“You could leave those.”

I paused, a hand looped around the leather strap. “It’s not my space.”

Ressina leaned against the wall beside her mop and bucket. “Perhaps you could talk to Polina’s family about that. They’re motivated sellers.”

I straightened, taking the supply pack with me. “Perhaps,” I hedged, sending the rest of the supplies and paintings tumbling into that pocket realm, not caring if they crashed into each other as I headed for the door.

“They live out on a farm in Dunmere, by the sea. In case you’re ever interested.”

Not likely. “Thanks.”

I could practically hear her smile as I reached the front door. “Happy Solstice.”

“You, too,” I threw over my shoulder before I vanished onto the street.

And slammed right into the hard, warm chest of my mate.

I rebounded off Rhys with a curse, scowling at his laugh as he gripped my arms to steady me against the icy street. “Going somewhere?”

I frowned at him, but linked my arm through his and launched into a brisk walk. “What are you doing here?”

“Why are you running out of an abandoned gallery as if you’ve stolen something?”

“I was not running.”I pinched his arm, earning another deep, husky laugh.

“Walking suspiciously quickly, then.”

I didn’t answer until we’d reached the avenue that sloped down to the river. Thin crusts of ice drifted along the turquoise waters. Beneath them, I could feel the current still flowing past—not as strongly as I did in warmer months, though. As if the Sidra had fallen into a twilight slumber for the winter.

“That’s where I’ve been painting,” I said at last as we halted at the railed walkway beside the river. A damp, cold wind brushed past, ruffling my hair. Rhys tucked a strand of it behind my ear. “I went back today—and was interrupted by an artist, Ressina. But the studio belonged to a faerie who didn’t survive the attack this spring. Ressina was cleaning up the space on her behalf. Polina’s behalf, in case Polina’s family wants to sell it.”

“We can buy you a studio space if you need somewhere to paint by yourself,” he offered, the thin sunlight gilding his hair. No sign of his wings.

“No—no, it’s not being alone so much as … the right space to do it. The right feel to it.” I shook my head. “I don’t know. The painting helps. Helps me, I mean.” I blew out a breath and surveyed him, the face dearer to me than anything in the world, the weaver’s words echoing through me.

She had lost her husband. I had not. And yet she still wove, still created. I cupped Rhys’s cheek, and he leaned into the touch as I quietly asked, “Do you think it’s stupid to wonder if painting might help others, too? Not my painting, I mean. But teaching others to paint. Letting them paint. People who might struggle the same way I do.”

His eyes softened. “I don’t think that’s stupid at all.”

I traced my thumb over his cheekbone, savoring every inch of contact. “It makes me feel better—perhaps it would do the same for others.”

He remained quiet, offering me that companionship that demanded nothing, asked nothing as I kept stroking his face. We had been mated for less than a year. If things had not gone well during that final battle, how many regrets would have consumed me? I knew—knew which ones would have hit the hardest, struck the deepest. Knew which ones were in my power to change.

I lowered my hand from his face at last. “Do you think anyone would come? If such a space, such a thing, were available?”

Rhys considered, scanning my eyes before kissing my temple, his mouth warm against my chilled face. “You’ll have to see, I suppose.”

I found Amren in her loft an hour later. Rhys had another meeting to attend with Cassian and their Illyrian commanders out at Devlon’s war-camp, and had walked me to the door of her building before winnowing.

My nose crinkled as I entered Amren’s toasty apartment. “It smells … interesting in here.”

Amren, seated at the long worktable in the center of the space, gave me a slashing grin before gesturing to the four-poster bed.

Rumpled sheets and askew pillows said enough about what scents I was detecting.

“You could open a window,” I said, waving to the wall of them at the other end of the apartment.

“It’s cold out,” was all she said, going back to—

“A jigsaw puzzle?”

Amren fitted a tiny piece into the section she’d been working on. “Am I supposed to be doing something else during my Solstice holiday?”

I didn’t dare answer that as I shrugged off my overcoat and scarf. Amren kept the fire in the hearth near-sweltering. Either for herself, or her Summer Court companion, no sign of whom could I detect. “Where’s Varian?”

“Out buying more presents for me.”


A smaller smile this time, her red mouth quirking to the side as she fitted another piece into her puzzle. “He decided the ones he brought from the Summer Court were not enough.”

I didn’t want to get into that comment, either.

I took a seat across from her at the long, dark wood table, examining the half-finished puzzle of what seemed to be some sort of autumnal pastoral. “A new hobby of yours?”

“Without that odious Book to decipher, I’ve found I miss such things.” Another piece snapped into place. “This is my fifth this week.”

“We’re only three days into the week.”

“They don’t make them hard enough for me.”

“How many pieces is this one?”

“Five thousand.”


Amren tutted to herself, then straightened in her chair, rubbing her back and wincing. “Good for the mind, but bad for the posture.”

“Good thing you have Varian to exercise with.”

Amren laughed, the sound like a crow’s caw. “Good thing indeed.” Those silver eyes, still uncanny, still limned with some trace of power, scanned me. “You didn’t come here to keep me company, I suppose.”

I leaned back in the rickety old chair. None at the table matched. Indeed, each seemed from a different decade. Century. “No, I didn’t.”

The High Lord’s Second waved a hand tipped in long red nails and stooped over her puzzle again. “Proceed.”

I took a steadying breath. “It’s about Nesta.”

“I suspected as much.”

“Have you spoken to her?”

“She comes here every few days.”


Amren tried and failed to fit a piece into her puzzle, her eyes darting over the color-sorted pieces around her. “Is it so hard to believe?”

“She doesn’t come to the town house. Or the House of Wind.”

“No one likes going to the House of Wind.”

I reached for a piece and Amren clicked her tongue in warning. I set my hand back on my lap.

“I was hoping you might have some insight into what she’s going through.”

Amren didn’t reply for a while, scanning the pieces laid out instead. I was about to repeat myself when she said, “I like your sister.”

One of the few.

Amren lifted her eyes to me, as if I’d said the words aloud. “I like her because so few do. I like her because she is not easy to be around, or to understand.”