A Court of Mist and Fury Page 31

Rhys leaned a broad shoulder against the carved oak threshold that led into the sitting room and crossed his arms. “This is my house. Well, I have two homes in the city. One is for more … official business, but this is only for me and my family.”

I listened for any servants but heard none. Good—maybe that was good, rather than have people weeping and gawking.

“Nuala and Cerridwen are here,” he said, reading my glance down the hall behind us. “But other than that, it’ll just be the two of us.”

I tensed. It wasn’t that things had been any different at the Night Court itself, but—this house was much, much smaller. There would be no escaping him. Save for the city outside.

There were no cities left in our mortal territory. Though some had sprung up on the main continent, full of art and learning and trade. Elain had once wanted to go with me. I didn’t suppose I’d ever get that chance now.

Rhysand opened his mouth, but then the silhouettes of two tall, powerful bodies appeared on the other side of the front door’s fogged glass. One of them banged on it with a fist.

“Hurry up, you lazy ass,” a deep male voice drawled from the antechamber beyond. Exhaustion drugged me so heavily that I didn’t particularly care that there were wings peeking over their two shadowy forms.

Rhys didn’t so much as blink toward the door. “Two things, Feyre darling.”

The pounding continued, followed by the second male murmuring to his companion, “If you’re going to pick a fight with him, do it after breakfast.” That voice—like shadows given form, dark and smooth and … cold.

“I wasn’t the one who hauled me out of bed just now to fly down here,” the first one said. Then added, “Busybody.”

I could have sworn a smile tugged on Rhys’s lips as he went on, “One, no one—no one—but Mor and I are able to winnow directly inside this house. It is warded, shielded, and then warded some more. Only those I wish—and you wish—may enter. You are safe here; and safe anywhere in this city, for that matter. Velaris’s walls are well protected and have not been breached in five thousand years. No one with ill intent enters this city unless I allow it. So go where you wish, do what you wish, and see who you wish. Those two in the antechamber,” he added, eyes sparkling, “might not be on that list of people you should bother knowing, if they keep banging on the door like children.”

Another pound, emphasized by the first male voice saying, “You know we can hear you, prick.”

“Secondly,” Rhys went on, “in regard to the two bastards at my door, it’s up to you whether you want to meet them now, or head upstairs like a wise person, take a nap since you’re still looking a little peaky, and then change into city-appropriate clothing while I beat the hell out of one of them for talking to his High Lord like that.”

There was such light in his eyes. It made him look … younger, somehow. More mortal. So at odds with the icy rage I’d seen earlier when I’d awoken …

Awoken on that couch, and then decided I wasn’t returning home.

Decided that, perhaps, the Spring Court might not be my home.

I was drowning in that old heaviness, clawing my way up to a surface that might not ever exist. I’d slept for the Mother knew how long, and yet … “Just come get me when they’re gone.”

That joy dimmed, and Rhys looked like he might say something else, but a female voice—crisp and edged—now sounded behind the two males in the antechamber. “You Illyrians are worse than cats yowling to be let in the back door.” The knob jangled. She sighed sharply. “Really, Rhysand? You locked us out?”

Fighting to keep that immense heaviness at bay a bit longer, I made for the stairs—at the top of which now stood Nuala and Cerridwen, wincing at the front door. I could have sworn Cerridwen subtly gestured me to hurry up. And I might have kissed both twins for that bit of normalcy.

I might have kissed Rhys, too, for waiting to open the front door until I was halfway down the cerulean-blue hallway on the second level.

All I heard was that first male voice declare, “Welcome home, bastard,” followed by the shadowy male voice saying, “I sensed you were back. Mor filled me in, but I—”

That strange female voice cut him off. “Send your dogs out in the yard to play, Rhysand. You and I have matters to discuss.”

That midnight voice said with quiet cold that licked down my spine, “As do I.”

Then the cocky one drawled to her, “We were here first. Wait your turn, Tiny Ancient One.”

On either side of me, Nuala and Cerridwen flinched, either from holding in laughter or some vestige of fear, or perhaps both. Definitely both as a feminine snarl sliced through the house—albeit a bit halfheartedly.

The upstairs hall was punctuated with chandeliers of swirled, colored glass, illuminating the few polished doors on either side. I wondered which belonged to Rhysand—and then wondered which one belonged to Mor as I heard her yawn amid the fray below:

“Why is everyone here so early? I thought we were meeting tonight at the House.”

Below, Rhysand grumbled—grumbled—“Trust me, there’s no party. Only a massacre, if Cassian doesn’t shut his mouth.”

“We’re hungry,” that first male—Cassian—complained. “Feed us. Someone told me there’d be breakfast.”

“Pathetic,” that strange female voice quipped. “You idiots are pathetic.”

Mor said, “We know that’s true. But is there food?”

I heard the words—heard and processed them. And then they floated into the blackness of my mind.

Nuala and Cerridwen opened a door, leading to a fire-warmed, sunlit room. It faced a walled, winter-kissed garden in the back of the town house, the large windows peering over the sleeping stone fountain in its center, drained for the season. Everything in the bedroom itself was of rich wood and soft white, with touches of subtle sage. It felt, strangely enough, almost human.

And the bed—massive, plush, adorned in quilts and duvets of cream and ivory to keep out the winter chill—that looked the most welcoming of all.

But I wasn’t so far gone that I couldn’t ask a few basic questions—to at least give myself the illusion of caring a bit about my own welfare.

“Who was that?” I managed to say as they shut the door behind us.

Nuala headed for the small attached bathing room—white marble, a claw-foot tub, more sunny windows that overlooked the garden wall and the thick line of cypress trees that stood watch behind it. Cerridwen, already stalking for the armoire, cringed a bit and said over a shoulder, “They’re Rhysand’s Inner Circle.”

The ones I’d heard mentioned that day at the Night Court—who Rhys kept going to meet. “I wasn’t aware that High Lords kept things so casual,” I admitted.

“They don’t,” Nuala said, returning from the bathing room with a brush. “But Rhysand does.”

Apparently, my hair was a mess, because Nuala brushed it as Cerridwen pulled out some ivory sleeping clothes—a warm and soft lace-trimmed top and pants.

I took in the clothes, then the room, then the winter garden and the slumbering fountain beyond, and Rhysand’s earlier words clicked into place.

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