Chapter no 22

A Court of Silver Flames

“Do you think Nesta can find the Trove?” Azriel asked Cassian as they relaxed in the sitting room that separated their bedchambers, flames crackling in the hearth before them. The night had turned chill enough that they needed the fire, and Cassian, who’d always loved fall despite the pricks in the Autumn Court, savored the warmth.

“I hope so,” Cassian hedged. He couldn’t stomach the thought of Nesta putting herself in danger, but he understood her motivations entirely. If he’d had to pick between sending one of his brothers into danger or doing it himself, he would always—always—choose himself. Though he’d winced at every harsh word that had come out of Nesta’s mouth to Elain, he couldn’t fault the fear and love behind her decision. Could only admire that she had stepped up—if not for the good of the world, then to keep her sister safe.

Azriel said, “Nesta really should do a scrying.”

Cassian gazed across the space between their two armchairs. They’d sat in them, before this fire, so many times that it was an unspoken rule that Azriel’s was the one on the left, closer to the window, and Cassian’s the one to the right, closer to the door. A third sat to Azriel’s left, usually for Rhys, and a fourth to Cassian’s right, always for Mor. A lace-lined golden throw pillow adorned the fourth chair, a permanent mark of her ownership.

Amren, for whatever reason, rarely stayed here long enough to see this room, so no chair had ever been held for her.

“Nesta isn’t up for a scrying,” Cassian said. “We don’t even know what power she has left.”

But Elain had confirmed it for everyone: both sisters still possessed their Cauldron-gifted powers. Whether they were as powerful as before, he had no idea.

“You do know, though,” Azriel countered. “You’ve seen it—even beyond when it glows in her eyes.”

Cassian hadn’t told anyone about the step he’d found with the clear finger holes burned into it. He wondered if Azriel had somehow learned of them, the news brought to him on his shadows’ whispers. “She’s volatile right now. The last time she did a scrying, it ended badly. The Cauldron looked at her. And then took Elain.” He’d seen every horrific memory flash before Nesta’s eyes today. And though he understood that Elain had spoken true, claiming the trauma of that memory, Cassian knew firsthand the lingering horror and pain of a loved one stolen and hurt.

Azriel stiffened. “I know. I helped rescue Elain, after all.”

Az hadn’t so much as hesitated before going into the heart of Hybern’s war-camp.

Cassian leaned his head against the back of the chair, rustling his wings through the gaps crafted to accommodate them. “Nesta will scry on her own, eventually, if she’s capable.”

“If Briallyn and Koschei find just one of the Dread Trove items—”

“Let Nesta try it her way first.” Cassian held Az’s stare. “If we go in and order her to do it, it’ll backfire. Let her exhaust her other options before she realizes only one is viable.”

Azriel studied his face, then nodded solemnly.

Cassian blew out a breath, watching the flames leap and flutter. “We’re going to be uncles,” he said after a moment, unable to keep the wonder from his voice.

Azriel’s face filled with pride and joy. “A boy.”

It wasn’t a guarantee that a High Lord’s firstborn would be his heir. The magic sometimes took a while to decide, and often jumped around the birth

order completely. Sometimes it found a cousin instead. Sometimes it abandoned the bloodline entirely. Or chose the heir in that moment of birth, in the echoes of a newborn’s first cries. It wouldn’t matter to Cassian, though, if Rhys’s son inherited his world-shaking power, or barely a drop.

It wouldn’t matter to Rhys, either. To any of them. That boy was already loved. “I’m happy for Rhys,” Cassian said quietly.

“So am I.”

Cassian looked over at Az. “You think you’ll ever be ready for one?”

Ever be ready to confess to Mor what’s in your heart?

“I don’t know,” Azriel said. “Do you want a child?”

“It doesn’t matter what I want.” Distant words—ones that prevented Cassian from prying further. He was still happy to be Mor’s buffer with Azriel, but there’d been a change lately. In both of them. Mor no longer sat beside Cassian, draped herself over him, and Azriel … those longing glances toward her had become few and far between. As if he’d given up. After five hundred years, he’d somehow given up. Cassian couldn’t think why.

Az asked, “Do you want a child?”

Cassian couldn’t stop the thought that flashed: of him and Nesta against the wall a level below, her hand rubbing him exactly the way he liked it, her moans like sweet music.

He’d left her unsatisfied—she’d run off before he could make it even between the two of them. He’d gone up to Windhaven after the meeting earlier, and hadn’t seen her at dinner. Wasn’t even sure what the hell he’d say to her, how they’d have a conversation.

It was like the unfinished bargain inked across their backs, that imbalance of pleasure. And a matter of what he unashamedly could call male pride. She had the upper hand now. Had looked so damned smug when she’d cut him: quick off the mark.

His knee bounced, and he glowered at the flame. “Cassian?”

He realized Azriel had asked him a question. Right—about children.

“Of course I want children.” He’d contemplated it often, what manner of family he’d build for himself, how he’d make sure his children never spent a moment thinking they were unloved and unwanted; never, ever spent a moment hungry or scared or cold or in pain.

But no female had ever come along who’d tempted him enough to fight for that future.

He supposed, deep down, that was what he was holding out for: the mating bond. What he’d seen between Feyre and Rhys.

Cassian blew out another breath and got to his feet. Azriel lifted a silent brow.

Cassian aimed for the door. He wouldn’t be able to rest, to focus, until he evened the playing field. As he entered the hall, he muttered without looking back, “Turn a blind eye, chaperone.”



Curled up in bed, a book propped on the thick down comforter, Nesta was just getting to the sizzling first kiss in her latest novel when a knock thudded on her door.

She slammed the book shut and sat up against the pillows. “Yes?” The handle turned, and there he was.

Cassian still wore his leathers, the overlapping scales of them full of shadows that made him look like some great, writhing beast as he shut the door.

He leaned against the carved oak, his wings rising high above his head like twin mountain peaks.

“What?” She slid the book onto the nightstand, sitting up further. His eyes dipped to her sleeveless silk nightgown, then quickly returned to her face. “What?” she demanded again, angling her head. Her unbound hair slid over a shoulder, and she saw him mark that, too.

His voice was rough as he said, “I’ve never seen you with your hair down.”

She always wore it braided across her head or pinned up. She frowned at the locks that flowed to her waist, the gold amongst the brown glimmering in the dim light. “It’s a nuisance when it’s down.”

“It’s beautiful.”

Nesta couldn’t stop her swallow as she lifted her gaze. His eyes were blazing, yet he remained leaning against the door, hands trapped behind his body. As if he were physically restraining himself.

His scent drifted to her, darker, muskier than usual. She’d bet all the money she didn’t have that it was the scent of his arousal.

It set her pulse hammering, careening so far off the path of sanity that she scrambled after its vanishing leash. To let him affect her so easily, so greatly—unacceptable.

She didn’t dare look below his waist, not as she shaped her lips into a cool smile. “Here for more?”

“I’m here to settle the debt between us.”

His words were guttural. Her toes curled beneath the blanket. But her voice remained surprisingly calm. “What debt?”

“The one I owe you for last night.”

He spoke as if there was no room in him for teasing, for humor. His eyes drifted lower than her face, noting the hammering of her pulse. “We have unfinished business.”

She grappled for anything to guard against him. “Male pride is a thing of wonder.” When he didn’t respond, she threw another wall his way: “Why are you even here? You made it clear enough that last night was a mistake.”

He was having none of it. “I never said that.” His attention remained fixed on her hammering pulse.

“You didn’t need to. I saw it in your eyes.”

His gaze snapped to hers. “The only mistake was that I came before I could taste you.”

Nesta knew he didn’t mean her mouth. Or her skin.

Cassian went on, “The only mistake was that you ran off before I could get on my knees.”

Breathing became difficult. “Won’t your friends tell you this is a mistake?” She gestured to the air between them.

“My friends have nothing to do with this. With what I want from you.”

He said it with such intent that her breasts pebbled. His eyes dipped again, and when he saw her nipples hard against the silk of her nightgown

His entire being seemed to focus on it. On her. All five hundred years of

being a trained warrior, an apex predator. All of it, narrowing on her.

His appraisal enveloped her like a rush of wind, of fire. “What about training?” she breathed.

“This stays out of training.” His eyes had turned wholly dark.

Her skin tightened, becoming almost painful as she went molten and throbbing between her legs.


A note of pleading had entered his voice. He was trembling—the door behind him rattling with the force of his deteriorating self-control.

She looked then. Below his waist. At what strained against his pants.

Her head emptied out, and there was only him and her and the space between them.

Cassian let out a growl, the sound a plea as well.

She made herself say, “This stays out of training—and everything else.

This is just sex.”

Something shifted in his expression, but he said, “Just sex.”

This was sure to be a mistake, sure to be something she paid for, suffered for. But she couldn’t bring herself to deny him. Deny herself. Just for tonight, she’d allow it.

So Nesta met his eyes again, took in every trembling, restrained inch, and said, “Yes.”

Cassian lunged for her, a beast freed of its cage, and she barely had time to twist toward the edge of the bed before his lips were on hers, devouring and claiming.

Deep purring sounds vibrated from his chest through her fingers as she clawed off his jacket, his shirt, ripping through the fabric. He tore his lips from hers only long enough to pull his shirt away, the fabric snaring on his wings before falling to the floor. Then he was on her again, climbing onto the bed, and she spread her legs for him, letting his body fall into the cradle between her thighs.

She couldn’t stop her moan as he drove his hips into hers, the leather of his pants sliding against her. He plunged his tongue into her mouth, the kiss

like a brand, one hand sliding up her bare thigh, tugging her nightgown with it. When he reached her hip and still had found no underwear, he hissed. Looked to where he pressed his hardness against her and realized that only the leather of his pants separated him from her wetness.

She was shaking, and not from fear, as he took a trembling hand and slid her nightgown higher. Pulled it up to her navel and then stared at her, bare and gleaming, pressed against the bulge in his pants. His chest heaved, and she waited for that brutal, demanding touch, but he only leaned down and pressed a kiss to her throat.

Tender, coaxing. Cassian pressed another to her shoulder, and she shivered. Shivered more as he dragged his tongue over the spot. He kissed the hollow of her throat. Licked it.

He slipped the straps of her nightgown down her arms. Kissed her collarbones. With each kiss, he pulled down the neck of her nightgown further. Until his breath warmed her bare breasts.

Cassian let out a sound from the back of his throat, from his gut. Like some sort of starved, tormented creature. He stared at her breasts, and she couldn’t breathe under that burning gaze. Couldn’t breathe as his head dipped and he wrapped his lips around her nipple.

Nesta arced off the bed, a breathless sound rupturing from her. Cassian only repeated the movement on her other breast.

And then raked his teeth across the sensitive peak before clamping down lightly.

She moaned then, tipping her head back, thrusting her chest up toward him in silent plea.

Cassian let out that dark laugh and returned to her other breast, teeth grazing, teasing, biting.

She strained her hands toward him, toward where he’d gone still between her legs. She needed him—now. In her hand or her body, she didn’t care.

But Cassian only pulled away. Pulled up, and knelt before her. Surveyed her spread beneath him, her nightgown a bunch of silk around her middle, everything else bared to him. His own feast to devour.

“I owe you a debt,” he said in that guttural voice that made her writhe. He watched her hips undulate, and braced his large, powerful hands on either thigh. He waited for her to signal that she understood what he intended. What she’d dreamed of for so long, in the darkest hours of the night.

In a choked whisper, she said, “Yes.”

Cassian gave her a feral, purely male smile. And then his hands tightened on her bare thighs, spreading them wider. His head lowered, and all she could see was his dark hair, gilded by the lamps, and his exquisite wings, rising above them both.

He didn’t waste time with gentle touches and tastes.

Parting her with one hand, he dragged his tongue clear up her center.

The world fractured, re-formed, and fractured again. He cursed against her wetness, and he reached down with his other hand to adjust himself in his pants.

He licked her again, lingering at the spot atop the apex of her legs.

Sucking it into his mouth, teeth nipping, before he withdrew.

She arched, unable to stop the moan breaking from her throat.

Cassian’s tongue ran downward in an unhurried sweep, and he pressed a hand to her abdomen, stilling her, as he slid his tongue straight into her core. It curled into her, driving deeper than she’d expected, and she couldn’t think, couldn’t do anything but luxuriate in it, in him—

“You taste,” he growled against her, making his way up again toward the bundle of nerves in short, teasing licks, “even more delicious than I dreamed.”

Nesta whimpered, and he flicked his tongue there. Her whimper turned to a cry, and he laughed against her and flicked his tongue again.

Release became a shimmering veil, just beyond her grasp but drifting closer.

“So wet,” he breathed, and licked at her entrance, as if determined to consume every drop of her. “Are you always this wet for me, Nesta?”

She wouldn’t allow him the satisfaction of the truth. But she couldn’t think of a lie, not with his tongue pumping in and out of her, coaxing her

toward but still denying her the pressure and relentless pounding she so badly needed.

Cassian snickered, as if he knew the answer anyway. He licked her, his silken hair brushing over her belly, and looked up to meet her gaze.

As their eyes locked, he slid a finger into her.

She cried out, and he trailed a hand from her thigh to hold her open again as he licked at that spot while his finger pumped in and out of her in a teasingly slow rhythm.

More—she wanted more. She undulated her hips against him, hard enough to drive his finger deeper.

“Greedy,” he murmured onto her, and withdrew his finger nearly to its tip. Only to add a second finger as he plunged back in.

Nesta let go entirely then. Let go of sanity and any pride as he filled her with those two fingers. He sucked and nibbled, and release gathered around her like an iridescent mist.

Cassian growled again, given over to whatever need drove him, and the reverberations of the sound echoed into places of her that had never been touched. In and out his fingers slid, stretching and filling, all while he tasted and savored.

Nesta rode his hand, his face, grinding into him with abandon. “Holy gods.” Cassian’s teeth grazed against her. “Nesta.”

The sound of her name on his lips against her most sensitive place sent her mind scattering into eternity.

She bowed off the bed with the force of her climax, and he became ravenous, fingers pumping and pumping, tongue and lips moving against her, like he’d devour her pleasure whole. He didn’t stop until she’d collapsed against the mattress, until she was limp and reeling and trying to piece her mind back together.

The slide of his fingers out of her left her empty and aching, the removal of his tongue and mouth from between her legs like a cold kiss.

Cassian was panting, still hard as he rose up and stared at her.

She couldn’t move—couldn’t remember how to move. No one had ever done that to her. Made her feel like that.

It had knocked the breath from her, the thoroughness of her pleasure.

Like the world could be remade in the force of what had erupted from her.

She just watched the carved, heaving muscle of his chest, his wings, his handsome face.

Nesta reached for the cock she was dying to feel, to taste, but he backed off the bed.

Cassian grabbed his shirt and aimed for the door. “We’re even now.”

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