A court of frost and sta.., p.17
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       A Court of Frost and Starlight, p.17
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         Part #3.10 of A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas
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  Dark, sensual promise lay in his star-flecked eyes.

  I bit my lip as I approached the rolled arm of the couch and perched on it, my dress glittering like a river in the firelight.

  “You look beautiful tonight.” His words were low, rough.

  I stroked a hand down the lap of my gown, the fabric shimmering beneath my fingers. “You say that every night.”

  “And mean it.”

  I blushed. “Cad.”

  He inclined his head.

  “I know High Ladies are probably supposed to wear a new dress every day,” I mused, smiling at the gown, “but I’m rather attached to this one.”

  He ran his hand down my thigh. “I’m glad.”

  “You never told me where you got it—where you got all my favorite dresses.”

  Rhys arched a dark brow. “You never figured it out?”

  I shook my head.

  For a moment, he said nothing, his head dipping to study the dress.

  “My mother made them.”

  I went still.

  Rhys smiled sadly at the shimmering gown. “She was a seamstress, back at the camp where she’d been raised. She didn’t just do the work because she was ordered to. She did it because she loved it. And when she mated my father, she continued.”

  I grazed a reverent hand down my sleeve. “I—I had no idea.”

  His eyes were star-bright. “Long ago, when I was still a boy, she made them—all your gowns. A trousseau for my future bride.” His throat bobbed. “Every piece … Every piece I have ever given you to wear, she made them. For you.”

  My eyes stung as I breathed, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

  He shrugged with one shoulder. “I thought you might be … disturbed to wear gowns made by a female who died centuries ago.”

  I put a hand over my heart. “I am honored, Rhys. Beyond words.”

  His mouth trembled a bit. “She would have loved you.”

  It was as great a gift as any I’d been given. I leaned down until our brows touched. I would have loved her.

  I felt his gratitude without him saying a word as we remained there, breathing each other in for long minutes.

  When I could finally speak again, I pulled away. “I’ve been thinking.”

  “Should I be worried?”

  I slapped his boots, and he laughed, deep and rasping, the sound curling around my core.

  I showed him my palms, the eye in both of them. “I want these changed.”

  “Oh?”

  “Since you’re no longer using them to snoop on me, I figured they could be something else.”

  He set a hand on his broad chest. “I never snoop.”

  “You’re the greatest busybody I’ve ever met.”

  Another laugh. “And what, exactly, do you want on your palms?”

  I smiled at the paintings I’d done on the walls, the mantel, the tables. Thought of the tapestry I’d bought. “I want a mountain—with three stars.” The Night Court insignia. “The same that you have on your knees.”

  Rhys was quiet for a long time, his face unreadable. When he spoke, his voice was low. “Those are markings that can never be altered.”

  “It’s a good thing I plan to be here for a while, then.”

  Rhys slowly sat up, unbuttoning the top of his tight black jacket. “You’re sure?”

  I nodded slowly.

  He moved to stand before me, gently taking my hands in his, turning them palm-up. To the cat’s eye that stared at us. “I never snooped, you know.”

  “You certainly did.”

  “Fine, I did. Can you forgive me?”

  He meant it—the worry that I’d deemed his glimpses a violation. I rose onto my toes and kissed him softly. “I suppose I could find it in me.”

  “Hmmm.” He brushed a thumb over the eye inked into both of my palms. “Any last words before I mark you forever?”

  My heart thundered, but I said, “I have one last Solstice gift for you.”

  Rhys went still at my soft voice, the tremble in it. “Oh?”

  Our hands linked, I caressed the adamant walls of his mind. The barriers immediately fell, allowing me in. Allowing me to show him that last gift.

  What I hoped he’d deem as a gift, too.

  His hands began shaking around mine, but he said nothing until I’d retreated from his mind. Until we were staring at each other again in silence.

  His breathing turned ragged, his eyes silver-lined. “You’re sure?” he repeated.

  Yes. More than anything. I’d realized it, felt it, in the weaver’s gallery. “Would it be … Would it indeed be a gift for you?” I dared ask.

  His fingers tightened around mine. “Beyond measure.”

  As if in answer, light flared and sizzled along my palms, and I peered down to find my hands altered. The mountain and three stars gracing the heart of each palm.

  Rhys was still staring at me, his breathing uneven.

  “We can wait,” he said quietly, as if fearful of the snow falling outside hearing our whispered words.

  “I don’t want to,” I said, and meant it. The weaver had made me realize that, too. Or perhaps just see clearly what I’d quietly wanted for some time now.

  “It could take years,” he murmured.

  “I can be patient.” He lifted a brow at that, and I smiled, amending, “I can try to be patient.”

  His own answering smile set me grinning.

  Rhys leaned in, brushing a kiss to my neck, right beneath my ear. “Shall we begin tonight, mate?”

  My toes curled. “That was the plan.”

  “Mmm. Do you know what my plan was?” Another kiss, this one to the hollow of my throat as his hands slipped around my back and began to undo the hidden buttons of my dress. That precious, beautiful dress. I arched my neck to give him better access, and he obliged, his tongue flicking over the spot he’d just kissed.

  “My plan,” he went on, the dress sliding from me to pool on the rug, “involved this cabin, and a wall.”

  My eyes opened just as his hands began to trace long lines along my bare back. Lower.

  I found Rhys smiling down at me, his eyes heavy-lidded while he surveyed my naked body. Naked, save for the diamond cuffs at my wrists. I went to remove them, but he murmured, “Leave them.”

  My stomach tightened in anticipation, my breasts turning achingly heavy.

  I unbuttoned the rest of his jacket, fingers shaking, and peeled it from him, along with his shirt. And his pants.

  Then he was standing naked before me, wings slightly flared, muscled chest heaving, showing me the full evidence of just how ready he was.

  “Do you want to begin at the wall, or finish there?” His words were guttural, barely recognizable, and the gleam in his eyes turned into something predatory. He slid a hand down the front of my torso in brazen possessiveness. “Or shall it be the wall the entire time?”

  My knees buckled, and I found myself beyond words. Beyond anything but him.

  Rhys didn’t wait for my answer before kneeling before me, his wings draping over the rug. Before he pressed a kiss to my abdomen, as if in reverence and benediction. Then pressed a kiss lower.

  Lower.

  My hand slid into his hair, just as he gripped one of my thighs and hoisted my leg over his shoulder. Just as I found myself somehow leaning against the wall near the doorway, as if he’d winnowed us. My head hit the wood with a soft thud as Rhys lowered his mouth to me.

  He took his time.

  Licked and stroked me until I’d shattered, then laughed against me, dark and rich, before he rose to his full height.

  Before he hoisted me up, my legs wrapping around his waist, and pinned me against that wall.

  One arm braced on the wall, the other holding me aloft, Rhys met my eyes. “How shall it be, mate?”

  In his stare, I could have sworn galaxies swirled. In the shadows between his wings, the glorious depths of the night dwelled.

  “Hard enough to make the pictures fall off,”
I reminded him, breathless.

  He laughed again, low and wicked. “Hold on tight, then.”

  Mother above and Cauldron save me.

  My hands slid onto his shoulders, digging into the hard muscle.

  But he slowly, so slowly, pushed into me.

  So I felt every inch of him, every place where we were joined. I tipped my head back again, a moan slipping out of me.

  “Every time,” he gritted out. “Every time, you feel exquisite.”

  I clenched my teeth, panting through my nose. He worked his way in, thrusting in small movements, letting me adjust to each thick inch of him.

  And when he was seated inside me, when his hand tightened on my hip, he just … stopped.

  I moved my hips, desperate for any friction. He shifted with me, denying it.

  Rhys licked his way up my throat. “I think about you, about this, every damn hour,” he purred against my skin. “About the way you taste.”

  Another slight withdrawal—then a plunge in. I panted and panted, leaning my head into the hard wall behind me.

  Rhys let out an approving sound, and withdrew slightly. Then pushed back in. Hard.

  A low rattle sounded down the wall to my left.

  I stopped caring. Stopped caring if we did indeed make the pictures fall off the wall as Rhys halted once more.

  “But mostly I think about this. How you feel around me, Feyre.” He drove into me, exquisite and relentless. “How you taste on my tongue.” My nails cut into his broad shoulders. “How even if we have a thousand years together, I will never tire of this.”

  Release began to gather along my spine, shutting out all sound and sense beyond where he met me, touched me.

  Another thrust, longer and harder. The wood groaned beneath his hand.

  He lowered his mouth to my breast and nipped—nipped, and then licked away the hurt that sent pleasure zinging through my blood. “How you let me do such naughty, terrible things to you.”

  His voice was a caress that had my hips moving, begging him to go faster.

  Rhys only chuckled softly, cruelly, as he withheld that all-out, unhinged joining I craved.

  I opened my eyes long enough to peer down, to where I could see him joined with me, moving so achingly slowly in and out of me. “Do you like watching?” he breathed. “Watching me move in you?”

  In answer, beyond words, I shot my mind down the bridge between us, brushing against his adamant shields.

  He let me in instantly, mind-to-mind and soul-to-soul, and then I was looking through his eyes—looking down at me as he gripped my hip and thrust.

  He purred, Look at how I fuck you, Feyre.

  Gods, was my only answer.

  Mental hands ran along my mind, my soul. Look at how perfectly we fit.

  My flushed body was arched against the wall—perfect indeed for receiving him, for taking every inch of him.

  Do you see why I can’t stop thinking of this—of you?

  Again, he withdrew and drove in, and released the damper on his power.

  Stars flickered around us, sweet darkness sweeping in. As if we were the only souls in a galaxy. And still Rhys remained before me, my legs wrapped around his waist.

  I brushed my own mental hands down him and breathed, Can you fuck me in here, too?

  That wicked delight faltered. Went silent.

  The stars and darkness paused, too.

  Then undiluted, utter predator answered, It would be my pleasure.

  And then I didn’t have the words for what happened.

  He gave me everything I wanted: the unleashed pounding of him inside my body—the unrelenting thrust and filling and slap of skin on skin, the slam of our bodies against wood. Night singing all around us, stars sweeping by like snow.

  And then there was us. Mind-to-mind, lain out on that bridge between our souls.

  We had no bodies here, but I felt him as he seduced me, his dark power wrapping around mine, licking at my flames, sucking on my ice, scraping claws against my own.

  I felt him as his power blended with mine, ebbing and flowing, in and out, until my magic lashed out, latching onto him, both of us raging and burning together.

  All while he moved in me, relentless and driving as the sea. Over and over, power and flesh and soul, until I think I was screaming, until I think he was roaring, and my mortal body clenched around him, shattering.

  Then I shattered, everything I was rupturing into stars and galaxies and comets, nothing but pure, shining joy. Rhys held me, enveloped me, his darkness absorbing the light that sparkled and blasted, keeping me whole, keeping me together.

  And when my mind could form words, when I could again feel his essence around me, his body still moving in my own, I sent him that image one last time, into the dark and stars—my gift.

  Perhaps our gift, one day.

  Rhys spilled into me with a roar, his wings splaying wide.

  And in our minds, down that bond, his magic erupted, his soul washing over mine, filling every crack and pit so that there was not one part of me that was not full of him, brimming with his dark, glorious essence and undimming love.

  He remained buried in me, leaning heavily against the wall as he panted against my neck, “FeyreFeyreFeyre.”

  He was shaking. We both were.

  I worked up the presence of mind to crack open my eyes.

  His face was wrecked. Stunned. His mouth remained partially open as he gaped at me, the glow still radiating from my skin, bright against the star-kissed shadows along his.

  For long moments, we only stared. Breathed.

  And then Rhys glanced sidelong toward the rest of the room.

  Toward what we’d done.

  A sly smile formed on his lips as we took in the pictures that had indeed come off the wall, their frames cracked on the floor. A vase atop a nearby side table had even been knocked to the ground, shattered into little blue pieces.

  Rhys kissed beneath my ear. “That’ll come out of your salary, you know.”

  I whipped my head to him and released my grip on his shoulders to flick his nose. He laughed, brushing his lips against my temple.

  But I stared at the marks I’d left on his skin, already fading. Stared at the tattoos across his chest, his arms. Even an immortal’s lifetime of painting wouldn’t be enough to capture every facet of him. Of us.

  I lifted my eyes to his again and found stars and darkness waiting. Found home waiting.

  Never enough. Not to paint him, know him. Eons would never be enough for all I wanted to do, see with him. For all I wanted to love him.

  The painting shone before me: Night Triumphant—and the Stars Eternal.

  “Do it again,” I breathed, my voice hoarse.

  Rhys knew what I meant.

  And I’d never been so glad for a Fae mate when he hardened again a heartbeat later, lowered me to the floor and flipped me onto my stomach, then plunged deep into me with a growling purr.

  And even when we eventually collapsed on the rug, barely avoiding the broken pictures and vase shards, unable to move for a good long while, that image of my gift remained between us, shimmering as bright as any star.

  That beautiful, blue-eyed, dark-haired boy that the Bone Carver had once shown me.

  That promise of the future.

  Velaris was still sleeping when Rhys and I returned the next morning.

  He didn’t bring us to the town house, however. But to an estate along the river, the building in ruins, the gardens a tangle.

  Mist hung over much of the city in the hour before dawn.

  The words we’d exchanged last night, what we’d done, flowed between us, as invisible and solid as our mating bond. He hadn’t taken his contraceptive tonic with breakfast. Wouldn’t be taking it again anytime soon.

  “You never asked about your Solstice present,” Rhys said after a while, our steps crunching in the frosted gravel of the gardens along the Sidra.

  I lifted my head from where I’d been leaning it against his s
houlder while we’d ambled along. “I suppose you were waiting to make a dramatic reveal.”

  “I suppose I was.” He halted, and I paused beside him as he turned to the house behind us. “This.”

  I blinked at him. At the rubble of the estate. “This?”

  “Consider it a Solstice and birthday present in one.” He gestured to the house, the gardens, the grounds that flowed to the river’s edge. With a perfect view of the Rainbow at night, thanks to the land’s curve. “It’s yours. Ours. I purchased it on Solstice Eve. Workers are coming in two days to begin clearing the rubble and knock down the rest of the house.”

  I blinked again, long and slow. “You bought me an estate.”

  “Technically, it will be our estate, but the house is yours. Build it to your heart’s content. Everything you want, everything you need—build it.”

  The cost alone, the sheer size of this gift had to be beyond astronomical. “Rhys.”

  He paced a few steps, running his hands through his blue-black hair, his wings tucked in tight. “We have no space at the town house. You and I can barely fit everything in the bedroom. And no one wants to be at the House of Wind.” He again gestured to the magnificent estate around us. “So build a house for us, Feyre. Dream as wildly as you want. It’s yours.”

  I didn’t have words for it. What cascaded through me. “It—the cost—”

  “Don’t worry about the cost.”

  “But …” I gaped at the sleeping, tangled land, the ruined house. Pictured what I might want there. My knees wobbled. “Rhys—it’s too much.”

  His face became deadly serious. “Not for you. Never for you.” He slid his arms around my waist, kissing my temple. “Build a house with a painting studio.” He kissed my other temple. “Build a house with an office for you, and one for me. Build a house with a bathtub big enough for two—and for wings.” Another kiss, this time to my cheek. “Build a house with rooms for all our family.” He kissed my other cheek. “Build a house with a garden for Elain, a training ring for the Illyrian babies, a library for Amren, and an enormous dressing room for Mor.” I choked on a laugh at that. But Rhys silenced it with a kiss to my mouth, lingering and sweet. “Build a house with a nursery, Feyre.”

 
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