“Kidnapping exchange students was not in the plan,” Rollo says, mostly bored, busy rifling through Mr. Haraldson’s desk.
“Plans change,” Ragnar says. He doesn’t look away from the boy’s terrified face, pinned between Ragnar’s arm across his chest and the wall. He is pretty and doe-eyed, mouth trembling—Ragnar has noticed him before in the halls, has heard his silly foreign name before: Athelstan. First year, on exchange from England.
“Does he even speak Norwegian?” Floki asks from his pot-muddled haze “guarding” the door. “How could he tell on us?”
“Of course he speaks our language,” Ragnar murmurs, watching Athelstan’s eyes follow his words. “He’s in your mathematics class.”
“I-I-I won’t tell,” Athelstan breathes, “I promise, please, just let me go.”
“Found it,” Rollo says holding up the finals test key. “Give me a sec to—” He takes out his phone and starts snapping pictures. “Brother, find a way to shut him up, or I will.”
“I already promised—!”
“Shh,” Ragnar tells him, combing a hand through his mess of unruly curls. Athelstan does go perfectly quiet, docile almost, watching Ragnar through eyes half-lidded because Ragnar has tipped his head back. “I think I’ll keep him,” Ragnar says, pleased with his decision before it even leaves his mouth.
Rollo’s glare is sharp. “That’s a horrible idea.”
“I need someone to carry my books,” Ragnar murmurs, ignoring his brother in favor of the way Athelstan’s eyes show a spark of something delicious. Oh, Lagertha will love this one. “Yes, he will do very well, I think.”