A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) - Page 14

She looked to me and Lucien—the assessment too lingering to be casual.

A faint, low headache was already forming, made worse with every word out of her mouth. I’d been up too late, and had gotten too little sleep—and I needed my strength for the days ahead. “He will not,” I said, cutting off Tamlin before he could reply.

He set down his utensils. “I think I will.”

“I don’t need an escort.” Let him unravel the layers of defensiveness in that statement.

Jurian snorted. “Starting to doubt our good intentions, High Lord?”

Tamlin snarled at him. “Careful.”

I placed a hand flat on the table. “I’ll be fine with Lucien and the sentries.”

Lucien seemed inclined to sink into his seat and disappear forever.

I surveyed Dagdan and Brannagh and smiled a bit. “I can defend myself, if it comes to that,” I said to Tamlin.

The daemati smiled back at me. I hadn’t felt another touch on my mental barriers, or the ones I’d been working to keep around as many people here as possible. The constant use of my power was wearing on me, however—being away from this place for four or five days would be a welcome relief.

Especially as Ianthe murmured to Tamlin, “Perhaps you should go, my friend.” I waited—waited for whatever nonsense was about to come out of that pouty mouth— “You never know when the Night Court will attempt to snatch her away.”

I had a blink to debate my reaction. To opt for leaning back in my chair, shoulders curling inward, hauling up those images of Clare, of Rhys with those ash arrows through his wings—any sort of way to dredge my scent in fear. “Have you news?” I whispered.

Brannagh and Dagdan looked very interested at that.

The priestess opened her mouth, but Jurian cut her off, drawling, “There is no news. Their borders are secure. Rhysand would be a fool to push his luck by coming here.”

I stared at my plate, the portrait of bowed terror.

“A fool, yes,” Ianthe countered, “but one with a vendetta.” She faced Tamlin, the morning sun catching in the jewel atop her head. “Perhaps if you returned to him his family’s wings, he might … settle.”

For a heartbeat, silence rippled

through me.

Followed by a wave of roaring that drowned out nearly every thought, every self-preserving instinct. I could barely hear over that bellowing in my blood, my bones.

But the words, the offer … A cheap attempt at snaring me. I pretended not to hear, not to care. Even as I waited and waited for Tamlin’s reply.

When Tamlin answered, his voice was low. “I burned them a long time ago.”

I could have sworn there was something like remorse—remorse and shame—in his words.

Ianthe only tsked. “Too bad. He might have paid handsomely for them.”

My limbs ached with the effort of not leaping over the table to smash her head into the marble floor.

But I said to Tamlin, soothing and gentle, “I’ll be fine out there.” I touched his hand, brushing my thumb over the back of his palm. Held his stare. “Let’s not start down this road again.”

As I pulled away, Tamlin merely fixed Lucien with a look, any trace of that guilt gone. His claws slid free, embedding in the scar-flecked wood of his chair’s arm. “Be careful.”

None of us pretended it was anything but a threat.

 

It was a two-day ride, but took us only a day to get there with winnowing-walking-winnowing. We could manage a few miles at a time, but Dagdan was slower than I’d anticipated, given that he had to carry his sister and Jurian.

I didn’t fault him for it. With each of us bearing another, the drain was considerable. Lucien and I both bore a sentry, minor lords’ sons who had been trained to be polite and watchful. Supplies, as a result, were limited. Including tents.

By the time we made it to the cleft in the wall, darkness was falling.

The few supplies we’d hauled also had encumbered our winnowing through the world, and I let the sentries erect the tents for us, ever the lady keen to be waited on. Our dinner around the small fire was near-silent, none of us bothering to speak, save for Jurian, who questioned the sentries endlessly about their training. The twins retreated to their own tent after they’d picked at the meat sandwiches we’d packed, frowning at them as if they were full of maggots instead, and Jurian wandered off into the woods soon after, claiming he wanted a walk before he retired.

I hauled myself into the canvas tent when the fire was dying

out, the space barely big enough for Lucien and me to sleep shoulder to shoulder.

His red hair gleamed in the faint firelight a moment later as he shoved through the flaps and swore. “Maybe I should sleep out there.”

I rolled my eyes. “Please.”

A wary, considering glance as he knelt and removed his boots. “You know Tamlin can be … sensitive about things.”

“He can also be a pain in my ass,” I snapped, and slithered under the blankets. “If you yield to him on every bit of paranoia and territorialism, you’ll just make it worse.”

Lucien unbuttoned his jacket but remained mostly dressed as he slid onto his sleeping roll. “I think it’s made worse because you two haven’t … I mean, you haven’t, right?”

I stiffened, tugging the blanket higher onto my shoulders. “No. I don’t want to be touched like that—not for a while.”

His silence was heavy—sad. I hated the lie, hated it for how filthy it felt to wield it. “I’m sorry,” he said. And I wondered what else he was apologizing for as I faced him in the darkness of our tent.

“Isn’t there some way to get out of this deal with Hybern?” My words were barely louder than the murmuring embers outside. “I’m back, I’m safe. We could find some way around it—”

“No. The King of Hybern crafted his bargain with Tamlin too cleverly, too clearly. Magic bound them—magic will strike him if he does not allow Hybern into these lands.”

“In what way? Kill him?”

Lucien’s sigh ruffled my hair. “It will claim his own powers, maybe kill him. Magic is all about balance. It’s why he couldn’t interfere with your bargain with Rhysand. Even the person who tries to sever the bargain faces consequences. If he’d kept you here, the magic that bound you to Rhys might have come to claim his life as payment for yours. Or the life of someone else he cared about. It’s old magic—old and strange. It’s why we avoid bargains unless it’s necessary: even the scholars at the Day Court don’t know how it works. Believe me, I’ve asked.”