More tattoos continue down his arms as he throws his leather duster back to reveal a skintight black shirt underneath. Tattoos also cover his hands, fingers, and arms. Some have colour, and some are black and white, but all are striking and give him a modern yet untouchable feel.
Like a rockstar.
I have to drag my eyes away from his beauty and glance at the others. Conall sits in darkness, shadows dancing around him. Osis is close, almost leaning forward to see me, yet I still haven’t seen either of their faces.
I try to remember the others’ names and come up blank.
Nathair must hear my unsaid plea because he takes my hand and plays with my fingers as he answers. “You have now met Reve and me, obviously. You fed from Osis and Azul last night.” He indicates a man sitting opposite me, his skin just as perfect as I remember. He’s bulky though not the size of Conall, but definitely still big. “We also have Lycus.” He gestures to a man sitting far away from me.
He’s massive, and I wonder how I did not see him before. Power rolls off him, as does an enticing spicy scent. Nearly all his skin is covered, and his mask is firmly in place.
“Zale,” Nathair tells me.
The man sits next to Lycus. His long, wavy brown hair is streaked with lighter brown highlights, and it tumbles over his shoulder. His face is concealed by the mask, but some tanned skin is on display under his silk robe.
“The seven judges. Each was chosen for a reason, and each will decide when they wish to show you their face. It is and always will remain their choice. But now I must explain things.”
“Please,” I murmur.
“First, would you like something to drink?” Nathair’s words are innocent, but flashes of blood and fangs fill my mind, and my eyes dart to the delectable Reve who smirks. Everyone shifts, and the air tightens with hunger, as if they sense the direction of my thoughts.
Reve leans forward, winking at me. “As I said, any time,” he purrs.
“Reve,” Nathair warns, but there’s a familiar teasing note in his tone. “I meant tea? Wine?”
Reve slides from his chair with a wicked grin, and I watch the sway of his peachy ass in his tight trousers as he moves around the kitchen with ease. The sensual way he moves makes my fangs descend, and hunger ignites within me, but when Nathair starts to speak, I drag my gaze away.
“As I explained, you are a judge now, and there are rules. You will learn our stories, our history, and our secrets, and there is never anything but truth between us. There must be. The bond will pull us closer than ever, but you and they will decide in what manner—friends or lovers. Nothing is decided, but there are certain . . . members that if you choose to feed from, we will need to discuss first, but that can wait until later. We know much of you from your blood, but we will not ask if you do not want us to. Think of us as family, since that is what we will be now. You cannot feed from others outside of the seven of us, that is true, and I, Osis, Azul, and Reve have already volunteered to allow you to feed from us—”
“She can feed from me,” Lycus volunteers, his voice spinning a web of darkness and silken sheets.
For a moment, shock reverberates around the room. I eye him and then Nathair.
“Are you sure, brother?” Nathair asks carefully.
“I will require help, but yes,” he concludes. I want to ask, but I don’t think now is the time.
“So be it, as I said no one will be forced to feed you.”
“You never asked the rest of us,” Conall interjects and then turns to me, his masked face locking on me. “You are free to feed from me.”
“And me,” Zale offers.
Sighing, Nathair shakes his head. “As I was saying, you can feed from all of us, it seems. You will never go hungry again, and the more you feed, the more power you will obtain. When we died, we all had certain . . . abilities. Since our deaths and rebirths, they have only been heightened. There is a reason they call us blood kings and nightmares, but you will learn that in time as we explore what your power is.”
I almost shrink, knowing I have no special abilities—not like my mother or them, it seems. Great, I’m just another outcast, even now.
“You are not an outcast, Althea,” Nathair says angrily, tilting my head with a finger and forcing me to meet his gaze. “Not here, trust me on that. We are the things in the dark others fear, but you will never have to. We’re all outcasts.”
“How did—” I start.
“When we shared blood, it cemented the bond. I can read some of your thoughts, but only those you are projecting loudly. I will teach you how to conceal them if you wish so you can communicate better,” he murmurs.
“So you can read my thoughts? Can I read yours?”
Instantly, the silence in my head is replaced by clear, succulent thoughts about how he wishes to feed from me, how he thinks I am the most beautiful creature he has ever seen, and how he wishes the others will come to me so I can bring them from the darkness. He allows me to see and feel it all before pulling back.
“I have years of practice at silencing my thoughts and blocking others. It can be quite loud inside our heads if not, but all you have to do is ask, and I will always show you.” He takes my hand and kisses the back of it.