Radulfr knocked impatiently on the wooden door inside the byre. He didn't know what to think when he had asked for Ein and been directed to a building that housed the farm animals. He could think of no reason his bride would be inside of a byre.
Radulfr frowned as he opened the door and stepped inside. The voice he heard sounded suspiciously like a man's voice. If that was so, Radulfr wanted to know why a man was inside a closed room with his betrothed.
His eyes were immediately drawn to the small figure sitting on a raised platform sitting across the room from him. He was mesmerized by slightly paled skin hidden under streams of sunlight blond hair. It took all of his finely honed control to look away from the alluring form and around the rest of the room.
"I am looking for Ein," he said when he didn't see anyone else in the small room.
Radulfr's eyes snapped back to the person sitting on the platform. He peered closer and knew he was definitely looking at a man but he couldn't dismiss the stirring he felt in his groin at the vision before him. He just didn't understand it.
"You are Ein?" The man nodded, swallowing so hard that Radulfr could hear it from his position by the door. "Son of Jarl Dagr?"
"Jarl Dagr is not my faðirbut I am who you are looking for."
"I'm looking for a woman," Radulfr snapped.
"I'm sorry you were deceived but as you can see…" Ein stood up and held his hands out to his sides… "I am not a woman and Jarl Dagr knows it well."
"By Thor's hammer," Radulfr whispered, "I've been bonded to a man."
Radulfr couldn't begin to describe the rage that instantly flooded him but he could see it mirrored in Ein's fear as the man stepped back from him, eyeing him warily.
"I'm sorry you were deceived," Ein said again. "I'm sure under the circumstances that you can bring suit against Jarl Dagr before the lawspeakers and have the hansal nullified."
Radulfr's eyes narrowed as he heard Ein's words. "We rode through the night to reach this hov. No one could have gotten here before us. How did you even know about the hansal?"
If anything, Ein's face paled even more as he shrugged. "I just do."
"That answer is not good enough, Ein." Radulfr crossed his arms over his chest to keep himself from reaching for the man and giving him a good shake. "Was this whole thing set up by Dagr and Fafnir? Were you involved?"
"No, please, you have to believe me. Fafnir and I may have had the same mother but I've never even met the man. I only know of Jarl Dagr because he pays a foster fee to the hov to house me. He doesn't want me returning to his land and bringing his shame to light before his clan. I swear I had nothing to do with any of this."
"Then tell me how you know we were betrothed."
"Someone stopped by and told me to expect you."
"Just some old man."
"And you believed him?" Radulfr snorted.
"You're here, aren’t you?"
Radulfr gritted his teeth at Ein's sarcastic answer. He needed to maintain control of his emotions, especially his anger. Losing control could be dangerous for everyone, including Radulfr.
"Who was this old man?"
Ein pressed his lips together and shrugged. Radulfr narrowed his eyes. It was clear that he wasn't going to get any answers out of Ein. He just hoped the man didn't continue to fight him when they reached home or things would go very badly for both of them. Radulfr didn't like being thwarted.
Radulfr stepped back and leaned again the wall, taking a deep breath as he suddenly realized he had already decided to take Ein home with him. He just didn't know if that decision came from his own sense of honor or the way the man looked.
He had to admit, as men went, Ein was by far one of the most attractive Radulfr had ever seen. His skin had a porcelain quality but seemed to almost shine in the soft light from the moon shining through the window.
Ein wasn't a big man, certainly not as big as Radulfr was. He'd never make a warrior. Radulfr couldn't say he was disappointed in the fact. He didn't like the idea of his betrothed being in battle. He'd much prefer to come home and have someone welcome him back.
The smoky silver eyes that kept peering over at him between strands of long white blond hair intrigued Radulfr more than anything. Ein's eyes were very expressive. Radulfr thought he might be able to see his soul mirrored in those smoky depths.
"I know why I agreed to the peace-pledge," Radulfr finally said after several moments of silence. "Why did you? It is your right to deny the handsal."
"The old man pointed out to me that I have spent nearly all of my life here at the hov. I am unlikely to meet anyone here that is marriageable. If I don't, I will never be able to go out into the world and experience what it has to offer."
Radulfr wasn't sure how he felt about that statement beyond the fact that it made him want to growl. "And how do you feel about being betrothed to me?"
Ein's face flushed and he looked quickly down at the floor. "I'm okay with it. The old man assured me that you were an honorable man."
"I sure would like to meet this old man of yours."
Silver eyes flashed up at him. "Maybe you will some day."
He didn't know who this old man was that Ein kept talking about or how Ein knew him, but Radulfr had the distinct feeling he might be seeing him one day too. And he would have a lot of questions for the old man when he did.
"How do you feel about this betrothal?"
"I don't know. I never really thought about one before today."
"Fair enough but you do understand that this is for life, right? There are very few reasons for divorce in our world and none that would pertain to either of us unless you plan on sleeping around on me."
Ein's face flushed again. "No."
"And as I will not raise a hand against you then there should be no reason for us to bring any grievance before the assembly. If you agree to this handsal, and I will have your agreement before we consummate it, then we will not be separated except in death."
Ein felt so anxious his stomach twisted together in knots. He sat curled under a pile of furs on his platform in the byre waiting for Radulfr to join him. And he was butt ass naked. It didn't get anymore nerve racking than that.
He could hear people talking and laughing outside his door and knew that they would be coming in at any moment. He just wished that he had a little more time getting to know Radulfr or at least talking with him before the big show.
The very thought that not only would Radulfr be coming into the room in a moment but six other men that would watch them have sex, made Ein grip the furs in his hands so tight that his knuckles turned white.
He was scared enough about his performance during sex with Radulfr considering that he'd never had sex before. Add in the witnesses and Ein wasn't sure he was going to be able to do anything but lie there. He was terrified.
When the door opened and Radulfr stepped inside, Ein scooted up closer to the head of his bed and swallowed hard. It suddenly felt hard to breathe like there wasn't enough air in the room to take in.
"How are you doing, Ein?" Radulfr asked softly as if his words were just for Ein and not the men still standing outside. "Are you ready for this?"
Ein started shaking his head no until he realized what he was doing. He swallowed again. "I think so."
Radulfr smiled as he walked across the room to sit on the side of the bed next to Ein. He reached down and gently patted Ein's leg. Ein saw it coming but the touch of Radulfr's hand on his body, even through the furs, was still enough to make him jump. "It'll be okay, Ein, I promise. There's not much to this."
"I'm not sure that’s a good thing or not." Ein laughed nervously.
"I wanted a few minutes with you before the others came in to make sure you were ready for what is about to happen." Ein didn't jump this time when Radulfr patted his leg again and thought maybe he wasn't quite so nervous now that Radulfr was here. "Do you have any questions about what is going to happen?""
"Do they really have to watch us?" That’s the part Ein was most nervous about. "I'm not sure I can pretend they're not in the room."
"You let me worry about that. I have no doubt I'll be able to keep you plenty distracted."
Ein was dying of curiosity to know what Radulfr meant. He knew the basics of sex. He'd seen enough farm animals copulate to know what was done. He just didn't know how things were done between two people exactly.
"Will it hurt?"
"It might but I'll try to make sure there isn't too much pain. The more we come together, the less it will hurt."
"This witnessing thing, do they have to actually watch us or do they just have to be in the room? I mean, can we cover up with a fur or something?"
"Unfortunately, no. The witnesses must see me claim you in order for the requirements of the handsal to be completed. If we were hiding under the furs we could later say that we faked it and nothing really happened, thus nullifying the handsal. The witnesses wouldn't be able to say otherwise."
"So…" Ein felt his face start to pale, "they actually have to see it?"
"It?" Radulfr chuckled. "Yes, Ein, they have to actually see me fuck you in the ass."
Ein felt his face go from cold and clammy to burning hot in a split second. He gripped the fur in his hands tighter and pulled it up to his neck. He absently noticed that his hands were trembling and tried to hide them under the covers.
"Ein." Radulfr's voice was whisper soft as he reached for Ein's hands. "I promise, it won't be as bad as you think. You'll hardly even notice that they are in the room." Radulfr chuckled suddenly. "Well, at least I hope you will be too distracted to notice."
"Ho-how do we do this?"
"You mean how do two men have sex together?"
Ein shrugged, too embarrassed to put voice to what he was asking.
"You don't know?"
Ein's panic started to set in when Radulfr grabbed the furs covering his naked body and started slowly pulling on them. "What are you doing?"
Radulfr's amused smirk made Ein nervous. "I think it would be better if I showed you rather than told you."
"Sh-show me?" Ein slapped his hand over his mouth when his voice started to squeak. He felt like an idiot especially when Radulfr pulled the fur farther down and exposed him, a low growl coming from the man.
The fur down around his feet, Ein watched in rapt anticipation as Radulfr moved to kneel on the platform bed, slowly crawling up to cover him with his larger body. Ein felt the air leave his lungs when Radulfr settled over him but he couldn't seem to draw anymore back in.
"Radulfr," he panted when the man seemed to just be watching him. Radulfr didn't make any move toward him other than pressing their bodies together. He didn't touch or caress or kiss. He just stared until Ein began to grow anxious. "What's wrong?"
"Do you have any idea how truly beautiful you are?"
"Me?" He was squeaking again.
"Yes, you." Radulfr chuckled. "I know men are supposed to be manly and handsome but you are more beautiful than most women I know."
Ein frowned, not sure how he was supposed to answer that. "I'm sorry?"
"I'm not. I think I will enjoy looking at you for the next sixty years."
"Well…" Radulfr finally moved, his hand cupping around the side of Ein's face. "I hope for more but we live in dangerous times. There's no telling what might happen to either of us. If we're lucky, we'll have many years together."
"I'd prefer it."
Radulfr grinned. "Me too."
Ein's breath caught in his throat when Radulfr leaned down and kissed him. This was only the second kiss he'd ever received in his life and it was just as earth shattering as the first one. Ein found it particularly interesting that they had both happened on the same day and came from the same man. That had to mean something.