A Court of Mist and Fury Page 6

He lifted his head long enough to look at me. “Do you want a title?”

Before I could answer, he nipped at my breast, then licked over the small hurt—licked as his fingers at last dipped between my legs. He stroked lazy, taunting circles. “No,” I gasped out. “But I don’t want people … ” Cauldron boil me, his damned fingers—“I don’t know if I can handle them calling me High Lady.”

His fingers slid into me again, and he growled in approval at the wetness between my thighs, both from me and him. “They won’t,” he said against my skin, positioning himself over me again and sliding down my body, trailing kisses as he went. “There is no such thing as a High Lady.”

He gripped my thighs to spread my legs wide, lowering his mouth, and—

“What do you mean, there’s no such thing as a High Lady?”

The heat, his touch—all of it stopped.

He looked up from between my legs, and I almost climaxed at the sight of it. But what he said, what he’d implied … He kissed the inside of my thigh. “High Lords only take wives. Consorts. There has never been a High Lady.”

“But Lucien’s mother—”

“She’s Lady of the Autumn Court. Not High Lady. Just as you will be Lady of the Spring Court. They will address you as they address her. They will respect you as they respect her.” He lowered his gaze back to what was inches away from his mouth.

“So Lucien’s—”

“I don’t want to hear another male’s name on your lips right now,” he growled, and lowered his mouth to me.

At the first stroke of his tongue, I stopped arguing.

CHAPTER

3

Tamlin’s guilt must have hit him hard, because although he was gone the next day, Lucien was waiting with an offer to inspect the progress on the nearby village.

I hadn’t visited in well over a month—I couldn’t remember the last time I’d even left the grounds. A few of the villagers had been invited to our Winter Solstice celebrations, but I’d barely managed to do more than greet them, thanks to the size of the crowd.

The horses were already saddled outside the front doors of the stables, and I counted the sentries by the distant gates (four), on either side of the house (two at each corner), and the ones now by the garden through which I’d just exited (two). Though none spoke, their eyes pressed on me.

Lucien made to mount his dapple-gray mare but I cut off his path. “A tumble off your damned horse?” I hissed, shoving his shoulder.

Lucien actually staggered back, the mare nickering in alarm, and I blinked at my outstretched hand. I didn’t let myself contemplate what the guards made of it. Before he could say anything, I demanded, “Why did you lie about the naga?”

Lucien crossed his arms, his metal eye narrowing, and shook the red hair from his face.

I had to look away for a moment.

Amarantha’s hair had been darker—and her face a creamy white, not at all like the sun-kissed gold of Lucien’s skin.

I studied the stables behind him instead. At least it was big, open, the stable hands now off in another wing. I usually had little issue with being inside, which was mostly whenever I was bored enough to visit the horses housed within. Plenty of space to move, to escape. The walls didn’t feel too … permanent.

Not like the kitchens, which were too low, the walls too thick, the windows not big enough to climb through. Not like the study, with not enough natural light or easy exits. I had a long list in my head of what places I could and couldn’t endure at the manor, ranked by precisely how much they made my body lock up and sweat.

“I didn’t lie,” Lucien said tightly. “I technically did fall off my horse.” He patted his mount’s flank. “After one of them tackled me off her.”

Such a faerie way of thinking, of lying. “Why?”

Lucien clamped his mouth shut.

“Why?”

He just twisted back to the patient mare. But I caught the expression on his face—the … pity in his eye.

I blurted, “Can we walk instead?”

He slowly turned. “It’s three miles.”

“And you could run that in a few minutes. I’d like to see if I can keep up.”

His metal eye whirred, and I knew what he’d say before he opened his mouth.

“Never mind,” I said, heading for my white mare, a sweet-tempered beast, if not a bit lazy and spoiled. Lucien didn’t try to convince me otherwise, and kept quiet as we rode from the estate and onto the forest road. Spring, as always, was in full bloom, the breeze laden with lilac, the brush flanking the path rustling with life. No hint of the Bogge, of the naga, of any of the creatures who had once cast such stillness over the wood.

I said to him at last, “I don’t want your damn pity.”

“It’s not pity. Tamlin said I shouldn’t tell you—” He winced a bit.

“I’m not made of glass. If the naga attacked you, I deserve to know—”

“Tamlin is my High Lord. He gives an order, I follow it.”

“You didn’t have that mentality when you worked around his commands to send me to see the Suriel.” And I’d nearly died.

“I was desperate then. We all were. But now—now we need order, Feyre. We need rules, and rankings, and order, if we’re going to stand a chance of rebuilding. So what he says goes. I am the first one the others look to—I set the example. Don’t ask me to risk the stability of this court by pushing back. Not right now. He’s giving you as much free rein as he can.”

I forced a steady breath to fill my too-tight lungs. “For all that you refuse to interact with Ianthe, you certainly sound a great deal like her.”

He hissed, “You have no idea how hard it is for him to even let you off the estate grounds. He’s under more pressure than you realize.”

“I know exactly how much pressure he endures. And I didn’t realize I’d become a prisoner.”

“You’re not—” He clenched his jaw. “That’s not how it is and you know it.”

“He didn’t have any trouble letting me hunt and wander on my own when I was a mere human. When the borders were far less safe.”

“He didn’t care for you the way he does now. And after what happened Under the Mountain … ” The words clanged in my head, along my too-tense muscles. “He’s terrified. Terrified of seeing you in his enemies’ hands. And they know it, too—they know all they have to do to own him would be to get ahold of you.”

“You think I don’t know that? But does he honestly expect me to spend the rest of my life in that manor, overseeing servants and wearing pretty clothes?”

Lucien watched the ever-young forest. “Isn’t that what all human women wish for? A handsome faerie lord to wed and shower them with riches for the rest of their lives?”

I gripped the reins of my horse hard enough that she tossed her head. “Good to know you’re still a prick, Lucien.”

His metal eye narrowed. “Tamlin is a High Lord. You will be his wife. There are traditions and expectations you must uphold. We must uphold, in order to present a solid front that is healed from Amarantha and willing to destroy any foes who try to take what is ours again.” Ianthe had given me almost the same speech yesterday. “The Tithe is happening soon,” he continued, shaking his head, “the first he’s called in since … her curse.” His cringe was barely perceptible. “He gave our people three months to get their affairs in order, and he wanted to wait until the new year had started, but next month, he will demand the Tithe. Ianthe told him it’s time—that the people are ready.”

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