A Court of Mist and Fury Page 69

For a long moment, I just stared at the open, calm face—maybe his true face, the one beneath all the masks he wore to keep his people safe. “I’m sorry—about your family,” I rasped.

“I’m sorry I didn’t find a way to spare you from what happened Under the Mountain,” Rhys said with equal quiet. “From dying. From wanting to die.” I began to shake my head, but he said, “I have two kinds of nightmares: the ones where I’m again Amarantha’s whore or my friends are … And the ones where I hear your neck snap and see the light leave your eyes.”

I had no answer to that—to the tenor in his rich, deep voice. So I examined the tattoos on his chest and arms, the glow of his tan skin, so golden now that he was no longer caged inside that mountain.

I stopped my perusal when I got to the vee of muscles that flowed beneath the waist of his leather pants. Instead, I flexed my hand in front of me, my skin warm from the heat that had burned through those pads.

“Ah,” he said, wings sweeping back as he folded them gracefully behind him. “That.”

I squinted at the flood of sunlight. “Autumn Court, right?”

He took my hand, examining it, the skin already bruised from sparring. “Right. A gift from its High Lord, Beron.”

Lucien’s father. Lucien—I wondered what he made of all this. If he missed me. If Ianthe continued to … prey on him.

Still sparring, Cassian and Azriel were trying their best not to look like they were eavesdropping.

“I’m not well versed in the complexities of the other High Lords’ elemental gifts,” Rhys said, “but we can figure it out—day by day, if need be.”

“If you’re the most powerful High Lord in history … does that mean the drop I got from you holds more sway over the others?” Why I’d been able to break into his head that one time?

“Give it a try.” He jerked his chin toward me. “See if you can summon darkness. I won’t ask you to try to winnow,” he added with a grin.

“I don’t know how I did it to begin with.”

“Will it into being.”

I gave him a flat stare.

He shrugged. “Try thinking of me—how good-looking I am. How talented—”

“How arrogant.”

“That, too.” He crossed his arms over his bare chest, the movement making the muscles in his stomach flicker.

“Put a shirt on while you’re at it,” I quipped.

A feline smile. “Does it make you uncomfortable?”

“I’m surprised there aren’t more mirrors in this house, since you seem to love looking at yourself so much.”

Azriel launched into a coughing fit. Cassian just turned away, a hand clamped over his mouth.

Rhys’s lips twitched. “There’s the Feyre I adore.”

I scowled, but closed my eyes and tried to look inward—toward any dark corner of myself I could find. There were too many.

Far too many.

And right now—right now they each contained that letter I’d written yesterday.

A good-bye.

For my own sanity, my own safety …

“There are different kinds of darkness,” Rhys said. I kept my eyes shut. “There is the darkness that frightens, the darkness that soothes, the darkness that is restful.” I pictured each. “There is the darkness of lovers, and the darkness of assassins. It becomes what the bearer wishes it to be, needs it to be. It is not wholly bad or good.”

I only saw the darkness of that dungeon cell; the darkness of the Bone Carver’s lair.

Cassian swore, but Azriel murmured a soft challenge that had their blades striking again.

“Open your eyes.” I did.

And found darkness all around me. Not from me—but from Rhys. As if the sparring ring had been wiped away, as if the world had yet to begin.

Quiet.

Soft.

Peaceful.

Lights began twinkling—little stars, blooming irises of blue and purple and white. I reached out a hand toward one, and starlight danced on my fingertips. Far away, in another world perhaps, Azriel and Cassian sparred in the dark, no doubt using it as a training exercise.

I shifted the star between my fingers like a coin on the hand of a magician. Here in the soothing, sparkling dark, a steady breath filled my lungs.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done such a thing. Breathed easily.

Then the darkness splintered and vanished, swifter than smoke on a wind. I found myself blinking back the blinding sun, arm still out, Rhysand still before me.

Still without a shirt.

He said, “We can work on it later. For now.” He sniffed. “Go take a bath.”

I gave him a particularly vulgar gesture—and asked Cassian to fly me home instead.

CHAPTER

31

“Don’t dance so much on your toes,” Cassian said to me four days later, as we spent the unusually warm afternoon in the sparring ring. “Feet planted, daggers up. Eyes on mine. If you were on a battlefield, you would have been dead with that maneuver.”

Amren snorted, picking at her nails while she lounged in a chaise. “She heard you the first ten times you said it, Cassian.”

“Keep talking, Amren, and I’ll drag you into the ring and see how much practice you’ve actually been doing.”

Amren just continued cleaning her nails—with a tiny bone, I realized. “Touch me, Cassian, and I’ll remove your favorite part. Small as it might be.”

He let out a low chuckle. Standing between them in the sparring ring atop the House of Wind, a dagger in each hand, sweat sliding down my body, I wondered if I should find a way to slip out. Perhaps winnow—though I hadn’t been able to do it again since that morning in the mortal realm, despite my quiet efforts in the privacy of my own bedroom.

Four days of this—training with him, working with Rhys afterward on trying to summon flame or darkness. Unsurprisingly, I made more progress with the former.

Word had not yet arrived from the Summer Court. Or from the Spring Court, regarding my letter. I hadn’t decided if that was a good thing. Azriel continued his attempt to infiltrate the human queens’ courts, his network of spies now seeking a foothold to get inside. That he hadn’t managed to do so yet had made him quieter than usual—colder.

Amren’s silver eyes flicked up from her nails. “Good. You can play with her.”

“Play with who?” said Mor, stepping from the stairwell shadows.

Cassian’s nostrils flared. “Where’d you go the other night?” he asked Mor without so much as a nod of greeting. “I didn’t see you leave Rita’s.” Their usual dance hall for drinking and revelry.

They’d dragged me out two nights ago—and I’d spent most of the time sitting in their booth, nursing my wine, talking over the music with Azriel, who had arrived content to brood, but reluctantly joined me in observing Rhys holding court at the bar. Females and males watched Rhysand throughout the hall—and the shadowsinger and I made a game of betting on who, exactly, would work up the nerve to invite the High Lord home.

Unsurprisingly, Az won every round. But at least he was smiling by the end of the night—to Mor’s delight when she’d stumbled back to our table to chug another drink before prancing onto the dance floor again.

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