A Court of Mist and Fury Page 8

A small, forgotten part of me roared and screamed at that, but …

Dinner after dinner, luncheons and picnics and hunts.

I was introduced and passed around, and my face hurt from the smile I kept plastered there day and night. I began looking forward to the wedding just knowing that once it was over, I wouldn’t have to be pleasant or talk to anyone or do anything for a week. A month. A year.

Tamlin endured it all—in that quiet, near-feral way of his—and told me again and again that the parties were a way to introduce me to his court, to give his people something to celebrate. He assured me that he hated the gatherings as much as I did, and that Lucien was the only one who really enjoyed himself, but … I caught Tamlin grinning sometimes. And truthfully, he deserved it, had earned it. And these people deserved it, too.

So I weathered it, clinging to Ianthe when Tamlin wasn’t at my side, or, if they were together, letting the two of them lead conversations while I counted down the hours until everyone would leave.

“You should head to bed,” Ianthe said, both of us watching the assembled revelers packing the great hall. I’d spotted her by the open doors thirty minutes ago, and was grateful for the excuse to leave the gaggle of Tamlin’s friends I’d been stuck talking to. Or not talking to. Either they outright stared at me, or they tried so damn hard to come up with common topics. Hunting, mostly. Conversation usually stalled after three minutes.

“I’ve another hour before I need to sleep,” I said. Ianthe was in her usual pale robe, hood up and that circlet of silver with its blue stone atop it.

High Fae males eyed her as they meandered past where we stood by the wood-paneled wall near the main doors, either from awe or lust or perhaps both, their gazes occasionally snagging on me. I knew the wide eyes had nothing to do with my bright green gown or pretty face (fairly bland compared to Ianthe’s). I tried to ignore them.

“Are you ready for tomorrow? Is there anything I can do for you?” Ianthe sipped from her glass of sparkling wine. The gown I wore tonight was a gift from her, actually—Spring Court green, she’d called it. Alis had merely lingered while I dressed, unnervingly silent, letting Ianthe claim her usual duties.

“I’m fine.” I’d already contemplated how pathetic it would be if I asked her to permanently stay after the wedding. If I revealed that I dreaded her leaving me to this court, these people, until Nynsar—a minor spring holiday to celebrate the end of seeding the fields and to pass out the first flower clippings of the season. Months and months from now. Even having her live at her own temple felt too removed.

Two males that had circled past twice already finally worked up the courage to approach us—her.

I leaned against the wall, the wood digging into my back, as they flanked Ianthe. Handsome, in the way that most of them were handsome, armed with weapons that marked them as two of the High Fae who guarded Tamlin’s lands. Perhaps they even worked under Ianthe’s father. “Priestess,” one said, bowing deep.

By now, I’d become accustomed to people kissing her silver rings and beseeching her for prayers for themselves, their families, or their lovers. Ianthe received it all without that beautiful face shifting in the slightest.

“Bron,” she said to the one on her left, brown-haired and tall. “And Hart,” she said to the one on her right, black-haired and built a bit more powerfully than his friend. She gave a coy, pretty tilt of her lips that I’d learned meant she was now on the hunt for nighttime companionship. “I haven’t seen you two troublemakers in a while.”

They parried with flirtatious comments, until the two males began glancing my way.

“Oh,” Ianthe said, hood shifting as she turned. “Allow me to introduce Lady Feyre.” She lowered her eyes, angling her head in a deep nod. “Savior of Prythian.”

“We know,” Hart said quietly, bowing with his friend at the waist. “We were Under the Mountain with you.”

I managed to incline my head a bit as they straightened. “Congratulations on tomorrow,” Bron said, grinning. “A fitting end, eh?”

A fitting end would have been me in a grave, burning in hell.

“The Cauldron,” Ianthe said, “has blessed all of us with such a union.” The males murmured their agreement, bowing their heads again. I ignored it.

“I have to say,” Bron went on, “that trial—with the Middengard Wyrm? Brilliant. One of the most brilliant things I ever saw.”

It was an effort not to push myself wholly flat against the wall, not to think about the reek of that mud, the gnashing of those flesh-shredding teeth bearing down upon me. “Thank you.”

“Oh, it sounded terrible,” Ianthe said, stepping closer as she noted I was no longer wearing that bland smile. She put a hand on my arm. “Such bravery is awe-inspiring.”

I was grateful, so pathetically grateful, for the steadying touch. For the squeeze. I knew then that she’d inspire hordes of young Fae females to join her order—not for worshipping their Mother and Cauldron, but to learn how she lived, how she could shine so brightly and love herself, move from male to male as if they were dishes at a banquet.

“We missed the hunt the other day,” Hart said casually, “so we haven’t had a chance to see your talents up close, but I think the High Lord will be stationing us near the estate next month—it’d be an honor to ride with you.”

Tamlin wouldn’t allow me out with them in a thousand years. And I had no desire to tell them that I had no interest in ever using a bow and arrow again, or hunting anything at all. The hunt I’d been dragged on two days ago had almost been too much. Even with everyone watching me, I hadn’t drawn an arrow.

They were still waiting for a reply, so I said, “The honor would be mine.”

“Does my father have you two on duty tomorrow, or will you be attending the ceremony?” Ianthe said, putting a distracting hand on Bron’s arm. Precisely why I sought her out at events.

Bron answered her, but Hart’s eyes lingered on me—on my crossed arms. On my tattooed fingers. He said, “Have you heard from the High Lord at all?”

Ianthe stiffened, and Bron immediately cut his gaze toward my inked flesh.

“No,” I said, holding Hart’s gaze.

“He’s probably running scared now that Tamlin’s got his powers back.”

“Then you don’t know Rhysand very well at all.”

Hart blinked, and even Ianthe kept silent. It was probably the most assertive thing I’d said to anyone during these parties.

“Well, we’ll take care of him if need be,” Hart said, shifting on his feet as I continued to hold his gaze, not bothering to soften my expression.

Ianthe said to him, to me, “The High Priestesses are taking care of it. We will not allow our savior to be treated so ill.”

I schooled my face into neutrality. Was that why Tamlin had initially sought out Ianthe? To make an alliance? My chest tightened a bit. I turned to her. “I’m going up. Tell Tamlin I’ll see him tomorrow.”

Tomorrow, because tonight, Ianthe had told me, we’d spend apart. As dictated by their long-held traditions.

Ianthe kissed my cheek, her hood shielding me from the room for a heartbeat. “I’m at your disposal, Lady. Send word if you need anything.”

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