Chapter no 41

A Court of Silver Flames

Helion, High Lord of the Day Court, arrived at the Hewn City the next afternoon on a flying horse.

He’d wanted to enter the dark city in a golden chariot led by four snow-white horses with manes of golden fire, Rhys had told Cassian, but Rhys had forbidden the chariot and horses, and let Helion know that he could winnow in or not come at all.

Hence the pegasus. Helion’s idea of a compromise.

Cassian had heard the rumors of Helion’s rare pegasuses. Myth claimed his prized stallion had flown so high the sun had scorched him black, but beholding the beast now … Well, Cassian might have been envious, if he didn’t have wings himself.

The winged horses were rare—so rare that it was said Helion’s seven breeding pairs of flying horses were the only ones left. Lore held that there had once been far more of them before recorded history, and that most had just vanished, as if they’d been devoured by the sky itself. Their population had dwindled further in the last thousand years, for reasons no one could explain.

This hadn’t been helped by Amarantha, who had butchered three dozen of Helion’s pegasuses in addition to burning so many of his libraries. The seven pegasus pairs that remained had survived thanks to being set free

before Amarantha’s cronies could reach their pens in the highest tower of Helion’s palace.

Helion’s most beloved pair—this black stallion, Meallan, and his mate

—hadn’t produced offspring in three hundred years, and that last foal hadn’t made it out of weaning before he’d succumbed to an illness no healer could remedy.

According to legend, the pegasuses had come from the island the Prison sat upon—had once fed in fair meadows that had long given way to moss and mist. Perhaps that was part of the decline: their homeland had vanished, and whatever had sustained them there was no longer.

Cassian let himself admire the sight of Meallan alighting on the black stones of the courtyard before the towering gates into the mountain, the stallion’s mane blowing in the wind off his jet-black wings. Few things remained in the faerie realms that could summon any sort of wonder from Cassian, but that magnificent stallion, proud and haughty and only half-tamed, snatched the breath from his chest.

“Incredible,” Rhys murmured, similar admiration shining in his face.

Feyre beamed with delight, and Cassian knew from that look that she’d be painting this beast—and possibly its stunning master as well. Azriel, too, blinked in awe as the stallion pawed at the ground, huffing, and Helion patted the pegasus’s thick, muscular neck before dismounting.

“Well met,” Rhys said, striding forward.

“It’s not the parade I wished,” Helion said, clasping Rhys’s hand, “but Meallan knows how to make an entrance.” He let out a whistle, and the pegasus pivoted gracefully despite his size, flapped those mighty wings, and leaped back into the skies to wait elsewhere for his master.

Helion grinned at Feyre, who’d watched the stallion soar into the clouds with wide eyes. He said, “I’ll take you on a ride if you wish.”

Feyre smiled. “I would ordinarily take you up on that offer, but I’m afraid I can’t risk it.”

Helion’s brows lifted. For a heartbeat, Rhys and Feyre conferred silently, and then Rhys nodded.

Rhys’s voice filled Cassian’s head a second later. We’re telling him. Cassian kept his face neutral. Why risk it?

Rhys said solemnly, Because we need his libraries. To find any way to save Feyre, Rhys didn’t say. His High Lord went on, And because you and Azriel were right: it’s only a matter of time until Feyre is showing. She’s indulged my request for a shield, but she’ll have my balls if I suggest glamouring her to hide the pregnancy. Rhys grimaced. So here we go.

Cassian nodded. I’ve got your back, brother.

Rhys threw him a grateful glance, and then must have lifted his shield on his mate because Feyre’s scent—that wonderful, lovely scent—filled the air. Helion’s eyes widened, going right to her middle, where her hand now rested against the small swelling. He let out a laugh. “So this is why you needed to learn about impenetrable shields, Rhysand.” Helion leaned in to kiss Feyre’s cheek. “My congratulations to you both.”

Feyre beamed, but Rhys’s smile was less open. If Helion noted it, he said nothing. The High Lord of Day considered Cassian and Azriel, then frowned. “Where’s my beautiful Mor?”

Az said tightly, “Away.”

“Pity. She’s far nicer to look at than either of you.” Cassian rolled his eyes.

Helion smirked, picking an invisible fleck of lint from his draped white robe, then faced Rhys. His dark brown skin gleamed over the strong muscles of his bare thighs and legs, the golden sandals that laced up his calves useless in the snowcapped terrain around them. The High Lord carried no weapons—the only metal on him was the golden armband around one muscled biceps, fashioned after a snake, and the spiked golden crown atop his shoulder-length black hair. There would never be any mistaking Helion for anything but a High Lord, yet Cassian had always rather liked his casual, irreverent air. The male drawled to Rhys, “Well? You wanted me to do some digging into a spell? Or was that an excuse to get me to your twisted pleasure palace under this mountain?”

Rhys sighed. “Please don’t make me regret bringing you here, Helion.” Helion’s golden eyes lit. “Where would the fun be if I didn’t?”

Feyre linked her arm through his. “I missed you, my friend.”

Helion patted her hand. “I’ll deny it to the grave if you tell anyone, but I missed you too, Cursebreaker.”



“I like this palace much more than the one beneath,” Helion said an hour later, surveying the moonstone pillars and gauzy curtains blowing in a mild breeze that belied the snow-crusted mountain range around them. Beyond the palace’s shields, Cassian knew that breeze became a howling, bitter wind that could flay the flesh from one’s bones.

Helion flung himself into a low-lying chair before one of the endless views, sighing. “All right. Do you want my assessment now that we’re out of the Hewn City?”

Feyre slid into the seat beside his, but Cassian, Rhys, and Az remained standing, the shadowsinger leaning against a pillar, half-hidden from sight. Feyre asked, “Are the soldiers enchanted?”

Helion had spoken to and briefly touched the hands of the two Autumn Court soldiers chained in that room, kept alive and fed by Rhys’s magic. Helion’s face had tensed when he’d touched their hands—and he’d then murmured that he’d seen enough.

Nothing in the Hewn City had seemed to disturb him until that moment. Not the towering black pillars and their carvings, not the wicked people who occupied it, not the utter darkness of the place. If it reminded Helion of his time Under the Mountain, he did not let on. Amarantha had modeled her court there after this one, apparently—a sorry replica, Rhys had said.

Enchanted isn’t the right word,” Helion said, frowning. “Their bodies and actions are indeed not their own, but no spell lies upon them. I can feel spells—like threads. Ones that can enchant feel like bindings around an individual. I sensed none of that.”

“So what ails them?” Rhys asked.

“I don’t know,” Helion admitted with unusual gravity. “Rather than a thread, it was more like a mist. A fog, exactly as you described it, Rhysand. There was nothing to grasp on to, nothing tangible to break, yet it was there.”

Rhys asked, “Does it feel less like a spell and more like … an influence?”

Shit. Shit.

Helion rubbed his jaw. “I can’t explain how, but it’s as if this fog around their mind sways them.” He noted their expressions. “What is it?”

Feyre’s mouth tightened. “The Crown—part of the Dread Trove.”

And then it all came out, Queen Briallyn and her hunt for the Trove, Koschei’s involvement, the Mask that Nesta had retrieved. Only Eris’s secrets regarding the depths of Beron’s treachery remained unspoken. When Feyre finished, Helion shook his head slowly. “I thought we’d at least have a break from trying to avoid disasters like this.”

“Just the Harp remains at large, then,” Azriel said. He remained leaning against the pillar, swathed in shadows. “If Briallyn has the Crown, it’s possible she’s had it for a while—and it’s why the other queens fled to their own territories. Maybe they thought she’d use it on them, and ran. Maybe she even found it here during the war, while we were all distracted with fighting Hybern, and used it to pull her forces back, to bide her time. It could be what brought her to Koschei’s attention—that it’s what he wants from her.”

“I can buy that,” Feyre said, “but why use it on Eris’s soldiers to attack our people in Oorid? What’s the motive?”

“Perhaps it was to let us know she’s aware that we know of her plans,” Rhys suggested.

“But how did she know we’d be in the bog?” Cassian asked. “Those soldiers didn’t have the power to winnow—they would have had to travel on foot for weeks before they got there.”

“They’ve been missing for more than a month,” Feyre pointed out.

Helion said, “Remember that Briallyn is Made, too. She might not be able to scry for the Cauldron, but she can scry for the Dread Trove as well as Nesta Archeron can. She could have learned the Mask was in Oorid, but did not dare to venture into its darkness. It’s possible that she planted the soldiers to take the Mask from you once you found it.”

“Or trick us into killing them, thus making an enemy of the Autumn Court,” Cassian said.

“But Briallyn has to be stupid,” Feyre said, “if she thinks those soldiers would be enough to overpower any of us.”


Helion nodded to Feyre. “You said the Mask is here now? May I see

“We need your help with it, actually,” Feyre said. “Rhys warded and

locked the room where the Mask lies, but it opened the locks to let my sister in, likely because she’s Made. And if she can get in, it’s possible Briallyn could as well.” Feyre slid her tattooed hands into her pockets. “Can you show Nesta how to ward it herself? Something perhaps with a bit more … oomph?”

“Oomph?” Rhys asked, lifting an eyebrow.

“Oomph,” Feyre said, throwing him a glare. “We can’t all be silver-tongued like you.”

Rhys winked. “Good thing you benefit from it, Feyre darling.”

Cassian chose to ignore the innuendo, and the flicker of arousal from both of them. Helion, however, snickered.

Azriel cleared his throat. “Nesta’s waiting.”

“She’s here?” Helion practically shimmered with golden light.

“Yes,” Feyre said simply, rising from the chair. Cassian didn’t miss the sultry look his High Lady gave Rhys as she passed by, aiming for the rooms at the northern end of the palace. And he didn’t miss the deep laugh Rhys gave her in return, full of sensual promise.

He couldn’t help the pang in his chest at the casual intimacy, the blatant affection and love. A far cry from just sex.

Helion trailed, commenting on the palace’s beauty. Cassian blocked him out, too busy mulling over how Nesta hadn’t so much as bothered to object when he’d left her bed. And hadn’t so much as approached him for more since.

He’d held himself back, especially since she seemed to drive herself into the ground during practice, working out whatever she needed to in her heart, her mind. But he hadn’t been able to stop remembering it—the sex, and that image of her, her backside still upraised as she lay on the bed, her beautiful sex swollen and gleaming, wet with his seed.

“What are you thinking about?” Helion drawled as they approached a shut wooden door.

Cassian straightened. He hadn’t realized his thoughts had dragged such a scent from him. He grinned. “Your mother.”

Helion chuckled. “I always forget how much I like you.” “Happy to remind you.” Cassian winked.

Feyre reached the door, knocked, and then there she was—Nesta.

She sat at the table where the Mask rested, a book open before her. From the speed with which she shut the volume, Cassian knew she’d been reading one of the romances she, Emerie, and Gwyn traded amongst them.

Cassian found himself tensing as Helion stepped into the room, and Nesta rose. She’d worn a dark blue dress today—the first time in a month he’d seen her in one. No longer did it hang off her. She’d packed on enough weight that the bodice was again formfitting, and those lush breasts swelled gracefully above the scooped neckline.

Helion offered a bow of his head, the epitome of courtly grace. “Lady Nesta.”

Nesta bobbed a curtsy, but her eyes cut to Feyre. “Lady?” Feyre shrugged. “He’s being polite.”

Nesta slid her eyes to Cassian’s. “Now I understand why you find the title grating.”

He smiled, and Helion blinked—as if shocked she’d forgotten a High Lord stood before her.

But Nesta had blown past Helion the first time they’d met, too, utterly unimpressed.

Cassian said to her, “It never gets easier.”

Nesta faced Helion again, taking in that spiked golden crown and the draped white robe. “Was that your winged horse that flew over earlier?”

Helion’s smile was a thing of cultivated beauty. “He is my finest stallion.”

“He’s lovely.” “As are you.”

Nesta angled her head as Cassian found himself near-breathless, waiting for her reply. Feyre and Rhys seemed to be trying not to laugh, and Azriel was the portrait of cool boredom.

Nesta surveyed Helion for long enough that he shifted on his feet. A High Lord shifted on his feet under her gaze. She said at last, “I appreciate the compliment,” and that was that.

That pause while she’d surveyed Helion had been a courtier’s pause.

Assessing how best to strike. Helion frowned slightly.

Rhys cleared his throat, amusement glittering in his eyes. “Well, there it is.” He pointed to the black velvet mound on the table. “Nesta?”

She pulled away the cloth. Ancient, beaten gold gleamed, and Helion hissed as a cold, strange power filled the room, whispering like a chill breeze.

Helion whirled to Nesta, all sensuality vanished. “You truly wore this and lived?” It wasn’t a question meant to be answered. “Cover it again, please. I can’t stand it.”

Rhys tucked in his wings. “It affects you that much?”

“Doesn’t it rake its cold claws down your senses?” Helion asked.

“Not as much as all that,” Feyre said. “We can sense its power, but it didn’t bother any of us so seriously.”

Helion shuddered, and Nesta threw the cloth over the Mask. As if the cloth somehow blinded it to their presence. “Perhaps an ancestor of mine once used it, and the warning of its cost is imprinted upon my blood.” Helion shook out a breath. “All right, not-Lady Nesta. Allow me to show you some warding tricks even clever Rhysand doesn’t know.”



In the end, Helion created the wards and keyed them to Nesta’s blood. A pinprick of it, courtesy of Truth-Teller, had done the job, and Cassian had found himself tensing at the sight of that little bead of red. Its scent.

It was an effort of will to tell his body there was no threat, that the blood was willing, that she was fine. But it didn’t stop him from grinding his teeth loudly enough that Feyre whispered to him beneath Nesta and Helion’s conversation, “What’s wrong with you?”

Cassian muttered back, “Nothing. Stop being such a busybody, Cursebreaker.”

Feyre shot him a sidelong glance. “You’re acting like a caged animal.” Her lips curved upward. “Are you jealous?”

Cassian kept his voice neutral. “Of Helion?”

“I don’t see anyone else in this room who’s currently holding my sister’s hand and smiling at her.”

The bastard was indeed doing that, though Nesta remained stone-faced. “Why would I be jealous?”

Feyre’s laugh was a rustle of air.

Cassian couldn’t stop his answering grin, earning a confused glance from Azriel. Cassian shook his head, just as Nesta pulled her hand from Helion’s grip and asked, “So it’s done?”

“Once we leave this room, no one shall be able to enter it. Even you, if you do not unlock my wards, cannot enter.”

Nesta loosed a little sigh. “Good.”

“I’ll show you the unlocking spell,” Helion said, but she stepped away from him.

“No,” Nesta said abruptly. “No, I don’t want to know it.” Silence fell.

Nesta declared to none of them in particular, “If Briallyn is hunting for the Mask, if she apprehends me, I don’t want to have any knowledge of how to free it.” It was wise, even if it made him sick to consider, but he could have sworn it was a lie. Could have sworn that Nesta didn’t want to have access to the information—for herself.

As if she might be tempted by the Mask.

Rhys said, “That’s fine. Helion can show me, and if we need the knowledge, I’ll show you.” Rhys held out a hand to Helion, indicating how he’d prefer to be shown the spell. Their fingers interlaced, their eyes going vacant, and then Rhys blinked. “Thank you.”

Azriel said, “We have to notify Eris about his soldiers’ reappearance.

And what we did to them.”

Cassian surveyed his family, his friends. “How much do we tell Eris?

Do we let him know we have the Mask?”

The question hung there. Then Rhys said, “Not yet.” He nodded to Cassian. “Pay Eris a visit tomorrow.” Rhys gestured to Nesta. “You go with


Nesta stiffened, and Cassian tried not to gape. “Why?” she asked.

“Because you savor playing the game,” Rhys said. He’d undoubtedly noticed how smoothly she dealt with Helion’s attempts to flirt earlier. Rhys knew how to wield a tool at his disposal. “But it’s your choice,” he added.

Cassian cleared his throat. “Sounds fine to me.” Nesta, to his surprise, didn’t object.

“I want to confirm that Briallyn has the Crown,” Azriel said. “I’ll travel to the human lands tomorrow.”

“No,” Feyre and Rhys said at the same time, in the same breath. Azriel’s eyes shuttered. “I wasn’t asking for permission.”

Rhys smirked. “Doesn’t matter.”

Az opened his mouth to object, but Feyre said, “You’re not going, Azriel. If Briallyn has the Crown and catches you, even if she just suspects you’re nearby, who knows what she could do to you?”

“Give me some credit, Feyre,” Az said. “I can keep hidden well enough.”

“We take no risks,” Feyre said, voice flat with command. “Pull all your spies out.”

“Like hell I will.”

Cassian braced himself, but Feyre didn’t back down. “Information from your spies—any spies—can’t be trusted with the Crown in play. Amren said it needs close contact to sink its claws into someone’s mind. We stay far away from Briallyn.”

Azriel bristled and turned to Rhys. “And you agree with her?”

“She’s your High Lady,” Rhys said coldly. “What she says is law.”

Az eyed him, eyed Feyre. Determined that they were an immovable unit, an impenetrable wall against which his fury would only break again and again.

In the taut silence, Helion nodded to the bright hall beyond the room. “I would like to remove myself from the Mask’s odious presence, and perhaps enjoy your palace, Rhysand. It’s been a long while since I was in a place of such quiet. If you’ll allow it, I’ll stay here for an hour or two.”

“Something bothering you at home?” Rhys inquired, falling into step beside the High Lord.

Cassian caught Nesta’s stare as he left the room, and she grabbed her book before following them out. Feyre exited with Azriel, murmuring with a tattooed hand on his shoulder.

Cassian asked Nesta, “What are you reading today?” “A Brief History of the Great Sieges by Osian.”

He almost stumbled a step. “Not a romance?”

“I realized after you left me The Dance of Battle that there’s a great deal left for me to learn. Last night I asked the House to give me something you might read.”


Nesta tucked the book under an arm. “What’s the point in learning fighting techniques if I don’t know their true purpose and uses? You’d train me into a weapon, and I’d be just that: someone else’s weapon. I want to know how to wield it—myself, I mean. And others.”

Cassian was stunned into silence as they ascended the steps, following Helion and Rhys, who chatted away at the head of their group. “You plan on leading an army, Nes?”

“Not an army.” She glanced sidelong at him. “But perhaps a small unit of females.”

She was dead serious. “The priestesses?”

“I don’t know if they’d join, but … There are others out there, I’m sure, who might. I’m immortal now, or as close to it as possible. I have nothing but time to plan far into the future.”

His chest tightened. Planning for the future. It was a hell of a good sign.



Cassian knocked on Nesta’s bedroom door at the House after dinner. She hadn’t joined him and Azriel, though perhaps it had been for the best.

The High Lord and High Lady of the Night Court had faced off against the shadowsinger this afternoon, and emerged triumphant.

Perhaps triumphant wasn’t the right word, but the argument had ended with Azriel grudgingly agreeing not to spy on Briallyn for the time being—

and brooding all through dinner.

Nesta’s voice echoed through the wood. “Enter.”

He found her in bed, a book propped up against her knees. It appeared she’d gone back to romance. “No more war books?” He held up the three he had brought with him—his reason for being here. His excuse.

“Only during the day.” She sat up, gathering the blankets around her waist. “What are those?”

“More texts I thought you might be interested in.” He set them on the desk.

Nesta dipped her chin in a shallow nod, her long braid bobbing over her chest with the movement. She wore a long-sleeved nightgown, and, though there was no fire in the hearth, the room stayed warm. As if the House had noted her dislike for fires and heated it another way.

He forced himself to move from the desk, to aim for her door again. She said before he’d reached the archway, “Was it not good for you?” Cassian turned slowly. “What?”

A flush stained her cheeks as she lifted her chin. “Was the sex not good for you?”

He swallowed. “Why would you ask that?”

Nesta’s throat bobbed. She was … Fuck, was she really that unsure of him? “You left quickly. And didn’t seek me out again.”

I left quickly because I needed to keep some pieces of myself intact. “You’ve been focused on training.”

Her eyes flickered with something like hurt. “All right. Well, good night.”

“I didn’t mean it like that. Fuck, Nesta.” He stalked toward the bed, and she straightened again, peering at him as he towered over her. “How could I be so selfish—to demand more sex from you when you’re so invested in training?”

“It’s not a demand if both sides want it,” she said. “And I just worried you … didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.”

“You think I haven’t sought you out because I didn’t enjoy myself?” When she said nothing, he braced his hands on either side of her and leaned in to whisper in her ear, breathing in her scent, “I enjoyed myself too much.

I’ve thought about it for days and days.” She shivered, and he smiled against the soft shell of her ear. He loved this—seeing that icy exterior crumble, seeing how he affected her. “Have you been touching yourself at night, thinking about it like I do?”

Nesta’s chin dipped in the barest of nods, and from the corner of his eye, he spied a flash of her teeth as she bit her bottom lip. “Have those sweet little fingers felt as good as mine?”

Her breathing hitched, but she wouldn’t answer. He knew she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. He nipped at her earlobe, drawing a gasp from her. “Well?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered. “I’d have to see again.”

“Hmm.” Cassian lowered his mouth, pressing a kiss beneath her ear. His cock hardened, already aching against his pants. “Shall we do a little side-by-side comparison?”

She whimpered, and he crawled onto the bed, straddling her legs. His blood pounded through every inch of him, in time to the pulse in his cock, and he pulled away from her neck to find her eyes bright with desire.

The world quieted, and she stared and stared at him as he slowly pulled the blankets down to her waist. Her nightgown was rucked up her thighs, and he ran a hand over one of them, thumb stroking the sleek muscles building there. “Why don’t you show me how you touch yourself, Nesta? And then I’ll remind you how I touch you.” He bared his teeth in a wicked grin. “You can tell me what feels better.”

Her chest heaved, her pebbled breasts peeking through the nightgown. His mouth watered, body trembling with the restraint needed to keep from putting his mouth over them.

She seemed to read every line of his body, his desire. Her eyes glinted with molten fire. “While I … touch myself, you are forbidden to touch me.” A feral smile. “And forbidden to touch yourself.”

His skin heated, stretching too tight over his bones. “All right.”

Cassian waited for her to nestle into the pillows, but she grabbed the hem of her nightgown to pull it over herself, bunching it into a ball before chucking it to the floor.

Every thought eddied from his mind as she half-reclined there, utterly naked, those beautiful breasts peaked and waiting for him, her silken flesh near-glowing. And between her legs … She drew her knees up slightly, spreading them. Baring herself.

Cassian made a low, pained sound. Her pink sex gleamed—its heady, seductive scent beckoning. He needed to taste it, to feel her on his tongue, on his cock—

“No touching,” Nesta purred, because his hand had been drifting toward his cock, desperate for any sort of relief from the sight of her open and bare, the faelights gilding her.

His breath rasped in his throat—and then vanished entirely as Nesta slid two delicate fingers down her body. They stopped atop that bundle of nerves, circling slowly.

Her breathing turned uneven, but she watched him observe her as she made another circle, and then moved lower. A slow, torturous slide down her center before her wrist curved, and she dipped her fingers into herself.

Cassian groaned, hips bucking a bit where he knelt, and she cut him a reprimanding look. He stilled, unable to think about anything other than her two fingers as she slid them into herself again, and moaned. They emerged shining with her wetness, and he might have been panting as she plunged them into herself a third time, deep and slow.

“This,” she breathed, her fingers beginning a slow, steady pump, “is what I do when I think of you every night.”

If she so much as touched him, he’d come. But he growled, “Do it harder.”

She shivered as if his words were a physical touch, and obeyed. They both groaned this time, and he found himself saying, “Please.”

He didn’t know what it meant—only that he needed to touch her. Nesta smiled at him with feline amusement. “Not yet.”

She drove her hand between her legs again. “I imagine you taking me, over and over again. Rough, like we did before.” He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t do anything but stare at her hand, her pleasure-hazed face. “I imagine you less patient than you were the first time, just thrusting into me, all the way.” She echoed her words with a swift plunge of her fingers.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he got out, praying to the Mother and the Cauldron to maintain his sanity.

“You won’t hurt me.” Her other hand teased that bundle of nerves. “I want you unleashed.”

Cassian made a low noise of need.

She huffed a wicked laugh. “Do you want to watch me come? Or do you want to taste it?”

“Taste.” He’d beg on hot coals for one lick of her.

She spread her legs wider. “Then have at me, Cassian.”

His name on her lips was his undoing. He gripped her thighs and spread them wide, and then his mouth was on her, licking her from base to apex in a long, luxurious slide.

She moaned, louder than the first time, and he only grabbed her legs again, hooking them over his shoulders as he buried his face against her.

There was nothing gentle in it, nothing teasing. He feasted with tongue and lips and teeth, and every taste of her made the roaring in his blood rise like a mighty wave within him. Nesta ground against him, toes tickling his wings so much he had to pause for a moment to keep from coming at that mere touch. He’d teach her wingplay later. Because he wanted her to touch his wings, to learn where to stroke while he fucked her so that he’d come hard enough to see stars, to learn what places to stroke even while he wasn’t fucking her so he’d come in her hand, her mouth.

He slid his tongue into her core, release already building under his skin, in his spine. Too soon—he didn’t want to go too soon.

He made himself take a breath. Made himself pull back, pull away. The sight of her on the pillows, naked and open for him, nearly made him come.

But he removed his shirt. His pants.

Only when he was naked, kneeling between her legs, his cock jutting forward, did he say, “Do you want my fingers, my tongue, or my cock, Nesta?” He fisted the last item for her, pumping himself in a slow, nearly painful squeeze. She watched, eyes widening, as if remembering the size of him inside her.

“What of a side-by-side comparison?” she managed to say, but the haughtiness wasn’t in her eyes, not as he pumped himself again, savoring

how it made her breath catch.

“Whatever you want. Whatever you need from me.” He knew those were a fool’s words, knew he offered up too much.

But she only looked at his cock. “I want that. Now.”

He muttered a prayer of thanks to the Mother and lay over her, bracing himself on his arms. “Put me inside you.”

When Nesta’s hand wrapped around him, he arched, gritting his teeth. She smiled at that, and pumped him as hard as he’d pumped himself, just this side of pain. Then she fitted him to her drenched entrance.

He didn’t wait this time. Didn’t go tenderly, not when she’d told him she wanted it otherwise.

Cassian plunged into her, driving right to the hilt.

Nesta let out a sound somewhere between a moan and a scream, and he found himself echoing it as all her silken, blazing heat gripped him. She was so perfectly, mind-meltingly tight. As if she’d been made for him, and he’d been made for her.

Cassian drew out in a long slide, and thrust back, seating himself fully. Her fingernails dug into his shoulders, the pain of it secondary, the pain of it a pleasure as she marked him.

He withdrew again, lowering his head to watch his cock slide out of her, gleaming with her wetness—and then enter her anew. Every inch into that tight, blazing core of her was paradise and torment, and he needed more, needed to be deeper, needed to crawl so far inside her that there would be no disentangling them.

Her nails sliced through his skin, and the tang of his blood filled the air. He just leaned down to kiss her. She parted for him instantly, and he let her taste herself on his tongue, moving his own in time to his thrusts.

Nesta wrapped her lips around his tongue and sucked on it as she had his cock, and any sane thought faded away. Gathering her to him, Cassian knelt, her legs locking around his waist as he thrust up and up and up into her. She tipped her head back, baring her throat, and he bit down on the center of it, hard enough to leave a mark.

Nesta moved on his cock, and he drove deeper into her. Scraped his teeth over her neck.

She let go of his shoulder to cup her breast, and he nearly climaxed as he found her lifting it up toward him in silent command.

Cassian licked her nipple, and she ground onto him, those delicate inner muscles clenching tight. “Fuck,” he said around her breast. She laughed breathily and did it again.

Then there was only his tongue and teeth at her breast, the near-savage pounding of his cock into her tight warmth, the rhythm of her hips as she met him for each stroke, as if trying to work him even deeper. He dragged his mouth from her breast to bite her neck, her shoulder, sealing their bodies together, fusing them into one being as he thrust deeper still, harder still.

And then her fingers found his wings. The touch wasn’t slicing, but gentle—such a gentle, tentative, wondrous stroke that he roared.

Release barreled into him, and he rammed up into her in such a mighty thrust that she screamed, climaxing with him. She clamped around him, pulsing and milking, and he bucked, frenzied, reduced to this need to be in her, to spill into her, to spill as much of himself as he could.

Nesta rode him until he’d stopped spurting, until her pleasure had her draped over his chest, an arm still outstretched toward his wing.

They clung to each other, and he tried to piece himself back together, to remember what the fuck his name was and where they were.

But there was only her. Only this female in his arms. And the only name he could remember was hers.



Nesta couldn’t move.

Wrapped around Cassian where he knelt in the center of the bed, his hands still digging into her ass to hold her in place, his cock buried deeply inside her, she didn’t want to move.

She’d never been this way with anyone, where one look from her lover brought her a heartbeat away from release; one look from him and she was taking off her clothes and pleasuring herself in front of him.

She didn’t have it in herself to be embarrassed. Not when it had felt so good, so right.

He was trembling, his wings twitching as his cock at last finished spending itself.

She told herself she shouldn’t enjoy it so much—seeing him undone, feeling his seed inside her, leaking out of her. And the fact that she did had her climbing away at last, moaning softly as she slid off his cock.

She knelt before him, nearly knee to knee. “I still need more.” Cassian’s head lifted, eyes flashing. “I know.”

She couldn’t breathe under that stare, that beautiful face. “How can I need you again so soon?” It wasn’t a coy, courtier’s question—it was voiced out of sheer desperation. Because she did need more. She needed him back inside her, needed his weight, his mouth and teeth on her. She had no explanation for it, that rising, unquenchable thirst.

His eyes flickered. “I’ve needed you from the moment I first met you.

And now that I get to have you, I don’t want to stop.”

“Yes,” she breathed, about as much of the truth as she’d admit. “Yes.”

They stared at each other for a long minute, for eternity. And then, to her shock and delight, Cassian hardened before her eyes. “Do you see what you do to me?” he asked. “Do you see what happens every time I look at you, all fucking day?”

She smirked. “I vaguely recall you boasting weeks ago that would be the one to crawl into your bed. It seems like you did the crawling.”

His lips twitched upward. “It would seem so.” Her heart thundered as he held her stare. “Get on your hands and knees,” he ordered, his voice so low she could barely understand him. But her blood heated, and an ache that had nothing to do with how hard he’d just taken her began to build between her legs once more.

So Nesta did as he bade, baring herself, still wet and gleaming with both of their releases.

He snarled in satisfaction. “Beautiful.” She whimpered a bit—because beneath the praise, pure lust simmered. He growled, “Put your hands on the headboard.”

Her breath began sawing out of her again, but she obeyed, already thrumming with need.

Cassian rose behind her, gripping her hips. He knocked a knee against each of her own, spreading her legs wider. Callused fingertips brushed down the length of her spine, over the tattoo there, the ink binding them.

He leaned to whisper in her ear, “Hold on tight.”

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