Chapter no 10

A Court of Silver Flames

Nesta ate until she couldn’t fit another morsel into her body, helping herself to thirds of the soup. The House seemed more than happy to oblige her, and had even offered her a slice of double-chocolate cake to finish.

“Is this Cassian-approved?” She picked up the fork and smiled at the moist, gleaming cake.

“It certainly isn’t,” he said from the doorway, and Nesta whirled, scowling. He nodded toward the cake. “But eat up.”

She put down the fork. “What do you want?”

Cassian surveyed the family library. “Why are you eating in here?” “Isn’t it obvious?”

His grin was a slash of white. “The only thing that’s obvious is that you’re talking to yourself.”

“I’m talking to the House. Which is a considerable step up from talking to you.”

“It doesn’t talk back.” “Exactly.”

He snorted. “I walked into that one.” He stalked across the room, eyeing the cake she still didn’t touch. “Are you really … talking to the House?”

“Don’t you talk to it?” “No.”

“It listens to me,” she insisted.

“Of course it does. It’s enchanted.”

“It even brought food down to the library unasked.” His brows rose. “Why?”

“I don’t know how your faerie magic works.”

“Did you … do anything to make it act that way?”

“If you’re taking a page from Devlon’s book and asking if I did any witchcraft, the answer is no.”

Cassian chuckled. “That’s not what I meant, but fine. The House likes you. Congratulations.” She growled, and he leaned over her to pick up the fork. She went stiff at his closeness, but he said nothing as he took a bite of the cake. He let out a hum of pleasure that traveled along her bones. And then took another bite.

“That’s supposed to be mine,” she groused, peering up at him as he continued to eat.

“Then take it from me,” he said. “A simple disarming maneuver would do, considering my center of gravity is off balance and I’m distracted by this delicious cake.”

She glowered at him.

He took a third bite. “These are the things, Nes, that you’d learn in lessons with me. Your threats would be a hell of a lot more impressive if you could back them up.”

She drummed her fingers on the desk. Eyed the fork in his hands and pictured stabbing him in the thigh with it.

“You could do that, too,” he said, reading the direction of her stare. “I could teach you how to turn anything into a weapon. Even a fork.”

She bared her teeth, but Cassian only set down the fork with grating precision and walked out, leaving her the half-eaten cake.



Nesta read the deliciously erotic romance she’d found on a shelf of the private library until her eyelids grew so heavy only iron will could hold them open. It was then that she trudged down the hall to her bedroom and

collapsed into bed, not bothering to change out of her clothes before she sprawled on the mattress.

She woke freezing in the dark of night, roused herself enough to strip off the leathers, and climbed under the sheets, teeth clattering.

A moment later, a fire blazed in the hearth.

“No fire,” she ordered, and it vanished again.

She could have sworn a tentative curiosity curled around her. Shivering, she waited for the sheets to warm to her body temperature.

Long minutes passed, and then the bed heated. Not from her own naked body, but some manner of spell. The very air warmed, too, as if someone had blown a great breath into the space.

Her shaking stopped, and she nestled into the warmth. “Thank you,” she murmured.

The House’s only answer was to slide the still-open drapes shut. By the time they’d finished swaying, she was again asleep.



Elain had been stolen. By Hybern. By the Cauldron, which had seen Nesta watching it and watched her in turn. Had noted her scrying with bones and stones and made her regret it.

She had done this. Brought this upon them. Touching her power, wielding it, had done this, and she would never forgive herself, never—

Elain would surely be tormented, ripped apart body and soul. A crack cleaved the world.

Her father stood before her, neck twisted. Her father, with his soft brown eyes, the love for her still shining in them as their light faded—

Nesta jolted awake, nausea rippling through her as she grasped at the sheets.

Deep in her gut, her soul, something writhed and twined around itself, seeking a way out, seeking a way into the world—

Nesta shoved it down. Stomped on her power. Slammed every mental door she could on it.

Dream, she told it. Dream and memoryGo away.

Her power grumbled in her veins, but obeyed.

The bed had become hot enough that Nesta kicked off the sheets before rubbing her hands over her sweat-soaked face.

She needed a drink. Needed anything to wash this away.

She dressed swiftly, not quite feeling her body. Not quite caring what time it was or where she was, thinking only of the obstacle between her and that pleasure hall.

The door to the ten thousand steps was already open, the faelights in the hall dimmed to near darkness. Her boots scuffed on the stones as she approached, glancing behind her to make sure no one followed.

Hands shaking, she began the descent. Around and around and around.

I loved you from the first moment I held you in my arms. Down and down and down.

That ancient Cauldron opening an eye to stare at her. To pin her in place.

The Cauldron dragging her into itself, into the pit of Creation, taking and taking from her, merciless despite her screaming—

Around and down, exactly as she had been pulled in by the Cauldron, crushed beneath its terrible power—

Nausea swelled, her power with it, and her foot slipped.

She had only a heartbeat to grab for the wall, but too late. Her knees banged into the steps, her face hitting a second later, and then she was twisting and careening down, blasting into the wall, ricocheting off and tumbling down step after step after step.

She flung out a hand blindly, nails biting into stone. Sparks exploded as she cried out and held on.

The world stopped moving. Her body halted its plunge.

Sprawled across the steps, hand clutching the stone, she panted, great sawing breaths that cut with each inhale. She shut her eyes, savoring the stillness, the utter lack of motion.

And in the quiet, pain set in. Barking, bleating pain across every part of her body.

The coppery tang of blood filled her mouth. Something wet and warm slid down her neck. A sniff told her it was blood, too.

And her fingernails, the ones gripping the stone steps— Nesta blinked at her hand. She had seen sparks.

Her fingers were embedded in the stone, the rock glowing as if lit with an inner flame.

Gasping, she snatched back her hand, and the stone went dark.

But the fingerprints remained, four furrows buried in the top of the step, a single hole in the riser where her thumb had pressed.

Icy dread sluiced through her. Sent her to her battered legs, knees groaning as she sprinted upward. Away from that handprint, forever etched in stone.



“So, who won the fight?” Cassian asked the next morning as she sat on her rock and watched him go through his exercises.

He hadn’t asked at breakfast about the black eye and cut chin or how stiffly she’d moved. Neither had Mor upon her arrival. That the bruising and cuts remained at all told Nesta how bad the fall had been, but as High Fae, with her improved healing, they were already on the mend.

As a human, she supposed, the fall might have killed her. Perhaps this Fae body had its advantages. Being human, being weak in this world of monsters, was a death sentence. Her High Fae body was her best chance at survival.

Cassian’s reticence had only lasted an hour into his routine. He stood in the center of the sparring ring, panting, sweat running down his face and neck.

“What fight?” She examined her mangled nails. Even with the … whatever it was she’d flung out to catch herself, her nails had cracked. She didn’t let herself name what had come from within her, didn’t let herself acknowledge it. By dawn, it had been strangled into submission.

“The one between you and the stairs.”

Nesta cut him a glare. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Cassian began moving once more, drawing his sword and running through a series of movements that all seemed designed to hack a person in two. “You know: three in the morning, you leave your room to get

shitfaced-drunk in town, and you’re in such a rush to conquer the steps that you fall down a good thirty of them before you can stop yourself.”

Had he seen the step? The handprint?

She demanded, “How do you know that?” He shrugged.

“Are you watching me?” Before he could answer, she spat, “You were watching and didn’t come to help?”

Cassian shrugged again. “You stopped falling. If you’d kept at it, someone would have eventually come to catch you before you hit the bottom.”

She hissed at him.

He only grinned and beckoned with a hand. “Want to join me?” “I should push you down those stairs.”

Cassian sheathed his sword down his back in one elegant movement. Five hundred years of training—he must have drawn and sheathed that sword so many times it was muscle memory.

“Well?” he demanded, an edge creeping into his voice. “If you’ve got those glorious bruises, you might as well claim it came from training and not a pathetic tumble.” He added, “How many stairs did you manage this time?”

Sixty-six. But Nesta said, “I’m not training.”

At the edge of the ring, males were watching them again. They’d been watching Cassian first, partially with awe and partially with what she could only assume was envy. No one moved like he did. No one even came close. But now their stares turned amused—mocking him.

Once, last year, she might have gone up to those males and ripped them apart. Might have let a bit of that terrible power within her show so they truly believed she was a witch and would curse them and a thousand generations of their offspring if they insulted Cassian again.

Nesta stretched out her legs, leaning her bruised palms on the stone. “Enjoy your exercises.”

Cassian bristled. But he held out his hand again. “Please.”

She’d never heard him say that word. It was a rope thrown between them. He’d meet her halfway—let her win the power battle, admit defeat, if

she would just get off the rock.

She told herself to get up, to take that outstretched hand. But she couldn’t. Couldn’t bring her body to rise.

His hazel eyes were bright with pleading in the morning sun, the wind dancing in his dark hair. Like he was made from these mountains, crafted from wind and stone. He was so beautiful. Not in the way that Azriel and Rhys were beautiful, but in an uncut way. Savage and unrelenting.

The first time she’d seen Cassian, she couldn’t take her eyes off him. She felt like she’d spent her life surrounded by boys, and then a man—a male, she supposed—had suddenly appeared. Everything about him had radiated that confident, arrogant masculinity. It had been heady and overwhelming, and all she’d wanted, all she’d wanted for so many months, was to touch him, smell him, taste him. Get close to that strength and throw everything she was against it because she knew he’d never break, never falter, never balk.

But the light in his eyes dimmed as he lowered his hand.

She deserved his disappointment. Deserved his resentment and disgust.

Even if it carved something vital from her.

“Tomorrow, then,” Cassian said. He didn’t speak to her again for the rest of the day.

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