Home > Thief of Souls (Court of Dreams #1)

Thief of Souls (Court of Dreams #1)
Author: Bec McMaster

 

1

 

 

I drown a thousand times.

Every day, for months. Sometimes twice a day. Sometimes three times. In the cold, dark silence of the Abyss it’s difficult to keep track, so it’s only when the winch starts clanking that I get my first warning that we’re going to play this game again.

My stomach tenses, and I jerk out of the half-comatose reverie I’ve been existing in. No. No, not again. Pain screams through my shoulders. I’ve been hanging in these chains for so long that the only time I can feel my arms is when they threaten to dunk me into the pit of water below.

My throat is raw from screaming, and there’s no point.

There’s no one here to hear me anyway.

This is the cost of failure.

As the chains lower me back into the watery pit, I can’t stop myself from shaking. I don’t want to do this. Not again.

But when I returned from the Court of Dreams without the Dragon’s Heart I was sent to steal, my father sentenced me to three months in the Abyss.

Three months hanging in chains over a watery pit, just waiting to drown again.

It won’t kill me.

I might, however, begin to wish I could drown and be done with all of this.

That’s the problem with being a half-breed. The fae are long-lived, and wraiths are difficult to kill. I can heal from almost anything, if given the chance.

It’s both a gift and a curse.

Because the ability to heal from most things means the ability to survive most things.

The first shock of frigid water hits my bare toes.

“Stop!” I grab for something to save me—anything—and then I suck in an enormous breath.

The chains rattle faster as I’m plunged into a watery grave. The cold iron that burns around my wrists shoots straight for the bottom, taking me with it.

No matter how many times this happens, I still fight. Far above me, high in the tower, is a single lantern, and I can see that firefly glow slowly fading as the chains haul me lower.

A bubble escapes me—an unconscious cry of fear—and then several more as panic starts to set in. Kicking hard, I yearn for the surface, but the weight, the wretched weight, is dragging me down, down, forever down—

Pressure crushes my chest.

Please. Please, no. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fail. I won’t fail you again, Father. I won’t. I promise I won’t—

It’s so hard to keep holding on. My lungs kick like a mule, heaving at my ribs. Nothing. There’s nothing there. Only my ears threatening to pop, and bubbles slipping from my mouth as I try to capture them with my hands and hold such precious oxygen in….

The first mouthful is the worst.

I scream, but there’s no air. Only thick, wet weight that sinks through my lungs and the anchor that hauls me to my doom. Maybe this time will be the last time. Maybe this time my father will keep me down long enough that even my body can’t heal itself.

Darkness roars over me, but it’s not the warm cocoon of nighttime. It’s a greedy fist locking around my throat and choking me.

Please! Please help me!

A little spark of light burns to life in my chest like a hot coal.

Magic. Pure magic.

I reach for that spark with desperate hands.

“Merisel?” whispers a startled voice in my head.

A male voice.

Merisel? That’s not my name.

Why would he call me…?

My eyes blink open in horror, but it’s too late.

Because the spark of magic is consuming me, right at the moment where consciousness meets that dawning darkness.

 

 

Heat and flames snap around me, and I’m pulled through time and space until I finally slam into the world again.

I suddenly blink and find myself standing within an enormous bedroom. The first gasp of air sends me to my knees, slapping wet palms on the tiles. I can breathe again. Hot, blistering air that burns my ravaged throat and lungs. Warm. The tiles are warm. I want to kiss the floor and bathe in that heat. Or maybe just collapse. Water pours from my body, my shirt clinging to every inch of me. I can’t move. I want to, but I simply don’t have the strength within me.

This is some sort of gift, but fate never deals me a hand like this. Miracles are for pretty blonde fae princesses who have never known a day of toil in their life, until the moment they’re horribly cursed or prick their finger on an enchanted spinning wheel. There’s always a kiss stamped into their destiny, a twist of fate, hope.

But even though my silvery hair might charitably be called blond in a certain light, and my father technically is a king, I’m not that princess. I’m the villain of the story. I’m the thief, the liar, the girl of storms with her mercenary heart.

I am the Wraith King’s daughter, and if this is fate, then it’s about to punch me in the teeth.

Get on your feet then, I hiss to myself.

Because the first thing I ever learned is not to crawl. Not for anyone.

So I push my head upright and realize fate is a tricksy bitch after all.

Merisel, he called me, and there’s only one male who knows me by that name. Even though it is—like the rest of me—a lie.

A warm breeze billows through sheer curtains, and I sense someone prowling along the balcony. My breath catches, and I squeeze my fists tight in order to control the response.

I know who it is.

But the part of me that descends from a long line of fae that lived their lives in dark forests, feels the glint of the wolf’s eyes lock on me. I’m not alone, and I’m not trapped in the dark, but something is still hunting me and my body knows it.

The curtains shift and then he’s there, pausing just inside the room as if he’s a little surprised to see me standing there.

Keir.

Prince of Chaos and Dreams.

Our gazes collide and even though it’s been several months since I escaped his court, the impact of his presence hasn’t abated one bit. Dark hair brushes against his collarbone, and his thick brows highlight the intensity of those green-gold eyes. He owns me with a single look. It’s the kind of look you can’t practice. Hundreds of years of overweening arrogance combined with centuries of knowing you’re at the top of the food chain and anything and everything around you is your prey. You are either born with it, or you surrender to it.

“Merisel.” He breathes the word.

The truth hits me like a wall of solid stone: He isn’t looking at me like that. No. He still thinks me Merisel of Greenslieves.

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