My eyes flashed open, bile burning the back of my throat as I gagged. My blurry vision cleared slowly as Paeris and Laurel stood over me. Her cat-like smirk was gone and a worried frown took its place. My skin crawled like a million spiders were crawling over it, my head pounding as my heart pounded in my ears.
"Ray, are you okay?" Paeris breathed, relief washing over his face like a waterfall.
"What are you-" I started, my voice feeling weird in my mouth.
"Laurel called for me." Paeris said softly as he helped me sit up. The chair I had originally been sitting in was on its side now.
I frowned at myself. How did I fall asleep?
"Laurel has control over people's unconscious states of mind. She is stronger than I am." Paeris explained, helping me to sit on the edge of the bed. "I can only join you if you are already sleeping and welcome me in. Laurel can make you sleep, but does not have control over certain dreams."
"Nightmares." She clarified, picking at her fingers as if they were suddenly more interesting than anything in the world. "You were just in too deep."
"She also has control over emotions, which is why she is generally invited to most council meetings." He shot her a look, as if to tell her she was in trouble. He wiped below my nose with a tissue gently, wiping away the blood that had started to over my lip.
"Listen, Ray. You learned to run from what you feel, from your fear. That's why you have nightmares." She shrugged as if this was common knowledge. "You need to face them or it will all end up being real - to some extent."
"Could you tell what I was dreaming about?" I asked softly, my guts knotting and nausea sweeping over me again.
"If I concentrate, I can see your dreams like they are mine. But I have no control over them." She said slowly. I nodded. "Once it got too bad, I tried to bring you out, but you fought me."
So basically Laurel knew what my greatest fears were, for the most part, and I had to pretend like that was fine.
"What all did you see?" I asked slowly, tipping my head at her.
I felt dirty. Like there was something on my skin that I couldn't wash away.
Like every time someone looked at me, they could see nothing but toxicity oozing from my pores.
I had showered, scrubbing at my skin until it was pink and sore. When I had returned to my room, Paeris was there, a sad smile on his face. He was the one person who didn't look at me like I had three eyes.
He had laid with me for a while, stroking my hair and humming a soft tune, letting me just be still for a while. He knew exactly what to do to make me feel better.
Eventually, my eyes felt heavy and his soft lips brushed over my forehead .
I opened my eyes, taking in the weird scene around me. My surroundings looked familiar and a part of my brain seemed to know that I had been here before, but I couldn't grasp when that could have been. I was in a chamber room that looked similar to my own, but entirely different. The walls were a dark purple color, but not like the beautiful purple dresses I had worn recently.
The color looked wrong.
The bed and the dresser were all the same as mine, though the placement was a little different in the room. I looked down at myself, frowning at the black skirt I was wearing and how it clung to my body - as if it was a size too small. I felt constricted and a little too exposed as I moved forward and the bottom of my dress scrunched up around my hips.
I knew this was not a dream Paeris had chosen. Every time he joined my dreams, they were pleasant and the clothes he chose were never this revealing.
"Ah, Garrick, what a lovely surprise."
My head jerked toward the voice as I heard my father's name. The voice, too, sounded familiar but I could not put my finger on where I had heard it.
A beautiful blonde woman stood at the door, holding it open for my father who looked younger than when I had last seen him. The silver strands were not present on his beard or hair and while confusion was obvious on his face, but for once, he looked generally carefree. The father I knew was always cold and calculating, hard. I watched as he walked into the room, rubbing the back of his neck.
I could feel it running out of his body like a faucet.
The woman smirked at my father, her outfit too looking all wrong on her body - the white corset top and lace shrug seemed to hug her in the wrong ways and made her look too skinny. Too pale.
"Your Highness, I shouldn't be here..." my father started, his eyes begging for an explanation.
"Of course you should. I called for you." The woman purred, her fingertips dancing over his chest. My stomach churned. I opened my mouth to tell her to back off, but no words would come out.
I tried to push myself forward, to rip her hands away from him, to smack her and scream that he was mated, but I was glued to the floor, a witness to the disgusting scene in front of me.
She laughed in a breathy way, placing her hands delicately on either side of his face and craned her neck to whisper into his ear.
I watched as the anxiety and fear drained from his body, something new taking over. It was something I saw in Paeris the other night when he stayed with me, but this was different. His eyes were glazed and his jaw was hard, like he was conflicted.
I forced my eyes closed, shutting out the sight of my father and this mystery woman ripping each other's clothes off in front of me, the rustling of clothing dropping to the floor and sheets against skin making the waves of nausea intensify in my stomach.
I opened my eyes, taking in the scene in front of me, her pale arms wrapped around his neck and her head bent back in victory as he kissed her neck.
Her eyes were what triggered me. The emerald orbs slowly changed to black emptiness.
This woman was my mother.
She looked directly at me, her face contorting to match the face I dreamed of every night since I was a child.
I opened my mouth to yell at her, realization washing over me, but again I couldn't move. The vision in front of me faded away, the white of her lace robe had been replaced with black at some point and as she lifted from the bed to cross to me, a shiver raced up my spine.
"You are mine, darling." She whispered, her cold fingers running over my collar bones the same way she had done to my father. "You will have no rules when you are with me. We can destroy this world and be whoever we want."
I closed my eyes again, an angry scream ripping through my mouth as the scene around me fell away to darkness.