Home > A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)(5)

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)(5)
Author: Sarah J. Maas


But I did not ask for more. Did not risk touching the bond beyond that first time.

I didn’t know if someone could monitor such things—the silent messages between mates. Not when the mating bond could be scented, and I was playing such a dangerous game with it.

Everyone believed it had been severed, that Rhys’s lingering scent was because he’d forced me, had planted that scent in me.

They believed that with time, with distance, his scent would fade. Weeks or months, likely.

And when it didn’t fade, when it remained … That’s when I’d have to strike, with or without the information I needed.

But out of the possibility that communicating down the bond kept its scent strong … I had to minimize how much I used it. Even if not talking to Rhys, not hearing that amusement and cunning … I would hear those things again, I promised myself over and over. See that wry smile.

And I was again thinking of how pained that face had been the last time I’d seen it, thinking of Rhys, covered in Azriel’s and Cassian’s blood, as Jurian and the two Hybern commanders winnowed into the gravel of the front drive the next day.

Jurian was in the same light leather armor, his brown hair whipping across his face in the blustery spring breeze. He spied us standing on the white marble steps into the house and his mouth curled in that crooked, smug smile.

I willed ice into my veins, the coldness from a court I had never set foot in. But I wielded its master’s gift on myself, turning burning rage into frozen calm as Jurian swaggered toward us, a hand on the hilt of his sword.

But it was the two commanders—one male, one female—that had a sliver of true fear sliding into my heart.

High Fae in appearance, their skin the same ruddy hue and hair the identical inky black as their king. But it was their vacant, unfeeling faces that snagged the eye. A lack of emotion honed from millennia of cruelty.

Tamlin and Lucien had gone rigid by the time Jurian halted at the foot of the sweeping front stairs. The human commander smirked. “You’re looking better than the last time I saw you.”

I dragged my eyes to his. And said nothing.

Jurian snorted and gestured the two commanders forward. “May I present Their Highnesses, Prince Dagdan and Princess Brannagh, nephew and niece to the King of Hybern.”

Twins—perhaps linked in power and mental bonds as well.

Tamlin seemed to remember that these were now his allies and marched down the stairs. Lucien followed.

He’d sold us out. Sold out Prythian—for me. To get me back.

Smoke curled in my mouth. I willed frost to fill it again.

Tamlin inclined his head to the prince and princess. “Welcome to my home. We have rooms prepared for all of you.”

“My brother and I shall reside in one together,” the princess said. Her voice was deceptively light—almost girlish. The utter lack of feeling, the utter authority was anything but.

I could practically feel the snide remark simmering in Lucien. But I stepped down the stairs and said, ever the lady of the house that these people, that Tamlin, had once expected me to gladly embrace, “We can easily make adjustments.”

Lucien’s metal eye whirred and narrowed on me, but I kept my face impassive as I curtsied to them. To my enemy. Which of my friends would face them on the battlefield?

Would Cassian and Azriel have even healed enough to fight, let alone lift a sword? I did not allow myself to dwell on it—on how Cassian had screamed as his wings had been shredded.

Princess Brannagh surveyed me: the rose-colored dress, the hair that Alis had curled and braided over the top of my head in a coronet, the pale pink pearls at my ears.

A harmless, lovely package, perfect for a High Lord to mount whenever he wished.

Brannagh’s lip curled as she glanced at her brother. The prince deemed the same thing, judging by his answering sneer.

Tamlin snarled softly in warning. “If you’re done staring at her, perhaps we can move on to the business between us.”

Jurian let out a low chuckle and strode up the stairs without being given leave to do so. “They’re curious.” Lucien stiffened at the impudence of the gesture, the words. “It’s not every century that the contested possession of a female launches a war. Especially a female with such … talents.”

I only turned on a heel and stalked up the steps after him. “Perhaps if you’d bothered going to war over Miryam, she wouldn’t have left you for Prince Drakon.”

A ripple seemed to go through Jurian. Tamlin and Lucien tensed at my back, torn between monitoring our exchange and escorting the two Hybern royals into the house. Upon my own explanation that Azriel and his network of spies were well trained, we’d cleared any unnecessary servants, wary of spying ears and eyes. Only the most trusted among them remained.

Of course, I’d forgotten to mention that I knew Azriel had pulled his spies weeks ago, the information not worth the cost of their lives. Or that it served my own purposes to have fewer people watching me.

Jurian halted at the top of the stairs, his face a mask of cruel death as I took the last steps to him. “Careful what you say, girl.”

I smiled, breezing past. “Or what? You’ll throw me in the Cauldron?”

I strode between the front doors, edging around the table in the heart of the entry hall, its towering vase of flowers arching to meet the crystal chandelier.

Right there—just a few feet away, I had crumpled into a ball of terror and despair all those months ago. Right there in the center of the foyer, Mor had picked me up and carried me out of this house and into freedom.

“Here’s the first rule of this visit,” I said to Jurian over my shoulder as I headed for the dining room, where lunch awaited. “Don’t threaten me in my own home.”

The posturing, I knew a moment later, had worked.

Not on Jurian, who glowered as he claimed a seat at the table.

But on Tamlin, who brushed a knuckle over my cheek as he passed by, unaware of how carefully I had chosen the words, how I had baited Jurian to serve up the opportunity on a platter.

That was my first step: make Tamlin believe, truly believe, that I loved him and this place, and everyone in it.

So that he would not suspect when I turned them on each other.

 

Prince Dagdan yielded to his twin’s every wish and order. As if he were the blade she wielded to slice through the world.

He poured her drinks, sniffing them first. He selected the finest cuts of meat from the platters and neatly arranged them on her plate. He always let her answer, and never so much as looked at her with doubt in his eyes.

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