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Now, I barely recognise myself. I’m almost six feet, nearly as tall as most of the men in our court, which is surprising, even for vampyrs. My hair is a luscious black with dark blue and purple highlights that hangs in a sleek curtain to my perky ass. My tits are a nice double D that, yes, I almost wept over. My face is sharper, my lips are fuller, and my eyes are bigger. Every part of me is smoothed and honed to make me the perfect killing machine.

I learned to use my looks.

I learned the power I wield, and I love it.

My curves give others pause. We aren’t all stick thin despite the legends, but even for my people, I am curvy, but I love the way my dress clings to my hips and ass as I walk, outlining them and my long, thick thighs.

I am pacing back to Simon when the doors are thrust open behind me, causing me to whirl and stumble on my heels. A representative of the court stands there, eyeing us all before she bows, her coiled red hair moving with her like snakes. “It is time for your presentation,” she purrs, her fangs peeking over her painted lips as she straightens.

Her eyes are lined with kohl, and I feel her power like the first touch of wind before a storm.

She is weak, nowhere near as powerful as most of the members of this court, which means she is low on the totem pole. A stronger vampyr would feel like a full-fledged storm battering my senses, and the ancient ones? Well, I have heard stories that it is impossible to do anything but fall to your knees and lie prone before their greatness and power.

“You will be presented in age order and announced. Do not enter before then,” she reminds us, even though we have been preparing for this very moment since we survived the change.

We are to walk into the ballroom with our heads held high, as we represent our court, and show our strength, beauty, and purpose.

We will meet eyes and bring honour to our people as we bow before the king of the court. We are to be silent and mysterious and, above all else, respectful. I have practiced curtsying a thousand times, but it does not stop my nerves as I fall into line at the very back since I am the youngest.

Simon is somewhere near the middle, and he gives me a supportive thumbs-up, which makes me grin. He’s such a nerd.

The first is announced, making me shiver. “Alyriance, first of her name, Elemental Court.” I watch a petite blonde sweep into the room with a cocky smirk, her power flowing from her like waves crashing against a rock.

It’s loud but harmless.

I hear the chatter beyond, and a few moments later, another voice rings out, and this proceeds until it is Simon’s turn.

“Simoneth, third of his name, son of the great and wise Specter Court.” Simon looks back at me, and I smile. He sucks in a breath, turns forward, and brandishes his charming smile as he sweeps into the room beyond to find his future. I can only hope it’s at my side.

I know, realistically, we will be torn apart at some point, our destinies elsewhere. I felt it after his change, and although I tried not to be bitter, it was hard since he is my closest friend, but I support him now and always, even though I’m saddened that, at some point, we may become strangers.

“Willeth, tenth of her name, daughter of the one who serves.”

“Titlem, first of his name, son of the reborn, Vermillion Court.”

“Helga, twentieth of her name, Principes Court.”

Then it is my turn. I step up to the front and swallow my fear, knowing better than to show it in a room full of hungry predators with thousands of years of experience hunting prey and weakness. There’s a sea of masked faces, in all shapes and sizes, as men and women turn eagerly to see the last presentation.

The youngest of our court.

They are eager for gossip, for the first glimpse, for anything they can use.

I will not feed the wolves.

It’s something my mother used to say, and I harness it now, even as I feel my strength twist through me. I simply don’t use all my power as instructed, keeping just enough hidden so I will be seen as powerful without displaying so much that they will fear me.

Showing one’s full hand is to give them a dagger to kill you.

“Althea, first of her name, daughter of the all-seeing, all-knowing seer of Specter Court.”

With my head held high like my mother before me, the greatest seer to ever live, I step into the ballroom and my fate beyond.

CHAPTERTHREE

ALTHEA

My eyes sweep the crowd like I was taught, and I wear a lingering smile on my lips. My hair flows over my shoulder as I slowly glide down the middle aisle of the ballroom. I try not to stare at the grandeur of the gothic architecture and gaudy gold décor of the ballroom big enough to fit an entire city. Rows upon rows of thousands of our kind line the way to the throne, obscuring my view. I am alone amidst a nest of them, yet I show no fear. I let my power wash through them, and I hear the whispers.

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