A Court of Mist and Fury Page 59

I made myself take another bite, each movement of my jaw an effort. “No.” I swallowed and gulped down a healthy drink of water.

“So you can’t eat normal food anymore—or are you too good for it?” A question and a challenge.

Rhys’s fork clanked on his plate. Elain made a small, distressed noise.

And though Nesta had let me use this house, though she’d tried to cross the wall for me and we’d worked out a tentative truce, the tone, the disgust and disapproval …

I laid my hand flat on the table. “I can eat, drink, fuck, and fight just as well as I did before. Better, even.”

Cassian choked on his water. Azriel shifted on his seat, angling to spring between us if need be.

Nesta let out a low laugh.

But I could taste fire in my mouth, hear it roaring in my veins, and—

A blind, solid tug on the bond, cooling darkness sweeping into me, my temper, my senses, calming that fire—

I scrambled to throw my mental shields up. But they were intact.

Rhys didn’t so much as blink at me before he said evenly to Nesta, “If you ever come to Prythian, you will discover why your food tastes so different.”

Nesta looked down her nose at him. “I have little interest in ever setting foot in your land, so I’ll have to take your word on it.”

“Nesta, please,” Elain murmured.

Cassian was sizing up Nesta, a gleam in his eyes that I could only interpret as a warrior finding himself faced with a new, interesting opponent.

Then, Mother above, Nesta shifted her attention to Cassian, noticing that gleam—what it meant. She snarled softly, “What are you looking at?”

Cassian’s brows rose—little amusement to be found now. “Someone who let her youngest sister risk her life every day in the woods while she did nothing. Someone who let a fourteen-year-old child go out into that forest, so close to the wall.” My face began heating, and I opened my mouth. To say what, I didn’t know. “Your sister died—died to save my people. She is willing to do so again to protect you from war. So don’t expect me to sit here with my mouth shut while you sneer at her for a choice she did not get to make—and insult my people in the process.”

Nesta didn’t bat an eyelash as she studied the handsome features, the muscled torso. Then turned to me. Dismissing him entirely.

Cassian’s face went almost feral. A wolf who had been circling a doe … only to find a mountain cat wearing its hide instead.

Elain’s voice wobbled as she noted the same thing and quickly said to him, “It … it is very hard, you understand, to … accept it.” I realized the dark metal of her ring … it was iron. Even though I had told them about iron being useless, there it was. The gift from her Fae-hating soon-to-be-husband’s family. Elain cast pleading eyes on Rhys, then Azriel, such mortal fear coating her features, her scent. “We are raised this way. We hear stories of your kind crossing the wall to hurt us. Our own neighbor, Clare Beddor, was taken, her family murdered …”

A naked body spiked to a wall. Broken. Dead. Nailed there for months.

Rhys was staring at his plate. Unmoving. Unblinking.

He had given Amarantha Clare’s name—given it, despite knowing I’d lied to him about it.

Elain said, “It’s all very disorienting.”

“I can imagine,” Azriel said. Cassian flashed him a glare. But Azriel’s attention was on my sister, a polite, bland smile on his face. Her shoulders loosened a bit. I wondered if Rhys’s spymaster often got his information through stone-cold manners as much as stealth and shadows.

Elain sat a little higher as she said to Cassian, “And as for Feyre’s hunting during those years, it was not Nesta’s neglect alone that is to blame. We were scared, and had received no training, and everything had been taken, and we failed her. Both of us.”

Nesta said nothing, her back rigid.

Rhys gave me a warning look. I gripped Nesta’s arm, drawing her attention to me. “Can we just … start over?”

I could almost taste her pride roiling in her veins, barking to not back down.

Cassian, damn him, gave her a taunting grin.

But Nesta merely hissed, “Fine.” And went back to eating.

Cassian watched every bite she took, every bob of her throat as she swallowed.

I forced myself to clean my plate, aware of Nesta’s own attention on my eating.

Elain said to Azriel, perhaps the only two civilized ones here, “Can you truly fly?”

He set down his fork, blinking. I might have even called him self-conscious. He said, “Yes. Cassian and I hail from a race of faeries called Illyrians. We’re born hearing the song of the wind.”

“That’s very beautiful,” she said. “Is it not—frightening, though? To fly so high?”

“It is sometimes,” Azriel said. Cassian tore his relentless attention from Nesta long enough to nod his agreement. “If you are caught in a storm, if the current drops away. But we are trained so thoroughly that the fear is gone before we’re out of swaddling.” And yet, Azriel had not been trained until long after that. You get used to the wording, he’d told me earlier. How often did he have to remind himself to use such words? Did “we” and “our” and “us” taste as foreign on his tongue as they did on mine?

“You look like High Fae,” Nesta cut in, her voice like a honed blade. “But you are not?”

“Only the High Fae who look like them,” Cassian drawled, waving a hand to me and Rhys, “are High Fae. Everyone else, any other differences, mark you as what they like to call ‘lesser’ faeries.”

Rhysand at last said, “It’s become a term used for ease, but masks a long, bloody history of injustices. Many lesser faeries resent the term—and wish for us all to be called one thing.”

“Rightly so,” Cassian said, drinking from his water.

Nesta surveyed me. “But you were not High Fae—not to begin. So what do they call you?” I couldn’t tell if it was a jab or not.

Rhys said, “Feyre is whoever she chooses to be.”

Nesta now examined us all, raising her eyes to that crown. But she said, “Write your letter to the queens tonight. Tomorrow, Elain and I will go to the village to dispatch it. If the queens do come here,” she added, casting a frozen glare at Cassian, “I’d suggest bracing yourselves for prejudices far deeper than ours. And contemplating how you plan to get us all out of this mess should things go sour.”

“We’ll take that into account,” Rhys said smoothly.

Nesta went on, utterly unimpressed by any of us, “I assume you’ll want to stay the night.”

Rhys glanced at me in silent question. We could easily leave, the males finding the way home in the dark, but … Too soon, perhaps, the world would go to hell. I said, “If it’s not too much trouble, then yes. We’ll leave after breakfast tomorrow.”

Nesta didn’t smile, but Elain beamed. “Good. I think there are a few bedrooms ready—”

“We’ll need two,” Rhys interrupted quietly. “Next to each other, with two beds each.”

I narrowed my brows at him.

Rhys explained to me, “Magic is different across the wall. So our shields, our senses, might not work right. I’m taking no chances. Especially in a house with a woman betrothed to a man who gave her an iron engagement ring.”

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