Home > A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)(2)

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)(2)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

I supposed that in the past weeks, I had crafted my demeanor as intricately as one of these paintings. I supposed that if I had also chosen to show myself as I truly wished, I would have been adorned with flesh-shredding talons, and hands that choked the life out of those now in my company. I would have left the gilded halls stained red.

But not yet.

Not yet, I told myself with every brushstroke, with every move I’d made these weeks. Swift revenge helped no one and nothing but my own, roiling rage.

Even if every time I spoke to them, I heard Elain’s sobbing as she was forced into the Cauldron. Even if every time I looked at them, I saw Nesta fling that finger at the King of Hybern in a death-promise. Even if every time I scented them, my nostrils were again full of the tang of Cassian’s blood as it pooled on the dark stones of that bone-castle.

The paintbrush snapped between my fingers.

I’d cleaved it in two, the pale handle damaged beyond repair.

Cursing under my breath, I glanced to the windows, the doors. This place was too full of watching eyes to risk throwing it in the rubbish bin.

I cast my mind around me like a net, trawling for any others near enough to witness, to be spying. I found none.

I held my hands before me, one half of the brush in each palm.

For a moment, I let myself see past the glamour that concealed the tattoo on my right hand and forearm. The markings of my true heart. My true title.

High Lady of the Night Court.

Half a thought had the broken paintbrush going up in flames.

The fire did not burn me, even as it devoured wood and brush and paint.

When it was nothing but smoke and ash, I invited in a wind that swept them from my palms and out the open windows.

For good measure, I summoned a breeze from the garden to snake through the room, wiping away any lingering tendril of smoke, filling it with the musty, suffocating smell of roses.

Perhaps when my task here was done, I’d burn this manor to the ground, too. Starting with those roses.

Two approaching presences tapped against the back of my mind, and I snatched up another brush, dipping it in the closest swirl of paint, and lowered the invisible, dark snares I’d erected around this room to alert me of any visitors.

I was working on the way the sunlight illuminated the delicate veins in a rose petal, trying not to think of how I’d once seen it do the same to Illyrian wings, when the doors opened.

I made a good show of appearing lost in my work, hunching my shoulders a bit, angling my head. And made an even better show of slowly looking over my shoulder, as if the struggle to part myself from the painting was a true effort.

But the battle was the smile I forced to my mouth. To my eyes—the real tell of a smile’s genuine nature. I’d practiced in the mirror. Over and over.

So my eyes easily crinkled as I gave a subdued yet happy smile to Tamlin.

To Lucien.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Tamlin said, scanning my face for any sign of the shadows I remembered to occasionally fall prey to, the ones I wielded to keep him at bay when the sun sank beyond those foothills. “But I thought you might want to get ready for the meeting.”

I made myself swallow. Lower the paintbrush. No more than the nervous, unsure girl I’d been long ago. “Is—you talked it over with Ianthe? She’s truly coming?”

I hadn’t seen her yet. The High Priestess who had betrayed my sisters to Hybern, betrayed us to Hybern.

And even if Rhysand’s murky, swift reports through the mating bond had soothed some of my dread and terror … She was responsible for it. What had happened weeks ago.

It was Lucien who answered, studying my painting as if it held the proof I knew he was searching for. “Yes. She … had her reasons. She is willing to explain them to you.”

Perhaps along with her reasons for laying her hands on whatever males she pleased, whether they wished her to or not. For doing it to Rhys, and Lucien.

I wondered what Lucien truly made of it. And the fact that the collateral in her friendship with Hybern had wound up being his mate. Elain.

We had not spoken of Elain save for once, the day after I’d returned.

Despite what Jurian implied regarding how my sisters will be treated by Rhysand, I had told him, despite what the Night Court is like, they won’t hurt Elain or Nesta like that—not yet. Rhysand has more creative ways to harm them.

Lucien still seemed to doubt it.

But then again, I had also implied, in my own “gaps” of memory, that perhaps I had not received the same creativity or courtesy.

That they believed it so easily, that they thought Rhysand would ever force someone … I added the insult to the long, long list of things to repay them for.

I set down the brush and pulled off the paint-flecked smock, carefully laying it on the stool I’d been perched on for two hours now.

“I’ll go change,” I murmured, flicking my loose braid over a shoulder.

Tamlin nodded, monitoring my every movement as I neared them. “The painting looks beautiful.”

“It’s nowhere near done,” I said, dredging up that girl who had shunned praise and compliments, who had wanted to go unnoticed. “It’s still a mess.”

Frankly, it was some of my best work, even if its soullessness was only apparent to me.

“I think we all are,” Tamlin offered with a tentative smile.

I reined in the urge to roll my eyes, and returned his smile, brushing my hand over his shoulder as I passed.

Lucien was waiting outside my new bedroom when I emerged ten minutes later.

It had taken me two days to stop going to the old one—to turn right at the top of the stairs and not left. But there was nothing in that old bedroom.

I’d looked into it once, the day after I returned.

Shattered furniture; shredded bedding; clothes strewn about as if he’d gone looking for me inside the armoire. No one, it seemed, had been allowed in to clean.

But it was the vines—the thorns—that had made it unlivable. My old bedroom had been overrun with them. They’d curved and slithered over the walls, entwined themselves amongst the debris. As if they’d crawled off the trellises beneath my windows, as if a hundred years had passed and not months.

That bedroom was now a tomb.

I gathered the soft pink skirts of my gauzy dress in a hand and shut the bedroom door behind me. Lucien remained leaning against the door across from mine.

His room.

I didn’t doubt he’d ensured I now stayed across from him. Didn’t doubt that the metal eye he possessed was always turned toward my own chambers, even while he slept.

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