Fantastical Page 5

I was thinking I didn’t want to mess with this guy.

I was also thinking that maybe I shouldn’t tell him that I was actually not his wife but a single girl who worked for an ad agency and lived in Seattle. I was thinking that wouldn’t go down too well.

The problem was, I was in a fantasyland, he was the only human being around me, I needed him to talk to me, I needed him to get where I was coming from which was definitely not here and I didn’t know what to tell him.

What I did know was that it appeared he didn’t like me too much and so I figured my best bet was not telling him anything at all.

Which meant I was screwed.

Damn!

“I… I think I need a minute to, uh… get my head straight,” I told him the God’s honest truth.

We were just inside the mouth of the cave and the storm and trees outside meant the light coming in was dim but I saw his hard, glittering, dark eyes examine me, travelling down my body. They stopped midway and his jaw clenched.

I looked down to see the thin material of the nightgown, no matter that there was a lot of it, had gone see-through. I was, luckily, wearing a pair of what looked like loose, white shorts but up top, there was nothing left to the imagination.

Double damn!

I grabbed fistfuls of the material in both hands, pulled it around my br**sts and looked back at his face to see his eyes shoot to mine.

“Uh –” I started but stopped when he took a step forward while dipping his shoulder. Then that shoulder was in my stomach and I was up. I grabbed onto his shirt at the back and shouted, “What are you doing?”

“Quiet,” he commanded.

I yanked on his shirt and kicked my feet. “Put me down!” I yelled, panicked and wondering what he was going to do next but thinking I wasn’t going to like it.

I wasn’t wrong.

I felt the crack of his hand on my ass, it sounded nearly as loud as when he slapped the rump of Dashiell’s horse but since he did it to me, it hurt… a lot.

“Quiet,” he growled but I had already quieted.

He hit me. He hit me, he yanked me off his horse, he shook me, he ordered me around, he called me lazy and, I will repeat, he hit me. So hard it hurt. A lot.

I didn’t like this guy. Not at all.

I felt the stinging in my nostrils that heralded tears.

Oh man, I needed to get home.

Chapter Three

Pure You

He walked me deeper into the cave, not far but where he took me was damper and darker.

Then he bent at the waist to drop me and my hands automatically circled his neck because I didn’t want to go down hard on the shards of stone and he’d drop me hard, I knew it.

Surprisingly, I needn’t have done this for his arms curved around my thighs and waist to lighten the fall and what he put me on was soft.

“You’ve gained weight,” he grunted as he was straightening away from me.

Great. Just great. In this world I was fat. Marvelous.

“I’ve got to see to Salem, get wood, find food. I’ll be back,” he informed me then with no further ado, he turned and left.

I lay on whatever I was on and looked at the dim opening to the space that he’d disappeared through. I heard the horse heave a mighty, shuddering breath through his horse lips and decided that was his greeting to his master.

My mind was blank. So blank, I had not one thought by the time he came back. I heard what sounded like wood crashing to the cave floor then he left again without looking at me. He came back three more times and there were three more wood crashing noises. Then he moved around, I heard more wood banging together, saw the strike of rock against rock and then there was a weak fire. He moved to the wall of the cave, pulled something down and went back to the fire. I watched him light a torch then take it back to the wall and affix it to something. He did this four more times and the torches, with the fire, meant the space was better lit. It wasn’t exactly blazing light you could read by but at least you could see.

And I saw that I was on hides, lots of them. That was when I realized I was trembling violently. I rolled, pulled a hide out, saw that under the top, dark hide there was a bed of what looked like fluffy, cream sheepskins. I crawled in and pulled the top hide over me and up high, wrapping its heavy weight clumsily around me as best I could.

When my eyes went back to him, I saw he was standing with hands on hips, watching me and he didn’t look any happier than he had before. In fact, he looked downright peeved and maybe a bit disgusted.

I pressed my lips together because he freaked me right the hell out.

“Now, food,” he grunted. “If you have it in you, don’t let the fire go out. Keep feeding it. This would, of course, require you to move. Try it, you might not find it that hard.”

Again with the lazy comments. What a jerk.

Then he turned, went to the mouth of the space, unhooked something I hadn’t noticed before and then another heavy, wide hide fell into place behind him, covering the opening to the space and closing me in as I heard his muted boots hit the loose stone outside indicating he was walking away.

I took in a shaky breath and pulled my wet hair out of my face.

“Okay, okay… think,” I whispered as I looked around and tried to control my shivers.

The space was small. There looked to be a makeshift table with stuff on it against the wall. There was a pile of the wood he’d brought in on the floor next to the table (lots of wood, apparently he could carry a heavy load or there was some there before). There seemed to be what looked like weapons on the wall, two swords, some others that looked like long knives and other lethal-looking bits and pieces. There was a fire pit in the middle of the space and I tilted my head back to look up to the ceiling and saw a small, natural hole where the smoke could get through. I found this curious, seeing as no rain was coming in and I could still hear the distant thunder but whatever.

When I got control of my shaking, I pushed the hides back and decided to explore. I noted the stone floor in this space was smooth, not the loose rock of the outer area. I went to the mouth of the space first and touched the hides. Cow, I would guess. A bunch of them stitched together to make a panel wide enough to cover the opening.

After this, I went to the table and saw a pile of animal bones on the floor beside the table. Obviously, this space was well-utilized and although it was unhygienic, not discarding the bones, at least the pile indicated Noctorno was tidy.

The table had a bunch of stuff on top and a shelf under it. The stuff on top included a long-handled frying pan, what looked like a rough, rudimentary coffeepot or kettle, a tin (which I picked up, opened, sniffed and happily smelled the strong aroma of coffee grounds), a jug (upon sniffing, I noted was water), a bottle (sniff test: whisky), a cup, a bowl and a spoon, fork and knife.

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