The dream had been real and not real, and there had been no end to it, no escape.
Until a familiar male voice had said her name.
And the terror had stopped, as if the axis of the world had shifted toward that voice. That voice, which became a doorway, full of light and strength.
Nesta had reached a hand toward it.
And then there had been another male voice in her mind, and this one had been familiar as well, and full of power. But it had been kind, in a way she had never heard the voice be to her, and it had eased her from the black pit of the dream, leading her with a star-flecked hand back to a land of drifting clouds and rolling hills under a bright moon.
She had curled up on one of those hills, safe and guarded in the moonlight, and slept.
Nesta dozed, heavy and dreamless, and did not open her eyes until sunlight, not moonlight, kissed her face.
She was in her room, the sheets askew and half-spilled on the floor, but
Cassian was sleeping in a chair beside her bed.
His head was at an awkward angle, and his wings drooped onto the
stone—and he was wearing only his undershorts and a blanket that looked
as if someone had draped it over his lap.
It had been a nightmare, she realized with a cold splash of awareness. She’d dreamed of the Cauldron; she’d been lost in it, screaming and screaming.
And it had been his voice she’d heard. His voice and … There was no sign of Rhysand. Just Cassian.
She stared at him for long minutes, the unusual paleness of his face, the brows still scrunched with worry, as if he fretted for her even in his sleep. The sun gilded his dark hair and shone through his wings, bringing out the undertones of reds and golds in both.
Like a knight guarding his lady. She couldn’t stop the image, sprung from the pages of her childhood books. Like a warrior-prince, with those tattoos and that muscle-bound chest.
Her throat tightened unbearably, her eyes stinging.
She would not let herself cry, not for herself or for the sight of him keeping watch beside her bed all night.
But it was as if her furious blinking woke him, as if he could hear the flutter of her lashes.
His hazel eyes shot to hers, like he always knew precisely where she was. And they were so full of worry, of that unrelenting goodness, that she had to fight like hell to keep the tears from falling.
Cassian said gently, “Hey.”
She clamped down on herself. “Hello.” “Are you all right?”
“Yes.” No. Though not for the reason he believed.
“Good.” He groaned, stretching, first his arms and then his wings.
Muscles rippled. “You want to talk about it?” “No.”
And that was that.
But Cassian threw her a half smile, and it was so normal, so him in a way that no one else was or would ever be, that her throat tightened again. “You want breakfast?”
Nesta managed to answer his half smile with one of her own. “I like your priorities, General.”
“What happened to you?” Emerie asked as they panted through their abdominal exercises. “You look white as death.”
“Bad dreams,” Nesta said, willing herself not to look to where Cassian stood, instructing Roslin from a respectful distance on how to do a proper squat. They’d had a quiet breakfast, but it hadn’t been awkward. It had been comfortable—easy. Pleasant.
Gwyn asked, on Nesta’s other side, “Do you have them often?”
“Yes.” Nesta finished a sit-up, grunting through the weakness in her middle.
“Me too,” Gwyn said quietly. “Some nights, I need a sleeping potion from our healer to knock me out.”
Emerie gave Gwyn an assessing look. Emerie never asked about Gwyn’s past, or the histories of the other priestesses, but she was a cunning female. Surely she’d seen the way they kept a healthy distance from Cassian, scented their hesitation and fear, and put a few things together. Emerie asked Nesta, “What did you dream about?”
Nesta’s body locked up, but she launched back into motion, refusing to let the memories master her. “I dreamed of the Cauldron. What it did to me.”
Gwyn said, playing with her hair, “I dream of my past, too.”
But Gwyn’s admission, Nesta’s own, didn’t weigh them down. Nesta’s head had cleared slightly. And somehow, she found she could push herself harder.
Perhaps in voicing those truths, they’d given them wings. And sent them soaring into the open sky above.
“How are you holding up?”
Cassian sat across from Rhys’s desk at the river house, an ankle resting on a knee, and asked, “Me? How about you? You look like hell.”
“Yesterday was a rough day, followed by a rough night.” Rhys rested his head atop a propped fist on his desk.
Cassian angled his head. “What happened before the disaster that was last night?”
Gods, he’d nearly wept this morning to open his eyes and find Nesta staring at him, her face clear and free of pain. The shadows still lingered, yes, but he’d take anything over her screaming. Over that magic Rhys could only explain as pure death.
When Rhys didn’t answer, Cassian said, “Rhys.”
Rhys didn’t look at him as he whispered, “The baby has wings.”
Joy sparked through Cassian—even as the broken whisper and what those words meant made his blood go cold. “You’re sure?”
“We had an appointment with Madja yesterday morning.”
“But he’s only a quarter Illyrian.” It was possible, of course, for the baby to have inherited wings, but unlikely, given that Rhys himself had been born without them, and only conjured them through whatever strange, unearthly magic he possessed.
“He is. But Feyre was in an Illyrian form when he was conceived.”
“That can make a difference? I thought she only made the wings— nothing else.”
“She shape-shifts. She transforms her entire self into the form she takes. When she grants herself wings, she essentially alters her body at its most intrinsic level. So she was fully Illyrian that night.”
“She doesn’t have the wings now.”
“No, she shifted back before we knew.”
“So let her change back into an Illyrian to bear the babe.”
Rhys’s face was stark. “Madja has put a ban on any more shape-shifting. She says that to alter Feyre’s body in any way right now could put the baby at risk. On the chance that it could be bad for the baby, Feyre is forbidden to so much as change the color of her hair until after the birth.”
Cassian raked a hand through his hair. “I see. But, Rhys—it’ll be all right. It’s not that bad.”
Rhys snarled. “It is bad. For so many gods-damned reasons, it is fucking bad.”
Rhys was as close to being beside himself as Cassian had seen him since he’d returned from Amarantha’s court. “Breathe,” Cassian said calmly.
Rhys’s eyes simmered; the stars within them winked out. “Fuck you.”
“Take a breath, Rhysand.” Cassian gestured to the window behind him, the lawn sloping down to the river. “You want to go fight it out, I’ve got energy to burn.”
The study doors opened, and Azriel walked in. From the grim expression etched on his face, he already knew.
Azriel claimed the seat beside Cassian. “Tell us what you need, Rhys.” “Nothing. I need to not fall apart so my mate doesn’t pick up a whiff of
this when she comes home for lunch.” Rhys narrowed his eyes, and power rumbled in the room. “No one says a word about this to Feyre. No one.”
“Didn’t Madja warn her?” Azriel asked.
“Not strongly. She only mentioned an elevated risk during labor.” Rhys let out a harsh laugh. “An elevated risk.”
Cassian’s stomach twisted.
Azriel said, “I know this is bad timing, but there is another thing to consider, Rhys.”
Rhys lifted his head again.
Azriel’s face was like stone. “Feyre won’t show for another few weeks, but someone will notice soon enough. People will learn of her pregnancy.”
“Eris will learn.”
“He’s our ally. I suspect he’ll be focused more on dealing with his father and finding his missing soldiers than on this.”
Then Az went for the throat. “And Tamlin will learn.” Rhys’s snarl set the lights guttering. “And?”
Cassian shot Azriel a warning glare, but Az said, unafraid and unbowed, “We need to be prepared for any fallout.”
“Like I give a fuck about Tamlin right now.”
That Rhys couldn’t understand what Az meant told Cassian how distraught and terrified he was.
Cassian tried to mimic Az’s calm tone. “He may react badly.”
“He sets foot over this border and he dies.”
“I don’t doubt that,” Cassian said. “But Tamlin is already hanging by a thread. You and Lucien have made it clear that he’s barely improved this past year. Learning of Feyre’s pregnancy might make him crumble again. With a new war possible and Briallyn up to her bullshit with Koschei, we need a strong ally. We need the Spring Court’s forces.”
“So we’re to hide her pregnancy from him?”
“No. But we need to summon Lucien,” Azriel said, just a shade tightly, as if he didn’t like it one bit. “We need to tell him the news, and permanently station him at the Spring Court to contain any damage and to be our eyes and ears.”
Silence. They let the words sink in for Rhys.
“The idea of coddling Tamlin makes me want to shatter that window,” Rhys said, but it was with enough of a grumble that Cassian nearly sagged in relief. At least that sharp edge of violence had been dulled. Just a fraction.
“I’ll contact Lucien,” Azriel offered.
Fear still lingered in Rhys’s eyes, so Cassian walked around the desk and hauled his High Lord to his feet. Rhys let him.
Cassian slung an arm around Rhys’s shoulders. “Let’s go get bloodied up.”