Page 131 of Court of Nightmares

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“Better than okay. These lands are beautiful,” he murmurs fondly. “I was cautious of you at first, but I have been watching you. Your heart is pure and true. I thank you for your hospitality.”

“No, it’s us who should thank you,” she responds, her hair blowing in the breeze. “Besides, I feel a lot more protected with a forest of monsters between me and our enemies.”

He bares his teeth in a wicked grin. “Would you like a flight?” the dragon offers and bends his wing.

With wide eyes, she nods and hurries over in excitement. “Do you mind if I change and follow?” I ask the dragon, and he watches me with wise eyes.

“Of course,” he purrs, and I quickly change into my tiger and stretch out.

I watch my queen climb gracefully onto the dragon and settle amongst his spikes. She is so stunning, regal, and powerful. Anyone can see that, even this ancient dragon.

With a look at me that lets me know he won’t allow anything to happen to my mate, he stands and leaps into the sky. I race below him as he swoops, staying beneath the clouds so I can see them as trees brush my sides as I keep my eye on them.

Exhilaration pulses through me as my muscles stretch. The feeling of being free fills me as her laughter is brought to me by the wind, and when I leap onto a rock and roar, I watch her. Her arms are spread wide as she laughs. My heart stills at her beauty, and then my little queen stands, climbing onto his back and flying herself.

My heart soars with her as she stands atop a great beast, flying through the air as power flows around her. Nature is welcoming her, and the dark itself cocoons her. She is not merely a creature of the night.

She is the night.

She is the warmth in the shadows.

She is the comfort in the blackness.

She is the bravery within the shield of night.

She is the love and mischief you find after dusk.

She is everything and so much more.

She is power.

She is the future, and as I watch the dragon swoop back to our court, carrying such a precious being, I know this was always where I was supposed to be. Not just to help the dead, but the living too.

To help her.

To love her.

And that is exactly what I will do for all the years to come.

Never before has being an immortal appealed to me so much, and I get her for many, many years to come.

* * *


Sitting around the table, I listen to them laugh and joke, and I soak it in. I never had this, not even at my old court—a family, a purpose, and a table filled with people who love and support me. It’s addictive, and I’ve never been happier, but the weight of tomorrow keeps my shoulders rounded with worry as I wonder if we will all make it through.

What if they hurt us?

What if they try to kill us?

I cannot lose one of them. Each judge holds part of my soul, and without them, I would be broken and lost. This is bigger than us, but it doesn’t mean I’m not worried about what will happen and that this might be the last time we are like this.

“It won’t,” Azul says, always so in tune with my thoughts. The laughter dies out as they all turn to watch me carefully. “We are stronger than anyone else, and together, we are unstoppable, Althea. We are judges. We will not lose. Trust in that, in us. You will always have us. I promise you that.”

“Do not make promises you cannot keep,” I snap as I shove my chair back, hurrying around to him and lying in his lap. He holds me possessively, tugging me closer as I press my head to his chest. “What if we lose? What if I am not strong enough? I couldn’t bear losing any of you.”

“Then you will not,” Nathair declares like it is so easy. “I vow it on the old gods and the new. You will never lose us. Not today, not tomorrow, and not a month from now. We will win tomorrow, but to do so we need your confidence, your power, and your trust in us.”

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