A Court of Mist and Fury Page 27

“Any time you need someone to play with,” Rhys said, pushing the plate toward me on a star-flecked wind, “whether it’s during our marvelous week together or otherwise, you let me know.”

I couldn’t muster up a response, exhausted from the bit of temper I’d shown.

And I realized I was in a free fall with no end. I had been for a while. From the moment I’d stabbed that Fae youth in the heart.

I didn’t look up at him again as I devoured the food.

The next morning, Tamlin was waiting in the shade of the gnarled, mighty oak tree in the garden.

A murderous expression twisted his face, directed solely at Rhys. Yet there was nothing amused in Rhys’s smile as he stepped back from me—only a cold, cunning predator gazing out.

Tamlin growled at me, “Get inside.”

I looked between the two High Lords. And seeing that fury in Tamlin’s face … I knew there would be no more solitary rides or walks through the grounds.

Rhys just said to me, “Fight it.”

And then he was gone.

“I’m fine,” I said to Tamlin, as his shoulders slumped, his head bowing.

“I will find a way to end this,” he swore.

I wanted to believe him. I knew he’d do anything to achieve it.

He made me again walk through every detail I had learned at Rhys’s home. Every conversation, however brief. I told him everything, each word quieter than the last.

Protect, protect, protect—I could see the word in his eyes, feel it in every thrust he made into my body that night. I had been taken from him once in the most permanent of ways, but never again.

The sentries returned in full force the next morning.

CHAPTER

12

During that first week back, I wasn’t allowed out of sight of the house.

Some nameless threat had broken onto the lands, and Tamlin and Lucien were called away to deal with it. I asked my friend to tell me what it was, yet … Lucien had that look he always did when he wanted to, but his loyalty to Tamlin got in the way. So I didn’t ask again.

While they were gone, Ianthe returned—to keep me company, protect me, I don’t know.

She was the only one allowed in. The semi-permanent gaggle of Spring Court lords and ladies at the manor had been dismissed, along with their personal servants. I was grateful for it, that I no longer would run into them while walking the halls of the manor, or the gardens, and have to dredge up a memory of their names, personal histories, no longer have to endure them trying not to stare at the tattoo, but … I knew Tamlin had liked having them around. Knew some of them were indeed old friends, knew he liked the manor being full of sound and laughter and chatter. Yet I’d found they all talked to each other like they were sparring partners. Pretty words masking sharp-edged insults.

I was glad for the silence—even as it became a weight on me, even as it filled my head until there was nothing inside of it beyond … emptiness.

Eternity. Was this to be my eternity?

I was burning through books every day—stories about people and places I’d never heard of. They were perhaps the only thing that kept me from teetering into utter despair.

Tamlin returned eight days later, brushing a kiss over my brow and looking me over, and then headed into the study. Where Ianthe had news for him.

That I was also not to hear.

Alone in the hall, watching as the hooded priestess led him toward the double doors at its other end, a glimmer of red—

My body tensed, instinct roaring through me as I whirled—

Not Amarantha.

Lucien.

The red hair was his, not hers. I was here, not in that dungeon—

My friend’s eyes—both metal and flesh—were fixed on my hands.

Where my nails were growing, curving. Not into talons of shadow, but claws that had shredded through my undergarments time and again—

Stop stop stop stop stop—

It did.

Like blowing out a candle, the claws vanished into a wisp of shadow.

Lucien’s gaze slid to Tamlin and Ianthe, unaware of what had happened, and then he silently inclined his head, motioning for me to follow.

We took the sweeping stairs to the second level, the halls deserted. I didn’t look at the paintings flanking either side. Didn’t look beyond the towering windows to the bright gardens.

We passed my bedroom door, passed his own—until we entered a small study on the second level, mostly left unused.

He shut the door after I’d entered the room, and leaned against the wood panel.

“How long have the claws been appearing?” he said softly.

“That was the first time.” My voice rang hollow and dull in my ears.

Lucien surveyed me—the vibrant fuchsia gown Ianthe had selected that morning, the face I didn’t bother to set into a pleasant expression …

“There’s only so much I can do,” he said hoarsely. “But I’ll ask him tonight. About the training. The powers will manifest whether we train you or not, no matter who is around. I’ll ask him tonight,” he repeated.

I already knew what the answer would be, though.

Lucien didn’t stop me as I opened the door he’d been leaning against and left without another word. I slept until dinner, roused myself enough to eat—and when I went downstairs, the raised voices of Tamlin, Lucien, and Ianthe sent me right back to the steps.

They will hunt her, and kill her, Ianthe had hissed at Lucien.

Lucien had growled back, They’ll do it anyway, so what’s the difference?

The difference, Ianthe had seethed, lies in us having the advantage of this knowledge—it won’t be Feyre alone who is targeted for the gifts stolen from those High Lords. Your children, she then said to Tamlin, will also have such power. Other High Lords will know that. And if they do not kill Feyre outright, then they might realize what they stand to gain if gifted with offspring from her, too.

My stomach had turned over at the implication. That I might be stolen—and kept—for … breeding. Surely … surely no High Lord would go so far.

If they were to do that, Lucien had countered, none of the other High Lords would stand with them. They would face the wrath of six courts bearing down on them. No one is that stupid.

Rhysand is that stupid, Ianthe had spat. And with that power of his, he could potentially withstand it. Imagine, she said, voice softening as she had no doubt turned to Tamlin, a day might come when he does not return her. You hear the poisoned lies he whispers in her ear. There are other ways around it, she had added with such quiet venom. We might not be able to deal with him, but there are some friends that I made across the sea …

We are not assassins, Lucien had cut in. Rhys is what he is, but who would take his place—

My blood went cold, and I could have sworn ice frosted my fingertips.

Lucien had gone on, his tone pleading, Tamlin. Tam. Just let her train, let her master this—if the other High Lords do come for her, let her stand a chance …

Silence fell as they let Tamlin consider.

My feet began moving the moment I heard the first word out of his mouth, barely more than a growl. No.

With each step up the stairs, I heard the rest.

We give them no reason to suspect she might have any abilities, which training will surely do. Don’t give me that look, Lucien.

Silence again.

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