Chapter no 5

A Court of Wings and Ruin

I crawled back to the manor two hours after midnight, too exhausted to last until dawn.

Especially when I noted the way Tamlin looked at me, remembering that dawn last year when he’d led me away and kissed me as the sun rose.

I asked Lucien to escort me, and he’d been more than happy to do so, given that his own status as a mated male made him uninterested in any sort of female company these days. And given that Ianthe had been trying to corner him all day to ask about what had happened at the ceremony.

I changed into my nightgown, a small, lacy thing I’d once worn for Tamlin’s enjoyment and now was glad to don thanks to the day’s sweat still clinging to my skin, and flopped into bed.

For nearly half an hour, I kicked at the sheets, tossing and turning, thrashing.

The Attor. The Weaver. My sisters being thrown into the Cauldron. All of them twined and eddied around me. I let them.

Most of the others were still celebrating when I yelped, a sharp, short cry that had me bouncing from the bed.

My heart thundered along my veins, my bones, as I cracked open the door, sweating and haggard, and padded across the hall.

Lucien answered on the second knock.

“I heard you—what’s wrong.” He scanned me, russet eye wide as he noted my disheveled hair, my sweaty nightgown.

I swallowed, a silent question on my face, and he nodded, retreating into the room to let me inside. Bare from the waist up, he’d managed to haul on a pair of pants before opening the door, and hastily buttoned them as I strode past.

His room had been bedecked in Autumn Court colors—the only tribute to his home he’d ever let show—and I surveyed the night-dark space, the rumpled bedsheets. He perched on the rolled arm of a large chair before the blackened fire, watching me wring my hands in the center of the crimson carpet.

“I dream about it,” I rasped. “Under the Mountain. And when I wake up, I can’t remember where I am.” I lifted my now-unmarred left arm before me. “I can’t remember when I am.”

Truth—and half a lie. I still dreamed of those horrible days, but no longer did they consume me. No longer did I run to the bathroom in the middle of the night to hurl my guts up.

“What did you dream of tonight?” he asked quietly.

I dragged my eyes to his, haunted and bleak. “She had me spiked to the wall. Like Clare Beddor. And the Attor was—”

I shuddered, running my hands over my face.

Lucien rose, stalking to me. The ripple of fear and pain at my own words masked my scent enough, masked my own power as my dark snares picked up a slight vibration in the house.

Lucien paused half a foot from me. He didn’t so much as object as I threw my arms around his neck, burying my face against his warm, bare chest. It was seawater from Tarquin’s own gift that slipped from my eyes, down my face, and onto his golden skin.

Lucien loosed a heavy sigh and slid an arm around my waist, the other threading through my hair to cradle my head. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. “I’m sorry.”

He held me, stroking soothing lines down my back, and I calmed my weeping, those seawater tears drying up like wet sand in the sun.

I lifted my head from his sculpted chest at last, my fingers digging into the hard muscles of his shoulders as I peered into his concerned face. I took deep, heaving breaths, my brows knotting and mouth parting as I—

“What’s going on.”

Lucien whipped his head toward the door.

Tamlin stood there, face a mask of cold calm. The beginnings of claws glinted at his knuckles.

We pushed away, too swiftly to be casual. “I had a nightmare,” I explained, straightening my nightgown. “I—I didn’t want to wake the house.”

Tamlin was just staring at Lucien, whose mouth had tightened into a thin

line as he marked those claws, still half-drawn.

“I had a nightmare,” I repeated a bit sharply, gripping Tamlin’s arm and leading him from the room before Lucien could so much as open his mouth.

I closed the door, but could still feel Tamlin’s attention fixed on the male behind it. He didn’t sheath his claws. Didn’t summon them any further, either. I strode the few feet to my room, watching Tamlin assess the hall. The distance between my door and Lucien’s. “Good night,” I said, and shut the

door in Tamlin’s face.

I waited the five minutes it took Tamlin to decide not to kill Lucien, and then smiled.

I wondered if Lucien had pieced it together. That I had known Tamlin would come to my room tonight, after I had given him so many shy touches and glances today. That I had changed into my most indecent nightgown not for the heat, but so that when my invisible snares in the house informed me that Tamlin had finally worked up the nerve to come to my bedroom, I’d look the part.

A feigned nightmare, the evidence set into place with my thrashed sheets. I’d left Lucien’s door open, with him too distracted and unsuspecting of why I’d really be there to bother to shut it, or notice the shield of hard air I’d placed around the room so that he wouldn’t hear or scent Tamlin as he arrived.

Until Tamlin saw us there, limbs entwined, my nightgown askew, staring at each other so intently, so full of emotion that we’d either just been starting or finishing up. That we didn’t even notice until Tamlin was right there—and that invisible shield vanished before he could sense it.

A nightmare, I’d told Tamlin.

was the nightmare.

Preying on what Tamlin had feared from my very first days here.

I had not forgotten that long-ago fight he’d picked with Lucien. The warning he’d given him to stop flirting with me. To stay away. The fear that I’d preferred the red-haired lord over him and that it would threaten every plan he had. Back off, he’d told Lucien.

I had no doubt Tamlin was now running through every look and conversation since then. Every time Lucien had intervened on my behalf, both Under the Mountain and afterward. Weighing how much that new mating bond with Elain held sway over his friend.

Considering how this very morning, Lucien had knelt before me, swearing

fealty to a newborn god, as if we had both been Cauldron-blessed.

I let myself smile for a moment longer, then dressed. There was more work to do.

You'll Also Like