Page 18 of Court of Nightmares

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“I see, and you all have to wear robes and masks continually?” She grins wider. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a hot look, but I am curious.”

Nathair chuckles silkily, making my cock jerk as I recall the way that feels when he feeds. With a dramatic flourish, he removes his mask, holding it at his side as he allows her to see his beauty.

He is the most beautiful man to ever walk this earth, and it is both his curse and part of his monstrous nature.

Her eyebrow arches as she scans his face, taking in his long black hair streaked with hints of blue, his slightly upturned, almond-shaped eyes, and his bright blue irises surrounded by long lashes. His high cheekbones almost look too sharp, as does his jaw, but his plump lips offer a softer contrast. Nathair’s eyebrows arch perfectly above his eyes and taper straight across his brow, and his skin is pale—not as pale as mine, but still pale.

When I first saw him, I thought he was an angel or demon coming to claim my soul.

“Is that better, Althea?” he asks.

I see her startle, and then her eyes simmer with lust as she looks him over. “So, Nathair, are you two the only ones who speak?” She looks at me then. “And your name is?”

For a moment, I cannot speak with all that power and beauty aimed at me. “Osis,” I reply, my voice still hoarse. I lean back into the wall to stop myself from going to her, knowing we must discuss this first and make her understand her duty now. “At your service, Althea.”

“The others speak,” Nathair says huskily, giving me a reprieve from her attention, and when her gaze moves to him, I sag like she has taken my power with her. “They are simply as shocked as we.”

“Shocked?” she asks. “The mark . . .”

“Did the person who offered you the choice explain what it meant?” he asks, gesturing at the sofas before he sits delicately on an armchair. She sinks gracefully onto the sofa, seemingly unconcerned about being surrounded by the beings who killed her.

“No. She said I could come back and that I could help, but it wouldn’t be easy.”

“And why did you choose to come back?” he inquires, asking the question he gave all of us.

No doubt feeling its importance, she mulls it over, so I step forward and tell her, “I chose to come back because I wasn’t ready to die. I wanted so much more.”

She looks up at me before smiling softly. “I chose to come back because most of my vampyr life has been spent in pain, rotting from a rejected mate bond, and I wanted to feel life without it. I wanted to make up for my sins and help if I could. Death will always be there, waiting.”

“Very astute,” Nathair remarks, sounding pleased, and she sits up straighter. “Well, Althea, when you made that choice, it sealed your future. You are now a judge, like us. We are not selected often, usually hundreds of years apart, and the gods pick us. They are fickle creatures, so it usually takes them awhile to agree.”

“A judge . . . I’m a judge as in I kill sinners now like you killed me?” she asks.

He nods. “Let me start at the beginning. This was once the Court of Night, or Nox, if you wish. The vampyrs here were great, and their powers were over the creatures of night, which some people called nightmares. They let it corrupt them, and the power went to their heads, so the ruling kings had no choice. They killed them all and destroyed the court, leaving it to be forgotten. I know because I was once the king of this court.”

Her eyebrow rises, but she lets him carry on.

“I was young then, and my father had gone mad, so I took the throne by force to try to save my people, but it did not work. I was also corrupt, and when I died, I was judged. The gods offered me a choice to make up for it, and they brought me back to mete out justice on our kind who are tainted and cruel. I was to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves and to make up for my past sins. I, a creature of night, of nightmares, was reborn, and so was this court. The others came after, each with their own talents and powers that are their own to discuss or disclose with you. And now, we have you, the first female, the first queen. They chose you for a reason, Althea, and we will find out why. It will take time, but you will find your duty and your place. For now, however, I am sure you are hungry.”

“Starving,” she purrs.

“How long has it been since you fed on another vamp?” he asks.

She swallows but refuses to look away. “A long time. After the rejection . . .”

“You couldn’t.” He nods as he begins to unbuckle his robe. “You should know that we are technically dead, and like the mate bond, we cannot feed from other vamyprs, only the other judges. It is our curse and our salvation. You will only be able to feed from us now, and only from those who are willing. As you know, feeding can be sexual, but between us, it does not have to be. That is your choice. Today, you will feed from me. As the oldest, my blood is the strongest and will heal you quicker.” He parts his robe, and I move around to watch. The others step closer to do the same, their own hunger on the air.

She grips the edge of the sofa to hold herself back, even as her fangs ache.

He tilts his head, exposing his long, pale, muscular neck, his hair lying across his chest like a silken curtain.

“Are you sure?” she asks. “My hunger is strong, and it has been too long, so I will not be gentle.”

“I can take your fangs, Althea, do not worry. Feed.” He holds his arms open.

We all wait with bated breath. One second, she is gripping onto the sofa, and the next, she springs through the air before climbing gracefully onto his lap. My blood sings, and my fangs ache with the wish to drink from her while she drinks from him, but I know she needs to feed.

She may need more than one of us. Who is willing?Nathair asks through our bond.

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