A Court of Mist and Fury Page 72

Delighted surprise lit Rhys’s eyes, there and gone in a heartbeat.

We both looked back to our hosts, still stone-faced and stiff-backed.

Tarquin seemed to weigh the air between my companions and me, then said carefully, “You have a tale to tell, it seems.”

“We have many tales to tell,” Rhys said, jerking his chin toward the glass doors behind them. “So why not get comfortable?”

The female a half-step behind Tarquin inched closer. “We have refreshments prepared.”

Tarquin seemed to remember her and put a hand on her slim shoulder. “Cresseida—Princess of Adriata.”

The ruler of his capital—or wife? There was no ring on either of their fingers, and I didn’t recognize her from Under the Mountain. Her long, silver hair blew across her pretty face in the briny breeze, and I didn’t mistake the light in her brown eyes for anything but razor-sharp cunning. “A pleasure,” she murmured huskily to me. “And an honor.”

My breakfast turned to lead in my gut, but I didn’t let her see what the groveling did to me; let her realize it was ammunition. Instead I gave her my best imitation of Rhysand’s shrug. “The honor’s mine, princess.”

The others were hastily introduced: three advisers who oversaw the city, the court, and the trade. And then a broad-shouldered, handsome male named Varian, Cresseida’s younger brother, captain of Tarquin’s guard, and Prince of Adriata. His attention was fixed wholly on Amren—as if he knew where the biggest threat lay. And would be happy to kill her, if given the chance.

In the brief time I’d known her, Amren had never looked more delighted.

We were led into a palace crafted of shell-flecked walkways and walls, countless windows looking out to the bay and mainland or the open sea beyond. Sea glass chandeliers swayed on the warm breeze over gurgling streams and fountains of fresh water. High fae—servants and courtiers—hurried across and around them, most brown-skinned and clad in loose, light clothing, all far too preoccupied with their own matters to take note or interest in our presence. No lesser faeries crossed our path—not one.

I kept a step behind Rhysand as he walked at Tarquin’s side, that mighty power of his leashed and dimmed, the others flowing behind us. Amren remained within reach, and I wondered if she was also to be my bodyguard. Tarquin and Rhys had been talking lightly, both already sounding bored, of the approaching Nynsar—of the native flowers that both courts would display for the minor, brief holiday.

Calanmai wouldn’t be too long after that.

My stomach twisted. If Tamlin was intent on upholding tradition, if I was no longer with him … I didn’t let myself get that far down the road. It wouldn’t be fair. To me—to him.

“We have four main cities in my territory,” Tarquin said to me, looking over his muscled shoulder. “We spend the last month of winter and first spring months in Adriata—it’s finest at this time of year.”

Indeed, I supposed that with endless summer, there was no limit to how one might enjoy one’s time. In the country, by the sea, in a city under the stars … I nodded. “It’s very beautiful.”

Tarquin stared at me long enough that Rhys said, “The repairs have been going well, I take it.”

That hauled Tarquin’s attention back. “Mostly. There remains much to be done. The back half of the castle is a wreck. But, as you can see, we’ve finished most of the inside. We focused on the city first—and those repairs are ongoing.”

Amarantha had sacked the city? Rhys said, “I hope no valuables were lost during its occupation.”

“Not the most important things, thank the Mother,” Tarquin said.

Behind me, Cresseida tensed. The three advisers peeled off to attend to other duties, murmuring farewell—with wary looks in Tarquin’s direction. As if this might very well be the first time he’d needed to play host and they were watching their High Lord’s every move.

He gave them a smile that didn’t reach his eyes, and said nothing more as he led us into a vaulted room of white oak and green glass—overlooking the mouth of the bay and the sea that stretched on forever.

I had never seen water so vibrant. Green and cobalt and midnight. And for a heartbeat, a palette of paint flashed in my mind, along with the blue and yellow and white and black I might need to paint it …

“This is my favorite view,” Tarquin said beside me, and I realized I’d gone to the wide windows while the others had seated themselves around the mother-of-pearl table. A handful of servants were heaping fruits, leafy greens, and steamed shellfish onto their plates.

“You must be very proud,” I said, “to have such stunning lands.”

Tarquin’s eyes—so like the sea beyond us—slid to me. “How do they compare to the ones you have seen?” Such a carefully crafted question.

I said dully, “Everything in Prythian is lovely, when compared to the mortal realm.”

“And is being immortal lovelier than being human?”

I could feel everyone’s attention on us, even as Rhys engaged Cresseida and Varian in bland, edged discussion about the status of their fish markets. So I looked the High Lord of Summer up and down, as he had examined me, brazenly and without a shred of politeness, and then said, “You tell me.”

Tarquin’s eyes crinkled. “You are a pearl. Though I knew that the day you threw that bone at Amarantha and splattered mud on her favorite dress.”

I shut out the memories, the blind terror of that first trial.

What did he make of that tug between us—did he realize it was his own power, or think it was a bond of its own, some sort of strange allure?

And if I had to steal from him … perhaps that meant getting closer. “I do not remember you being quite so handsome Under the Mountain. The sunlight and sea suit you.”

A lesser male might have preened. But Tarquin knew better—knew that I had been with Tamlin, and was now with Rhys, and had now been brought here. Perhaps he thought me no better than Ianthe. “How, exactly, do you fit within Rhysand’s court?”

A direct question, after such roundabout ones—to no doubt get me on uneven footing.

It almost worked—I nearly admitted, “I don’t know,” but Rhys said from the table, as if he’d heard every word, “Feyre is a member of my Inner Circle. And is my Emissary to the Mortal Lands.”

Cresseida, seated beside him, said, “Do you have much contact with the mortal realm?”

I took that as an invitation to sit—and get away from the too-heavy stare of Tarquin. A seat had been left open for me at Amren’s side, across from Rhys.

The High Lord of the Night Court sniffed at his wine—white, sparkling—and I wondered if he was trying to piss them off by implying they’d poisoned it as he said, “I prefer to be prepared for every potential situation. And, given that Hybern seems set on making themselves a nuisance, striking up a conversation with the humans might be in our best interest.”

Varian drew his focus away from Amren long enough to say roughly, “So it’s been confirmed, then? Hybern is readying for war.”

“They’re done readying,” Rhys drawled, at last sipping from his wine. Amren didn’t touch her plate, though she pushed things around as she always did. I wondered what—who—she’d eat while here. Varian seemed like a good guess. “War is imminent.”

Prev Next