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متن انگلیسی فصل
It was a good thing I’d insisted on meeting Cassian at eight, because even though I awoke at dawn, one look at Rhysand’s sleeping face had me deciding to spend the morning slowly, sweetly waking him up.
I was still flushed by the time Rhys dropped me at the sparring ring atop the House of Wind, the space surrounded by a wall of red rock, the top open to the elements. He promised to meet me after lunch to show me the library for my researching, then gave me a roguish wink and kiss on the cheek before he shot back into the sky with a powerful flap of his wings.
Leaning against the wall beside the weapons rack, Cassian only said, “I hope you didn’t exert yourself too much already, because this is really going to hurt.”
I rolled my eyes, even as I tried to shut out the image of Rhysand laying me on my stomach, then kissing his way down my spine. Lower. Tried to shut out the feeling of his strong hands gripping my hips and lifting them up, up, until he lay beneath them and feasted on me, until I was quietly begging him and he rose behind me and I had to bite my pillow to keep from waking the whole house with my moaning.
Rhysand in the morning was … I didn’t have words for what it was when he was unhurried and lazy and wicked, when his hair was still mussed with sleep and his eyes got that glazed, purely male gleam in them. They’d still had that lazy, satisfied glint a moment ago, and his mockingly chaste kiss on my cheek had sent a red-hot line through me.
Later. I’d torture him later.
For now … I strode to where Cassian stood, rotating my shoulders. “Two Illyrian males making me sweat in one morning. What’s a female to do?”
Cassian barked a laugh. “At least you showed up with some spirit.”
I grinned, bracing my hands on my hips as I surveyed the weapons rack. “Which one?”
“None.” He jerked his chin toward the ring etched in white chalk behind us. “It’s been a while since we trained. We’re spending today going over the basics.”
The words were laced with enough tightness that I said, “It hasn’t been that long.”
“It’s been a month and a half.”
I studied him, the wings tucked in tight, the shoulder-length dark hair. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” He stalked past me to the ring.
“Is it Nesta?”
“Not everything in my life is about your sister, you know.”
I kept my mouth shut on that front. “Is it something with the Court of Nightmares visit tomorrow?”
Cassian shucked off his shirt, revealing rippling muscles covered in beautiful, intricate tattoos. Illyrian markings for luck and glory. “It’s nothing. Get into position.”
I obeyed, even as I eyed him carefully. “You’re … angry.”
He refused to speak until I started my circuit of warm-ups: various lunges, kicks, and stretches designed to loosen my muscles. And only when we’d begun sparring, his hands wrapped against my onslaught of punching, did he say, “You and Rhys hid the truth from us. And we went into Hybern blind about it.”
“That you’re High Lady.”
I jabbed at his raised hands in a one-two combination, breathing hard. “What difference would it have made?”
“It would have changed everything. None of it would have gone down like that.”
“Perhaps that’s why Rhys decided to keep it a secret.”
“Hybern was a disaster.”
I halted my punching. “You knew I was his mate when we went. I don’t see how being High Lady alters anything.”
I put my hands on my hips, ignoring his motion to continue. “Why?”
Cassian dragged a hand through his hair. “Because … because as his mate, you were still … his to protect. Oh, don’t get that look. He’s yours to protect, too. I would have laid my life down for you as his mate—and as your friend. But you were still … his.”
“And as High Lady?”
Cassian loosed a rough breath. “As High Lady, you are mine. And Azriel’s, and Mor’s and Amren’s. You belong to all of us, and we belong to you. We would not have … put you in so much danger.”
“Maybe that’s why Rhys wanted to keep it a secret. It would have changed your focus.”
“This is between you and me. And trust me, Rhys and I had … words about this.”
I lifted a brow. “You’re mad at me?”
He shook his head, eyes shuttering.
He just held up his hands in a silent order to continue.
I sighed and began again. It was only after I’d gotten through fifteen repetitions and was panting heavily that Cassian said, “You didn’t think you were essential. You saved our asses, yes, but … you didn’t think you were essential here.”
One-two, one-two, one-two. “I’m not.” He opened his mouth, but I charged ahead, speaking around my gasps for breath. “You all have a … duty—you’re all vital. Yes, I have my own abilities, but … You and Azriel were hurt, my sisters were … you know what happened to them. I did what I could to get us out. I’d rather it was me than any of you. I couldn’t have lived with the alternative.”
His upraised hands were unfaltering as I pummeled them. “Anything could have happened to you at the Spring Court.”
I stopped again. “If Rhys isn’t grilling me with the overprotective bullshit, then I don’t see why you—”
“Don’t for one moment think that Rhys wasn’t beside himself with worry. Oh, he seems collected enough, Feyre, but I know him. And every moment you were gone, he was in a panic. Yes, he knew—we knew—you could handle yourself. But it doesn’t stop us from worrying.”
I shook out my sore hands, then rubbed my already-aching arms. “You were mad at him, too.”
“If I hadn’t been healing, I would have kicked his ass from one end of Velaris to the other.”
I didn’t reply.
“We were all terrified for you.”
“I managed just fine.”
“Of course you did. We knew you would. But …” Cassian crossed his arms. “Rhys pulled the same shit fifty years ago. When he went to that damned party Amarantha threw.”
“I’ll never forget it, you know,” he said, blowing out a breath. “The moment when he spoke to us all, mind to mind. When I realized what was happening, and that … he’d saved us. Trapped us here and tied our hands, but …” He scratched at his temple. “It went quiet—in my head. In a way it hadn’t been before. Not since …” Cassian squinted at the cloudless sky. “Even with utter hell unleashing here, across our territory, I just went … quiet.” He tapped the side of his head with a finger, and frowned. “After Hybern, the healer kept me asleep while she worked on my wings. So when I woke up two weeks later … that’s when I heard. And when Mor told me what happened to you … It went quiet again.”
I swallowed against the constriction of my throat. “You found me when I needed you most, Cassian.”
“Pleased to be of service.” He gave me a grim smile. “You can rely on us, you know. Both of you. He’s inclined to do everything himself—to give everything of himself. He can’t stand to let anyone else offer up anything.” That smile faded. “Neither can you.”
“And you can?”
“It’s not easy, but yes. I’m general of his armies. Part of that includes knowing how to delegate. I’ve been with Rhys for over five hundred years and he still tries to do everything himself. Still thinks it’s not enough.”
I knew that—too well. And the thought of Rhys, in this war, trying to take on all that faced us … Nausea churned in my gut. “He gives orders all the time.”
“Yes. And he’s good at knowing what we excel at. But when it comes down to it …” Cassian adjusted the wrappings on his hands. “If the High Lords and Keir don’t step up, he’ll still face Hybern. And will take the brunt of it so we don’t have to.”
An unshakable, queasy sort of tightness pushed in on me. Rhys would survive—he wouldn’t dare sacrifice everything to make sure we—
Rhys would. He had with Amarantha, and he’d do it again without hesitation.
I shut it out. Shoved it down. Focused on my breathing.
Something drew Cassian’s attention behind me. And even as his body remained casual, a predatory gleam flickered in his eyes.
I didn’t need to turn to know who was standing there.
“Care to join?” Cassian purred.
Nesta said, “It doesn’t look like you’re exercising anything other than your mouths.”
I looked over my shoulder. My sister was in a dress of pale blue that turned her skin golden, her hair swept up, her back a stiff column. I scrambled to say something, to apologize, but … not in front of him. She wouldn’t want this conversation in front of Cassian.
Cassian extended a wrapped hand, his fingers curling in a come-hither motion. “Scared?”
I wisely kept my mouth shut as Nesta stepped from the open doorway into the blinding light of the courtyard. “Why should I be scared of an oversized bat who likes to throw temper tantrums?”
I choked, and Cassian shot me a warning glare, daring me to laugh. But I felt for that bond in my mind, lowering my mental shields enough to say to Rhysand, wherever he was in the city, Please come spare me from Cassian and Nesta’s bickering.
A heartbeat later, Rhys crooned, Regretting becoming High Lady?
I savored that voice—that humor. But I shoved that simmering panic down again as I countered, Is this part of my duties?
A sensual, dark laugh. Why do you think I was so desperate for a partner? I’ve had almost five centuries to deal with this alone. It’s only fair you have to endure it now.
Cassian was saying to Nesta, “Seems like you’re a little on edge, Nesta. And you left so abruptly last night … Any way I can help ease that tension?”
Please, I begged Rhys.
What will you give me?
I wasn’t sure if I could hiss down the bond between us, but from the chuckle that echoed into my mind a heartbeat later, I knew the feeling had been conveyed. I’m in a meeting with the governors of the Palaces. They might be a little pissy if I vanish. I tried not to sigh.
Nesta picked at her nails. “Amren is coming to instruct me in a few—”
Shadow rippled across the courtyard, cutting her off. And it wasn’t Rhysand who landed between us, but—
I sent another pretty face for you to admire, Rhys said. Not as beautiful as mine, of course, but a close second.
As the shadows wreathing him cleared, Azriel sized up Nesta and Cassian, then threw a vaguely sympathetic look in my direction. “I need to start our lesson early.”
A piss-poor lie, but I said, “Right. No problem at all.”
Cassian glowered at me, then Azriel. We both ignored him as I strode to the shadowsinger, unwrapping my hands as I went.
Thank you, I said down the bond.
You can make it up to me tonight.
I tried not to blush at the image Rhys sent into my head detailing precisely how I’d repay him, and slammed down my mental shields. On the other side of them, I could have sworn talon-tipped fingers trailed down the black adamant in a sensual, silent promise. I swallowed hard.
Azriel’s wings spread, dark reds and golds shining through in the bright sun, and he opened his arms to me. “The pine forest will be good—the one by the lake.”
“Because water is better to fall into than hard rock,” Cassian replied, crossing his arms.
My stomach clenched. But I let Azriel scoop me up, his scent of night-chilled mist and cedar wrapping around me as he flapped his wings once, stirring the dirt of the courtyard.
I caught Cassian’s narrowed gaze and grinned widely. “Good luck,” I said, and Azriel, Cauldron bless him, shot into the cloudless sky.
Neither of us missed Cassian’s barked, filthy curse, though we didn’t deign to comment.
Cassian was a general—the general of the Night Court.
Surely Nesta wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.
“I dropped Amren off at the House on my way in,” Azriel told me as we landed at the shore of a turquoise mountain lake flanked by pines and granite. “I told her to get to the training ring immediately.” A half smile. “After a few minutes, that is.”
I snorted and stretched my arms. “Poor Cassian.”
Azriel gave a huff of amusement. “Indeed.”
I shifted on my feet, small gray rocks along the shore skittering beneath my boots. “So …”
Azriel’s black hair seemed to gobble up the blinding sunlight. “In order to fly,” he said drily, “you’ll need wings.”
My face heated. I rolled and cracked my wrists. “It’s been a while since I summoned them.”
His piercing stare didn’t stray from my face, my posture. As immovable and steady as the granite this lake had been carved into. I might as well have been a flitting butterfly by comparison. “Do you need me to turn around?” He lifted a dark brow in emphasis.
I cringed. “No. But … it might take me a few tries.”
“We started our lesson early—we’ve got plenty of time.”
“I appreciate you making the effort to pretend that it wasn’t because I was desperate to avoid Cassian and Nesta’s early-morning bickering.”
“I’d never let my High Lady suffer through that.” He said it completely stone-faced.
I chuckled, rubbing at a sore spot on my shoulder. “Are you … ready to meet with Lucien this afternoon?”
Azriel angled his head. “Should I be preparing for it?”
“No. I just …” I shrugged. “When do you leave to gather information on the High Lords?”
“After I talk to him.” His eyes were shining—lit with amusement. As if he knew I was buying time.
I blew out a breath. “Right. Here we go.”
Touching that part of me, the part Tamlin had given me … Some vital piece of my heart recoiled. Even as something sharp and vicious in my gut preened at what I’d taken. All that I’d taken.
I shoved out the thoughts, focusing on those Illyrian wings. I’d summoned them that day in the Steppes from pure memory and fear. Creating them now … I let my mind slip into my recollections of Rhys’s wings, how they felt and moved and weighed …
“The frame needs to be a bit thicker,” Azriel offered as a weight began to drag at my back. “Strengthen the muscles leading to it.”
I obeyed, my magic listening in turn. He provided more feedback, where to add and where to ease up, where to smooth and where to toughen.
I was rasping for breath, sweat sliding down my spine, by the time he said, “Good.” He cleared his throat. “I know you’re not Illyrian, but … amongst their kind, it is considered … inappropriate to touch someone’s wings without permission. Especially females.”
Their kind. Not his.
It took me a moment to realize what he was asking. “Oh—oh. Go ahead.”
“I need to ascertain if they feel right.”
“Right.” I put my back to him, my muscles groaning as they worked to spread the wings. Everything—from my neck to my shoulders to my ribs to my spine to my ass—seemed to now control them, and was barking in protest at the weight and movement.
I’d only had them for a few seconds with Lucien in the Steppes—I hadn’t realized how heavy they were, how complex the muscles.
Azriel’s hands, for all their scarring, were featherlight as he grasped and touched certain areas, patting and tapping others. I gritted my teeth, the sensation like … like having the arch of my foot tickled and poked. But he made quick work of it, and I rolled my shoulders again as he stepped around me to murmur, “It’s—amazing. They’re the same as mine.”
“I think the magic did most of the work.”
A shake of the head. “You’re an artist—it was your attention to detail.”
I blushed a bit at the compliment, and braced my hands on my hips. “Well? Do we jump into the skies?”
“First lesson: don’t let them drag on the ground.”
I blinked. My wings were indeed resting on the rocks. “Why?”
“Illyrians think it’s lazy—a sign of weakness. And from a practical standpoint, the ground is full of things that could hurt your wings. Splinters, shards of rock … They can not only get stuck and lead to infection, but also impact the way the wing catches the wind. So keep them off the ground.”
Knife-sharp pain rippled down my back as I tried to lift them. I managed getting the left upright. The right just drooped like a loose sail.
“You need to strengthen your back muscles—and your thighs. And your arms. And core.”
“So everything, then.”
Again, that dry, quiet smile. “Why do you think Illyrians are so fit?”
“Why did no one warn me about this cocky side of yours?”
Azriel’s mouth twitched upward. “Both wings up.”
A quiet but unyielding demand.
I winced, contorting my body this way and that as I fought to get the right one to rise. No luck.
“Try spreading them, then tucking in, if you can’t lift it up like that.”
I obeyed, and hissed at the sharp pain along every muscle in my back as I flared the wings. Even the slightest breeze off the lake tickled and tugged, and I braced my feet apart on the rocky shore, seeking some semblance of balance—
“Now fold inward.”
I did, snapping them shut—the movement so fast that I toppled forward.
Azriel caught me before I could eat stone, gripping me tightly under the shoulder and hauling me up. “Building your core muscles will also help with the balance.”
“So, back to Cassian, then.”
A nod. “Tomorrow. Today, focus on lifting and folding, spreading and lifting.” Azriel’s wings gleamed with red and gold as the sun gilded them. “Like this.” He demonstrated, flaring his wings wide, tucking them in, flaring, angling, tucking them in. Over and over.
Sighing, I followed his movements, my back throbbing and aching. Perhaps flying lessons were a waste of time.
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