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Cover

Bakra Bride


After witnessing a gruesome murder, Jane Smith has watched her life crumble around her. Her only solace is the stunning and mysterious tapestry she discovered at a thrift store. When the image stitched into the tapestry magically comes to life one night, Jane finds herself transported to a mystical Medieval world, where two massive warriors declare their intentions to cater to her every sensual desire.


Zaren and Bador are stunned to realize that the prophecy of the tapestry has come true and brought Jane to them. The brothers willingly accept their duty to indulge her in every possible form of passion. But Jane’s arrival has also attracted the attention of rival warriors, who will go to any lengths to steal her from the Bakra brothers and claim her as their own.


As Jane adjusts to this frightening but enthralling world, Zaren and Bador risk all to protect her—even as they use all their sexual skill, separately and together, to take her to unimagined sensual heights. Because the time for Jane to choose is drawing near, and the Bakra brothers must convince her to abandon her former life—and take one of them as her loving husband for all time . . .

Title Page

Copyright

Bakra Bride

N. J. Walters

Copyright © 2006 by N. J. Walters.

Cover design and illustration by Dar Albert, Wicked Smart Designs.

Published by Beyond the Page at Smashwords


Beyond the Page Books

are published by

Beyond the Page Publishing

www.beyondthepagepub.com


ISBN: 978-1-946069-81-8


All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this book. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented without the express written permission of both the copyright holder and the publisher.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Dedication


Thank you to all the readers who wrote asking, pleading, and demanding more tapestry stories. This one is for you.

Contents


Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Epilogue

Books by N. J. Walters

About the Author

Prologue


Sweat rolled down his forehead and temples, stinging his eyes. Zaren blinked furiously to clear his vision, but he dared not take his eyes off his opponent to swipe it away. All around him, men were yelling and swearing as steel struck against steel.

Raising his arm, he stopped his opponent’s blade with his own before it bit into his shoulder. Giving a thundering battle cry, he thrust forward, attacking and driving the other man back. Every footstep was carefully placed, as there was nowhere to step in the meadow that was now littered with the blood, limbs and bodies of the dead and dying.

Off to his left, his youngest brother, Jarmon, swung his sword, stopping a warrior from stabbing his twin in the side. Garrik let out a yell and jumped back into the fray with Jarmon right beside him. The twins worked in tandem, as though sharing their thoughts as they fought.

Was it just this morning that he stood in the courtyard of Bakra Castle, sparring with his brothers? It seemed like so long ago, more of a distant memory really. He and Jarmon had been fighting, while Garrik and Bador had shouted their encouragement from the sidelines. After the rain of the night before the air had smelled fresh and clean. Now it stank of death.

They’d seen the rider coming hard and had stopped their training. No one drove a horse that mercilessly unless there was trouble. He recognized the horseman immediately and his blood had started pumping swiftly as the messenger from Castle Garen pounded into the courtyard. Dust flew everywhere while the man all but fell from his horse. Gasping for breath, he’d uttered two words, “Craddock brothers.”

Zaren had immediately called for their horses and weapons. The castle sprang to life as men raced to and fro, readying themselves to ride. The exhausted rider spat out the details, although Zaren could guess most of them.

There were six Craddock brothers, each one more vicious than the next. Warring and stealing was what they did best. They were cruel to their own people, taking whatever they wanted according to their right as lords of the land. Coveting the wealth of others, occasionally they crossed over their own borders to raid and war on surrounding lands. Usually, they were sly and covert with their nefarious activities, leaving little evidence and no witnesses. But this was an all-out attack.

Women were scarce in their world and highly prized. His friend Jarek, of Castle Garen, had recently married Christina, who was not only a beautiful, desirable woman but a tapestry bride as well. A tapestry wife was worth her weight in gold and as such she was a prize worth dying for. The Craddock brothers would be unable to resist trying to claim her for their own.

At their wedding, Zaren had pledged the sword arms of his house to protect Christina and Castle Garen if trouble came. He’d known that it was only really a matter of time, and it had come quickly, less than a month after the wedding.

Swinging up onto their horses, they thundered out of the courtyard. With his three brothers and a contingent of trained warriors beside him, they’d ridden hard for several hours, driving their horses as fast as they’d dared. Erupting out of the woods, they’d attacked immediately.

That was hours ago and still the air echoed with the clash of steel and the moans of the injured or dying. The horses had long since been abandoned and now all the fighting was on the ground.

Zaren slipped, almost losing his footing on the slick grass. His opponent lunged at him and Zaren allowed himself to fall to one side, bringing his sword up and impaling the other man on it as his momentum carried him forward.

Rolling to the side, he sprang back to his feet just in time to avoid a sword in the back. Glancing wildly around, he tried to see his brothers. Bador was off to his left beating back his own opponent. But where were the twins? Garrik and Jarmon were still young men and hadn’t fought many battles. He caught a glimpse of Garrik next to Bador and was satisfied he would look after their younger brother.

A cry had him swinging around to the right. Jarmon was locked in a battle with Leon Craddock, the oldest and meanest of the brothers. Battle was too kind a word. The older warrior was toying with the younger man. Blood ran down Jarmon’s left leg and hand, and also covered one side of his face.

Zaren raced toward them, but was stopped every few steps by another challenger. His chest was heaving like a bellows as he struck blow after blow, desperately trying to get to his brother. He could see Jarek running from the other direction, but deep in his gut he knew they would both be too late.

He saw the death strike coming. Powerless to stop it, he watched in horror as the sword descended on Jarmon. At the last second, Jarmon seemed to jerk to one side. Time seemed to stop as Zaren saw the surprise in his brother’s eyes and then there was nothing. His young body seemed to crumple, his legs giving out as he fell to the ground, his sword still gripped tight in his bloody hand.

Leon Craddock spit on Jarmon as he kicked his still body. Raising his head, Leon turned and stared straight at Zaren. Then he smiled.

Something snapped deep within Zaren. A madness that clawed at his heart, his belly, indeed, his very soul. Never taking his eyes off Leon, he hacked his way through anyone who tried to stop him. Like a man possessed, he pushed on toward his goal—Leon Craddock was a dead man.

Something of his intent must have shown in his eyes, for Leon stopped smiling and started slowly backing away. Zaren could feel the corners of his mouth turning up in a grim smile of his own. The bastard was afraid. And so he should be.

Leon shouted to his men and many of them broke away from the fighting and raced toward the horses. The pounding of hooves filled the air as they galloped across the meadow. One of the Craddock brothers spurred toward Leon with another horse in tow and, when he was close enough, Leon swung up into his saddle, racing away with his brothers. They never looked back.

Zaren came to a stumbling halt beside Jarmon’s body. Part of him wanted to race after the Craddock brothers and kill every last one of them. But the sight of his brother’s still body stopped him cold.

He didn’t remember dropping his sword or falling to his knees, but somehow he had his brother gathered into his arms, rocking him as he had when Jarmon was but a boy. The boy was long gone, the man, no more. Tipping back his head, Zaren howled. The bloodcurdling sound echoed through the surrounding hills.

He felt someone beside him but didn’t bother to look. Nothing mattered at this moment but the lifeless body of his brother. Zaren had failed him. Time passed and finally he turned his head and stared into the tear-stained face of his brother Bador. “How will I tell our mother that I allowed her youngest son to be killed?”

“It was not your fault.” Bador wrapped his arm around his brother’s shoulders, but Zaren shrugged it off.

“Was it not?” He ignored Bador and stared again at the lifeless body in his arms. Jarmon, the youngest, always laughing, always happy. Now, silenced forever.

“I am sorry for your loss.” Zaren looked up at Jarek and nodded, acknowledging his words. “The House of Garen will honor your brother’s sacrifice and we pledge to help you avenge his death.”

A thread of unease went through Zaren, sending a cold shiver down his spine. “Where is Garrik?” He stood with Jarmon’s body still clutched in his arms. He couldn’t lose another brother. The thought was too much to bear.

Bador gripped his arm and pointed to his left. Garrik sat on his knees a few yards away, where he’d fallen when the death stroke had killed his twin. He was totally still except for the slight rise and fall of his chest.

Reluctantly, Zaren handed Jarmon’s body to Bador, watching as his brother bore it carefully away. Kneeling next to Garrik, he took his brother’s face in his hands and raised it. It was frightening, the absence of any emotion. It was as though his brother was simply gone. “Garrik,” he whispered softly. “I know it hurts, but I cannot bear to lose you as well.”

His brother stirred slightly, his hand coming up to rest over his heart. “What am I to do without him?”

That innocent question broke Zaren’s heart. The twins had been inseparable their whole lives. Both very different in temperaments, they were like two halves of a whole. “I don’t know. But you are not alone.” Garrik shook his head and said nothing more.

Bador’s sudden shout had them all on their feet, racing toward where he stood some distance away. Zaren could see the tears in his brother’s eyes as Bador carefully knelt on the bloodstained ground with Jarmon clasped tight in his arms. “I think he moved.”

Zaren almost didn’t dare to hope as he placed his fingers against his brother’s neck. At first he felt nothing and feared it was only Bador’s wishful thinking. And then, he felt a tiny beat of a pulse. The carrion birds cawed from overhead where they circled the meadow, waiting to feed off the dead. The wind whistled through the trees, the sound a sad lament. Zaren didn’t move. He kept his fingers tight against his brother’s warm flesh, willing it to happen again. His eyes shot unbelieving to his brother.

Jarek stood next to them. “Castle Garen is closer. Mara and Christina can tend to him until your mother can come.”

Zaren nodded, helping Bador to his feet and leading him toward the waiting horses. Practically hoisting him and his precious bundle onto his horse, he ordered him to hang on tight as he slapped the horse’s rump, sending them toward Castle Garen. Garrik swung up onto his own horse and raced after them, leaving Zaren alone with his men. He watched until his brothers disappeared from his sight.

He looked back at the field, at the blood and the carnage and the sheer waste of it all. Jarek and his brother, Marc, were seeing to their own dead and wounded, and he knew that they’d burn any bodies from Castle Craddock.

As much as Zaren wanted to be with his brothers, he knew that he was responsible for seeing to his men. He trusted Bador to take care of their younger brothers. The first chore was tending to the wounded. Then, he would gather the slain. All would be returning to Bakra Castle, both the living and dead. He would leave none of his men behind to provide food for the vultures.

Swinging up onto the back of his own horse, he nudged it toward Jarek. “Christina is safe for now, but they will be back.” Zaren felt every single one of his thirty years at that moment. His body ached and his heart was weary. But outwardly, none of it showed. The world saw only the implacable warrior, sword ready, eyes cold as death.

“I am truly sorry for your brother.” There was the unspoken understanding that Jarmon would likely be dead by the time he reached Castle Garen, as his injuries were so extensive. But neither man said it aloud. “But I thank you for coming to my aid.”

Zaren nodded, turned and rode away in silence. His men fell in behind him and they began the long, slow ride back home.

Chapter One


Jane Smith turned off her cell phone as she walked down the long corridor. She thought about tucking it into her shoulder bag along with her voice-activated tape recorder and laptop, but she had one more phone call to make before her day was done.

It was well after seven o’clock in the evening and most people had already left Trenton Industries for the day. But this was normal for her. As personal assistant to CEO Richard Trenton, her day started earlier and ended later than any other employee’s did. Not that she minded. She’d worked hard to get this position and her boyfriend understood the responsibilities that came with her career.

Richard was a demanding boss but a fair one. And from her very first day, he’d insisted that she call him by his first name, at least when it was just the two of them working together. In front of clients and other staff, she was always careful to call him Mr. Trenton. In fact, he’d told her to go home an hour ago and she’d really meant to, but one thing had led to another and she was still here. She knew he was still in the building because she’d seen his car parked out back when she’d gone to the vending machine for a chocolate bar, which she’d devoured in quick order. It had surprised her because he had his own parking spot out front and was usually very careful with his imported European sports car.

She’d chased down the problem they’d been having with one of their suppliers, and if she could catch Richard before he left, she’d be able to find out how he wanted to handle the problem. Reaching into her shoulder bag, she shoved aside the empty candy bar wrapper, dug out her mini recorder and slid it into her jacket pocket. It was a godsend to her everyday work. After working for over three years as Richard’s assistant, she found it was easier to tape his replies and transcribe them later. Once he started, he might think of five or six other things he wanted her to take care of. This way, she kept everything straight.

Her sensible pumps made no sound on the carpet as she hurried down the hall. She heard voices as she neared Bob Simpson’s office. As head of the finance department, his hours were as erratic as hers were. Seems she wasn’t the only one working late.

The closer she got the louder the voices got. Obviously there was some kind of disagreement. She slowed down but didn’t announce herself. She didn’t want to get involved, but she decided she should know what the trouble was just in case it was something Richard needed to be informed about.

“You won’t get away with it.” She recognized Bob’s voice even though it sounded shaky. “You can’t embezzle millions from a company without someone finding out.”

She froze near the door. Embezzle? Millions? This was definitely something her boss needed to know. She hesitated, torn between going for security and staying and listening. That choice disappeared the moment the other person spoke.

“But I will get away with it, Bob. That’s the beauty of it. All the evidence points to you.” Jane couldn’t believe what she was hearing and crept closer so she could see through the partially open door. “In a moment of remorse you committed suicide. I will be suitably distraught, along with everyone else, and the company will be seen as a victim of your greed.”

Bob was tied to his chair, sweat rolling down his temples as he struggled against his bonds. He was a slight man who wore wire-rimmed glasses and had thinning hair. The man standing next to him holding a gun was younger, stronger, and wore a smile that chilled her. Her fingers tightened around the phone she held clasped in her hand. She looked down at it and stared. Before she could even think about what she was doing, she’d raised it and clicked a picture.

It was time to call the police. This was bigger than security could handle. She turned, but stopped when Bob began pleading. While she watched, the man with the gun put it against Bob’s temple and fired. It made hardly any sound at all. Just a little pop. Bob jerked back in the chair and then slumped forward.

Jane froze at the sight of the blood and the gore, but somehow she automatically snapped another picture. The other man calmly untied Bob, pocketed the restraints and wrapped Bob’s fingers around the gun. It was only then that she realized he was wearing gloves.

Her stomach lurched and she knew that she was going to be sick. It was a miracle that she hadn’t cried out. It felt as though her whole body was frozen. It was the slight clicking noise that shook her out of her stupor. She looked at her hand, amazed to see that she was still taking pictures. Her head jerked up as she heard the man getting closer.

Apparently self-preservation was stronger than fear because her feet were moving before she could tell them what to do. Quickly and silently, she hurried down the hall and ducked into the ladies’ room. The door had barely closed behind her when she heard the sound of a door closing down the hall. Almost afraid to breathe, she stood there and waited. The sound of the heavy door of the stairwell opening and closing seemed loud in the almost unnatural quiet.

As though her body had been just waiting for that moment to set her free, her legs gave out and she slid down the wall and sat down hard on the floor. Her stomach lurched and she scrambled on her hands and knees to the toilet, barely making it before she retched. Shaken, she sank back onto the cool tiled floor and curled up into a tight ball.

The phone was still clutched tight in her fingers. Taking a deep breath, she raised it to eye level and checked her pictures. Sure enough, there were several of them that were very good. The police would definitely need them. Rolling up onto her knees, she tucked the phone in her pocket. Her hand hit the recorder and she sucked in a breath. Was it possible? Pulling out the small device, she hit the Rewind and then the Play button. It was low, but she could just make out the conversation.

Her mind started working frantically now as an unnatural calm descended upon her. Pushing to her feet, she swiftly and quietly walked to her office, packed up her belongings and left the building. She wouldn’t be back. After all, once she’d turned her boss in for murder, she doubted she’d have a job.


• • •


Jane gazed at the woman staring back at her from the bathroom mirror, barely recognizing her. She’d changed so much in the last six months. Her hair was still shoulder-length, straight and black, and her eyes were still dark blue. But there was pain and cynicism in those eyes that hadn’t been there before. Her face had always been thin, but now it was gaunt and pale. Closing her eyes, she wrapped her bathrobe around her and left the room, snapping off the light behind her.

In two steps she was in her living room, which was also her bedroom. Her life had changed in many ways since the night she witnessed the murder. The police had been skeptical at first, until she’d produced the evidence. Then they’d been thrilled. She’d become their star witness and since then her life had been little more than a media circus.

Her posh apartment had been a job perk and she’d lost that the moment she’d accused Richard Trenton of murder. Most of the furniture had come with the place, so she’d rented a van and loaded up her personal belongings. The media had descended on her apartment about the same time security had come to kick her out. She’d just managed to get the last box out in time. Jobless, homeless, and hunted by reporters, she’d headed to the one place she felt safe—the apartment building she’d grown up in. The place she still considered home.

Her father had worked the docks his entire life, running a forklift, loading and unloading the cargo ships that came into the harbor. She remembered a time when they’d had a small house. But after her mother left when Jane was six, her father had sold it when the courts had ordered him to pay his soon-to-be ex-wife a settlement. They’d moved into a large, old brick apartment building near the docks and her father had lived there until he’d died of a heart attack three years ago.

He’d been the best father a girl could ever want and he’d always wanted more for her then he could provide. She’d worked hard to make him proud of her. When she’d been promoted to personal assistant to the CEO of Trenton Industries, he’d been so happy and excited, telling all his friends about her accomplishments. He’d only lived a scant two months after that. It was as though he felt she was settled in life and he could let go. Jane knew he’d never gotten over her mother leaving them. She was glad he didn’t have to witness the life she’d built, the one that he was so proud of, crumbling around her.

She’d run back to the old apartment building, back to the friends she’d known her whole life, and they’d taken her in. The landlady, Shelly Abbott, was a no-nonsense, hard-talking woman in her early fifties, but Jane knew that behind the façade was a heart of gold. There had been no vacant apartments but Shelly and some of her father’s friends had cleared out an unused bachelor apartment in the basement, helped her paint it and found a few pieces of furniture to put in it.

This one room was all she had, but at least she had it. It was better than being homeless. Her boyfriend had ditched her immediately. He didn’t want to be tainted by the scandal surrounding her. After all, he still worked for Trenton Industries. She’d thought they were building something special. They were compatible enough and the sex was good, but obviously their relationship hadn’t meant anything to him, other than the fact that she’d worked closely with the boss.

Snorting, she crossed the small room, removed her robe to reveal the thin, short nightgown beneath, and crawled onto the old iron daybed that sat against the far wall. It doubled as both bed and sofa and she’d covered it with a quilt she’d made years ago. All her art and valuables were gone, sold at pawnshops and consignment stores to raise money. She hadn’t known how long the trial was going to take, but she did know that no one would hire her until this was over. And maybe not even then.

Having grown up without money, Jane was quite good at sewing and needlework. She had bought a used sewing machine yesterday, determined to start taking in small sewing jobs to supplement her dwindling savings. Plus, she enjoyed sewing, which was a bonus.

Reaching down to the end of the daybed, she smiled for the first time today as she pulled the piece of fabric toward her. She couldn’t believe she’d found such a treasure in a thrift shop. But there it had been, rolled up next to the sewing machine. At first, she’d passed it over, too excited about the possibility of owning her own sewing machine again to bother with it. But something had pulled her interest back to it time and again until she’d walked back over to it, picked it up and unrolled it.

She’d forgotten to breathe as she stared at it. The tapestry was about two feet wide by three feet long and was obviously very old. The rich colors created a picture unlike anything she’d ever seen in her life. A large stone castle stood in the background surrounded by a forest. There were pine trees, their needles a green so deep they looked almost black in places, and other trees covered with leaves of various shapes and sizes, in every shade of green imaginable, from dark and lush to bright and brilliant.

The longer she looked, the more she saw in the intricate design. Various birds and animals were hidden in the depths of the trees. There were flowers of every shape and color, many of which she didn’t recognize. But they were all beautifully framed against the castle and filled the meadow beyond it. The tapestry was truly a work of art. You could almost see the trees sway and smell the flowers on the air. It was breathtaking.

But it was the three warriors standing in front of the castle that captivated her. Their chests and arms rippled and bulged with muscles, even though they were standing with their arms folded across their chests. Only a vest covered their torsos, leaving most of their chests and all of their arms bare. What looked to be wide metal bands, the color of bronze, were clasped around their upper arms and wrists.

Form-fitting pants molded strong thighs and cupped rather impressive bulges in the front. She licked her lips as she stared. They really were impressive and definitely created right out of the artist’s mind. No men could look that good. Leather boots that came to just below their knees completed their outfits. They all gave off an aura of barely leashed power that could explode at a moment’s notice.

They all had long blond straight hair. Strands of it flew out behind them as though it was being whipped around by an unseen wind. Proud and strong, they were the protectors of the castle and its inhabitants.

Their features seemed to take on a sharper definition the longer she’d stared at them. They looked similar enough to be related, probably brothers. They looked like Nordic gods with their long hair and pale blue eyes. The one in the center looked older than the other two, harder. His lips were thinner and his eyes were filled with carnal knowledge and sensual promise. If she shifted the tapestry slightly, she could almost make out the form of yet another warrior, but like a shadow, he seemed to fade in and out of the fabric, not quite there.

She’d had to have the tapestry. Clutching it tight in her arms, she’d hurried to the cash register to find out how much it cost. She’d almost cried, the relief was so great, when the older white-haired lady running the shop had told her it was ten dollars. Deep in her soul, she knew it belonged to her and she knew she would have beggared herself to own it. She was just glad she hadn’t had to.

She shivered now as she’d done in the thrift shop. Her reaction to it unnerved her. It drew her in and made her feel hot and achy. Her breasts swelled and her nipples pebbled. Between her thighs, her sex grew damp.

Closing her eyes, she could almost hear their voices, deep and slightly rough, promising all kinds of sexual delights. They would whisper in her ear, telling her in explicit detail what they wanted to do to her separately and together. Her eyes shot back open when she whimpered aloud. Pressing her legs together, she tried to ease the growing ache deep within. But that only seemed to make it worse.

Pulling the tapestry over her, she turned off the light and drifted off to sleep. She could almost imagine the hands of the warriors touching her. The skin on their hands would be rough as they caressed her skin.

Chapter Two


Jane rolled over in bed, trying to get comfortable. Sighing, she thought about getting up and putting on the kettle to boil and making herself a cup of tea. That had become her nightly ritual. She hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in six months. With grim determination, she kept her eyes closed and tried to will herself back to sleep. . . .


Something gnawed at the back of her brain. Had she heard a noise? Had something awakened her? Lying still, she listened carefully. Silence. That was the problem. It was too quiet. Down here in the basement, she could usually hear the sounds of the traffic on the street and the clanking of the ancient water pipes.

Opening her eyes, she blinked, trying to see through the darkness. There was a streetlight just outside her apartment that usually cast a dim light through her lone apartment window. But the room was pitch black. Must be a power outage. There was no way she could have tea now. But perhaps she should get her flashlight. Ever since the murder, she’d disliked being completely in the dark, afraid of what lurked in the shadows.

Before she could decide what she should do, she heard a noise. It was a faint rustling sound that seemed to come from right next to her. Oh God, there was someone in the room with her! Every so slowly, she slid across the sheet. And hit a solid wall.

Then the wall moved.

Jane gasped as a massive arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her closer to an even bigger body. She froze. How had someone gotten into bed with her? Even worse, she was naked. What had happened to her nightgown?

She had to get away. Immediately, she grabbed his arm, trying to shove it away from her even as she struggled to free herself from him. It was like pushing against steel. There was no give in his arm at all. She didn’t bother wasting her energy trying to scream. No one would hear her way down here in the basement.

Shhh,” a seductive male voice whispered in her ear.

Who? Who are you?” she managed to stutter out as she gasped for breath.

A shuffling sound on her other side caught her off guard and she cried out as a large shadow rose from the other side of the bed. “What’s wrong?” a sleepy male voice asked.

Light filtered in from the end of the bed at the same time Jane heard a curtain being pushed aside. She blinked as the dim light hit her eyes. After the complete blackness, it seemed bright. When she could make out her surroundings, she blinked again, unable to believe what she saw.

Walls made of gray stone and a stone fireplace were illuminated by the small blaze crackling in the hearth. She could see a wooden table and several chairs off to one side. The bed she was in seemed huge and was surrounded by bed-curtains. She couldn’t see the man behind her, but glimpsed the one in front of her when he bent closer to her. For a split second his face was illuminated in the light. She’d seen his face before, but where?

Her heart pounded against her chest and her breath came in short gasps. She had to get ahold of herself. Think, Jane. Think. Then it came to her. The tapestry. He was one of the warriors from the tapestry.

Relief swamped her. She was safe. This was just a dream.

Reaching out, she touched the side of his face, jumping slightly when he nuzzled her hand. His jaw was covered with stubble that tickled her palm. She startled when his tongue stroked her fingers, jerking her hand back tight to her chest.

The man behind her had to be another one of the warriors. Turning so that she was lying flat on her back, she gazed up at him through the dim light. She couldn’t clearly make out his features, but his long hair flowed behind his shoulders and she caught a flash of his white teeth as he smiled.

His arm was still wrapped around her, holding her tight as he lowered his head and brushed his lips across her forehead, her nose, her cheeks and her chin. The light feathery touches calmed her. This was just a dream after all. A wonderful, delightful dream. It had been a long time since she’d had sex so no wonder she was having an erotic dream. And if she was going to have one, then she couldn’t have ordered a better fantasy than the warriors from the tapestry.

Sighing, she reached her hand up, threaded it through his hair, and tugged him toward her. She wanted to taste him, to experience his lips on hers. She could feel him smile as he skimmed her mouth with his. His tongue traced the fullness of her bottom lip before stroking over her top one. Her mouth parted eagerly and his tongue slipped inside.

Moaning, she moved her hand over the side of his face, allowing it to slide over his neck and chest. He was so strong. Like velvet over pure rock. His skin was hot to the touch and he had a light dusting of hair on his chest. She longed to be able to see it. Her fingers roamed over his torso as his tongue explored her mouth. He treated her like she was a fine wine to be sipped slowly and appreciated.

A low rumble escaped him as her fingers brushed against one of his nipples. The texture of his kiss changed as he deepened it. He stroked her tongue with his, coaxing it back into his mouth. He tasted hot and male. He sucked her tongue hard.

Jane jumped when she felt lips nibbling at her neck. She’d all but forgotten the other warrior, as impossible as that seemed. It was absolutely delicious to have one of the warriors kissing her while the other one sampled her neck. She’d never had an erotic dream this real before. And it was absolutely wonderful. She didn’t want to ever wake up. Cream seeped from her sex, softening it, preparing it for a hard male cock.

A hand stroked across her stomach and she held her breath as it moved higher, circling her breast but not touching it. She wiggled closer, trying to get his hand where she wanted it. Pleased masculine laughter reached her ears just before he cupped her breast. His thumb stroked across the tip, making it tighten. Breaking away from the kiss, she gasped for breath.

Both men shifted. Their breath brushed across her skin as they lowered their heads toward her breasts. “Oh, yes,” she cried out as their mouths descended on the aching mounds. Each of them captured a nipple between his lips and suckled.

Her hips arched upward with each lap of their tongues against the hard nubs of her breasts. Her sex grew wetter with every stroke as her cream continued to flow. She’d never felt this needy in her life.

A dark shadow appeared at the end of the bed, blocking the light. She instinctively knew that this was the third warrior. Well, if she was going to have an erotic dream, she might as well enjoy them all. The bed shifted under his weight as he knelt between her thighs. As he leaned down, she caught sight of his face in the dim firelight. This was the warrior from the center of the tapestry. His face was slightly older, harder, and filled with a lust that would have frightened her if this hadn’t been a dream. Instead, it excited her.

Spreading her legs, she tilted up her hips, offering herself to him. He growled low in his throat as he wrapped his hands around her thighs and spread her even wider. He blew softly on her sex, making her shiver with desire. Her entire being was focused on her sexual pleasure. Her blood pumped hard, her heart pounded against her chest and she knew she would soon explode.

The men on either side of her continued to suck and lick her breasts, alternating between gentle touches and those that were almost rough. They shifted closer to her and two hard male cocks nudged her hands on either side. Without thought, she wrapped her fingers around them, sliding her hands from base to tip. Her thumbs stroked the heads before she slid her hands downward again.

A rough tongue licked up one side of her swollen sex, caressing the slick folds before continuing down the other side. He’d lifted his tongue as he’d passed her swollen clitoris. She pumped her hips and cried out in protest. One of the warriors suckling her breasts immediately lifted his head and covered her mouth with his, swallowing her frantic cries.

She continued to pump her hands up and down their cocks. Hot and hard, they pulsed against her palms. Both warriors tensed at the same time and then shoved their hips harder against her. Jane didn’t stop, even though her own release was close. She felt them come. Felt the hot spew of cum on her fingers even as they continued to pleasure her.

She screamed as the warrior between her thighs caught her clit carefully between his teeth and flicked it. Two of his long fingers thrust inside her swollen pussy, stretching her. The mouth at her breast bit down gently on her hard nipple at the same time the warrior kissing her thrust his tongue deep. It was too much.

Jane felt her body explode. She convulsed as spasms of pleasure shook her entire being. Her legs and arms tightened as the almost painful pleasure shot through her. Wave after wave washed over her as she rode out the storm. She couldn’t take any more, but they continued to pleasure her until sobs welled up deep inside her and she began to cry.

Immediately, the caresses turned gentle and soothing. She lost all track of time as they stroked and petted her. With a final sigh, she sank back into the mattress, too exhausted to move. The warriors on either side of her cuddled close to her, but the one between her legs shifted.

In the dim light, she could see his cock, hard and swollen, jutting out in front of him. He hadn’t come yet. There was no softness in his face as he lifted her hips in his large hands. She sensed the determination in him. He would have her. He would claim her as his own and she knew she would never be the same again.

For the first time since the dream began, Jane felt fear. This warrior was a threat to her. If he took her, he would somehow own a piece of her. “No,” Jane shouted as she began to struggle. She’d already lost enough and couldn’t afford to lose anything else.

Wake up. Wake up,” she chanted as she pushed away from him.

As the scene began to fade, she heard a desperate shout. She glimpsed his face for a split second and the sheer desolation she saw there made her cry out. But it was too late. . . .


Bolting upright in her bed, Jane gasped for breath. For a second, she thought she could hear the echo of the warrior’s pained cry. Then a car horn blared through the night and the glow from the streetlight illuminated her small room. The covers were a tangle around her and she tugged them over her naked body. She was hot and sticky and could still feel the throbbing ache between her thighs.

Burying her face in her hands, Jane released all the pent-up pain of the past few months. She cried for all she’d had and lost, for the loss of her innocence, and for her father, who she missed. But mostly, she cried for the warrior. His pain had mirrored hers somehow and she felt as though she’d disappointed him in the same way many of her friends, coworkers and especially her ex-boyfriend, Chad, had failed her.

Wiping her tears on the sheets, she took a deep breath. She supposed that this had been a long time coming. She hadn’t shed a tear since the night of the murder. Instead, she’d buried her emotions and done what needed doing.

But the trial was finally going to be over tomorrow and then the rest of her life would begin. She decided that it was only natural to be feeling emotional. Combine that with a mind-blowing erotic dream and no wonder she’d had a complete meltdown.

Glancing at the clock, she groaned when she saw the time. It was only five o’clock, but she knew that there was no way she’d get back to sleep now. She had to be at the courthouse by nine. Her stomach clenched at the thought of having to face her ex-boss one last time, even if she didn’t have to speak to him.

Not bothering to try to find her nightgown or her bathrobe, she rolled off the daybed, pulling the sheet with her. Clutching it tight around her body, she padded toward the bathroom. She didn’t bother to turn on any lights until she closed the bathroom door behind her. Steeling herself, she turned and looked in the mirror.

She was an absolute wreck. Her hair was tangled, her lips swollen, and her blue eyes looked huge and almost sunken in her pale face. Sighing, she dropped the sheet and for the first time in months really looked at her body. What she saw frightened her. She’d always tended toward thin, but now she looked downright bony. She knew she’d dropped weight, but she just hadn’t noticed, or rather, hadn’t wanted to notice just how bad it had gotten.

She traced a finger over her rib cage, circled her breasts and shivered. At least they were still the same, not that they were ever large to begin with. But they were a respectable thirty-four B cup and she didn’t want to lose what little she had. Closing her eyes, she cupped her breasts in her hands. The pulsing ache between her thighs grew stronger. Shivering, she dropped her hands and spun away from the mirror.

She turned the shower on full and stepped under the spray. Today was the first day of the rest of her life. No matter what happened today, the ordeal would finally be over. She was damned well going to look her best.

Reaching for her shampoo, she lathered her hair. As she massaged her scalp and then rinsed the soap, she planned what she’d wear to court. Thoughts of the three warriors filled her mind as she began to scrub her body, but she ruthlessly shoved them aside. Today was the time for reality, tomorrow would be time enough to dream.


• • •


Jane stepped out onto the courthouse steps, clutching her purse in her hands. It was finally over. Even though the sun was shining, a shiver ran down her spine. Moving quickly, she hurried down the stairs, keeping her head down. The camera crews and on-air personalities were swarming like vultures, but for once they weren’t looking for her. Today it was all about Richard Trenton.

Pressing a hand to her stomach, Jane willed it to settle. She’d been so afraid that Richard would get away with murder. He had many high-placed and influential friends but the evidence against him was too overwhelming. She’d known from the beginning it wouldn’t be easy, but she hadn’t dreamed it would be so hard.

The police evidence had even gotten “lost” once. After she’d said a quick prayer of thanks that she’d had the foresight to make several copies, she’d simply produced another set. Then she’d informed the media that she’d taken the liberty of making quite a few copies and distributing them with different lawyers to be brought forward in the case of her injury or death. Jane wasn’t stupid and she wasn’t taking any chances with her own personal safety.

She’d had harassing letters and threatening phone calls, but she was no coward to be bullied. A good man had died for another man’s greed. She hadn’t known him well, but he’d always been pleasant to work with. And after seeing Bob Simpson’s wife and children in the courtroom, there was no way she could back down. Still, it hadn’t been easy and she was just glad it was over.

The shouting started behind her and she glanced over her shoulder. The media were descending on Richard’s lawyers. They were the best attorneys money could buy, but they couldn’t stop him from being convicted of murder. Richard was going to be spending quite a few years in prison.

As she left the noise and frenzy of the courthouse behind her, Jane began to feel lighter than she’d felt in months. No, she corrected herself. She felt lighter than she’d felt in years. Slowing her pace, she unbuttoned her suit jacket and slipped it off. Folding it, she draped it over her purse and slung her purse strap back over her shoulder. It was mid-July, a beautiful summer’s day, and she was free.

Ambling along the sidewalk, Jane realized that for the first time in years she had nowhere she had to be. There was no work to take care of, no court proceedings to attend. But neither was there family or friends, except for a few older ones of her father’s at the apartment building.

She was twenty-seven years old and alone in the world—no family, friends or job. But she refused to feel sorry for herself. This was a clean slate. She could begin again and rebuild her life in any way she chose. A quaint sidewalk café caught her eye and she decided that she wanted to celebrate.

Going inside, she went up to the counter and ordered a large iced tea, bowl of vegetable soup and a nice slab of cherry cheesecake. Picking up her tray, Jane carried it outside onto the small patio and found a table in a shaded corner. Carefully placing her tray on the table, she then dumped her coat and purse on the empty chair next to her. For the first time in a long time, she was hungry.

Taking her time, she savored each mouthful of food. As she ate, she thought about her life. She’d come to some interesting revelations the last few months. Business, she realized, was something she’d gone into to please her father. He hadn’t had much education and had worked a hard, physical job. He’d wanted better for his daughter and Jane, more than anything else in the world, had wanted to please her father. So she’d gone to business school and then to work at Trenton Industries, working hard and rising quickly up the ranks.

But since she’d found herself unemployed, she’d started sewing again. At first it had simply been a way to relax. She’d remade an expensive set of drapes, sewing it by hand, so that they’d fit her new apartment window. Then she’d made throw pillows out of the remaining material. She’d enjoyed herself so much that she’d started an embroidery project. Over the last ten years, she’d been so busy, first with school and then her job, she’d forgotten how much she enjoyed working with her hands.

Pushing aside the empty soup bowl, she attacked the cheesecake. She forked up a huge bite and popped it into her mouth, chewing slowly before swallowing. It was absolutely delicious.

Now that her father was gone, she only had to please herself. Buying the sewing machine had been a big step for her. She knew that she was seriously considering starting her own sewing business. It might take time and she might fail in the end, but right now she had absolutely nothing to lose. She could always turn back to the business world if she needed to.

Finding the sewing machine had been a sign of sorts and one she wasn’t willing to ignore. Thoughts of the sewing machine brought the tapestry to mind. She’d done her best all morning to forget about it, but it hovered at the edges of her awareness. Just thinking about it had her heart beating faster and her breathing getting more rapid.


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