A Court of Mist and Fury Page 24

“You’ve given enough, Feyre.”

“I know. But … ” I faced him. Met his stare—the full power of the High Lord of the Spring Court. “I’m harder to kill now. I’m faster, stronger—”

“My family was faster and stronger than you. And they were murdered quite easily.”

“Then marry someone who can put up with this.”

He blinked. Slowly. Then he said with terrible softness, “Do you not want to marry me, then?”

I tried not to look at the ring on my finger, at that emerald. “Of course I do. Of course I do.” My voice broke. “But you … Tamlin … ” The walls pushed in on me. The quiet, the guards, the stares. What I’d seen at the Tithe today. “I’m drowning,” I managed to say. “I am drowning. And the more you do this, the more guards … You might as well be shoving my head under the water.”

Nothing in those eyes, that face.

But then—

I cried out, instinct taking over as his power blasted through the room.

The windows shattered.

The furniture splintered.

And that box of paints and brushes and paper …

It exploded into dust and glass and wood.

CHAPTER

10

One breath, the study was intact.

The next, it was shards of nothing, a shell of a room.

None of it had touched me from where I had dropped to the floor, my hands over my head.

Tamlin was panting, the ragged breaths almost like sobs.

I was shaking—shaking so hard I thought my bones would splinter as the furniture had—but I made myself lower my arms and look at him.

There was devastation on that face. And pain. And fear. And grief.

Around me, no debris had fallen—as if he had shielded me.

Tamlin took a step toward me, over that invisible demarcation.

He recoiled as if he’d hit something solid.

“Feyre,” he rasped.

He stepped again—and that line held.

“Feyre, please,” he breathed.

And I realized that the line, that bubble of protection …

It was from me.

A shield. Not just a mental one—but a physical one, too.

I didn’t know what High Lord it had come from, who controlled air or wind or any of that. Perhaps one of the Solar Courts. I didn’t care.

“Feyre,” Tamlin groaned a third time, pushing a hand against what indeed looked like an invisible, curved wall of hardened air. “Please. Please.”

Those words cracked something in me. Cracked me open.

Perhaps they cracked that shield of solid wind as well, for his hand shot through it.

Then he stepped over that line between chaos and order, danger and safety.

He dropped to his knees, taking my face in his hands. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

I couldn’t stop trembling.

“I’ll try,” he breathed. “I’ll try to be better. I don’t … I can’t control it sometimes. The rage. Today was just … today was bad. With the Tithe, with all of it. Today—let’s forget it, let’s just move past it. Please.”

I didn’t fight as he slid his arms around me, tucking me in tightly enough that his warmth soaked through me. He buried his face in my neck and said onto my nape, as if the words would be absorbed by my body, as if he could only say it the way we’d always been good at communicating—skin to skin, “I couldn’t save you before. I couldn’t protect you from them. And when you said that, about … about me drowning you … Am I any better than they were?”

I should have told him it wasn’t true, but … I had spoken with my heart. Or what was left of it.

“I’ll try to be better,” he said again. “Please—give me more time. Let me … let me get through this. Please.”

Get through what? I wanted to ask. But words had abandoned me. I realized I hadn’t spoken yet.

Realized he was waiting for an answer—and that I didn’t have one.

So I put my arms around him, because body to body was the only way I could speak, too.

It was answer enough. “I’m sorry,” he said again. He didn’t stop murmuring it for minutes.

You’ve given enough, Feyre.

Perhaps he was right. And perhaps I didn’t have anything left to give, anyway.

I looked over his shoulder as I held him.

The red paint had splattered on the wall behind us. And as I watched it slide down the cracked wood paneling, I thought it looked like blood.

Tamlin didn’t stop apologizing for days. He made love to me, morning and night. He worshipped my body with his hands, his tongue, his teeth. But that had never been the hard part. We just got tripped up with the rest.

But he was good for his word.

There were fewer guards as I walked the grounds. Some remained, but no one haunted my steps. I even went on a ride through the wood without an escort.

Though I knew the stable hands had reported to Tamlin the moment I’d left—and returned.

Tamlin never mentioned that shield of solid wind I’d used against him. And things were good enough that I didn’t dare bring it up, either.

The days passed in a blur. Tamlin was away more often than not, and whenever he returned, he didn’t tell me anything. I’d long since stopped pestering him for answers. A protector—that’s who he was, and would always be. What I had wanted when I was cold and hard and joyless; what I had needed to melt the ice of bitter years on the cusp of starvation.

I didn’t have the nerve to wonder what I wanted or needed now. Who I had become.

So with idleness my only option, I spent my days in the library. Practicing my reading and writing. Adding to that mental shield, brick by brick, layer by layer. Sometimes seeing if I could summon that physical wall of solid air, too. Savoring the silence, even as it crept into my veins, my head.

Some days, I didn’t speak to anyone at all. Even Alis.

I awoke each night, shaking and panting. And became glad when Tamlin wasn’t there to witness it. When I, too, didn’t witness him being yanked from his dreams, cold sweat coating his body. Or shifting into that beast and staying awake until dawn, monitoring the estate for threats. What could I say to calm those fears, when I was the source of so many of them?

But he returned for an extended stay about two weeks after the Tithe—and I’d decided to try to talk, to interact. I owed it to him to try. Owed it to myself.

He seemed to have the same idea. And the first time in a while … things felt normal. Or as normal as they could be.

I awoke one morning to the sound of low, deep voices in the hallway outside my bedroom. Closing my eyes, I nestled into the pillow and pulled the blankets higher. Despite our morning roll in the sheets, I’d been rising later every day—sometimes not bothering to get out of bed until lunch.

A growl cut through the walls, and I opened my eyes again.

“Get out,” Tamlin warned.

There was a quiet response—too soft for me to make out beyond basic mumbling.

“I’ll say it one last time—”

He was interrupted by that voice, and the hair on my arms rose. I studied the tattoo on my forearm as I did a tally. No—no, today couldn’t have come so quickly.

Kicking back the covers, I rushed to the door, realizing halfway there that I was naked. Thanks to Tamlin, my clothes had been shredded and flung across the other side of the room, and I had no robe in sight. I grabbed a blanket from a nearby chair and wrapped it around me before opening the door a crack.

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