فصل 22

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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برای دسترسی به این محتوا بایستی اپلیکیشن زبانشناس را نصب کنید.

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Chapter 22

I awoke when the sun was high, after tossing and turning all night, empty and aching.

The servants were sleeping in after their night of celebrating, so I made myself a bath and took a good, long soak. Try as I might to forget the feel of Tamlin’s lips on my neck, I had an enormous bruise where he’d bitten me. After bathing, I dressed and sat at the vanity to braid my hair.

I opened the drawers of the vanity, searching for a scarf or something to cover the bruise peeking over the collar of my blue tunic, but then paused and glared at myself in the mirror. He’d acted like a brute and a savage, and if he’d come to his senses by this morning, then seeing what he’d done would be minimal punishment.

Sniffing, I opened the collar of my tunic farther and tucked stray strands of my golden-brown hair behind my ears so there would be no concealing it. I was beyond cowering.

Humming to myself and swinging my hands, I strode downstairs and followed my nose to the dining room, where I knew lunch was usually served for Tamlin and Lucien. When I flung open the doors, I found them both sprawled in their chairs. I could have sworn that Lucien was sleeping upright, fork in hand.

“Good afternoon,” I said cheerfully, with an especially saccharine smile for the High Lord. He blinked at me, and both of the faerie men murmured their greetings as I took a seat across from Lucien, not my usual place facing Tamlin.

I drank deeply from my goblet of water before piling food on my plate. I savored the tense silence as I consumed the meal before me.

“You look … refreshed,” Lucien observed with a glance at Tamlin. I shrugged. “Sleep well?” “Like a babe.” I smiled at him and took another bite of food, and felt Lucien’s eyes travel inexorably to my neck.

“What is that bruise?” Lucien demanded.

I pointed with my fork to Tamlin. “Ask him. He did it.”

Lucien looked from Tamlin to me and then back again. “Why does Feyre have a bruise on her neck from you?” he asked with no small amount of amusement.

“I bit her,” Tamlin said, not pausing as he cut his steak. “We ran into each other in the hall after the Rite.” I straightened in my chair.

“She seems to have a death wish,” he went on, cutting his meat. The claws stayed retracted but pushed against the skin above his knuckles. My throat closed up. Oh, he was mad—furious at my foolishness for leaving my room—but somehow managed to keep his anger on a tight, tight leash. “So, if Feyre can’t be bothered to listen to orders, then I can’t be held accountable for the consequences.” “Accountable?” I sputtered, placing my hands flat on the table. “You cornered me in the hall like a wolf with a rabbit!” Lucien propped an arm on the table and covered his mouth with his hand, his russet eye bright.

“While I might not have been myself, Lucien and I both told you to stay in your room,” Tamlin said, so calmly that I wanted to rip out my hair.

I couldn’t help it. Didn’t even try to fight the red-hot temper that razed my senses. “Faerie pig!” I yelled, and Lucien howled, almost tipping back in his chair. At the sight of Tamlin’s growing smile, I left.

It took me a couple of hours to stop painting little portraits of Tamlin and Lucien with pigs’ features. But as I finished the last one—Two faerie pigs wallowing in their own filth, I would call it—I smiled into the clear, bright light of my private painting room. The Tamlin I knew had returned.

And it made me … happy.

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We apologized at dinner. He even brought me a bouquet of white roses from his parents’ garden, and while I dismissed them as nothing, I made certain that Alis took good care of them when I returned to my room. She gave me only a wry nod before promising to set them in my painting room. I fell asleep with a smile still on my lips.

For the first time in a long, long while, I slept peacefully.

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“Don’t know if I should be pleased or worried,” Alis said the next night as she slid the golden underdress over my upraised arms, then tugged it down.

I smiled a bit, marveling at the intricate metallic lace that clung to my arms and torso like a second skin before falling loosely to the rug. “It’s just a dress,” I said, lifting my arms again as she brought over the gossamer turquoise overgown. It was sheer enough to see the gleaming gold mesh beneath, and light and airy and full of movement, as if it flowed on an invisible current.

Alis just chuckled to herself and guided me over to the vanity to work on my hair. I didn’t have the courage to look at the mirror as she fussed over me.

“Does this mean you’ll be wearing gowns from now on?” she asked, separating sections of my hair for whatever wonders she was doing to it.

“No,” I said quickly. “I mean—I’ll be wearing my usual clothes during the day, but I thought it might be nice to … try it out, at least for tonight.” “I see. Good that you aren’t losing your common sense entirely, then.”

I twisted my mouth to the side. “Who taught you how to do hair like this?”

Her fingers stilled, then continued their work. “My mother taught me and my sister, and her mother taught her before that.” “Have you always been at the Spring Court?”

“No,” she said, pinning my hair in various, subtle places. “No, we were originally from the Summer Court—that’s where my kin still dwells.” “How’d you wind up here?”

Alis met my eyes in the mirror, her lips a tight line. “I made a choice to come here—and my kin thought me mad. But my sister and her mate had been killed, and for her boys …” She coughed, as if choking on the words. “I came here to do what I could.” She patted my shoulder. “Have a look.” I dared a glimpse at my reflection.

I hurried from the room before I could lose my nerve.

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I had to keep my hands clenched at my sides to avoid wiping my sweaty palms on the skirts of my gown as I reached the dining room, and immediately contemplated bolting upstairs and changing into a tunic and pants. But I knew they’d already heard me, or smelled me, or used whatever heightened senses they had to detect my presence, and since fleeing would only make it worse, I found it in myself to push open the double doors.

Whatever discussion Tamlin and Lucien had been having stopped, and I tried not to look at their wide eyes as I strode to my usual place at the end of the table.

“Well, I’m late for something incredibly important,” Lucien said, and before I could call him on his outright lie or beg him to stay, the fox-masked faerie vanished.

I could feel the full weight of Tamlin’s undivided attention on me—on every breath and movement I took. I studied the candelabras atop the mantel beside the table. I had nothing to say that didn’t sound absurd—yet for some reason, my mouth decided to start moving.

“You’re so far away.” I gestured to the expanse of table between us. “It’s like you’re in another room.” The quarters of the table vanished, leaving Tamlin not two feet away, sitting at an infinitely more intimate table. I yelped and almost tipped over in my chair. He laughed as I gaped at the small table that now stood between us. “Better?” he asked.

I ignored the metallic tang of magic as I said, “How … how did you do that? Where did it go?” He cocked his head. “Between. Think of it as … a broom closet tucked between pockets of the world.” He flexed his hands and rolled his neck, as if shaking off some pain.

“Does it tax you?” Sweat seemed to gleam on the strong column of his neck.

He stopped flexing his hands and set them flat on the table. “Once, it was as easy as breathing. But now … it requires concentration.” Because of the blight on Prythian and the toll it had taken on him. “You could have just taken a closer seat,” I said.

Tamlin gave me a lazy grin. “And miss a chance to show off to a beautiful woman? Never.” I smiled down at my plate.

“You do look beautiful,” he said quietly. “I mean it,” he added when my mouth twisted to the side. “Didn’t you look in the mirror?” Though his bruise still marred my neck, I had looked pretty. Feminine. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a beauty, but … I hadn’t cringed. A few months here had done wonders for the awkward sharpness and angles of my face. And I dared say that some kind of light had crept into my eyes—my eyes, not my mother’s eyes or Nesta’s eyes. Mine.

“Thank you,” I said, and was grateful to avoid saying anything else as he served me and then himself. When my stomach was full to bursting, I dared to look at him—really look at him—again.

Tamlin leaned back in his chair, yet his shoulders were tight, his mouth a thin line. He hadn’t been called to the border in a few days—hadn’t come back weary and covered in blood since before Fire Night. And yet … He’d grieved for that nameless Summer Court faerie with the hacked-off wings. What grief and burdens did he bear for whoever else had been lost in this conflict—lost to the blight, or to the attacks on the borders? High Lord—a position he hadn’t wanted or expected, yet he’d been forced to bear its weight as best he could.

“Come,” I said, rising from my chair and tugging on his hand. The calluses scraped against mine, but his fingers tightened as he looked up at me. “I have something for you.” “For me,” he repeated carefully, but rose. I led him out of the dining room. When I went to drop his hand, he didn’t let go. It was enough to keep me walking quickly, as if I could outrun my thundering heart or the sheer immortal presence of him at my side. I brought him down hall after hall until we got to my little painting room, and he finally released my hand as I reached for the key. Cold air bit into my skin without the warmth of his hand around mine.

“I knew you’d asked Alis for a key, but I didn’t think you actually locked the room,” he said behind me.

I gave him a narrowed glance over my shoulder as I pushed open the door. “Everyone snoops in this house. I didn’t want you or Lucien coming in here until I was ready.” I stepped into the darkened room and cleared my throat, a silent request for him to light the candles. It took him longer than I’d seen him need before, and I wondered if shortening the table had somehow drained him more than he’d let on. The Suriel had said the High Lords were Power—and yet … yet something had to be truly, thoroughly wrong if this was all he could manage. The room gradually flared with light, and I pushed my worry aside as I stepped farther into the room. I took a deep breath and gestured to the easel and the painting I’d put there. I hoped he wouldn’t notice the paintings I’d leaned against the walls.

He turned in place, staring around him at the room.

“I know they’re strange,” I said, my hands sweating again. I tucked them behind my back. “And I know they’re not like—not as good as the ones you have here, but …” I walked to the painting on the easel. It was an impression, not a lifelike rendering. “I wanted you to see this one,” I said, pointing to the smear of green and gold and silver and blue. “It’s for you. A gift. For everything you’ve done.” Heat flared in my cheeks, my neck, my ears, as he silently approached the painting.

“It’s the glen—with the pool of starlight,” I said quickly.

“I know what it is,” he murmured, studying the painting. I backed away a step, unable to bear watching him look at it, wishing I hadn’t brought him in here, blaming it on the wine I’d had at dinner, on the stupid dress. He examined the painting for a miserable eternity, then looked away—to the nearest painting leaning against the wall.

My gut tightened. A hazy landscape of snow and skeletal trees and nothing else. It looked like … like nothing, I supposed, to anyone but me. I opened my mouth to explain, wishing I’d turned the others away from view, but he spoke.

“That was your forest. Where you hunted.” He came closer to the painting, gazing at the bleak, empty cold, the white and gray and brown and black. “This was your life,” he clarified.

I was too mortified, too stunned, to reply. He walked to the next painting I’d left against the wall. Darkness and dense brown, flickers of ruby red and orange squeezing out between them. “Your cottage at night.” I tried to move, to tell him to stop looking at those ones and look at the others I’d laid out, but I couldn’t—couldn’t even breathe properly as he moved to the next painting. A tanned, sturdy male hand fisted in the hay, the pale pieces of it entwined among strands of brown coated with gold—my hair. My gut twisted. “The man you used to see—in your village.” He cocked his head again as he studied the picture, and a low growl slipped out. “While you made love.” He stepped back, looking at the row of pictures. “This is the only one with any brightness.” Was that … jealousy? “It was the only escape I had.” Truth. I wouldn’t apologize for Isaac. Not when Tamlin had just been in the Great Rite. I didn’t hold that against him—but if he was going to be jealous of Isaac— Tamlin must have realized it, too, for he loosed a long, controlled breath before moving to the next painting. Tall shadows of men, bright red dripping off their fists, off their wooden clubs, hovering and filling the edges of the painting as they towered over the curled figure on the floor, the blood leaking from him, the leg at a wrong angle.

Tamlin swore. “You were there when they wrecked your father’s leg.”

“Someone had to beg them to stop.”

Tamlin threw a too-knowing glance in my direction and turned to look at the rest of the paintings. There they were, all the wounds I’d slowly been leeching these few months. I blinked. A few months. Did my family believe that I would be forever away with this so-called dying aunt?

At last, Tamlin looked at the painting of the glen and the starlight. He nodded in appreciation. But he pointed to the painting of the snow-veiled woods. “That one. I want that one.” “It’s cold and melancholy,” I said, hiding my wince. “It doesn’t suit this place at all.” He went up to it, and the smile he gave me was more beautiful than any enchanted meadow or pool of stars. “I want it nonetheless,” he said softly.

I’d never yearned for anything more than to remove his mask and see the face beneath, to find out whether it matched how I’d dreamed he looked.

“Tell me there’s some way to help you,” I breathed. “With the masks, with whatever threat has taken so much of your power. Tell me—just tell me what I can do to help you.” “A human wishes to help a faerie?”

“Don’t tease me,” I said. “Please—just … tell me.”

“There’s nothing I want you to do, nothing you can do—or anyone. It’s my burden to bear.” “You don’t have to—”

“I do. What I have to face, what I endure, Feyre … you would not survive.”

“So I’m to live here forever, in ignorance of the true scope of what’s happening? If you don’t want me to understand what’s going on … would you rather …” I swallowed hard. “Rather I found someplace else to live? Where I’m not a distraction?” “Didn’t Calanmai teach you anything?”

“Only that magic makes you into a brute.”

He laughed, though not entirely with amusement. When I remained silent, he sighed. “No, I don’t want you to live somewhere else. I want you here, where I can look after you—where I can come home and know you’re here, painting and safe.” I couldn’t look away from him. “I thought about sending you away at first,” he murmured. “Part of me still thinks I should have found somewhere else for you to live. But maybe I was selfish. Even when you made it so clear that you were more interested in ignoring the Treaty or finding a way out of it, I couldn’t bring myself to let you go—to find someplace in Prythian where you’d be comfortable enough to not attempt to flee.” “Why?”

He picked up the small painting of the frozen forest and examined it again. “I’ve had many lovers,” he admitted. “Females of noble birth, warriors, princesses …” Rage hit me, low and deep in the gut at the thought of them—rage at their titles, their undoubtedly good looks, at their closeness to him. “But they never understood. What it was like, what it is like, for me to care for my people, my lands. What scars are still there, what the bad days feel like.” That wrathful jealousy faded away like morning dew as he smiled at my painting. “This reminds me of it.” “Of what?” I breathed.

He lowered the painting, looking right at me, right into me. “That I’m not alone.”

I didn’t lock my bedroom door that night.

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