Fantastical Page 4

Gone over the side of the balustrade even though the gray hatted man (otherwise known as Orlando) tried to hold onto her as Noctorno was busy struggling against my attacker.

But she didn’t fall to the cobbles. She flew through the air, held by one of those things.

And then she disappeared.

Poof!

The white hatted man, the man known as Dashiell, was too late and he stood on the balcony and shouted his heart wrenching fury but Noctorno didn’t watch. He battled the monster that had hold of me until it yelped and slithered away so fast it was almost like it wasn’t ever there.

“Safety!” Orlando shouted at Noctorno, already running out of the room, pulling Dashiell with him. “Get her to safety. The curse is upon us and no matter how you feel about her, Tor, they want her too!”

“Gods, man, I know!” Noctorno shouted back and carried me bodily out of the room after them, down the hall, down the stairs and out the front door where he threw me up on his horse, swung up behind me and away we went.

But I couldn’t think of that. It was too horrific. It was too frightening.

I had to concentrate on not crying, not trembling even though I was wet through and only wearing that damned thin nightgown. I had to try and figure out how one night I went to bed in my not very fabulous apartment after a day of my not very fabulous life only to wake up in another f**king world!

I mean, I was an administrative assistant! How did I end up on a horse, in a forest, in a hellacious thunderstorm with a man wearing breeches, for God’s sake?

As I struggled with these thoughts, the horse drove ever onward and we rode silently through the forest as the rain pummeled our skin.

Then Noctorno turned the animal and we started climbing the mountain-hill. Except here it was less of a hill and more of a mountain. The terrain was part-scrub, part-trees and part-rock. We climbed and climbed, the horse laboring with the effort and our weight but it seemed to know where it was going.

Then suddenly, we were in a big cave.

And just as suddenly, Noctorno was off his horse and his huge hands were at my waist and he was yanking me down.

Yes, yanking me down. He didn’t take any care at all and I yelped in surprise and pain as the cold stiffness of my limbs uncurled and my bare feet hit the shards of stone that was the cave floor.

Then he grabbed onto my upper arms and shook me.

Shook me!

My head snapped back and forth and everything!

“What are you doing!” I screeched, grabbing onto his (steely, might I add) biceps to try to get him to stop and to try to hold myself steady.

He stopped shaking me and his dark face came to within an inch of mine.

“How could you be such a fool?” he barked and I shrunk away from the fury in his voice and on his face.

“Wh… what?”

“You knew she wasn’t supposed to see him on her wedding day,” he clipped, his strong fingers still gripping me tightly.

“How’s she supposed to marry him if she doesn’t see –?” I started.

“Prior!” he spat on another shake.

“Stop shaking me!” I yelled and he did, only to get in my face again.

“You knew it’d bring on the curse,” he growled. “You knew and you just stood there –”

I interrupted him with, “I didn’t know!” and his scowl grew more ferocious. “I didn’t!” I yelled. “I’m an administrative assistant! I don’t know anything.”

His brows knitted dangerously over narrowed eyes. “You knew, Cora, you knew.”

“I didn’t!” I snapped. “And anyway, if he wasn’t supposed to see her, why did you all come riding up all fancied up in feathers and shit on the wedding day? That wasn’t too smart.”

“She wasn’t supposed to be there, you know that,” he fired back.

I blinked. “She wasn’t?”

“No,” he gritted between his teeth, releasing me and I stumbled back and hit his horse who moved slightly into me like it wanted to break my fall and if that was what it wanted, the horse got it for I didn’t fall. “She was to sleep at your parents’ and we were there to get your lazy arse out of bed. Rosa was not supposed to be at your home.”

Hmm. I wasn’t really fond of being known as lazy in this world. Sure, I could procrastinate with the best of them but I wouldn’t describe myself as lazy.

“But –” I began.

“And if she was there, which you knew she was, you should have kept her from seeing Dash. But you didn’t. You just stood there, gabbing at us like a fool, you didn’t warn us she was there and when she arrived, you let her see him. You know the curse. She did not.”

That sounded ridiculous.

“Why did I know and she didn’t? That’s ridiculous,” I informed him.

He glared at me a moment before he asked quietly, “What’s the matter with you? Have you gone mad?”

“I don’t think so,” I replied because I wasn’t certain. Everything around me felt mad but I didn’t feel mad.

Then again, I’d never been mad. How would I know?

Something about him changed and I watched it with fascination. He wasn’t any less scary; he was only a different kind.

“We’re not a love match, we both know this, but I would never have suspected you’d do that to your sister,” he said softly.

“We… we…” I couldn’t finish.

A love match? What was he talking about?

“You care for her, deeply, or so I thought. And if you didn’t care about her,” his face got hard, “we both know you care for Dash.”

Uh. What?

He kept talking. “Your feelings for them, my feelings for them, that was why we wed in the first place.”

Uh. What!

“Wed?” I whispered.

He glowered at me then warned, “Don’t try me, Cora.”

“We’re… we’re… you and me… we’re… married?”

He leaned his face into mine again and growled, “Don’t try me, Cora.”

Holy crap!

I was married to this guy?

“So… uh, where were you last night?” I asked what I thought was a pertinent question, considering he was my husband and I woke up alone, and his face got even harder.

“You’re trying me,” he stated.

Oh dear. I was trying him.

Damn.

I studied him. He was a big guy. Very big. Very tall. Very broad. He wore black. All black. He had a scar. His horse was enormous and powerful. He carried a knife on his belt. He scared me just the way he could look at me and he had no problem with shaking me so my head snapped around.

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