Page 41 of Court of Nightmares

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“Regrets do not bring back the dead, Althea,” he replies sadly. “But you are right. I am working towards forgiveness. That is all each of us can do. We were never bound to be the good guys; we were always meant to be the villains. Each of us is filled with the ability to be so evil, even the gods took notice, but now we can choose to be better, and we do every day we wake up.” He nods at Azul. “Like your promise to him. It will be hard to keep.”

“I meant every word,” I reply.

“I know you did” —Nathair leans forward— “and that is why I know no matter what is to come, Althea, it will only bring more death, but maybe in death, our race can be reborn.”

I hope he’s right.

* * *

“I don’t have any piercings,” I randomly call out a few hours later. I’m still pinned under Azul, and we have been talking for the last few hours while he sleeps. No doubt they all have duties, but they stay and keep me company. “Apart from my ears,” I add. “You all seem to have some.”

“You have no idea, baby,” Reve purrs, making me sit up to look at him. He just winks. “What do you want pierced?”

“I don’t know, but the old me never would have pierced anything, wanting to fit in and be perfect. That’s not me anymore. I feel like I need to change . . . something.” I shrug. “That probably sounds silly.”

“Not at all,” Zale replies vehemently. “We have all reinvented ourselves in a way. Reve didn’t have any tattoos when he came to us, and now look at him.”

I arch my brow at that, and Reve grins at me. “I like the pain, baby.”

Laughing, I shake my head. “I don’t know. I’ve kind of always wanted my tongue done.”

Reve sits up with a hungry look in his eyes.

Lycus cocks his head to the side. “I could do that.”

I blink. “You pierce?”

He grins. “We have a lot of spare time, and Reve let me experiment on him first. Don’t ask him about the first few.” He winces as Reve groans. “But I’ve had a lot of years to hone it, so I can pierce you if you want. To make it stay without your body healing, though, we have to use a baptised blade of flames, which sounds dramatic, and it hurts like a son of a bitch. I would say ask Reve, but he almost came when I pierced his cock.”

Conall snorts as Zale shakes his head. Osis moves closer, listening but watching me.

“Let’s do it,” I decide suddenly.

Lycus nods and hurries off. I managed to slip from the bed, and Azul moans. We all freeze, but he just rolls over and buries his face into the spot I was just in, inhaling and settling down. I head over to the others, and Lycus comes back, kicking Reve off the chair. He sprawls on the floor, laughing. I take a seat and hold onto the arms, unsure what to expect but unable to stop smiling. I never would before, but they are right.

This is the new me, and I can be whoever I want.

“Open your mouth, Thea,” Lycus purrs, a dark look in his eyes.

Smirking, I lick my lips, watching him track the movements, and then I open my mouth wide. For a moment, he just stares at me before shaking himself out of it and grabbing what looks to be a very tiny sword. I arch my brow, and he almost blushes.

“A gift.” He coughs. I hold back my laugh. “Trust me?” he asks.

I nod without thought and try to project my voice into his head. “Do whatever you wish,” Nathair says for me, and Lycus grins.

“Good, now hold on. This will hurt, but if you’re good, I’m sure someone will kiss it better. Zale, if you could.” Wearing a smile, Zale reaches out, and flames dance in his palm. He releases them so they sink into the blade, making it glow brightly.

The tip of the sword is more of a needle, but as Lycus grabs my jaw and tilts my head back, I still worry about the side. But I said I trust him, and I do. “Tongue, beautiful,” he purrs.

Sticking it out, I hold onto the arms as he places the tip of the needle on my tongue, and with a slow breath, he slides it in.

He’s right. It hurts like a son of a bitch, and red-hot fire rips through it, causing my whole jaw to ache, but I’ve had worse. I lived in pain for so long when my blood was rotten, so now I relax slightly. The wide-eyed look he gives me makes me want to smile.

“I knew she was like me,” Reve calls. “Oh, Thea, we are going to have such fun.”

Lycus slowly removes the needle, and I focus on him as he delicately places something in the hole. Expecting him to be done, I relax as he lines the needle up again and sinks it in. He does it three times, and when he steps back, I taste my own blood and smell burnt flesh. Closing my mouth, I move my tongue around. There’s a sharp stab of pain, but then a moment later, my powers soothe it, healing the damaged flesh around the new piercings.

“Done?” I ask.