Read Tapestries 03 - Woven Dreams Online

Authors: N. J. Walters

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

Tapestries 03 - Woven Dreams (5 page)

BOOK: Tapestries 03 - Woven Dreams
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There was no give in him anywhere.

He held her easily with one massive forearm as he used his free hand to pry the dagger from her grip. She gritted her teeth, desperately trying to hang on, but it was useless. The weapon fell to the ground beside them.

“I’m sorry,” the low male voice whispered in her ear. “But I cannot let you harm my brother or yourself.”

Genita slumped forward. She was caught. Worse, her only means of protecting herself was gone. She’d tried to kill the man’s brother. She did not expect any leniency.

Bracing herself for the attack, she did what she always did when one of her older brothers beat her—she withdrew inside herself. The world faded around her. They would do whatever they would to her body, but they would not touch her emotions or her spirit. She would protect that until the last breath left her body.

Jarmon felt the woman go weightless in his arms. She was slight, almost fragile, and he held her easily. He glanced at Garrik, an uneasy feeling settling in his gut. He shifted her in his arms so that he was cradling her instead of holding her captive. Her eyes were closed, her expression blank. He felt her slipping away from him.

Concerned, he moved back into the shade and sat. Brushing a stray hair from her face, he cupped her cheek in his hand. “Open your eyes, little one. We will not hurt you.”

She didn’t stir.

25

Garrik picked up the dagger and shoved it into his belt before settling beside them.

A frown marred his features. Tugging the fabric of her dress over her chest, he then picked up her arm and began to chafe it with his hands. “She’s cold.” Jarmon shifted her closer, trying to share some of his body heat with her. She lay limp in his embrace. He patted her cheeks gently. “Come back to me, little one,” he crooned. “No one will hurt you.”

Garrik stripped off his vest and laid it over her, tucking the fabric around her body.

“I should go back across the river and get my pack. She needs a fire and blankets.

Probably food as well.” He didn’t move but continued to stare down at the unknown woman. “Why did she think I would rape her?” He spat the distasteful word. “She is a woman. We protect our women here.”

Jarmon sighed, his mind still reeling with what he’d seen. “Not all women are protected, my brother.” Shifting her, he leaned her forward so that her back was exposed to both their views. Fading yellow bruises and angry red welts crisscrossed her back, but what fired his fury the most was the fact that it was obviously not her first beating. Older scars marred her flesh. There was no telling how old some of them were.

Garrik sucked in a breath. Jarmon could feel his brother’s rage. It matched his own.

He had a deep need to seek out whoever had done this to her and kill him. A man protected all those physically weaker than himself. At least any man of honor did. And that included all women and children.

Jarmon traced one of the scars and the woman sucked in a breath. “What happened to you?” Her body had tensed the moment he’d exposed her back. He knew she was aware of her surroundings again, back from wherever her mind had taken her.

“What do you care?” Her words were clipped and cold.

He shifted her against his arm and had to bite back a smile as she glared up at him.

Her eyes were a dark brown and, even angry as she was, they were still soft and deep.

“Why would you think I wouldn’t care?”

“You’re a stranger and a man. You’ll take what you want regardless of what I want.”

Jarmon could hear the bitterness in her voice. His gut clenched as a horrible thought occurred to him. “Have you been raped before?” Unable to keep his anger from his voice, he knew it was harsh.

She flinched slightly but tilted her chin up once again. Her eyes widened as she truly looked at him for the first time. Jarmon knew he wasn’t a reassuring sight with his scarred face, but there was no way he was letting her go until she answered his question.

“Answer me,” he all but growled.

“Jarmon,” his brother warned. He knew Garrik was warning him not to frighten her further.

She bowed her head and shook it. “No.”

26

Both brothers heaved a sigh of relief. Jarmon hadn’t realized he was holding himself so tensely until she spoke. “I’m glad,” he replied simply. “It will not happen this day.”

She squirmed and he reluctantly released her, letting her slip from his arms. Putting some distance between them, she pulled the bodice of her dress back on, lacing it at the front. Once she was covered, she slowly stood. “Why won’t you let me go?” Jarmon could hear the confusion in her voice—see it in her eyes. She didn’t seem to comprehend why they would not do so and he didn’t know what else to say to make her understand. “You are alone on Bakra land. We cannot just leave you here.” Once again, he saw her fear the moment he said she was on Bakra land. She’d had the same reaction when Garrik had first told her. Why would that frighten her? What had she heard about their family to make her so afraid? Sighing, he slowly came to his feet. Beside him, Garrik did the same. They’d wasted enough time. They needed to gather their packs and find a good spot to set up camp for the night. The woman needed a warm fire and some food. They’d talk later.

Holding out his hand, he beckoned her forward. “Come. We will make camp for the day and then we will talk.”

She glanced furtively to the forest.

“You won’t make it,” Jarmon assured her.

She scowled at him. “I wasn’t planning on running. I wanted to get my belongings.

I don’t want to leave my blankets or the tapestry.” Both Jarmon and Garrik froze. Garrik found his voice first. “Tapestry?” She nodded emphatically. “Tapestry.”

27

Chapter Four

Genita jumped as the second warrior stalked toward her. She realized he had a slight limp, but it didn’t slow him down at all. Instead, it made him appear all the more menacing.

He was even larger than the first warrior, all strong bone and thick muscle. She could tell that at one point in their lives, they’d looked identical, but now they were different in appearance. This second man had a long whitish scar bisecting his cheek.

The mark started at the tip of his left eye and ended at the corner of his mouth. His hair was different as well. It was long and blond, but there were streaks of white running throughout it. The white locks framed his hard face. His cheekbones were prominent and his nose had a bump in it. Obviously at some point in his life, he’d broken it.

He reached out his left hand to her and she jerked backward, unable to take her eyes from his ruined hand. His last two fingers were missing. Gone. He swore and her eyes flew to his face once again. Her stomach churned and she began to shake.

“I know I’m not pretty,” he growled.

He has no idea, she thought. Genita slapped her hand over her mouth, swallowing back the hysterical laughter that threatened.

She’d spent the past year listening to her brothers ranting and raving about the Bakra family. Her brother had boasted that he’d killed one of them in battle. But that boast hadn’t lasted. He’d been furious when he’d discovered the Bakra brother had lived. Her eldest brother’s fury and bitterness had grown the past year as word had reached them that despite the fact he was missing two fingers, the warrior was stronger and better than he’d been before. That, coupled with the fact that the eldest Bakra brother had slain two of her brothers when they’d ambushed him and his woman, had driven her eldest brother half insane. He spent hour upon hour replaying the battle to any who would listen, berating the gods for not allowing the Bakra bastard to die. Her brother did not take defeat well.

She was Genita Craddock, and it was her eldest brother, Leon, who’d tried to kill him. Her brother was responsible for his injuries and his family’s woes. She was the sister of his greatest enemy. They would kill her if they discovered who she really was.

“Tell us about the tapestry.” The first warrior stepped beside his brother.

Her mind whirled with possibilities. She knew the legend of the tapestry. Everyone in Javara knew it. If they thought her a tapestry bride, she might be able to keep her secret from them for three days. At the end of that time, she could slip away and they’d think that the tapestry had taken her home. It was her only choice.

28

Stiffening her spine, she struggled to keep a blank expression on her face. “It’s about two feet by three and has a picture of a castle and two warriors standing in front of it.” It was only now that she realized that when she’d finally filled in the features of the warrior these past few months, she’d used the Bakra brothers as a guide. All those months of listening to Leon rant and rave about them during his drunken rages had obviously affected her. They were the ones who had defeated her brothers and emerged triumphant over their evil. Who better for her to weave her dreams around?

A smile slowly crossed the first warrior’s face. “If the tapestry brought you, then you belong to us.”

“I don’t understand.” She glanced away, the lie bitter on her lips. But it was better than the alternatives.

“I am Garrik Bakra.” He gave her a solemn bow. “This is my brother Jarmon.” Jarmon continued to stare at her, his gaze unwavering. He was making her even more nervous. She focused on Garrik instead. “Pleased to meet you both.” He cocked his eyebrow at her. “And you are?”

Oh gods. Panic threatened to overwhelm her. She couldn’t tell them her real name.

She had no idea if they knew it or not. Radnor’s face popped into her head and she closed her eyes in relief, sending up a prayer of thanks. “Genny. You can call me Genny.” It was a name she would readily answer to and that was all that mattered.

“Genny.” Her head jerked around to Jarmon as he said her name softly. “Well, Genny, let’s go and gather your belongings and get moving.” He didn’t believe her. She could sense it in the way he watched her. Every fiber of her being was telling her to run, that he was a danger to her. She forced herself to walk back to the river and retrieve the chemise she’d been using as a washcloth. Wringing out the cloth, she folded it and tucked it under her arm as she began to walk slowly toward the woods. “I don’t understand what you mean about the tapestry.” Pay attention Genita, she scolded herself. No, Genny. She had to start thinking of herself as Genny if she was going to keep up this charade for three days. It was the details that would give her away if she wasn’t cautious. She had to remember that she wasn’t supposed to know anything about the tapestry or the prophecy.

“We’ll explain everything later.” He was right behind her, matching her step for step.

Reaching behind a rock, she pulled out her satchel and bedroll, thankful that the tapestry was still safely wrapped in her spare dress within the blankets. She tucked the wet chemise into the satchel. Jarmon took it from her, easily tossing it over his shoulder.

Wrapping his hand around her wrist, he tugged her deeper into the woods. His grip didn’t hurt her, but there was no way she could get free. He had effectively manacled her to him.

Garrik joined them, his own pack on his back. They stopped only for a moment as Jarmon gathered his own pack from where he’d hidden it. With Jarmon leading the way 29

and Garrik following behind them, Genny found herself being pulled further into the unknown.

Jarmon held his tongue as he and his brother set up camp. They’d walked for several hours, wanting to reach a spot where there was plenty of food, water and shelter if it became necessary. He still didn’t quite believe that the woman was out here on her own. The only reasonable explanation was that what she’d told them was true and the tapestry had indeed brought her to them. They’d kept their pace slow and stopped several times for breaks, not wanting to exhaust her.

Genny. He turned her name over in his head. She was wary of them, always watchful. Not that he could blame her. The scars and fading bruises on her back were a testament to the hardships she’d lived through.

He might be sympathetic toward her, but he sure as hell didn’t trust her. She was lying to them. About what, he wasn’t sure. But there was no doubt in his mind she wasn’t telling them the truth. All the signs were there. She didn’t meet their gazes, fidgeting when she answered their questions. That is, if she didn’t outright evade them.

Then there was the fact that her clothing was familiar. Perhaps she’d gotten them from someone else since the tapestry brought her here, but he didn’t think so.

Jarmon watched her out of the corner of his eye as he spread his bedroll over the mossy ground. There was no denying her beauty. It shone from her like a beacon, calling him. Jerking his head back, he concentrated on what he was doing, but he was aware of her every single moment.

He glanced down at his left hand, cursing it. His disfigurement had upset her. She had been unable to hold back her reaction, jerking away from him, staring at it in complete and absolute horror.

She’d damn well have to get used to it.

He flexed his fingers, straightening to his full height. If the tapestry had brought her, then she belonged to them. It was up to them to do everything in their power to convince her to stay with them. He had no doubt that she would marry Garrik, but he didn’t care. All that mattered was keeping her.

He had his doubts about her story. After all, the tapestry had already brought two brides to this generation. That in itself was unusual. If she was lying about the tapestry, well, no matter—he stilled planned on keeping her.

Garrik had started a small fire and now several large fish were draped over spits to cook. His brother had managed to catch them on one of their many rest stops. Genny kept her distance, sitting quietly on her own blanket. She didn’t seem any more comfortable with Garrik than with him. If they wanted her to stay with them, that would have to change.

Jarmon strode to the center of the camp and settled himself on the ground. The sun was still shining, but from its location in the west, he knew it was late afternoon. Genny 30

watched his every move like a frightened animal trying to read the hunter, hoping to escape before he struck. He didn’t like the image.

BOOK: Tapestries 03 - Woven Dreams
2.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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