“Who?” she repeats. Her voice is laced with such power, no one could deny her.
“Someone from his court, from before he died. Azul . . . Azul wasn’t like us. He was low in their rankings, and as such, a powerful vampyr, a mistress of the court, stole him and made him her pet. The court knew of it and did nothing. It was common for the weaker to be used and hurt. He became nothing but her blood bag, and she did whatever she wanted to him and allowed others to as well.”
She stiffens against me, and I fight not to cry at her rejection before she softens. “Fuck our creed. I’m going to kill them. Did they force him to feed others without consent? Did they touch them?”
“Althea,” Nathair begins.
“Yes,” Osis answers, knowing my truth better than the others. “And much worse. They tortured him for years. It was fun for her, for them. They used their powers on him often, and they forced him to break others or suffer greater pain. His blood and body became theirs. Nothing was his own, and even in sleep, they followed him. They are monsters, Althea, the worst of our kind, but they close ranks and protect each other, and no one can prove it. To others, they are the perfect court, but it holds nothing except death and fighting. It’s all about power and rank.”
“How do you know?”
“I was there. I was part of the court before him, and when he became one of us, I asked him. I knew what it was like there, but I had never seen someone so truly destroyed by them before. He cried in happiness when he died. I think the only reason he came back was for revenge.”
Not true, not the only reason, but that is my own and not theirs to share, not that they know it.
“We are bound,” Conall complains. “I hate it. We all do. Through the years, we have sensed his nightmares.”
“I have seen them,” Reve snarls, “and if I could, I would stride into their court and rip every single one of them apart.”
“Why can’t we?” she asks.
“Rules, the same rules we impose and kill others for breaking,” Zale answers sadly. “If we were to break them, we would need to be judged. We are supposed to be above it.”
“Yeah, well, fuck that. I’ll find a way.” Her hand strokes my hair. “You hear me, Azul? I will find a way. I’ll make them all pay for what they did to you. What is all this power worth if we cannot protect our own family and avenge the wrongs done to him? If we want to save our race, then we need to start with that court. We will begin with the monsters who did this to him, and before the blood moon rises, I swear on my grave they will all be dead. Every single person who ever touched him or helped will be killed, either by my hand or his.”
The dead hear her promise, and the universe acknowledges her statement.
She bound her fate, her future, to it, and she doesn’t even know it.
Queen or not, a god’s gifts or not, she has made an oath, and it must be kept.
When I reach for her, though, consumed by fear for what she has done for me, I feel nothing but her determination and her promise.
She will do it, and for the first time in years, I slip into a dreamless sleep with my queen holding me, protecting me.
Istare down at the sleeping man, my heart aching something fierce. I could almost feel his pain, his terror, flowing over him in waves. The others sit around us in a circle of protection as he sleeps. My legs go numb from the stone floor, but I ignore them, not willing to move. His hands fist my dress to keep me near him, and his face is turned into my stomach.
His face is unmasked. It fell to the floor next to him when they brought him back. I know he would hate me seeing him, worried about my thoughts, but I can’t look away.
He’s absolutely breathtaking in a rugged, scarred way that steals every bit of my soul.
Unlike the perfect beauty most vampyrs possess, Azul wears his scars. I ache to reach out and touch the scar on his face, but I don’t move, and instead, I trace it with my gaze.
The scar intersects most of his features, reaching from the tip of his forehead, through his eyebrow, then stopping at his eye, as if it were closed when it happened, before carving through his cheek and down to his jaw. It’s brown, raised, and jagged, and it was clearly a deadly blow, yet it only adds to the appeal of the man in my arms. Without the scar, he would be beautiful, but with it, I cannot bring myself to look away.
His eyes, which are squeezed shut, are a shocking bright blue—the same colour of the sky on a summer’s day—surrounded by thick black lashes. They almost appear to be lined, but I can tell it’s natural.
His eyebrows are thick and arched, leading to a strong forehead shadowed by his wispy hair. His locks are brown, the colour of fresh mud, and the tips are almost white. It falls in a mussed way to his ears, giving him a rugged look. His lips are pink and full, surrounded by stubble that’s bordering on a beard. His neck showcases another wicked scar, as if someone tried to cut his throat. His ears are almost pointed at the tips, with a bone pierced through the left one and a hoop dangling across from the other.
He is wickedly beautiful, and his face is made for nights spent between the sheets.
I would worship it. How could he ever think himself ruined or ugly?
Not everyone sees beauty like you, Nathair says softly, no doubt hearing my thoughts. Let him, let them all. I won’t hide how I feel about them. Every single one of them is gorgeous, and I almost feel inadequate in their presence.