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Authors: N. J. Walters

Strands of Love

BOOK: Strands of Love
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Strands of Love

N.J.
Walters

 

Seventh in the Tapestries series.

 

Samantha Calloway is desperately
working to keep her farm from financial ruin. It’s the only thing she has left
from her deceased family and she’s determined to make it a success at any cost.

Darian and Jace Hunter live in a
world where women are in short supply and brothers must share. The magic
tapestry has always brought a potential tapestry bride to Javara, but this time
it transports the two brothers to a strange land.

When Samantha finds two strangers
on her land she doesn’t believe their stories of magic tapestries and other
worlds. But when she suddenly finds herself in Javara, she doesn’t know what to
believe. And when the tapestry transports them all back to her farm, Sam has a
choice. She must decide if she will be true to her family and their legacy or if
she will abandon it all for a chance at love.

 

A
Romantica®
time travel erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave

 

Strands of Love
N.J. Walters

Dedication

 

Thank you to all the incredible fans of the Tapestries
series. This series has come a long way since I wrote
Christina’s Tapestry
.
Thank you for embracing my dream and the world of Javara.

 

Chapter One

 

“I’m sorry, Sam, but the bank is not willing to loan you any
money at this time.” Karen Simmons peered over her thick bifocals, a false
expression of sympathy on her face. “Your best option is to sell. The farm is
too much for you to run on your own. From what I hear you’ve already sold off
all the livestock. Sell before it gets so bad you lose everything.”

Samantha Calloway was shaken to the core of her very being,
but outwardly she projected the calm, in-control persona she always did. No way
did she want Karen knowing how deep her words cut. The old witch had never
liked Sam or her family anyway.

Slowly she stood and gave the loan officer a curt nod.
“Thank you for your time.” She turned on a well-worn bootheel and walked out
the office door, needing to get away from the annoying hum of the computer and
the stale air. She needed to be outside where she could breathe, where she
could think.

Sam yanked her father’s old John Deere hat out of her back
pocket and pulled it on, yanking the brim low. She didn’t want to talk to
anyone right now. The low hush of the bank lobby set her nerves on edge and she
had to fight the urge to stand in the center of the room and scream.

Like that would help. The manager Augie Rawlins would only
call for the sheriff. Then Sheriff Pritchard would have to drag her off to jail
and cite her for disturbing the peace. Wouldn’t that set the tongues to wagging
in this town?

No, better to keep quiet for now. She could do all the
screaming she wanted as soon as she was home.

Home
. If the bank had their way, Calloway Farm would
soon be no more. How had it come to this?

Head down, Sam left the bank behind and hurried across the
parking lot to her beat-up truck. It was only half past nine, but it was
already hot. She’d lost the better part of the morning for this appointment and
there were chores waiting to be done.

She ignored the twinge of pain in her chest and wondered how
much longer she’d be doing them. How much longer until she lost the land her
family had farmed for three generations.

No, she would find a way. There had to be some other
solution.

“Sam.” A male voice, one she easily recognized, called out
to her.

Her steps slowed. He was the one person in this town she’d
stop for no matter how foul her mood. Taking a deep breath, she halted and
turned toward the tall, lean man who came up beside her. “Hey, Tim.” Tim Lannon
was her father’s best friend and the closest thing to an uncle she’d ever
known. And right now he and his wife were the only family she had left.

“Well, what did they say?” He jerked his head toward the
bank. He knew all about her meeting with Karen. She’d talked with him about it,
wanting his take on things. She often turned to him now that she was alone.

Sam shook her head and Tim swore under his breath. He stopped
halfway through his tirade, his face turning red. “Sorry about that, Sam. You
didn’t need to hear language like that.”

Impulsively, she reached out and hugged him. “It’s exactly
what I needed to hear,” she assured him. Having someone upset on her behalf
made her feet not quite so alone.

Tim’s strong arms tightened around her. “We’ll figure
something out, girl. Come over tonight and have dinner with Mary and me. You
haven’t been over in ages and she misses you.”

Mary was Tim’s wife of thirty years and a surrogate mother
to Sam. As much as Sam loved both of them, right now she wanted to be alone to
think. She pulled away and shook her head. “Tell her thanks, but another time.
I’ve already lost the morning and I’ve got a ton of things to do today.”

Tim scowled, giving his bearded face a fierce expression. If
she didn’t know him, she’d probably be half afraid of him. In fact, many folks
in town were. But she knew his rough exterior hid a heart of gold for those he
cared about. “I won’t be able to hold her off much longer,” he warned.

Just the thought of Tim’s tiny wife bullying her into coming
over for supper made her smile. And she’d do it too, because when Mary Lannon
put her mind to doing something, it got done. “Okay,” she relented. “I’ll come
tonight.”

Tim’s weather-beaten face brightened as he smiled. “That’s a
promise I’ll hold you to, little girl.”

Her heart ached at the term of endearment. Her father had
always called her his little girl and Tim had picked up the nickname early in
her life. Didn’t matter that she was a fully grown woman and stood five eight
in her stocking feet.

“I gotta get going.” Sam whirled and walked as fast as she
could without running. She could feel Tim’s worried gaze on her as she climbed
into her truck and headed out of town.

The window was cranked down and the hot Texas air buffeted
her skin as she drove down Main Street. She passed the town limits and hit the
single-lane blacktop that led toward home. At this time of the morning, this
road was fairly empty. Anyone running errands in town was already there and
everyone else was working their spreads—either farming crops or raising cattle.

She passed one lone driver and he raised his hand in
greeting. She tooted her horn in return. Everyone knew everyone around Mission
Gulch. Like her, many of her neighbors were hanging onto their homes by a
shoestring. It was tough all the way around.

She pulled off the road and onto a dirt one, signifying she
was home. Her grandfather Horace Calloway had started Calloway Farm back in the
fifties. His only son Calvin had taken over in the early eighties. It was
supposed to be her brother John’s turn next. But a war and a roadside bomb in
Afghanistan had ended that dream.

Sam parked the truck in front of the white clapboard house
and stared. What once had been a home, ringing with laughter and voices, was
now silent. A house, not a home.

After John’s untimely death, her father had worked himself
even harder. Worked himself to death as far as she was concerned. He’d had a
massive heart attack six months later and dropped dead in the middle of the
wheat field. She’d gone looking for him when he hadn’t turned up for supper and
had found him there. It had been too late to save him. He’d been dead for
hours.

Her mother, already battling cancer, had given up the fight.
Sam had buried her eight months ago.

“Thinking about it doesn’t change it.” She spoke aloud to
give herself a pep talk. It didn’t work. Still, she’d had a work ethic drilled
into her from the cradle. There were chores to do and sitting here thinking
about them wasn’t going to get them done.

She climbed out of the truck and drank in the silence that
surrounded her, the peace of the land. It was so quiet here now. She’d sold off
the last of the cattle and the horses just after her mother’s death. The
medical bills had almost broken her. But she’d found a way to keep her home.
The farm had shrunk from five hundred acres to one hundred after she’d sold off
some of the land. The price hadn’t been as high as she’d hoped, but it had paid
off the worst of the bills and kept the creditors from the door.

Sam didn’t bother going into the house, but headed for the
barn instead. She was already wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Maybe she should
have dressed up to go to her meeting at the bank, but she hadn’t seen the
point. Those who worked there knew most of the money in the area came from
farming of one kind or another.

The yard was dusty and she squinted toward the horizon,
wondering if there would be any rain today. The cloudless sky made her heart
sink. If it didn’t rain soon she’d lose the wheat and hay crop, as well as her
experimental fields of sweet corn and green onions.

“An experiment is all it will ever be if the bank has its
way,” she muttered. With the smaller size of her spread, she’d decided to try
some new crops that other farmers in the area were having success with. If she
could get the crop to grow, she could make more money on it than with the
traditional wheat and hay her father had always planted to supplement the
cattle.

Stepping into the cooler shade of the barn, Sam let the
darkness envelop her. She heard a loud meow and looked down to find Arrow
twining between her legs. The large male cat had one ragged ear and was totally
black except for a patch of white in the shape of an arrowhead on his chest.
“Hey, boy.”

Sam leaned down and scrubbed the cat behind his ears, taking
comfort from him. “What big plans do you have for today? Mice to catch? Naps to
take?”

He blinked his large green eyes and stared up at her. She
could almost feel him willing her to go to the bin by the barn door. “Ah, I
know what you want.” She headed toward it and he followed closely behind. “Just
like a man. Lots of attention when you want something.”

She opened the bin and noted it was getting low. She’d have
to pick up some cat food on her next trip to town. Hopefully, there was enough
money in the account to cover groceries. Things were getting pretty tight.

Arrow waited patiently while she dumped a scoop full of food
into his dish. Then he attacked it, eating with gusto. He purred like a
well-oiled motor.

“At least one of us still has an appetite.” She was about to
head to the tractor to go check the fields when she heard a vehicle
approaching. “What now?” She was tired of dealing with people this morning and
just wanted to be alone on her land.

She walked back out into the sunshine and swore under her
breath, muttering a few of the choice words Tim had used this morning. Just
what she didn’t need—George Rawlins, local lawyer and the man she’d once
thought she might marry someday.

He climbed out of his shiny new black truck and smiled,
showing a mouthful of straight white teeth. The best money could buy. She’d
been fooled by that smile once. By the pleasing features and well-trimmed brown
hair. She’d thought he’d genuinely cared about her.

He’d come around after her father had passed, offering
condolences and a shoulder to cry on. Wasn’t long until he was offering more
than a shoulder.

She’d slept with him and when he’d broached her about
selling off some land to help her settle the worst of her family debts after
her mother’s death, she’d assumed all he wanted was to help her, to shoulder
some of her burdens.

Sam snorted under her breath as he approached. He’d given
her plenty of attention until she’d told him she’d sold all the land she
intended to. Turned out, he was buying the land himself, and at a rate far less
than she would have gotten from another buyer. Then he’d turned around and sold
it to her neighbors at the going rate, pocketing the difference. Sam had made
the mistake of allowing her grief to blind her to his true nature. Never again.
He was one of the reasons she was in the fix she was in.

“Morning, Samantha.”

“What do you want, George?” Sam wished she had a dog, a
really large, vicious dog she could sic on her unwanted guest.

“No need to be like that.” He reached out to touch her and
she stepped out of reach. No way did she want him putting his dirty paws on
her.

“What do you want?” she repeated. Better to hear him out so
he’d leave.

He shook his head and sighed, as though he was the wounded
party. He was good at that, getting sympathy and making her feel as though she
was the one doing something wrong.

Objectively speaking, he was a good-looking man. He stood
about six feet with a lean build. His brown hair was kept trimmed in a style
that suited him. He usually wore suits to work, but this morning he was wearing
new jeans and a crisp, button-down shirt. His boots were the finest leather and
shone in the sunshine. Those boots had never seen a hard day’s work. Not like
hers had.

“I heard about your trip to the bank.”

Sam stiffened and stood her ground. She’d known it wouldn’t
take long for word to get around Mission Gulch that she’d been into the bank to
visit Karen Simmons. Everyone in the bank lobby had seen her and there was only
one reason anyone had a meeting with Karen—they needed a loan.

She shrugged nonchalantly. “So. You got a point? Day’s a
wasting.” She turned and spit into the dirt, knowing the display wouldn’t
please him. He’d spent much of their time together trying to turn her into a
girly girl, which wasn’t going to happen at this point of her life. She was
raised working a farm, following her father and older brother around the
fields. She was a tomboy for life.

Not that she didn’t enjoy being a woman, because she did,
but George didn’t need to know that. He’d see it as a weakness and do his best
to exploit it. George was a snake in the grass. Shame she couldn’t just shoot
him to be rid of him like she could any other varmint.

As expected, he took a step back. Probably didn’t want to
risk his shiny boots. “I thought you might like to talk about selling the
place.”

Sam laughed at his audacity. The man was a total ass. “I
have no plans to sell. If I did, you’d be the last man in the world I’d sell to.”

“Now, Sam. No need to be like that. It was just business.”

And to him it had been just business. To her it had been a
betrayal. “You bother me any more about this and I’ll call the sheriff. You’re
not welcome here.”

George stiffened and fury flashed in his eyes. For a brief
second, she was very much aware of being a woman alone in the middle of
nowhere. Then the moment was gone and his normal bland expression was back.
“I’m in no hurry. You’ll have to sell eventually. And when you do…” He left the
sentiment hanging.

She finished it for him. “And when I do, I’ll sell it to
anyone but you.” She gave him a fake, sugary smile. “Now leave, unless you want
to help me spread manure in the fields.”

He turned on his heel and stalked back to his truck. “I
thought not,” she muttered. “That would mean you’d actually have to do some
work.” Not that she planned to fertilize, but he didn’t know that.

BOOK: Strands of Love
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