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Luxuria: Chapter 2


   black as pitch kept a firm grip on me as we made our way back down the aisle. Honestly, it was more of a frog march than a romantic post-ceremony stroll, but the joke was on him because I was into being manhandled.

Seriously, I was one muttered complaint about how slow my human legs moved away from whispering, ‘sorry, Monster Daddy,’ and dropping to my knees to ask for forgiveness.

That’s not very queen-like, I reminded myself. Fuck it, they shouldn’t have sent a failed-Hunter–slash-marketing-coordinator to do this job.

If you pick the last resort option, you get last resort results, and all of those results sounded like a very fucking good time to me.

That was if my new husband was into me, which was… debatable, at best. He sort of looked like he wanted to eat me, but I couldn’t decide if it was in a good way or not. He’d gone nuts on that priest guy for sniffing me, but I could be reading romantic intentions into that display of violence that weren’t there. It didn’t help that I couldn’t read his expressions, or any of theirs. I’d never seen a Shade in their corporeal form before—in the human realm, they appeared as hooded wraiths or reapers with cloaks made of shadow, floating above the ground.

The clothing was still made of shadows here—which would take a while to get my head around—but the bodies were all very much solid. And without the oversized hoods covering their faces, I was getting a close up look at a Shade’s face for the first time, and me likey.

My fingers itched to sketch the features of everyone around me, and I scoffed silently at the raunchy monster fantasies I’d drawn before and how wrong I’d gotten the details.

Unlike in my imagination, their faces weren’t blurry and undefined. They were surprisingly humanoid—two eyes, a nose, and a mouth—but everything was far more angular and their cheekbones jutted out like they’d been carved from stone. There was nothing human about the rows of pointed teeth on display when they smiled, and even less human about their bright, jewel-colored eyes. They had no pupils, no sclera, no iris. Just a whole eyeball of almost glowing color. The kind that if you saw peeking out from under a shadowed hood in the middle of the night would make you pee your pants in fright.

My husband’s eyes were an icy blue so pale it was almost silver, but the colors seemed to range, as did all the other features. Allerick’s thick, leathery skin was the darkest shade of black, but as I discreetly took in those around us as we passed the rows of Shades at our ceremony, there were paler shades of gray too.

I stumbled on the cracked cobblestones in my stupidly long dress as we passed through the wooden doors into the hall, grateful I’d opted for sensible footwear. The Hunters Council had provided this dress, as well as the rest of the wardrobe I’d brought with me. Fortunately, the gown was long enough that they hadn’t noticed I’d slipped on comfy nude-colored flats underneath. I’d assumed that a pair of glittery stilettos would look weird and out of place here, and considering the Shades didn’t even wear shoes, I’d been absolutely right.

Only Allerick’s unyielding grip on my arm kept me from faceplanting on the floor. He barely broke his stride, all but dragging me along as he twisted to give me a look over his shoulder. I hadn’t appreciated how much information I yielded from eyes before now. Allerick’s blank blue stare gave me nothing, and he didn’t so much have eyebrows as thick ridges over his eyes instead. How would I know if he was frowning or not?

He’d probably been frowning this entire time. I needed to see a smile for contrast.

It was a shame that he seemed to be such an asshole because I’d definitely come into this feeling sorry for him. The Hunters had a whole list of candidates they’d run down before I’d finally agreed to come here and marry the King of the Shades as a show of good faith in the treaty. There had been no such option for Allerick—the deal was for the king, and the king alone.

I could understand why he was pissed about it, but I was disappointed that he seemed to be pissed at me. I wasn’t on the Council. I hadn’t negotiated the stupid terms.

The crowd was a noisy mass behind us, slowly filing out of the decrepit-looking temple, but we mostly had the corridors to ourselves with the exception of the silent bodyguard-looking Shades trailing us. Say something. Make small talk.

″So, uh, nice palace. Your majesty,” I hurriedly tacked on the end. It was lucky for me that the Shades seemed to know most human languages, probably as a safety measure so they could understand the Hunters who hounded them. It gave them an unusually super-polished accent, something I’d noticed when the priest was speaking.

Allerick threw me an impressively judgmental look over his shoulder for someone who couldn’t raise their eyebrows or roll their eyes.

″A lot bigger than my apartment,” I continued, because if there was one thing I was good at, it was filling silence with inane chatter. “You could probably fit my whole place in this corridor. Or my old place, I should say. This section of the palace looks a lot newer. Have you been renovating?”


Cool, cool, cool.

It did look less derelict around here—there were no cracks in the floor threatening to upend me, and the dark gray stone walls were solid, the black sconces shining under the flames within them. I’d been warned that everything in this realm was in tones of black and gray except the eyes of the Shades, but that couldn’t have prepared me for seeing it in person. The entire palace was made of dark gray stone, the furniture all looked to be blackened wood, and the glowing orbs gave off a silvery light rather than a golden glow. Was there even a flame in there? It didn’t look like it, but they didn’t have electricity here either.

It was all surreal enough that I didn’t necessarily feel like I’d gone back to medieval times, even if that’s where the level of technology was at in the shadow realm. It felt too much like being in a different world entirely to care about the lack of power or internet access.

I’d have plenty of time to mope about that later when I was bored and couldn’t scroll through pictures of people I didn’t care about.

Allerick had said something about a feast, so I was expecting it when he led—or rather dragged—me into an enormous stone hall lined with long tables, and a dais at the front set up for two.


″You don’t have to drag me, you know,” I pointed out. “I am here entirely willingly.”

He made a noise of disbelief but released my arm all the same. The physical contact had been surprisingly reassuring, and I felt the absence of it as soon as he released me. However, I wasn’t a fan of being dragged around like a prisoner in front of all these Shades.

Attempting to recover some dignity, I straightened my shoulders and pulled up the hem of my dress so I could get up the steps of the dais without falling on my ass. There were staff there to pull out our chairs, and I smiled at the one who did mine. He flinched back like I’d hit him, and I felt my face heat as I looked down at the floor instead, attempting to gracefully climb into a chair that was definitely designed for someone bigger than me.

″His mother was killed by a Hunter,” Allerick said conversationally the moment they were out of earshot.

″I’m sorry to hear that,” I said quietly, meaning it. Just because I hadn’t been involved with the Hunters beyond being born one of them didn’t mean that everyone here wasn’t going to view me as one. The Hunters Council hadn’t really prepared me for that, and I felt suddenly embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of it myself.

We sat in uncomfortable silence as the court filed in, taking their seats automatically, like they all knew exactly where to go. I did my best to seem as bland and unthreatening as possible, which should have been easy because I was bland and unthreatening. By age sixteen, the Hunters Council had already told me I wasn’t suitable Hunter material.

Allerick stood as the last of the Shades were seated, and I debated whether or not I was supposed to stand as well. My darling husband wasn’t extending an invitation to join him, so I folded my hands in my lap instead, pasting the most pleasant smile on my face like this was all normal.

I also really didn’t want to get in and out of the oversized chair with everyone staring at me.

″My fellow Shades,” Allerick boomed, spreading his arms in welcome. The sleeves made of shadow moved along them, flickering just enough to showcase his bulging upper arms before they were covered again.

Well, damn. I’d always had a weakness for arms.

Allerick’s nose twitched, and he glanced down at me, mouth twisted into what I thought was a frown. He turned back to face the crowd before I could truly analyze it.

″Thank you for attending my wedding, securing the treaty between the Shades and the Hunters. This is the dawn of a new era for us. An era in which we can visit the human realm without fear of execution. This marriage is a symbol of the peace between our kinds, a commitment and a sacrifice on both sides.”

Who said romance was dead? It hadn’t escaped my attention that he’d said ‘marriage’ like it was a curse word, but whatever. He didn’t have to love me, he just had to be married to me. And consummate that marriage to make it valid.

I was hoping he’d be as into that idea as I was, but it wasn’t looking likely.

″For now, let us eat, drink and celebrate,” Allerick finished with a flourish as the side doors flew open and servers appeared heaving platters of food on their shoulders.

The crowd cheered, shouting and stomping, and I forced my smile a little wider as Allerick took his seat next to me, pouring himself a goblet of wine from the carafe on the table before sliding it towards me.

Was it wine? I wondered, eyeing it nervously as I poured it into the silver cup. It was gray. I wasn’t the most cultured woman out there, and honestly most of my alcohol had come in canned form when I wasn’t getting a happy hour deal, but I was pretty sure wine wasn’t usually gray.

″Regretting your decision yet?” Allerick asked in a disinterested voice, drumming his claws against his goblet.

″Nope,” I replied with more confidence than I felt, shooting him a smile over the rim of my cup before taking a small sip.

Huh. It tasted like Christmas mulled wine. It just looked like particularly runny sludge. Delightful.

″Strange little thing, aren’t you?” he asked, spreading those enormous legs wide and eating up my personal space. The casual way he entirely dominated the room around him did things to me.

″So I’ve been told,” I murmured, attempting again to smile at the servers who set a platter of… something in front of us. They also backed away like I was about to whip out a silver dagger and plunge it into their chests.

″They’ll never like you,” Allerick told me, lazily picking through the items on the platter and adding them to his plate. Meat, I decided. It was different kinds of meat, devoid of all color like everything else here. “The court won’t fear you—they’re the strongest of us—but the staff are not. A trip into the human realm has been an exercise in terror for them, and it’s necessary in order to get the sustenance we need to survive. They’re the ones who benefit from the treaty.”

″I know,” I said gently, letting my mask of pleasant calmness drop for a moment so he could see the honesty in my face. I’d never been on Team Kill All The Shades. I wanted this treaty to work.

Allerick grunted in acknowledgment before giving his full attention to his food. Huh, no cutlery. Pretending I was not at all thrown off by that, I followed his lead, using my fingers to put a little of everything on my plate and sampling small bites.

The first one tasted like chicken. Not in a ‘tastes like chicken’ way either, in a ‘this is actually chicken but gray.’ It was cool and weird at the same time. My sister had heard a rumor that Shades didn’t eat vegetables, and we’d packed a few in my bag just in case, but I was going to need more. Everywhere I looked was platter after platter of meat in grayscale.

I almost didn’t want to explore it too closely. I kept glancing down at my own hands, making sure the pinkish undertone of my skin hadn’t leached out from being in this strange gray world.

You’ll get used to it, I reminded myself. And you don’t have to worry about student loan repayments or next month’s rent. So there’s that.

I’d agreed to this hoping that it would improve my situation in life, with the guarantee from the Hunters Council that it was safe and I wouldn’t be killed for my efforts. Maybe I’d also hoped it would earn me some kind of place among the community I’d been kicked out of so many years ago. They hadn’t been asking that much of me really—I could go home whenever I wanted, though I had to live here and travel home via the Hunters Council portal. The Hunters had paid off all my debt, and I no longer had living costs to worry about. They’d outfitted me with a swanky new queen wardrobe in muted colors, enough to stand out without being a beacon. If I got to fulfill some specific fantasies in the process, that would be an added bonus, though it wasn’t looking like that was going to happen.

It’s going to be fine. You are going to make the best of this. You are Ophelia Bishop, failed huntress and moderately talented marketing coordinator.

You can do this.

Wedding feasts were apparently as torturously long in the shadow realm as they were in the human one. There were no speeches, no dancing, no cake, but there were several courses of meat and a seemingly unlimited supply of wine. The Shades moved around the room eventually, switching seats with each other and laughing together. Allerick seemed content to eat and brood in silence. That was mostly fine since it gave me an opportunity to observe, but it also meant—combined with the wine—that my overactive imagination was getting wildly carried away without conversation to focus on.

Could Allerick make those shadows pin me down on the bed? Could he make them into shadow ropes and tie me up? Did the shadow clothing act as a physical barrier, or could I just reach right through it?

If my new husband didn’t get this wedding consummation on the road soon, I was going to hike up this absurdly tight dress and do it myself, right in front of all his subjects.

No more wine for you, I scolded internally, twisting my fingers together to stop myself reaching for the goblet just for something to do.

I glanced over at Allerick, finding him half sprawled on his enormous chair having finished eating, legs spread invitingly wide only a few feet away from me as he surveyed the dining hall below us. Why wasn’t he accosting me yet? Freeing me from the confines of all this damn fabric?

I’d been promised monster fucking, and I wasn’t getting any damn monster fucking.

“Your scent,” Allerick growled, leaning in to inhale me again. Yes, my scent. Quite. Surely that was enough of an invitation? I’d always been told that Shades had an acute sense of smell.

In my week of awkward and uncomfortable prep with Astrid, she’d led me to believe that Shades were insatiable, that they found us irresistible and only their incorporeal forms in the human realm kept us safe, but apparently that was a lie.

Allerick looked plenty corporeal to me here in the shadow realm, and the most amount of physical touch I’d gotten was a clawed hand around my forearm.

My new husband helped himself to another goblet of wine, showcasing a stretch of roped forearm beneath his pitch black leathery skin, and I sighed quietly to myself, surveying my surroundings instead since apparently I wasn’t going to get railed in my wedding dress any time soon.

His two curved horns were so impressive, he didn’t even need the elaborate crown that somehow nestled between and draped decoratively over them to show them off. Was that a sign? The bigger the horns, the bigger the dick? I covertly scanned the room, deciding my husband for sure had the biggest horns here. Allerick inhaled sharply.

“Am I displeasing to you, your majesty?” I asked, excessively chatty from the wine. I couldn’t quite keep the disdain out of my voice at the title he insisted I use. I didn’t need to like my husband, I reminded myself. This was an arrangement, a truce between enemies. All I had to do was be married to him.

Allerick looked lazily over my body again, the most shameless arrogant man or monster I’d ever come across. “You are pleasing enough, wife.”

Well, high praise indeed.

As desperately as I craved the stretch and burn of what I was sure was an impressive cock hidden under the robe of shadows, I still had some pride.

Back in the human realm, I’d had my pick of lovers. I wasn’t about to beg and whimper for a male who found me pleasing enough even if he did have a big monster dick hiding under those shadows.

With a tight smile at my husband, I reached for my goblet, forgetting my earlier promise to myself not to drink anymore and taking a swig of the spiced wine. The burn as it went down my throat helped distract my lust-addled mind.

He probably wants an open marriage. You can work with that. There are plenty of other good-looking monsters. Probably ones without royal egos.

Except I didn’t particularly like that idea. Those marriage vows had meant something to me.

Allerick inhaled again, something that may have been confusion crossing his inhuman features.

“How does that soothe you?” he mumbled with disgust.

Soothe me? We had very different ideas of what was going on here.

Before I could correct him—was that wise? He was still the king, and he’d insisted on the ‘your majesty’ nonsense—two imposing figures rose from their seats and made their way in front of our table.

At first glance, they looked almost identical to my husband except for the fact that Allerick wore a crown and his eyes were icy blue, but there were other differences too. One had the prettiest purple eyes and was grinning at me, displaying a row of vicious-looking teeth. He looked a lot like Allerick, but with a slighter build and a simple crown sitting between his horns.

The other one had eyes the orangey color of a sunset, and his mouth was turned down in what I was pretty confident was a frown, his posture defensive. He wore no crown, though his shadowy clothing was arranged in a crisscrossed way over his chest before continuing down sort of like a tunic, reminding me of armor.

While the orange-eyed one wore no crown, they were both important, that much was obvious. They were nearly as big and impressive as Allerick was.


Just my luck that I should get the most attractive husband in the monster realm, a king no less, and he’d be a colossal asshole.

“My younger brother and heir, Prince Damen,” Allerick drawled, lazily gesturing at the one with the purple eyes and the crown. “And Captain Soren, head of the guard.”

Damen smirked, all trouble and spoiled princeliness, while Soren looked at me with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion.

I held my head up, giving them a bland smile that I hoped looked queenly.

“How is our new queen faring?” Damen asked, giving me a sly smile that was all pointed teeth as he gestured for two chairs to be brought over.

“I’m faring well, thank you,” I replied politely, shredding a piece of roasted meat with my fingers. I knew that Shades needed fear to survive, but it seemed the meat was for sustenance. Did they eat three meals a day? How often did they go to the human realm to suck up some poor person’s fear?

They could still go with the treaty in place, they were just restricted to certain areas on rotation. It was meant to stop any one area from being over targeted, though it sounded to me like a ploy by the Hunters to make it easier for them to monitor Shades.

The Hunters would ban feeding altogether if they could, but we all knew that some degree of fear was essential. Balance had to be maintained.

“Really? You’re faring well?″ Damen asked doubtfully.

“You sound disappointed, your highness,” I said mildly, popping some shredded beef—gray beef?—in my mouth and arching an eyebrow at him.

“I made a bet,” he replied unrepentantly, smiling wider in a blatant attempt to intimidate me. Pity for him that he didn’t know my brain was wired wrong. Whenever I saw pointed teeth, I imagined them pressing against the delicate skin of my neck, pinning me in place while my monstrous lover fucked me ruthlessly into the mattress. Or the ground. Or the wall. Basically anywhere he could have me.

“Ah, that’s more like it,” Allerick sighed, inhaling deeply. “Never forget where you are, little huntress.”

So… he wanted me to be horny? He seemed to like when he could smell my arousal, but he spoke as if he wanted me to leave.

Maybe it was a game? I wasn’t opposed to being hunted through the palace halls and consensually ravished, but I wanted to know him a little better before we played that way.

“Will you stay long here, your majesty?” Soren asked awkwardly.

Allerick waved his hand dismissively. “You may call me ‘Allerick’ in front of her as you normally would in private. Only she cannot.”


“We will not stay long. Enough not to offend our guests. Then I will take my new wife back to her quarters. Perhaps we’ll see if her dainty little human body can accommodate the King of the Shades.”

“I’m glad you find me pleasing enough for that,” I replied coolly, making sure I inclined my head deferentially as I did so to soften my words.

Despite the taunt, I was fairly confident he was all talk. Allerick didn’t seem to struggle to keep his hands off me, and he spoke with such disdain that it seemed more likely that I outright repulsed him.

Damen snorted. “Everyone in this room finds you plenty pleasing for that, Queen Ophelia. You smell like a Shade’s wet dream.”

Did Shades have wet dreams? Did they come more than humans? In my drawings, there was always a lot of cum.

“Watch your tongue, brother,” Allerick chided, his eyes flashing dangerously. “That’s my wife you’re talking about. Only I can tell her about how every Shade in this room wants to get their hands on her,” he growled, leaning right into my personal space so I felt his hot breath on my neck. “Those pretty trembles belong to me.”

My thighs were trembling aplenty.

“I’d rather not have a riot on my hands, if we can possibly avoid it,” Soren said in a bored voice, his nostrils flaring. Everyone was weirdly casual about smelling how wet I was. Maybe it was normal around here? Maybe everyone walked around horny all the time and my senses were just too dull to pick it up?

“And Meridia already looks ready to commit murder,” Damen noted, glancing back at a female in the crowd. She was stunning and terrifying all at once. Tall and lithe, with only the scantest shadows covering the important bits, the swell of her breasts and curve of her hips almost entirely on display. She had long black hair that hung all the way down her back, parted by silvery curved horns that protruded from her head. Her eyes were a crimson red, a borderline demonic color. I’d hate to come across her in a dark alley, but regardless, she was exquisite. No wonder my husband only found me ‘pleasing enough.’

Soren grimaced, angling himself in front of where she sat in the crowd. “My sister won’t cause any problems.”

That was a blatant lie and we all knew it. The Shades had eyes that were difficult for me to read, but there was no mistaking the hatred in Meridia’s as she leaned around her brother, gaze firmly affixed on me. Her long black claws gouged into the wooden table with such ferocity that I heard the sound from all the way up on the dais over the sound of clinking utensils and laughter.

She continued to stare at me as she ranked her claws through the table like it was my face, teeth bared in a vicious snarl. Holy shit.

Allerick tilted his head to the side, watching her performance with the exact same disdain he’d shown me so maybe it wasn’t entirely personal. “I admire your optimism, Soren. Come, wife. Before the captain’s sister guts you at your own wedding feast.”

I stood as Allerick did, and a spike of fear—pure, unadulterated fear—made my breath hitch. I hadn’t come here expecting my life to be pleasant necessarily, but I had expected to be safe. That was a fundamental aspect of the agreement between our peoples. Perhaps I’d been too blinded by the appeal of being ravished by my future husband to consider that he may not be able to control his subjects.

Maybe I’d been a little naive about how the Shades would actually feel about having a Hunter for a queen. Even if I was a Hunter who’d never hunted.

Allerick, Soren, and Damen all paused, their noses wrinkling like they smelled something sour. With no warning, Allerick’s enormous hand wrapped around my forearm, his claws running snags through the silk fabric of my dress as he all but dragged me from the room. The crowd behind us cheered, jumping up from their seats and stamping their feet on the stone floor until I felt like my bones were vibrating even as we moved down a hallway, away from the others.

Away from the murderous sister of the captain. Would she follow? She undoubtedly knew these halls better than I did.

“Make it stop,” Allerick hissed, releasing me abruptly. I stumbled on the train of my dress, catching myself with a hand on the rough stone wall, my palm stinging on impact.

“Make what stop?” I asked, baffled.

“That smell, however you’re making it. It’s repulsive,” Damen replied on his brother’s behalf, gagging slightly.

“She’s bleeding now too,” Soren said in a grim voice, tipping his chin at my palm. I held it up in front of me, finding a few scratches. It would need to be cleaned, but there were only the faintest lines of red showing where my skin had broken. They really did have sensitive noses.

“Great, she’ll probably die now, and I’ll be on the hook for a dead wife,” Allerick muttered, his claws scratching at his temple in a comically human gesture.

“Or I could clean and dress the minor scrape, then bathe to get whatever the repellent smell is off me,” I said wryly, growing impatient. Who knew Shades were so dramatic?

I was the one that had just been silently threatened.

“And you won’t die,” Allerick confirmed, narrowing his eyes as though he wasn’t sure if I was telling the truth.

“You’re not really what I expected from the King of Shades,” I said with a frown, forgetting to censor myself.

“Well, you’re not what I expected from a Hunter bride,” he retorted, sounding mightily offended. “Follow me, we will bring you to your chambers where your attendant is waiting. That disgusting scent lingers,” he added under his breath irritably.

Damen held a hand in front of his nose as he strode after his brother, but Soren hung back, his glowing eyes narrowed slightly as he stared at me. “How strange, that this repulsive scent surfaced in relation to Meridia. If you hurt my sister, we are going to have problems, my queen.” He stomped off after the other two while I shuffled behind them in a daze, clutching my hand to my chest. How was it he thought I was the dangerous one here?


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