Sunlight penetrated my eyelids and stabbed my eyeballs. I groaned and threw the sheets over my head. Their silky texture rubbed luxuriously against my cheeks and made me smile.
That is, until I remembered I didn’t own any silk sheets.
My eyes flew open and I shot up in a bed that was definitely not mine. The room didn’t belong to me, either. That, or someone had sneaked in during the night and changed all the furniture, wallpaper, and flooring. And increased the size by about four times. They were a heck of a carpenter.
My fanciful idea was thrown out the window when I looked out the nearest one. The view wasn’t the same from my bedroom. My apartment looked out over a patch of struggling grass surrounded by a small parking lot.
I slid out of the high bed and walked over to the sill which I leaned my hands on. The view from the window revealed a massive city that stretched out nearly beyond my view. Houses big and small, churches tall and short, and businesses squat and wide mingled together in a bedlam of city planning. The countless styles of architecture hinted at centuries of building and rebuilding as each district fell into disuse or rose to prominence. The structures poured over the gentle curve of a few rolling hills, the tallest of which rose up to the foot of the building in which I found myself.
Trees dotted the streets, and a few of them were as tall as apartment buildings. One of them proved to be a spectacular specimen that rose up for five hundred feet. Its limbs cast a deep shadow over the empty ground beneath it so that I could only make out small gray shapes, but nothing else. No buildings, no sheds, not even a dog house.
I leaned out and looked down. A wall of windows like mine stretched for two hundred feet to the hilly rock. Another sheer cliff of some hundred feet stood between the foundation and the bottom of the street that ringed the hill. The drop wasn’t sheer all the way around, though, as I glimpsed a small plateau to my right where a road wound down to the massive city below.
I slid down onto the floor with my eyes wide and my mouth agape. “I’m not in Kansas anymore. . .”
A hard rap on the door made me jump, and Luca’s voice drifted through the heavy wood. “May I come in?”
My first thought was no. My second thought was also no. My third thought was the one in which I took action. I scrambled to my feet and raced over to a long, narrow table that stood near the pair of doors that appeared to be the only entrance to the lavish room. Tapestries hung from the walls and luxurious rugs covered the stone floor.
I pushed the far end of the table and the clawed metal feet scraped across the stones as I eased the table into place in front of the doors. The work was done in a few seconds and I slumped exhausted but proud against the top. Then the doors were opened outward into the hall. Damn it.
Luca leaned over the table and revealed his new attire. Gone was the cloak, and in its place was an elegant cape with a black underside and a scarlet exterior. He wore a buttoned white blouse with black jeans without a zipper, but a black belt held them up. His shoes were stern black boots with sharp toes, and a large ruby ring sparkles on the middle finger of his left hand.
He looked both directions before he caught sight of me. A slightly bemused look appeared to overshadow his initial worried expression. “Did you need help rearranging the furniture?”
I glared back at him. “All I need from you is a one-way ticket home.”
His humor faded and he leaned his arms over the top of the table. “I’m afraid that isn’t possible.”
“Then make it possible.”
“The effort would kill you.”
I snorted. “You’re going to have to prove that.”
He studied me for a long while before he pushed off from the table. “I can do that, but you have to trust me enough to unblock the doorway.”
His eyes twinkled with mischief as he nodded at a narrow door set in the far wall to his right. “Because we didn’t arrive in this world through the closet.”
My heart quickened a little. “Then we’re really in another world? I haven’t gone on a bender at Bill’s bar and ate too much of his marijuana brownies, have I?”
He raised an eyebrow, though the corners of his lips twitched upward. “Not that I’m aware of, unless we’re both hallucinating.” He pressed his palms against the side of the table. “May I come in?”
“Into a lady’s bedroom?”
“It’s my bedroom.”
My face drooped and I again swept my eyes over the opulence. “You. . .live here?”
“Sleep, actually. The living takes place in the rest of the castle.”
A strange idea teased the back of my mind as I slowly turned my head back to him. “You’re. . .that crown you had. . .the one for a queen-” I couldn’t quite figure out how to put into words what I wanted to know.
Luca smiled and and reached behind his back. He spun his belt around and I realized the front had backed his cape. A shiny gold belt buckle had the golden head of a dragon emblazoned on the front. Something also hung from a short rope attached to his belt.
It was a crown.
The one Luca unclasped from his belt was even more ornate. Tall spires of gold rose up from the band covered in gems of all styles and minerals, arranged in a perfect symmetry of beauty. He set the crown atop his head and smiled at me. “What do you think?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat. “I think. . .I need to get out of here.”
I tried to scoot across the table and past him, but he stepped into my path. “But there’s nowhere you can go.”
I looked past him and saw that the doors led out into a hall of stone covered with more tapestries and a few busts on pedestals. “Home is a good option.”
Luca pursed his lips. “I’ll take you to the entrance to your home, and there I can show you the proof of my words. Will that stop you from running away?”
I stopped my scaling of the table and folded my arms over my chest. “I make no guarantees, but it’s a good start.”
Luca smiled. “Good. Now stand back.”
I blinked at him. “But-”
He pushed against the table like a child would a cardboard box. The wood furniture which I could barely push easily shifted beneath his strength. I jumped back and watched with gaping mouth as he put the table back in its place before turning to me, all without so much as a puff of exhaustion.
I shook off my shock and frowned at him. “You have a lot of explaining to do.”
His eyes twinkled with tease, and a hint of disappointment. “I can explain, but you wish to leave here, don’t you?”
“I have time,” I quipped before I furrowed my brow. “Don’t I?”
He smiled and used one hand to gesture at the foot of the bed. “All the time in the world.”
“You make this sound like a fairy tale,” I mused as I took a seat on the bed.
Luca sidled up to the foot and leaned an arm against the upright bed post. “Maybe it is.”
I studied him from head to toe. “And you’re my prince?”
He looked down at himself. “I don’t look the part?”
My gaze stopped on his head adornment. “Not with that heavy crown. You look more like a king.”
He grinned. “And if I happened to be a king?”
“Then how am I supposed to have my handsome prince?”
“We’ll call it an improvement on the old tales. However-” He folded his arms over his chest and his smile faltered a little. “You want to know where you were brought and why you were brought here.”
I lifted an eyebrow at him. “Well, the question of who brought me has already been answered, so yeah, and start at the beginning.”