Rough and ready.
“You’ll have to keep still.” Angharad clutched the scissors. It had been a long time since she’d cut anyone’s hair. Fin had insisted that she cut his.
“I’m trying.” He sat on a stool in the middle of the hall, beside the fire. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
Angharad laughed. “Yes, I know. I sheared sheep this summer.”
“That’s a great comfort.”
“Be quiet.” She combed Fin’s hair to his shoulders and started cutting. Reddish brown hair fluttered to the floor. She bit her lips and continued. It was one thing she hated doing for Berthulf who would try and grope her while she worked. It took all of her self control not to stab him with the scissors.
“You’re doing well, you haven’t cut me yet.”
“You haven’t seen your hair.” Another lock dropped to her feet. After a week of marriage, Angharad felt easier in Fin’s company. It helped that he left her alone at night. He always kissed her forehead before he extinguished the lamp and rolled over to sleep. The nightly gesture made her feel safe and protected and comfortable in his presence during the day.
He laughed softly. “It doesn’t matter. It’s nearly winter. No one outside this hall will see what a mess you’ve made of it.”
“Do you have so little faith, husband?”
“By your own admission, you’ve done nothing but shear sheep these past few years.”
Another snip. “Without drawing blood.” Angharad kept cutting, watching his hair fall on the floor. When she finished she brushed the stray hair from his shoulders. “There. It’s done and it’s neat, too.”
“I’ll have to take your word for it.” He caught her hand and kissed it. “Thank you.” His eyes were bright.
Angharad froze at the scrape of the gate and the splash of hooves through the mud. Fin’s fingers threaded through hers when he stood up. Angharad’s heart hammered against her chest. She edged close to Fin and watched Athelwulf walk into the hall. She saw her husband’s hand stray to the hilt of his sword.
“Don’t,” she hissed, squeezing his hand. “Remember, you have what he wanted.”
“Mistress.” Athelwulf’s progress into the hall came to an abrupt halt. His pale eyes were round glass beads.
“Athelwulf.” Angharad raised her chin a notch. “This is a surprise.”
“Lady, have you taken leave of your senses?” His cheeks were an angry, mottled red.
“This is my husband, Fin Olaffson.”
“Dane?” Fin asked.
“The man you left for dead.” Angharad leaned against Fin when his arm slid around her waist.
Athelwulf’s jaw worked soundlessly.
“I think you should leave,” Angharad said. “You don’t look very well.”
“I found him when you left him for dead.”
“Angharad took me in and looked after me. She knows what really happened.” Fin’s voice was cold.
Angharad wanted him gone. She hated that he stood in her house, enraged because she’d married Fin. “You should leave. You aren’t welcome here. You’ve never been welcome here.”
“Oh, I’m leaving. Do you think I want to stay in this hovel with a British whore and her Danish husband?” Athelwulf spat. “You will regret this, lady. You’ll both regret it.”
“We’ll see about that.” Fin’s arm tightened around her.
“You’ve made a big mistake, Angharad. This bastard will bleed you dry. He’ll destroy you.”
“And Berthulf didn’t?” Angharad curled her hands into fists. “Didn’t you want the same thing of me?”
“I would’ve cared for you.”
“The way her husband ‘cared’ for her?” A muscle twitched in Fin’s cheek. “Get out of here. You insult my wife, you insult me. If it wasn’t for my wife’s wish not to have blood spilled in this house, I’d run you through with my sword.”
“May you both burn in hell.” Athelwulf spun on his heels and stormed out of the hall.
“Are you all right?” Fin asked.
Angharad trembled against him, fighting anger and old fears. “I’ll be fine.” She flinched when Athelwulf’s pony squealed. Hooves scrabbled for purchase in the mud, clumps slammed against the side of the house. She felt sorry for the animal.
“He’s not done with us, is he?”
“No.” Angharad mourned the loss of the easy domesticity of the morning. She shivered when Fin’s arm fell away. He returned to the fireplace, sank onto the stool and stared into the flames. Angharad found a brush and swept his hair up and wondered how to retrieve all that had been good about the day.