Nesta had only stared at me in that unblinking, cold way. Elain had blushed, muttering about the impropriety of such things. But they had been Made nearly six months ago. It was coming. Soon. If being Made somehow didn’t interfere with it.

I’d have to find some way to convince Nesta to send word when hers started. Like hell would I allow her to endure that pain alone. I wasn’t sure she could endure that pain alone.

Elain, at least, would be too polite to send Lucien away when he wanted to help. She was too polite to send him away on a normal day. She just ignored him or barely spoke to him until he got the hint and left. As far as I knew, he hadn’t come within touching distance since the aftermath of that final battle. No, she tended to her gardens here, silently mourning her lost human life. Mourning Graysen.

How Lucien withstood it, I didn’t know. Not that he’d shown any interest in bridging that gap between them.

“Where did you go?” Rhys asked, draining his wine and setting aside the tray.

If I wanted to talk, he’d listen. If I didn’t want to, he would let it go. It had been our unspoken bargain from the start—to listen when the other needed, and give space when it was required. He was still slowly working his way through telling me all that had been done to him, all he’d witnessed Under the Mountain. There were still nights when I’d kiss away his tears, one by one.

This subject, however, was not so difficult to discuss. “I was thinking about Elain,” I said, leaning against the edge of the desk. “And Lucien.”

Rhys arched a brow, and I told him.

When I finished, his face was contemplative. “Will Lucien be joining us for the Solstice?”

“Is it bad if he does?”

Rhys let out a hum, his wings tucking in further. I had no idea how he withstood the cold while flying, even with a shield. Whenever I’d tried these past few weeks, I’d barely lasted more than a few minutes. The only time I’d managed had been last week, when our flight from the House of Wind had turned far warmer.

Rhys said at last, “I can stomach being around him.”

“I’m sure he’d love to hear that thrilling endorsement.”

A half smile that had me walking toward him, stopping between his legs. He braced his hands idly on my hips. “I can let go of the taunts,” he said, scanning my face. “And the fact that he still harbors some hope of one day reuniting with Tamlin. But I cannot let go of how he treated you after Under the Mountain.”

“I can. I’ve forgiven him for that.”

“Well, you’ll forgive me if I can’t.” Icy rage darkened the stars in those violet eyes.

“You still can barely talk to Nesta,” I said. “Yet Elain you can talk to nicely.”

“Elain is Elain.”

“If you blame one, you have to blame the other.”

“No, I don’t. Elain is Elain,” he repeated. “Nesta is … she’s Illyrian. I mean that as a compliment, but she’s an Illyrian at heart. So there is no excuse for her behavior.”

“She more than made up for it this summer, Rhys.”

“I cannot forgive anyone who made you suffer.”

Cold, brutal words, spoken with such casual grace.

But he still didn’t care about those who’d made him suffer. I ran a hand over the swirls and whorls of tattoos across his muscled chest, tracing the intricate lines. He shuddered under my fingers, wings twitching. “They’re my family. You have to forgive Nesta at some point.”

He rested his brow against my chest, right between my breasts, and wrapped his arms around my waist. For a long minute, he only breathed in the scent of me, as if taking it deep into his lungs. “Should that be my Solstice gift to you?” he murmured. “Forgiving Nesta for letting her fourteen-year-old sister go into those woods?”

I hooked a finger under his chin and tugged his head up. “You won’t get any Solstice gift at all from me if you keep up this nonsense.”

A wicked grin.

“Prick,” I hissed, making to step back, but his arms tightened around me.

We fell silent, just staring at each other. Then Rhys said down the bond, A thought for a thought, Feyre darling?

I smiled at the request, the old game between us. But it faded as I answered, I went into the Rainbow today.

Oh? He nuzzled the plane of my stomach.

I dragged my hands through his dark hair, savoring the silken strands against my calluses. There’s an artist, Ressina. She invited me to come paint with her and some others in two nights.

Rhys pulled back to scan my face, then arched a brow. “Why do you not sound excited about it?”

I gestured to our room, the town house, and blew out a breath. “I haven’t painted anything in a while.”

Not since we’d returned from battle. Rhys remained quiet, letting me sort through the jumble of words inside me.

“It feels selfish,” I admitted. “To take the time, when there is so much to do and—”

“It is not selfish.” His hands tightened on my hips. “If you want to paint, then paint, Feyre.”

“People in this city still don’t have homes.”

“You taking a few hours every day to paint won’t change that.”

“It’s not just that.” I leaned down until my brow rested on his, the citrus-and-sea scent of him filling my lungs, my heart. “There are too many of them—things I want to paint. Need to. Picking one …” I took an unsteady breath and pulled back. “I’m not quite certain I’m ready to see what emerges when I paint some of them.”

“Ah.” He traced soothing, loving lines down my back. “Whether you join them this week, or two months from now, I think you should go. Try it out.” He surveyed the room, the thick rug, as if he could see the entire town house beneath. “We can turn your old bedroom into a studio, if you want—”

“It’s fine,” I cut him off. “It—the light isn’t ideal in there.” At his raised brows, I admitted, “I checked. The only room that’s good for it is the sitting room, and I’d rather not fill up the house with the reek of paint.”

“I don’t think anyone would mind.”

“I’d mind. And I like privacy, anyway. The last thing I want is Amren standing behind me, critiquing my work as I go.”

Rhys chuckled. “Amren can be dealt with.”

“I’m not sure you and I are talking about the same Amren, then.”

He grinned, tugging me close again, and murmured against my stomach, “It’s your birthday on Solstice.”

“So?” I’d been trying to forget that fact. And let the others forget it, too.

Rhys’s smile became subdued—feline. “So, that means you get two presents.”

I groaned. “I never should have told you.”

“You were born on the longest night of the year.” His fingers again stroked down my back. Lower. “You were meant to be at my side from the very beginning.”

He traced the seam of my backside with a long, lazy stroke. With me standing before him like this, he could instantly smell the shift in my scent as my core heated.

I managed to say down the bond before words failed me, Your turn. A thought for a thought.

He pressed a kiss to my stomach, right over my navel. “Have I told you about that first time you winnowed and tackled me into the snow?”