Fantastical Page 7

I guessed this meant we were in it for the long haul.

When he was done with his chores, he crouched by the fire probably for the same reason I stood by it, in order to get warm and use it to dry his clothes.

What he didn’t do was speak to me.

What he also didn’t do was rotisserie the rabbits. He didn’t turn the handle that was at one end of the iron rods at all. That meant one side would get roasted and the other wouldn’t. Furthermore, even though they were rabbits, which freaked me out, all their juices were falling into the fire. If they were captured and used to baste the darned things, they would end up more succulent and flavorful.

I decided not to share this culinary expertise with him either. Instead, I got out from under the hides, went to get the frying pan and then moved to the handle by the fire. I gathered as much of my nightgown as I could in my hand (which was a lot, seriously, there was a huge amount of material covering me), used it to shield my skin against the heat of the rod and squatted as ladylike as I could by the fire while using the handle and holding the pan under the rabbits to collect their juices.

I did this for awhile feeling his eyes on me before he spoke.

“By the gods, what are you doing?”

I didn’t look at him as I replied, “Rotisserie. You cook them like you were, one side will get charred, the other won’t cook. And everyone knows you need to baste meat.”

This was met with silence.

I kept turning then when I gathered enough juices I lifted the pan and poured them over the meat. Then I held the pan under again as I kept turning the handle.

Truth be told, the actions were tedious, the pan was heavy and my arms were beginning to ache. But at least I had something to do.

After awhile, he called, “Cora.”

“Yep,” I answered, lifted the pan, basted the meat then returned it under the carcasses, all the while turning the handle.

“Cora,” he repeated.

“I said, yep,” I replied.

“Look at me, woman,” he ordered.

I lifted my eyes to him. His face was blank but his eyes were alert and working and they were fastened on me.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I told you,” I reminded him.

“What are you doing?” he repeated and I felt my brows draw together.

“Dude, I told you,” I returned.

His face turned cold. “Do not call me this name,” he commanded. “I do not like it.”

I stared at him. Then I sighed. Then I looked back to the fire and muttered, “Whatever.”

“Cora,” he called again and my gaze cut back to his face.

“What?” I snapped.

“Explain yourself,” he demanded.

“I already did.”

“When did you learn this?” he growled, tipping his dark head to my movements.

Uh-oh.

Lazy Cora of this world clearly did not know how to baste nor would she trouble herself to do it.

Oh well. Never mind.

I shrugged and said, “I heard it somewhere and if I have to eat rabbit, it might as well taste good.”

He studied me then said quietly, “You are strange.”

My hand on the handle stopped moving, I glared at him and bit out, “I’m not strange!”

His eyes moved over me then came back to mine before he kept speaking in a soft voice. “You are not you.”

Hmm. What did I do with this?

It was the perfect opener. The problem was, I was guessing since he had lots of weapons, and none of them were guns, grenades or bazookas, he rode a horse and he didn’t have a camp stove but an iron spit, that this world also didn’t have movies. So he probably wouldn’t respond positively to the fact that the me Cora of my world might have been (a guess) switched with the Cora of this world that he knew.

Then again, they had curses in this world that we didn’t have in my world so maybe they had magic. Maybe he’d get it.

“Uh…” I started but couldn’t think of what to say.

“It won’t work,” he told me and I blinked at him.

“What won’t work?”

“This change,” he stated.

Oh dear.

“Uh, Noc –”

“What you did was unforgiveable,” he cut me off and I sucked in both lips and bit them at the harsh look on his face. “I will protect you, keep you safe from harm, keep you alive as I vowed to do as your husband and because your sister holds a place in my heart. But for no other reason. You cannot carry logs and cook meat and make me think you sweet. I know you. I know this is not you. What I also know is that the only energy you will expend is to connive and maneuver to take best care of yourself. Don’t make the mistake of thinking me a fool.”

I swallowed then began, “I –”

“Planned it from the beginning,” he finished for me. “Hunting,” he went on, “gave me time to think. You took me because you had no choice but also because you could not have Dash but it meant you could have what I could give you, your home, your life lazy as you like it. But you schemed the whole time knowing that you couldn’t have Dash but not wanting Rosa to have him either. So you got what you could from the arrangement but made sure your sister didn’t get what she wanted most in this world.”

Wow. That hurt. And, obviously, it was totally untrue.

“That’s not true,” I whispered.

“I am no fool.”

“It isn’t true.”

“It’s pure you.”

I held his eyes and he stared into mine, his handsome, scarred face a cold, blank mask.

There was no way I was going to convince him. Apparently, the Cora of this world wasn’t all that great.

And I didn’t like being her.

This whole thing sucked, like a lot, but now it sucked even more.

I broke eye contact, started turning the handle again and used the gathered juices to baste the rabbits.

I looked at him again when he rose.

“Call me when they’re done,” he ordered, turned on his boot, strode to the opening, shoved the hides aside and disappeared.

I stared back at the fire and I told myself it was the smoke that made my eyes wet.

But it wasn’t.

Chapter Four

Sleeping Arrangements

I ate Thumper.

What sucked was that Thumper didn’t taste all that bad.

I ate him because I didn’t want to suffer malnutrition before what I hoped fervently would be my happy ending and I was returned to my world.

When I used a knife from the wall to check the meat was done, I called Noctorno. He took the rabbits off the spit, carved them on the table and handed me the bowl full of meat. Then he watched as I ate my portion without a word (except to say, “Thanks” when he handed it to me which got me a heavy scowl indicting Cora of his world wasn’t polite either) as he ate his portion, tearing it directly off the spit. Then he disappeared again.

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