Chapter no 28

A Court of Silver Flames

As graceful as Gwyn had been, Emerie proved to be equally awkward and unbalanced.

“It has to do with your wings,” Cassian said with such gentleness that Nesta, balancing on one leg and sweeping the other up behind her, nearly fell into the dirt next to Emerie. “Without full use of your wings, your body compensates for its off-kilter balance in ways like that.” He nodded toward the ground-eating spill she’d taken.

Gwyn halted her own balancing. “Why?”

“The wings usually act as a counterweight.” He offered a hand to help Emerie rise. “They’re full of delicate muscles that constantly adjust and steady without us so much as thinking about it.” Emerie ignored his hand and stood herself. Cassian explained carefully, “Many of the key muscles can be impacted when someone’s wings are clipped.”

Gwyn glanced to Nesta, who tensed, frowning. Gwyn and Emerie had fallen into an easy camaraderie within minutes. That could have been due to Gwyn peppering Emerie with questions about her shop as they’d gone through the opening exercises.

Emerie dusted the dirt off the legs of her leathers, looser than the ones Nesta wore, as if she were uncomfortable with the skintight norm.

Cassian’s eyes softened. “Which of the healers clipped you?”

Emerie’s chin lifted, color stealing across her face. She met his eyes, though—with a level of directness that Nesta could only admire. “My father did it himself.”

Cassian swore, low and nasty.

Emerie said, voice cold, “I fought him, so his work became even sloppier.”

Gwyn and Nesta kept quiet as Emerie stretched out her right wing nearly all the way before it bunched and shuddered. So did Emerie’s face. “I can’t extend this one past here.” She stretched out the left wing—to barely half its length. “This is all I can get on this side.”

Cassian looked like he’d be sick. “He deserved to die in that battle. Deserved to die a long time before that, Emerie.” His Siphons glared in answer, and something wild and wicked heated in Nesta’s blood at the pure rage in his face, his growling words.

Emerie folded back her wings. “He deserved to die for far more than what he did to my wings.”

“If you’re going to come to Velaris every day, I can get Madja up here. She’s the court’s private healer.” Rhys had brought Emerie, Nesta had learned. And would return her in an hour.

Emerie only went stiffer. “I appreciate the offer, but it’s unnecessary.”

Cassian opened his mouth, but Nesta interrupted, “Enough chitchat. If we only get Emerie for an hour today, then walk us through the punching, Cassian. Let her see what she’ll need to catch up to.”

Emerie threw her a grateful look, and Nesta offered her a slight smile in return.

Cassian nodded, and from the gleam in his eye, she knew he was well aware of why she’d interrupted.

Gwyn asked Emerie, “Do you have libraries in Illyria?” Another lifeline thrown.

“No. I’ve never been in one.” The stiffness faded from Emerie’s posture, word by word.

Gwyn retied her shining hair at the nape of her neck. “Do you like to read?”

Emerie’s mouth curled upward. “I live alone, up in the mountains. I have nothing to do with my spare time except work in my garden and read whatever books I order through the mail service. And in the winter, I don’t even have the distraction of my gardening. So, yes. I like to read. I cannot survive without reading.”

Nesta grunted her agreement.

“What manner of books?” Gwyn asked.

“Romances,” Emerie said, adjusting her own hair, the thick black braid full of reds and browns in the sunlight. Nesta started. Emerie’s eyes lit. “You too? Which ones?”

Nesta rattled off her top five, and Emerie grinned, so broadly it was like seeing another person. “Have you read Sellyn Drake’s novels?”

Nesta shook her head. Emerie gasped, so dramatically that Cassian muttered something about sparing him from smut-obsessed females before heading farther into the ring. “You must read her books. You must. I’ll bring the first one tomorrow. You’ll stay up all night reading it, I swear.”

“Smut?” Gwyn asked, catching Cassian’s muttered words. There was enough hesitation in her voice to make Nesta draw up straight.

Nesta glanced at Emerie, realizing the female didn’t know about Gwyn

—her history, or why the priestesses lived in the library. But Emerie asked, “What do you read?”

“Adventure, sometimes mysteries. But mostly I have to read whatever Merrill, the priestess I work with, has written that day. Not as exciting as romance, not by a long shot.”

Emerie said casually, “I can bring one of Drake’s books for you, too— one of her milder ones. An introduction to the wonders of romance.” Emerie winked at Nesta.

Nesta waited for Gwyn to refuse, but the priestess smiled. “I’d like that.”



Rhys appeared in the ring precisely when he said he would. One hour—no more, no less.

Red dirt and sweat covered Emerie, but her gaze shone bright as she bowed to the High Lord.

Gwyn, however, stilled, those large teal eyes looking even more unearthly as they widened. No fear tinged her scent, but rather something like surprise—awe.

Rhys threw her an easy smile, one Nesta would have bet was crafted to put people at ease in his oh-so-magnificent presence. The casual smile of a male used to people either fleeing in terror or falling to their knees in worship. “Hello, Gwyn,” he said warmly. “Good to see you again.”

Gwyn blushed, shaking herself out of her stupor, and bowed low. “My lord.”

Nesta rolled her eyes, and found Rhys watching her. That casual smile sharpened as he met her stare. “Nesta.”


The other two women were glancing between them, the bouncing of their stares almost comical. Cassian just strode to Nesta’s side and slung an arm around her shoulders before drawling to Rhys, “These ladies are going to hand your ass to you in combat soon enough.”

Nesta made to step out from under the heavy, sweaty weight of his arm, but Cassian clamped a too-friendly hand on her shoulder, his grin unfaltering. Rhys’s gaze slid between them, little warmth to be found in his eyes. But plenty of wariness.

Little princeling didn’t like her with his friend.

Nesta leaned into Cassian. Not much, but enough for a trained warrior like Rhysand to note.

A dark, silken hand brushed inside her mind. A request.

She debated ignoring it, but found herself opening a small door through the steel, spiked barrier she kept around herself day and night. The door was essentially a peephole, and she allowed what she supposed was the equivalent of her mental face to peer through it to the dark, sparkling plane beyond. What?

You are to treat Gwyn with kindness and respect.

The thing that stood beyond the fortress of her mind was a creature of claws, scales, and teeth. It was veiled from sight beneath writhing shadows

and the occasional passing star glinting in the darkness, but every now and then, a glimpse of a wing or a talon shone.

Mind your own business. Nesta slammed that small viewing hole shut.

She blinked, slowly registering Emerie asking Cassian about tomorrow morning’s lesson, and what she’d miss today by leaving an hour early.

Rhysand’s eyes glittered.

Cassian’s arm remained around Nesta, and his thumb moved over her shoulder in an idle, reassuring caress. Whether he knew of or sensed her silent conversation with his High Lord, he didn’t let on.

“Ready?” Rhys asked Emerie, that kind, lovely smile appearing again.

Emerie might have blushed. Rhysand had that effect on people.

Nesta often wondered how Feyre could stand it—all the people lusting after her mate. Nesta pushed out of Cassian’s arm again, and this time he let her. She followed Emerie to where she was gathering her heavy cloak. “So you’ll come back tomorrow?” Nesta asked. A glance over her shoulder revealed Gwyn walking to the water station, either to give the two males privacy or from discomfort at being left with them.

Guilt pricked at Nesta for that abandonment, and she made a mental note not to allow it to happen again. Gwyn had been fine with Cassian these past days: she did not touch him, and he did not touch her, but she hadn’t shied from him as she did now. Nesta didn’t want to think about why that was, what scars had been etched so deeply in Gwyn that two of the most trustworthy males in this entire land couldn’t put her at ease.

Rhysand might be an arrogant, vain bastard, but he was honorable. He fought like hell to protect innocents. Her dislike of him had nothing to do with what he’d proved so many times: he was a fair, just ruler, who put his people before himself. No, she just found his personality—that slick smugness—grating.

Emerie answered, “I’ll come back tomorrow.”

Nesta angled her head. “I had no idea tea and spices were that convincing.”

Emerie smiled slightly. “It wasn’t only the gift, but the reminder of what they mean.”

“What’s that?”

Emerie gazed skyward, closing her eyes as an autumn breeze rippled past. “That there is a world beyond Windhaven. That I am too much of a coward to see it.”

“You’re not a coward.”

“You said I was the other day.”

Nesta winced. “I spoke in anger.”

“You spoke truth. I stayed awake that night thinking of it. And then you had Cassian deliver the spices and tea and I realized that there is a world out there. A vast, vibrant world. Maybe these lessons will make me a little less scared of it.”

Nesta offered a tentative smile. “Sounds like a good enough reason to me.”



Cassian watched Rhys’s face carefully as Nesta and Emerie spoke, and Gwyn drifted over to join them. Promises of books to be swapped filled the air.

Rhys said to him, This is an interesting development.

Cassian didn’t bother to make his face look pleasant. I could have done without you giving Nesta a mental warning.

Rhys’s brows narrowed. How did you know I did that?

The bastard didn’t even try to deny it.

I noticed the way she tensed. And I know you well, brother. You saw Gwyn and thought the worst of Nesta. She’s treated her—and Emerie—with kindness.

That’s what pissed you off?

I’m pissed off that you can’t seem to believe even one good thing about her. That you refuse to fucking believe one good thing about her. Was it necessary to bait her like that?

Regret glimmered in Rhys’s eyes.

Cassian went on, You’re not making it easier. Let her build these bonds, and stay the hell out of it.

Rhys blinked. I’m sorry. I will.

Cassian blew out a breath. Rhys added, Did you really feel you had to put your arm around her shoulders to restrain her?

I don’t want the two of you within three feet of each other. You have a pregnant mate, Rhys. You’ll kill anyone that presents a threat to Feyre. You’re a danger to all of us right now.

I’d never harm someone Feyre loves. You know that.

There was enough tension in the words that Cassian clapped his brother on the shoulder, squeezing the hard muscle beneath. Maybe drop Emerie off on the other side of the House tomorrow. Give Nesta some time to sort her shit out.

All right.

The three females approached them. Rhys opened his wings and said to Emerie, “Shall we?”

Emerie took the hand Rhys extended. “Yes.” She looked to Cassian, then to Nesta, and said, “Thank you.”

Damn if it didn’t hit him in the heart, that gratitude and hope in Emerie’s eyes.

Rhys gathered her to him, careful of the intimate press of her wings against his body, and shot into the sky.

As Rhys soared above the House’s wards, just before he winnowed to Windhaven, he said to Cassian, I don’t know what the fuck the two of you have been doing in this House, but it reeks of sex.

Cassian snorted. A polite male never tells.

Rhys’s laughter rumbled in his mind. I don’t think you know what the word polite means.

Thank the gods for that.

His brother laughed again. I told Az playing chaperone would be useless.

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