Svein bent to kiss Kirsten. His fingers found her pulse, and he smiled. ” God natt og drøm søtt. We talk seinere.”
For now, he had things he must see to. Even if his body protested, demanded that he join his mate in slumber. If they were to sail, he was needed on deck. Besides, they had much to discuss, he and his brothers. It was not every day that they took a captive. A captive bride. Their bride as ancient custom commanded.
Svein dressed quickly. It was easy since he had never fully undressed during their lovemaking. This first time was about the capture. And quick though it had been, it left him hungry to taste all of her rich flavors. The woman had been even more submissive than he imagined.
All those possibilities would have to wait. Now that she was securely onboard the boat, they still needed to make their escape — harbormasters and customs officers to deal with. And the high tide was fast approaching. They could not afford to tarry another day. It would give her a chance to escape.
The whole time he dressed, he was careful to avoid looking at his bed where she remained bound and so fucking helpless that his cock hardened just at the thought of it. He was not naïve enough to think that this was going to be easy. He knew better. Modernity was invading upon even their meager existence.
Mikael had even tried its way, but that had proven disastrous. No, despite the impediments that they had thought so carefully through, worked so hard, and spent good money to overcome, the ancient way was the only way. So, after over four decades, Njörður’s Captive welcomed a new bride for her masters.
Once he was fully dressed right down to his boots and coat, Svein found the packet containing the forged documents they would need. The marriage license and passport that, along with his lie to his old friend, the harbormaster, should hopefully ease their departure. He glanced at the woman sleeping in his bed. In slumber, she seemed so much younger than she was.
Some tiny morsel of guilt perhaps caused him to loosen the bonds. He was not stupid enough to untie her. Not yet. Once they were safely at sea, there would be time for that. Until then, he would make her as comfortable as possible and make sure that her circulation was intact. She was his responsibility now — their responsibility. And the sooner, he and his brothers talked about that the better.
He found Bjⱷrn down the hall in the galley. “What are you doing?” he demanded.
There were too many things still to be done before they could sail for his baby brother to be snacking. But the only thing bigger than his brother’s appetite was his sense of humor. The kid could always break the tension, make him and Mikael laugh when only a moment before they were ready to kill one another.
His brother looked down at the tray sheepishly and blushed, “I thought maybe she would like something to eat.”
Svein nodded, leave it to Bjⱷrn to think of the things that he forgot. “She is asleep for now. And we need to get the hell out of here if this is going to work. Is everything done?”
His brother nodded his lighter blond head and motioned towards the deck, “Mikael was requesting final permission when I left.”
Leave it to Mikael to get the job done. His brother was just as able a seaman and captain as he was. Only an accident of birth had given him the authority that his brother craved. Perhaps that need to be the one in charge was what had motivated Mikael to break with tradition. To grab for something that was utterly his own.
Maybe if he had chosen more wisely…with his head and not his heart? But the truth was that Greta was a poor choice from the beginning. A spoilt city girl used to having her way in everything could never adjust to their quiet and isolated way of life. But that was behind them all now. Well, most of it anyway. After three years of mourning and pining for a wife that was never coming back, their mother had finally convinced Mikael to give the old ways a chance.
She had had to work almost as hard to convince Svein. He was more than happy to let his brothers do the marrying, in the new way even. As far as he was concerned, he was already married – to Njörður’s Captive and the sea was his mistress. Other than that what he wanted from a woman, he could charm from the occasional submissive that he met online or in the clubs, or even pay for it when absolutely necessary.
So, why then had she gotten under his skin so much over the past three months? Her innocence and completely open curiosity did things to him that his more experienced partners never had. The idea of training her, just for his taste – their tastes, was intriguing.
But all of that would be for nothing, and he and his brothers could be in genuine and big trouble if they did not get the ship out of here damned soon. A thousand years ago, Vikings stealing brides from the Brits via their longboats might have been commonplace, but Svein knew that twenty-first-century laws called it kidnapping and imposed rather long prison sentences for it. And he had no desire to waste years of his life in jail, let alone allow his brothers to.
“Leave the food. When we are out to sea, you may take it to her.” Perhaps Bjⱷrn’s youth and mirth might be a better way of waking sleeping beauty. After all, she would be as much his wife and his responsibility as she was his or Mikael’s.
All of this was after all his baby brother’s idea, Bjⱷrn’s and Petrine’s. He only hoped that they were right about this one and that she was not another spoilt city girl.
That sharing was the beauty of this tradition, how it had come about. Or so legend said. No one was sure exactly when or how, but it had always been the tradition for brothers to take care of the widows and children of any lost at sea. The story was told of one woman who had been captured from a warring tribe centuries ago.
She had gone through five brothers. When she saw the last one come home alone from the sea, she had fallen to the ground weeping. “Why? Now I must marry you as well. Why do you not have done with it and merely have me marry you all from the beginning? Perhaps that would have been kinder to my heart than coming to love each of you only to lose you in turn.”
When it came time for her sons to marry, she had insisted that was what they do. Capture just one bride. They were gone to sea for much of the year anyway. And since a woman’s needs were often so much more complicated than men, the arrangement often worked out quite well. When a wife would get mad at one of them, it was sometimes possible for others to smooth the waters.
Svein laughed, “Definitely Bjⱷrn’s job. I have no patience for such things, and Mikael is not even certain he wants any part of this whole thing.”
“What, brother? You called me,” Mikael answered as Svein stepped onto the deck.
He shook his head, “It is nothing. Do not concern yourself with it.” He saw his brother bristle at his words. He wondered, as he often did, how he would have handled it if the roles were reversed. Would he have been able to follow his brother’s orders as efficiently as Mikael did?
It had not been an issue when they had first taken to sea. As teens and young men, working alongside their fathers, they had been almost equals, though both had known that eventually the primary responsibility would fall to him.
That had seemed so far away then. Until one by one, their fathers had become old men. The lucky one retiring to land and years of love, laughter, and warmth alongside their mother that they had been denied for a lifetime. Though most had met a different Fate — death at the hands of Njörður and his blood-thirsty daughter Rán. Only Uncle Olav remained to keep their mother company and occasionally offer his son and nephews what wisdom he had gained over a lifetime of rough and difficult seas.
He could use some of that wisdom now. “Has the harbormaster cleared us?” he asked Mikael.
His brother shook his dark head. “He said he wanted to speak with you himself first.”
Mikael looked worried, but then again, it was all too common a thing for him these past few years. Svein missed the care-free if a bit quarrelsome man that his brother had been before that woman came and ripped his heart out.
He frowned; let that be a warning for all of them, not to let this woman get too close. Not much chance of that with Mikael. He was not sure that his brother’s heart would ever heal from the other bitch’s cold and callous rejection not only of him but of their child as well. As for him, well, he was too practical to allow any little slip of a woman to get to him.
But he would have to keep a close eye upon Bjⱷrn. He and the girl were closer in age, and with his brother’s winsome temperament, it would only be natural for a deeper bond to form. Of course, that might not be such a bad thing. It would bind their woman to them. On the other hand, he did not want to see Bjⱷrn hurt as Mikael had been.
Was this polyandrous marriage still the best solution for their complicated way of living? But he did not have time to ponder it further as the bulky form of his friend, the harbormaster, stepped onto the deck.
Svein held out his hand and greeted the man with a smile, “Welcome, my friend.”
The man shook his hand firmly and smiled widely. “So, did you get the little lady settled, old friend? I got to tell you I never thought an ugly old mug like you could capture a woman like that one. Mind you; I did not get a good look at her earlier. You were in quite a hurry, but from what I saw of her, who can blame you? Besides with a woman that pretty she might get better offers.”
Svein smiled and shook his friend’s hand. He tried not to react to how accurate the man’s description of the situation was. Especially the word…capture. If his friend knew the truth, he would be obligated to betray him. Svein kept up the polite conversation for a couple of moments as he handed the man all of their documents, including her forged passport.
“Where has the little lady gone off to?” asked the older man with a bit of a leer.
So, that was what it was all about. His friend wanted a closer look at his ‘new bride.’ It was the last thing that Svein could allow. If, or more likely when, her disappearance made the news, he wanted as few connections to them as possible.
Svein was almost sure that the girl had not told anyone about him or their meeting. And while there was a cyber-trail of their conversations, thanks to baby brother’s interest in computers, all of it had been routed through servers around the world. The profile he gave and the information in that email would lead nowhere.
Thanks to the bitter British autumn and layers of clothes she wore, he was confident that neither the surveillance cameras at the harbor nor this man had gotten a really good look at her. Other than tall, with long legs and red hair, he doubted that his friend could provide any description of the woman. And he wanted to keep it that way.
“She is settling in below. Big day and all,” Svein could see that the man was not satisfied as he stretched and stared at the stairway that led below.
“I really should see for myself. Check her against the passport and all you know,” the man cleared his throat.
This was not going as smoothly as Svein had hoped. Perhaps a half-lie would serve him well now; he moved closer to his friend. Shoulder to shoulder as he lowered his voice a bit, “Honestly, I left her sleeping,” he added a conspiratorial wink for good measure.
His friend cleared his throat and slapped him on the shoulder, “Good job then. Don’t suppose I have to see the new bride…if she is indisposed. We’ve known each other since you were just a lad, so I guess I can take your word for it.”
“Besides, I caught enough of a look at the girl to see that she was not drugged and went with you willingly and all. I know it sounds awful, but the whole custom’s people are overly concerned about this human trafficking thing.”
This was why the laws and sentences had become so stiff for what was, for their family, a tradition for centuries. And why getting this man off the boat and them out to sea as soon as possible was so important.
Bjⱷrn’s smiling face appeared out of the lower decks. He carried a tray of homemade cookies that looked to still be warm from the oven. Their mother often did things like freeze the dough for them. Of course, she had taught them all to cook, clean, sew, and fend for themselves.
Bjⱷrn especially had taken to the kitchen. When at sea, he was generally their cook. He held out the tray for the man, “Take a few. I made a fresh batch for her.”
“Don’t mind if I do,” said the man. “So, you met your brother’s wife already? I’d figure he’d want to keep the little lady as far away from your pretty face as he could,” the harbormaster chuckled.
Bjⱷrn blushed, “I have not spent much time with her, no, but he introduced her earlier.”
“I was just telling him what a pretty little thing she was or what little I could see of her. But with legs like those, I suppose it doesn’t matter much if her face is butt ugly,” he joked around a full mouth of cookie.
Bjⱷrn smiled and nodded as he held out the tray to their friend again. The man took three more of the sweets and wrapped them in a napkin as he gave a final look around the deck of the small ship. After a curt nod, he held out his hand to both men, taking the younger man’s first and shaking it briefly.
Then he turned to Svein, “All seems in order, my friend. See you in another three months or so. Until then, try to get some work done. Forget that. Leave it all to these two young chaps and enjoy your new bride.”
Svein nodded and shook the man’s hand. They would not be returning for some time, but he did not tell his friend that. He doubted that the man would give it more than a casual thought when they did not. After all, the life of fishermen were uncertain, and in the current economy, many of his kind were disappearing. He was sure that in a year or so, the man would assume that they too had become victims of either the sea or financial troubles.
No, it would be some time before Njörður’s Captive returned to these shores, and even then, perhaps it would be best to select another port. He watched as the man disappeared down the docks. With a huge sigh, he turned to his brother. “Tell Mikael we leave immediately.” Bjⱷrn nodded and turned towards the back of the ship.
Svein climbed the stairs to the control room. He checked the latest weather and tide updates as he watched his brothers untether the ship and lift anchor. Within five minutes, they had pushed back from the docks. He was thankful that their boat was not large enough that it required a tug into deeper waters. He would not want to waste precious time waiting.
In very little time, they had cleared the harbor and were out to the open sea. It would be days before they were home, but at least the sea would embrace them in her ample bosom, give them some time and space to get to the safety of their home with their captive bride.
Now, he could breathe a bit easier. The girl had no place to run. The matter was settled. Or it would be soon.
As soon as the sea was deep enough and calm enough, he set the autopilot and went to seek out his brothers. He found Bjⱷrn first. The youngest was smiling as always. He tried to think of a time when the man was not, but only the strongest gale or the death of one of their fathers could countenance such a thing.
“Take your cookies to her,” he said. “Make small talk. Hell, you can even untie her. But do not tell her anything until Mikael and I join you. Is that understood?”
The younger man nodded, but he seemed reluctant to go. At last, he spoke, “What is she like?”
Of course, this had been a joint decision, of sorts anyway. All of them had worked together, trolling the fetish websites looking for the right candidate, even their mother had helped.
They had written most of the emails together, though Svein had to admit that Bjⱷrn did most of the work. His contributions were mostly terse notes about the places they visited. He had never been very good at talking, even with his brothers. And writing, especially his mother’s English, even less so. Which was why he did not know what to say to Bjⱷrn now.
“See for yourself. She is easy to talk with,” Svein shrugged. It was the best response he could give.
He suspected that Bjⱷrn and Kirsten would hit it off immediately. Who could not love his little brother? Between his handsome face and his almost naively sweet personality, the boy had been a ladies’ man even before he had known what to do with them.
Svein smiled as he remembered his baby brother’s first voyage. The ship had docked in Nederland, and his fathers and the three of them had taken to the bars. Even though he was barely fourteen, Bjⱷrn had come with them.
Already he was over six feet tall, and unlike either Svein or Mikael, who had been lanky well into their early twenties, Bjⱷrn was already board shouldered. He looked almost as old as Mikael, who was seven years his elder. Even now, Svein wanted to laugh just thinking about all the women, some of them nearly as mature as their mother, who had thrown themselves at the boy.
No, Bjⱷrn would do fine with the woman. It was his other brother that he was worried about. He needed to talk to Mikael. Now.
“Go on, boy. Use that charm. We old men are counting on you to calm the seas for us.” He forced a smile to reassure the younger man, but he once more urged caution. “But do not give her any details. Until we join you, we’ll be as quick as we can. The sooner we speak with the woman, the sooner she can begin to come to terms with her destiny as Mother would call it. But right now, I need to talk to Mikael. Alone.”
His younger brother nodded, and for a split second, that smile was gone. Svein realized then that it was more than Mikael that the woman’s betrayal had hurt.
His brother’s failed marriage had touched them all in one way or another. And right now, he had to ensure that the three of them genuinely were united in this endeavor. He slapped Bjⱷrn on the shoulder, practically pushing him towards the stairwell. He continued towards the keel where he was almost sure Mikael was trying to hide from him, from the situation – from their new bride.