Read Tapestries 03 - Woven Dreams Online

Authors: N. J. Walters

Tags: #Romance, #Erotica, #General, #Fiction

Tapestries 03 - Woven Dreams (2 page)

BOOK: Tapestries 03 - Woven Dreams
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8

Swiping the back of his hand over his mouth, he wiped away the spittle that clung to the corner. His smile was filled with malicious glee as he made his pronouncement.

“The Luther brothers are coming to visit.”

She swayed as she lost all feeling in her legs. Oh gods, surely she’d misheard him!

The Luther brothers were even worse than her own family. They were barbaric savages, and it was said that they’d already killed one wife. “No.” Her brother’s eyes widened with disbelief. “No? You dare to say no?” Genita took a step backward. “You can’t mean it?” She knew her brothers had no love for her, but to give her in marriage to the Luthers…well, they might as well kill her.

He shrugged. “There are only two of them left in the family and their army is small, but they are willing to give us their alliance if we sweeten the pot with you. The fact that you are a virgin has them foaming at the mouth. They’re even fighting over which of them gets to break you in.” Laughing, he grabbed her by the shoulders, practically jerking her off her feet. “For once in your life, you have some value.” Hauling back her hand, she struck her older brother in the face. The blow hurt her hand and his head jerked to one side. Both of them froze. Never in her life had she fought back. He shoved her so hard that she fell, striking her elbow on the floor and scraping her hands as she tried to catch herself.

“You will pay for that.” Never taking his eyes off her, his hands went to his waist.

He hauled off the thick leather belt, wrapping one end around his hand as he strode forward.

Genita closed her eyes, pulled her legs tight to her chest and prayed for strength.

*

Jarmon Bakra stood in the shadows. It was where he felt most comfortable. The corners of his mouth tilted upward ever so slightly as he watched his sister-in-law, Jane, flitting around the large trestle table.

Jane was a treasure, brought to them by a magical tapestry which had been created over five hundred years earlier by a sorceress who had woven it to give hope to the people of Javara during a time of great darkness. It appeared once in every generation, bringing with it a woman from another time and world as a prospective bride. The sorceress had long since passed into other realms, but the legacy of her tapestry remained. It had already appeared once in his generation, bringing the Garen brothers the beautiful Christina. That should have been the end of it. But it had come again, this time bringing Jane.

She directed Garrik to move several things for her as she arranged everything to her exact specifications. Jane did love to organize.

9

He raised his left hand, tracing the side of his mouth. The scar that bisected the left side of his face pulled at the corner of his lips, making it resemble a sneer more than a smile. But then, he didn’t smile much these days.

Dropping it back to his side, he opened and closed his ruined hand. He’d regained all the strength and dexterity in his left hand, even if he was missing the last two fingers. It had been a year since he’d been almost fatally wounded. The scars on the outside were still visible, but the ones inside him were worse. He doubted he’d have even survived them if not for the woman he was watching. She had given him the will to live.

“Garrik, would you go and see what’s keeping your brothers? Supper is almost ready.”

Jarmon watched as Jane smiled at his twin brother, knowing he would do as she asked.

As soon as Garrik disappeared from the room, she turned toward Jarmon, striding into the shadows that surrounded him. Where others walked softly around him since his injuries, Jane treated him as if nothing had changed. Perhaps it was because she hadn’t known him before, but Jarmon believed it was because she was fearless. The fact that she’d given up the only life she’d ever known and taken on his older brothers, Zaren and Bador, was proof enough of her bravery.

She’d reached out to him in the darkness once before when he’d been lying near death. It had been her voice and her prodding that had brought him back to the world of the living. Beyond that, she had decided to stay in Javara, forsaking her own world, even though she’d had only three days to make that life-changing decision. In doing so, she had made his older brothers happy and had brought joy to their home. There was nothing he would not do for her.

“Jarmon.” She smiled up at him as she gently touched his arm. “Why don’t you join me while we wait for the others?”

Sighing, he gave in to the inevitable and followed her. His left leg had a slight limp—a leftover from his injuries—but he ignored it. It was just something he had to live with, so he had adjusted.

Garrik strode back into the room and, for the briefest of moments, Jarmon envied his brother his healthy, whole body. Shame washed through him. He loved his twin more than anyone else in the entire world and would give his life for him. Never would he want his brother to suffer as he had. A year ago, they had looked exactly the same.

Both of them had been tall and strong, their faces exact replicas. Now there was no trouble telling them apart.

The room filled up quickly. While everyone began to take their seats as supper was served, Jarmon watched his mother, brothers and sister-in-law, savoring the warmth that filled him as he observed them. They were a boisterous bunch, always talking and laughing, enjoying life to the fullest. He felt separate from them now, even though he 10

knew they tried their best to include him as they always had. It wasn’t them who had changed. It was him.

He smiled inwardly as he watched Bador sweep Jane up into his arms, twirling her around in a circle before depositing her in her chair. He planted a quick kiss on her lips before dropping into his own chair on her left.

Zaren laughed as he sat on his wife’s right side. Leaning over, he cupped her face in his hands and kissed her. The kiss went on so long that the thirty or so people gathered in the hall for supper began to laugh and cheer. When Zaren finally let her go, Jane’s face was red and flushed. She smacked his brother lightly on the arm, but he could see the love and pleasure in her face even as she did so.

Women were scarce on their world, and to keep men from killing one another, it had been decreed generations ago that brothers would share a bride. For every three men, there was one woman. In their case, there were four of them, so they had the right to claim two wives if they could find them. There were always at least two men for every woman, but no more than three. Only one man could marry the woman, but one night each week, he had to share her with his brothers, and all children were his, no matter which brother actually fathered them.

The chances of he and Garrik finding a bride were slim, especially with him looking as he did. He felt as if his injury had placed a burden on his brother and the rest of his family.

Jarmon didn’t expect to have the kind of relationship that his older brothers shared with Jane, even if he and Garrik did find a bride. Many a night, and not just the once a week that was required by law, Bador joined Zaren and Jane. They were happy.

Anyone who witnessed them together could see it.

“Are you all right?” Garrik had leaned over so that no one else would overhear him.

Smothering a sigh, he turned to his brother. “I am fine. Stop worrying over me. I already have a mother.” He glanced down to the end of the table and caught his mother staring at him, concern in her eyes. She offered him a wan smile before returning to her meal.

“I know.” Garrik hesitated for a moment. “If you ever want to talk…” He let the words hang in the air. When Jarmon didn’t say anything, his brother picked up a piece of roast meat and began to eat.

Jarmon sighed, rubbing his hand over the ruined side of his face. Leaning back in his chair, he picked up his goblet and drank deep. The cool cider slid down his throat.

He had never talked about the battle where he’d almost lost his life or about his injuries. He knew that fact had hurt Garrik and the closeness that they’d once shared.

They’d once been inseparable, but he’d spent so much time trying to recover from his physical injuries, he’d never stopped to think that, in many ways, his brother had been injured too. Not physically, but the close bond they’d shared had been damaged. It was 11

time to stop thinking about himself and to concern himself with his brother and the rest of his family.

Plunking the goblet back on the table, he turned to his brother. “I’ve been thinking about a hunting trip.” The words were out of his mouth before the thought was fully formed in his mind.

Garrik nodded and then looked away, but not before Jarmon glimpsed the disappointment in his brother’s face. No one else might notice it since Garrik was a warrior and hid his emotions well. But, being twins, they had a special bond and, although they were no longer as close as they’d been, Jarmon could still read Garrik’s emotions well and felt his brother’s pain. His brother hadn’t realized it was an invitation. He had taken to going off by himself a great deal lately and Jarmon realized that everyone had come to expect it. “Go with me,” he said, resting his ruined hand on his brother’s arm.

Garrik’s head jerked back around. “Go with you?” He said the words slowly, as if he wasn’t quite sure he’d heard them correctly.

“Yes.” He nodded decisively. The urge to spend some time alone with his brother was suddenly overwhelming. “It will be like old times. We can leave first thing in the morning.”

A smile gradually tugged at the corners of his brother’s lips, making him appear younger. They’d both aged much this past year. “Just like old times.” Jarmon felt an answering smile on his face as he realized he was genuinely looking forward to spending the time alone with his brother. It would do them both good and maybe begin to heal the rift that had developed between them. Picking up his goblet, he raised it toward Garrik before taking a drink, sealing their pact. Garrik grasped his cup and did the same.

12

Chapter Two

Genita swallowed back a moan as she carefully shifted onto her side. The room was dark even though the window was still open, so she knew that night had fallen while she’d slept. The breeze was cold, chilling her skin and making her shiver. She hurt all over. Her eldest brother had been particularly brutal with his beating, all the while yelling over and over that she would do as he told her.

Carefully, she rolled her shoulders. Biting her lip against the pain, she pushed herself into a seated position. Her vision dimmed. She gulped in mouthfuls of the cold, damp air. The last thing she could afford was to pass out again. She had much to do.

Very slowly, she came up onto her hands and knees. Resting for a moment, she gathered her strength and propelled herself off the hard floor. Staggering forward, she managed to get to the bed, sinking gratefully down onto the side.

Gasping for breath, she waited until the pain subsided and took stock of her injuries. She was bruised from her neck to her knees, but she didn’t think anything was broken. This time. Thankful for that small blessing, she closed her eyes to think. She had to leave. There was no way she would allow herself to be married off to one of the Luther brothers. She’d rather run and take her chances.

A noise barely reached her ears, but her eyes flew open as she stared toward her door. Oh gods, was her brother coming back? Standing, she inched toward the darkest corner of the room, putting her back to the wall. Not that it would do any good. The room was too small for her to hide anywhere. The door opened silently, closing just as carefully. She squinted to see who was creeping toward her bed.

“Genny?”

“Radnor?” He was the youngest of her four remaining brothers and at twenty-two, he was only two years her senior. Unlike her other brothers, he wasn’t cruel to her. For the most part, he ignored her.

He whirled toward the corner where she stood motionless. “You’ve got to get away from here.”

She didn’t know what to say to that. Didn’t quite trust him. “What do you care what happens to me?” He’d never shown any inclination toward concern for her wellbeing before.

He swore long and fluently and then she heard the scratch of flame being lit. The light from the candle made her blink as he came toward her. She wanted to back away, but there was nowhere to go. “I care.” His face was pulled into a hard mask and he appeared older than his years.

13

“I don’t understand.” The world that she’d known had been turned upside down this day, first with her eldest brother’s pronouncement and now this.

“I know.” Reaching out, he stroked his thumb gently over the curve of her cheek. “I haven’t done as good a job protecting you as I’ve wanted. But I have tried. I ignore you, not because I don’t care, but because I do. Any sign of concern would have been seen as weakness on my part and caused our older brothers to treat you even more cruelly. I’ve deflected their attention from you when I’ve been able.” In the dim light, she could see that one of Radnor’s eyes was black and swollen. “It doesn’t always work.” Her perception tilted as images and memories flowed through her brain. How many times had Radnor casually turned her older brother’s attention from her? And not just her eldest brother, but the rest of them as well. She’d thought it was because he’d found her beneath his interest. To discover it was because he was protecting her was almost unbelievable.

He wrapped his fingers around her chin and peered down into her face. “I promised our mother on her deathbed that I would not be like the rest, that I would look out for you as best I could. Unfortunately, my best has not been very good.” Sighing, he released her and stepped back. “I cannot go with you. If we both disappeared, they would know you’d escaped immediately. If you go by yourself, I can buy you a day or two before anyone knows you are even gone.”

“You would do that for me?”

He flinched at her words. “I know you have no reason to think otherwise, but yes, I would do that for you.”

“He will kill you if he finds out.” No need to say who he was. They both knew.

Radnor fingered the sword strapped to his waist. “He can try. I am no longer a boy who he can easily beat.” Dropping his hand, he reached for her. “Hurry. There is no time to waste.”

BOOK: Tapestries 03 - Woven Dreams
5.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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