom lip. His body reacted, having not had much contact with such a desirable force. But Erik was a man of high standards and morals, and he’d never cross those boundaries with a wedded woman.
“We’ve some time before my husband comes to fetch you. There’s an empty stall in the stable,” she whispered with urgency, moving in to now press her overflowing breasts to his chest. Erik’s eyes widened as his mouth popped open. He glanced down at the ample cleavage offered before his hungry eyes, and he almost allowed himself this small romp, overcome with lust as he was.
As he was distracted, she leaned up and placed a wet, lingering kiss on his neck, her tongue dancing along his pulsing veins. He shuddered, feeling himself grow hot with need. He knew enough about women and himself to not need much direction his first time. Having served in the military, it was all he ever saw or heard. Having been born of Vikings, it was in his very nature, to dominate as many as he as able.
Night swept over Paris, the bustling sounds of the city dying all around them, save for one. His eyes sprang open and he lurched away from her embrace. A crow called in the distance.
“You are very beautiful, min dame, but I cannot insult my employer and your noble virtue in such a way,” he said, backing away further.
Francoise Marie wondered what his Norwegian words had meant, for the way his tongue wound around his home language made her toes curl in delight. She wanted him even more, now, to speak to her in his language with his deep baritones. She followed his retreat.
“My husband has mistresses all over Paris,” she said, accent thickening in her desperation, gripping the sleeve of his white linen shirt. “He will not care, if we do this.”
Erik shook his head, stumbling back again, fearing the retribution of his employer. The Duke d’Orleans had been more than fair and kind to him these past months, and Erik had even counted him a friend.
“I care if we do this. I see your desire for me, and I am flattered, for you are a beautiful woman—”
Francoise Marie backed away finally, almost tripping over her long, ornate gown, her hands fluttering to her mouth as her eyes brimmed with tears. Erik felt a knot in the pit of his stomach at her display of emotions, but felt justified. He’d done what was right, caring more of her social standing than his own needs.
“I am sorry, min dame,” he said again, meaning it in his core. She was a beautiful woman, and he could see why the Duke enjoyed showing her off, but that didn’t equate to love, by any means. And Erik wanted to give someone his love, someday. Every ounce of it. But the Duke’s wife was not it.
Her face began to change shades of red, slow and sure, her fists balled to her sides as tears wet her rouged cheeks. She reached up quickly, tearing at the strings of her bodice, ruining her priceless gown until her ample breasts sprung free. Erik stood stunned, feeling helpless and unsure of what the hysterical woman was doing. After a moment, she screamed.
“Aidez-moi, aidez-moi s’il te plait!”
Erik backed away, hands held up as he realized what the insane, spurned woman was about to do.
“No!” He growled, wishing to grip her throat and throttle her. She continued to scream and cry, her acting on par with those at the theaters. He heard the thundering of footsteps before he saw them. The entire household spilled onto the street like fish from a net, including the Duke. She ran to her husband, blubbering and crying and explaining in French that Erik had raped her. Angry eyes turned on him, all but one pair. The Duchess threw a smirk his way, knowing it would be the last time he’d ever spurn a woman again.