Page 92 of Court of Nightmares

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But I do worry.

He shielded Azul from the worst of the torture tonight, but what was the cost of that? How did Reve pay, and why doesn’t he want me to know? Feeling his brothers’ concern, I block them too, needing it to just be us, and then I follow the bond deeper into the court, deeper than I have explored yet.

It’s cold and dark, as if no light has even existed here in centuries. The doors are closed, locked, and forgotten, and there are sheets over the furniture. My footsteps are loud on the dark grey stone that seems to slope down, and when the hallway finally ends in a giant stone archway, I peek inside to find Reve.

These must be his rooms. Unlike the corridor behind me, this space is warm, and low light spills out from candles spread around the room on different surfaces and the flames burning in the fireplace. There’s a sunken oval bed in the middle with silk sheets, and it’s filled with blankets and pillows. A vinyl player sits on a fur rug before it, filled with records, and the low crooning of a rock song emanates from it. On the left is a small pool surrounded by rocks with steaming water.

The whole room is draped in silks and warmth, and it reminds me of a sanctuary. Is this where he comes when his dreams and abilities are too much?

I spot him lying amongst the pillows and silks, with one arm over his face. He’s so lost in his own head, he doesn’t even hear me at the doorway that shimmers with its own power. His trousers are half open, and everything else is discarded.

His corded muscles clench as he twists slightly, his tattoos moving with him as if they are alive. Reve is a masterpiece, but right now, his hair is a mess, as is his mind, and he needs help. As I step through the nearly invisible barrier, a small gasp leaves me. I expect him to sit up, but he just freezes. It felt like his power washed over me—his version of a door perhaps? It makes me wonder how powerful he truly is if he can have that here at all times.

“Go away, Nathair,” he mutters.

“Now I’m worried. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a compliment since he’s very beautiful, but he definitely has a bigger dick than I do,” I say with a grin as I move over to the vinyl player and watch it turn before chancing a look over my shoulder.

He’s sitting up now with his arms propped behind him, his chest tight with muscle and strain. Reve’s eyes are wild, his hair is a mess, and he’s still covered in blood from tonight’s killings. He looks untamed and lost and oh so beautiful, it makes my heart ache.

“Althea, I’m fine,” he mutters, and I raise my eyebrow as I turn to face him.

“If you say you are fine, then you are either a terrible liar or you expect me not to care.” I move towards him, crawling onto the bed and kneeling before him.

He watches me carefully.

“Well, which is it?”

He lies down with a groan and stares up at the ceiling, so I crawl next to him, lie on my back, and stare at the ceiling too, which is when I realise he’s effortlessly projecting a whole night sky across it with his mind.

He doesn’t speak though, and I can feel his internal struggle, our bond holding us tightly together even when he tries to push me away.

“You took him away from the pain, but that meant you felt it, didn’t it?” I ask Reve.

I feel him startle, and when I glance over at him, his eyes close for a moment. “How did you know?”

“Because I know you would risk everything for him and the others, so of course you would take it.” I take his hand, but he tries to pull away, and for a moment, old doubts rear their ugly heads before he sighs and glances over at me with tears in his eyes. I see so much vulnerability and pain in his gaze, I forget my own worries for now.

“I couldn’t let him go through that again, Thea,” he whispers. “I gave him good thoughts, but someone had to experience it. I don’t know how he survived so long there. I truly don’t. It was such a short time, and I’m—” He shakes his head and looks away. “Weak, I’m weaker than him. I thought all these years, all this time, would make my mind and body stronger, and that I could handle anything, but I’m still the same, scared little boy I was in the past.”

This is about more than tonight. This is about his past. I haven’t asked the others, and I only know about Nathair’s and Azul’s pasts, but their deaths are their own unless they want to share it. I would never force them to tell me, knowing it’s the hardest moment of their lives, but I can almost feel Reve’s desire to talk about it.

“Have you ever talked about your past with the others?”

He laughs bitterly. “They saw it, so we didn’t need to talk about it.”

“Yes, you do,” I murmur. “Just because they saw it doesn’t mean you dealt with it. I’m here if you need to talk, Reve. The only way to let go of the painful memories is to give them life and let them go.”

“I don’t know if I can,” he admits after a moment of silence. “I’m ashamed, and the idea of you knowing the worst parts of me—”

“But that’s what this is, don’t you see?” I lift up and meet his eyes. “For good or bad, this bond is forever, but friendship and love are about knowing the best and the worst bits about the other person and still loving them. It’s about knowing everything about the other person, including their hopes, dreams, and fears. You have nothing to be ashamed of, baby,” I promise as I lean down and kiss him. “There is nothing that could ever make me turn away from you, any of you. We have all done things we are ashamed of, and we are atoning for that by helping people, so no matter what you think about your past, it shaped you into the man you are now, and I like that man. A lot.”

“Yeah?” he croaks as he watches me. “How much?”

I laugh, glad to see a hint of that teasing gleam back in his gaze. “Much more than I ever thought I could.”

Swallowing, he searches my face. “I wasn’t raised in a court,” he tells me, and I lie back down with my head near his to make it easier for him, but I don’t release his hand, and he holds mine tighter, as if it’s a lifeline. “I wasn’t raised with my own kind at all. I was adopted when I was one by a lovely couple who couldn’t have kids. No one knew my real parents, so no one knew who—what I was.”

I turn to him, my heart racing, and he chuckles bitterly. “They abandoned me to a human way of life, and it was a good life, don’t get me wrong. I got to celebrate Christmas and birthdays, and I went to football practice on the weekend. They loved me so much, like I was their own, and for so long, I believed I was. I was happy, and I was human—albeit small, no matter how much I ate or worked out. It wasn’t until my eighteenth . . .”