Without doing extra training between the stacks, Nesta found herself less exhausted when she left the library. Cassian had retrieved her from Windhaven after two and a half hours, and she’d already been so bored sitting in Rhys’s mother’s house that she’d nearly smiled to see him. But Cassian’s face had been tight, his eyes cold and distant, and he’d barely spoken to her when Rhys had appeared. Rhys had barely spoken to her, either, but that was to be expected. It was better if they didn’t speak at all.
Yet Cassian hadn’t said more than “I’ll see you later” before leaving again with Rhys after the High Lord had brought them back to the House of Wind, his face still tight and angry.
With the extra energy buzzing through her that night, wondering incessantly why Cassian had been so upset, Nesta didn’t feel like eating in her room and falling asleep. So she found herself in the doorway of the dining room.
Cassian was lounging in his chair, a glass of wine in his hand, staring at nothing. A brooding warrior-prince, contemplating the death of his enemies. She took a step into the room, and the wineglass vanished.
She snorted. “I’m not so wine-addled that I’d steal it from your hand.”
“The House is under specific orders—no wine when you’re in the room.” He flexed his fingers as he sat up. “It took it from me.”
“Ah.” She claimed the seat across from him as a place setting and a plate of food appeared, along with water for both of them.
Cassian returned to staring at his half-eaten food. She hadn’t seen his face this grave since the war.
“Did something happen with the queens or the Trove?”
He blinked. “What?” Then gave a one-shouldered shrug. “No, just … Eris was his usual charming self today.” He pushed around the roast chicken with his fork.
Nesta picked up her own fork, hungry enough that she let the subject drop as she devoured her food. When she’d taken the edge off her hunger, she said, “I asked Emerie to join training.”
“I’m assuming she said no.” His words were flat, his face distant.
“Indeed. But if she changes her mind, I thought maybe someone could winnow her here.”
“Sure.” She could tell he wasn’t just being short with her—he was so preoccupied with whatever was eating at him that he could barely talk.
It bothered her more than it should have. Bothered her enough that she asked, “What happened?” She made herself eat more, acting as casual as possible, trying to coax him into opening up. To talk about what had brought that bruised look to his eyes.
His gaze lowering to his plate, Cassian told her about the meeting with Eris.
“So Eris is set on helping us find the Trove—and making sure his father doesn’t get his hands on it, or hear about it,” Nesta said when he’d finished. “Isn’t that a good thing? Why are you riled?” Why do you look so battered?
“It’s the ugliness of his fucking soul that riles me. I don’t care if he calls me a mongrel bastard.” Eris had called him such things today, she realized. Rage rippled through her. “It’s just that, ally or not, I hate him. He’s so slick and unruffled and … I can’t stand him.” He set down his fork and stared toward the window behind her. “Eris and his twisted word games and politics are an enemy I don’t know how to handle. Every time I meet with him, I feel like he’s got the upper hand. Like I can only catch up to him, and he sees through my every fumbling attempt at being clever. Maybe that makes me a stupid brute after all.”
True sorrow filled his face—and enough self-loathing that Nesta rose from her seat. He went still as she rounded the table, only lifting his head when she leaned against the edge of the table beside his plate. “Rhys should kill him and be done with it.”
“If anyone is going to kill Eris, it will be Mor or me.” His hazel eyes were nearly pleading. Not with her, she knew, but with fate. “But killing him would prove him and his ilk right about me. And regardless of how I feel about Eris, he would be a better High Lord than Beron. No matter what I want, there’s still the well-being of the Autumn Court to consider.”
Cassian was good. In his soul, in his warrior’s heart, Cassian was good in a way Nesta knew most people were not. In a way she knew she was not and would never be.
He was not a warrior who killed on a whim, but a male who carefully considered every life he had to take. Who’d defend what he loved until death.
And Eris … He’d hurt Cassian. With what he’d done to Morrigan, yes, but also with the words so similar to ones that Nesta herself had wielded. The wound lay in Cassian’s eyes, as raw as any injury.
Shame rushed through her. Shame, and anger, and a wild sort of desperation. She couldn’t abide the pain in his eyes, teetering on the brink of despair. Couldn’t stand the absence of the grinning and winking and swaggering she knew so well.
She’d do anything to get rid of that look in his eyes. Even for a few moments.
So Nesta braced her hands on the arms of his chair as she brushed a kiss to his neck.
Cassian’s breath caught. But she pressed another kiss to the soft, warm skin of his neck, just beneath his ear. Another, lower now, closer to the collar of his dark shirt.
He trembled, and she kissed the hard knot in the center of his throat.
Cassian shifted in his chair, groaning softly. His hand rose to clasp her hip, as if he’d push her away, but she removed him. “Let me,” she said against his neck. “Please.”
He swallowed, and that hard knot moved against her mouth. But he didn’t stop her, and so Nesta kissed him again, moving to the other side of his neck. Reaching that spot just beneath his ear as she laid a hand on his chest and felt his heartbeat hammering into her palm.
She didn’t kiss his mouth. She didn’t want that distraction. Not as she slid between him and the table and dropped to her knees.
His eyes went wide. “Nesta.”
She reached for the top of his pants, the bulge already pressing through. “Please,” she said again, and met his stare. From where she knelt between Cassian’s legs, he towered over her, but the edge in his eyes softened almost imperceptibly before he nodded. He reached to help her with the buttons and stays, but she lightly laid a hand atop his.
Her fingers were steady, sure, as she unfastened his pants. Her head wholly clear.
The muscles in his thighs shifted against her as she pulled him free and nearly gasped.
His cock was enormous. Beautiful, and hard, and absolutely enormous. Her mouth dried out, every plan she’d had requiring sudden reassessment. There was no way he’d fit entirely in her mouth. Perhaps no way he’d even fit in her body.
But she sure as hell wanted to try.
Her fingers shook a little as she stroked them down the thick, long shaft. The skin was so soft—softer than silk or velvet. And he was hard as steel beneath. He shuddered, and she lifted her eyes to find his gaze fixed on her hand.
“How do you like it?” she asked, her voice breathy as hot need washed through her. She wrapped her hand around his cock—her fingers barely able to reach around him completely. “Gentle?” She made a feather-soft pass over him, squeezing lightly.
Cassian shook his head, as if beyond words.
She stroked him again, slightly harder. “Like this?”
His chest heaved, his teeth shining as he gritted them. But he shook his head.
Nesta smiled, and when she pumped him a third time, she squeezed hard, letting her nails graze the sensitive underside of his shaft.
His hips arced off the chair, and she pinned a hand to them. “I see,” she murmured, and did it again. Harder still, twisting her fist as she reached the round head.
He tried to arch into her hand, but she pinned him again with that other hand.
“And this?” she purred, head lowering. “Do you like this?”
Nesta licked across his broad head, tongue sliding into the small slit across its tip. She licked up the small bead of moisture already gathered there.
Everything in her body turned molten; a surge of wetness slicked between her thighs as the taste of him filled her mouth, salt and something more, something vital.
“Oh, gods,” Cassian panted. And the words, the groan they were borne on, were so delicious that Nesta sucked his tip into her mouth and grazed her tongue along its underside.
He leaned his head back against the chair, hissing.
She licked up his shaft in one long motion. Rubbed her thighs together as she tasted him, felt all that hot, proud steel against her mouth. She licked down the other side, coating him, making it easier for herself as she put her mouth around him again and slid him between her lips.
He filled her almost immediately, and she glanced down to discover there was enough of him still exposed that she needed to add her hand. “Nesta,” he pleaded, and she made another pass at him, pulling him out nearly all the way before swallowing him again, letting her throat relax, desperate for as much of him in her mouth as could fit.
Cassian’s hand speared into her hair, gripping, and she realized he was holding himself back. Didn’t want to ram himself into her, hurt her, displease her.
And that wouldn’t do. Not at all.
She wanted him undone, wanted him grabbing her head and fucking her mouth as hard as he wished.
So when Nesta took him into her mouth again, hand working in unison, she dragged her teeth. Lightly enough to hurt—just a bit.
Cassian bucked, and she let him, swallowing him down greedily, squeezing him with her hand enough to tell him she wanted this, wanted him to let himself go. She withdrew her lips to the tip of him, rolling her tongue around him, and gazed at him from under her lashes.
His eyes were on her, wide and glazed with lust.
And when Cassian met her stare, beheld her looking up at him— He unleashed himself.
He couldn’t take it. It was torture, a special kind of torture, to have Nesta kneeling before him with his cock in her mouth and hand and not be able to roar with pleasure. But then she stared at him through her lashes, and the sight of her with his cock between her lips snapped something.
He didn’t care that they were in the dining room, that a wall of windows and doors lined half the space and anyone flying by might see.
Cassian slid his other hand into her hair, fingers twining into her braided coronet, and he thrust up into her mouth.
She took him deep, and moaned so loudly it reverberated along his cock and straight into his balls. They tightened further, and release gathered in his spine, a scorching knot that had him arcing into her mouth again. He was utterly at her mercy.
Nesta moaned once more, a soft encouragement, and Cassian needed nothing else. Gripping her hair, her scalp, holding her in place, he thrust his hips. She met him with each stroke, mouth and hand working in unison, until the slick heat of her, the teeth that sometimes grazed him, teased him, the tightness of her fist—they were unbearable, were all he cared about.
Cassian fucked her mouth, and her moaning had him deciding he’d fuck the rest of her, too. Strip those pants off her and drive into her so hard she’d be screaming his name to the ceiling.
He made to pull out, but Nesta refused to move. He growled, his fingers clamping on her head to still her. “I want to be inside you,” he managed to say, his voice like gravel.
But Nesta looked up at him again from under her lashes, and he watched his length disappear into her mouth. His tip bumped against the back of her throat.
Oh, gods. He clenched his teeth. “I want to finish inside you.”
Nesta only huffed a laugh, and sucked him down so deep that he couldn’t stop it. Couldn’t stop the release as she slid her other hand into his pants and cupped his balls, squeezing softly.
Cassian came with a roar that shook the glasses on the table, arcing up into her as he spilled himself down her throat.
She weathered it, weathered him, and when he’d stopped shuddering, she smoothly, gracefully, slid her mouth off him.
Nesta held his stare while she swallowed. Swallowed down every ounce of what he’d spilled into her mouth. And then her lips curved upward, a queen triumphant.
Cassian panted, not caring that his cock was still out, slick and leaking, only that she was mere inches away and he was going to return this particular favor she’d given him.
Nesta rose to her feet, eyes flicking to his cock. The heat in her gaze threatened to burn him, and the scent of her arousal wrapped itself around him and dug its claws in deep.
“Take off your pants,” he growled.
Nesta’s smile only grew, pure feline amusement.
He’d fuck her on this table. Right now. He didn’t care about anything else, about the common space they were in or Eris or Briallyn or Koschei or the Dread Trove. He needed to be inside her, to feel that hot tightness around him and claim her as she had claimed him.
Nesta’s fingers slid to the buttons and laces of her pants, and he shook as he watched them free the top button—
Steps scuffed down the hall. A warning. From someone who knew how to remain silent.
Cassian stiffened, then shoved his aching cock into his pants. Nesta heard the sound and moved a few feet away, refastening that top button. Cassian had just finished setting himself to rights when Azriel strode in.
“Good evening,” his brother said with a grating level of calm, striding toward the table.
“Az.” Cassian wasn’t able to keep the bite out of his tone. He met his brother’s too-aware stare and silently conveyed every bit of annoyance he felt at his timing. Azriel only shrugged, surveying the food the House had brought him. As if he knew exactly what he’d interrupted and took his chaperone duties very seriously.
Nesta was watching them, but as soon as Cassian turned to her, she launched into movement, pushing off the table and aiming for the door. “Good night.” She didn’t wait for him to respond before she was gone.
Cassian leveled a glare at Az. “Thanks for that.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Az said, even as he smiled down at his food.
Az chuckled. “Don’t show your hand all at once, Cass.” “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Az nodded toward the doorway. “Save something for later.” “Busybody.”
Az took a bite. “You let her suck your cock in the middle of the dining room. At a table I’m currently using to eat my dinner. I’d say that entitles me to an opinion.”
Cassian laughed, his earlier gloom chased away. By her. All by her. “Fair enough.”