Fantastical Page 18

“Okay, you can say I like it when I told you I love it. That’s cool. Whatever,” I replied and turned to face front again. “And thanks for the bath. That river is cold as Siberia but it feels nice being clean.”

He made no response to this except his arm got tighter again, this time it felt like he meant to do it and it go so tight I slid the half an inch back so the side of my behind was snug in his crotch (because I was riding sidesaddle) and my back was tight to his front.

With no response from Tor, I kept blabbing as I watched the lush forest trees and beautiful stone of the mountain slide by. “And I’m so glad to get out of that cave for dinner. I know you need to take the pulse but I’m glad you’re taking me with you. That’s very cool of you. Thanks.”

Still no response but I felt his fingers open up at my side so they spanned my ribs then they flexed in.

“God!” I breathed, looking around. “This place is magnificent. Totally out of a movie. The colors are so… I don’t know… colorful. The trees seem to have ten times as many leaves. The stone seems like it’s almost glossy. It’s bizarre but so stinking cool. I wish I had a camera and I could take pictures. No one at home would believe this.”

Finally, he spoke. “Camera?”

I twisted to look at him again and nodded. “Yep, it’s this gadget that’s really small but it takes pictures. Do you have paintings here? Portraits? Landscapes?”

“Of course,” he grunted, staring down at me.

“Well, a camera takes a portrait or a landscape by touching a button, you load it on your computer, print it out and voila!” I threw out a hand. “You have your picture.”

“That’s mad,” he muttered.

I grinned up at him. “I know but it’s true.”

“So my world is more colorful than your world?” he asked and my light heart lightened more.

Was I finally convincing him?

I nodded fervently. “Yes, totally. It’s hard to explain but the birds are more vibrant. The flowers more dazzling. The river is cleaner than any river I’ve ever seen.” I tilted my head to the side. “There’s a lot of pollution in my world.”

“Pollution?”

“People litter, big corporations dump waste. It’s not good.”

“Love, I don’t know what the bloody hell you’re talking about.”

I looked into his sky blue eyes and realized I was glad he didn’t.

Then I said, “Well, I guess my world has a curse of sorts too but all of man caused it by getting rid of their rubbish, and we create a lot of rubbish and some of it is unnatural, in the rivers, the oceans, burying it under the fields.”

“Why would they do that?”

I shrugged and turned forward. “I don’t know,” I whispered. “Because we’re stupid, short-sighted and greedy.” I looked at the darkening landscape that was still verdant in comparison with my world even with the falling night. “I wonder,” I went on in a whisper, “if my world looked like your world before we destroyed it.”

“Maybe it did,” he remarked.

“That would suck,” I muttered.

“Suck?” he asked.

“It would be bad.”

Silence then, “Yes, love, it would.”

I fell silent and Salem cantered down the mountain, found a road and took it. Tor’s leg moved under mine again and Salem speeded up to a gentle canter. At the same time I felt Tor’s thumb start moving, up and down, stroking me at my side.

That felt nice.

Oh man.

“Tor?”

“Yes, Cora.”

The trees rushed by, Salem took us around a curve and the road started to follow the river. The new moon shown on its translucent waters, my breath caught in my throat and I forgot what I was going to say.

“Cora?”

“What?”

“You called me, my love.”

“Oh, right,” I whispered and rested against him. “I forgot what I was going to say.”

He rested his jaw against the side of my head.

“It’ll come to you,” he murmured.

“Okay,” I replied on a whisper and relaxed completely against him.

His thumb stopped stroking but all his fingers tightened into the flesh at my side.

I sighed and gazed at the view.

Chapter Eight

Princess

“Holy crap! Look at that!” I cried and pointed straight ahead at the vision that lay before me.

A village at the base of the river. A quaint, adorable village with thatched roof, timbered buildings that hugged the riverside and crawled partially up the mountain, their windows lit warmly and, I leaned forward and peered ahead, an abundance of colorful lanterns hanging from the roof ends. There were short piers jutting into the river with small, charming wood boats attached to the piers that also sported lanterns.

It was unbelievable!

And as we got closer, it got more unbelievable for it, like my (or the other Cora’s) house, was filled with flower beds, window boxes and planters burgeoning with thriving blooms everywhere. Not only that, there were glistening cobblestone streets and sparkling diamond-paned windows in the buildings.

“It’s gorgeous,” I breathed.

“It’s a village, Cora,” Tor informed me and I twisted quickly to look at him.

“No, honey, it’s gorgeous,” I whispered, watched him blink, slowly again, then I turned back in order not to miss anything.

We made it to the edge of the village and even though night had fallen, people were wandering the side of the road.

“Heya,” I said on a smile when a man looked up at us and started.

“Well, uh… hullo there,” he replied hesitantly as we trotted past.

“Cora,” Tor said low.

“Yep,” I replied then a woman lifted her head, looked at us and she started too but I caught her eyes and called, “Hello!” and capped it with a wave.

I turned, looked around Tor’s body and kept waving until I saw her lift a hand and a tentative smile hit her face.

“I’m seeing we need to make a deal,” he remarked.

I straightened and looked up at him. “A deal?”

“You need to be smart in the village. None of your games.”

I stared at him and I felt my light heart drop a notch.

“My games?”

“You’re Cora Hawthorne here.”

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“You,” he answered.

“I’m Cora Goode,” I told him.

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