فصل 31

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CHAPTER

31

“Don’t dance so much on your toes,” Cassian said to me four days later, as we spent the unusually warm afternoon in the sparring ring. “Feet planted, daggers up. Eyes on mine. If you were on a battlefield, you would have been dead with that maneuver.”

Amren snorted, picking at her nails while she lounged in a chaise. “She heard you the first ten times you said it, Cassian.”

“Keep talking, Amren, and I’ll drag you into the ring and see how much practice you’ve actually been doing.”

Amren just continued cleaning her nails—with a tiny bone, I realized. “Touch me, Cassian, and I’ll remove your favorite part. Small as it might be.”

He let out a low chuckle. Standing between them in the sparring ring atop the House of Wind, a dagger in each hand, sweat sliding down my body, I wondered if I should find a way to slip out. Perhaps winnow—though I hadn’t been able to do it again since that morning in the mortal realm, despite my quiet efforts in the privacy of my own bedroom.

Four days of this—training with him, working with Rhys afterward on trying to summon flame or darkness. Unsurprisingly, I made more progress with the former.

Word had not yet arrived from the Summer Court. Or from the Spring Court, regarding my letter. I hadn’t decided if that was a good thing. Azriel continued his attempt to infiltrate the human queens’ courts, his network of spies now seeking a foothold to get inside. That he hadn’t managed to do so yet had made him quieter than usual—colder.

Amren’s silver eyes flicked up from her nails. “Good. You can play with her.”

“Play with who?” said Mor, stepping from the stairwell shadows.

Cassian’s nostrils flared. “Where’d you go the other night?” he asked Mor without so much as a nod of greeting. “I didn’t see you leave Rita’s.” Their usual dance hall for drinking and revelry.

They’d dragged me out two nights ago—and I’d spent most of the time sitting in their booth, nursing my wine, talking over the music with Azriel, who had arrived content to brood, but reluctantly joined me in observing Rhys holding court at the bar. Females and males watched Rhysand throughout the hall—and the shadowsinger and I made a game of betting on who, exactly, would work up the nerve to invite the High Lord home.

Unsurprisingly, Az won every round. But at least he was smiling by the end of the night—to Mor’s delight when she’d stumbled back to our table to chug another drink before prancing onto the dance floor again.

Rhys didn’t accept any offers that came his way, no matter how beautiful they were, no matter how they smiled and laughed. And his refusals were polite—firm, but polite.

Had he been with anyone since Amarantha? Did he want another person in his bed after Amarantha? Even the wine hadn’t given me the nerve to ask Azriel about it.

Mor, it seemed, went to Rita’s more than anyone else—practically lived there, actually. She shrugged at Cassian’s demand and another chaise like Amren’s appeared. “I just went … out,” she said, plopping down.

“With whom?” Cassian pushed.

“Last I was aware,” Mor said, leaning back in the chair, “I didn’t take orders from you, Cassian. Or report to you. So where I was, and who I was with, is none of your damn concern.”

“You didn’t tell Azriel, either.”

I paused, weighing those words, Cassian’s stiff shoulders. Yes, there was some tension between him and Mor that resulted in that bickering, but … perhaps … perhaps Cassian accepted the role of buffer not to keep them apart, but to keep the shadowsinger from hurt. From being old news, as I’d called him.

Cassian finally remembered I’d been standing in front of him, noted the look of understanding on my face, and gave me a warning one in return. Fair enough.

I shrugged and took a moment to set down the daggers and catch my breath. For a heartbeat, I wished Nesta were there, if only to see them go head to head. We hadn’t heard from my sisters—or the mortal queens. I wondered when we’d send another letter or try another route.

“Why, exactly,” Cassian said to Amren and Mor, not even bothering to try to sound pleasant, “are you two ladies here?”

Mor closed her eyes as she tipped back her head, sunning her golden face with the same irreverence that Cassian perhaps sought to shield Azriel from—and Mor herself perhaps tried to shield Azriel from as well. “Rhys is coming in a few moments to give us some news, apparently. Didn’t Amren tell you?”

“I forgot,” Amren said, still picking at her nails. “I was having too much fun watching Feyre evade Cassian’s tried-and-true techniques to get people to do what he wants.”

Cassian’s brows rose. “You’ve been here for an hour.”

“Oops,” Amren said.

Cassian threw up his hands. “Get off your ass and give me twenty lunges—”

A vicious, unearthly snarl cut him off.

But Rhys strolled out of the stairwell, and I couldn’t decide if I should be relieved or disappointed that Cassian versus Amren was put to a sudden stop.

He was in his fine clothes, not fighting leathers, his wings nowhere in sight. Rhys looked at them, at me, the daggers I’d left in the dirt, and then said, “Sorry to interrupt while things were getting interesting.”

“Fortunately for Cassian’s balls,” Amren said, nestling back in her chaise, “you arrived at the right time.”

Cassian snarled halfheartedly at her.

Rhys laughed, and said to none of us in particular, “Ready to go on a summer holiday?”

Mor said, “The Summer Court invited you?”

“Of course they did. Feyre, Amren, and I are going tomorrow.”

Only the three of us? Cassian seemed to have the same thought, his wings rustling as he crossed his arms and faced Rhys. “The Summer Court is full of hotheaded fools and arrogant pricks,” he warned. “I should join you.”

“You’d fit right in,” Amren crooned. “Too bad you still aren’t going.”

Cassian pointed a finger at her. “Watch it, Amren.”

She bared her teeth in a wicked smile. “Believe me, I’d prefer not to go, either.”

I clamped my lips shut to keep from smiling or grimacing, I didn’t know.

Rhys rubbed his temples. “Cassian, considering the fact that the last time you visited, it didn’t end well—”

“I wrecked one building—”

“And,” Rhys cut him off. “Considering the fact that they are utterly terrified of sweet Amren, she is the wiser choice.”

I didn’t know if there was anyone alive who wasn’t utterly terrified of her.

“It could easily be a trap,” Cassian pushed. “Who’s to say the delay in replying wasn’t because they’re contacting our enemies to ambush you?”

“That is also why Amren is coming,” Rhys said simply.

Amren was frowning—bored and annoyed.

Rhys said too casually, “There is also a great deal of treasure to be found in the Summer Court. If the Book is hidden, Amren, you might find other objects to your liking.”

“Shit,” Cassian said, throwing up his hands again. “Really, Rhys? It’s bad enough we’re stealing from them, but robbing them blind—”

“Rhysand does have a point,” Amren said. “Their High Lord is young and untested. I doubt he’s had much time to catalog his inherited hoard since he was appointed Under the Mountain. I doubt he’ll know anything is missing. Very well, Rhysand—I’m in.”

No better than a firedrake guarding its trove indeed. Mor gave me a secret, subtle look that conveyed the same thing, and I swallowed a chuckle.

Cassian started to object again, but Rhys said quietly, “I will need you—not Amren—in the human realm. The Summer Court has banned you for eternity, and though your presence would be a good distraction while Feyre does what she has to, it could lead to more trouble than it’s worth.”

I stiffened. What I had to do—meaning track down that Book of Breathings and steal it. Feyre Cursebreaker … and thief.

“Just cool your heels, Cassian,” Amren said, eyes a bit glazed—as she no doubt imagined the treasure she might steal from the Summer Court. “We’ll be fine without your swaggering and growling at everyone. Their High Lord owes Rhys a favor for saving his life Under the Mountain—and keeping his secrets.”

Cassian’s wings twitched, but Mor chimed in, “And the High Lord also probably wants to figure out where we stand in regard to any upcoming conflict.”

Cassian’s wings settled again. He jerked his chin at me. “Feyre, though. It’s one thing to have her here—even when everyone knows it. It’s another to bring her to a different court, and introduce her as a member of our own.”

The message it’d send to Tamlin. If my letter wasn’t enough.

But Rhys was done. He inclined his head to Amren and strolled for the open archway. Cassian lurched a step, but Mor lifted a hand. “Leave it,” she murmured. Cassian glared, but obeyed.

I took that as a chance to follow after Rhys, the warm darkness inside the House of Wind blinding me. My Fae eyes adjusted swiftly, but for the first few steps down the narrow hallway, I trailed after Rhys on memory alone.

“Any more traps I should know about before we go tomorrow?” I said to his back.

Rhys looked over a shoulder, pausing atop the stair landing. “Here I was, thinking your notes the other night indicated you’d forgiven me.”

I took in that half grin, the chest I might have suggested I’d lick and had avoided looking at for the past four days, and halted a healthy distance away. “One would think a High Lord would have more important things to do than pass notes back and forth at night.”

“I do have more important things to do,” he purred. “But I find myself unable to resist the temptation. The same way you can’t resist watching me whenever we’re out. So territorial.”

My mouth went a bit dry. But—flirting with him, fighting with him … It was easy. Fun.

Maybe I deserved both of those things.

So I closed the distance between us, smoothly stepped past him, and said, “You haven’t been able to keep away from me since Calanmai, it seems.”

Something rippled in his eyes that I couldn’t place, but he flicked my nose—hard enough that I hissed and batted his hand away.

“I can’t wait to see what that sharp tongue of yours can do at the Summer Court,” he said, gaze fixed on my mouth, and vanished into shadow.

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