Fantastical, p.1
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       Fantastical, p.1

           Kristen Ashley
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Fantastical


  Fantastical

  Title Page

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Epilogue

  Fantastical

  Kristen Ashley

  Published by Kristen Ashley

  Copyright 2011 Kristen Ashley at Smashwords

  Discover other titles by Kristen Ashley:

  Rock Chick Series:

  Rock Chick

  Rock Chick Rescue

  Rock Chick Redemption

  Rock Chick Renegade

  Rock Chick Revenge

  Rock Chick Renegade

  The ‘Burg Series:

  For You

  At Peace

  Golden Trail

  The Colorado Mountain Series:

  The Gamble

  Sweet Dreams

  Lady Luck

  Dream Man Series:

  Mystery Man

  Wild Man

  The Fairytale Series:

  Wildest Dreams

  The Golden Dynasty

  Other Titles by Kristen Ashley:

  Lacybourne Manor

  Mathilda, SuperWitch

  Penmort Castle

  Sommersgate House

  Three Wishes

  www.kristenashley.net

  Smashwords Edition, License Notes

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  *****

  Dedication

  This book is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Ellene Glossop Mahan, my grandmother,

  who would clean a cave because, she told me, only stupid people get bored.

  That said, she’d have more fun dancing in the streets

  and she’d do that too.

  Definitely.

  *****

  Chapter One

  Holy Crap

  I heard birds.

  They were singing. Not chirping. Singing. It wasn’t birdsong. It was just plain, old song but in chirps. It was hard to describe but there it was.

  A lot of it.

  It made me open my eyes.

  Then I blinked and felt it. I was lying down in a bed but not my bed. The mattress was strange, very soft, very plush. I wasn’t on it, I was in it. It partially enveloped my body like a warm, comfortable, squashy cloud.

  What on earth?

  I stared at the sun washed walls, felt the bed and heard the strange birdsong.

  One thing I knew for certain. I was not home.

  I shot straight to sitting in the bed and looked around the room.

  I was in a four-poster bed, gossamer, pale lilac curtains all around, a fluffy, pale lilac-covered duvet on top. The walls of the room were an even paler lilac and I looked around at the bizarre, white furniture.

  A big wardrobe with scrolled feet, the sides bowed in, the top an arch. It was bulky and yet delicate. A miracle of construction. There was no way that wardrobe could stand on those flimsy, curled feet but it was.

  Two tall dressers: one that zigged at the top, zagged in the middle and zigged again at the bottom; another whose drawers went up like steps on one side, a different miracle of construction for it appeared to be teetering yet stood true.

  Then there was a dressing table with a big oval mirror on the top and two smaller ones to its side. The dressing table was also delicate with curly whirls for legs, around the mirrors and carved into the three drawers down either side. It was covered in fragile, intricate glass bottles, all of them in various shades of purple.

  “Holy crap, I’m dreaming,” I whispered.

  That had to be it. I was dreaming. Dreaming the most freaking real dream I had ever had in my life.

  Suddenly, the door flew open. I jumped and looked to my right to see a blonde woman dance into the room wearing and old-fashioned blinding white nightgown, the voluminous kind that had a string at the neckline and gathers all around.

  Yeesh, how did she get that nightgown so white? I was never good at keeping whites white. They always grayed out.

  It had to be new.

  Oh wait, this was a dream. Of course it would be that white.

  “Cora!” she cried my name, whirling into the room, “Cora, Cora, Cora! Today is the best day of my life!”

  She stopped at the foot of the bed, shoved a diaphanous curtain aside and smiled down at me while I stared up at her.

  Whoa. Seriously. She was gorgeous. Bright blue eyes. Thick blonde hair. Delicate features. Petite. A stunner.

  “Can you believe it?” she asked then clapped her hands. “I’m getting married today!”

  “Uh –” I started but she rocked swiftly up to her toes and then danced gracefully on them to one of the two sets of French doors that were on either side of the dressing table.

  She flung them open, the birdsong stopped, she stepped out on a Juliet balcony and threw her arms up and out to the sides.

  Then she let out two beautiful, perfect notes in a gorgeous soprano, the birdsong started again, in earnest this time (and I thought it was earnest before) and I blinked through the sheer curtains as I saw a tiny colorful bird (and I knew there were colorful birds in the world but there weren’t birds that colorful) alight on her outstretched hand.

  She brought the bird to her face and the bird chirped gaily at her instead of flying away.

  Then she told the bird, “I’m getting married to the man I love today, Aggie! Isn’t that marvelous?”

  The bird chirped happily at her and then pecked her nose, not like a peck, more like a kiss.

  She giggled and it, too, sounded like a happy song.

  Whoa!

  I blinked.

  That was when I knew.

  I was dreaming I was in one of those animated movies.

  Wow.

  Cool! What an awesome dream!

  She turned and the bird hopped up to her shoulder and somehow kept its place as she danced on her toes back to the bed with more grace than any human I’d ever seen. Then again, seeing as she was part of a dream, she could be as graceful as any character in an animated movie that my mind could make up.

  She threw the side curtains aside and ordered merrily, “Get up, silly! We have to get ready! So much to do, so much to do! Tra la! Tra la, la, la, la! Tra, la, la, la, la!”

  She emitted the tra la’s in her gorgeous voice while whirling toward the door and the bird fluttered off her shoulder onto the bed as she did so. Then it hopped to me, looked in my eyes and chirped.

  God, I swear I knew that the bird was saying, “Heya.”

  Holy crap.

  “Heya,” I
whispered to the bird.

  That was when I could swear the bird’s eyes lit up with a smile.

  Holy crap!

  “Up, Cora, you can’t be lazy today! I stayed with you to make certain you got up and got ready in plenty of time. As my matron of honor, you have to be nearly as beautiful as me!” she called from the door then threw her shining, golden blonde mane back and laughed a sing-song laugh before she tipped her head back down and smiled a stunning smile at me. “Not that that will be hard, my exquisite sister.”

  She clapped her hands with delight again and exited the door, closing it behind her.

  I stared at the door. Then I looked back down at the bird who was still looking up at me.

  “This is a way cool dream,” I told the bird and it tipped its head to the side like my words were confusing.

  Then it took two hops so it was sitting on my thigh.

  Awesome!

  Then it said, “Chirp chirp,” which I took to mean, “You aren’t dreaming.”

  “I am so totally dreaming,” I told the bird.

  The bird replied, “Chirp, chirp, chirpity, chirp,” which came to me as chirps but I knew meant, “No, really, this isn’t a dream, Cora.”

  “It’s a dream, bird, I know this first off because people don’t talk to birds or, at least, know what they’re saying. Unless, of course, they’re bonkers,” I returned.

  The bird tilted its head again and then chirped, “Chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp,” (with a bunch more chirps) which meant, “Are you ill? Of course people talk to birds. And bunnies. And deer. And mice. And my name is Agglethorpe. You and everyone call me Aggie.”

  “There it is,” I told the bird. “Your name is Agglethorpe. That’s a perfectly ludicrous name that only could be given to a bird in a dream or a Disney movie.”

  That was when the bird hopped forward and pecked my hand, which kind of hurt, and then looked up at me and chirped what I took to mean, “My name isn’t ludicrous! I know this because you gave it to me!”

  But I was staring at my hand where the bird, or Aggie, had pecked.

  That peck had kind of hurt.

  What?

  You weren’t supposed to feel pain in dreams, were you?

  Then I heard a noise I’d never heard in real life before. The kind of noise you hear in movies when horse’s hooves are beating on cobblestones or the members of Monty Python were cracking together coconuts. Aggie flew up and to the window to alight on the balustrade of the Juliet balcony.

  It looked down then it started hopping up and down as it turned its head toward me and started chirping madly, telling me, “Come quick, Cora, oh no! Come quick! Dashiell is here! With Orlando and…” the bird looked back down then urgently to me, chirping in a dire chirp (yes, seriously, a dire chirp), “Noctorno!”

  Something about the bird’s demeanor made me throw the covers back, struggle out of the bed (seriously, feather beds were awesome but hard as hell to get out of) and rush (not gracefully nor dancing on my toes, I was pretty certain) to the balcony as Aggie kept chirping at me.

  “This can’t be. Dashiell can’t see Rosa! Not before the wedding! If he does…”

  I made it to the balcony and looked down to see that indeed three horses were in the courtyard. But I lost my sense of urgency when I saw the courtyard, its cobbles sun-warmed, gleaming clean and blonde. It was flanked by fountains, their waters blinking brilliantly in the bright sunlight. There were also an abundance of flower beds of every shape and size, ditto with flower pots and hanging planters. There were flowers here, there and everywhere, willy-nilly, on the house, on the cobbles, in the lush, green lawns. The stone of the house itself was nearly covered either in flowering vines or jutting planters with bright petals and dripping greenery.

  Wow. Unbelievable. It was so beautiful I couldn’t breathe.

  Then I looked up and out to see what surrounded the house. To my right a tall mountain-like hill with a rushing fall of water that pooled in a glinting pond that fed in a thin stream to a river at the opposite side. To the front beyond the manicured lawn, a dark green, thriving forest as far as the eye could see. To the left, a winding river so clear you could see the rocks on its bed even from a distance.

  God, my mind made up some seriously cool shit.

  “Cora!” Aggie shrieked through a chirp.

  I looked down at him, still slightly dazed from the spectacle before me.

  “What?” I asked.

  He twitched his bird head to the courtyard and I looked back down to see the three horses with the three riders again. They finally got my attention because they, too, looked magnificent. Just the horses were magnificent but the riders. Yowza. I couldn’t see faces but those powerful thighs.

  Um… yum!

  I noted one horse was white, one was gray and one was black.

  The white horse’s rider was wearing a white hat with a fluffy scarlet feather flowing along its side and around its back. He was also wearing a scarlet vest over one of those shirts with puffy sleeves. His shirt was white. With this, he was wearing biscuit-colored breeches and dark brown boots.

  The gray horse’s rider was wearing a gray hat with fluffy deep blue feather flowing along its side and around its back. He was wearing a deep blue vest over a dove gray puffy-sleeved shirt, charcoal gray breeches and matching boots.

  The black horse’s rider was wearing all black. Black hat. Black puffy shirt. Black boots. No vest. No feather.

  Hmm. Interesting.

  I further noted the black rider had the most powerful thighs of the three.

  Hmm. Very interesting.

  “Cora!” Aggie chirped.

  “What?” I asked loudly and then I felt it.

  Three sets of eyes on me.

  I looked back down at the riders in the courtyard to see all three looking up at me.

  Uh… whoa!

  Holy… freaking… crap!

  Those guys were hot!

  The white hatted guy was blond, blue-eyed and g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s, gorgeous. The gray hatted guy had dark-brown hair with a hint of burnish, brown eyes and he was h-a-n-d-s-o-m-e, handsome.

  And the black hatted guy had black hair, longer than the other two, very tanned skin, much tanner than the other two (who were nicely tanned, might I add), his features were sharper, leaner, stronger but in all his darkness, clothes, skin, hair, he had light blue eyes. Very light blue eyes.

  Oh, and he was h-a-w-t, hawt.

  And the hottest thing about him was that he had a scar curving from his temple down his cheekbone.

  Ultra hot.

  Wow.

  Yum!

  How was it that I was thirty-two years old and I’d never had this good of a dream? It wasn’t fair. This dream rocked!

  “Heya,” I called to the hot guys.

  “Cora, the exquisite,” the white hatted guy called back, a blinding white smile on his full lips and I liked what he called me. It was freaking awesome.

  “That’s me, Cora the exquisite,” I agreed, smiling back.

  “Cora!” Aggie chirped desperately, hopping around frantically.

  “What?” I snapped at Aggie then went on, “Quit chirping at me, you crazy bird. I’m talking to the hot guys.”

  “You’re barely dressed,” a hard, rough, deep, almost impossibly sexy voice came at me and I looked back down at the men. “Go inside, woman, for all the gods’ sakes, and cover yourself.”

  It was the black hatted man.

  I looked down at myself to see I was wearing the same nightgown as the woman who had danced and tra la’ed through my room. It was the most material I’d worn to bed in my life. Hell, it was the most material I’d worn anywhere in my life.

  My eyes went to the black hatted man. “Dude, I’ve got about seven thousand yards of material on up here. I’m hardly barely dressed,” I told him.

  I watched his brows shoot together giving him a decidedly ominous (yet mesmerizing and definitely totally sexy) look and then his eyes left me and his head turned to lo
ok at the white hatted guy who had also tipped his chin down and was looking back at him.

  The gray hatted guy was looking up at me.

  “Are you well, Cora?” he called. “This is not a man named, ‘Dude’. As you well know, this man is named Noctorno.”

  Oh dear. That wasn’t a great name. Why couldn’t he have been Dashiell? Dashiell was a cool name. You could shorten it to Dash and Dash was a super-cool name.

  Oh well. It didn’t matter. Usually with any good dream I had, I always woke up before the really good part. I just hoped I got to at least kiss one of them. I didn’t care which. My first choice was Noctorno (regardless of his name). My second was the dark brown-haired one mainly because I wasn’t all that big on the white hatted guy’s use of red as an accent color.

  “I’m perfectly fine,” I answered. “Thanks for asking,” I added as an afterthought because it was important to be polite, even in a dream.

  The gray hatted guy smiled a weirdly surprised smile but Noctorno spoke again.

  “If you’re well then you’re well enough to walk into your room and don proper clothing,” he informed me.

  Dream or not, this dude was way too bossy and, might I add, a bit of a prude.

  I put a hand on my hip and felt my eyes narrow. “What’s your gig? It’s not like I’m flashing you.”

  “Gig?” the gray hatted guy asked the white hatted guy.

  The white hatted guy shrugged and asked, “Flashing?”

  Noctorno ignored both of them and growled, “Go inside and dress.”

  “Make me,” I snapped back, bending over the balustrade.

  Uh-oh. Mistake. I knew this because he scowled at me for approximately half a second then his lips curled into a supremely sexy, supremely scary, definitely wicked smile.

  And, honest to God, dream or no, I felt that smile all over.

  Yowza!

  Then he straightened in his saddle like he was going to dismount his glossy, muscled black beast but he stopped when the white hatted guy said in a low voice, “Tor.”

 
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