I was as unburdened as a piece of dandelion fluff, and he was the wind that stirred me about the world.
I skipped between the dancers, twirling my skirts. The seated, masked musicians didn’t look up at me as I leaped before them, dancing in place. No chains, no boundaries—just me and the music, dancing and dancing. I wasn’t faerie, but I was a part of this earth, and the earth was a part of me, and I would be content to dance upon it for the rest of my life.One of the musicians looked up from his fiddling, and I halted.Sweat gleamed on the strong column of his neck as he rested his chin upon the dark wood of the fiddle. He’d rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, revealing the cords of muscle along his forearms. He had once mentioned that he would have liked to be a traveling minstrel if not a warrior or a High Lord—now, hearing him play, I knew he could have made a fortune from it.“I’m sorry, Tam,” Lucien panted, appearing from nowhere. “I left her alone for a little at one of the food tables, and when I caught up to her, she was drinking the wine, and—”Tamlin didn’t pause in his playing. His golden hair damp with sweat, he looked marvelously handsome—even though I couldn’t see most of his face. He gave me a feral smile as I began to dance in place before him. “I’ll look after her,” Tamlin murmured above the music, and I glowed, my dancing becoming faster. “Go enjoy yourself.” Lucien fled.I shouted over the music, “I don’t need a keeper!” I wanted to spin and spin and spin.“No, you don’t,” Tamlin said, never once stumbling over his playing. How his bow did dance upon the strings, his fingers sturdy and strong, no signs of those claws that I had come to stop fearing … “Dance, Feyre,” he whispered.So I did.I was loosened, a top whirling around and around, and I didn’t know who I danced with or what they looked like, only that I had become the music and the fire and the night, and there was nothing that could slow me down.Through it all, Tamlin and his musicians played such joyous music that I didn’t think the world could contain it all. I sashayed over to him, my faerie lord, my protector and warrior, my friend, and danced before him. He grinned at me, and I didn’t break my dancing as he rose from his seat and knelt before me in the grass, offering up a solo on his fiddle to me.
Tamlin’s arm tightened around me, and he kissed the top of my head. I pulled back, looking up at him.The gold in his eyes, bright with the rising sun, flickered. “What?”“My father once told me that I should let my sisters imagine a better life—a better world. And I told him that there was no such thing.” I ran my thumb over his mouth, marveling, and shook my head. “I never understood—because I couldn’t … couldn’t believe that it was even possible.” I swallowed, lowering my hand. “Until now.”His throat bobbed. His kiss that time was deep and thorough, unhurried and intent.I let the dawn creep inside me, let it grow with each movement of his lips and brush of his tongue against mine. Tears pricked beneath my closed eyes.It was the happiest moment of my life.
If she captured Tamlin’s power once, who’s to say she can’t do it again?” It was the question I hadn’t yet dared voice.“He won’t be tricked again so easily,” he said, staring up at the ceiling. “Her biggest weapon is that she keeps our powers contained. But she can’t access them, not wholly—though she can control us through them. It’s why I’ve never been able to shatter her mind—why she’s not dead already. The moment you break Amarantha’s curse, Tamlin’s wrath will be so great that no force in the world will keep him from splattering her on the walls.”A chill went through me.“Why do you think I’m doing this?” He waved a hand to me.“Because you’re a monster.”He laughed. “True, but I’m also a pragmatist. Working Tamlin into a senseless fury is the best weapon we have against her. Seeing you enter into a fool’s bargain with Amarantha was one thing, but when Tamlin saw my tattoo on your arm … Oh, you should have been born with my abilities, if only to have felt the rage that seeped from him.”I didn’t want to think much about his abilities. “Who’s to say he won’t splatter you as well?”“Perhaps he’ll try—but I have a feeling he’ll kill Amarantha first. That’s what it all boils down to, anyway: even your servitude to me can be blamed on her. So he’ll kill her tomorrow, and I’ll be free before he can start a fight with me that will reduce our once-sacred mountain to rubble.” He picked at his nails. “And I have a few other cards to play.”I lifted my brows in silent question.“Feyre, for Cauldron’s sake. I drug you, but you don’t wonder why I never touch you beyond your waist or arms?”Until tonight—until that damned kiss. I gritted my teeth, but even as my anger rose, a picture cleared.“It’s the only claim I have to innocence,” he said, “the only thing that will make Tamlin think twice before entering into a battle with me that would cause a catastrophic loss of innocent life. It’s the only way I can convince him I was on your side. Believe me, I would have liked nothing more than to enjoy you—but there are bigger things at stake than taking a human woman to my bed.”I knew, but I still asked, “Like what?”“Like my territory,” he said, and his eyes held a far-off look that I hadn’t yet seen. “Like my remaining people, enslaved to a tyrant queen who can end their lives with a single word. Surely Tamlin expressed similar sentiments to you.” He hadn’t—not entirely. He hadn’t been able to, thanks to the curse.“Why did Amarantha target you?” I dared ask. “Why make you her whore?”“Beyond the obvious?” He gestured to his perfect face. When I didn’t smile, he loosed a breath. “My father killed Tamlin’s father—and his brothers.”I started. Tamlin had never said—never told me the Night Court was responsible for that.“It’s a long story, and I don’t feel like getting into it, but let’s just say that when she stole our lands out from under us, Amarantha decided that she especially wanted to punish the son of her friend’s murderer—decided that she hated me enough for my father’s deeds that I was to suffer.”I might have reached a hand toward him, might have offered my apologies—but every thought had dried up in my head. What Amarantha had done to him …“So,” he said wearily, “here we are, with the fate of our immortal world in the hands of an illiterate human.
What?”Lucien laughed. “Yes—all those female faeries around you were females for Tamlin to pick. It’s an honor to be chosen, but it’s his instincts that select her.”“But you were there—and other male faeries.” My face burned so hot that I began sweating. That was why those three horrible faeries had been there—and they’d thought that just by my presence, I was happy to comply with their plans.“Ah.” Lucien chuckled. “Well, Tam’s not the only one who gets to perform the rite tonight. Once he makes his choice, we’re free to mingle. Though it’s not the Great Rite, our own dalliances tonight will help the land, too.” He shrugged off that invisible hand a second time, and his eyes fell upon the hills. “You’re lucky I found you when I did, though,” he said. “Because he would have smelled you, and claimed you, but it wouldn’t have been Tamlin who brought you into that cave.” His eyes met mine, and a chill went over me. “And I don’t think you would have liked it. Tonight is not for lovemaking.
I couldn’t talk about it, about them—not yet. So I breathed “Later” and hooked my feet around his legs, drawing him closer. I placed my hands on his chest, feeling the heart beating beneath. This—I needed this right now. It wouldn’t wash away what I’d done, but … I needed him near, needed to smell and taste him, remind myself that he was real—this was real.“Later,” he echoed, and leaned down to kiss me.It was soft, tentative—nothing like the wild, hard kisses we’d shared in the hall of throne room. He brushed his lips against mine again. I didn’t want apologies, didn’t want sympathy or coddling. I gripped the front of his tunic, tugging him closer as I opened my mouth to him.He let out a low growl, and the sound of it sent a wildfire blazing through me, pooling and burning in my core. I let it burn through that hole in my chest, my soul. Let it raze through the wave of black that was starting to press around me, let it consume the phantom blood I could still feel on my hands. I gave myself to that fire, to him, as his hands roved across me, unbuttoning as he went.I pulled back, breaking the kiss to look into his face. His eyes were bright—hungry—but his hands had stopped their exploring and rested firmly on my hips. With a predator’s stillness, he waited and watched as I traced the contours of his face, as I kissed every place I touched.His ragged breathing was the only sound—and his hands soon began roaming across my back and sides, caressing and teasing and baring me to him. When my traveling fingers reached his mouth, he bit down on one, sucking it into his mouth. It didn’t hurt, but the bite was hard enough for me to meet his eyes again. To realize that he was done waiting—and so was I.He eased me onto the bed, murmuring my name against my neck, the shell of my ear, the tips of my fingers. I urged him—faster, harder. His mouth explored the curve of my breast, the inside of my thigh.A kiss for each day we’d spent apart, a kiss for every wound and terror, a kiss for the ink etched into my flesh, and for all the days we would be together after this. Days, perhaps, that I no longer deserved. But I gave myself again to that fire, threw myself into it, into him, and let myself burn.
His lips were smooth against my skin, his breath warm, and my knees buckled as he lifted my other hand to his mouth and kissed it, too. Kissed it carefully - in a way that made heat begin pounding in my core, between my legs.
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.
She has the most delicious thoughts about you, Tamlin,” he said. “She’s wondered about the feeling of your fingers on her thighs—between them, too.” He chuckled. Even as he said my most private thoughts, even as I burned with outrage and shame, I trembled at the grip still on my mind. Rhysand turned to the High Lord. “I’m curious: Why did she wonder if it would feel good to have you bite her breast the way you bit her neck?” “Let. Her. Go.” Tamlin’s face was twisted with such feral rage that it struck a different, deeper chord of terror in me. “If it’s any consolation,” Rhysand confided to him, “she would have been the one for you—and you might have gotten away with it. A bit late, though. She’s more stubborn than you are.
For him, I had done this-for him I'd gladly wrecked myself and my immortal soul. And now I had an eternity to live with it.
You can’t write, yet you learned to hunt, to survive. How?”I paused with my foot on the threshold. “That’s what happens when you’re responsible for lives other than your own, isn’t it? You do what you have to do.”He was still sitting on the table, still straddling that inner line between the here and now and wherever he’d had to go in his mind to endure the fight with the Bogge. I met his feral and glowing stare.“You aren’t what I expected—for a human.
He sighed and grabbed my left arm, examining the tattoo. “What were you thinking? Didn’t you know I’d come as soon as I could?”I yanked my arm from him. “I was dying! I had a fever—I was barely able to keep conscious! How was I supposed to know you’d come? That you even understood how quickly humans can die of that sort of thing? You told me you hesitated that time with the naga.”“I swore an oath to Tamlin—”“I had no other choice! You think I’m going to trust you after everything you said to me at the manor?”“I risked my neck for you during your task. Was that not enough?” His metal eye whirred softly. “You offered up your name for me—after all that I said to you, all I did, you still offered up your name. Didn’t you realize I would help you after that? Oath or no oath?”I hadn’t realized it would mean anything to him at all. “I had no other choice,” I said again, breathing hard.“Don’t you understand what Rhys is?”“I do!” I barked, then sighed. “I do,” I repeated, and glared at the eye in my palm. “It’s done with. So you needn’t hold to whatever oath you swore to Tamlin to protect me—or feel like you owe me anything for saving you from Amarantha. I would have done it just to wipe the smirk off your brothers’ faces.”Lucien clicked his tongue, but his remaining russet eye shone. “I’m glad to see you didn’t sell your lively human spirit or stubbornness to Rhys.
Say that you don’t love him!” Amarantha shrieked, and the blood on my hands became the blood of that rabbit—became the blood of what I had lost.But I wouldn’t say it. Because loving Tamlin was the only thing I had left, the only thing I couldn’t sacrifice.A path cleared through my red-and-black vision. I found Tamlin’s eyes—wide as he crawled toward Amarantha, watching me die, and unable to save me while his wound slowly healed, while she still gripped his power.Amarantha had never intended for me to live, never intended to let him go.“Amarantha, stop this,” Tamlin begged at her feet as he clutched the gaping wound in his chest. “Stop. I’m sorry—I’m sorry for what I said about Clythia all those years ago. Please.
I reached up to touch his mask. It was so cold, despite how flushed his skin was just beyond it. My hand shook, and my breathing became shallow as I grazed the skin of his jaw. It was smooth—and hot.He wet his lips, his breathing as uneven as my own. His fingers contracted against the plane of my lower back, and I let him tug me closer to him—until our bodies were touching, and the warmth of him seeped into me.I had to tilt my head back to see his face. His mouth was caught somewhere between a smile and a wince.“What?” I asked, and put a hand on his chest, preparing to shove myself back. But his other hand slipped under my hair, resting at the base of my neck.“I’m thinking I might kiss you,” he said quietly, intently.“Then do it.” I blushed at my own boldness.But Tamlin only gave that breathy laugh, and leaned in.His lips brushed mine—testing, soft and warm. He pulled back a little. He was still staring at me, and I stared right back as he kissed me again, harder, but nothing like the way he’d kissed my neck. He withdrew more fully this time and watched me.“That’s it?” I demanded, and he laughed and kissed me fiercely.My hands went around his neck, pulling him closer, crushing myself against him. His hands roved my back, playing in my hair, grasping my waist, as if he couldn’t touch enough of me at once.
Every gift comes with a price.” I frowned, and he grinned. “A kiss.”“Absolutely not!” But my blood raced, and I had to clench my hands in the grass to keep from touching him. “Don’t you think it puts me at a disadvantage to not be able to see all this?”“I’m one of the High Fae—we don’t give anything without gaining something from it.”To my own surprise, I said, “Fine.”He blinked, probably expecting me to have fought a little harder. I hid my smile and sat up so that I faced him, our knees touching as we knelt in the grass.“What about your part of the bargain?”“What?”He leaned closer, his smile turning wicked. “What about my kiss?”I grabbed his fingers. “Here,” I said, and slammed my mouth against the back of his hand. “There’s your kiss.
Not forever,' he said onto my mouth. And though I knew it was a lie, I put my arms around his neck and kissed him.
What do you care? I barked, and his grip tightened enough on my wrists that I knew my bones would snap with a little more pressure.What do I care? he breathed, wrath twisting his features. Wings - those membranous, glorious wings - flared from his back, crafted from the shadows behind him. What do I care?But before he could go on, his head snapped to the door, then back to my face. The wings vanished as quickly as they had appeared, and then his lips were crushing into mine. His tongue pried my mouth open, forcing himself into me, into the space where I could still taste Tamlin. I pushed and trashed, but he held firm, his tongue sweeping over the roof of my mouth, against my teeth, claiming me - The door was flung wide, and Amarantha's curved figure filled its space. Tamlin - Tamlin was beside her, his eyes slightly wide, shoulders tight as Rhys's lips still crushed mine.Amarantha laughed, and a mask of stone slammed down on Tamlin's face. void of feeling, void of anything vaguely like the Tamlin I'd been tangled up with moments before.
It didn't excuse what he'd done. Even if he'd...saved me-I choked on the word-from having to refuse Tamlin. Having to explain.
Where are you going?”He looked over his shoulder at me. “If I stay, you won’t get any sleep.”“Stay,” I said. “I promise to keep my hands to myself.” Lie—such an outright lie.He gave me a half smile that told me he knew it, too, but nestled down, tugging me into his arms. I wrapped an arm around his waist and rested my head in the hollow of his shoulder.He idly stroked my hair. I didn’t want to sleep—didn’t want to lose a minute with him—but an immense exhaustion was pulling me away from consciousness, until all I knew was the touch of his fingers in my hair and the sounds of his breathing.
Not forever,” he said onto my mouth.And though I knew it was a lie, I put my arms around his neck and kissed him.He pulled me onto his lap, holding me tightly against him as his lips parted mine. I became aware of every pore in my body when his tongue entered my mouth.Though the horror of Rhysand’s magic still tore at me, I pushed Tamlin onto the bed, straddling him, pinning him as if it would somehow keep me from leaving, as if it would make time stop entirely.His hands rested on my hips, and their heat singed me through the thin silk of my nightgown. My hair fell around our faces like a curtain. I couldn’t kiss him fast enough, hard enough to express the rushing need within me. He growled softly and deftly flipped us over, spreading me beneath him as he wrenched his lips from my mouth and made a trail of kisses down my neck.My entire world constricted to the touch of his lips on my skin. Everything beyond them, beyond him, was a void of darkness and moonlight. My back arched as he reached the spot he’d once bitten, and I dragged my hands through his hair, savoring the silken smoothness.He traced the arc of my hipbones, lingering at the edge of my undergarments. My nightgown had become hitched around my waist, but I didn’t care. I hooked my bare legs around his, running my feet down the hard muscles of his calves.He breathed my name onto my chest, one of his hands exploring the plane of my torso, rising up to the slope of my breast. I trembled, anticipating the feel of his hand there, and his mouth found mine again as his fingers stopped just below.His kissing was slower this time—gentler. The fingertips of his other hand slipped beneath the waist of my undergarment, and I sucked in a breath.He hesitated at the sound, pulling back slightly. But I bit his lip in a silent command that had him growling into my mouth. With one long claw, he shredded through silk and lace, and my undergarment fell away in pieces. The claw retracted, and his kiss deepened as his fingers slid between my legs, coaxing and teasing. I ground against his hand, yielding completely to the writhing wildness that had roared alive inside me, and breathed his name onto his skin.He paused again—his fingers retracting—but I grabbed him, pulling him farther on top of me. I wanted him now—I wanted the barriers of our clothing to vanish, I wanted to taste his sweat, wanted to become full of him.
I saw only a flash of green and gold before the warmth of Tamlin’s body slammed into me and our lips met.I couldn’t kiss him deeply enough, couldn’t hold him tightly enough, couldn’t touch enough of him. Words weren’t necessary.I tore at his shirt, needing to feel the skin beneath one last time, and I had to stifle the moan that rose up in me as he grasped my breast. I didn’t want him to be gentle—because what I felt for him wasn’t at all like that. What I felt was wild and hard and burning, and so he was with me.He tore his lips from mine and bit my neck—bit it as he had on Fire Night. I had to grind my teeth to keep myself from moaning and giving us away. This might be the last time I touched him, the last time we could be together. I wouldn’t waste it.My fingers grappled with his belt buckle, and his mouth found mine again. Our tongues danced—not a waltz or a minuet, but a war dance, a death dance of bone drums and screaming fiddles.I wanted him—here.I hooked a leg around his middle, needing to be closer, and he ground his hips harder against me, crushing me into the icy wall. I pried the belt buckle loose, whipping the leather free, and Tamlin growled his desire in my ear—a low, probing sort of sound that made me see red and white and lightning.
Lucien kept rubbing at his temples as he ate, unusually silent, and I hid my smile as I asked him, “And where were you last night?”Lucien’s metal eye narrowed on me. “I’ll have you know that while you two were dancing with the spirits, I was stuck on border patrol.” Tamlin gave a pointed cough, and Lucien added, “With some company.” He gave me a sly grin. “Rumor has it you two didn’t come back until after dawn.”I glanced at Tamlin, biting my lip. I’d practically floated into my bedroom that morning. But Tamlin’s gaze now roved my face as if searching for any tinge of regret, of fear. Ridiculous.“You bit my neck on Fire Night,” I said under my breath. “If I can face you after that, a few kisses are nothing.”He braced his forearms on the table as he leaned closer to me. “Nothing?” His eyes flicked to my lips. Lucien shifted in his seat, muttering to the Cauldron to spare him, but I ignored him.“Nothing,” I repeated a bit distantly, watching Tamlin’s mouth move, so keenly aware of every movement he made, resenting the table between us. I could almost feel the warmth of his breath.“Are you sure?” he murmured, intent and hungry enough that I was glad I was sitting. He could have had me right there, on top of that table. I wanted his broad hands running over my bare skin, wanted his teeth scraping against my neck, wanted his mouth all over me.“I’m trying to eat,” Lucien said.