It’s another game, but this time, they seem tired as they take their seats.
Maybe this game of courts and kings is coming to an end and the queens are taking over.
Maybe it’s time for it.
“We simply wanted to keep open communication between us,” Balthasar begins. He seems to do the speaking for all of them, but that’s fine with me. He doesn’t bullshit, and I like that. “We don’t want any issues.”
“Neither do we,” I reply. “We were simply chosen for this job, as were you.”
He nods. “I understand that. A lot has happened, and there were so many deaths, but although I hate how it happened, we can all agree it was necessary.” They share a look and focus back on me. “We just wanted you to know that we will support the judges. You were right. It’s time for a fresh start. The council and judges will work together to keep our people safe, but also to uphold our laws.”
“I stand with them,” the last king, my ex-mate, adds, looking at me shyly. “I have been a fool. I am sorry, Althea.”
I accept his apology because without his rejection, I never would have found my home. We all make mistakes, and I refuse to hold a grudge over a man who never could have loved me the way I was supposed to be loved.
“I agree.” I nod at the last member of the council, my rejector. “I hold no hard feelings. I do not need to. All we ever wanted was peace.” I look at my men. “Peace and happiness we were never given in our other lives. Respect that, and we will respect you. We don’t want games, just happiness.” Maybe that’s naïve, but it’s the truth.
“Then that’s what we shall work towards.” Balthasar holds out his hand, breaking all tradition. Smiling, I reach out and clasp his hand, breaking traditions right alongside him.
“To happiness,” I murmur.
He nods. “To the future.”
That’s what it comes to—a new future where no one will suffer like we have and, hopefully, one day, the judges won’t be needed.
Until then, we are here, hunting in the darkness and stealing sinners’ souls while loving each other with all of our beings.
Gripping my wine glass harder, I lean into the doorframe, wearing a soft smile on my face as I take in the scene. Laughter splits the air, as does a pillow as it sails across the room and hits Reve in the face. Simon laughs and stumbles back into his mate’s arms as his shot makes contact.
Reve grunts and tosses one back, grinning himself. Nathair simply shakes his head, picking up a book and sitting down amongst the chaos, waiting for me. Lycus is speaking with Conall, heads bent together as they gesture passionately. Zale, Osis, and Azul are shutting the curtains, lighting the fire, and passing out blankets, pillows, snacks, wine, and tea. My long, gauzy black gown billows in the slight wind as I watch my family interact, soaking in the happiness.
There are no judgements or time for bad memories or unhappiness here.
This is us, our court, our happiness. In the distance, my monsters howl in delight, making my grin widen. As always, Nathair notices me first, lifting his head. He smiles, his face filled with love as he holds his hand out to me.
Come to us,draya.
Always, I reply inside his head, and I step into the library.
I was brought to this room on my very first night here, but the empty feeling of this place is gone, and now it’s filled with family and people. Every part of our court now teems with life. Some call us nightmares, but we don’t care. We are happy, and that’s all that matters.
The gods may demand more one day, but that doesn’t matter because we will be ready.
Our race is saved, for now, and we are doing our job.
Best of all, I got my best friend back and I fell in love with seven incredible men. I found my mates, my destiny, and they welcomed me with open arms.
They tug me down between them as they settle around me. Hands dance possessively over my skin, chasing away any chill or worry for the future.
Always,Azul says as he presses his head into my side. Reve lies across one of my legs, sliding his hand up my thigh, but I smack it away. Conall is under my middle, Lycus holds one foot, and Zale purrs with his head on my leg. They hold me tight so nothing could ever hurt me.
Not ever again.