فصل 23

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CHAPTER

23

Rhysand

The sex had destroyed me.

Utterly ruined me.

Any lingering scrap of my soul that hadn’t already belonged to her had unconditionally surrendered last night.

And seeing Feyre’s expression when I showed her the riverfront estate … I held the memory of her shining, beautiful face close to me as I knocked on the cracked front doors of Tamlin’s manor.

No answer.

I waited a minute. Two.

I unspooled a thread of power through the house, sensing. Half dreading what I might find.

But there—in the kitchens. A level below. Alive.

I saw myself in, my steps echoing on the splintered marble floors. I didn’t bother to veil them. He likely sensed my arrival the moment I’d winnowed onto his front step.

It was a matter of a few minutes to reach the kitchen.

I wasn’t entirely prepared for what I saw.

A great elk lay dead on the long worktable in the center of the dark space, the arrow through its throat illumined by the watery light leaking through the small windows. Blood pooled on the gray stone floor, its drip the only sound.

The only sound as Tamlin sat in a chair before it. Staring at the felled beast.

“Your dinner is leaking,” I told him by way of greeting, nodding toward the mess gathering on the floor.

No reply. The High Lord of Spring didn’t so much as look up at me.

Your mate should have known better than to kick a downed male.

Lucien’s words to Feyre yesterday had lingered. Perhaps it was why I’d left Feyre to explore the new paints Azriel had given her and winnowed here.

I surveyed the mighty elk, its dark eyes open and glazed. A hunting knife lay embedded in the wood beside its shaggy head.

Still no words, not even a whisper of movement. Very well, then.

“I spoke to Varian, Prince of Adriata,” I said, lingering on the other side of the table, the rack of antlers like a briar of thorns between us. “I requested that he ask Tarquin to dispatch soldiers to your border.” I’d done it last night, pulling Varian aside during dinner. He’d readily agreed, swearing it would be done. “They will arrive within a few days.”

No reply.

“Is that acceptable to you?” As part of the Seasonal Courts, Summer and Spring had long been allies—until this war.

Slowly, Tamlin’s head lifted, his unbound golden hair dull and matted.

“Do you think she will forgive me?” The question was a rasp. As if he’d been screaming.

I knew whom he meant. And I didn’t know. I didn’t know if her wishing him happiness was the same as forgiveness. If Feyre would ever want to offer that to him. Forgiveness could be a gift to both, but what he’d done … “Do you want her to?”

His green eyes were empty. “Do I deserve it?”

No. Never.

He must have read it on my face, because he asked, “Do you forgive me—for your mother and sister?”

“I don’t recall ever hearing an apology.”

As if an apology would ever right it. As if an apology would ever cover the loss that still ate at me, the hole that remained where their bright, lovely lives had once glowed.

“I don’t think one will make a difference, anyway,” Tamlin said, staring at the felled elk once more. “For either of you.”

Broken. Utterly broken.

You will need Tamlin as an ally before the dust has settled, Lucien had warned my mate. Perhaps that was why I’d come, too.

I waved a hand, my magic slicing and sundering, and the elk’s coat slid to the floor in a rasp of fur and slap of wet flesh. Another flicker of power, and slabs of meat had been carved from its sides, piled next to the dark stove—which soon kindled.

“Eat, Tamlin,” I said. He didn’t so much as blink.

It was not forgiveness—it was not kindness. I could not, would not, ever forget what he’d done to those I loved most.

But it was Solstice, or had been. And perhaps because Feyre had given me a gift greater than any I could dream of, I said, “You can waste away and die after we’ve sorted out this new world of ours.”

A pulse of my power, and an iron skillet slid onto the now-hot stove, a steak of meat thumping into it with a sizzle.

“Eat, Tamlin,” I repeated, and vanished on a dark wind.

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