A Court of Mist and Fury Page 121

“I decided, then and there, that I was going to fight. And I would fight dirty, and kill and torture and manipulate, but I was going to fight. If there was a shot of freeing us from Amarantha, you were it. I thought … I thought the Cauldron had been sending me these dreams to tell me that you would be the one to save us. Save my people.

“So I watched your first trial. Pretending—always pretending to be that person you hated. When you were hurt so badly against the Wyrm … I found my way in with you. A way to defy Amarantha, to spread the seeds of hope to those who knew how to read the message, and a way to keep you alive without seeming too suspicious. And a way to get back at Tamlin … To use him against Amarantha, yes, but … To get back at him for my mother and sister, and for … having you. When we made that bargain, you were so hateful that I knew I’d done my job well.

“So we endured it. I made you dress like that so Amarantha wouldn’t suspect, and made you drink the wine so you would not remember the nightly horrors in that mountain. And that last night, when I found you two in the hall … I was jealous. I was jealous of him, and pissed off that he’d used that one shot of being unnoticed not to get you out, but to be with you, and … Amarantha saw that jealousy. She saw me kissing you to hide the evidence, but she saw why. For the first time, she saw why. So that night, after I left you, I had to … service her. She kept me there longer than usual, trying to squeeze the answers out of me. But I gave her what she wanted to hear: that you were nothing, that you were human garbage, that I’d use and discard you. Afterward … I wanted to see you. One last time. Alone. I thought about telling you everything—but who I’d become, who you thought I was … I didn’t dare shatter that deception.

“But your final trial came, and … When she started torturing you, something snapped in a way I couldn’t explain, only that seeing you bleeding and screaming undid me. It broke me at last. And I knew as I picked up that knife to kill her … I knew right then what you were. I knew that you were my mate, and you were in love with another male, and had destroyed yourself to save him, and that … that I didn’t care. If you were going to die, I was going to die with you. I couldn’t stop thinking it over and over as you screamed, as I tried to kill her: you were my mate, my mate, my mate.

“But then she snapped your neck.”

Tears rolled down his face.

“And I felt you die,” he whispered.

Tears were sliding down my own cheeks.

“And this beautiful, wonderful thing that had come into my life, this gift from the Cauldron … It was gone. In my desperation, I clung to that bond. Not the bargain—the bargain was nothing, the bargain was like a cobweb. But I grabbed that bond between us and I tugged, I willed you to hold on, to stay with me, because if we could get free … If we could get free, then all seven of us were there. We could bring you back. And I didn’t care if I had to slice into all of their minds to do it. I’d make them save you.” His hands were shaking. “You’d freed us with your last breath, and my power—I wrapped my power around the bond. The mating bond. I could feel you flickering there, holding on.”

Home. Home had been at the end of the bond, I’d told the Bone Carver. Not Tamlin, not the Spring Court, but … Rhysand.

“So Amarantha died, and I spoke to the High Lords mind to mind, convincing them to come forward, to offer that spark of power. None of them disagreed. I think they were too stunned to think of saying no. And … I again had to watch as Tamlin held you. Kissed you. I wanted to go home, to Velaris, but I had to stay, to make sure things were set in motion, that you were all right. So I waited as long as I could, then I sent a tug through the bond. Then you came to find me.

“I almost told you then, but … You were so sad. And tired. And for once, you looked at me like … like I was worth something. So I promised myself that the next time I saw you, I’d free you of the bargain. Because I was selfish, and knew that if I let go right then, he’d lock you up and I’d never get to see you again. When I went to leave you … I think transforming you into Fae made the bond lock into place permanently. I’d known it existed, but it hit me then—hit me so strong that I panicked. I knew if I stayed a second longer, I’d damn the consequences and take you with me. And you’d hate me forever.

“I landed at the Night Court, right as Mor was waiting for me, and I was so frantic, so … unhinged, that I told her everything. I hadn’t seen her in fifty years, and my first words to her were, ‘She’s my mate.’ And for three months … for three months I tried to convince myself that you were better off without me. I tried to convince myself that everything I’d done had made you hate me. But I felt you through the bond, through your open mental shields. I felt your pain, and sadness, and loneliness. I felt you struggling to escape the darkness of Amarantha the same way I was. I heard you were going to marry him, and I told myself you were happy. I should let you be happy, even if it killed me. Even if you were my mate, you’d earned that happiness.

“The day of your wedding, I’d planned to get rip-roaring drunk with Cassian, who had no idea why, but … But then I felt you again. I felt your panic, and despair, and heard you beg someone—anyone—to save you. I lost it. I winnowed to the wedding, and barely remembered who I was supposed to be, the part I was supposed to play. All I could see was you, in your stupid wedding dress—so thin. So, so thin, and pale. And I wanted to kill him for it, but I had to get you out. Had to call in that bargain, just once, to get you away, to see if you were all right.”

Rhys looked up at me, eyes desolate. “It killed me, Feyre, to send you back. To see you waste away, month by month. It killed me to know he was sharing your bed. Not just because you were my mate, but because I … ” He glanced down, then up at me again. “I knew … I knew I was in love with you that moment I picked up the knife to kill Amarantha.

“When you finally came here … I decided I wouldn’t tell you. Any of it. I wouldn’t let you out of the bargain, because your hatred was better than facing the two alternatives: that you felt nothing for me, or that you … you might feel something similar, and if I let myself love you, you would be taken from me. The way my family was—the way my friends were. So I didn’t tell you. I watched as you faded away. Until that day … that day he locked you up.

“I would have killed him if he’d been there. But I broke some very, very fundamental rules in taking you away. Amren said if I got you to admit that we were mates, it would keep any trouble from our door, but … I couldn’t force the bond on you. I couldn’t try to seduce you into accepting the bond, either. Even if it gave Tamlin license to wage war on me. You had been through so much already. I didn’t want you to think that everything I did was to win you, just to keep my lands safe. But I couldn’t … I couldn’t stop being around you, and loving you, and wanting you. I still can’t stay away.”

He leaned back, loosing a long breath.

Slowly, I turned around, to where the soup was now boiling, and ladled it into a bowl.

He watched every step I took to the table, the steaming bowl in my hands.

I stopped before him, staring down.

Prev Next