A Court of Mist and Fury Page 120

My heart stopped beating.

“And that time, I pushed a thought back. Of the night sky—of the image that brought me joy when I needed it most. Open night sky, stars, and the moon. I didn’t know if it was received, but I tried, anyway.”

I wasn’t sure I was breathing.

“Those dreams—the flashes of that person, that woman … I treasured them. They were a reminder that there was some peace out there in the world, some light. That there was a place, and a person, who had enough safety to paint flowers on a table. They went on for years, until … a year ago. I was sleeping next to Amarantha, and I jolted awake from this dream … this dream that was clearer and brighter, like that fog had been wiped away. She—you were dreaming. I was in your dream, watching as you had a nightmare about some woman slitting your throat, while you were chased by the Bogge … I couldn’t reach you, speak to you. But you were seeing our kind. And I realized that the fog had probably been the wall, and that you … you were now in Prythian.

“I saw you through your dreams—and I hoarded the images, sorting through them over and over again, trying to place where you were, who you were. But you had such horrible nightmares, and the creatures belonged to all courts. I’d wake up with your scent in my nose, and it would haunt me all day, every step. But then one night, you dreamed of standing amongst green hills, seeing unlit bonfires for Calanmai.”

There was such silence in my head.

“I knew there was only one celebration that large; I knew those hills—and I knew you’d probably be there. So I told Amarantha … ” Rhys swallowed. “I told her that I wanted to go to the Spring Court for the celebration, to spy on Tamlin and see if anyone showed up wishing to conspire with him. We were so close to the deadline for the curse that she was paranoid—restless. She told me to bring back traitors. I promised her I would.”

His eyes lifted to mine again.

“I got there, and I could smell you. So I tracked that scent, and … And there you were. Human—utterly human, and being dragged away by those piece-of-shit picts, who wanted to … ” He shook his head. “I debated slaughtering them then and there, but then they shoved you, and I just … moved. I started speaking without knowing what I was saying, only that you were there, and I was touching you, and … ” He loosed a shuddering breath.

There you are. I’ve been looking for you.

His first words to me—not a lie at all, not a threat to keep those faeries away.

Thank you for finding her for me.

I had the vague feeling of the world slipping out from under my feet like sand washing away from the shore.

“You looked at me,” Rhys said, “and I knew you had no idea who I was. That I might have seen your dreams, but you hadn’t seen mine. And you were just … human. You were so young, and breakable, and had no interest in me whatsoever, and I knew that if I stayed too long, someone would see and report back, and she’d find you. So I started walking away, thinking you’d be glad to get rid of me. But then you called after me, like you couldn’t let go of me just yet, whether you knew it or not. And I knew … I knew we were on dangerous ground, somehow. I knew that I could never speak to you, or see you, or think of you again.

“I didn’t want to know why you were in Prythian; I didn’t even want to know your name. Because seeing you in my dreams had been one thing, but in person … Right then, deep down, I think I knew what you were. And I didn’t let myself admit it, because if there was the slightest chance that you were my mate … They would have done such unspeakable things to you, Feyre.

“So I let you walk away. I told myself after you were gone that maybe … maybe the Cauldron had been kind, and not cruel, for letting me see you. Just once. A gift for what I was enduring. And when you were gone, I found those three picts. I broke into their minds, reshaping their lives, their histories, and dragged them before Amarantha. I made them confess to conspiring to find other rebels that night. I made them lie and claim that they hated her. I watched her carve them up while they were still alive, protesting their innocence. I enjoyed it—because I knew what they had wanted to do to you. And knew that it would have paled in comparison to what Amarantha would have done if she’d found you.”

I wrapped a hand around my throat. I had my reasons to be out then, he’d once said to me Under the Mountain. Do not think, Feyre, that it did not cost me.

Rhys kept staring at the table as he said, “I didn’t know. That you were with Tamlin. That you were staying at the Spring Court. Amarantha sent me that day after the Summer Solstice because I’d been so successful on Calanmai. I was prepared to mock him, maybe pick a fight. But then I got into that room, and the scent was familiar, but hidden … And then I saw the plate, and felt the glamour, and … There you were. Living in my second-most enemy’s house. Dining with him. Reeking of his scent. Looking at him like … Like you loved him.”

The whites of his knuckles showed.

“And I decided that I had to scare Tamlin. I had to scare you, and Lucien, but mostly Tamlin. Because I saw how he looked at you, too. So what I did that day … ” His lips were pale, tight. “I broke into your mind and held it enough that you felt it, that it terrified you, hurt you. I made Tamlin beg—as Amarantha had made me beg, to show him how powerless he was to save you. And I prayed my performance was enough to get him to send you away. Back to the human realm, away from Amarantha. Because she was going to find you. If you broke that curse, she was going to find you and kill you.

“But I was so selfish—I was so stupidly selfish that I couldn’t walk away without knowing your name. And you were looking at me like I was a monster, so I told myself it didn’t matter, anyway. But you lied when I asked. I knew you did. I had your mind in my hands, and you had the defiance and foresight to lie to my face. So I walked away from you again. I vomited my guts up as soon as I left.”

My lips wobbled, and I pressed them together.

“I checked back once. To ensure you were gone. I went with them the day they sacked the manor—to make my performance complete. I told Amarantha the name of that girl, thinking you’d invented it. I had no idea … I had no idea she’d send her cronies to retrieve Clare. But if I admitted my lie … ” He swallowed hard. “I broke into Clare’s head when they brought her Under the Mountain. I took away her pain, and told her to scream when expected to. So they … they did those things to her, and I tried to make it right, but … After a week, I couldn’t let them do it. Hurt her like that anymore. So while they tortured her, I slipped into her mind again and ended it. She didn’t feel any pain. She felt none of what they did to her, even at the end. But … But I still see her. And my men. And the others that I killed for Amarantha.”

Two tears slid down his cheeks, swift and cold.

He didn’t wipe them away as he said, “I thought it was done after that. With Clare’s death, Amarantha believed you were dead. So you were safe, and far away, and my people were safe, and Tamlin had lost, so … it was done. We were done. But then … I was in the back of the throne room that day the Attor brought you in. And I have never known such horror, Feyre, as I did when I watched you make that bargain. Irrational, stupid terror—I didn’t know you. I didn’t even know your name. But I thought of those painter’s hands, the flowers I’d seen you create. And how she’d delight in breaking your fingers apart. I had to stand and watch as the Attor and its cronies beat you. I had to watch the disgust and hatred on your face as you looked at me, watched me threaten to shatter Lucien’s mind. And then—then I learned your name. Hearing you say it … it was like an answer to a question I’d been asking for five hundred years.

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