Page 170 of Court of Nightmares

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“Right, let’s get to work.” She claps. “Simon, get me some snacks. I’ll need them.”

* * *

“Your friend was right. The dress is perfect,” Simon says as we wait for the others to arrive so we can get going.

“Isn’t it?” I grin down at the dress, feeling so much better. Something about her work always makes me feel more powerful and beautiful, even though she’s told me a hundred times that it’s not magic, and she just enhances what I already have.

The bodice is made up of iridescent grey feathers, which cup my breasts and push them up. Beneath my breasts, the fabric clings to my curves, cinching in my waist, and then floats out and down. The dress itself would be simple without the feather work and the colours. The material is an iridescent grey with streaks of gold and ruby throughout. The train gathers at the hips, almost like wings, and spreads out so when I twirl or walk, it flares out. We styled my hair in an elaborate updo, with my crown firmly in place and matching feathers threaded through my locks.

I feel beautiful. I feel like a queen and like I belong, which I know I do.

Stepping back into a court I never thought I would see again meant that I had to do it the right way, and I had to be different than the girl who ran away that night. I had to be me, and I feel like myself in this, which is very different than that scared, young woman I was before.

Simon is in a black suit with a matching golden tie to make sure we all look like we are part of the same court, openly showing his alliance. I told him he didn’t have to, or he didn’t have to come, but he wanted to support me and my father. I appreciate that more than he will ever know. When my guys appear, they are all wearing gold accents to match my dress and our court. For Lycus, it’s a golden necklace hanging proudly between his huge pecs, framed by his suit jacket.

For Reve, it’s a sheer golden shirt made from the same material as my dress, which he tucked into his trousers. Nathair has a similar shirt on, with his usual leather pants, and a feather wrapped around his hair to hold it back. Osis’s fur trim is golden today, and his hair is loose, though feathers are woven throughout, and I almost drool.

Azul has a golden sheen to his armour and a golden sword. Zale stands at his side in a golden suit jacket, which he looks incredible in. Conall is the last to appear, tugging at a long golden coat, but he stops when he sees me.

“Draya,” Nathair murmurs. “You look incredible, but more importantly, you look like you feel it.”

“I do.” I grin. “I’m sorry about earlier.”

“Don’t be.” Reve shrugs. “It was funny watching them sweat. Wait until you get PMS.”

That makes them groan, and Conall reaches out, offering me his hand. “Shall we, my queen?”

“Let’s.” I nod, and one by one, Conall wraps us in his shadows.

We appear before my old court. The iron gates are open, and a red carpet leads right up to the door where members of the courts mill about. Members from other courts arrive by car, along with the council, and I know it’s going to be a huge crowd. For a moment, I linger and look at the place I grew up in, remembering the happiness and loneliness I felt here.

“Do you ever miss it?” I ask Simon.

“Sometimes, but mainly I just feel nostalgia for what we felt here, you know?”

I nod because I feel it too, the sense of safety I felt within these walls. How wrong we were, but it all worked out in the end. I keep Simon’s hand in mine as we walk proudly up to the door. “I’m annoyed the council wouldn’t let you bring Elias.”

“Me too,” he replies. “He would have looked great in a tux, but this is for vampyrs. Maybe one day, that will change and he can be at my side, but for now, we don’t need to be seen together at these functions to know we are forever. He understands that.”

“I should have made a fuss and demanded he be invited,” I mutter.

“You couldn’t. He’s not technically a part of your court, and if we claimed he was, then he would lose his title as alpha and his pack would be taken. I hate politics,” he mutters as we head through the doors.

“Me too. Me fucking too,” I respond before every eye in the room turns to us.

The reception area is filled with people mingling and mixing. Keeping my face calm, I step into the crowd. They part for us, watching us carefully, as I wander through their masses to the ballroom where the coronation will take place.

I remind myself that I was invited, that I belong, but I still linger on the outskirts, surrounded by my men. When the gong sounds and Druig appears on stage alongside the council, gazes finally turn from me, and I relax.

My eyes sweep across the council before landing on my father. He searches the crowd, his face drawn and worried, but when he finds me, he brightens, and a smile curves his lips. I smile back, and he grins wider before focusing on what is being said. I glance around the court without eyes watching me. It hasn’t changed much. I don’t know why I feel like it should have, maybe because so much else has changed, but it looks the exact same as it always did.

Simon nudges me, and I bring my attention back to the stage where my father is kneeling, ready to be proclaimed king—a title he deserves. After all, he has protected this court since before I was even born. He knows the people and the laws, and he is a better king than anyone else will be, or maybe I’m jaded. It does mean there will be political dealings between our courts, but I have hope that won’t ruin whatever relationship is building between us. We won’t allow it to. He spent the past twenty or so years waiting, caught between the past and the present, so it’s time he pulls back the curtain and lives his own life. He’s finding his own purpose and happiness until the day he goes home to his love, my mother.

“Upon completion of your vows, you will ascend to the throne of Specter Court. You will provide for your people. Your blood will run throughout your people, offering nourishment, strength, power, and prosperity. Your throne will be where all enemies are felled and where comfort and protection are offered. Here, before our people, you will become the next leader.”

My father bows his head, and I wince when the blade slices across his throat. I only saw a coronation once when I was younger. It is not often a king abdicates or is taken from the throne, and it’s usually due to a challenge or death, which for immortals doesn’t happen with natural causes.

My father’s blood splashes onto the base of his throne, linking him to it, the court, and its people. Later, he will accept blood vows from all within the court, tasting drops of their blood to link them to him, but for now, this is symbolic. He doesn’t make a noise, and I watch as the wound heals without a trace, his blood dripping along the ornate throne as he stands with a crown atop his head—a simple black coronet from his predecessor. In his black formal wear, he almost looks plain, but it’s his eyes, his strength and determination, that make him stand out.

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