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CHAPTER

82

Feyre

Rhysand was on the roof, the stars bright and low, the tiles beneath my bare feet still warm from the day’s sun.

He sat in one of those small iron chairs, no light, no bottle of liquor—just him, and the stars, and the city.

I slid into his lap and let him wrap his arms around me.

We sat in silence for a long time. We’d barely had a moment alone in the aftermath of the battle, and had been too tired to do anything but sleep. But tonight … His hand ran down my thigh, bared with the way my nightgown had hitched.

He startled when he actually looked at me, then huffed a laugh against my shoulder.

“I should have known.”

“The shop ladies gave it to me for free. As thanks for saving them from Hybern. Maybe I should do it more often, if it gets me free lingerie.”

For I indeed wore that pair of red, lacy underthings—beneath a matching red nightgown that was so scandalously sheer it showed them off.

“Hasn’t anyone told you? You’re disgustingly rich.”

“Just because I have money doesn’t mean I need to spend it.”

He squeezed my knee. “Good. We need someone with a head for money around here. I’ve been bleeding out gold left and right thanks to our Court of Dreams taking advantage of my ridiculous generosity.”

A laugh rumbled deep in my throat as I leaned my head back against his shoulder. “Is Amren still your Second?”

“Our Second.”

“Semantics.”

Rhys traced idle circles on my bare skin, along my knee and lower thigh. “If she wants it, it’s hers.”

“Even if she doesn’t have her powers anymore?”

“She’s now High Fae. I’m sure she’ll discover some hidden talent to terrorize us with.”

I laughed again, savoring the feel of his hand on my skin, the warmth of his body around me.

“I heard you,” he said softly. “When I was—gone.”

I began to tense at the lingering terror that had driven me from sleep these past few nights—the terror I doubted I’d soon recover from. “Those minutes,” I said once he began making long, soothing strokes down my thigh. “Rhys … I never want to feel that again.”

“Now you know how I felt Under the Mountain.”

I craned my neck to look up at him. “Never lie to me again. Not about that.”

“But about other things?”

I pinched his arm hard enough that he laughed and batted away my hand. “I couldn’t let all you ladies take the credit for saving us. Some male had to claim a bit of glory so you don’t trample us until the end of time with your bragging.”

I punched his arm this time.

But he wrapped his arm around my waist and squeezed, breathing me in. “I heard you, even in death. It made me look back. Made me stay—a little longer.”

Before going to that place I had once tried to describe to the Carver.

“When it’s time to go there,” I said quietly, “we go together.”

“It’s a bargain,” he said, and kissed me gently.

I murmured back onto his lips, “Yes, it is.”

The skin on my left arm tingled. A lick of warmth snaked down it.

I looked down to find another tattoo there—the twin to the one that had once graced it, save for that black band of the bargain I’d made with Bryaxis. He’d modified this one to fit around it, to be seamlessly integrated amid the whorls and swirls.

“I missed the old one,” he said innocently.

On his own left arm, the same tattoo flowed. Not to his fingers the way mine did, but rather from his wrist to his elbow.

“Copycat,” I said tartly. “It looks better on me.”

“Hmmm.” He traced a line down my spine, then poked two spots along it. “Sweet Bryaxis has vanished. Do you know what that means?”

“That I have to go hunt it down and put it back in the library?”

“Oh, you most certainly do.”

I twisted in his lap, looping my arms around his neck as I said, “And will you come with me? On this adventure—and all the rest?”

Rhys leaned forward and kissed me. “Always.”

The stars seemed to burn brighter in response, creeping closer to watch. His wings rustled as he shifted us in the chair and deepened the kiss until I was breathless.

And then I was flying.

Rhys gathered me up in his arms, shooting us high into the starry night, the city a glimmering reflection beneath.

Music flitted out from the riverfront cafés. People laughed as they walked arm in arm down the streets and across the bridges spanning the Sidra. Dark spots still stained some of the glimmering expanse—piles of rubble and ruined buildings—but even some of those had been lit up with small lights. Candles. Defiant and lovely against the blackness.

We would need more of that in the days to come—on the long road ahead. To a new world. One I would leave a better place than how I’d found it.

But for now … this moment, with the city below us, the world around us, savoring that hard-won peace … I savored it, too. Every heartbeat. Every sound and smell and image that planted itself in my mind, so many that it would take me a lifetime—several of them—to paint.

Rhys leveled out, sent a thought into my mind, and grinned broadly as I summoned wings.

He let go of me and I swept smoothly out of his arms, basking in the warm wind caressing every inch of me, drinking in the air laced with salt and citrus. It took me a few flaps to get it right—the feel and rhythm. But then I was steady, even.

Then I was flying. Soaring.

Rhys fell into flight beside me, and when he smiled at me again as we sailed through the stars and the lights and the sea-kissed breeze, when he showed me all the wonders of Velaris, the glittering Rainbow a living river of color beneath us … When he brushed his wing against mine, just because he could, because he wanted to and we’d have an eternity of nights to do this, to see everything together …

A gift.

All of it.

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