Fantastical Page 30

I relaxed further into him and asked, “How long before we get to your castle?”

“If we were able to take the main road, which we cannot for Minerva’s beings will be watching it, a day. The route we have to take, likely three,” Tor answered and I straightened, twisted and looked up at him.

“Three?”

“Yes, love, three.”

Holy crap. That was a serious detour.

I turned back and fell silent. In the distance I saw a bunch of deer lift their heads in our direction, sensing us. Then as a group they took off, gracefully running up a hill into a forest.

I’d never seen that many deer in my life. A few here and there, but there had to be thirty, maybe even forty of them.

Outstanding.

My eyes slid across the landscape, experiencing greens greener than I’d ever seen before, wildflowers running riot in the fields around Salem’s legs and beyond, a faraway body of water that was the blue of Tor’s eyes. In fact, it seemed strangely the very air sparkled like it had tiny pieces of near invisible glitter floating in it.

It was magical.

I sighed.

Then I decided to take a chance and rested my hand on Tor’s arm at my belly.

“Can I tell you something?” I asked.

“Anything, sweets,” he mumbled and I felt his chin come to rest where my neck met my shoulder.

Oh boy. That felt nice.

“Can you promise me something before I tell you?” I went on.

“Ask me and we’ll see,” he replied gently.

Well, that wasn’t a yes but it wasn’t a no and it was a maybe said in a tone I liked so I sallied forth.

“Okay, I want to talk about something you don’t believe and won’t like. But can you just pretend you believe or, I don’t know, just keep silent?”

I received no response for some time then his arm around me gave me a squeeze and he answered, “I can do that, Cora.”

“Really?” I whispered to the landscape.

“Really, love, what do you want to talk about?”

I pulled in a deep breath and then shared what had been niggling me deep in the back of my head for awhile.

“I’m not going home,” I said softly, his arm squeezed me again and I went on quickly. “No, don’t say anything. I know you think I am home but I’m not. And every time I go to sleep, I expect to wake up back in my apartment, in my life. But I’m not doing that. And as the days pass by, I’m wondering if I ever will. And there are a couple things about this that are nagging me.”

He didn’t lift his chin from my shoulder when he prompted, “And those are?”

“Well,” I started, “if I’m here, that means the other Cora is there. And if she’s like you say she is… um, I don’t think that’s good. See, my job is in danger. I’ve been there years and I make okay money but they’re looking for reasons to get rid of people. If she doesn’t figure out she has to work for a living, or decides not to, or figures it out, goes in and doesn’t know what she’s doing, which, by the way, in my world she can’t possibly know, or by some miracle, pulls that off but pisses someone –”

“I get it, love,” he cut me off quietly.

I sucked in breath. Then I said, “I can’t lose my job, Tor. And Lord only knows what else she might get up to and the longer I’m here, the more time she has to get up to it.”

“This is true, the gods only know what the other Cora would get up to,” he agreed and I didn’t know if it was actual agreement or him humoring me but I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to know if was the latter (though I figured it was).

“This is important,” I told him, “and it’s kind of freaking me out.”

“Freaking you out?”

“Worrying me,” I explained.

He lifted his chin and ordered, “Look at me, Cora.” I did, twisting to look up at him to see his eyes tipped down to me. “You have no control over that. Let it go.”

“But –”

“Let it go.”

“I can’t!” I exclaimed.

“I can understand this but do you know how to get back there?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No.”

“Do you know how you got here?” he went on.

“No,” I repeated.

“Then you have no control over it. If you go back,” he stated and my heart somersaulted at the same time it clenched, “you’ll be forced to deal with it then. Since you have no way of knowing what you’ll face, you have no way of strategizing your response. So you simply have to wait and deal with it if it occurs.”

He was right. This was logical and wise.

“That’s logical and wise,” I told him.

He grinned at me.

“I’m still going to worry,” I admitted and he chuckled.

I smiled at him because it felt good to unload that, even if I didn’t have any firm answers, and I turned to face forward.

We fell silent for awhile before I broke it.

“There’s something else.”

“Yes?”

I stared at the scenery. Then I swallowed.

Then I shared on a whisper, “I don’t know if I want to go back.”

Tor’s body went completely solid behind me and even Salem missed a step before righting himself.

“Pardon?” Tor asked.

I pulled in my lips and bit them. Then for some wild, crazy, insane reason, I kept right on talking.

“It’s beautiful here. Horses communicate with you. Birds talk to you. It’s unpolluted. Life is simple. I would never, not in my life, have guessed that I wouldn’t miss cars, cell phones, microwaves, martinis and high-heeled shoes. If you told me I would come to a place such as this but if I did I’d have to stay, I’d say no way. But now that I’m here, I want to explore. Every sight I see, I like. Every village. Every flower. Every beast. Every blade of grass. Sure, a curse is pending, but you’ve got that under control, right?”

“Right,” he replied, humor in his tone.

“So,” I whispered, “if I’m stuck here, when your brother saves Rosa, I think I’m going to go. Travel. Experience this world to its fullest, something I never did in my own.”

“Two points to make, Cora,” he said in a voice that now held no humor and I twisted to look up at him again. His eyes dropped down to me. “One, I would ask, is there nothing you would regret leaving behind?”

I bit my lip and turned forward again.

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