Home > Beautiful Nightmares (Fortuna Sworn #4)

Beautiful Nightmares (Fortuna Sworn #4)
Author: K.J. Sutton

 

PREFACE

 

 

A familiar voice drifted through the air. “Are you going to leave me down here forever, Fortuna Sworn?”

For a moment or two, I genuinely believed I was going to vomit. The world tilted, and I moved to grab hold of something and wait until this dream passed. Because it had to be a dream, another terrible nightmare pouncing on me within the night. Maybe I was still at the Seelie Court, and these past few days had been another mind game. God, suddenly I hoped that was actually true.

The faerie at my side watched me regain control, his expression unreadable. When he spoke again, his voice was uncharacteristically solemn. “Are you ready for this?”

Neither of us would like my response, so I said nothing. I turned around, touching the gun at my hip to make sure it was still there. But I didn’t move. Not yet—I had to wipe all expression from my face first. Had to hide the fear and pain, so the person waiting below didn’t see it. Then I looked down and willed myself to move.

Never had I stared so intently at a doorknob. It gleamed dully in the lamplight, dented and faded from so many years of use. Desperate for any kind of delay or distraction, I allowed myself to wonder about all the people that had touched this doorknob before. What sort of lives they’d led. Whether they’d ever found themselves in a moment like this.

The air trembled with an enraged scream. I almost recoiled, but somehow I stayed in place, gathering the last of my resolve. My hand returned to the gun at my hip, partly in reassurance, and partly in some desperate hope that it wouldn’t be there.

With one more deep, fortifying breath, I finally opened the door and went to kill someone I loved.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Light filtered through my eyelids, turning them pink.

I was reluctant to open them, because I could already feel the headache waiting for me on the other side of consciousness. Instead, I clung to the darkness as if it were an old friend. There were no dreams in the darkness, no painful memories, no landscapes shrouded in mystery and sorrow. There was only quiet.

But I was awake now. It was nearly impossible to sink back into slumber once awareness had gotten its claws into me. Inch by inch, it pulled me toward that light. I fought it—something told me there was more than a headache coming—and knew I’d already lost.

Slowly, I cracked my eyes open.

I peered at reality through my eyelashes. When light didn’t rush in, and the pain didn’t immediately set upon me, I opened them completely. A frown pulled at my lips as I looked around. Comprehension was slow, but it did come. Bed. Dresser. Blankets. Walls. Pale early sunlight filtered through gauzy white curtains. I didn’t recognize where I was. Did I get blackout drunk last night? Was this part of the dreamscape?

I’d barely finished the thought when memories started returning. I almost wished they would stay gone, but the past few days roared into my mind like a hurricane. Images raced past in dizzying disarray. Faces and places and moments. Then, a voice.

I’m going to make you a Nightmare again.

Laurie. Laurie had kidnapped me from Granby, using hideous creatures beneath his command, and spirited me away to the Seelie Court.

I remembered the chains at the exact moment I heard them clink. I tested them again, as if the metal might’ve weakened while I was unconscious. They held fast, but at least they weren’t dipped in holy water—the chains were only irritating, rather than painful.

Now that I was regaining my senses, and my mind wasn’t slow with shock and hallucinogens, I saw for the first time that there were bars over the floor-to-ceiling window. My heart beat hard and fast as I cast another glance over the room, taking in the details I’d been too shocked or bleary to notice before. An ivory duvet covered me, smooth against my skin. I wore a white nightgown with long sleeves and a plunging neckline, which was enticingly framed with shiny lace. To the right, a mammoth fireplace took up one wall, unlit, and an enormous painting hung above it. The other walls were covered in wallpaper, and it was strange, not in color, which was green as swampwater, but in the design. There were black lines that didn’t look like flowers or some random, symmetrical pattern.

Why was I focusing so hard on the goddamn wallpaper?

Trying to keep panic at bay, I continued my perusal of the space and noted there was only one exit, the pair of double doors Laurie had used yesterday. They were made of dark wood, the edges adorned with elegant carvings. At the same moment I noticed this, I realized I needed to find a bathroom, and fast. Or soon I would be laying in my own mess, unable to move or clean myself up.

“Hello?” I called, my voice hoarse. Apparently I needed water, too. “Laurie? Is anyone out there? I’m about five seconds away from peeing on your nice sheets!”

Silence.

Frustration sliced through me now, cutting the fear to ribbons. I shifted again, hoping to relieve some of the pressure on my bladder. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been here, exactly—I remembered waking up, discovering Laurie at my side, and him leaving shortly after saying those ominous words. I’m going to make you a Nightmare again.

A healer had entered seconds later. She’d been nothing like Zara, a faerie at the Unseelie Court with cool hands and a calm demeanor. This healer, though beautiful, was rough when she worked on me, her dark eyes flashing and her lips twisted into a scowl. Her administrations, along with whatever injection she’d used, had sent me into a dreamless sleep.

Feeling more clear-headed with every second that passed, I took stock of everything else in the room, wondering if there was anything I could use for a weapon. But there was only the bed and the small table that Laurie had used for his tea set. Even the chair he’d been sitting on was gone. If I managed to get free of the chains, I might be able to break off one of the table legs and sharpen the end. Against a faerie, though, it wouldn’t do much damage without holy water. It might slow him down, at least. Long enough for me to pick the lock and get out of this room.

Suddenly voices drifted through the door, and it sounded like they were drawing closer. I stiffened, lifting my head to hear better. “…cannot complete the spell until she is a Nightmare. As she is now, the wretch is useless,” someone murmured.

In the next moment, the door opened, giving me no chance to mull over the words. Spell?

Laurelis Dondarte strolled into the room. He looked resplendent, damn him, in a blue business suit and a red tie. Subtle white pinstripes lined the material and stylish, pointed leather shoes covered his feet. He wore the same crown as before, and it caught the light, casting spots of brilliance in every direction. My mouth was even drier now, and it felt impossible to believe this was the same faerie who’d embraced me in the snow only days earlier.

As Laurie strode toward the bed, an Irish Wolfhound followed close on his heels, and I frowned at the sight of it. Laurie had never mentioned a dog in all the time I’d known him. Its size made me think of Finn, and a pang of longing hit me. I thought of the last time I saw the werewolf—he’d been fighting those things in the hospital. Lyari had been fighting, too. Where were they? Had the cherubim killed them?

Lyari, I thought fiercely. If she was all right, nothing would stop her from answering my summons. I waited a beat, so hopeful that it was an ache in my chest. But Lyari didn’t materialize. The only other faerie that might answer my call was Collith, and he was probably rotting in a cell at the Unseelie Court.

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