They reached the hut, and he hesitated. "Did ye leave behind a husband? Wee bairns to care for?"
Instant pain filled her eyes. She turned her back and lifted the flap. "Nope. Not even a goldfish. At present the only love in my life is T-Bone."
An odd stab of jealousy hit him at the mention of a love interest. He shook it off as nothing more than weariness. When she would enter, he stayed her hand. "Nay. I would set rules afore ye abide in my home."
She dropped the rawhide and held up her hands. "Fine. Whatever floats your boat. I'll play your way until it no longer suits me."
The girl's nonchalance and dismissive words stirred his anger. Suddenly having his own slave gave him a sense of power he hadn't expected. Under Erik's rule and now Rurik's, he'd forgotten how it felt to be in charge, to make decisions and have no one gainsay him. "Slaves canno' choose when to quit being a slave."
"Did someone forget to oil your squeaky parts?" She tugged at her ear as if her hearing had deceived her. "You keep spouting the same nonsense."
Nonsense? Did the girl not understand that certain things could mean life or death in this harsh land?
He grabbed her chin, forcing her attention. "Ye'll obey my every command or find your stay most unpleasant. I ken that certain tasks might prove difficult, but I'll no' tolerate laziness or lack of respect."
Angel's eyes widened, and she nodded. "Yep, you definitely need the squeaky parts oiled," she muttered beneath her breath.
Not fully understanding, he ignored her odd comment. She twisted from his grasp and followed him inside, her manner more subdued. If she only knew how her presence frightened him. Already, he felt protective of her, even attracted to her. The witch had cast a spell, one not to his liking.
"Only a weak man uses his physical strength against a woman." She stroked her jaw with nimble fingers. "Are you weak?"
By the saints, she dared much. "Do you accuse me of being less of a man?"
"Touchy." She glanced off to the side. "I'm not handling this--you very well. You're overreacting to everything I say. Usually, overreaction is a symptom of fear."
That she touched upon the truth made his insides curl.
A curtain of black hair swept across her back as she tilted her head and laughed. When she quieted, she pierced him to the core with her dark, brooding eyes. "I'm just as frightened as you. I suppose that gives us common ground on which to proceed."