A Court of Mist and Fury Page 107

“You saw what was happening to me. But you were too afraid of him to truly do anything about it.”

It was fear. Lucien had pushed Tamlin, but to a point. He’d always yielded at the end.

“I begged you,” I said, the words sharp and breathless. “I begged you so many times to help me, to get me out of the house, even for an hour. And you left me alone, or shoved me into a room with Ianthe, or told me to stick it out.”

Lucien said too quietly, “And I suppose the Night Court is so much better?”

I remembered—remembered what I was supposed to know, to have experienced. What Lucien and the others could never know, not even if it meant forfeiting my own life.

And I would. To keep Velaris safe, to keep Mor and Amren and Cassian and Azriel and … Rhys safe.

I said to Lucien, low and quiet and as vicious as the talons that formed at the tips of my fingers, as vicious as the wondrous weight between my shoulder blades, “When you spend so long trapped in darkness, Lucien, you find that the darkness begins to stare back.”

A pulse of surprise, of wicked delight against my mental shields, at the dark, membranous wings I knew were now poking over my shoulders. Every icy kiss of rain sent jolts of cold through me. Sensitive—so sensitive, these Illryian wings.

Lucien backed up a step. “What did you do to yourself?”

I gave him a little smile. “The human girl you knew died Under the Mountain. I have no interest in spending immortality as a High Lord’s pet.”

Lucien started shaking his head. “Feyre—”

“Tell Tamlin,” I said, choking on his name, on the thought of what he’d done to Rhys, to his family, “if he sends anyone else into these lands, I will hunt each and every one of you down. And I will demonstrate exactly what the darkness taught me.”

There was something like genuine pain on his face.

I didn’t care. I just watched him, unyielding and cold and dark. The creature I might one day have become if I had stayed at the Spring Court, if I had remained broken for decades, centuries … until I learned to quietly direct those shards of pain outward, learned to savor the pain of others.

Lucien nodded to his sentinels. Bron and Hart, wide-eyed and shaking, vanished with the other two.

Lucien lingered for a moment, nothing but air and rain between us. He said softly to Rhysand, “You’re dead. You, and your entire cursed court.”

Then he was gone. I stared at the empty space where he’d been, waiting, waiting, not letting that expression off my face until a warm, strong finger traced a line down the edge of my right wing.

It felt like—like having my ear breathed into.

I shuddered, arching as a gasp came out of me.

And then Rhys was in front of me, scanning my face, the wings behind me. “How?”

“Shape-shifting,” I managed to say, watching the rain slide down his golden-tan face. And it was distracting enough that the talons, the wings, the rippling darkness faded, and I was left light and cold in my own skin.

Shape-shifting … at the sight of part of the history, the male I had not really let myself remember. Shape-shifting—a gift from Tamlin that I had not wanted, or needed … until now.

Rhys’s eyes softened. “That was a very convincing performance.”

“I gave him what he wanted to see,” I murmured. “We should find another spot.”

He nodded, and his tunic and pants vanished, replaced by those familiar fighting leathers, the wings, the sword. My warrior—

Not my anything.

“Are you all right?” he said as he scooped me into his arms to fly us to another location.

I nestled into his warmth, savoring it. “The fact that it was so easy, that I felt so little, upsets me more than the encounter itself.”

Perhaps that had been my problem all along. Why I hadn’t dared take that final step at Starfall. I was guilty that I didn’t feel awful, not truly. Not for wanting him.

A few mighty flaps had us soaring up through the trees and sailing low over the forest, rain slicing into my face.

“I knew things were bad,” Rhysand said with quiet rage, barely audible over the freezing bite of the wind and rain, “but I thought Lucien, at least, would have stepped in.”

“I thought so, too,” I said, my voice smaller than I intended.

He squeezed me gently, and I blinked at him through the rain. For once, his eyes were on me, not the landscape below. “You look good with wings,” he said, and kissed my brow.

Even the rain stopped feeling so cold.

CHAPTER

48

Apparently, the nearby “inn” was little more than a raucous tavern with a few rooms for rent—usually by the hour. And, as it was, there were no vacancies. Save for a tiny, tiny room in what had once been part of the attic.

Rhys didn’t want anyone knowing who, exactly, was amongst the High Fae, faeries, Illyrians, and whoever else was packed in the inn below. Even I barely recognized him as he—without magic, without anything but adjusting his posture—muted that sense of otherworldly power until he was nothing but a common, very good-looking Illyrian warrior, pissy about having to take the last available room, so high up that there was only a narrow staircase leading to it: no hall, no other rooms. If I needed to use the bathing room, I’d have to venture to the level below, which … given the smells and sounds of the half dozen rooms on that level, I made a point to use quickly on our way up and then vow not to visit again until morning.

A day of playing with water and fire and ice and darkness in the freezing rain had wrecked me so thoroughly that no one looked my way, not even the drunkest and loneliest of patrons in the town’s tavern. The small town was barely that: a collection of an inn, an outfitter’s store, supply store, and a brothel. All geared toward the hunters, warriors, and travelers passing through this part of the forest either on their way to the Illyrian lands or out of them. Or just for the faeries who dwelled here, solitary and glad to be that way. Too small and too remote for Amarantha or her cronies to have ever bothered with.

Honestly, I didn’t care where we were, so long as it was dry and warm. Rhys opened the door to our attic room and stood aside to let me pass.

Well, at least it was one of those things.

The ceiling was so slanted that to get to the other side of the bed, I’d have to crawl across the mattress; the room so cramped it was nearly impossible to walk around the bed to the tiny armoire shoved against the other wall. I could sit on the bed and open the armoire easily.

The bed.

“I asked for two,” Rhys said, hands already up.

His breath clouded in front of him. Not even a fireplace. And not enough space to even demand he sleep on the floor. I didn’t trust my mastery over flame to attempt warming the room. I’d likely burn this whole filthy place to the ground.

“If you can’t risk using magic, then we’ll have to warm each other,” I said, and instantly regretted it. “Body heat,” I clarified. And, just to wipe that look off his face I added, “My sisters and I had to share a bed—I’m used to it.”

“I’ll try to keep my hands to myself.”

My mouth went a bit dry. “I’m hungry.”

He stopped smiling at that. “I’ll go down and get us food while you change.” I lifted a brow. He said, “Remarkable as my own abilities are to blend in, my face is recognizable. I’d rather not be down there long enough to be noticed.” Indeed, he fished a cloak from his pack and slid it on, the panels fitting over his wings—which he wouldn’t risk vanishing again. He’d used power earlier in the day—small enough, he said, that it might not be noticed, but we wouldn’t be returning to that part of the forest anytime soon.

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