No one, not even Lucien, came to fix my arm in the days following my victory. The pain overwhelmed me to the point of screaming whenever I prodded the embedded bit of bone, and I had no other option but to sit there, letting the wound gnaw on my strength, trying my best not to think about the constant throbbing that shot sparks of poisoned lightning through me.
But worse than that was the growing panic— panic that the wound hadn’t stopped bleeding. I knew what it meant when blood continued to flow. I kept one eye on the wound, either out of hope that I’d find the blood clotting, or the terror that I’d spy the first signs of infection.
I couldn’t eat the rotten food they gave me. The sight of it aroused such nausea that a corner of my cell now reeked of vomit. It didn’t help that I was still covered in mud, and the dungeon was perpetually freezing.
I was sitting against the far wall of my cell, savoring the coolness of the stone beneath my back. I’d awoken from a fitful sleep and found myself burning hot. A kind of fire that made everything a bit muddled. My injured arm dangled at my side as I gazed dully at the cell door. It seemed to sway, its lines rippling.
This heat in my face was some kind of small cold—not a fever from infection. I put a hand on my chest, and dried mud crumbled into my lap. Each of my breaths was like swallowing broken glass. Not a fever. Not a fever. Not a fever.
My eyelids were heavy, stinging. I couldn’t go to sleep. I had to make sure the wound wasn’t infected, I had to … to …
The door actually did move then—no, not the door, but rather the darkness around it, which seemed to ripple. Real fear coiled in my stomach as a male figure formed out of that darkness, as if he’d slipped in from the cracks between the door and the wall, hardly more than a shadow.
Rhysand was fully corporeal now, and his violet eyes glowed in the dim light. He slowly smiled
from where he stood by the door. “What a sorry state for Tamlin’s champion.”
“Go to Hell,” I snapped, but the words were little more than a wheeze. My head was light and heavy all at once. If I tried to stand, I would topple over.
He stalked closer with that feline grace and dropped into an easy crouch before me. He sniffed, grimacing at the corner splattered with my vomit. I tried to bring my feet into a position more inclined for scrambling away or kicking him in the face, but they were full of lead.
Rhysand cocked his head. His pale skin seemed to radiate alabaster light. I blinked away the haze, but couldn’t even turn aside my face as his cold fingers grazed my brow. “What would Tamlin say,” he murmured, “if he knew his beloved was rotting away down here, burning up with fever? Not that he can even come here, not when his every move is watched.”
I kept my arm hidden in the shadows. The last thing I needed them to know was how weak I was. “Get away,” I said, and my eyes stung as the words
burned my throat. I had difficulty swallowing.
He raised an eyebrow. “I come here to offer you help, and you have the nerve to tell me to leave?”
“Get away,” I repeated. My eyes were so sore that it hurt to keep them open.
“You made me a lot of money, you know. I figured I would repay the favor.”
I leaned my head against the wall. Everything was spinning—spinning like a top, spinning like … I kept my nausea down.
“Let me see your arm,” he said too quietly.
I kept my arm in the shadows—if only because it was too heavy to lift.
“Let me see it.” A growl rippled from him. Without waiting for my reaction, he grabbed my elbow and forced my arm into the dim light of the cell.
I bit my lip to keep from crying out—bit it hard enough to draw blood as rivers of fire exploded inside me, as my head swam, and all my senses narrowed down to the piece of bone sticking through my arm. They couldn’t know—couldn’t know how bad it was, because then they would use
it against me.
Rhysand examined the wound, a smile appearing on his sensuous lips. “Oh, that’s wonderfully gruesome.” I swore at him, and he chuckled. “Such words from a lady.”
“Get out,” I wheezed. My frail voice was as terrifying as the wound.
“Don’t you want me to heal your arm?” His fingers tightened around my elbow.
“At what cost?” I shot back, but kept my head against the stone, needing its damp strength.
“Ah, that. Living among faeries has taught you some of our ways.”
I focused on the feeling of my good hand on my knee—focused on the dry mud beneath my fingernails.
“I’ll make a trade with you,” he said casually, and gently set my arm down. As it met with the floor, I had to close my eyes to brace against the flow of that poisoned lightning. “I’ll heal your arm in exchange for you. For two weeks every month, two weeks of my choosing, you’ll live with me at the Night Court. Starting after this messy three-
My eyes flew open. “No.” I’d already made one fool’s bargain.
“No?” He braced his hands on his knees and leaned closer. “Really?”
Everything was starting to dance. “Get out,” I breathed.
“You’d turn down my offer—and for what?” I didn’t reply, so he went on. “You must be holding out for one of your friends—for Lucien, correct? After all, he healed you before, didn’t he? Oh, don’t look so innocent. The Attor and his cronies broke your nose. So unless you have some kind of magic you’re not telling us about, I don’t think human bones heal that quickly.” His eyes sparkled, and he stood, pacing a bit. “The way I see things, Feyre, you have two options. The first, and the smartest, would be to accept my offer.”
I spat at his feet, but he kept pacing, only giving me a disapproving look.
“The second option—and the one only a fool would take—would be for you to refuse my offer and place your life, and thus Tamlin’s, in the hands
He stopped pacing and stared hard at me. Though the world spun and danced in my vision, something primal inside me went still and cold beneath that gaze.
“Let’s say I walk out of here. Perhaps Lucien will come to your aid within five minutes of my leaving. Perhaps he’ll come in five days. Perhaps he won’t come at all. Between you and me, he’s been keeping a low profile after his rather embarrassing outburst at your trial. Amarantha’s not exactly pleased with him. Tamlin even broke his delightful brooding to beg for him to be spared
—such a noble warrior, your High Lord. She listened, of course—but only after she made Tamlin bestow Lucien’s punishment. Twenty lashes.”
I started shaking, sick all over again to think about what it had to have been like for my High Lord to be the one to punish his friend.
Rhysand shrugged, a beautiful, easy gesture. “So, it’s really a question of how much you’re willing to trust Lucien—and how much you’re
willing to risk for it. Already you’re wondering if that fever of yours is the first sign of infection. Perhaps they’re unconnected, perhaps not. Maybe it’s fine. Maybe that worm’s mud isn’t full of festering filth. And maybe Amarantha will send a healer, and by that time, you’ll either be dead, or they’ll find your arm so infected that you’ll be lucky to keep anything above the elbow.”
My stomach tightened into a painful ball.
“I don’t need to invade your thoughts to know these things. I already know what you’ve slowly been realizing.” He again crouched in front of me. “You’re dying.”
My eyes stung, and I sucked my lips into my mouth.
“How much are you willing to risk on the hope that another form of help will come?”
I stared at him, sending as much hate as I could into my gaze. He’d been the one who’d caused all this. He’d told Amarantha about Clare; he’d made Tamlin beg.
I bared my teeth. “Go. To. Hell.”
Swift as lightning, he lashed out, grabbing the shard of bone in my arm and twisting. A scream shattered out of me, ravaging my aching throat. The world flashed black and white and red. I thrashed and writhed, but he kept his grip, twisting the bone a final time before releasing my arm.
Panting, half sobbing as the pain reverberated through my body, I found him smirking at me again. I spat in his face.
He only laughed as he stood, wiping his cheek with the dark sleeve of his tunic.
“This is the last time I’ll extend my assistance,” he said, pausing by the cell door. “Once I leave this cell, my offer is dead.” I spat again, and he shook his head. “I bet you’ll be spitting on Death’s face when she comes to claim you, too.”
He began to ripple with darkness, his edges blurring into endless night.
He could be bluffing, trying to trick me into accepting his offer. Or he might be right—I might be dying. My life depended on it. More than my life depended on my choice. And if Lucien was indeed unable to come … or if he came too late …
I was dying. I’d known it for some time now. And Lucien had underestimated my abilities in the past—had never quite grasped my limitations as a human. He’d sent me to hunt the Suriel with a few knives and a bow. He’d even admitted to hesitating that day, when I had screamed for help. And he might not even know how bad off I was. Might not understand the gravity of an infection like this. He might come a day, an hour, a minute too late.
Rhysand’s moon-white skin began to darken into nothing but shadow.
The darkness consuming him paused. For Tamlin … for Tamlin, I would sell my soul; I would give up everything I had for him to be free.
“Wait,” I repeated.
The darkness vanished, leaving Rhysand in his solid form as he grinned. “Yes?”
I raised my chin as high as I could manage. “Just two weeks?”
“Just two weeks,” he purred, and knelt before me. “Two teensy, tiny weeks with me every month is all I ask.”
“Why? And what are to … to be the terms?” I said, fighting past the dizziness.
“Ah,” he said, adjusting the lapel of his obsidian tunic. “If I told you those things, there’d be no fun in it, would there?”
I looked at my ruined arm. Lucien might never come, might decide I wasn’t worth risking his life any further, not now that he’d been punished for it. And if Amarantha’s healers cut off my arm …
Nesta would have done the same for me, for Elain. And Tamlin had done so much for me, for my family; even if he had lied about the Treaty, about sparing me from its terms, he’d still saved my life that day against the naga, and saved it again by sending me away from the manor.
I couldn’t think entirely of the enormity of what I was about to give—or else I might refuse again. I met Rhysand’s gaze. “Five days.”
“You’re going to bargain?” Rhysand laughed under his breath. “Ten days.”
I held his stare with all my strength. “A week.”
Rhysand was silent for a long moment, his eyes traveling across my body and my face before he
murmured: “A week it is.”
“Then it’s a deal,” I said. A metallic taste filled my mouth as magic stirred between us.
His smile became a bit wild, and before I could brace myself, he grabbed my arm. There was a blinding, quick pain, and my scream sounded in my ears as bone and flesh were shattered, blood rushed out of me, and then—
Rhysand was still grinning when I opened my eyes. I hadn’t any idea how long I’d been unconscious, but my fever was gone, and my head was clear as I sat up. In fact, the mud was gone, too; I felt as if I’d just bathed.
But then I lifted my left arm. “What have you done to me?”
Rhysand stood, running a hand through his short, dark hair. “It’s custom in my court for bargains to be permanently marked upon flesh.”
I rubbed my left forearm and hand, the entirety of which was now covered in swirls and whorls of black ink. Even my fingers weren’t spared, and a large eye was tattooed in the center of my palm. It was feline, and its slitted pupil stared right back at
“Make it go away,” I said, and he laughed.
“You humans are truly grateful creatures, aren’t you?”
From a distance, the tattoo looked like an elbow-length lace glove, but when I held it close to my face, I could detect the intricate depictions of flowers and curves that flowed throughout to make up a larger pattern. Permanent. Forever.
“You didn’t tell me this would happen.”
“You didn’t ask. So how am I to blame?” He walked to the door but lingered, even as pure night wafted off his shoulders. “Unless this lack of gratitude and appreciation is because you fear a certain High Lord’s reaction.”
Tamlin. I could already see his face going pale, his lips becoming thin as the claws came out. I could almost hear the growl he’d emit when he asked me what I had been thinking.
“I think I’ll wait to tell him until the moment’s right, though,” Rhysand said. The gleam in his eyes told me enough. Rhysand hadn’t done any of this to save me, but rather to hurt Tamlin. And I’d fallen
into his trap—fallen into it worse than the worm had fallen into mine.
“Rest up, Feyre,” Rhysand said. He turned into nothing more than living shadow and vanished through a crack in the door.