A Court of Mist and Fury Page 108

He tugged on the hood, and I savored the shadows and menace and wings.

Death on swift wings. That’s what I’d call the painting.

He said softly, “I love it when you look at me like that.”

The purr in his voice heated my blood. “Like what?”

“Like my power isn’t something to run from. Like you see me.”

And to a male who had grown up knowing he was the most powerful High Lord in Prythian’s history, that he could shred minds if he wasn’t careful, that he was alone—alone in his power, in his burden, but that fear was his mightiest weapon against the threats to his people … I’d hit home when we’d fought after the Court of Nightmares.

“I was afraid of you at first.”

His white teeth flashed in the shadows of his hood. “No, you weren’t. Nervous, maybe, but never afraid. I’ve felt the genuine terror of enough people to know the difference. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t keep away.”

When? Before I could ask, he walked downstairs, shutting the door behind him.

My half-frozen clothes were a misery to peel off as they clung to my rain-swollen skin, and I knocked into the slanted ceiling, nearby walls, and slammed my knee into the brass bedpost as I changed. The room was so cold I had to get undressed in segments: replacing a freezing shirt for a dry one, pants for fleece-lined leggings, sodden socks for thick, hand-knit lovelies that went up to my calves. When I’d tucked myself into an oversized sweater that smelled faintly of Rhys, I sat cross-legged on the bed and waited.

The bed wasn’t small, but certainly not large enough for me to pretend I wouldn’t be sleeping next to him. Especially with the wings.

The rain tinkled on the roof mere inches away, a steady beat to the thoughts that now pulsed in my head.

The Cauldron knew what Lucien was reporting to Tamlin, likely at this very moment, if not hours ago.

I’d sent that note to Tamlin … and he’d chosen to ignore it. Just as he’d ignored or rejected nearly all of my requests, acted out of his deluded sense of what he believed was right for my well-being and safety. And Lucien had been prepared to take me against my will.

Fae males were territorial, dominant, arrogant—but the ones in the Spring Court … something had festered in their training. Because I knew—deep in my bones—that Cassian might push and test my limits, but the moment I said no, he’d back off. And I knew that if … that if I had been wasting away and Rhys had done nothing to stop it, Cassian or Azriel would have pulled me out. They would have taken me somewhere—wherever I needed to be—and dealt with Rhys later.

But Rhys … Rhys would never have not seen what was happening to me; would never have been so misguided and arrogant and self-absorbed. He’d known what Ianthe was from the moment he met her. And he’d understood what it was like to be a prisoner, and helpless, and to struggle—every day—with the horrors of both.

I had loved the High Lord who had shown me the comforts and wonders of Prythian; I had loved the High Lord who let me have the time and food and safety to paint. Maybe a small part of me might always care for him, but … Amarantha had broken us both. Or broken me so that who he was and what I now was no longer fit.

And I could let that go. I could accept that. Maybe it would be hard for a while, but … maybe it’d get better.

Rhys’s feet were near-silent, given away only by the slight groan of the stairs. I rose to open the door before he could knock, and found him standing there, tray in his hands. Two stacks of covered dishes sat on it, along with two glasses and a bottle of wine, and—

“Tell me that’s stew I smell.” I breathed in, stepping aside and shutting the door while he set the tray on the bed. Right—not even room for a table up here.

“Rabbit stew, if the cook’s to be believed.”

“I could have lived without hearing that,” I said, and Rhys grinned. That smile tugged on something low in my gut, and I looked away, sitting down beside the food, careful not to jostle the tray. I opened the lid of the top dishes: two bowls of stew. “What’s the other one beneath?”

“Meat pie. I didn’t dare ask what kind of meat.” I shot him a glare, but he was already edging around the bed to the armoire, his pack in hand. “Go ahead and eat,” he said, “I’m changing first.”

Indeed, he was soaked—and had to be freezing and sore.

“You should have changed before going downstairs.” I picked up the spoon and swirled the stew, sighing at the warm tendrils of steam that rose to kiss my chilled face.

The rasp and slurp of wet clothes being shucked off filled the room. I tried not to think about that bare, golden chest, the tattoos. The hard muscles. “You were the one training all day. Getting you a hot meal was the least I could do.”

I took a sip. Bland, but edible and, most importantly, hot. I ate in silence, listening to the rustle of his clothes being donned, trying to think of ice baths, of infected wounds, of toe fungus—anything but his naked body, so close … and the bed I was sitting on. I poured myself a glass of wine—then filled his.

At last, Rhys squeezed between the bed and jutting corner of the wall, his wings tucked in close. He wore loose, thin pants, and a tight-fitting shirt of what looked to be softest cotton. “How do you get it over the wings?” I asked while he dug into his own stew.

“The back is made of slats that close with hidden buttons … But in normal circumstances, I just use magic to seal it shut.”

“It seems like you have a great deal of magic constantly in use at once.”

A shrug. “It helps me work off the strain of my power. The magic needs release—draining—or else it’ll build up and drive me insane. That’s why we call the Illyrian stones Siphons—they help them channel the power, empty it when necessary.”

“Actually insane?” I set aside the empty stew bowl and removed the lid from the meat pie.

“Actually insane. Or so I was warned. I can feel it, though—the pull of it, if I go too long without releasing it.”

“That’s horrible.”

Another shrug. “Everything has its cost, Feyre. If the price of being strong enough to shield my people is that I have to struggle with that same power, then I don’t mind. Amren taught me enough about controlling it. Enough that I owe a great deal to her. Including the current shield around my city while we’re here.”

Everyone around him had some use, some mighty skill. And yet there I was … nothing more than a strange hybrid. More trouble than I was worth.

“You’re not,” he said.

“Don’t read my thoughts.”

“I can’t help what you sometimes shout down the bond. And besides, everything is usually written on your face, if you know where to look. Which made your performance today so much more impressive.”

He set aside his stew just as I finished devouring my meat pie, and I slid back on the bed to the pillows, cupping my glass of wine between my chilled hands. I watched him eat while I drank. “Did you think I would go with him?”

He paused mid-bite, then lowered his fork. “I heard every word between you. I knew you could take care of yourself, and yet … ” He went back to his pie, swallowing a bite before continuing. “And yet I found myself deciding that if you took his hand, I would find a way to live with it. It would be your choice.”

Prev Next