I headed for Amren’s apartment across the river, needing the walk to clear my head.
Winter had indeed yielded to spring. By the time I was halfway there, my overcoat was slung over my arm, and my body was slick with sweat beneath my heavy cream sweater.
I found Amren the same way I’d seen her the last time: hunched over the Book, papers strewn around her. I set the blood on the counter.
She said without looking up, “Ah. The reason why Rhys bit my head off this morning.”
I leaned against the counter, frowning. “Where’s he gone off to?”
“To hunt whoever attacked you yesterday.”
If they had ash arrows in their arsenal … I tried to soothe the worry that bit deep. “Do you think it was the Summer Court?” The blood ruby still sat on the floor, still used as a paperweight against the river breeze blowing in from the open windows. Varian’s necklace was now beside her bed. As if she fell asleep looking at it.
“Maybe,” Amren said, dragging a finger along a line of text. She must be truly absorbed to not even bother with the blood. I debated leaving her to it. But she went on, “Regardless, it seems that our enemies have a track on Rhys’s magic. Which means they’re able to find him when he winnows anywhere or if he uses his powers.” She at last looked up. “You lot are leaving Velaris in two days. Rhys wants you stationed at one of the Illyrian war-camps—where you’ll fly down to the human lands once the queens send word.”
“Why not today?”
Amren said, “Because Starfall is tomorrow night—the first we’ve had together in fifty years. Rhys is expected to be here, amongst his people.”
Amren’s eyes twinkled. “Outside of these borders, the rest of the world celebrates tomorrow as Nynsar—the Day of Seeds and Flowers.” I almost flinched at that. I hadn’t realized just how much time had passed since I’d come here. “But Starfall,” Amren said, “only at the Night Court can you witness it—only within this territory is Starfall celebrated in lieu of the Nynsar revelry. The rest, and the why of it, you’ll find out. It’s better left as a surprise.”
Well, that explained why people had seemed to already be preparing for a celebration of sorts: High Fae and faeries hustling home with arms full of vibrant wildflower bouquets and streamers and food. The streets were being swept and washed, storefronts patched up with quick, skilled hands.
I asked, “Will we come back here once we leave?”
She returned to the Book. “Not for a while.”
Something in my chest started sinking. To an immortal, a while must be … a long, long time.
I took that as an invitation to leave, and headed for the door in the back of the loft. But Amren said, “When Rhys came back, after Amarantha, he was a ghost. He pretended he wasn’t, but he was. You made him come alive again.”
Words stalled, and I didn’t want to think about it, not when whatever good I’d done—whatever good we’d done for each other—might have been wiped away by what I’d said to him.
So I said, “He is lucky to have all of you.”
“No,” she said softly—more gently than I’d ever heard. “We are lucky to have him, Feyre.” I turned from the door. “I have known many High Lords,” Amren continued, studying her paper. “Cruel ones, cunning ones, weak ones, powerful ones. But never one that dreamed. Not as he does.”
“Dreams of what?” I breathed.
“Of peace. Of freedom. Of a world united, a world thriving. Of something better—for all of us.”
“He thinks he’ll be remembered as the villain in the story.”
“But I forgot to tell him,” I said quietly, opening the door, “that the villain is usually the person who locks up the maiden and throws away the key.”
I shrugged. “He was the one who let me out.”
If you’ve moved elsewhere, I wrote after getting home from Amren’s apartment, you could have at least given me the keys to this house. I keep leaving the door unlocked when I go out. It’s getting to be too tempting for the neighborhood burglars.
No response. The letter didn’t even vanish.
I tried after breakfast the next day—the morning of Starfall. Cassian says you’re sulking in the House of Wind. What un-High-Lord-like behavior. What of my training?
Again, no reply.
My guilt and—and whatever else it was—started to shift. I could barely keep from shredding the paper as I wrote my third one after lunch.
Is this punishment? Or do people in your Inner Circle not get second chances if they piss you off? You’re a hateful coward.
I was climbing out of the bath, the city abuzz with preparations for the festivities at sundown, when I looked at the desk where I’d left the letter.
And watched it vanish.
Nuala and Cerridwen arrived to help me dress, and I tried not to stare at the desk as I waited—waited and waited for the response.
It didn’t come.
But despite the letter, despite the mess between us, as I gaped at the mirror an hour later, I couldn’t quite believe what stared back.
I had been so relieved these past few weeks to be sleeping at all that I’d forgotten to be grateful that I was keeping down my food.
The fullness had come back to my face, my body. What should have taken weeks longer as a human had been hurried along by the miracle of my immortal blood. And the dress …
I’d never worn anything like it, and doubted I’d ever wear anything like it again.
Crafted of tiny blue gems so pale they were almost white, it clung to every curve and hollow before draping to the floor and pooling like liquid starlight. The long sleeves were tight, capped at the wrists with cuffs of pure diamond. The neckline grazed my collarbones, the modesty of it undone by how the gown hugged areas I supposed a female might enjoy showing off. My hair had been swept off my face with two combs of silver and diamond, then left to drape down my back. And I thought, as I stood alone in my bedroom, that I might have looked like a fallen star.
Rhysand was nowhere to be found when I worked up the courage to go to the rooftop garden. The beading on the dress clinked and hissed against the floors as I walked through the nearly dark house, all the lights softened or extinguished.
In fact, the whole city had blown out its lights.
A winged, muscled figure stood atop the roof, and my heart stumbled.
But then he turned, just as the scent hit me. And something in my chest sank a bit as Cassian let out a low whistle. “I should have let Nuala and Cerridwen dress me.”
I didn’t know whether to smile or wince. “You look rather good despite it.” He did. He was out of his fighting clothes and armor, sporting a black tunic cut to show off that warrior’s body. His black hair had been brushed and smoothed, and even his wings looked cleaner.
Cassian held his arms out. His Siphons remained—a metal, fingerless gauntlet that stretched beneath the tailored sleeves of his jacket. “Ready?”
He’d kept me company the past two days, training me each morning. While he’d shown me more particulars on how to use an Illyrian blade—mostly how to disembowel someone with it—we’d chatted about everything: our equally miserable lives as children, hunting, food … Everything, that is, except for the subject of Rhysand.
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