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Friday, May 31, 2013

Kayce Lassiter's Do's and Don'ts of Internet Dating

Okay, I might as well come clean, fess up, get it off my chest...I'm a chronic procrastinator.  I'm sure they have support groups for people less afflicted than me, but "Hell no, I won't go!"  I'm gonna dig in my heels and hold out until the very last minute.  I'm gonna wait until the ninth hour, until the deadline is eminent, until the adrenaline is pumping and the risk of failure is looming large.  I'm gonna walk the bleeding edge of procrastination and laugh in the face of the concept of actually scheduling a blog ahead of time.  And one day I'm going to come up totally freaking empty and have to make the walk of shame with no one to blame but myself.  But not today!  Not this week, not this girland I have my niece to thank for that.  Thank you, B-girl, you are a rock star!

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of blogs over on the Butterscotch Martini Girls site about some of my internet dating experiences.  Well, the saga continues and I'm still searching the internet world for the perfect man for me.  Now, mind you, I'm not looking for the perfect manthat's like dragons and unicornsthey don't exist except in our books.  I'm just looking for the one that's perfect for me.  I're all fairness, the perfect woman is a myth also.  But that's not the subject of this blog.  Over the last five years, I've read literally thousands of profiles and have talked to enough men to single-handedly staff a Million Man March.  Okay, that's an exaggeration, but it sure feels like it.

Well, as I sat here tonight staring at a blank computer screen with the panic rising like water over the Titanic, the B-girl suggested I should blog again about internet dating.  It seems my nieces never tire of hearing about the systematic humiliation of their favorite aunt.  So, why not?  My blogs are all about Life, Love, and Laughter and what's more closely aligned with that than internet dating?  But this time, I'm not going to give you all the sordid details of my dating life or describe for you the tales of a wandering minstrel that couldn't find his way to Arizona.  This time I'm just going to address this blog to those hopeful women out there who are looking to internet dating as the potential solution to all their dating woes.  If this is you, my advice is to run like the wind.  Internet dating is NOT for sissies!  It can be overwhelming as hell to go through all those profiles and try to decipher the secret code.  And make no mistake, there is a secret code and it's not documented in the FAQ's for the match site.  The only place you can learn the code is in the school of hard knocks or from a friend who's attended the school.  So...sit down, put on your seatbelt, and grab some popcorn and a soda...I'm gonna give you Kayce Lassiter's do's and don'ts of internet dating.

What are we looking for? 
  • A man with an interesting profile that gives you some insight into his values and his character.
  • The profile that shows a man who is appealing to the heart, as well as the eye.
  • Someone with goals and interests and dreams.
  • Someone willing to help support your goals and interests and dreams.
  • The man who makes the reader imagine a future full of love and respect.
  • A man who aligns closely with our dreams, whatever those may be.
  • An individual with enough resources to not be a drain or a burden, but isn't consumed with his stuff to the detriment of his relationships.
  • Honesty, happiness, laughter, intelligence, wit, common sense, and adventure embodied in male form.
  • The rare man who speaks well of his ex's and isn't afraid to tell you how many there have been.
Well, girls, this ever-elusive creature can be as hard to find as a pink striped cat at a dog fight, but don't lose heart.  Just take a gander a this list and see if you don't agree that this is a pretty comprehensive list of ways to cull the herd and find a good 'un.
  • If the new guy talks a little too much a little too soon about his possessions and money, supposedly in the spirit of "full disclosure", beware!  He is either lying desperate to inpress you, or loose-lipped.  None of these gets my vote for "catch of the year"...or even "catch of the day".  Swim away!
  • Profiles with no pictures should have a red circle with a slash over them and a tagline that reads "Keep Out".  There is a reason there's no picture...he's probably married.  And his line about not being able to post a picture because he's an FBI agent and the bureau won't allow it...probably a load of bull.  (Believe it or not, this guy's out there.)
  • If the man's picture is taken at a range of a quarter mile, but close-ups of his dog, cat, hamster, jackass, artwork, or nieces and nephews are all at point blank range, scroll on.  He's either completely incapable of operating a simple camera, has no friends, or is hiding something.  None of this bodes well for you.
  • Take care with the man whose profile is full of pictures of hot little sports cars, expensive toys, exotic locations and mansions, but his profile says "facilities engineer".  He's not engineering anything...those are all things he's cleaning for someone else.
  • Beware of match sites that want you to list your income level and beware of men who do.
  • Men who take pictures with their herd of little fluffy, yappy dogs are either trying too hard to show you their sensitive side or are too attached to the little yappers.  Unless you enjoy sharing your bed with five dogs with fleas and bad breath, kennel this one.
  • Stay away from men whose profiles have pictures of them with Hooters waitresses, cheerleaders, or Vegas showgirls.  These men are out to impress the other men on the match site.  These guys just haven't come out of the closet yet.
  • Retired vs. umemployed vs. semi-retired is a very interesting dilemma.  Retired generally means retired.  Unemployed usually means unemployed, but is seldom listed.  Semi-retired, however, isn't always what it's cracked up to be.  This is the time to ask some pointed questions.  Very often, semi-retired is a euphemism for old, unemployed, broke, and can't find a job.   Make sure he is "semi-retired" with some visible means of supportother than you!
  • If you run across the guy whose profile says he's 60, but his primary profile picture shows a man in his 20's giving a peace sign and wearing a moustache, sideburns, and an afro...keep on truckin'.  That's a man who spends way too much time in the past.
  • If his marriage status on his profile says, "it's complicated", run for the hills!  Honesty is the best policy, but that doesn't mean "unmarried man sleeping with camel and dating woman on the side" is ever a good idea.
  • If he shows up in a swimsuit for your first date, you'd better be meeting at the beach.
  • The guy who asks you out on a 3rd coffee date is either terribly undecided, terribly cheap, or just plain bored and you're better than nothing.  Make yourself absent from his life.
  • If the new dreamboat is loud and talks over the top of you, either he's more interested in himself than you...or he's DEAF.  Unless you know sign language, let this one slide on by.
  • A man in a white shirt and a tie standing in front of an airplane isn't necessarily a pilot.
  • The man who says he is "living with his elderly mother to take care of her" might be the most loving and selfless man on the planet, but it could also be code for "I'm a fifty year old loser with no job and no resources and I'm living in my mother's basement, spending my days playing solitaire on the internet in my tighty whities."  Buyer beware!
  • Pass on the guy who believes he's had the worst luck ever in picking spouses or ex-girlfriends.  Rememberhe picked them!  This guy should stick with picking watermelons.  It's ever so much easier.  He's just not good at this.
  • Just say no to the man who asks where you live and says 15-20 miles is too great a distance to travel.  He either doesn't have a car or he doesn't have a life.
  • You ask him what he likes to do and he ticks off a list of his favorite TV shows.  This one is parked in a recliner with an empty recliner next to him just waiting for your butt.  Beware...he will NOT share the will end up watching Dragnet reruns and shows about how to fish for bass!
  • Glamour shots for men?  When is that EVER a good idea?  NOT!
  • Steer clear of the man who admits he cheated on the ex.  Once a cheater, always a cheater.  And if he tells you she drove him to it, remember...she may have driven him to the airport, but he bought the ticket.
  • When the new guy evades your question about how many times he's been married with nonsense about how it's a new start and he just wants to focus on you and not the past, kick him to the curb.  If he won't name a number, it's a BIG one!
  • Guys who have a huge beer belly and a picture of themselves in a full length shirt that ends well above their belly button, but either list themselves as "athletic" or "average" in build and want to find a woman who is "hot" and "thin" are delusional or blind.  Just because you ask, it doesn't mean you will receive.
  • The man who asks about your sexual preferences in the third email (before you've even met) either has an agenda or the equipment doesn't work and he's culling the herd before he wastes too much time on you.  Head for higher pastures!
  • He asks your dress or bra size before you've met.  I'm thinking cross-dresser???
  • The profile says he has a dog named Hitler, a cat named Stalin, a rat named Attila, and a parakeet named Jeffrey Dahmer.  This one was almost too creepy to write...stay home, lock your doors!
  • At the risk of offending anyone, let me just say that midgets and circus clowns are like rhubarb pieif you like it, it's wonderful.  But if it's not your thing, go for the coconut cream.  Everyone has a preference and it's okay to say it's not yours.  Don't get guilted into ordering a meal you don't intend to eat.  But hey, adventure can be a wonderful thing...if that's your bag.
  • The man who shows up to a first meeting with his wallet and at least enough money for his own coffee is a definite contender.  And if he buys your coffee, you might have found the Holy Grail!
  • McDonald's can be a good place to meetpublic, clean, cheap in the event he forgot his wallet (this one should be a real strong hint), and if he remembers his wallet but turns out to be a total jerk, there's no guilt associated with a fast exit left.
  • The Walgreens parking lot is NOT a good place to meetpublic, clean, cheap, but just plain weird.
  • The guy whose true height is at least 2 inches shorter than the profile states is either shrinking faster than he can update his profile or he's just flat delusional.  Either way, I'd give this one a pass.
  • Sometimes the real keeper is the man who shows up on time for your first date in full length pants, his hair is combed, he smells good, he isn't smudged or covered in grease, he's not sweating like a whore in churchand if he has ear wax, YOU CAN'T FREAKING SEE IT from across the table!
  • He wants to pick you up at your house for a first meeting, but you suggest a more public location to meet.  If he is offended that you don't trust him enough to let him come to your house, slam-dunk this one.  He's lied about how many axes he has hanging in his garage.
  • If his picture frightens you when you open it, he's probably not your guy.  A friend of mine once told me looks aren't important, so I showed her the last profile picture I'd opened.  She jumped when I opened it and said, "Holy Crap!"  I rest my point.  Looks definitely are NOT everything, but they can be very important in certain circumstances.  Everyone can't be Hugh Jackman, but he should at least have attempted to put his best foot forward.  The old proverbial "A for effort" is important here.
  • The man who spends six months trying to find the state you live in isn't a good bet for making it home every night.
  • Remember, there are lots of gorgeous men out there.  But some of the best advice I ever got was from a very good friend of mine who said, "It's better to be the pretty one."  Sage advice!
  • Beware of the guy whose primary photo is a bevy of dead beavers hugging a tree or him with a rifle and a dead elk.  It's not an issue that he is a hunterI happen to love huntersthe issue is that this is the best picture he has.  Marry this man and you will spend the rest of your life with a singing fish mounted above your television.
  • And last but not leastteeth are important.  Are they clean?  Are they maintained?  Does he have them?  And does he wear them?  Enough said.
Okay, now that you've been through the Kayce Lassiter school of internet dating, either you're armed and ready to go out and try it yourself or you're moving the TV and recliner into your walk-in closet where you intend to spend the rest of your life alone.  Well, I warned you...internet dating definitely is not for the faint of heart.  But for those of us who are eternal optimists, we just know there's one out there for usthe perfect man for me, the one who shows up looking good, smelling good, talking good, with his wallet, his teeth, and his manners.  He visits momma on Mother's Day, he remembers your birthday, he opens doors and pulls out chairs for you, he's honest and caring and repectful and he'd willingly walk from California to New York just to be with you.  Now that's the Happily Ever After I'm talkin' about!

That's my story, twisted but true, and I'm stickin' to it.  Hang on tight now 'cuz we're gonna go real, real fast!

Love ya,


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dog-Eared Pages

The title of this blog is NOT how I treat my books. I never dog-ear my pages. I use a very lovely bookmark someone gave me. Actually, I try really hard not to crack the spine either…when I lend someone a book, they always ask “Did you read this?” The answer is always yes….I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn't read it and love it.

But forgive me, I have digressed. Again. 

Thom & Mel before Dog-Eared Pages Opened

Dog-Eared Pages is actually the name of a bookstore here in Phoenix. My favorite bookstore. As you probably already know, I love books….the way they smell. The way they feel in your hand.  The way they brighten a room and make it feel homey. The way they can take you to exotic places and make you fall in love over and over again (and my old dog Sasha would probably tell you how good they tasted, too. She developed a taste for Stephen King at a very young age and ate a book or two before she grew out of her puppy/teething stage).

The first time I walked into Dog-Eared Pages, I was hooked. This shop was my idea of a bookstore, from the shelf upon shelf of new and used books to the comfortable surroundings, it was everything I want in a bookstore and more. They have deeply cushioned chairs you can get comfortable in and read away the afternoon. They have books you didn’t know you wanted or needed until you start walking among the shelves. Everything from contemporary to historical, from true crime to biographies and reference books are there for your enjoyment. They even have a display of local authors! Most importantly, the owners, Thom and Melanie are there to greet you, recommend a good read, offer you a cup of coffee or tea and talk everything books! They are wonderful!

So what’s your idea of the perfect bookshop? Something big yet intimate? Warm and friendly? If that’s what you’re looking for and you’re in the Phoenix area, stop in and see Thom and Melanie. You’re gonna love it!

As always, happy reading!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Guest Author Interview: Gina Conkle with a Giveaway

Our guest today is historical romance author Gina Conkle and she is giving away a copy of her book Norse Jewel. Check out this interesting interview and the excerpt from Norse Jewel. Then leave a comment along with contact information for your chance to win!

Alexis: What made you chose your title?
Gina: The characters, Hakan and Helena, share a common connection around a red stone.  It’s also a play on the heroine, Helena, being an unexpected jewel in Hakan’s life.

Alexis: Where did you get the idea for this story?
Gina: The seed for Norse Jewel came from two things.  First, I read the historical account of Swedish King Olof Skotkonung, who tried to end the “9 Year Blot” in AD 1022.  That’s a custom of sacrifice to Norse gods in Uppsala.

Second, I love the movie “Gladiator.”  I began to wonder what if King Olof had a Norse chieftain who wanted to lay down his sword and just be a farmer?  What if the king and that warrior had a very close father-son type relationship? 

That oozed conflict to me.  Then, throw in a Frankish slave (thrall in Norse), and make her part of the stakes.  That’s how Norse Jewel was born.

Alexis: Why did you choose this sub-genre of romance?
Gina: I love Vikings. I’ve been fascinated with that era and people group for over a decade.  I’ve read a lot of history books (very nerdy, but fun) and stories, lots of stories, grew from that.

Alexis: What are you working on now?
Gina: I’m working on two things.  Norse Fire: a saucy slave woman and rough-souled warrior hunt for a Viking hoard that could save the kingdom. They must work together, and fast, with the enemy on their heels. They traded barbs in the past. Now, sparks fly of a different nature on the trail to recover treasure.

I also recently sold a 3 book Georgian series to Sourcebooks.  The first book, tentatively titled “Meet the Earl at Midnight,” is done, but now we’re doing the periphery work, plus the other two need to be written. I wrote “Meet the Earl…” to balance out the Norse hammers in my head!  This story’s about a brilliant, reclusive earl whose private world collides with an on-the-shelf commoner.  Both have their own plans which don’t include love.

Alexis: What do you think everyone should know about your husband?
Gina: Everyone should know how supportive and amazing Brian is.  In 2012, he quit his job and started his own company.  We were doing ok, but I saw the need to work again full time.  We were at a cross roads. 

Spring of 2012, I asked him if I should go back to teaching or biotech (the two jobs I had in the past), and yes, I laughingly suggested writing since I felt like something was going to happen.  He said, “You’re a writer. You’re really good. I think this is going to happen for you.”

At the time, I didn’t have an agent, wasn’t assertive in my submissions, nor was I even buckling down and treating writing as a job (as opposed to a hobby).

I was blown away by his support…still am.  Now, I work at writing full time.

Alexis: Got to love a supportive husband! Thank you so much for visiting with us and telling us a bit about your book. For those interested in winning a copy of Norse Jewel, don’t for get to leave a comment. And be sure to check out the great excerpt!

About Gina:
A lover of history, books and romance makes the perfect recipe for historical romance writer.  Gina’s passion for castles and old places (the older and moldier the better!) means interesting family vacations.  Good thing her husband and two sons share similar passions, except for romance…that’s where she gets the eye roll.  When not visiting fascinating places, she can be found in southern California delving into the latest adventures of organic gardening and serving as chief taxi driver.

For more information about Gina visit her at:
her website
on Twitter @ginaconkle
on Pinterest

EXCERPT from Norse Jewel
Norse Jewel
Chapter One
Land of the Franks AD 1022
Smoke and mist parted, luring gawkers and traders alike.

“Come, see the goods,” a voice beckoned from the crowd.

Canny merchants in billowing robes examined exotic wares: fragrant spices, cloth spilling rivers of color, and barrels of rich Frankish wine. Morning air filled with foreign words and the clink of foreign coins. Bretons. Castilians. Saxons. All mixed with the Danes, those giant men who fingered giant hammers with relish. A gaggle of freewomen gossiped while gutting slippery fish. Scores of seagulls squawked, diving at fish heads the chattering women tossed aside. Helena watched these curious sights, so different from her humble village. All would be well except she was a stolen woman, taken in a raid on her village. Human chattel to the Danes.

She scanned the heavens and curled her fists.

I will return home.

A cool, mocking laugh intruded. “Praying again?”

Sestra, a buxom, flame-haired woman swigged water from the drinking pouch they shared. Like Helena, her wrists were tethered by long leather bindings to a stake in the ground.

“Good morning.” Helena reached for the proffered pouch.

“We’ll see soon enough,” Sestra groused. “Prayers don’t work, you know. Find a good protector. Work will be light then.” She finger combed her tangled hair for maximum effect and purred, “Find the right protector and you won’t have to lift a finger.”

Helena bristled at the suggestion. “I will have my freedom again.” She winced at the sight of loud warriors sharpening their axes around a smoky fire. “First, I need to get away from here.”

“Give it up. Accept your lot in life. We are captives. Slaves. Thralls. The language doesn’t matter, the master you serve does.” Sestra scanned the horizon, assessing a Flemish merchant fussing with his robes.

Both women were Frankish and of similar age but worlds apart in experience. Helena wanted to argue her point, but Sestra held up bound hands.

“Let me give you some advice…advice that’s saved my hide. Forget about home, and don’t fight. Those who fight don’t live long.” Sestra tapped her own smooth cheek and gave Helena a knowing look. “Look at what happened to you.”

Helena tested her cheek, touching skin scabbed and smooth. Outer wounds heal, but wounds to the soul cut deeper and lingered long. Aye, some things were worth a fight. Her hands slid to the leather pouch that hung from her neck. ‘Twas tucked between her breasts inside her dress, the contents safe—for now.

“The wound stopped the Danes. What’s done is done. . .” She squeezed her eyes shut, banishing images of that day. “. . .but I will not accept this as my lot in life.”

A stench of fish assaulted Helena. When she opened her eyes, the freewoman who brought their provisions approached and her gap-toothed smile held no cheer.

“Won’t have that for long,” the hag sneered, pointing at the lump under Helena’s bodice. “Should’ve let him take yer puny purse.”

The old woman dropped bread to the ground and planted work-rough hands at her hips as she loomed over them. Chills swept Helena’s limbs, owing nothing to the morning’s dampness. She folded her legs tight to her body. Her bindings chafed tender flesh. The brutal Gudrud’s attack broke like sharp-tipped fragments in her mind as the grizzled woman cackled.

“He returns. Soon,” she crooned. “Dung for brains has he. Felled by a Frankish maid in front of the other men. Yer kick hurt more than his man parts. Ye damaged mannish pride.” She waggled a finger at Helena and sang a gleeful warning. “Get sold today or sleep with one eye open. Night’s when he’ll get revenge.”

“Leave her be,” Sestra hissed. “Isn’t it enough you torment us daily?”

“I can forget to bring food for the likes of ye,” the old woman jeered.

“Be gone. We don’t need you.”

Two pairs of stunned eyes turned to Helena, who sat tall with her chin tipped high.

“Want me gone, do ye? I can forget yer food. See how those haughty words taste when yer belly aches from hunger.” The fishwife’s rheumy eyes narrowed on the small bulge under Helena’s bodice. “Hope whatevers ye got was worth it.”

The freewoman sauntered away, jibing about less thralls to feed. Helena clenched the pouch; the stone within was hard to her fingers. After she had been wounded, the other Danes had belittled Gudrud for losing a tussle with a mere woman. Magnuson, their leader, had let her keep the well-worn pouch, deeming it worthless upon quick inspection.

“Well, she did serve a purpose. I, for one, like to eat,” Sestra said, eyeing the bread.

“I couldn’t abide her taunts anymore.” Helena’s shoulders slumped as she dusted off the loaf and tore it in two. She passed the larger portion to Sestra. “And now my outburst cost us both. Who knows when she’ll bring food again.”

Sestra inspected the bread’s soft innards and scooped a handful. “Forget it. Eating is the least of your worries. The hag had one thing right. Gudrud will return and you cannot be here.”

Helena tucked her bread portion into her lap. “I could try running away.”

Sestra choked on her bread. “Remember the Basque woman?”

Helena hugged her legs still folded tightly to her body as visions of that day spilled. A twilight trip to answer nature’s call at the forest’s edge, and she saw the black-haired Basque woman slipped from sight. The fishwife screeched an alarm. Men yelled. Hooves thundered. Tree bark had bitten into Helena’s skin as she sunk into it to avoid the blur of men atop horses. Then, somewhere in the dense forest, the Basque woman’s blood-curdling screams carried through the air. None heard or saw her again.

Helena eyed that dark tree line. “A bad plan.”

Sestra snapped her fingers twice. “Look. Buyers come. Heed the old woman,” she chided. “Hide your wound. And smile. Men like a woman who smiles…a friendly woman.”

Aye, survival first.

Her breath quickened as she whispered a short prayer, but heaven stayed silent. Gulls squawked and dove in the salty sea air, like her, seeking survival. Helena tugged at her braid, covering her wounded cheek with loose strands and prepared for the loathsome ordeal—one human selling another. Beside her, Sestra’s voice touched a seductive note.

“For these men I can smile very nicely.”

“You say that about every man.”

Sestra snorted and nodded at the horizon. “Judge for yourself.”

Two long-limbed, thickly muscled warriors walked through the morning mist. Hard Danes and wiry merchants alike paused mid-conversation to dip their heads in greeting to these two. One was dark and amiable, yet large as a bear. The other, wary like a wolf, was fierce and blonde. He wore his sword strapped across his back and listened quietly to his friend, but his ice-blue eyes measured the camp. Sestra, ever the fount of knowledge, tipped her head toward the blonde man.

“See that? His leather belt,” she said with calculating awe. “A sign of authority. Kings served. Battles won. Many battles. A Norse chieftain by the look.”

Bronze and copper squares were stamped into his wide belt. Each token bore a unique design that caught the eye. But, he did not need the belt to command respect. The air around him crackled with authority. He moved like one belonging to an honored warrior class. Helena suddenly realized that her home village of Aubergon, her whole life, was sheltered and small.

Beside her, Sestra poked her arm. “You speak Norse. What are they saying?”

“I understand some.” But, her gaze wandered to the sinister horizon where the Basque woman had disappeared.

Her heart beat faster; a copper tinge filled her mouth at the sight of the dense forest, dark even in the morn. Aye, get sold this day—a far better fate than risking escape or facing the cruel Gudrud when he returned.

Sestra prodded her again. “Helena. Aren’t you listening? What is he—”

“Shhh,” Helena set a finger to her lips and canted her head to listen.

“…a farmer?” The bear man spoke the word as if he tasted brine. “I don’t see it. Hakan the Tall, a chieftain of Svea becomes Hakan…the farmer.” His booming voice flattened. “Why?”

“I tire of this life.”

“Do we not gain gold aplenty from fat foreign kings?” The bear man jingled a bag at his waist and grinned.

“This isn’t about gold.”

Yet, the wolf-eyed chieftain loosed a bulging bag from his belt. ‘Twas obvious he didn’t waste coin on fine attire: his scuffed leather jerkin and faded blue trousers, tucked into fur boots, had seen much wear. No sweeping capes or brash torque hung about his neck such as usually graced the necks of high ranking Norsemen. What manner of chieftain would dress so simply?

“What are they saying?” Sestra whispered.

“That you need to be quiet so I can eavesdrop better.”

Sestra paused midst cleaning her teeth with her sleeve. “Oh, very funny.”

Helena smiled and turned her attention to the men, but their voices were too low, all the better to sate her curiosity for the one called Hakan. He crossed his arms and stood like a warrior-king, but of course that was harebrained. What did she know of kings? Whatever his rank, he lured her. She couldn’t help but follow the knit of the Norseman’s muscles under burnished skin. What would it feel like to touch him there?

Amidst her fascination, Magnuson, leader of the Danes approached. At the sight of him, an ugly shiver traced her back.

“Hakan.” The Dane clapped a heavy hand on the chieftain’s shoulder. “I hear you seek a woman to teach you Frankish words.”

“An old Frankish woman. To keep my farm, help with my wine trade.”

“Old? Young? What does it matter?” Magnuson grunted and splayed his fingers her way. “Frankish women here. Three of them. The rest…Sarmatians, Flemish, many from Eyre.”

“And not one of them long in years.”

Hakan rubbed his jaw as his gaze swept the row of women. Wide silver bands etched with intricate swirls wrapped around his strong arms. Helena frowned as Sestra brazenly thrust her curves at the men. Is that what it took to escape this place?

The bear man laughed and pointed at the blatant display. “This one could teach you much.”

The chieftain scowled. “And cause trouble.”

Sestra’s come-hither smile melted to a sulk under his harsh glower. Her disappointment didn’t last long, more men ambled on the horizon. The Frankish maid’s face lit up when she spied a lavishly dressed merchant drawing near.

Magnuson rubbed his hairy cheeks. “Old women give fewer years of service.”

Helena wrapped her skirt close about her legs. Listening to their rapid Norse took all her concentration.

“What happened to that one?” The one called Hakan asked about her.

A flush of warmth poured through Helena, alert to his attention. She stiffened and couldn’t look higher than the chieftain’s silver armbands where a blood-eyed beast carved in silver winked at her, a trick of daylight’s reflection.

“An unfortunate mishap.” Magnuson shrugged a massive shoulder under his bearskin pelt. “One of my men…she fought him, his knife slipped, caught her jaw … The Dane slid his finger from jaw to ear, mimicking her wound. “…but, if its old you want, come this way.”

Copyright © 2013 by Gina Conkle. Entangled Publishing, LLC

Alexis: For a chance to win Norse Jewel, answer Gina’s question: What do you like to see in alpha male characters? 
Be sure to leave contact information. Winner drawn Wednesday :-)