Fantastical Page 15

His arm around my waist moved so his hand cupped my ass and his head lifted so his face was in my neck.

“Fancy earning clothes?” he asked against my skin.

I shivered. His hand was so big, so warm, his grip so firm and his voice rumbling against my skin so hot my first shiver was followed by a full on tremble.

Not to mention, I wanted out, out, out of this nightgown.

Shit.

“What do I have to do for clothes and a bath with soap?” I asked cautiously.

His head went back to the hides and his eyes caught mine.

“I have soap,” he told me.

I felt my eyes grow wide. “You do?”

He nodded.

“Really?” I breathed.

He grinned. “Yes, Cora.”

Oh man. He had soap. And I wanted to be clean from top-to-toe. I wanted it bad.

Shit!

I studied him as he patiently waited, his hands still warm on me.

Hmm.

“What do I have to do to get you not to be a jerk to me all day, from now to bedtime?” I asked.

His eyes warmed and let me tell you, they looked nice warm. So nice, my belly felt like keeping them company so it did, getting warm too. Way warm.

“That’ll take some work,” he whispered.

“If I, uh… do all the work now, will you, um… be nice all day?”

His hand at my ass squeezed. “You earn it, you’ll get it.”

I licked my lips.

Was I going to do this?

Shit.

Shit!

Shit!

I looked into his eyes, felt his hard body beneath mine then turned my face away, clenching my jaw and closing my eyes hard.

No. No I wasn’t going to do this.

No way.

He thought I was Cora of this world but I couldn’t lose my hold on the fact that I was not. I didn’t deserve this even though he genuinely and with reason believed I did.

I would not whore myself for soap and clothes and another human being nice to me.

I would not.

I turned back to him and whispered, “I think I’ll make do with coffee and porridge.”

Once I was finished speaking, I looked away and tried to slide off but his arms wrapped around me again, holding me where I was.

“Cora,” he called but I stared at the hides to our sides.

“What?”

“Look at me.”

“Just tell me what.”

“Look at me,” he repeated on an arm squeeze.

I looked at him and he had that blank look on his face with his eyes active again.

“I’ll say this once and counsel you to take it to heart. You can play your game but you don’t play me in mine.”

“What?” I asked.

“Do not tease me.”

Oh hell.

“I wasn’t –”

“No excuses, no lies, just take that to heart. Am I understood?”

God, I couldn’t win for losing.

“Understood,” I whispered.

His arms loosened and I rolled away.

He rolled out of the hides.

I watched him walk to the table and thought, I hate, hate, hate this f**king world and I hate, hate, hate Noctorno Whoever-he-is.

And I hate, hate, hated them both so much, I felt the tears spring to my eyes, I rolled to face the wall and prayed I didn’t make any noise with my crying as I listened to him stoking the fire.

Luckily, my prayer was answered.

* * *

“What are you doing?”

Noctorno was speaking from behind me.

I was at the mouth of the cave, the day had a hint of watery sunshine which was an improvement but nothing like the brilliant beauty of the fairytale world I woke up in two days ago and shattered because I inadvertently caused a curse to fall on the land.

I was also shaking out the bed hides.

“Cleaning,” I answered, not turning to him and continuing awkwardly to shake the heavy, huge hide.

“Cleaning,” he repeated after me.

“Yep,” I said, giving up on shaking and I decided to start beating it with my fist.

That worked. Dust flew out everywhere.

Brilliant.

“Why?” he asked.

“Why?” I asked back.

“Yes, why?”

“Because you’re tidy with your bone remains but the rest of the place is filthy.”

“Cora, it’s a cave.”

That made me turn to him.

“I know it’s a cave, Tor.”

I watched his mouth get tight.

Oh Lordy. For some reason, he was getting angry.

Jeez, with him it didn’t take much and this time I didn’t even know what I did. I could hardly be pissing him off by cleaning, could I?

Oh well, let him get angry. I was getting used to it.

I went back to beating.

I heard a clomp, clomp, clomp and then I felt the velvet of Salem’s nose against my neck right before he blew.

It tickled so much, I giggled, dropped the hide and turned to him. His head jerked back and I lifted my hands to his nose and held gently.

“It’s okay, boy,” I cooed.

He snorted again.

“That’s it.” I kept cooing and started to stroke his muzzle.

He clomped a half a horse step closer.

“That’s it, you beautiful beast,” I whispered, still stroking.

He snorted his contentment.

I smiled at him.

“Salem!” Noctorno barked, Salem pulled his nose from my hands and looked down his massive body as my head turned to see the big guy standing, arms crossed on his chest, openly pissed. “Move away from, Cora,” he ordered his mount.

Salem whinnied.

“Now, horse,” Noctorno growled.

Salem blew breath through his horse lips and clomped away.

I glared at Noctorno. “Why’d you do that?”

“Do not think, woman, you can come between a man and his horse,” Noctorno informed me.

“I wasn’t trying to,” I informed him right back and I wasn’t!

“Right,” he muttered.

“Jeez!” I cried, throwing up my hands. “What is with you?”

“I warned you not to play me for a fool.”

“Good God, man, I was just petting your horse!” I pointed out.

“You were playing your games,” he returned.

“You know,” I started, “this is getting old. The Cora of your world must be a huge freaking ass bitch to make you think she’d use your f**king horse against you.”

“There is nothing I’d put passed you,” he replied.

“Well, again, big guy, I am not her and I’m getting sick of you treating me like her.”

“Then we share something because I’m getting sick of you pretending you aren’t her.”

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