Chapter no 23

A Court of Thorns and Roses

The next afternoon I lay on my back in the grass, savoring the warmth of the sunshine filtering through the canopy of leaves, noting how I might incorporate it into my next painting. Lucien, claiming that he had miserable emissary business to attend to, had left Tamlin and me to our own devices, and the High Lord had taken me to yet another beautiful spot in his enchanted forest.

But there were no enchantments here—no pools of starlight, no rainbow waterfalls. It was just a grassy glen watched over by a weeping willow, with a clear brook running through it. We lounged in comfortable silence, and I glanced at Tamlin, who dozed beside me. His golden hair and mask glistened bright against the emerald carpet. The delicate arch of his pointed ears made me pause.

He opened an eye and smiled lazily at me. “That willow’s singing always puts me to sleep.”

“The what of what?” I said, propping myself on

my elbows to stare at the tree above us.

Tamlin pointed toward the willow. The branches sighed as they moved in the breeze. “It sings.”

“I suppose it sings war-camp limericks, too?”

He smiled and half sat up, twisting to look at me. “You’re human,” he said, and I rolled my eyes. “Your senses are still sealed off from everything.”

I made a face. “Just another of my many shortcomings.” But the word—shortcomings—had somehow stopped finding its mark.

He plucked a strand of grass from my hair. Heat radiated from my face as his fingers grazed my cheek. “I could make you able to see it,” he said. His fingers lingered at the end of my braid, twirling the curl of hair around. “See my world— hear it, smell it.” My breathing became shallow as he sat up. “Taste it.” His eyes flicked to the fading bruise on my neck.

“How?” I asked, heat blooming as he crouched before me.

“Every gift comes with a price.” I frowned, and he grinned. “A kiss.”

“Absolutely not!” But my blood raced, and I had to clench my hands in the grass to keep from touching him. “Don’t you think it puts me at a disadvantage to not be able to see all this?”

“I’m one of the High Fae—we don’t give anything without gaining something from it.”

To my own surprise, I said, “Fine.”

He blinked, probably expecting me to have fought a little harder. I hid my smile and sat up so that I faced him, our knees touching as we knelt in the grass. I licked my lips, my heart fluttering so quickly it felt as if I had a hummingbird inside my chest.

“Close your eyes,” he said, and I obeyed, my fingers grappling onto the grass. The birds chattered, and the willow branches sighed. The grass crunched as Tamlin rose up on his knees. I braced myself at the brush of his mouth on one of my eyelids, then on the other. He pulled away, and I was left breathless, the kisses still lingering on my skin.

The singing of birds became an orchestra—a symphony of gossip and mirth. I’d never heard so

many layers of music, never heard the variations and themes that wove between their arpeggios. And beyond the birdsong, there was an ethereal melody—a woman, melancholy and weary … the willow. Gasping, I opened my eyes.

The world had become richer, clearer. The brook was a near-invisible rainbow of water that flowed over stones as invitingly smooth as silk. The trees were clothed in a faint shimmer that radiated from their centers and danced along the edges of their leaves. There was no tangy metallic stench—no, the smell of magic had become like jasmine, like lilac, like roses. I would never be able to paint it, the richness, the feel … Maybe fractions of it, but not the whole thing.

Magic—everything was magic, and it broke my heart.

I looked to Tamlin, and my heart cracked entirely.

It was Tamlin, but not. Rather, it was the Tamlin I’d dreamed of. His skin gleamed with a golden sheen, and around his head glowed a circlet of sunshine. And his eyes—

Not merely green and gold, but every hue and variation that could be imagined, as though every leaf in the forest had bled into one shade. This was a High Lord of Prythian—devastatingly handsome, captivating, powerful beyond belief.

My breath caught in my throat as I touched the contours of his mask. The cool metal bit into my fingertips, and the emeralds slipped against my callused skin. I lifted my other hand and gently grasped either side of the mask. I pulled lightly.

It wouldn’t move.

He began smiling as I pulled again, and I blinked, dropping my hands. Instantly, the golden, glowing Tamlin vanished, and the one I knew returned. I could still hear the singing of the willow and the birds, but …

“Why can’t I see you anymore?”

“Because I willed my glamour back into place.” “Glamour for what?”

“To look normal. Or as normal as I can look with this damned thing,” he added, gesturing to the mask. “Being a High Lord, even one with … limited powers, comes with physical markers, too.

It’s why I couldn’t hide what I was becoming from my brothers—from anyone. It’s still easier to blend in.”

“But the mask truly can’t come off—I mean, are you sure there’s no one who knows how to fix what the magic did that night? Even someone in another court?” I don’t know why the mask bothered me so greatly. I didn’t need to see his entire face to know him.

“I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

“I just … just want to know what you look like.” I wondered when I’d grown so shallow.

“What do you think I look like?”

I tilted my head to the side. “A strong, straight nose,” I said, drawing from what I’d once tried to paint. “High cheekbones that bring out your eyes. Slightly … slightly arched brows,” I finished, blushing. He was grinning so broadly that I could almost see all of his teeth—those fangs nowhere in sight. I tried to think up an excuse for my forwardness, but a yawn crept from me as a sudden weight pressed on my eyes.

“What about your part of the bargain?”


He leaned closer, his smile turning wicked. “What about my kiss?”

I grabbed his fingers. “Here,” I said, and slammed my mouth against the back of his hand. “There’s your kiss.”

Tamlin roared with laughter, but the world blurred, lulling me to sleep. The willow beckoned me to lie down, and I obliged. From far off, I heard Tamlin curse. “Feyre?”

Sleep. I wanted sleep. And there was no better place to sleep than right here, listening to the willow and the birds and the brook. I curled on my side, using my arm for a pillow.

“I should bring you home,” he murmured, but he didn’t move to drag me to my feet. Instead, I felt a slight thud in the earth, and the spring rain and new grass scent of him cloyed in my nose as he lay beside me. I tingled with pleasure as he stroked my hair.

This was such a lovely dream. I’d never slept so wonderfully before. So warm, nestled beside him. Calm. Faintly, echoing into my world of slumber,

he spoke again, his breath caressing my ear. “You’re exactly as I dreamed you’d be, too.” Darkness swallowed everything.

You'll Also Like