A Court of Mist and Fury Page 36

Rhysand was silent beside me. Yet after a moment, he said, “Out with it.”

I lifted a brow.

“You say what’s on your mind—one thing. And I’ll say one, too.”

I shook my head and turned back to the city.

But Rhys said, “I’m thinking that I spent fifty years locked Under the Mountain, and I’d sometimes let myself dream of this place, but I never expected to see it again. I’m thinking that I wish I had been the one who slaughtered her. I’m thinking that if war comes, it might be a long while yet before I get to have a night like this.”

He slid his eyes to me, expectant.

I didn’t bother asking again how he’d kept this place from her, not when he was likely to refuse to answer. So I said, “Do you think war will be here that soon?”

“This was a no-questions-asked invitation. I told you … three things. Tell me one.”

I stared toward the open world, the city and the restless sea and the dry winter night.

Maybe it was some shred of courage, or recklessness, or I was so high above everything that no one save Rhys and the wind could hear, but I said, “I’m thinking that I must have been a fool in love to allow myself to be shown so little of the Spring Court. I’m thinking there’s a great deal of that territory I was never allowed to see or hear about and maybe I would have lived in ignorance forever like some pet. I’m thinking … ” The words became choked. I shook my head as if I could clear the remaining ones away. But I still spoke them. “I’m thinking that I was a lonely, hopeless person, and I might have fallen in love with the first thing that showed me a hint of kindness and safety. And I’m thinking maybe he knew that—maybe not actively, but maybe he wanted to be that person for someone. And maybe that worked for who I was before. Maybe it doesn’t work for who—what I am now.”

There.

The words, hateful and selfish and ungrateful. For all Tamlin had done—

The thought of his name clanged through me. Only yesterday afternoon, I had been there. No—no, I wouldn’t think about it. Not yet.

Rhysand said, “That was five. Looks like I owe you two thoughts.” He glanced behind us. “Later.”

Because the two winged males from earlier were standing in the doorway.

Grinning.

CHAPTER

16

Rhys sauntered toward the two males standing by the dining room doors, giving me the option to stay or join.

One word, he’d promised, and we could go.

Both of them were tall, their wings tucked in tight to powerful, muscled bodies covered in plated, dark leather that reminded me of the worn scales of some serpentine beast. Identical long swords were each strapped down the column of their spines—the blades beautiful in their simplicity. Perhaps I needn’t have bothered with the fine clothes after all.

The slightly larger of the two, his face masked in shadow, chuckled and said, “Come on, Feyre. We don’t bite. Unless you ask us to.”

Surprise sparked through me, setting my feet moving.

Rhys slid his hands into his pockets. “The last I heard, Cassian, no one has ever taken you up on that offer.”

The second one snorted, the faces of both males at last illuminated as they turned toward the golden light of the dining room, and I honestly wondered why no one hadn’t: if Rhysand’s mother had also been Illyrian, then its people were blessed with unnatural good looks.

Like their High Lord, the males—warriors—were dark-haired, tan-skinned. But unlike Rhys, their eyes were hazel and fixed on me as I at last stepped close—to the waiting House of Wind behind them.

That was where any similarities between the three of them halted.

Cassian surveyed Rhys from head to foot, his shoulder-length black hair shifting with the movement. “So fancy tonight, brother. And you made poor Feyre dress up, too.” He winked at me. There was something rough-hewn about his features—like he’d been made of wind and earth and flame and all these civilized trappings were little more than an inconvenience.

But the second male, the more classically beautiful of the two … Even the light shied from the elegant planes of his face. With good reason. Beautiful, but near-unreadable. He’d be the one to look out for—the knife in the dark. Indeed, an obsidian-hilted hunting knife was sheathed at his thigh, its dark scabbard embossed with a line of silver runes I’d never seen before.

Rhys said, “This is Azriel—my spymaster.” Not surprising. Some buried instinct had me checking that my mental shields were intact. Just in case.

“Welcome,” was all Azriel said, his voice low, almost flat, as he extended a brutally scarred hand to me. The shape of it was normal—but the skin … It looked like it had been swirled and smudged and rippled. Burns. They must have been horrific if even their immortal blood had not been able to heal them.

The leather plates of his light armor flowed over most of it, held by a loop around his middle finger. Not to conceal, I realized as his hand breached the chill night air between us. No, it was to hold in place the large, depthless cobalt stone that graced the back of the gauntlet. A matching one lay atop his left hand; and twin red stones adorned Cassian’s gauntlets, their color like the slumbering heart of a flame.

I took Azriel’s hand, and his rough fingers squeezed mine. His skin was as cold as his face.

But the word Cassian had used a moment ago snagged my attention as I released his hand and tried not to look too eager to step back to Rhys’s side. “You’re brothers?” The Illyrians looked similar, but only in the way that people who had come from the same place did.

Rhysand clarified, “Brothers in the sense that all bastards are brothers of a sort.”

I’d never thought of it that way. “And—you?” I asked Cassian.

Cassian shrugged, wings tucking in tighter. “I command Rhys’s armies.”

As if such a position were something that one shrugged off. And—armies. Rhys had armies. I shifted on my feet. Cassian’s hazel eyes tracked the movement, his mouth twitching to the side, and I honestly thought he was about to give me his professional opinion on how doing so would make me unsteady against an opponent when Azriel clarified, “Cassian also excels at pissing everyone off. Especially amongst our friends. So, as a friend of Rhysand … good luck.”

A friend of Rhysand—not savior of their land, not murderer, not human-faerie-thing. Maybe they didn’t know—

But Cassian nudged his bastard-brother-whatever out of the way, Azriel’s mighty wings flaring slightly as he balanced himself. “How the hell did you make that bone ladder in the Middengard Wyrm’s lair when you look like your own bones can snap at any moment?”

Well, that settled that. And the question of whether he’d been Under the Mountain. But where he’d been instead … Another mystery. Perhaps here—with these people. Safe and coddled.

I met Cassian’s gaze, if only because having Rhysand defend me might very well make me crumble a bit more. And maybe it made me as mean as an adder, maybe I relished being one, but I said, “How the hell did you manage to survive this long without anyone killing you?”

Cassian tipped back his head and laughed, a full, rich sound that bounced off the ruddy stones of the House. Azriel’s brows flicked up with approval as the shadows seemed to wrap tighter around him. As if he were the dark hive from which they flew and returned.

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