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The secrets and lies had to stop.
Warm spring sunshine beating down on her back, Hilda walked toward the well with the wooden pail in her hand, staring at the great hall that towered above the roofs of the ramshackle cottages that lined the streets of Visby. The imposing building served as both a declaration of Jarl Valen Eriksson’s power and wealth, and a warning to any who would declare war on the isle of Gottland. But to her it was a daily reminder that she was deceiving those who had offered her a home, and though they did not know it, sanctuary.
This last month, the desire to tell Ulf the truth, to show him her scars and cast aside the ever-present shadow over her marriage, had become harder and harder to deny.
I must do it. Even though her nightmares had eased, the scars in her mind were just as deep and ugly as those her father had left on her body. Scars and pain that would never go away. She wanted Ulf to understand why she had hidden her body, to understand the reasons for the unspoken distance that hovered like a threatening storm cloud between them. Swallowing the hard lump that had formed in her throat, Hilda firmed her resolve. It was time to be honest about her past. I shall tell him after the evening meal. Ulf was a good husband, he deserved to know the truth.
Startled, Hilda slipped into an alcove in the rough stone wall that surrounded the bustling town of Visby and peered out. She had been so deeply in thought that she had not noticed the angry hum of the crowd gathered on the grass in front of Jarl Eriksson’s longhouse. She loathed the trapped sensation that accompanied the press of bodies in a large crowd, but she was curious about the commotion interrupting the usual routine of daily chores.
Thief. The pail slipped from her fingers, her pulse quickening until it sounded like a dozen horses galloping in a deafening rhythm as the shouted insult rang out over the muffled jeering of the crowd.