- A Court of Frost and Starlight
“To accept a life shackled to me?”
My nostrils flared. “That’s not what I meant.”
“She wants nothing to do with me.”
“Would you, if your positions were reversed?”
He didn’t answer.
I tried, “After Solstice wraps up, why don’t you come stay for a week or two? Not in your apartment, I mean. Here, at the town house.”
“And do what?”
“Spend time with her.”
“I don’t think she’ll tolerate two minutes alone with me, so forget about two weeks.” His jaw worked as he studied the fire.
Fire. His mother’s gift.
Not his father’s.
Yes, it was Beron’s gift. The gift of the father who the world believed had sired him. But not the gift of Helion. His true father.
I still hadn’t mentioned it. To anyone other than Rhys.
Now wasn’t the time for that, either.
“I’d hoped,” I ventured to say, “that when you rented the apartment, it meant you would come work here. With us. Be our human emissary.”
“Am I not doing that now?” He arched a brow. “Am I not sending twice-weekly reports to your spymaster?”
“You could come live here, is all I’m saying,” I pushed. “Truly live here, stay in Velaris for longer than a few days at a time. We could get you nicer quarters—”
Lucien got to his feet. “I don’t need your charity.”
I rose as well. “But Jurian and Vassa’s is fine?”
“You’d be surprised to see how the three of us get along.”
Friends, I realized. They had somehow become his friends. “So you’d rather stay with them?”
“I’m not staying with them. The manor is ours.”
His golden eye whirred. “What is.”
Not feeling very festive at all, I said sharply, “That you now feel more comfortable with humans than with the High Fae. If you ask me—”
“It seems like you’ve decided to fall in with two people without homes of their own as well.”
Lucien stared at me, long and hard. When he spoke, his voice was rough. “Happy Solstice to you, Feyre.”
He turned toward the foyer, but I grabbed his arm to halt him. The corded muscle of his forearm shifted beneath the fine silk of his sapphire jacket, but he made no move to shake me off. “I didn’t mean that,” I said. “You have a home here. If you want it.”
Lucien studied the sitting room, the foyer beyond and dining room on its other side. “The Band of Exiles.”
“That’s what we call ourselves. The Band of Exiles.”
“You have a name for yourselves.” I fought my incredulous tone.
“Jurian isn’t an exile,” I said. Vassa, yes. Lucien, two times over now.
“Jurian’s kingdom is nothing but dust and half-forgotten memory, his people long scattered and absorbed into other territories. He can call himself whatever he likes.”
Yes, after the battle with Hybern, after Jurian’s aid, I supposed he could.
But I asked, “And what, exactly, does this Band of Exiles plan to do? Host events? Organize party-planning committees?”
Lucien’s metal eye clicked faintly and narrowed. “You can be as much of an asshole as that mate of yours, you know that?”
True. I sighed again. “I’m sorry. I just—”
“I don’t have anywhere else to go.” Before I could object, he said, “You ruined any chance I have of going back to Spring. Not to Tamlin, but to the court beyond his house. Everyone either still believes the lies you spun or they believe me complicit in your deceit. And as for here …” He shook off my grip and headed for the door. “I can’t stand to be in the same room as her for more than two minutes. I can’t stand to be in this court and have your mate pay for the very clothes on my back.”
I studied the jacket he wore. I’d seen it before. Back in—
“Tamlin sent it to our manor yesterday,” Lucien hissed. “My clothes. My belongings. All of it. He had it sent from the Spring Court and dumped on the doorstep.”
Bastard. Still a bastard, despite what he’d done for Rhys and me during that last battle. But the blame for that behavior was not on Tamlin’s shoulders alone. I’d created that rift. Ripped it apart with my own two hands.
I didn’t quite feel guilty enough to warrant apologizing for it. Not yet. Possibly not ever.
“Why?” It was the only question I could think to ask.
“Perhaps it had something to do with your mate’s visit the other day.”
My spine stiffened. “Rhys didn’t involve you in that.”
“He might as well have. Whatever he said or did, Tamlin decided he wishes to remain in solitude.” His russet eye darkened. “Your mate should have known better than to kick a downed male.”
“I can’t say I’m particularly sorry that he did.”
“You will need Tamlin as an ally before the dust has settled. Tread carefully.”
I didn’t want to think about it, consider it, today. Any day. “My business with him is done.”
“Yours might be, but Rhys’s isn’t. And you’d do well to remind your mate of that fact.”
A pulse down the bond, as if in answer. Everything all right?
I let Rhys see and hear all that had been said, the conversation conveyed in the blink of an eye. I’m sorry to have caused him trouble, Rhys said. Do you need me to come home?
I’ll handle it.
Let me know if you need anything, Rhys said, and the bond went silent.
“Checking in?” Lucien asked quietly.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, my face the portrait of boredom.
He gave me a knowing look, continuing to the door and grabbing his heavy overcoat and scarf from the hooks mounted on the wood paneling beside it. “The bigger box is for you. The smaller one is for her.”
It took me a heartbeat to realize he meant the presents. I glanced over my shoulder to the careful silver wrapping, the blue bows atop both boxes.
When I looked back, Lucien was gone.
I found my sister in the kitchen, watching the kettle scream.
“He’s not staying for tea,” I said.
No sign of Nuala or Cerridwen.
Elain simply removed the kettle from the heat.
I knew I wasn’t truly angry with her, not angry with anyone but myself, but I said, “You couldn’t say a single word to him? A pleasant greeting?”
Elain only stared at the steaming kettle as she set it on the stone counter.
“He brought you a present.”
Those doe-brown eyes turned toward me. Sharper than I’d ever seen them. “And that entitles him to my time, my affections?”
“No.” I blinked. “But he is a good male.” Despite our harsh words. Despite this Band of Exiles bullshit. “He cares for you.”
“He doesn’t know me.”
“You don’t give him the chance to even try to do so.”
Her mouth tightened, the only sign of anger in her graceful countenance. “I don’t want a mate. I don’t want a male.”
She wanted a human man.
Solstice. Today was Solstice, and everyone was supposed to be cheerful and happy. Certainly not fighting left and right. “I know you don’t.” I loosed a long breath. “But …”