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"All perches are my perch." He pulled himself to a higher branch, feet swinging loose for a moment, just like he'd taught her not to do. "This is my tree."
She said, "Then you are a Norse god. You admit it."
"Lost your fire so soon, Dragon? Is that why you cower below?" He pelted her with leaves, twigs. "Don't insult me. I only appear a god because you appear a sleepy baby."
"Pig!" She was on her feet, hurling leaves, bark, and debris up at him.
"Can't keep up? Ready to surrender the thimble?" He laughed, ducking behind a limb, although he was out of range.
Elizabeth took one last look at the rune-carved nest then studied the upper branches. She didn't need to remember Rob's path; the tree remembered for her -- more than a decade of passage polished darkly into its limbs.
The air was damp in the nest, but it lightened as she climbed, dappled sunshine adding a citrusy note, ribbons of warmth.
It was intoxicating, the success of scaling such a majestic tree, the secret world of Robin Oliver Bastle. She was just beginning to feel like an immortal, invincible, when her foot slipped, and her body clenched. An eternity of pounding hot-scented confusion, and she realized his training worked. Her hands were tight on their separate branches, and her other foot had slipped but not lost its hold. In her relief, she wanted to cry, go limp and unconscious right there, forget, but, clearly, that was impossible. What seemed liberating a moment earlier now felt like a trap.
She looked down -- a maze of branches funneling into darkness. She looked up and found Rob's face, astonishingly close, pale, his posture that of a jungle cat about to spring. Had he thought he could leap down and catch her?
From Bête Noire / Unicorns & Other Exotic Goats
Chapter: "The Tree of Life"
Setting: Spring 1969, Catskills, NY
It’s the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, but not for seventeen-year-old outsider, Elizabeth Cory. Closing her eyes to the modern world, she buries herself in fantasy novels and the music of another era to escape her pain. When she’s taken in by an eccentric family whose turreted home sits on the edge of an ancient forest, she thinks she’s finally found refuge. But in her search for love and a doorway to a peaceful, magical world, she’ll find that not every Prince Charming leads to happily ever after, not every wolf is big or bad, and when you try to live in a fairy tale, the only magical doorways lead to real life.