Chapter no 5

A Court of Silver Flames

“If you don’t eat that, you’re going to regret it in about thirty minutes.”

Seated at the long table in the House of Wind’s dining room, Nesta looked up from the plate of scrambled eggs and steaming bowl of porridge. Sleep still weighed her bones, sharpening her temper as she said, “I’m not eating this.”

Cassian dug into his own portion—nearly double what lay before her. “It’s either that or nothing.”

Nesta kept perfectly still in her chair, keenly aware of every movement in the fighting leathers she’d donned. She’d forgotten how it felt to wear pants—the nakedness of having her thighs and ass on display.

Mercifully, Cassian had been too busy reading some report to see her slink in and slide into her seat. She glanced toward the doorway, hoping a servant might appear. “I’ll eat toast.”

“You’ll burn through that in ten minutes and be tired.” Cassian nodded toward the porridge. “Put some milk in it if you need to make it more palatable.” He added before she could demand it, “There’s no sugar.”

She clenched the spoon. “As punishment?”

“Again, it’ll give you energy for a short blast, and then make you crash.” He shoveled eggs into his mouth. “You need to keep your energy level constant throughout the day—foods full of sugar or flimsy bread give

you a temporary high. Lean meats, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables keep you relatively steady and full.”

She drummed her nails on the smooth table. She’d sat here several times before with the members of Rhysand’s court. Today, with only the two of them, it felt obscenely large. “Are there any other areas of my daily life that you’re going to be presiding over?”

He shrugged, not pausing his eating. “Don’t give me a reason to add any more to the list.”

Arrogant asshole.

Cassian nodded toward the food again. “Eat.”

She shoved the spoon into the bowl but didn’t lift it.

“Have it your way, then.” He finished his porridge and returned to the eggs.

“How long will today’s session be?” The dawn had revealed clear skies, though she knew the Illyrian Mountains had their own weather. Might already be crusted in the first snows.

“As I said yesterday: the lesson is two hours. Right until lunch.” He set his bowl on his plate, piling the silverware within. They vanished a heartbeat later, taken by the magic of the House. “Which will be the next time we eat.” He glanced pointedly at her food.

Nesta leaned back in her chair. “One: I’m not participating in this

lesson. Two: I’m not hungry.”

His hazel eyes guttered. “Not eating won’t bring your father back.” “That has nothing to do with this,” she hissed. “Nothing.

He braced his forearms on the table. “We’re going to cut the bullshit. You think I haven’t gone through what you’re dealing with? You think I haven’t seen and done and felt all that before? And seen those I love deal with it, too? You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last. What happened to your father was terrible, Nesta, but—”

She shot to her feet. “You don’t know anything.” She couldn’t stop the shaking that overtook her. From rage or something else, she didn’t know. She balled her hands into fists. “Keep your fucking opinions to yourself.”

He blinked at the profanity, at what she guessed was the white-hot rage crinkling her face. And then he said, “Who taught you to curse?”

She squeezed her fists harder. “You lot. You have the filthiest mouths I’ve ever heard.”

Cassian’s eyes narrowed with amusement, but his mouth remained a thin line. “I’ll keep my fucking opinions to myself if you eat.”

She threw every bit of venom she could muster into her gaze.

He only waited. Unmovable as the mountain into which the House had been built.

Nesta sat down, grabbed the bowl of porridge, shoved a lumpy spoonful into her mouth, and nearly gagged at the taste. But she forced it down. Then another spoonful. Another. Until the bowl was clean and she started on the eggs.

Cassian monitored each bite.

And when there was nothing left, she scooped up her plate and bowl and held his stare as she dumped her dishes atop each other, the sound of the rattling silverware filling the room.

She again rose, stalking toward him. The doorway beyond him. He stood as well.

Nesta could have sworn he wasn’t breathing as she passed, close enough that a shift of her elbow would have had it brushing his stomach. She said sweetly, “I look forward to your silence.”

Unable to help the smirk blooming on her mouth, she aimed for the door. But a hand on her arm stopped her.

Cassian’s eyes blazed, the red Siphon tethered on the back of the hand that gripped her fluttering with color. A wicked, taunting smile curved his lips.

“Glad to see you woke up ready to play, Nesta.” His voice dropped to a low rumble.

She couldn’t help the thundering of her heart at that voice, the challenge in his eyes, the nearness and size of him. Had never been able to help it. Had once let him nuzzle and lick at her throat because of it.

Had let him kiss her during the final battle because of it. Barely a kiss— about all he could manage in his injured state—and yet it had shattered her entirely.

I have no regrets in my life, but this. That we did not have time. That I did not have time with you, Nesta. I will find you again in the next world— the next life. And we will have that time. I promise.

She relived those moments more often than she cared to admit. The press of his fingers as he’d cupped her face, the way his mouth had felt and tasted, tinged with blood but still tender.

She couldn’t bear it.

Cassian didn’t so much as blink, though his grip on her arm gentled. She willed herself not to swallow. Willed her surging blood to chill to


His eyes again narrowed with amusement, but he let go. “You have five

minutes until we leave.”

Nesta managed to step away. “You’re a brute.” He winked. “Born and raised.”

She managed another step. If she refused to leave the House, Cassian or Morrigan or Rhys could just haul her to Windhaven. And if she flat-out refused to do anything, they’d drop her in the human lands without a second thought. The realization was enough to steel her further. “Don’t ever put your hands on me again.”

“Noted.” His eyes still blazed.

Her fingers curled once more. She selected her next words like throwing knives. “If you think this training nonsense is going to result in you climbing into my bed, you’re delusional.” She added with a slice of a smile, “I’d sooner let in a mangy street dog.”

“Oh, it’s not going to result in me climbing into your bed.”

Nesta snickered, victory achieved, and had reached the stairs when he crooned, “You’ll climb into mine.”

She whirled toward him, foot still suspended midair. “I’d rather rot.” Cassian threw her a mocking smile. “We’ll see.”

She fumbled for more of those sharp-edged words, for a sneer or a snarl or anything, but his smile grew. “You have three minutes to get ready now.” Nesta debated chucking the nearest thing at him—a vase on a little pedestal beside the doorway. But demonstrating that he’d gotten under her

skin would be too satisfying for him.

So she merely shrugged and walked through the doorway. Slowly.

Utterly unaffected by him and his swaggering, insufferable boasts.

Climb into his bed, indeed.



Those pants were going to kill him.

Brutally, thoroughly kill him.

Cassian hadn’t forgotten the sight of Nesta in Illyrian fighting leathers during the war—not at all. But compared to the memory … Mother above.

Every word, every language he knew had vanished at the sight of her striding past, straight-backed and unhurried as any noble lady presiding over her household.

Cassian knew he’d let her win that round, that he’d lost the upper hand the moment she threw him that little shrug and continued into the hall, unaware of the view it presented. How it made every thought beyond the most primal eddy out of his mind.

Settling himself required the entire three minutes she was downstairs. The Mother knew he had enough to deal with today, both with Nesta’s lesson and beyond it, without descending into thoughts of peeling those pants off her and worshipping every inch of that spectacular backside.

He couldn’t afford distractions like that. Not for a million reasons.

But fuck—when had he last had a satisfying roll in the sheets? Certainly not since the war. Maybe since before Feyre had freed them all from Amarantha’s grip. Cauldron boil him, it had been the month before Amarantha had fallen, hadn’t it? With that female he’d met at Rita’s. In an alley outside the pleasure hall. Against a brick wall. Quick and dirty and over within minutes, neither he nor the female wanting anything more than swift release.

That had been more than two years ago. It had been his hand ever since.

He should have scratched that particular itch before deciding that living in the House with Nesta was a good idea. She was hurting and adrift and the last thing she needed was him panting after her. Grabbing her arm like an animal, unable to stop himself from drawing near.

She wanted nothing to do with him. She’d said as much at Winter Solstice.

I’ve made my thoughts clear enough on what I want from you. A whole lot of nothing.

It had cracked an intrinsic piece of him, some final resistance and shred of hope that everything they’d endured during the war might amount to something. That when he spilled his heart to her as he lay dying, that when she’d covered him with her body and chosen to die alongside him, she’d chosen him, too.

A stupid fucking hope, and one he should have known better than to harbor. So that Winter Solstice night on the icy streets, when he knew she’d only shown up at the town house to get the money Feyre had dangled in exchange for making an appearance, when she’d asserted that she wanted nothing to do with him … he’d thrown the present he’d spent months hunting down into the frozen Sidra and then busied himself with quelling the growing dissent amongst the Illyrians.

And he’d stayed away from her for the intervening nine months. Far, far away. He’d come so close to making a stupid mistake that night, to laying his heart bare for her to rip out of his chest. He’d hardly managed to walk away with some semblance of pride. Over his cold, dead body would she do that to him again.

Nesta emerged, her braided hair now coiled across the crown of her head like a woven tiara. He made a point not to look beneath her neck. At the body left on display. She needed to gain back the weight she’d lost, and pack on some muscle, but … those fucking leathers.

“Let’s go,” he said, his voice rough and cold. Thank the Cauldron for that.

On the veranda beyond the dining room’s glass doors, Mor landed, as if plunging from the thirty feet above the wards was nothing. For her, Cassian supposed it was.

Mor hopped from foot to foot, rubbing her arms and gritting her teeth, and gave him a look that said, You owe me so big for this, asshole.

Nesta scowled, but slung on her cloak, each movement graceful and unhurried, then aimed for where Mor waited. Cassian would fly them both

out beyond the wards’ reach, then Mor would winnow them to Windhaven.

Where he’d somehow find a way to convince Nesta to train.

But thankfully, Nesta knew that she had to do the bare minimum today, which meant going to Windhaven. She’d always known how to wage this kind of emotional, mental warfare. She’d have made a fine general. Might still be one, someday.

Cassian couldn’t tell if it would be a good thing. To turn Nesta into that sort of a weapon.

She’d pointed at the King of Hybern in a death-promise before she’d been turned High Fae against her will. Months later, she’d held up his severed head like a trophy and stared into his dead eyes.

And if the Bone Carver had spoken true about her emerging from the Cauldron as something to fear … Fuck.

He didn’t bother with his cloak as he yanked open the glass doors, breathing in a face full of crisp autumn air, and stalked toward Mor’s opening arms.



No ice or snow crusted the mountain hold of Windhaven, but it didn’t stop the bitter cold from slamming into Nesta the moment they appeared. Morrigan vanished with a wink at Cassian and a warning glower thrown at Nesta, leaving them assessing the field stretching ahead.

A few small stone houses rose to the right, and beyond them stood some new residences made of fresh pine. A village—that was what this place had become recently. But immediately before them lay the fighting rings, right along the edge of the flat mountaintop, fully stocked with various weapons, weights, and training supplies. Nesta had no idea what any of the impressive varieties were, beyond their basic names: sword, dagger, arrow, shield, spear, bow, brutal-looking round-spiky-ball-on-a-chain …

On their other side smoldered fire pits, clouds of smoke drifting to a fenced-in array of livestock, sheep and pigs and goats, all shaggy but well fed. And, of course, the Illyrians themselves. Females tended to steaming pots and pans around those fires—and all of them halted when Cassian and

Nesta appeared. So did the dozens of males in those sparring rings. None smiled.

A broad-shouldered, stocky male whom Nesta vaguely recognized sauntered their way, flanked two deep by younger males. They all had their wings tucked in tight, perhaps to walk as a unit, but as they stopped in front of Cassian, those wings spread slightly.

Cassian kept his in what Nesta called his casual spread—not wide, but not tucked in close. The position conveyed the perfect amount of ease and arrogance, readiness and power.

The familiar male’s gaze snagged on her. “What’s her business here?” Nesta gave him a secretive smile. “Witchcraft.”

She could have sworn Cassian muttered a plea to the Mother before he cut in, “I will remind you, Devlon, that Nesta Archeron is our High Lady’s sister, and will be treated with respect.” The words held enough of a bite that even Nesta glanced at Cassian’s stone-cold face. She had not heard that unyielding tone since the war. “She will be training here.”

Nesta wanted nothing more than to shove him off the nearby cliff edge.

Devlon’s face curdled. “Any weapons she touches must be buried afterward. Leave them in a pile.”

Nesta blinked.

Cassian’s nostrils flared. “We will do no such thing.”

Devlon sniffed at her, his cronies snickering. “Are you bleeding, witch?

If you are, you will not be allowed to touch the weapons at all.”

Nesta made herself pause. Contemplate the best way to knock the bastard down a few pegs.

Cassian said with remarkable steadiness, “Those are outdated superstitions. She can touch the weapons whether she has her cycle or not.”

“She can,” Devlon said, “but they will still be buried.”

Silence fell. Nesta didn’t fail to note that Cassian’s expression had darkened as he stared down Devlon. But he said abruptly, “How are the new recruits faring?”

Devlon opened his mouth, then shut it, irritation flashing there at a fight denied. “Fine,” he spat, and turned away, his soldiers following.

Cassian’s face tightened with each breath, and Nesta braced herself, a thrill slowly building in her blood, for him to rip into Devlon.

But Cassian growled, “Let’s go,” and began walking toward an empty training area.

Devlon glared over a shoulder, and Nesta threw him a cool look before striding after Cassian. The Illyrian’s gaze lingered like a burning brand on her spine.

Cassian didn’t go for one of the countless weapons racks stationed throughout the training area. He just halted in the farthest ring, hands on his hips, and waited for her.

Like hell would she join him. She spied a weatherworn rock near the rack of weapons, its smoothness either from the harsh climate or the untold number of warriors who’d taken a seat on it as she did then. Its frigid surface bit into her skin even through the thickness of the leathers.

“What are you doing?” Cassian’s handsome face was nearly predatory.

She crossed her legs at the ankles and arranged the fall of her cape like the train of a gown. “I told you: I’m not training.”

“Get up.” He’d never ordered her like that.

Get up, she’d sobbed that day before the King of Hybern. Get up.

Nesta met his stare. Willed hers to be distant and unruffled. “I am officially attending training, Cassian, but you can’t make me do a lick of it.” She motioned to the mud. “Drag me through it, if you want, but I won’t lift a finger.”

The Illyrians’ stares pelted them like stones. Cassian bristled.

Good. Let him see what a waste of life, what an utter wretch, she’d become.

“Get the hell up.” His words were a soft snarl.

Devlon and his group had returned, attracted by their argument, and gathered beyond the edge of the circle. Cassian’s hazel eyes remained fixed on her, though.

A slight pleading note flickered in them.

Get up, a small voice whispered in her head, her bones. Don’t humiliate him like this. Don’t give these assholes the satisfaction of seeing him made a fool.

But her body refused to move. She’d drawn her line, and to yield—to him, to anyone—

Something like disgust filled his face. Disappointment. Anger.

Good. Even as something crumpled inside her, she couldn’t stop the relief.

Cassian turned away from her, drawing the sword sheathed down his back. And without another word, without a glance, he began his morning exercises.

Let him hate her. It was better that way.

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