I went rigid when I smelled that rain and earthen scent, and didn’t dare to turn to Tamlin. We stood side by side, staring out at the crowd, as still and unnoticeable as statues.
His fingers brushed mine, and a line of fire went through me, burning me so badly that my eyes pricked with tears. I wished—wished he wasn’t touching my marred hand, that his fingers didn’t have to caress the contours of that wretched tattoo.
But I lived in that moment—my life became beautiful again for those few seconds when our hands grazed.
I kept my face set in a mask of cold. He dropped his hand, and, as quickly as he had come, he sauntered off, weaving through the crowd. It was only when he glanced over his shoulder and inclined his head ever so slightly that I understood.
My heart beat faster than it ever had during my trials, and I made myself look as bored as possible before I pushed off the wall and casually strolled after him. I took a different route, but headed toward the small door half hidden by a tapestry near which he lingered. I had only moments before Rhysand would begin looking for me, but a moment alone with Tamlin would be enough.
I could scarcely breathe as I moved nearer and nearer to the door, past Amarantha’s dais, past a group of giggling faeries … Tamlin disappeared through the door as quick as lightning, and I slowed my steps to a meandering pace. These days no one really paid attention to me until I became Rhys’s drugged plaything. All too quickly, the door was before me, and it swung open noiselessly to let me in.
Darkness encompassed me. 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. We both knew what tomorrow would bring.
I tossed away his belt and started fumbling for his pants. Someone coughed.
“Shameful,” Rhysand purred, and we whirled to find him faintly illuminated by the light that broke in through the doorway. But he stood behind us—farther into the passage, rather than toward the door. He hadn’t come in through the throne room. With that ability of his, he had probably walked through the walls. “Just shameful.” He stalked toward us. Tamlin remained holding me. “Look at what you’ve done to my pet.”
Panting, neither of us said anything. But the air became a cold kiss upon my skin—upon my exposed breasts.
“Amarantha would be greatly aggrieved if she knew her little warrior was dallying with the human help,” Rhysand went on, crossing his arms. “I wonder how she’d punish you. Or perhaps she’d stay true to habit and punish Lucien. He still has one eye to lose, after all. Maybe she’ll put it in a ring, too.”
Ever so slowly, Tamlin removed my hands from his body and stepped out of my embrace.
“I’m glad to see you’re being reasonable,” Rhysand said, and Tamlin bristled. “Now, be a clever High Lord and buckle your belt and fix your clothes before you go out there.”
Tamlin looked at me, and, to my horror, did as Rhysand instructed. My High Lord never took his eyes off my face as he straightened his tunic and hair, then retrieved and fastened his belt again. The paint on his hands and clothes—paint from me—vanished.
“Enjoy the party,” Rhysand crooned, pointing to the door.
Tamlin’s green eyes flickered as they continued to stare into mine. He softly said, “I love you.” Without another glance at Rhysand, he left.
I was temporarily blinded by the brightness that poured in when he opened the door and slipped out. He did not look back at me before the door snicked shut and darkness returned to the dim hall.
Rhysand chuckled. “If you’re that desperate for release, you should have asked me.”
“Pig,” I snapped, covering my breasts with the folds of my gown.
With a few easy steps, he crossed the distance between us and pinned my arms to the wall. My bones groaned. I could have sworn shadow-talons dug into the stones beside my head. “Do you actually intend to put yourself at my mercy, or are you truly that stupid?” His voice was composed of sensuous, bone-breaking ire.
“I’m not your slave.”
“You’re a fool, Feyre. Do you have any idea what could have happened had Amarantha found you two in here? Tamlin might refuse to be her lover, but she keeps him at her side out of the hope that she’ll break him—dominate him, as she loves to do with our kind.” I kept silent. “You’re both fools,” he murmured, his breathing uneven. “How did you not think that someone would notice you were gone? You should thank the Cauldron Lucien’s delightful brothers weren’t watching you.”
“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 thrashed, but he held firm, his tongue sweeping over the roof of my mouth, against my teeth, claiming my mouth, 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.