Page 96 of Court of Nightmares

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There’s just something about it, and I let my eyes close as I swing gently, embracing that feeling.

A soft sound has my eyes opening, and I grin as Osis pads towards me in tiger form, his paws carefully avoiding the flowers so he doesn’t crush them. I forgot how huge he is. His head butts into my knees, making me grin even as he almost knocks me off. He’s bigger than I, and his paws, which are larger than my head, end in sharp black claws. His fur is a pearly white with black stripes, and his bright eyes shine brighter than the stars above. When he nudges me with his wet pink nose, I giggle, causing his ears to fold back.

“Hey, beautiful,” I murmur as I stroke his head, and for a moment, my gaze drifts around. “It’s amazing out here, isn’t it?”

He chuffs, and I take that as a yes as he curls up around my feet with his head on my lap. I pet him as I sip my coffee and take in the night with him at my side, protecting me. Once my coffee is gone, he pulls his head back and wanders behind the tree. I crane my neck when Osis appears on the other side, smiling softly at me. His hair is half held back, with pieces framing his stunning face. His bright eyes soften with emotion as he watches me. He’s wearing a black coat with a white fur trim that reminds me of his tiger, and some leather trousers and boots.

He comes and sits next to me on the swing, pushing us gently. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted to be left alone,” he murmurs.

“Never,” I reply, taking his hand and leaning my head on his shoulder as we swing gently.

I remember when Nathair warned me to be careful with Osis, mainly because he’s so sweet and kind and wears his heart on his sleeve, but in this very moment, I am the one who’s in danger—in danger of falling completely and head over heels in love with him so completely that I won’t be able to be parted from him.

He just has a quiet strength and sweetness I didn’t even know I was craving until he came into my life.

“Reve told you about his past, didn’t he?” he asks suddenly, and I lift my head, trying to follow his thoughts.

“Yes?” I ask, frowning at his profile, and he nods before blowing out a breath.

“I never told you mine,” he begins, and I reach up and turn his face so he’s looking at me.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” I tell him softly and truthfully. I want to know everything about the men I’m falling in love with, but not at the expense of their own well-being. I do not want to reopen old wounds.

“How can you love me if you do not know me?” he whispers, searching my gaze. “I love you, Althea. I’m not afraid to say it. I love you, and I’m so grateful you became a judge and that we have this bond, but I want you to love me the same, and maybe, one day, you will, but you have to know who I am. You deserve to. We saw your pain and your past, so you should know ours the same way.”


He leans in and kisses me, silencing me. “I’m not as good with words as Nathair, nor as good with visions as Reve, but if you will allow me, I can show you my truth. I can show you what led me here.”

I search his gaze and see his hope there, so I nod. Taking my hand once more, he cuts along both of our wrists with a sharpened nail before pressing them together—a blood exchange.

I close my eyes, and he does the same, our foreheads pressing together as we both delve into the bond. This time, though, I follow him through the open door in his mind, watching as he presents me with a flipbook of memories. With his hand still in mine, I dive in.

He’s younger in the vision, and I cannot tell when it takes place, but he’s barely past eleven or twelve and holding the hand of a beautiful woman who looks exactly like him.

My mother,he explains.

You look like her.

They have the same icy white hair and bright eyes. She’s stunning, and as she smiles softly down at him, I can sense her love.I grew up in a court like everyone else, he tells me, flipping through the memories quickly and showing me moments of him growing up in a bright, loving court.But my mother always said I was too trusting, too naïve. I thought it was a good thing, but I never played the catty games or spoke with a silver tongue like other members of court, and one day, just like she said it would, it ruined me.

The flipping stops on the vision of another beautiful woman. This one has brown ringlet hair that hangs to her shoulders, bright amber eyes, and dainty fangs. She’s in a blue corset dress and smiling at an older version of Osis. A teenager maybe?

Angelica,he says,wasmy first love, or so I thought. I’d always known her. She was the most beautiful woman at court and so popular, I thought I never stood a chance, but one day, we actually ran into each other physically, and I helped her escape a creep at a ball. We absconded into the night, and the rest is history.

He avoids showing me anything that might hurt me, my sweet Osis, and instead shares moments of them together, holding hands, going on dates, and exploring the world together.

We were together for just over a year, and I was madly in love. My mother never approved, she didn’t trust her, but I was so deeply in love with Angelica, she could do no wrong in my eyes.

We fade back to the swing, and I see tears in his eyes.

“But that was before I knew the truth. You see, Angelica never loved me, and it was all a game. The creep was her partner, and what I thought was fate was just her scheme. She wanted me to love her, wanted me to be infatuated with her so I would do anything she wished. My mother was a powerful vampyr, and the king of our court had his eye on her. He loved her. He’d lost his mate a few years before, as had my mother, and they had grown close, but Angelica’s mother was jealous. She wanted the king’s attentions, and Angelica wanted the power and status that would come from being bonded to a king if her mother were to take the queen’s place, so they hatched the plan together. The male was her true mate, and I ended up divulging secrets. Posing as the king, my mother’s love, Angelica and her mother sent a message to my mother and lured her outside. They killed her, Althea.”

Tears fill my eyes as I’m plunged back into memories.

I watch as Osis runs across frozen grass to a crumpled body in a long white gown coated in blood. He screams as he drops to his knees next to her, turning her over to see his mother’s frozen face, her lips parted and blue from the cold.

“No!” he screams, his hands scrambling across her, but there is so much blood, and she has long since passed.

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