A Court of Mist and Fury Page 117

She looked at the paint on my skin, in my hair. At the brush in my hand.

And then at what I had done.

Mor stepped in from the brisk spring night and let out a low whistle as she shut the door. “Well, you’ve certainly been busy.”

Indeed.

I’d painted nearly every surface in the main room.

And not with just broad swaths of color, but with decorations—little images. Some were basic: clusters of icicles drooping down the sides of the threshold. They melted into the first shoots of spring, then burst into full blooms of summer, before brightening and deepening into fall leaves. I’d painted a ring of flowers round the card table by the window; leaves and crackling flames around the dining table.

But in between the intricate decorations, I’d painted them. Bits and pieces of Mor, and Cassian, and Azriel, and Amren … and Rhys.

Mor went up to the large hearth, where I’d painted the mantel in black shimmering with veins of gold and red. Up close, it was a solid, pretty bit of paint. But from the couch … “Illyrian wings,” she said. “Ugh, they’ll never stop gloating about it.”

But she went to the window, which I’d framed in tumbling strands of gold and brass and bronze. Mor fingered her hair, cocking her head. “Nice,” she said, surveying the room again.

Her eyes fell on the open threshold to the bedroom hallway, and she grimaced. “Why,” she said, “are Amren’s eyes there?”

Indeed, right above the door, in the center of the archway, I’d painted a pair of glowing silver eyes. “Because she’s always watching.”

Mor snorted. “That simply won’t do. Paint my eyes next to hers. So the males of this family will know we’re both watching them the next time they come up here to get drunk for a week straight.”

“They do that?”

“They used to.” Before Amarantha. “Every autumn, the three of them would lock themselves in this house for five days and drink and drink and hunt and hunt, and they’d come back to Velaris looking halfway to death but grinning like fools. It warms my heart to know that from now on, they’ll have to do it with me and Amren staring at them.”

A smile tugged on my lips. “Who does this paint belong to?”

“Amren,” Mor said, rolling her eyes. “We were all here one summer, and she wanted to teach herself to paint. She did it for about two days before she got bored and decided to start hunting poor creatures instead.”

A quiet chuckle rasped out of me. I strode to the table, which I’d used as my main surface for blending and organizing paints. And maybe I was a coward, but I kept my back to her as I said, “Any news from my sisters?”

Mor started rifling through the cabinets, either to look for food or assess what I needed. She said over a shoulder, “No. Not yet.”

“Is he … hurt?” I’d left him in the freezing mud, injured and working the poison out of his system. I’d tried not to dwell on it while I’d painted.

“Still recovering, but fine. Pissed at me, of course, but he can shove it.”

I combined Mor’s yellow gold with the red I’d used for the Illyrian wings, and blended until vibrant orange emerged. “Thank you—for not telling him I was here.”

A shrug. Food began popping onto the counter: fresh bread, fruit, containers of something that I could smell from across the kitchen and made me nearly groan with hunger. “You should talk to him, though. Make him stew over it, of course, but … hear him out.” She didn’t look at me as she spoke. “Rhys always has his reasons, and he might be arrogant as all hell, but he’s usually right about his instincts. He makes mistakes, but … You should hear him out.”

I’d already decided that I would, but I said, “How was your visit to the Court of Nightmares?”

She paused, her face going uncharacteristically pale. “Fine. It’s always a delight to see my parents. As you might guess.”

“Is your father healing?” I added the cobalt of Azriel’s Siphons to the orange and mixed until a rich brown appeared.

A small, grim smile. “Slowly. I might have snapped some more bones when I visited. My mother has since banished me from their private quarters. Such a shame.”

Some feral part of me beamed in savage delight at that. “A pity indeed,” I said. I added a bit of frost white to lighten the brown, checked it against the gaze she slid to me, and grabbed a stool to stand on as I began painting the threshold. “Rhys really makes you do this often? Endure visiting them?”

Mor leaned against the counter. “Rhys gave me permission the day he became High Lord to kill them all whenever I pleased. I attend these meetings, go to the Court of Nightmares, to … remind them of that sometimes. And to keep communication between our two courts flowing, however strained it might be. If I were to march in there tomorrow and slaughter my parents, he wouldn’t blink. Perhaps be inconvenienced by it, but … he would be pleased.”

I focused on the speck of caramel brown I painted beside Amren’s eyes. “I’m sorry—for all that you endured.”

“Thank you,” she said, coming over to watch me. “Visiting them always leaves me raw.”

“Cassian seemed concerned.” Another prying question.

She shrugged. “Cassian, I think, would also savor the opportunity to shred that entire court to pieces. Starting with my parents. Maybe I’ll let him do it one year as a present. Him and Azriel both. It’d make a perfect solstice gift.”

I asked perhaps a bit too casually. “You told me about the time with Cassian, but did you and Azriel ever … ?”

A sharp laugh. “No. Azriel? After that time with Cassian, I swore off any of Rhys’s friends. Azriel’s got no shortage of lovers, though, don’t worry. He’s better at keeping them secret than we are, but … he has them.”

“So if he were ever interested would you … ?”

“The issue, actually, wouldn’t be me. It’d be him. I could peel off my clothes right in front of him and he wouldn’t move an inch. He might have defied and proved those Illyrian pricks wrong at every turn, but it won’t matter if Rhys makes him Prince of Velaris—he’ll see himself as a bastard-born nobody, and not good enough for anyone. Especially me.”

“But … are you interested?”

“Why are you asking such things?” Her voice became tight, sharp. More wary than I’d ever heard.

“I’m still trying to figure out how you all work together.”

A snort, that wariness gone. I tried not to look too relieved. “We have five centuries of tangled history for you to sort through. Good luck.”

Indeed. I finished her eyes—honey brown to Amren’s quicksilver. But almost in answer, Mor declared, “Paint Azriel’s. Next to mine. And Cassian’s next to Amren’s.”

I lifted my brows.

Mor gave me an innocent smile. “So we can all watch over you.”

I just shook my head and hopped off the stool to start figuring out how to paint hazel eyes.

Mor said quietly, “Is it so bad—to be his mate? To be a part of our court, our family, tangled history and all?”

I blended the paint in the small dish, the colors swirling together like so many entwined lives. “No,” I breathed. “No, it’s not.”

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