Page 16 of Court of Nightmares

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“I think you should live, Althea. I think you should live, and I think you should become the nightmare . . . the saviour.”

“And if I’m not good enough?” I query, voicing my fears. After all, I wasn’t good enough for my own mate.

“That could never happen. How could you not be good enough when you are fighting for hope and love? Now choose, my girl. Choose to live and survive, even unimaginable agony, or let yourself die and come away with me and know no more.”

Licking my lips, I glance around. “If I choose to go back, you’ll wait for me?”

“Forever and a day, my love. I cannot tell you anymore. This is your choice; it has to be.”

I search her gaze, and I see her love and acceptance. If I choose to fade, she will fade with me, and we can be together again.

I would never be in pain.

But she’s right. I barely lived.

I’d just turned when I was rejected, and I never knew the bliss of love or experienced everything the world had to offer. Instead, I sank into darkness and let it ruin me. I became something I didn’t recognise, and I have to atone for that. Dying is too easy.

I must go back and make my wrongs right.

“I’ll go back. I want to make up for what I have done. I want to be great like you said. I want more.”

Smiling, she squeezes my hand and leans in, laying a gentle kiss on my head as my eyes close.

“Then go make your destiny and show them all who you truly are.”

* * *

I burst back into life with a gasp and a cry, the way everyone comes into this world.

I feel my heart start once more and my body heal, leaking all the toxins and rot from my veins until I am . . . at peace.

My eyes are locked on the ceiling of the court I died in, but I can clearly see the epic paintings of monsters and nightmares shrouded by darkness now.

The room is lit by fire, giving it an almost cosy ambiance as my heart beats once more.

I wait for the pain, but it never comes.

There’s thirst for sure, and twinges from my heart being ripped out, but other than that, I feel good, and I can smell again. Above the stench of death and burning bodies, musky male scents call to me. I roll to my knees and hang my head for a moment before tossing my hair back and sitting up.

In the corner are the burning bodies of the others, and the masked judges stand there, watching the flames consume the corpses.

“Hello, judges,” I call with a grin, unable to help it.

They spin fast, but I can track the movement, and I meet them on my feet as they surround me.

“How?” one demands.

“How are you alive?” another exclaims.

Licking my fangs, I look down to see my shirt is ripped, but the skin there is whole once more, leaving only a mark where my heart was ripped out. It’s a seal of fate, a promise. I’ve seen it before in history books. It looks similar to a death rune, with three short, jagged lines and one crossing through it that’s tilted up the edges. I stroke it before looking back up.

“I paid for my sins, and now it seems I have a job to do.”

At once, they all point to the mark between my breasts, and the silence is loud before a robe parts, exposing a pale, almost ghostly chest built with incredible muscles. It’s not that, though, that makes my mouth drop open.

The same mark is on his chest right where mine is.

“You were chosen, just like us,” he murmurs. “Another hasn’t been chosen in many years, but here you are.”

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