We sat atop its crest, and I hid my smile as Tamlin put an arm around my shoulders, tucking me in close. I rested my head against his chest while he toyed with the flowers in my garland.
In silence, we stared out over the rolling green expanse.
The sky shifted into periwinkle, and the clouds filled with pink light. Then, like a shimmering disk too rich and clear to be described, the sun slipped over the horizon and lined everything with gold. It was like seeing the world being born, and we were the sole witnesses.
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.
The next day, Lucien joined us for lunch—which was breakfast for all of us. Ever since I’d complained about the unnecessary size of the table, we’d taken to dining at a much-reduced version. 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, and I blinked, the air whooshing out of me. “But now that I have your attention, Tamlin,” he snapped, though the High Lord was looking at me again—devouring me with his eyes. I could hardly sit still, could hardly stand the clothes scratching my too-hot skin. With some effort, Tamlin glanced back at his emissary.
Lucien shifted in his seat. “Not to be the bearer of truly bad tidings, but my contact at the Winter Court managed to get a letter to me.” Lucien took a steadying breath, and I wondered—wondered if being emissary also meant being spymaster. And wondered why he was bothering to say this in my presence at all. The smile instantly faded from Tamlin’s face. “The blight,” Lucien said tightly, softly. “It took out two dozen of their younglings. Two dozen, all gone.” He swallowed. “It just … burned through their magic, then broke apart their minds. No one in the Winter Court could do anything—no one could stop it once it turned its attention toward them. Their grief is … unfathomable. My contact says other courts are being hit hard—though the Night Court, of course, manages to remain unscathed. But the blight seems to be sending its wickedness this way—farther south with every attack.”
All the warmth, all the sparkling joy, drained from me like blood down a drain. “The blight can … can truly kill people?” I managed to say. Younglings. It had killed children, like some storm of darkness and death. And if offspring were as rare as Alis had claimed, the loss of so many would be more devastating than I could imagine.
Tamlin’s eyes were shadowed, and he slowly shook his head—as if trying to clear the grief and shock of those deaths from him. “The blight is capable of hurting us in ways you—” He shot to his feet so quickly that his chair flipped over. He unsheathed his claws and snarled at the open doorway, canines long and gleaming.
The house, usually full of the whispering skirts and chatter of servants, had gone silent.
Not the pregnant silence of Fire Night, but rather a trembling quiet that made me want to scramble under the table. Or just start running. Lucien swore and drew his sword.
“Get Feyre to the window—by the curtains,” Tamlin growled to Lucien, not taking his eyes off the open doors. Lucien’s hand gripped my elbow, dragging me out of my chair.
“What’s—” I started, but Tamlin growled again, the sound echoing through the room. I snatched one of the knives off the table and let Lucien lead me to the window, where he pushed me against the velvet drapes. I wanted to ask why he didn’t bother hiding me behind them, but the fox-masked faerie just pressed his back into me, pinning me between him and the wall.
The tang of magic shoved itself up my nostrils. Though his sword was pointed at the floor, Lucien’s grip tightened on it until his knuckles turned white. Magic—a glamour. To conceal me, to make me a part of Lucien—invisible, hidden by the faerie’s magic and scent. I peered over his shoulder at Tamlin, who took a long breath and sheathed his claws and fangs, his baldric of knives appearing from thin air across his chest. But he didn’t draw any of the knives as he righted his chair and slouched in it, picking at his nails. As if nothing were happening.
But someone was coming, someone awful enough to frighten them—someone who would want to hurt me if they knew I was here.
The hissing voice of the Attor slithered through my memory. There were worse creatures than it, Tamlin had told me. Worse than the naga, and the Suriel, and the Bogge, too.
Footsteps sounded from the hall. Even, strolling, casual.