Chapter no 51

A Court of Silver Flames

“So you mean to tell me,” Emerie muttered from the side of her mouth as they stood in the training ring two days later, “that you got into a fight with your family, disappeared for a week with Cassian, and came back able to use an actual sword, but I’m supposed to believe you when you say nothing happened?”

Gwyn snickered, her attention fixed on tying a length of white silk ribbon to a wood beam jutting from the side of the pit. Neither the ribbon nor the beam had been there a week ago, and Nesta had no idea how they’d even anchored the wood into the stone, but there it was.

The crisp morning wind ruffled Nesta’s hair. “That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

“Tell me you at least had a week’s worth of sex,” Emerie muttered.

Nesta choked on a laugh as Cassian stiffened across the ring—but he didn’t turn. “There might have been some.” After that night beside the lake, she and Cassian had lingered there for two entire days, either training with his sword or fucking like animals on the shore, in the water, bent over a boulder as she moaned his name so loudly it echoed off the peaks around them. He’d taken her over and over, and she’d clawed at him and torn his skin every time, as if she could climb into him and fuse their souls.

They’d returned last night, and she’d been too tired to venture to his room. She assumed he’d been called to the river house, because he hadn’t

been at dinner, nor had he sought her out.

She wasn’t ready to see Feyre, though. For all she’d confessed to Cassian, that step … She’d face it soon.

“Done,” Gwyn declared, the white ribbon fluttering in the wind where it hung from the beam. Behind them, a few of the priestesses working with Azriel had turned to see what the ribbon business was about. The shadowsinger crossed his arms, angling his head, but remained in his half of the ring.

Cassian, however, approached Gwyn’s handiwork and ran the white silk between two fingers. Nesta couldn’t stop her blush.

He’d done that by the lake: after he’d fucked her with his fingers, he’d held her gaze while he rubbed them together, testing the slide of her wetness against his skin the same way he was touching that ribbon. From the way his hazel eyes darkened, she knew he was recalling the same.

But Cassian cleared his throat. “Explain,” he ordered Gwyn.

Gwyn squared her shoulders. “This is the Valkyrie test for whether your training is complete and you’re ready for battle: cut the ribbon in half.”

Emerie snorted. “What?”

But Cassian made a contemplative noise, gesturing to the other half of the ring. “Az told me you also started preliminary work with the steel blades while we were gone.” He nodded to Gwyn and Emerie, the former glancing toward Azriel, who watched in silence. “So show me what you learned. Cut the ribbon in two.”

“We slice the ribbon in two,” Emerie asked Gwyn warily, “and our training is complete?”

Gwyn again glanced to Azriel, who drifted closer. She said, “I’m not entirely sure.”

Cassian released the ribbon. “A warrior’s training is never complete, but if you’re able to slice this ribbon in two—with one cut—then I’d say you can hold your own against most enemies. Even if you’ve only been training for a little while.” At their silence, he looked between them. “Who’s first?”

Again, the three of them swapped glances. Nesta frowned. Whoever went first would get the brunt of the humiliation. Gwyn shook her head. No

way in hell.

Emerie’s mouth popped open. “Why me?” she demanded.

“What?” Cassian asked, and Nesta realized they hadn’t been speaking. “You’re oldest,” Gwyn said, nudging Emerie toward the ribbon.

Emerie groused, but stepped up to the dangling ribbon, grudgingly taking the sword Cassian extended. Azriel murmured over a shoulder to the priestesses under his charge as they watched. They instantly began moving again. But Azriel’s attention remained on the ribbon.

“Should we bet?” Gwyn asked Nesta.

“Shut up,” Emerie hissed, though amusement lit her eyes. Nesta smirked. “Go ahead, Emerie.”

Cursing under her breath, wings tucking in tight, Emerie lifted the blade in near-perfect form and sliced at the ribbon.

The white silk fluttered and bent around the blade. And absolutely did not slice in two.

“Let’s all admit we knew that would happen,” Emerie said, teeth bared as she slashed the sword again. The ribbon danced harmlessly away.

Cassian clapped her shoulder. “Looks like I’ll see you at training tomorrow.”

“Asshole,” Nesta muttered.

Cassian laughed and took the sword from Emerie, and—in the same breath—spun, swiping low and even.

The bottom half of the ribbon fluttered to the ground. A perfect slice. He grinned. “At least I can cut the ribbon.”



Nesta didn’t forget that parting shot. Not as they finished training for the day, and certainly not when she dragged Cassian down the stairs, straight to his bedroom, need bellowing in her veins.

Cassian apparently felt the same, as he’d scarcely spoken these last few minutes, his eyes blazing bright. They only made it as far as his desk against the wall before she’d grabbed him—right as he’d pushed her down onto the wooden surface and stripped off her pants.

Bent over the desk, her bottom half entirely exposed, Nesta ground her aching nipples into the wood surface, savoring the brutal crush. Her jacket, her shirt, her boots—all stayed on. In fact, her pants were only pushed down to her ankles, restricting her movement further. Leaving her utterly at his mercy.

And as his cock at last sank deep into her, the two of them groaned. He stood behind her, one hand braced on the desk, the other clenching her hip as he pulled out nearly to the tip, then pushed back in slowly. Nesta writhed. “I could fuck you for days,” he said against her sweaty neck. She moaned into a pile of papers. “I’m fucking soaked with you,” he growled,

and the hand at her hip slid around to tease the apex of her thighs.

At the first taunting stroke, she breathed, “Cassian.”

He pounded into her at a steady, deep pace. The liquid slide of his cock into her sounded obscenely through his otherwise silent bedroom. His balls brushed against her, tickling her with each powerful thrust. “Harder.” She wanted him imprinted on her very bones. “Harder.

Fuck,” he exploded on a breath, and pulled back from where he’d braced himself. “Hold on to the desk,” he ordered, and Nesta stretched to grip the edges just as his hands landed on her hips. His thighs pushed into her own, spreading her further—as wide as she could go—and he gave no warning before his hands tightened and he unleashed himself.

Exquisite, punishing thrusts slammed so deep he hit her innermost wall, and her eyes rolled back into her head at the sheer bliss of it. He became savage, unrelenting. She might have been sobbing at the pleasure, the sheer size of him, so large there would never be any getting used to it. Every unrelenting push had her inching against the desk, the wood and papers teasing her breasts, and she nearly wept at that, too.

Cassian’s fingers dug into her hips so hard Nesta knew she’d bruise, loved that she’d bruise. He shifted his stance, and his cock plunged even deeper, rubbing against that spot, and the sounds that came from her weren’t human or Fae, but something far more primal.

“Fuck, yes,” he snarled at her abandon. “That’s it, Nesta.” He accentuated each word with a savage thrust. “Do I feel good to you?”

She whimpered her confirmation, then managed to say, “I like it when you ride me hard. Every time I move and my body is sore …” She had to fight for words. For control. “I think of you. Of your cock.”

“Good. I want my cock to be the only thing you think about.” His pace faltered as he licked up the column of her neck. She could hear the taunting smile in his words as he whispered, “Because your pretty little cunt is the only thing I think about.”

At the words, his foul language, her toes curled. But she wouldn’t let him win this one, not when this had somehow become a competition for who could make the other come first, so she whispered, “I love being so covered in your seed that it leaks out of me for ages afterward. I love feeling it slide down my thighs and knowing you left your mark in me.”

“Fuck,” he blew out, his pounding wild now, so unchecked only her hold on the desk kept her feet on the ground. “Fuck!

Cassian came with a roar, and at the first pulse of his cock spurting deep into her, she climaxed, screaming loud enough that he clamped a hand over her mouth. She bit down on his fingers, and he kept moving in her, spilling himself over and over. Until his seed was again running down her thighs, until he slid his fingers through a stream of it and brought it up to that spot at the apex of her sex. “You have no idea what you just started,” he whispered in her ear, smearing his wetness there, rubbing into her sensitive flesh with idle circles.

Nesta didn’t reply as his fingers flicked against her, and she came again.



Nesta did not venture down to the city to see Feyre. Or Amren.

But she kept going to the stairs. She hadn’t been able to reach the bottom again. Part of her knew that if she wanted to, she might accomplish it—just as she might open her mouth and ask Cassian to take her to the river house. But she didn’t.

So she kept trying the stairs for another week straight, always getting about halfway down before turning back, her legs absolute jelly by the time she returned to the hallway.

It was fitting, given that her arms were jelly, too. Yes, she wielded the sword with her entire body, but her arms hurt most of all. And it didn’t help that they’d started on shields now.

No one had managed to slice Gwyn’s ribbon in two.

They all tried at the start and end of every lesson, and all failed. Nesta had begun to resent the sight of a ribbon anywhere—tying back Roslin’s red hair, folded in the accessory drawer of her dressing table, even bound for place-keeping into the latest romance Emerie had loaned her. They all laughed at her. Taunted her.

So Nesta ran the steps, and practiced, and failed. She took Cassian to her bed every night and sometimes during the day, though they never slept in each other’s rooms. Not once. They fucked, they savaged each other, and then they parted.

No matter that there were some nights when she wanted him to stay. Wanted to roll off him and snuggle into his warmth and fall asleep to the sound of his breathing. But he always left before she mustered the courage to ask.

Nesta was leafing through a tome of military history in the library—that had one paragraph on Valkyrie ambush strategies—when Gwyn appeared. “Tell me you found their secret to cutting the ribbon.”

“You and that ribbon,” Nesta muttered, shutting the tome. Of all of them, Gwyn had become the most relentless about succeeding.

Gwyn crossed her arms, pale robes rustling. She winced and rubbed her shoulder. “Did you know shields weighed so much? I certainly didn’t. No wonder the Valkyries learned to use them as weapons as deadly as their swords.” She sighed. “They’d have been quite a sight in battle: cracking open enemy skulls with blows from their shields, throwing them to knock an opponent onto their backs before skewering them …” She rubbed her shoulder again. “Their arm muscles must have been as hard as steel.”

Nesta snorted. “Indeed.” She cocked her head. “Now that you’re here, I want to ask a favor.”

Gwyn arched a brow. “About the Trove?”

“No.” Nesta knew she had to scry—soon—for the Harp. She’d lost a good week in the mountains, and if Queen Briallyn already had the Crown

… Time was not on their side. But she said, “You mentioned a while ago that you have evening services—with music, right?”

Gwyn smiled. “Oh, yes. You want to join us? I promise, it’s not all religious stuff. I mean, it is, but it’s beautiful. And the cave we have the service in is beautiful, too. It was carved by the underground river that flows beneath the mountain, so the walls are smooth as glass. And it’s acoustically perfect—the shape and size of the space amplifies and clarifies each voice within.”

“It sounds heavenly,” Nesta admitted.

“It is.” Gwyn smiled again, eyes lighting with pride. “Some of the songs you’ll hear are so ancient they predate the written word. Some of them are so old we didn’t even have them in Sangravah. Clotho found them in books shelved below Level Seven. Hana—she’ll be the one who plays the lute—figured out how to read the music.”

“I’ll be there.” Nesta shifted on her feet. “I think I need something like that.” At Gwyn’s quizzical look, Nesta said, “I …” She fumbled for the smoothest way to say it. “I …”

Gwyn slid her hands into the robe’s pockets, her face open—waiting.

Nesta finally said, letting herself voice the words, “After the war, I was in a bad place. I still am, I suppose, but for more than a year after the war

…” She couldn’t look Gwyn in the eye. “I did a lot of things I regret. Hurt people I regret harming. And I hurt myself. I drank day and night and I …” She didn’t want to say the word to Gwyn—fucked—so she said, “I took strangers to my bed. To punish myself, to drown myself.” She shrugged a shoulder. “It’s a long story, and not one worth telling, but through it all, I picked taverns and pleasure halls to frequent because of the music. I’ve always loved music.” She braced herself for the damning judgment. But only sorrow filled Gwyn’s face.

“You’ve probably guessed that my residency in the House, my training, my work in the library is my sister’s attempt to help me.” Her sister whom she had still not apologized to, whom she still didn’t have the courage to face. “And I … I think I might be glad Feyre did this for me. The drinking, the males—I don’t miss any of it. But the music … that I miss.” Nesta waved a hand, as if she could banish the vulnerability she’d offered up. But

she went on, “And since I’m not particularly welcome in the city, I was hoping you meant it when you said I could come to one of your services. Just so I can hear some music again.”

Gwyn’s eyes shone, like the sunlight on a warm sea. Nesta’s heart thundered, waiting for her reply. But Gwyn said, “Your story is worth telling, you know.”

Nesta began to object, but Gwyn insisted, “It is. But yes—if you want music, then come to the services. We will be glad to have you. will be glad to have you.”

Until Gwyn learned how horrible she’d been.

“No,” Gwyn said, apparently reading the thought on her face. She grabbed Nesta’s hand. “You … I understand.” Nesta heard Gwyn’s own heart begin thundering. “I understand,” Gwyn repeated, “what it is to … fail the people who mean the most. To live in fear of people finding out. I dread you and Emerie learning my history. I know that once you do, you’ll never look at me the same again.” Gwyn squeezed Nesta’s hand.

Her story would come later. Nesta let her see it in her face, that when Gwyn was ready, nothing she could reveal would make her walk away.

“Come to the service this evening,” Gwyn said. “Listen to the music.” She squeezed her hand again. “You’ll always be welcome to join me, Nesta.”

Nesta hadn’t realized how badly she’d needed to hear it. She squeezed Gwyn’s hand back.

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