Page 88 of Court of Nightmares

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He watches me for a moment, and then a woman in a white suit and mask appears at my side. “The king wishes for you to attend him.” It’s a polite request, but I sense the “or else” underneath. After all, you do not disobey a king in his castle.

The last one I was presented to rejected me. Back then, I was a scared, new vampyr, but now I stroll through the crowd, feeling my power wash over them. The Althea who died that night will never come back. This king does not scare me, nor will any other.

I’m a fucking queen, and before the night is through, they will understand what that means.

The king watches me approach, forgetting the people around him and at his feet, and once I reach him, I curtsy slightly, looking up at him through my lashes. A smile curves my painted lips as I purr, “My king, you asked for me?” I slide my power over him like a lover’s caress, watching him shudder as hunger enters his gaze.

I feel the others tense with jealousy, but I ignore it for now. I need this to be good. I need him to believe I want him before I rip his court to pieces and feast on his soul.

“Who are you? We have never met before. I would know,” he says, his voice thick with power as he tries to show off.


“I’m new to your . . . gatherings,” I reply shyly, fluttering my lashes. “I was invited by a friend.”

“I see, and what is your name?” he demands, stepping closer, dropping the chains in his hand to the floor. There’s a gasp in the court.

“Althea, my king,” I purr.

He holds out his hand, watching me. “Join me, Althea, and be my guest tonight.”

I feel the tension as everyone waits for my decision. Clearly, this is unusual, and it just means that I get that much closer to what I want. “Of course, my king. I would be honoured.” Laying my hand in his, I bite back my groan as his power instantly dives into me, searching for the source of my power and my secrets. He’s trying to lay me bare, but I only let him see what I want.

He grunts in annoyance, but challenge sparks in his eyes.

He wishes to ruin me before the night is over, and I let him think I don’t notice as I giggle and sit on the chair a servant scrambles to put next to his throne. He claps his hand on the throne, and the music starts again, the party in full swing as he turns to me. My men hesitate before fading into the background near me, while Azul slides to the other side of the chair and sits out of sight.

The king squeezes my hand in warning, but I pretend not to notice and instead keep the smile on my face as I watch him like this is the best thing ever.

“You have me at a disadvantage, Althea. You know me, and you know my court, but I know nothing of you. I cannot even sense anything. I am usually very good at reading people and learning their secrets.” No doubt through pain and his power. “But you . . . you surprise me.”

“A good thing, I hope?” I ask.

“An unexpected thing.” It’s clear it annoys him as much as it intrigues him. “Tell me one thing I should know about you.”

I lean into him, but my eyes flick to where a female presses up against Lycus. His nostrils flare as he backs into the wall until he’s plastered against it, his wide eyes showing his discomfort.

“One thing?” I purr, running a hand along the king’s arm.

“Hmm,” he responds.

“I don’t like to share,” I tell him seriously and then throw my power at the woman who is touching what’s mine. She falls onto her back, screaming and writhing, and then I turn to the king with a smile. “Oops.”

“Is that right?” He laughs, watching his own court member thrash in agony from an attack he doesn’t seem to care about. “I will have to remember that. It is clear you like pain, though, or you would not be here. So tell me, Althea, what is your proclivity? To make it or to take it?”

Walk carefully, Azul whispers.He is playing a game and moving you into position. I can tell.

Azul is right. The king is waiting for me like a spider watching the prey in its web. “I’m more of a watcher.” The smile he gives me tells me I’ve said what he hoped, and I want to take it back.

“Good, then you won’t mind if we put on a show for you, will you?”

Fuck, I definitely said something wrong. “Of course not,” I offer instead, even as I begin to worry. When Azul starts to scream in my head, I turn to see the issue.

Approaching the throne is a woman, one I have seen countless times in Azul’s memories—his old master, the woman who tortured and abused him all of his life.

Her hair is a fake bottle red that flows down to her shoulders in fifties style waves. Her deep brown eyes are lined black and smoky, her skin is a pale white, and her lips are bright red. She’s wearing black leather nipple covers with a black corset, a black mini skirt, fishnets, and knee-high boots, with a metal whip coiled at her hip. She’s beautiful, but it’s tarnished by the cruelty I know she is capable of. I hear Azul fracturing, and we instantly all rush into his mind to protect him.

“This is Cassandra, our show master,” the king says. “Cassandra, this is Althea. Let’s give her a good welcome, shall we?”

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