Fantastical Page 3

“I’m perfectly fine,” I answered. “Thanks for asking,” I added as an afterthought because it was important to be polite, even in a dream.

The gray hatted guy smiled a weirdly surprised smile but Noctorno spoke again.

“If you’re well then you’re well enough to walk into your room and don proper clothing,” he informed me.

Dream or not, this dude was way too bossy and, might I add, a bit of a prude.

I put a hand on my hip and felt my eyes narrow. “What’s your gig? It’s not like I’m flashing you.”

“Gig?” the gray hatted guy asked the white hatted guy.

The white hatted guy shrugged and asked, “Flashing?”

Noctorno ignored both of them and growled, “Go inside and dress.”

“Make me,” I snapped back, bending over the balustrade.

Uh-oh. Mistake. I knew this because he scowled at me for approximately half a second then his lips curled into a supremely sexy, supremely scary, definitely wicked smile.

And, honest to God, dream or no, I felt that smile all over.

Yowza!

Then he straightened in his saddle like he was going to dismount his glossy, muscled black beast but he stopped when the white hatted guy said in a low voice, “Tor.”

Mm. That was better. Noctorno was not a good name. But I could work with Tor.

At this point, two things happened.

Aggie flitted up into my line of sight and chirped loudly at me, “Cora!”

And the second was the door was flung open in the room behind me and the blonde woman came rushing into the room, shouting excitedly, “Is that Dash?”

See! Totally told you that you could shorten his name to Dash and it would be cool.

“No!” I heard a male shout from below and I looked down in confusion to see the men wheeling their horses around with what appeared to be sudden urgency. “Don’t let her see me, Cora!” It was the white hatted man; I knew when he continued talking.

“Don’t!” Aggie chirped, flying around my body in agitation. “Don’t let her see him!”

“Dash!” the blonde woman yelled from inside the room, she was run-dancing to the door.

“Holy crap, what’s going –?” I started.

“Hee-yah!” Noctorno barked, slapping his hand hard on the white horse’s rump, so hard, the sound of the crack of it hurt my behind and the white horse took off running.

“Gods! Don’t let her –!” This was the voice of the gray hatted man but it came the second the blonde woman reached the balcony and shouted, “Dash! My love!”

“No!” the white hatted man’s horse had started galloping away but he swung it around, shouting deep and imperative and started galloping back but I was only paying scant attention.

That was because the minute the blonde hit the balcony and shouted her words, everything changed.

Just like that.

Snap.

One second, the flowers were bright, the sun was shining, the day was beautiful.

The very next second, the skies were dark; a pall was cast on the house, the flowers, the mountain-hill, the forest and the river. All that was once vibrant and breathtaking was now shrouded in darkness and gray.

And what made matters worse was that in the very instant the darkness fell, thunder rent the air so loud and eerie I, who had never in my life been frightened of thunder, was instantly terrified (the immediate change of my surroundings helped). Lightning cracked through the sky, multiple flashes coming so fast it was like a strobe.

“Holy crap,” I whispered. “What on earth?”

“Cora,” the blonde whispered, “what on earth?”

Trust me to have a cool dream turn to complete shit.

“Tor, Orlando… go!” I heard and looked down as the blonde’s arms wrapped around me and the wind came up, whipping our hair and our nightgowns so violently, the material of our gowns snapped and cracked, biting into my skin where it hit.

Yes, biting.

And that was kind of painful too.

What… on… earth?

I held onto the blonde and looked down to see the gray and black horses were riderless and the white hatted guy, who lost his fancy hat in the wind (by the way) was dismounting.

“Cora! Get her away from the window. Close it tight! Hurry!” he shouted up to us before he darted into the house.

“Now, Cora!” Aggie chirped before his little body was swept away by the power of the wind.

“Aggie!” I yelled, reaching out to him as his little body reeled away. As I watched him go, I knew at once there was no hope to save Aggie so I had to save the blonde. “Come on! Get inside!” I shouted over the wind and thunder, the strobes of lightning flashing eerie on her hair and skin. “Hurry!” I yelled, pushing her inside, “Now!”

I shoved her inside and was stepping over the threshold at the same time reaching for the French doors when I heard it. Over all the noise of the sudden storm, I heard a cackle. An evil, bone-chilling cackle.

I turned and looked over my shoulder into the air outside the balcony and at what I saw I screamed bloody murder at the top of my lungs.

Chapter Two

Love Match

We were racing through the forest, me and Noctorno on his velvet black steed.

And I knew I was not dreaming.

I knew this because I could feel the horse’s power pounding beneath me. I could feel Noctorno’s strong arm clamped around my waist. I could feel the heat and solidness of his body. I could feel the branches whipping at my face, my hair, my body. I could feel the driving, relentless rain beating into my flesh.

I could also hear the ongoing thunder, see the continued lightning, hear the horse’s hooves thudding against the forest floor.

And none of this was pleasant.

And all of it was lasting a long, long time.

I didn’t know where I was. I had no idea how I’d gotten here. I just knew I was there. This was not a dream. This was real.

And it was a nightmare.

Lastly, I was fah-ree-king terrified.

“Duck!” Noctorno barked in my ear but he didn’t give me the chance to duck. His muscular chest pressed into my back, pushing me down and I heard a branch whip over our heads.

He lifted up, taking me with him but I closed my eyes.

And I saw that… that… thing sweeping away the blonde again.

I opened my eyes and bit my lip hard in an attempt not to cry.

One of those things almost got me. If Noctorno hadn’t made it to the bedroom and caught me about the waist, pulling me back at the same time yanking a blade out of his belt and slashing at it causing blue sparks to fly out of it rather than blood, I would be gone like the blonde.

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