A Court of Mist and Fury Page 19

Slowly was the word he didn’t need to add.

“That’s why you stayed away—you were busy with that?”

“I was busy with many things.”

Not an answer. But it seemed he was done talking to me, and whoever Cassian and Azriel were, meeting with them was far more important.

So Rhys didn’t as much as say good-bye before he simply walked off the edge of the veranda—into thin air.

My heart stopped dead, but before I could cry out, he swept past, swift as the wicked wind between the peaks. A few booming wing beats had him vanishing into the storm clouds.

“Good-bye to you, too,” I grumbled, giving him a vulgar gesture, and started my work for the day, with only the storm raging beyond the house’s shield for company.

Even as snow lashed the protective magic of the hall, even as I toiled over the sentences—Rhysand is interesting; Rhysand is gorgeous; Rhysand is flawless—and raised and lowered my mental shield until my mind was limping, I thought of what I’d heard, what they’d said.

I wondered what Ianthe would know about the murders, if she knew any of the victims. Knew what Cesere was. If temples were being targeted, she should know. Tamlin should know.

That final night, I could barely sleep—half from relief, half from terror that perhaps Rhysand really did have some final, nasty surprise in store. But the night and the storm passed, and when dawn broke, I was dressed before the sun had fully risen.

I’d taken to eating in my rooms, but I swept up the stairs, heading across that massive open area, to the table at the far veranda.

Sprawled in his usual chair, Rhys was in the same clothes as yesterday, the collar of his black jacket unbuttoned, the shirt as rumpled as his hair. No wings, fortunately. I wondered if he’d just returned from wherever he’d met Mor and the others. Wondered what he’d learned.

“It’s been a week,” I said by way of greeting. “Take me home.”

Rhys took a long sip of whatever was in his cup. It didn’t look like tea. “Good morning, Feyre.”

“Take me home.”

He studied my teal and gold clothes, a variation of my daily attire. If I had to admit, I didn’t mind them. “That color suits you.”

“Do you want me to say please? Is that it?”

“I want you to talk to me like a person. Start with ‘good morning’ and let’s see where it gets us.”

“Good morning.”

A faint smile. Bastard. “Are you ready to face the consequences of your departure?”

I straightened. I hadn’t thought about the wedding. All week, yes, but today … today I’d only thought of Tamlin, of wanting to see him, hold him, ask him about everything Rhys had claimed. During the past several days, I hadn’t shown any signs of the power Rhysand believed I had, hadn’t felt anything stirring beneath my skin—and thank the Cauldron.

“It’s none of your business.”

“Right. You’ll probably ignore it, anyway. Sweep it under the rug, like everything else.”

“No one asked for your opinion, Rhysand.”

“Rhysand?” He chuckled, low and soft. “I give you a week of luxury and you call me Rhysand?”

“I didn’t ask to be here, or be given that week.”

“And yet look at you. Your face has some color—and those marks under your eyes are almost gone. Your mental shield is stellar, by the way.”

“Please take me home.”

He shrugged and rose. “I’ll tell Mor you said good-bye.”

“I barely saw her all week.” Just that first meeting—then that conversation yesterday. When we hadn’t exchanged two words.

“She was waiting for an invitation—she didn’t want to pester you. I wish she extended me the same courtesy.”

“No one told me.” I didn’t particularly care. No doubt she had better things to do, anyway.

“You didn’t ask. And why bother? Better to be miserable and alone.” He approached, each step smooth, graceful. His hair was definitely ruffled, as if he’d been dragging his hands through it. Or just flying for hours to whatever secret spot. “Have you thought about my offer?”

“I’ll let you know next month.”

He stopped a hand’s breadth away, his golden face tight. “I told you once, and I’ll tell you again,” he said. “I am not your enemy.”

“And I told you once, so I’ll tell you again. You’re Tamlin’s enemy. So I suppose that makes you mine.”

“Does it?”

“Free me from my bargain and let’s find out.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Can’t, or won’t?”

He just extended his hand. “Shall we go?”

I nearly lunged for it. His fingers were cool, sturdy—callused from weapons I’d never seen on him.

Darkness gobbled us up, and it was instinct to grab him as the world vanished from beneath my feet. Winnowing indeed. Wind tore at me, and his arm was a warm, heavy weight across my back while we tumbled through realms, Rhys snickering at my terror.

But then solid ground—flagstones—were under me, then blinding sunshine above, greenery, little birds chirping—

I shoved away from him, blinking at the brightness, at the massive oak hunched over us. An oak at the edge of the formal gardens—of home.

I made to bolt for the manor house, but Rhys gripped my wrist. His eyes flashed between me and the manor. “Good luck,” he crooned.

“Get your hand off me.”

He chuckled, letting go.

“I’ll see you next month,” he said, and before I could spit on him, he vanished.

I found Tamlin in his study, Lucien and two other sentries standing around the map-covered worktable.

Lucien was the first to turn to where I lurked in the doorway, falling silent mid-sentence. But then Tamlin’s head snapped up, and he was racing across the room, so fast that I hardly had time to draw breath before he was crushing me against him.

I murmured his name as my throat burned, and then—

Then he was holding me at arm’s length, scanning me from head to toe. “Are you all right? Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine,” I said, noticing the exact moment when he realized the Night Court clothes I was wearing, the strip of bare skin exposed at my midriff. “No one touched me.”

But he kept scouring my face, my neck. And then he rotated me, examining my back, as if he could discern through the clothes. I tore out of his grip. “I said no one touched me.”

He was breathing hard, his eyes wild. “You’re all right,” he said. And then said it again. And again.

My heart cracked, and I reached to cup his cheek. “Tamlin,” I murmured. Lucien and the other sentries, wisely, made their exit. My friend caught my gaze as he left, giving me a relieved smile.

“He can harm you in other ways,” Tamlin croaked, closing his eyes against my touch.

“I know—but I’m all right. I truly am,” I said as gently as I could. And then noticed the study walls—the claw marks raked down them. All over them. And the table they’d been using … that was new. “You trashed the study.”

“I trashed half the house,” he said, leaning forward to press his brow to mine. “He took you away, he stole you—”

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