A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)(16)

by Sarah J. Maas

“We missed the hunt the other day,” Hart said casually, “so we haven’t had a chance to see your talents up close, but I think the High Lord will be stationing us near the estate next month—it’d be an honor to ride with you.”

Tamlin wouldn’t allow me out with them in a thousand years. And I had no desire to tell them that I had no interest in ever using a bow and arrow again, or hunting anything at all. The hunt I’d been dragged on two days ago had almost been too much. Even with everyone watching me, I hadn’t drawn an arrow.

They were still waiting for a reply, so I said, “The honor would be mine.”

“Does my father have you two on duty tomorrow, or will you be attending the ceremony?” Ianthe said, putting a distracting hand on Bron’s arm. Precisely why I sought her out at events.

Bron answered her, but Hart’s eyes lingered on me—on my crossed arms. On my tattooed fingers. He said, “Have you heard from the High Lord at all?”

Ianthe stiffened, and Bron immediately cut his gaze toward my inked flesh.

“No,” I said, holding Hart’s gaze.

“He’s probably running scared now that Tamlin’s got his powers back.”

“Then you don’t know Rhysand very well at all.”

Hart blinked, and even Ianthe kept silent. It was probably the most assertive thing I’d said to anyone during these parties.

“Well, we’ll take care of him if need be,” Hart said, shifting on his feet as I continued to hold his gaze, not bothering to soften my expression.

Ianthe said to him, to me, “The High Priestesses are taking care of it. We will not allow our savior to be treated so ill.”

I schooled my face into neutrality. Was that why Tamlin had initially sought out Ianthe? To make an alliance? My chest tightened a bit. I turned to her. “I’m going up. Tell Tamlin I’ll see him tomorrow.”

Tomorrow, because tonight, Ianthe had told me, we’d spend apart. As dictated by their long-held traditions.

Ianthe kissed my cheek, her hood shielding me from the room for a heartbeat. “I’m at your disposal, Lady. Send word if you need anything.”

I wouldn’t, but I nodded.

As I slipped from the room, I peered toward the front—where Tamlin and Lucien were surrounded by a circle of High Fae males and females. Perhaps not as refined as some of the others, but … They had the look of people who had been together a long time, fought at each other’s sides. Tamlin’s friends. He’d introduced me to them, and I’d immediately forgotten their names. I hadn’t tried to learn them again.

Tamlin tipped his head back and laughed, the others howling with him.

I left before he could spot me, easing through the crowded halls until I was in the dim, empty upstairs of the residential wing.

Alone in my bedroom, I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d truly laughed.

The ceiling pushed down, the large, blunt spikes so hot I could see the heat rippling off them even from where I was chained to the floor. Chained, because I was illiterate and couldn’t read the riddle written on the wall, and Amarantha was glad to let me be impaled.

Closer and closer. There was no one coming to save me from this horrible death.

It’d hurt. It’d hurt and be slow, and I’d cry—I might even cry for my mother, who had never cared for me, anyway. I might beg her to save me—

My limbs flailed as I shot upright in bed, yanking against invisible chains.

I would have lurched for the bathing room had my legs and arms not shook so badly, had I been able to breathe, breathe, breathe—

I scanned the bedroom, shuddering. Real—this was real. The horrors, those were nightmares. I was out; I was alive; I was safe.