By Thomas Tibor
Thank you to The Coffee Pot Book Club for giving me the opportunity to showcase this novel.
By Thomas Tibor
Tempted by Her Outcast Viking
By Lucy Morris
Tempted by the Warrior
But she’ll never wed
Brynhild had once been close to Erik – until he’d betrayed her, and she’d hoped never to see him again. Now the fiercely independent shieldmaiden needs Erik’s skills to rescue her sister. Striking a truce with the tough, isolated loner they reach a mutually beneficial deal: in return, she’ll help him in his quest to find a wife – by teaching him how to please a woman in bed…!
This novel is available at Amazon and all good online bookstores.
Dr Helen Steadman
Dr Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. Her first novel, Widdershins and its sequel, Sunwise were inspired by the seventeenth-century Newcastle witch trials. Her third novel, The Running Wolf was inspired by the Shotley Bridge swordmakers, who defected from Solingen, Germany in 1687. Helen’s fourth novel will be published on 13 September 2022. This is God of Fire, a Greek myth retelling about Hephaestus, possibly the least well-known of the Olympians. Helen is now working on her fifth novel.
Despite the Newcastle witch trials being one of the largest mass executions of witches on a single day in England, they are not widely known about. Helen is particularly interested in revealing hidden histories and she is a thorough researcher who goes to great lengths in pursuit of historical accuracy. To get under the skin of the cunning women in Widdershins and Sunwise, Helen trained in herbalism and learned how to identify, grow and harvest plants and then made herbal medicines from bark, seeds, flowers and berries.
The Running Wolf is the story of a group of master swordmakers who defected from Solingen, Germany and moved to Shotley Bridge, England in 1687. As well as carrying out in-depth archive research and visiting forges in Solingen to bring her story to life, Helen also undertook blacksmith training, which culminated in making her own sword. During her archive research, Helen uncovered a lot of new material, and she published her findings in the Northern History journal.
“Oh! Sorry...” a voice rasps out in shock.
I gasp and feel the heat before I ascertain what has happened. Hot coffee has sloshed down the front of my thick, twill shirt. I use a couple of fingers to pull the wet fabric away from my chest. A waft of roasted brew rises to my nostrils. I’ve always liked the smell of coffee but not the bitter taste. I prefer tea.
Mrs. Lund—Molly—stands inches from my chest with a tray of mugs, her mouth agape. We briefly look at each other, full in the face, before she bows her head to the side, hiding her scars. Her lovely, dark hair drapes over the smooth side of her face. The pink shade of her lips reminds me of the wild roses that grow in the ditch. Smooth, unblemished, ivory skin covers the pleasing planes of her face. Her fetching image puts me in mind of a harpy from the sea. Mother told me stories of such creatures when I was a child. I doubt Mrs. Lund knows how beautiful she is. It saddens me to take in the other half of her face. I hate to think of the pain she endured to have such scars. Burns, I now surmise.
“Again, I apologize. Mabel sent me out with coffee for the crew before things swing into action.”
She says the words without looking up; they exit from her mouth rough, strained. I wonder what makes her sound as if she’s smoked too many cigarettes. I wouldn’t guess her to indulge in what Mother would call “the sin of smoking.”
With a hint of the sarcasm I feel, I tell her, “Linc did send me to get some coffee, but I didn’t think I’d be wearing it.”
Why am I talking so much?
I feel a need to engage this woman in conversation, to pull her out of her shell, but ironically, I usually act the same way she does—reserved.
Her clear eye—green-colored with bits of brown and blue— tilts up at me at a strange angle, in question. “Linc?”
I let my childhood name for Lincoln slip, but she was bound to find out eventually. “Yes. Lincoln and I are...old friends. Schoolmates. I called him Linc in our younger days.”
I shrug, release my shirt, and wipe my wet fingers on my thigh. Again, I’m revealing too much. She nods and looks back down at the mown lawn, making as if to return to the house.
“Wait.” I stop her and place my hands on either side of the wooden tray. “There’s no harm done, except I’m a little damp. Still plenty here to drink. I’ll carry it out to the men for you.”
I pull the tray, but she holds firm. She’s stronger than she appears.
She points her chin to my chest. “You’ll need to change.” “It’ll dry in no time, I reckon.”
“But it’s chilly. You’ll...” she gives me a one-eyed gaze, “be
I gently pull the tray again. “I’ve faced worse.”
She relinquishes it with a quiet sigh.
“Much obliged,” she utters, and she drops her hands,
brushing them on her blue, gingham apron.
“My pleasure,” I say and inwardly kick myself. I sound like
She pauses before she turns. I decide to skip asking for a
cinnamon roll. But something else eats at me besides hunger. Some need to connect with another who obviously knows what pain is gives me the courage to ask.
“What...is it that you grieve?”
I surprise myself with my raw boldness. She stops, her hand on the knob of the door to the house and her back to me. Her head droops farther south.
Her voice sounds hollow, tinny. “You mean who?”
I swallow at my audacity and tighten my grip on the tray. “I suppose so. Who, then?”
Mrs. Lund turns partially back, captured in a perfect silhouette, backlit by the slanted morning light.
“My son,” she tells me, and she slips into the house without so much as a creak of the door.
The words sound like they hurt in more ways than one. Family—deep love and deep heartache.
I shake my head of thoughts that will weigh me down, turn,
and walk to the men and their machine to serve up some half- empty mugs of coffee on a drenched tray.
I’m curious about Mrs. Lund’s story, and if I ask her more questions, she may answer. But then she’ll want to ask me some, and I am not ready to confess my sins to her. For some reason that I can’t name, it’s important to me for her to think well of me.
Why I do not know.
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