A Court of Mist and Fury Page 105

“Feyre,” Rhys said as the fire died.

But there it was—crackling inside my veins. Crackling beside veins of ice, and water.

And darkness.

Embers flared around us, floating in the air, and I sent out a breath of soothing dark, a breath of ice and water, as if it were a wind—a wind at dawn, sweeping clean the world.

The power did not belong to the High Lords. Not any longer.

It belonged to me—as I belonged only to me, as my future was mine to decide, to forge.

Once I discovered and mastered what the others had given me, I could weave them together—into something new, something of every court and none of them.

Flame hissed as it was extinguished so thoroughly that no smoke remained.

But I met Rhys’s stare, his eyes a bit wide as he watched me work. I rasped, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

The sight of him in his Illyrian fighting gear, wings spread across the entire width of the clearing, his blade peeking over his shoulder …

There, in that hole in my chest—I saw the image there. At first interpretation, he’d look terrifying, vengeance and wrath incarnate. But if you came closer … the painting would show the beauty on his face, the wings flared not to hurt, but to carry me from danger, to shield me.

“I didn’t want you to think I was trying to turn you against him,” he said.

The painting—I could see it; feel it. I wanted to paint it.

I wanted to paint.

I didn’t wait for him to stretch out his hand before I went to him. And looking up into his face I said, “I want to paint you.”

He gently lifted me into his arms. “Nude would be best,” he said in my ear.

CHAPTER

46

I was so cold I might never be warm again. Even during winter in the mortal realm, I’d managed to find some kernel of heat, but after nearly emptying my cache of magic that afternoon, even the roaring hearth fire couldn’t thaw the chill around my bones. Did spring ever come to this blasted place?

“They pick these locations,” Cassian said across from me as we dined on mutton stew around the table tucked into the corner of the front of the stone house. “Just to ensure the strongest among us survive.”

“Horrible people,” Mor grumbled into her earthenware bowl. “I don’t blame Az for never wanting to come here.”

“I take it training the girls went well,” Rhys drawled from beside me, his thigh so close its warmth brushed my own.

Cassian drained his mug of ale. “I got one of them to confess they hadn’t received a lesson in ten days. They’d all been too busy with ‘chores,’ apparently.”

“No born fighters in this lot?”

“Three, actually,” Mor said. “Three out of ten isn’t bad at all. The others, I’d be happy if they just learned to defend themselves. But those three … They’ve got the instinct—the claws. It’s their stupid families that want them clipped and breeding.”

I rose from the table, taking my bowl to the sink tucked into the wall. The house was simple, but still bigger and in better condition than our old cottage. The front room served as kitchen, living area, and dining room, with three doors in the back: one for the cramped bathing room, one for the storage room, and one being a back door, because no true Illyrian, according to Rhys, ever made a home with only one exit.

“When do you head for the Hewn City tomorrow?” Cassian said to her—quietly enough that I knew it was probably time to head upstairs.

Mor scraped the bottom of her bowl. Apparently, Cassian had made the stew—it hadn’t been half-bad. “After breakfast. Before. I don’t know. Maybe in the afternoon, when they’re all just waking up.”

Rhys was a step behind me, bowl in hand, and motioned to leave my dirty dish in the sink. He inclined his head toward the steep, narrow stairs at the back of the house. They were wide enough to fit only one Illyrian warrior—another safety measure—and I glanced at the table one last time before disappearing upstairs.

Mor and Cassian both stared at their empty bowls of food, softly talking for once.

Every step upward, I could feel Rhys at my back, the heat of him, the ebb and flow of his power. And in this small space, the scent of him washed over me, beckoned to me.

Upstairs was dark, illuminated by the small window at the end of the hall, and the moonlight streaming in through a thin gap in the pines around us. There were only two doors up here, and Rhys pointed to one of them. “You and Mor can share tonight—just tell her to shut up if she babbles too much.” I wouldn’t, though. If she needed to talk, to distract herself and be ready for what was to come tomorrow, I’d listen until dawn.

He put a hand on his own doorknob, but I leaned against the wood of my door.

It’d be so easy to take the three steps to cross the hall.

To run my hands over that chest, trace those beautiful lips with my own.

I swallowed as he turned to me.

I didn’t want to think what it meant, what I was doing. What this was—whatever it was—between us.

Because things between us had never been normal, not from the very first moment we’d met on Calanmai. I’d been unable to easily walk away from him then, when I’d thought he was deadly, dangerous. But now …

Traitor, traitor, traitor—

He opened his mouth, but I had already slipped inside my room and shut the door.

Freezing rain trickled through the pine boughs as I stalked through the mists in my Illyrian fighting leathers, armed with a bow, quiver, and knives, shivering like a wet dog.

Rhys was a few hundred feet behind, carrying our packs. We’d flown deep into the forest steppes, far enough that we’d have to spend the night out here. Far enough that no one and nothing might see another “glorious explosion of flame and temper,” as Rhys had put it. Azriel hadn’t brought word from my sisters of the queens’ status, so we had time to spare. Though Rhys certainly hadn’t looked like it when he informed me that morning. But at least we wouldn’t have to camp out here. Rhys had promised there was some sort of wayfarer’s inn nearby.

I turned toward where Rhys trailed behind me, spotting his massive wings first. Mor had set off before I’d even been awake, and Cassian had been pissy and on edge during breakfast … So much so that I’d been glad to leave as soon as I’d finished my porridge. And felt slightly bad for the Illyrians who had to deal with him that day.

Rhys paused once he caught up, and even with the trees and rain between us, I could see his brows lift in silent question of why I’d paused. We hadn’t spoken of Starfall or the Court of Nightmares—and last night, as I twisted and turned in the tiny bed, I’d decided: fun and distraction. It didn’t need to be complicated. Keeping things purely physical … well, it didn’t feel like as much of a betrayal.

I lifted a hand, signaling Rhys to stay where he was. After yesterday, I didn’t want him too close, lest I burn him. Or worse. He sketched a dramatic bow, and I rolled my eyes as I stalked to the stream ahead, contemplating where I might indeed try to play with Beron’s fire. My fire.

Every step away, I could feel Rhys’s stare devouring me. Or maybe that was through the bond, brushing against my mental shields—flashes of hunger so insatiable that it was an effort to focus on the task ahead and not on the feeling of what his hands had been like, stroking my thighs, pushing me against him.

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