Page 93 of Court of Nightmares

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Oh Nox.

“I changed. I died. I was terrified and so scared because I didn’t know what was happening. They had gone away for the weekend, and I was getting ready to go to a party. It was agony, and when it ended, I was so glad it was over and that my parents weren’t there to witness it, but then I came back, and I wasn’t me. I was so hungry, so fucking hungry, Thea.”

Oh gods, I couldn’t imagine going through the change alone, never mind not knowing it was coming. The elders guided me, the others too, and they fed us right away. If not . . . Oh Nox. If the thirst is not fed by powerful, ancient blood right after the change, it becomes uncontrollable and leaves the newly turned feral, unable to control themselves.

“I hoped they would never come home and just leave me like my real parents. I was a monster, and I couldn’t control myself. I barely kept myself from leaving the house and fulfilling this evil thirst inside me, but I should have known better. They would never leave me, and they would never abandon me. They loved me, Althea.” He looks at me, his blood-red tears dripping down his face. “And I killed them. I couldn’t stop myself. I tried, gods, did I try, but I couldn’t stop. I tore into them like a beast. They begged and pleaded. They didn’t understand—how could they because I didn’t—but I needed their blood. I still remember flashes of that, of my hands deep in my mother’s chest as she stared up at me in horror, and my father’s broken, drained body at her side, reaching for her even in death. I killed them, Thea. And it still wasn’t enough. I was so hungry, and the taste of the blood only made it worse.”

He starts to sob, so I wrap myself around him.

“I remember seeing the gift bag—they brought me a present from their trip—and it was splattered with their blood. I didn’t care because I was just so hungry, and I licked it clean.”

His body shakes with the force of his sobs as I hold him.

“It was like something broke inside me. I barely remember the days after, only flashes, as if this other creature had taken over me. I drained our neighbours, a lovely old couple who knitted me jumpers every Christmas. I killed someone who was on a morning run. I killed so many innocent people, all because of this thirst I couldn’t control and because the people who were supposed to love me, supposed to guide me, gave me up and didn’t care about the consequences. When the guys tracked me down and judged me, I was so relieved. I remember feeling peace for the first time since that night, but the memories were still there. The blood of all those innocents stained my soul, and that’s why I came back, because I owe it to them all, not just my parents who did nothing but take in a child and love him.” He lifts his head, his face streaked with blood-red tears. “They were good people.”

“I’m so sorry, Reve. I’m so sorry for what you went through, but you know that wasn’t your fault, right? You never should have been left alone to go through the change. You should have known what you were and what was coming, and you should have been guided and supported. You cannot help what you did. You didn’t kill them for sport or fun; you had no choice. It wasn’t a conscious decision. You loved them, and they knew that.”

“Their last memory is of me killing them like I hated them,” he sobs. “I loved them. I loved them so much, and they died thinking I hated them.”

“They did not.” I cup his face, forcing him to look at me. “They knew it wasn’t you. They loved you, Reve, and they knew their son, and that was not him, not you. They died horribly, yes, but you suffered just as they did, and I guarantee they knew you loved them and would never want to hurt them. I’m so angry that you had to go through that. I’m so fucking angry, and I’m so sorry.”

Nodding, he rubs his head against my chest, and I hold him there, stroking his back as he cries for the innocent boy who didn’t stand a chance. Slowly, his tears stop and he calms. I hum to him, protecting him until he pulls away enough for us to curl together. The silence surrounding us is filled with broken hearts and pain. I need to replace it and remind him of the good, not just the bad.

“Tell me about them, about your parents, the good bits,” I encourage him. He grins, and although it’s shaky, it’s there.

“Let me show you.”

He still feels raw, but I think he will for a while. It’s clear he never dealt with what he went through, and if I didn’t love Reve before, I do now. I turn my head and gasp when a couple appears on the ceiling. It’s like watching a film. I watch as he learns to ride a bike and breaks his arm. There is a memory of when he was sick and curled up under a blanket with them. There are Christmases, birthdays, and New Year’s celebrations, and I fall in love with the couple who raised the man I love.

When it’s over, I turn to him. “Thank you for showing me.”

He nods. “What about your parents?”

“I never knew my dad,” I admit. “My mother died when I was really young, so I barely remember her, only the prophecies she left behind. I had no family.”

“You do now,” he says seriously, and I smile.

“I know.”

We go back to watching the stars, hand in hand, our legs entwined, when my own insecurities raise their ugly heads. He doesn’t need this now, but I begged him to be honest with me, and I know he would want the same, so despite the fact that I hate having to admit this, I know I have to.

“Reve,” I whisper softly. He’s hurting, but I need him to know. “Please don’t block me again.”

“What?” He frowns, and I feel him looking at me, but I continue to stare at the ceiling, feeling raw and vulnerable.

“I didn’t like the feeling of being blocked from our bond.”

“Why—” He cuts off, and when he speaks again, he whispers, “Because your mate did that.”

I nod, and then his hand touches my face and turns my head so I’m looking at him.

“I’m so sorry, Thea,” he whispers, his eyes showing his concern. “I didn’t think, and I never want you to feel rejected. I just didn’t want you to have to feel all that.”

“I know,” I murmur, and I do, but it was hard to stop that momentary flare of panic when it felt like I was being rejected again.

“I will never do it again. I promise, Althea,” he croons, pressing his forehead to mine. “I’m yours, all of me, even the ugly parts if you want them. I will never block myself from you again. I’m sorry I made you worry, even for a second, but you have to know we are not him, Althea. We will never reject you, never leave you.”

“Because you don’t have a choice,” I retort, and I don’t know where this is coming from, but I guess old insecurities are hard to get rid of.