A Court of Mist and Fury Page 35

Around us, the city twinkled, the stars themselves seeming to hang lower, pulsing with ruby and amethyst and pearl. Above, the full moon set the marble of the buildings and bridges glowing as if they were all lit from within. Music played, strings and gentle drums, and on either side of the Sidra, golden lights bobbed over riverside walkways dotted with cafés and shops, all open for the night, already packed.

Life—so full of life. I could nearly taste it crackling on my tongue.

Clothed in black accented with silver thread, Rhysand crossed his arms. And rustled his massive wings as I said, “No.”

“The House of Wind is warded against people winnowing inside—exactly like this house. Even against High Lords. Don’t ask me why, or who did it. But the option is either walk up the ten thousand steps, which I really do not feel like doing, Feyre, or fly in.” Moonlight glazed the talon at the apex of each wing. He gave me a slow grin that I hadn’t seen all afternoon. “I promise I won’t drop you.”

I frowned at the midnight-blue dress I’d selected—even with the long sleeves and heavy, luxurious fabric, the plunging vee of the neckline did nothing against the cold. I’d debated wearing the sweater and thicker pants, but had opted for finery over comfort. I already regretted it, even with the coat. But if his Inner Circle was anything like Tamlin’s court … better to wear the more formal attire. I winced at the swath of night between the roof and the mountain-residence. “The wind will rip the gown right off.”

His grin became feline.

“I’ll take the stairs,” I seethed, the anger welcome from the past few hours of numbness as I headed for the door at the end of the roof.

Rhys snapped out a wing, blocking my path.

Smooth membrane—flecked with a hint of iridescence. I peeled back. “Nuala spent an hour on my hair.”

An exaggeration, but she had fussed while I’d sat there in hollow silence, letting her tease the ends into soft curls and pin a section along the top of my head with pretty gold barrettes. But maybe staying inside tonight, alone and quiet … maybe it’d be better than facing these people. Than interacting.

Rhys’s wing curved around me, herding me closer to where I could nearly feel the heat of his powerful body. “I promise I won’t let the wind destroy your hair.” He lifted a hand as if he might tug on one of those loose curls, then lowered it.

“If I’m to decide whether I want to work against Hybern with you—with your Inner Circle, can’t we just … meet here?”

“They’re all up there already. And besides, the House of Wind has enough space that I won’t feel like chucking them all off the mountain.”

I swallowed. Sure enough, curving along the top of the center mountain behind us, floors of lights glinted, as if the mountain had been crowned in gold. And between me and that crown of light was a long, long stretch of open air. “You mean,” I said, because it might have been the only weapon in my arsenal, “that this town house is too small, and their personalities are too big, and you’re worried I might lose it again.”

His wing pushed me closer, a whisper of warmth on my shoulder. “So what if I am?”

“I’m not some broken doll.” Even if this afternoon, that conversation we’d had, what I’d glimpsed through his eyes, said otherwise. But I yielded another step.

“I know you’re not. But that doesn’t mean I’ll throw you to the wolves. If you meant what you said about wanting to work with me to keep Hybern from these lands, keep the wall intact, I want you to meet my friends first. Decide on your own if it’s something you can handle. And I want this meeting to be on my terms, not whenever they decide to ambush this house again.”

“I didn’t know you even had friends.” Yes—anger, sharpness … It felt good. Better than feeling nothing.

A cold smile. “You didn’t ask.”

Rhysand was close enough now that he slid a hand around my waist, both of his wings encircling me. My spine locked up. A cage—

The wings swept back.

But he tightened his arm. Bracing me for takeoff. Mother save me. “You say the word tonight, and we come back here, no questions asked. And if you can’t stomach working with me, with them, then no questions asked on that, either. We can find some other way for you to live here, be fulfilled, regardless of what I need. It’s your choice, Feyre.”

I debated pushing him on it—on insisting I stay. But stay for what? To sleep? To avoid a meeting I should most certainly have before deciding what I wanted to do with myself? And to fly …

I studied the wings, the arm around my waist. “Please don’t drop me. And please don’t—”

We shot into the sky, fast as a shooting star.

Before my yelp finished echoing, the city had yawned wide beneath us. Rhys’s hand slid under my knees while the other wrapped around my back and ribs, and we flapped up, up, up into the star-freckled night, into the liquid dark and singing wind.

The city lights dropped away until Velaris was a rippling velvet blanket littered with jewels, until the music no longer reached even our pointed ears. The air was chill, but no wind other than a gentle breeze brushed my face—even as we soared with magnificent precision for the House of Wind.

Rhys’s body was hard and warm against mine, a solid force of nature crafted and honed for this. Even the smell of him reminded me of the wind—rain and salt and something citrus-y I couldn’t name.

We swerved into an updraft, rising so fast it was instinct to clutch his black tunic as my stomach clenched. I scowled at the soft laugh that tickled my ear. “I expected more screaming from you. I must not be trying hard enough.”

“Do not,” I hissed, focusing on the approaching tiara of lights in the eternal wall of the mountain.

With the sky wheeling overhead and the lights shooting past below, up and down became mirrors—until we were sailing through a sea of stars. Something tight in my chest eased a fraction of its grip.

“When I was a boy,” Rhys said in my ear, “I’d sneak out of the House of Wind by leaping out my window—and I’d fly and fly all night, just making loops around the city, the river, the sea. Sometimes I still do.”

“Your parents must have been thrilled.”

“My father never knew—and my mother …” A pause. “She was Illyrian. Some nights, when she caught me right as I leaped out the window, she’d scold me … and then jump out herself to fly with me until dawn.”

“She sounds lovely,” I admitted.

“She was,” he said. And those two words told me enough about his past that I didn’t pry.

A maneuver had us rising higher, until we were in direct line with a broad balcony, gilded by the light of golden lanterns. At the far end, built into the red mountain itself, two glass doors were already open, revealing a large, but surprisingly casual dining room carved from the stone, and accented with rich wood. Each chair fashioned, I noted, to accomodate wings.

Rhys’s landing was as smooth as his takeoff, though he kept an arm beneath my shoulders as my knees buckled at the adjustment. I shook off his touch, and faced the city behind us.

I’d spent so much time squatting in trees that heights had lost their primal terror long ago. But the sprawl of the city … worse, the vast expanse of dark beyond—the sea … Maybe I remained a human fool to feel that way, but I had not realized the size of the world. The size of Prythian, if a city this large could remain hidden from Amarantha, from the other courts.

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