A Court of Mist and Fury Page 13

At least the tattoo, visible through the sheer sleeve, wouldn’t be out of place here. But—the clothes were still a part of this court.

And no doubt part of some game he intended to play with me.

At the very end of the upper level, a small glass table gleamed like quicksilver in the heart of a stone veranda, set with three chairs and laden with fruits, juices, pastries, and breakfast meats. And in one of those chairs … Though Rhys stared out at the sweeping view, the snowy mountains near-blinding in the sunlight, I knew he’d sensed my arrival from the moment I cleared the stairwell at the other side of the hall. Maybe since I’d awoken, if that tug was any indication.

I paused between the last two pillars, studying the High Lord lounging at the breakfast table and the view he surveyed.

“I’m not a dog to be summoned,” I said by way of greeting.

Slowly, Rhys looked over his shoulder. Those violet eyes were vibrant in the light, and I curled my fingers into fists as they swept from my head to my toes and back up again. He frowned at whatever he found lacking. “I didn’t want you to get lost,” he said blandly.

My head throbbed, and I eyed the silver teapot steaming in the center of the table. A cup of tea … “I thought it’d always be dark here,” I said, if only to not look quite as desperate for that life-giving tea so early in the morning.

“We’re one of the three Solar Courts,” he said, motioning for me to sit with a graceful twist of his wrist. “Our nights are far more beautiful, and our sunsets and dawns are exquisite, but we do adhere to the laws of nature.”

I slid into the upholstered chair across from him. His tunic was unbuttoned at the neck, revealing a hint of the tanned chest beneath. “And do the other courts choose not to?”

“The nature of the Seasonal Courts,” he said, “is linked to their High Lords, whose magic and will keeps them in eternal spring, or winter, or fall, or summer. It has always been like that—some sort of strange stagnation. But the Solar Courts—Day, Dawn, and Night—are of a more … symbolic nature. We might be powerful, but even we cannot alter the sun’s path or strength. Tea?”

The sunlight danced along the curve of the silver teapot. I kept my eager nod to a restrained dip of my chin. “But you will find,” Rhysand went on, pouring a cup for me, “that our nights are more spectacular—so spectacular that some in my territory even awaken at sunset and go to bed at dawn, just to live under the starlight.”

I splashed some milk in the tea, watching the light and dark eddy together. “Why is it so warm in here, when winter is in full blast out there?”

“Magic.”

“Obviously.” I set down my teaspoon and sipped, nearly sighing at the rush of heat and smoky, rich flavor. “But why?”

Rhys scanned the wind tearing through the peaks. “You heat a house in the winter—why shouldn’t I heat this place as well? I’ll admit I don’t know why my predecessors built a palace fit for the Summer Court in the middle of a mountain range that’s mildly warm at best, but who am I to question?”

I took a few more sips, that headache already lessening, and dared to scoop some fruit onto my plate from a glass bowl nearby.

He watched every movement. Then he said quietly, “You’ve lost weight.”

“You’re prone to digging through my head whenever you please,” I said, stabbing a piece of melon with my fork. “I don’t see why you’re surprised by it.”

His gaze didn’t lighten, though that smile again played about his sensuous mouth, no doubt his favorite mask. “Only occasionally will I do that. And I can’t help it if you send things down the bond.”

I contemplated refusing to ask as I had done last night, but … “How does it work—this bond that allows you to see into my head?”

He sipped from his own tea. “Think of the bargain’s bond as a bridge between us—and at either end is a door to our respective minds. A shield. My innate talents allow me to slip through the mental shields of anyone I wish, with or without that bridge—unless they’re very, very strong, or have trained extensively to keep those shields tight. As a human, the gates to your mind were flung open for me to stroll through. As Fae … ” A little shrug. “Sometimes, you unwittingly have a shield up—sometimes, when emotion seems to be running strong, that shield vanishes. And sometimes, when those shields are open, you might as well be standing at the gates to your mind, shouting your thoughts across the bridge to me. Sometimes I hear them; sometimes I don’t.”

I scowled, clenching my fork harder. “And how often do you just rifle through my mind when my shields are down?”

All amusement faded from his face. “When I can’t tell if your nightmares are real threats or imagined. When you’re about to be married and you silently beg anyone to help you. Only when you drop your mental shields and unknowingly blast those things down the bridge. And to answer your question before you ask, yes. Even with your shields up, I could get through them if I wished. You could train, though—learn how to shield against someone like me, even with the bond bridging our minds and my own abilities.”

I ignored the offer. Agreeing to do anything with him felt too permanent, too accepting of the bargain between us. “What do you want with me? You said you’d tell me here. So tell me.”

Rhys leaned back in his chair, folding powerful arms that even the fine clothes couldn’t hide. “For this week? I want you to learn how to read.”

CHAPTER

6

Rhysand had mocked me about it once—had asked me while we were Under the Mountain if forcing me to learn how to read would be my personal idea of torture.

“No, thank you,” I said, gripping my fork to keep from chucking it at his head.

“You’re going to be a High Lord’s wife,” Rhys said. “You’ll be expected to maintain your own correspondences, perhaps even give a speech or two. And the Cauldron knows what else he and Ianthe will deem appropriate for you. Make menus for dinner parties, write thank-you letters for all those wedding gifts, embroider sweet phrases on pillows … It’s a necessary skill. And, you know what? Why don’t we throw in shielding while we’re at it. Reading and shielding—fortunately, you can practice them together.”

“They are both necessary skills,” I said through my teeth, “but you are not going to teach me.”

“What else are you going to do with yourself? Paint? How’s that going these days, Feyre?”

“What the hell does it even matter to you?”

“It serves various purposes of mine, of course.”

“What. Purposes.”

“You’ll have to agree to work with me to find out, I’m afraid.”

Something sharp poked into my hand.

I’d folded the fork into a tangle of metal.

When I set it down on the table, Rhys chuckled. “Interesting.”

“You said that last night.”

“Am I not allowed to say it twice?”

“That’s not what I was implying and you know it.”

His gaze raked over me again, as if he could see beneath the peach fabric, through the skin, to the shredded soul beneath. Then it drifted to the mangled fork. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re rather strong for a High Fae?”

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