A Court of Mist and Fury Page 95

No sign of the male who had been drinking on the roof; no sign of the fallen prince kneeling on his bed. The full impact of him threatened to sweep me away.

Here—here was the most powerful High Lord ever born.

The face of dreams and nightmares.

Rhys’s eyes met mine briefly from across the room as he strolled between the pillars. To the throne that was his by blood and sacrifice and might. My own blood sang at the power that thrummed from him, at the sheer beauty of him.

Mor stepped off the dais, dropping to one knee in a smooth bow. Cassian and Azriel followed suit.

So did everyone in that room.

Including me.

The ebony floor was so polished I could see my red-painted lips in it; see my own expressionless face. The room was so silent I could hear each of Rhys’s footsteps toward us.

“Well, well,” he said to no one in particular. “Looks like you’re all on time for once.”

Raising his head as he continued kneeling, Cassian gave Rhys a half grin—the High Lord’s commander incarnate, eager to do his bloodletting.

Rhys’s boots stopped in my line of sight.

His fingers were icy on my chin as he lifted my face.

The entire room, still on the floor, watched. But this was the role he needed me to play. To be a distraction and novelty. Rhys’s lips curved upward. “Welcome to my home, Feyre Cursebreaker.”

I lowered my eyes, my kohl-thick lashes tickling my cheek. He clicked his tongue, his grip on my chin tightening. Everyone noticed the push of his fingers, the predatory angle of his head as he said, “Come with me.”

A tug on my chin, and I rose to my feet. Rhys dragged his eyes over me and I wondered if it wasn’t entirely for show as they glazed a bit.

He led me the few steps onto the dais—to the throne. He sat, smiling faintly at his monstrous court. He owned every inch of the throne. These people.

And with a tug on my waist, he perched me on his lap.

The High Lord’s whore. Who I’d become Under the Mountain—who the world expected me to be. The dangerous new pet that Mor’s father would now seek to feel out.

Rhys’s hand slid along my bare waist, the other running down my exposed thigh. Cold—his hands were so cold I almost yelped.

He must have felt the silent flinch. A heartbeat later, his hands had warmed. His thumb, curving around the inside of my thigh, gave a slow, long stroke as if to say Sorry.

Rhys indeed leaned in to bring his mouth near my ear, well aware his subjects had not yet risen from the floor. As if they had once done so before they were bidden, long ago, and had learned the consequences. Rhysand whispered to me, his other hand now stroking the bare skin of my ribs in lazy, indolent circles, “Try not to let it go to your head.”

I knew they could all hear it. So did he.

I stared at their bowed heads, my heart hammering, but said with midnight smoothness, “What?”

Rhys’s breath caressed my ear, the twin to the breath he’d brushed against it merely an hour ago in the skies. “That every male in here is contemplating what they’d be willing to give up in order to get that pretty, red mouth of yours on them.”

I waited for the blush, the shyness, to creep in.

But I was beautiful. I was strong.

I had survived—triumphed. As Mor had survived in this horrible, poisoned house …

So I smiled a bit, the first smile of my new mask. Let them see that pretty, red mouth, and my white, straight teeth.

His hand slid higher up my thigh, the proprietary touch of a male who knew he owned someone body and soul. He’d apologized in advance for it—for this game, these roles we’d have to play.

But I leaned into that touch, leaned back into his hard, warm body. I was pressed so closely against him that I could feel the deep rumble of his voice as he at last said to his court, “Rise.”

As one, they did. I smirked at some of them, gloriously bored and infinitely amused.

Rhys brushed a knuckle along the inside of my knee, and every nerve in my body narrowed to that touch.

“Go play,” he said to them all.

They obeyed, the crowd dispersing, music striking up from a distant corner.

“Keir,” Rhys said, his voice cutting through the room like lightning on a stormy night.

It was all he needed to summon Mor’s father to the foot of the dais. Keir bowed again, his face lined with icy resentment as he took in Rhys, then me—glancing once at Mor and the Illyrians. Cassian gave Keir a slow nod that told him he remembered—and would never forget—what the Steward of the Hewn City had done to his own daughter.

But it was from Azriel that Keir cringed. From the sight of Truth-Teller.

One day, I realized, Azriel would use that blade on Mor’s father. And take a long, long while to carve him up.

“Report,” Rhys said, stroking a knuckle down my ribs. He gave a dismissive nod to Cassian, Mor, and Azriel, and the trio faded away into the crowd. Within a heartbeat, Azriel had vanished into shadows and was gone. Keir didn’t even turn.

Before Rhys, Keir was nothing more than a sullen child. Yet I knew Mor’s father was older. Far older. The Steward clung to power, it seemed.

Rhys was power.

“Greetings, milord,” Keir said, his deep voice polished smooth. “And greetings to your … guest.”

Rhys’s hand flattened on my thigh as he angled his head to look at me. “She is lovely, isn’t she?”

“Indeed,” Keir said, lowering his eyes. “There is little to report, milord. All has been quiet since your last visit.”

“No one for me to punish?” A cat playing with his food.

“Unless you’d like for me to select someone here, no, milord.”

Rhys clicked his tongue. “Pity.” He again surveyed me, then leaned to tug my earlobe with his teeth.

And damn me to hell, but I leaned farther back as his teeth pressed down at the same moment his thumb drifted high on the side of my thigh, sweeping across sensitive skin in a long, luxurious touch. My body went loose and tight, and my breathing … Cauldron damn me again, the scent of him, the citrus and the sea, the power roiling off him … my breathing hitched a bit.

I knew he noticed; knew he felt that shift in me.

His fingers stilled on my leg.

Keir began mentioning people I didn’t know in the court, bland reports on marriages and alliances, blood-feuds, and Rhys let him talk.

His thumb stroked again—this time joined with his pointer finger.

A dull roaring was filling my ears, drowning out everything but that touch on the inside of my leg. The music was throbbing, ancient, wild, and people ground against each other to it.

His eyes on the Steward, Rhys made vague nods every now and then. While his fingers continued their slow, steady stroking on my thighs, rising higher with every pass.

People were watching. Even as they drank and ate, even as some danced in small circles, people were watching. I was sitting in his lap, his own personal plaything, his every touch visible to them … and yet it might as well have been only the two of us.

Keir listed the expenses and costs of running the court, and Rhys gave another vague nod. This time, his nose brushed the spot between my neck and shoulder, followed by a passing graze of his mouth.

My breasts tightened, becoming full and heavy, aching—aching like what was now pooling in my core. Heat filled my face, my blood.

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