Fantastical Page 27

“The second wave was triple what we were fighting?” I asked.

“Minerva’s hungry,” he answered.

Oh dear.

“She needs both the sisters to complete the curse over the land,” he continued.

Oh. Fucking. Dear!

“She’s waited millennia to do it,” he explained.

Now it was oh shit.

“It’s been centuries upon centuries that the vow has gone unbroken,” he carried on.

Ohshitohshit.

“That would be, I’m guessing, the vow that the soulmates wouldn’t see each other prior to the wedding festivities,” I guessed.

“That would be the vow,” he confirmed.

“Oh shit!”

That time, I said it out loud.

His fingers squeezed mine. “She creates the soulmates, love.”

I blinked again. “What?”

“Playing. Torture. She does it only so she can tear them apart. She’s evil. Pure through to her core. She creates them then plays with them, trying to trick them, showing them the promise of joy beyond measure in the hopes to rip it away.”

“My God, that’s… that’s…” I shook my head, “I don’t even know what that is.”

“That’s Minerva.”

“What is she?”

“She was a witch. Through the years, her power grew. Now it so closely rivals the gods’, she is a god.”

“Uh-oh, that doesn’t sound good.”

“It bloody isn’t.”

“But you said the gods pick the soulmates.”

“No, I said the she-god picks the soulmates. Unfortunately, the benevolent ones have been forced to let her into their ranks. We pray to our gods, we fear Minerva.”

Crap.

Then it dawned on me.

“And so Dash had planned it all. Rosa was to stay at her, I mean, our parents’ house and he was –”

Noctorno nodded his head. “You live miles away in the opposite direction to your parents, the church and my father’s castle. We stayed the night miles beyond that. Rosa wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near there. We were dropping in mostly as a joke. Dash wanted to tease you, guessing you’d sleep in. I knew, however, that you would sleep in so, since you were on our way, we stopped by to drag you out of bed.”

My eyes drifted over his shoulder and I asked mostly myself, “I wonder how she got there.”

Since I asked mostly myself, I was guessing this was why he didn’t answer.

Then my eyes went back to his. “If this was happening for millennia, why didn’t Rosa know about it?”

His head tilted to the side and he examined me. He did this closely, intensely. He was a pretty intense guy but this was even more intense. It was like he was doing it for the first time, or, perhaps, seeing something he hadn’t seen before that fascinated him.

Then he said softly, “There are delicate souls, some so delicate, you know, even a child just born, how delicate they are. Rosa is one of those souls. Her parents, and even you, throughout her life protected her from unpleasantness that she couldn’t handle. She doesn’t only not know the curse exists, she doesn’t even know Minerva exists.”

I thought of tra la laling Rosa and I could see this girl had a delicate soul.

“I met her briefly,” I informed him. “I can see this.”

“It’s hard to miss,” he muttered.

Then something struck me. Something bad. Really bad. And my heart lurched as my body went solid when it filtered through me.

“Oh my God, Tor,” I whispered, my free hand lifting to curl around his neck. “Oh my God.”

“What?”

“Oh my God,” I breathed.

“Sweets, what?”

“Rosa’s delicate and Minerva has her.”

His jaw got hard. “Yes.”

“Oh my God!” I yelled and bucked, trying to push him off.

“Cora –”

I stilled and looked up at him. “We have to go get her!”

His brows drew together. “Pardon?”

“What are we doing?” I cried desperately then blathered on. “Why were we holed up in a cave? Here? We have to find her! We have to rescue her!”

“Cora –”

“We have to go!”

“Cora –”

“Now!” I shrieked and his mouth came down on mine hard.

This time, his tongue didn’t sweep into my mouth. This time, my bones didn’t turn to water. This kiss was meant to silence me. It worked because it was hard but at the same time also freakishly tender in a way I liked.

Therefore, my body melted under his and when he felt it, he lifted his head an inch.

“Are you calm?” he asked softly after his blue eyes caught mine.

“Calm…ish,” I answered breathlessly.

“Orlando is leading the rescue mission to find your sister,” he explained. “He has at his command my father’s entire army and my warriors, all of them but my personal guard who are at my castle, on alert should you and I need them.”

I stared up at him. “You have warriors?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I’ll explain that later.”

Okay, I decided to let that go.

“Is, um… Orlando good at that kind of thing? You know, leading a rescue mission?”

“Yes, if he wasn’t, I’d be with him but he also has my men with him and if he wasn’t good, they are.”

“So, they’ll find her.”

He nodded and stated firmly, “They’ll find her.”

This made me feel better.

Then I asked, “Dash isn’t with them?” He shook his head and I continued, “Why not?”

“Because Dash is in danger, like you and like me. The full curse starts when both the females are collected but Minerva switches tactics frequently, generation upon generation, she conjures something new, growing frustrated at her torment being thwarted. She could attempt to take Dash or me. He needs to stay safe and we all need to be cautious. There’s no telling what she’ll do.”

“Oh,” I whispered, thinking an unpredictable enemy who had the power of a god was not a good thing.

“And furthermore, he’s Dash,” Noctorno carried on

I felt my brows knit. “He’s Dash?”

“My brother is a lot of things, nearly all of them good, what he is not is a soldier and something else he definitely is not is a warrior.”

“Like you,” I guessed quietly. “Being a warrior, I mean.”

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