Page 29 of Court of Nightmares

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I saw their insecurities, their worries, though, and I hope I didn’t make it worse, but when they smile, it’s like everything is right with the world again.

I know I thought my intended mate was the most beautiful man I had ever seen, but I was very, very wrong because here, in a forgotten court, I’m seeing what true beauty is, and it’s more than their incredible faces. It’s in their friendship, their love.

Zale is to my left, and he’s nothing like I expected. He’s taller than me, but only by a few inches, and he’s stocky, muscle on muscle, but still skinnier than Lycus. His hair is styled like a wolf cut, which I saw is trending, and the deep brown, amber, and red locks fall in waves past his shoulders. His face is angular, with a shadowed jaw and lips, high cheekbones, and slitted orange eyes. One of his thick eyebrows has a scar through it. There’s another scar running across his cheek on the right, and when Zale glances at me, I swear I can almost see a shadow moving beneath his skin.

Turning away quickly, I nearly stumble before I glance up and up at Lycus. His hand clutches my arm, catching me as he grins widely. He’s massive, built with muscles that cover every inch of his body. He reminds of a giant or a Viking, and his wild hair and beard only help with that effect. His thick, black as night hair is currently in a bun on top of his head, with beads and bones threaded throughout. His beard is long and unkempt, surrounding thick lips with visible fangs. Lycus’s stern, square face only adds to his appearance, with slanting black eyebrows and lines around his eyes and mouth. His hands are scarred, and his arms and chest are covered in black hair. Wearing nothing but some low-slung leather trousers with a strap across his chest for a weapon, he looks like a warrior of old. The whole look is finished with black leather knee-high boots with spikes on the sides.

Clearing my throat, I force myself to stop ogling them. “So, how old are you both?”

“Now that is a telling question.” Zale winks, making me chuckle.

Lycus is just about to say something when we step into the throne room and freeze. A man, who I’m guessing is Azul, is standing without his mask on and having an animated conversation with . . . a wall.

“Erm, is he okay?” I ask softly.

“Not since I’ve known him,” Lycus responds in a deadpan voice, and I gape as he chuckles.

“Did you just make a joke?” Zale exclaims. “Lycus made a joke!”

Reve pops out of nowhere, his hand going to Lycus’s forehead. “Are you well?”

Azul turns and tilts his head, and I swear I could hear a laugh behind him.

“Fuck off,” Lycus snaps, pushing away Reve, who just laughs.

“It’s the scent of pussy, right?” Reve asks with a wink at me.

“This pussy will bitch slap you.” I huff, crossing my arms.

“I’d love it. Do it right here.” Reve turns his cheek, making me shake my head, even as a smile curves my lips.

Zale groans. “Don’t encourage him.” He knocks my shoulder, making me giggle.

They all become motionless, and I freeze. “What?” I ask, confused by the slack-jawed looks they are aiming at me.

“Nothing.” Reve recovers first, but his smile is softer, and there’s something in his eyes that wasn’t there before.

“It’s been a long time since the sound of laughter filled these halls,” Nathair calls as he enters with Conall and Osis.

I blush slightly under all their adoring gazes.

Nathair notices Lycus and Zale at my sides, and for a moment, his eyes narrow, and I swear I hear them whispering in their minds before he smiles at me. “I figured you would need some new items. Reve and I have selected a wardrobe to be sent here, but is there anything else? Any comforts you would like? Anything in the world, Althea.”

“Erm, no?” I reply hesitantly.

Nathair almost appears pained. “Anything?” he pleads.

I see the look in his eyes. He clearly wants to give me something, so I rack my brain. “I, um, like baths with different bubbles and bombs . . .”

“You could have everything in the world, regardless of the price or designer, and you pick bubble baths?” Reve asks before a grin splits his lips. “I love this girl. Let’s keep her.”

Azul hesitates as he moves closer, and I realise no one mentions the talking to nothing thing, so I don’t either.

Nathair’s voice comes then. Azul’s powers are . . . different, but he is not crazy—well, not crazier than any of us.

My lips quirk as I send him a mental,Thank you. They all move around me as if waiting for my direction. “Erm, so what do you usually do all the time?”

They share a look, and Nathair speaks for them. “Usually we work, but . . .”