Page 102 of Court of Nightmares

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“So, I’m guessing planning is going well?” I grin, and he throws me a glare as I chuckle.

“I hate balls, but this needs to be perfect. Half the battle is expectation and aesthetic. If we make them see our show of force and power, they will believe it.” He sighs, dropping the clipboard to his side as he rubs his head.

“How is she?” he asks, even though he’s gone to check on her every five minutes himself.

“She’s fine, just resting. The spell took a lot out of her, but you should have seen her.” I know my eyes become dreamy as I remember the sight of my mate on her knees with a crown on her head. She was so perfect and powerful, even as she kneeled. The nightmares came to her, but how could they not? Even I felt the call deep within, my spider wanting to respond and beg for her to take him. They must have felt the same way.

She’s so powerful. Any other would have died from the power of that spell or the blood loss, but not her. Not our Althea.

Not our queen.

“I did.” He grins. “It was hard not to watch. She’s incredible, isn’t she?”

“I think her power even rivals that of the gods,” I comment without shame. “In my time, we would have worshipped her as one.” Shaking my head, I can’t help my toothy grin. “I would have gladly made sacrifices in her name and followed her anywhere. I still will.”

“We all would.” He grins, but then his smile fades. “Lycus, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something.” His voice is almost hesitant. “I guess I didn’t realise until she came how . . . how starved you were because the others’ fear stopped you from feeding. You have to know you are family, our brother, and we would die for you.”

I shudder but force myself to respond. “I know you would willingly die for me, but that’s not the same as being willing to feed me.” That’s the brutal truth, even if it hurts them. It’s something I’ve had to live with, and I didn’t realise how much it hurt until she came along.

“You’re right. We should have done better. I guess fear is still a hard thing to overcome, even for us. We will do better.” He moves closer, laying his hand on my shoulder. “We will, brother, and we all owe you an apology. We should have been there for you no matter what. I’m glad you had Zale and now have her, but know this—you are always welcome on my vein, brother. Even if you wish to kill me for it, I promise you here and now. I swear on my blood.” The importance of the promise shakes me to my very soul. Nathair is proving his love for me. “As your leader, I will ensure it never happens again.”

Nathair has always taken too much on himself, and he’s so quick to blame himself for everything. Azul was hurt once in a judgment, and he locked himself away for weeks. He might have been appointed first, and we might follow him, but he has to know this isn’t all on him.

“We do not follow you because you are perfect, Nathair. We follow you because you are strong and smart, and we trust you to not lead us wrong, but we all make mistakes. I’m okay. It happens. You do not have to be strong all the time.” He blinks in shock as I cover his hand. “And now that we have her, I think you are starting to realise that. She’s good for you. She’s good for all of us.”

“I know,” he admits, his eyes filling with nothing but love. “This ball will be hard for her.”

“It will.”

We share a look, both thinking the same thing, when Reve chimes in as he wanders into the room. “Oh, I’m so down for that.”

Me too, Azul adds.

Definitely, Osis and Conall say at the same time.

I’m with you, Zale adds, and the grin Nathair and I share is pure evil.

“Good, now back to our jobs.” Nathair claps, his clipboard coming up once more. “I want to send word to Simon. It’s important that he’s here for her, even if he has to be with his court. We have the monsters, but I want someone on the border at all times in case there are any issues or any more turn up. Reve and Osis are on decorations, and Azul is sorting security with Conall in case anything goes wrong. I want you and Zale to switch between teams and keep her as well fed as possible. She’s going to need to be strong for this.”

“Got it, boss.” I nod. “Don’t forget to feed, okay? It’s been a while since you did.”

We don’t need to as much as Althea, since our powers are settled and not starved like hers, nor are we using them as much, but we must keep strong for her and our duties. I can’t remember the last time Nathair fed properly, and when he blinks, it’s clear he cannot either.

“You are right. Can I feed from you?” he asks.

“You don’t need to prove yourself, Nath.” I sigh, and he frowns.

“I know, but I wish to feed from you, brother. Would you deny me?”

I still know he’s doing this to prove a point, but I could never deny my brother, so I hold out my arm, trying my best to contain my powers and stop the venom from pumping through my veins. He’s fed before, they all have to get used to the venom, so it shouldn’t hurt him anymore, but still I brace for rejection.

Carefully, like he expects me to turn away, he takes my arm and lays a gentle kiss over my pulse. There is nothing sexual about it, it’s a gesture of comfort, and then he slowly slides his fangs into my vein, carefully and softly, as if I’m breakable.

I shudder at the feeling. You never get used to it, and my cock hardens as he begins to feed. He keeps his eyes on me the entire time, showing me there is no fear there, only satisfaction and hunger, and when he pulls away, he licks the wounds clean and wipes his mouth before squeezing my hand. “Thank you, brother.”

“Always.” I mean it. I would do anything for my family.

It’s the way I’ve always been, and it’s what got me here, after all.

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