My smile faded a bit.

I could see her, too. See Stryga standing before the King of Hybern, covered in the blood of her prey, as he took her head in his hands and snapped her neck. Then threw her to his beasts.

I clenched my fingers into a fist, breathing in through my nose, out through my mouth, until the lightness in my limbs faded, until the walls of the room stopped pressing on me.

Until I could survey the blend of personal objects in Rhys’s room—our room. It was by no means a small bedroom, but it had lately started to feel … tight. The rosewood desk against one wall was covered in papers and books from both of our own dealings; my jewelry and clothes now had to be divided between here and my old bedroom. And then there were the weapons.

Daggers and blades, quivers and bows. I scratched my head at the heavy, wicked-looking mace that Rhys had somehow dumped beside the desk without my noticing.

I didn’t even want to know. Though I had no doubt Cassian was somehow behind it.

We could, of course, store everything in the pocket between realms, but … I frowned at my own set of Illyrian blades, leaning against the towering armoire.

If we got snowed in, perhaps I’d use the day to organize things. Find room for everything. Especially that mace.

It would be a challenge, since Elain still occupied a bedroom down the hall. Nesta had chosen her own home across the city, one that I opted to not think about for too long. Lucien, at least, had taken up residence in an elegant apartment down by the river the day after he’d returned from the battlefields. And the Spring Court.

I hadn’t asked Lucien any questions about that visit—to Tamlin.

Lucien hadn’t explained the black eye and cut lip, either. He’d only asked Rhys and me if we knew of a place to stay in Velaris, since he did not wish to inconvenience us further by staying at the town house, and did not wish to be isolated at the House of Wind.

He hadn’t mentioned Elain, or his proximity to her. Elain had not asked him to stay, or to go. And whether she cared about the bruises on his face, she certainly hadn’t let on.

But Lucien had remained, and found ways to keep busy, often gone for days or weeks at a time.

Yet even with Lucien and Nesta staying in their own apartments, the town house was a bit small these days. Even more so if Mor, Cassian, and Azriel stayed over. And the House of Wind was too big, too formal, too far from the city proper. Nice for a night or two, but … I loved this house.

It was my home. The first I’d really had in the ways that counted.

And it’d be nice to celebrate the Solstice here. With all of them, crowded as it might be.

I scowled at the pile of papers I had to sort through: letters from other courts, priestesses angling for positions, and kingdoms both human and faerie. I’d put them off for weeks now, and had finally set aside this morning to wade through them.

High Lady of the Night Court, Defender of the Rainbow and the … Desk.

I snorted, flicking my braid over a shoulder. Perhaps my Solstice gift to myself would be to hire a personal secretary. Someone to read and answer those things, to sort out what was vital and what could be put aside. Because a little extra time to myself, for Rhys …

I’d look through the court budget that Rhys never really cared to follow and see what could be moved around for the possibility of such a thing. For him and for me.

I knew our coffers ran deep, knew we could easily afford it and not make so much as a dent in our fortune, but I didn’t mind the work. I loved the work, actually. This territory, its people—they were as much my heart as my mate. Until yesterday, nearly every waking hour had been packed with helping them. Until I’d been politely, graciously, told to go home and enjoy the holiday.

In the wake of the war, the people of Velaris had risen to the challenge of rebuilding and helping their own. Before I’d even come up with an idea of how to help them, multiple societies had been created to assist the city. So I’d volunteered with a handful of them for tasks ranging from finding homes for those displaced by the destruction to visiting families affected during the war to helping those without shelter or belongings ready for winter with new coats and supplies.

All of it was vital; all of it was good, satisfying work. And yet … there was more. There was more that I could do to help. Personally. I just hadn’t figured it out yet.

It seemed I wasn’t the only one eager to assist those who’d lost so much. With the holiday, a surge of fresh volunteers had arrived, cramming the public hall near the Palace of Thread and Jewels, where so many of the societies were headquartered. Your help has been crucial, Lady, one charity matron had said to me yesterday. You have been here nearly every day—you have worked yourself to the bone. Take the week off. You’ve earned it. Celebrate with your mate.

I’d tried to object, insisting that there were still more coats to hand out, more firewood to be distributed, but the faerie had just motioned to the crowded public hall around us, filled to the brim with volunteers. We have more help than we know what to do with.

When I’d tried objecting again, she’d shooed me out the front door. And shut it behind me.

Point taken. The story had been the same at every other organization I’d stopped by yesterday afternoon. Go home and enjoy the holiday.

So I had. At least, the first part. The enjoying bit, however …

Rhys’s answer to my earlier inquiry about his whereabouts finally flickered down the bond, carried on a rumble of dark, glittering power. I’m at Devlon’s camp.

It took you this long to respond? It was a long distance to the Illyrian Mountains, yes, but it shouldn’t have taken minutes to hear back.

A sensual huff of laughter. Cassian was ranting. He didn’t take a breath.

My poor Illyrian baby. We certainly do torment you, don’t we?

Rhys’s amusement rippled toward me, caressing my innermost self with night-veiled hands. But it halted, vanishing as quickly as it had come. Cassian’s getting into it with Devlon. I’ll check in later. With a loving brush against my senses, he was gone.

I’d get a full report about it soon, but for now …

I smiled at the snow waltzing outside the windows.

Chapter 2


It was barely nine in the morning, and Cassian was already pissed.

The watery winter sun tried and failed to bleed through the clouds looming over the Illyrian Mountains, the wind a boom across the gray peaks. Snow already lay inches deep over the bustling camp, a vision of what would soon befall Velaris.

It had been snowing when I departed at dawn—perhaps there would be a good coating already on the ground by the time I returned. I hadn’t had a chance to ask Feyre about it during our brief conversation down the bond minutes ago, but perhaps she would go for a walk with me through it. Let me show her how the City of Starlight glistened under fresh snow.

Indeed, my mate and city seemed a world away from the hive of activity in the Windhaven camp, nestled in a wide, high mountain pass. Even the bracing wind that swept between the peaks, belying the camp’s very name by whipping up dervishes of snow, didn’t deter the Illyrians from going about their daily chores.

For the warriors: training in the various rings that opened onto a sheer drop to the small valley floor below, those not present out on patrol. For the males who hadn’t made the cut: tending to various trades, whether merchants or blacksmiths or cobblers. And for the females: drudgery.

They didn’t see it as such. None of them did. But their required tasks, whether old or young, remained the same: cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, clothes-making, laundry … There was honor in such tasks—pride and good work to be found in them. But not when every single one of the females here was expected to do it. And if they shirked those duties, either one of the half-dozen camp-mothers or whatever males controlled their lives would punish them.