“In some ways, it’s great. We have a lot of freedoms that other races do not. There are a lot of judgements and preconceptions about us, though, that make other races quick to judge us and believe we are untrustworthy. It can be lonely. There are not as many of us left as there used to be. Some of us reject the new world and have faded away into nature. A lot of our elders and most powerful fey did that, while some stay out of duty or fear,” she answers. “Sometimes, I envy you vamps with your courts because you have friends, families and lovers so close for help, comfort, or protection.”
“It can be lonely too,” I admit, and she lifts her head, giving me her full attention as I speak. “I only had one person I would call a friend, and in the end, it didn’t matter because when it came down to it, he couldn’t protect me.” I look away for a moment. “I won’t lie. Since I have found this court and my men, I’ve never been happier, but before, even with the manor filled with people, I was often lonely and misunderstood. It was like they were waiting for me to make a mistake, and it was hard to even learn who I was.”
“I guess we all have our burdens to bear.” Tinie grasps my hand and squeezes. “I am glad you found your happiness here. They seem like good men. We should know. We feel intentions.”
“They are,” I reply without hesitation. “They may be some of the only good ones left in my race.”
“Not just yours.” She smiles, but there’s pain behind it.
For the next few hours, I stand and let them work. They talk to me about everything and anything, including me, and I laugh as much as they do. Despite us being two very different species, it seems we all share the same love for classic action movies and hot guys, and it’s nice to have some girl time.
A while later, with my back starting to ache, they step away and nod, and I know they are finished.
“It’s perfect,” Wista says.
“Stunning,” Serian agrees.
“It’s the best work we have ever done,” Tinie concludes.
“Spell a mirror,” she orders, and the others hurry to do just that as she approaches me, turning me to face the girls who are conjuring something. She moves around the back, fixing the skirt as excitement pours through me. I block the guys because I want them to be surprised.
“Althea?” Tinie questions from behind me. I turn and smile at her. “My true name is Lilia. Only my friends know it, and I offer it to you freely. Never has someone shown us such respect or kindness in such a short amount of time. What they say is true. If you earn our loyalty, we are yours, and you have earned mine. I will come if you call. You have a friend in me.”
“I’d like that,” I say truthfully.
“Good.” She smiles, and then she turns me to face a mirror where Wista and Serian are waiting with excited expressions.
I get the first glimpse of their work.
“I look . . .” I stare at my reflection in awe.
The dress looks black at first, but as I move, it shimmers with red, like there are jewels inside the material. Its long sleeves show off my shapely arms and circle over my shoulders and down across my breasts. It’s cut low, all the way to my stomach, with plenty of cleavage on display, but it holds up the girls and pushes them together so they look good. The dress dips in at my stomach, hugging my curves, and then it flares out at my wide hips, trailing behind me on the floor. My legs show through two slits up each side, all the way to my hips, and metal work crawls across the shoulders and top like armour.
“Powerful. Beautiful. Sexy. Desired. You look like a queen. Add a crown and some jewels, and you will be the best dressed vampyr ever.”
I turn to her and take her hands. “I cannot thank you enough, friend. I mean it. I look how I feel, if that makes sense.”
“It does. Our magic works with what we have, and it uses you as its conduit. This is who you are. We are simply showing the world.”
Wista grins. “You will be the best dressed vamp ever.”
“Thanks to you three.” I look at them then. “I cannot begin to express how much this means. I know Nathair is paying you, but is there anything I can do?”
“Your friendship is enough,” Tinie, Lilia, offers, and I hear the truth in her words. “I’m sure we will see each other again, but until then, Althea, wear the dress with pride, and remember its power comes from you, from within, so show them exactly who they are messing with.”
My eyes widen, and she smiles. “We might not pry, but we know everything from other vamps. Many have hired us recently for new outfits for a ball being held . . . here. We did not come to spy, so do not worry. I came because I was intrigued. Any person who can cause that much of a stir within the other courts? Well, it had to be one hell of a person, and it is.” The others nod. “Whatever is coming your way, remember that they are scared of you and this place. They won’t show it, but we felt it. They fear what is in the air, what you represent. I wish I could help you more, but know this: the fey will always come to your call.”
It’s the night before the ball, and everyone is off completing a million tasks with Nathair as the taskmaster to ensure it is all perfect, but I sneak away. I have a plan of my own in my head.
I find her outside with her monsters, and I still as I watch her. She sits cross-legged as she talks to a dragon, laughing at something he said. Over the last week, she has befriended many of them, and they grow bolder, coming into the court sometimes. We eagerly welcomed them, and Nathair loved having the place filled once more. He even started cleaning out the rest of the rooms in case any would like to stay—not to mention the room they have been fixing up for Simon now that Zale has agreed to be around the werewolf when he comes to see his mate.
She turns like she feels my gaze, and the smile she bestows upon me stops my heart for a moment. When she looks away, freeing me from her gaze, I rub at the aching organ. It was hers from the very start. She might have been the one whose heart was carved out, but that knife cut both ways, and if she wanted it, I would rip it from my chest and give it to her.
Standing elegantly, she bows to the dragon who, with another look at me, wanders back into the forest. Althea strides towards me on bare feet, her hair curling loosely around her shoulders. She’s wearing nothing but one of Conall’s long dress shirts, and I actually drop to my knees. She just makes me feel the need to worship her.