You had perfectly good reasons to avoid it. No, I didnt. Maybe—thanks to Tamlin, yes. But it had nothing to do with you, Rhys. Nothing to do with you. I was never afraid of the consequences of being with you. Even if every assassin in the world hunts us … Its worth it. You are worth it. His head dipped a bit. And he said hoarsely, Thank you. My heart broke for him then—for the years hed spent thinking the opposite. I kissed his bare neck, and he reached back to drag a finger down my cheek. I finished the wings and gripped his shoulder to turn him to face me. What now? Wordlessly, he took the soap from my hands and turned me, rubbing down my back, scrubbing lightly with the cloth. Its up to you, Rhys said. We can go back to Velaris and have the bond verified by a priestess—no one like Ianthe, I promise—and be declared officially Mated. We could have a small party to celebrate—dinner with our … cohorts. Unless youd rather have a large party, though I think you and I are in agreement about our aversion for them. His strong hands kneaded muscles that were tight and aching in my back, and I groaned. We could also go before a priestess and be declared husband and wife as well as mates, if you want a more human thing to call me. What will you call me? Mate, he said. Though also calling you my wife sounds mighty appealing, too. His thumbs massaged the column of my spine. Or if you want to wait, we can do none of those things. Were mated, whether its shouted across the world or not. Theres no rush to decide. I turned. I was asking about Jurian, the king, the queens, and the Cauldron, but Im glad to know I have so many options where our relationship stands. And that youll do whatever I want. I must have you wrapped completely around my finger. His eyes danced with feline amusement. Cruel, beautiful thing. I snorted. The idea that he found me beautiful at all— You are, he said. Youre the most beautiful thing Ive ever seen. I thought that from the first moment I saw you on Calanmai. And it was stupid, stupid for beauty to mean anything at all, but … My eyes burned. Which is good, he added, because you thought I was the most beautiful male youd ever seen. So it makes us even. I scowled, and he laughed, hands sliding to grip my waist and tug me to him. He sat down on the built-in bench of the tub, and I straddled him, idly stroking his muscled arms. Tomorrow, Rhys said, features becoming grave. Were leaving tomorrow for your familys estate. The queens sent word. They return in three days. I started. Youre telling me this now? I got sidetracked, he said, his eyes twinkling. And the light in those eyes, the quiet joy … They knocked the breath from me. A future—we would have a future together. I would have a future. A life. His smile faded into something awed, something … reverent, and I reached out to cup his face in my hands— To find my skin glowing. Faintly, as if some inner light shone beneath my skin, leaking out into the world. Warm and white light, like the sun—like a star. Those wonder-filled eyes met mine, and Rhys ran a finger down my arm. Well, at least now I can gloat that I literally make my mate glow with happiness. I laughed, and the glow flared a little brighter. He leaned in, kissing me softly, and I melted for him, wrapping my arms around his neck. He was rock-hard against me, pushing against where I sat poised right above him. All it would take would be one smooth motion and hed be inside me— But Rhys stood from the water, both of us dripping wet, and I hooked my legs around him as he walked us back into the bedroom. The sheets had been changed by the domestic magic of the house, and they were warm and smooth against my naked body as he set me down and stared at me. Shining—I was shining bright and pure as a star. Day Court? I asked. I dont care, he said roughly, and removed the glamour from himself. It was a small magic, hed once told me, to keep the damper on who he was, what his power looked like. As the full majesty of him was unleashed, he filled the room, the world, my soul, with glittering ebony power. Stars and wind and shadows; peace and dreams and the honed edge of nightmares. Darkness rippled from him like tendrils of steam as he reached out a hand and laid it flat against the glowing skin of my stomach. That hand of night splayed, the light leaking through the wafting shadows, and I hoisted myself up on my elbows to kiss him. Smoke and mist and dew. I moaned at the taste of him, and he opened his mouth for me, letting me brush my tongue against his, scrape it against his teeth. Everything he was had been laid before me—one final question. I wanted it all. I gripped his shoulders, guiding him onto the bed. And when he lay flat on his back, I saw the flash of protest at the pinned wings. But I crooned, Illyrian baby, and ran my hands down his muscled abdomen—farther. He stopped objecting. He was enormous in my hand—so hard, yet so silken that I just ran a finger down him in wonder. He hissed, cock twitching as I brushed my thumb over the tip. I smirked as I did it again. He reached for me, but I froze him with a look. My turn, I told him. Rhys gave me a lazy, male smile before he settled back, tucking a hand behind his head. Waiting. Cocky bastard.
Sorscha or the world. The question rang hollow. Some of the fire within him banked. Yet Dorian dared to say, Youd delude yourself about the path ahead, yet you served the god of truth. Chaol had told him of their discovery in the catacombs beneath Riftholds sewers this spring. The forgotten bone temple where Gavins deathbed confession had been written. What does he have to say about Elenas role in this?The All-Seeing One does not claim kinship with those spineless creatures, Gavin growled.
Dorian could have sworn a dusty, bone-dry wind rattled through the pass. Then what is he?Can there not be many gods, from many places? Some born of this world, some born elsewhere?Thats a question to debate at another time, Dorian ground out. When were not at war. He took a long breath. Another one. Please, he breathed. Please help me save my friends. Help me make it right.
It was all he really had left—this task.Gavin again watched him, weighed him. Dorian withstood it. Let him read whatever truth was written on his soul.
Pain clouded the kings face. Pain, and regret, as Gavin finally said, The key is at Morath.
Dorians mouth went dry. Where in Morath?But at the end of it all, none of this matters, because no matter who they are, I have to make them like me.
Failure is not an option.Processing doesnt involve much. I am scanned, photographed, finger printed and weighed.
It turns out Release is the tricky bit. The nurse explains on the way that I need to say hello to my mum and dad, that they and I will sign some papers to say we are all now one big happy family, and then we will leave together to live happily ever after. Of course I spot the problem, straight away: what if they take one look at me, and refuse to sign? What then?Stand up straight! And smile, she hisses, then pushes me through a door.