“Back off? Back off while you seal our fates and ruin everything? I stayed with you out of hope, not to watch you stumble. For someone with a heart of stone, yours is certainly soft these days. The Bogge was on our lands—the Bogge, Tamlin! The barriers between courts have vanished, and even our woods are teeming with filth like the puca. Are you just going to start living out there, slaughtering every bit of vermin that slinks in?”
“Watch your mouth,” Tamlin said.
Lucien stepped toward him, exposing his teeth as well. A pulsing kind of air hit me in the stomach, and a metallic stench filled my nose. But I couldn’t see any magic—only feel it. I couldn’t tell if that made it worse.
“Don’t push me, Lucien.” Tamlin’s tone became dangerously quiet, and the hair on the back of my neck stood as he emitted a growl that was pure animal. “You think I don’t know what’s happening on my own lands? What I’ve got to lose? What’s lost already?”
The blight. Perhaps it was contained, but it seemed it was still wreaking havoc—still a threat, and perhaps one they truly didn’t want me knowing about, either from lack of trust or because … because I was no one and nothing to them. I leaned forward, but as I did, my finger slipped and softly thudded against the door. A human might not have heard, but both High Fae whirled. My heart stumbled.
I stepped toward the threshold, clearing my throat as I came up with a dozen excuses to shield myself. I looked at Lucien and forced myself to smile. His eyes widened, and I had to wonder if it was because of that smile, or because I looked truly guilty. “Are you going out for a ride?” I said, feeling a bit sick as I gestured behind me with a thumb. I hadn’t planned on riding with him today, but it sounded like a decent excuse.
Lucien’s russet eye was bright, though the smile he gave me didn’t meet it. The face of Tamlin’s emissary—more court-trained and calculating than I’d seen him yet. “I’m unavailable today,” he said. He jerked his chin to Tamlin. “He’ll go with you.”
Tamlin shot his friend a look of disdain that he took few pains to hide. His usual baldric was armed with more knives than I’d seen before, and their ornate metal handles glinted as he turned to me, his shoulders tight. “Whenever you want to go, just say so.” The claws of his free hand slipped back under his skin.
No. I almost said it aloud as I turned pleading eyes to Lucien. Lucien merely patted my shoulder as he passed by. “Perhaps tomorrow, human.”
Alone with Tamlin, I swallowed hard.
He stood there, waiting.
“I don’t want to go for a hunt,” I finally said quietly. True. “I hate hunting.”
He cocked his head. “Then what do you want to do?”
Tamlin led me down the halls. A soft breeze laced with the scent of roses slipped in through the open windows to caress my face.
“You’ve been going for hunts,” Tamlin said at last, “but you really don’t have any interest in hunting.” He cast me a sidelong glance. “No wonder you two never catch anything.”
No trace of the hollow, cold warrior of the night before, or of the angry Fae noble of minutes before. Just Tamlin right now, it seemed.
I’d be a fool to let my guard down around Tamlin, to think that his acting naturally meant anything, especially when something was so clearly amiss at his estate. He’d taken down the Bogge—and that made him the most dangerous creature I’d ever encountered. I didn’t quite know what to make of him, and said somewhat stiltedly, “How’s your hand?”
He flexed his bandaged hand, studying the white bindings, stark and clean against his sun-kissed skin. “I didn’t thank you.”
“You don’t need to.”
But he shook his head, and his golden hair caught and held the morning light as if it were spun from the sun itself. “The Bogge’s bite was crafted to slow the healing of High Fae long enough to kill us. You have my gratitude.” When I shrugged it off, he added, “How did you learn to bind wounds like this? I can still use the hand, even with the wrappings.”
“Trial and error. I had to be able to pull a bowstring the next day.”
He was quiet as we turned down another sun-drenched marble hallway, and I dared to look at him. I found him carefully studying me, his lips in a thin line. “Has anyone ever taken care of you?” he asked quietly.
“No.” I’d long since stopped feeling sorry for myself about it.
“Did you learn to hunt in a similar manner—trial and error?”
“I spied on hunters when I could get away with it, and then practiced until I hit something. When I missed, we didn’t eat. So learning how to aim was the first thing I figured out.”
“I’m curious,” he said casually. The amber in his green eyes was glowing. Perhaps not all traces of that beast-warrior were gone. “Are you ever going to use that knife you stole from my table?”
I stiffened. “How did you know?”
Beneath the mask, I could have sworn his brows were raised. “I was trained to notice those things. But I could smell the fear on you, more than anything.”
I grumbled, “I thought no one noticed.”
He gave me a crooked smile, more genuine than all the faked smiles and flattery he’d given me before. “Regardless of the Treaty, if you want to stand a chance at escaping my kind, you’ll need to think more creatively than stealing dinner knives. But with your affinity for eavesdropping, maybe you’ll someday learn something valuable.”
My ears flared with heat. “I—I wasn’t … Sorry,” I mumbled. But I ran through what I’d overheard. There was no point in pretending I hadn’t eavesdropped. “Lucien said you didn’t have much time. What did he mean? Are more creatures like the Bogge going to come here thanks to the blight?”
Tamlin went rigid, scanning the hall around us, taking in every sight and sound and scent. Then he shrugged, too stiff to be genuine. “I’m an immortal. I have nothing but time, Feyre.”
He said my name with such … intimacy. As if he weren’t a creature capable of killing monsters made from nightmares. I opened my mouth to demand more of an answer, but he cut me off. “The force plaguing our lands and powers—that, too, will pass someday, if we’re Cauldron-blessed. But yes—now that the Bogge entered these lands, I’d say it’s fair to assume others might follow it, especially if the puca was already so bold.”