Fantastical Page 8

This meant I was left to my unpleasant thoughts and not much else. I’d get up every once in awhile to feed the fire but other than that, I had nothing to do.

From the small opening in the ceiling, I could see night had fallen. There wasn’t much light outside due to the bleak day but there was none at all when night fell.

I was staring at the opening, half-asleep and hoping when I woke up I’d be back in my bed in my apartment.

I didn’t think much of my life before I left it.

Just two months ago, I’d broken up with my boyfriend of four years, Brian, because he’d refused to take it to the next level, him telling me he surprised there was a next level. Why he thought we could date for the rest of our natural born lives was unknown to me. What stunk was, I loved him, I missed him and I wanted him back. He was fun. He was funny. He didn’t scowl at me, call me lazy or accuse me of scheming. Sure, the truth was, he was lazy, case in point, him thinking that he didn’t have to put more effort into a relationship beyond dating. But he was fun to be around and furthermore he’d been around for awhile, I was used to him.

My job wasn’t all that great either. I got paid well because I’d been there for ages but the air was rife with rumors of layoffs, the agency wasn’t doing very well, and everyone knew that the people who got paid the most were the first to go. The economy wasn’t booming and even though I had good skills and my boss loved me so would give me a good reference, I’d been at the agency that long because the thing I hated most in the world was job hunting so I avoided it at all costs even though I was in a nowhere job that didn’t challenge me all that much.

And I’d decided just before I broke up with Brian that it was time to get on the property ladder. I was still in the one-bedroom apartment I’d moved into when I was twenty-three. It was dinky, the landlord refused to paint it (so I did, on my dime), the appliances were old, sucked and broke down a lot and my bathroom suite was mustard yellow. I wasn’t big on change but I figured it was high time to move on. These plans were stalled firstly because Brian and I broke up and secondly because I wasn’t sure I’d be employed for very much longer.

Even with all that, I wanted to go back. It was familiar. In my world, we had cell phones. In my world, we had plumbing. Okay, so the birds weren’t as colorful and the landscape wasn’t as splendiferous but that only was the case here when a curse hadn’t settled on the land.

There were no curses in my world either, another plus.

And I’d miss my folks. I was an only child (which, if Rosa was my sister here, and she seemed so sweet, it would have been awesome to get to know her better before she was swept away by malevolent creatures) but my parents were way cool. They were a little bizarre, seeing as they were screaming hippies (and I was so far from a hippie as to be not funny, how I sprang from their loins was anyone’s guess) but they were awesome.

Not to mention my friends, who were also awesome. It didn’t seem Cora of this world was very friendly. Though, Dash seemed to like her.

On this thought, I heard the hides being moved back and looked from the ceiling to the opening to see Noctorno arrive. Then I watched as he walked to the hides I was in. Then I watched as he lowered his big body to them and pulled off his boots. Then I watched as he loosened the laces at his collar. Then I watched as he lifted his arms and his long fingers curled into his shirt at the back between his shoulder blades. Then I watched him yank it off.

Then my breath stuck in my lungs.

Holy crap, his back was out-freaking-standing! I didn’t know a back had that many muscles. All of them defined, tight and hard.

Yowza!

Then I saw them. Puckered scars. Three of them. One on his right shoulder blade. One along the right ribs of his back. The last along his waist.

This guy was either a regular at bar fights or he was a warrior.

I was guessing with his demeanor, both.

He stood, walked around and doused the torches. He dumped a couple of logs on the fire then I watched in the firelight as he walked back to me.

Whoa! Freaking hell, his chest was even better (and more scarred).

He also had great chest hair, all dark and sexy. I was not into chest hair, or I wasn’t until I saw his. It was not too little, not too much… it was just right.

Holy crap!

Then he bent low, threw back the hides and slid in beside me.

I shot to sitting, screeching, “What are you doing?”

“Preparing to sleep,” he replied calmly.

“Here?” I asked shrilly.

“Yes,” he answered, still calm.

“You can’t sleep here,” I informed him.

This was met with silence. He was on his back. I was on my booty with my torso twisted to look down at him and his eyes were on me.

Then he asked, “Where do you suggest I sleep?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Don’t you have a bedroll or something?”

He got up on both elbows and returned, “No, I don’t have a bedroll. I left this morning on the errand of getting my brother to a church and dragging your arse out of bed. I didn’t come prepared to camp in the wilderness.”

Hmm. Of course he was right.

“Maybe you can take some hides and make a bed on the other side of the fire,” I suggested.

“And maybe you can do that,” he retorted. “I’m sleeping here.”

Then he lay back down and yanked at the covers which made me teeter as they pulled against me. I held firm and continued glaring at him.

“I’m not sleeping with you,” I declared.

“As you know, I’m perfectly fine with that. The one time I took you to my bed, it was vastly unpleasant. I’m not yearning for another go.”

I blinked and when I opened my eyes, I knew they were huge. “We’ve slept together?”

I knew this was likely a crazy question, seeing as we were married, but still.

He got up on his elbows again and scowled at me, “Why do you persist in this foolishness?”

I didn’t reply to his question, I was on a mission so I repeated, “We’ve slept together?”

He glared at me before he sighed and stated, “I’ll play,” on a mumble. Then he continued, “We have, indeed, slept together. As you know, because you were bloody there, after our wedding, we consummated the union. To say you were the worst I ever had would be to utter the definition of an understatement. You, Cora, are undoubtedly the worst any man could ever have.”

Oh God.

He went on, “Then you spent the night in my bed. You snored,” he paused then carried on, “loudly. Then you kept stealing the covers, moved around an inordinate amount and took up most of the bed. I endured it but never wished to repeat it. However, we’re here, this is the only place to sleep, I’m sleeping here, with you, if I must. If you prefer to move across the way, be my guest.”

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