Az’s brows rose. “Where?”
I winked at him. “You’re my spymaster. Shouldn’t you know?”
Az crossed his arms, face as elegant and cold as the legendary dagger at his side. “I don’t make a point of looking after his movements.”
Not a flicker of emotion. “He is Elain’s mate.”
“It would be an invasion of her privacy to track him.”
To know when and if Lucien sought her out. What they did together.
“You sure about that?” I asked quietly.
Azriel’s Siphons guttered, the stones turning as dark and foreboding as the deepest sea. “Where did Lucien go.”
I straightened at the pure order in the words. But I said, voice slipping into a drawl, “He went to the Spring Court. He’ll be there for Solstice.”
“Tamlin kicked him out the last time.”
“He did. But he invited him for the holiday.” Likely because Tamlin realized he’d be spending it alone in that manor. Or whatever was left of it.
I had no pity where that was concerned.
Not when I could still feel Feyre’s undiluted terror as Tamlin tore through the study. As he locked her in that house.
Lucien had let him do it, too. But I’d made my peace with him. Or tried to.
With Tamlin, it was more complicated than that. More complicated than I let myself usually dwell on.
He was still in love with Feyre. I couldn’t blame him for it. Even if it made me want to rip out his throat.
I shoved the thought away. “I’ll discuss Vassa and Jurian with Lucien when he returns. See if he’s up for another visit.” I angled my head. “Do you think he can handle being around Graysen?”
Az’s expressionless face was precisely the reason he’d never lost to us at cards. “Why should I be the judge of that?”
“You mean to tell me that you weren’t bluffing when you said you didn’t track Lucien’s every movement?”
Nothing. Absolutely nothing on that face, on his scent. The shadows, whatever the hell they were, hid too well. Too much. Azriel only said coldly, “If Lucien kills Graysen, then good riddance.”
I was inclined to agree. So was Feyre—and Nesta.
“I’m half tempted to give Nesta hunting rights for Solstice.”
“You’re getting her a gift?”
No. Sort of. “I’d think bankrolling her apartment and drinking was gift enough.”
Az ran a hand through his dark hair. “Are we …” Unusual for him to stumble with words. “Are we supposed to get the sisters presents?”
“No,” I said, and meant it. Az seemed to loose a sigh of relief. Seemed to, since all but a breath of air passed from his lips. “I don’t think Nesta gives a shit, and I don’t think Elain expects to receive anything from us. I’d leave the sisters to exchange presents amongst themselves.”
Az nodded distantly.
I drummed my fingers on the map, right over the Spring Court. “I can tell Lucien myself in a day or two. About going to Graysen’s manor.”
Azriel arched a brow. “You mean to visit the Spring Court?”
I wished I could say otherwise. But I instead told him what Eris had implied: that Tamlin either might not care to enforce his borders with the human realm or might be open to letting anyone through them. I doubted I’d get a decent night’s rest until I found out for myself.
When I finished, Az picked at an invisible speck of dust on the leather scales of his gauntlet. The only sign of his annoyance. “I can go with you.”
I shook my head. “It’s better to do this on my own.”
“Are you talking about seeing Lucien or Tamlin?”
Lucien, I could stomach. Tamlin … Perhaps I didn’t want any witnesses for what might be said. Or done.
“Will you ask Feyre to join you?” One look in Azriel’s hazel eyes and I knew he was well aware of my reasons for going alone.
“I’ll ask her in a few hours,” I said, “but I doubt she will want to come. And I doubt I will try my best to convince her to change her mind.”
Peace. We had peace within our grasp. And yet there were debts left unpaid that I was not above righting.
Az nodded knowingly. He’d always understood me best—more than the others. Save my mate. Whether it was his gifts that allowed him to do so, or merely the fact that he and I were more similar than most realized, I’d never learned.
But Azriel knew a thing or two about old scores to settle. Imbalances to be righted.
So did most of my inner circle, I supposed.
“No word on Bryaxis, I take it.” I peered toward the marble beneath my boots, as if I could see all the way to the library beneath this mountain and the now-empty lower levels that had once been occupied.
Az studied the floor as well. “Not a whisper. Or a scream, for that matter.”
I chuckled. My brother had a sly, wicked sense of humor. I’d planned to hunt Bryaxis down for months now—to take Feyre and let her track down the entity that, for lack of a better explanation, seemed to be fear itself. But, as with so many of my plans for my mate, running this court and figuring out the world beyond it had gotten in the way.
“Do you want me to hunt it down?” An easy, unruffled question.
I waved a hand, my mating band catching in the morning light. That I hadn’t heard from Feyre yet told me enough: still asleep. And as tempting as it was to wake her just to hear the sound of her voice, I had little desire to have my balls nailed to the wall for disrupting her sleep. “Let Bryaxis enjoy the Solstice as well,” I said.
A rare smile curled Az’s mouth. “Generous of you.”
I inclined my head dramatically, the portrait of regal magnanimity, and dropped into my chair before propping my feet on the desk. “When do you head out for Rosehall?”
“The morning after Solstice,” he supplied, turning toward the glittering sprawl of Velaris. He winced—slightly. “I still need to do some shopping before I go.”
I offered my brother a crooked smile. “Buy her something from me, will you? And put it on my account this time.”
I knew Az wouldn’t, but he nodded all the same.
A storm was coming.
Right in time for Solstice. It wouldn’t hit for another day or two, but Cassian could smell it on the wind. The others in the Windhaven camp could as well, the usual flurry of activity now a swift, efficient thrum. Houses and tents checked, stews and roasts being prepared, people departing or arriving earlier than expected to outrace it.
Cassian had given the girls the day off because of it. Had ordered all training and exercises, males included, to be postponed until after the storm. Limited patrols would still go out, only by those skilled and eager to test themselves against the sure-to-be-brutal winds and frigid temperatures. Even in a storm, enemies could strike.
If the storm was as great as he sensed it would be, this camp would be buried under snow for a good few days.
Which is why he wound up standing in the small craftsman center of the camp, beyond the tents and handful of permanent houses. Only a few shops occupied either side of the unpaved road, usually just a dirt track in warmer months. A general goods store, which had already posted a sold-out sign, two blacksmiths, a cobbler, a wood-carver, and a clothier.
The wooden building of the clothier was relatively new. At least by Illyrian standards—perhaps ten years old. Above the first-floor store seemed to be living quarters, lamps burning brightly within. And in the glass display window of the store: exactly what he’d come seeking.
A bell above the leaded-glass door tinkled as Cassian entered, tucking his wings in tight even with the broader-than-usual doorway. Warmth hit him, welcome and delicious, and he quickly shut the door behind him.
The slender young female behind the pine counter was already standing still. Watching him.
ian noticed the scars on her wings first. The careful, brutal scars down the center tendons.
Nausea roiled in his gut, even as he offered a smile and strode toward the polished counter. Clipped. She’d been clipped.
“I’m looking for Proteus,” he said, meeting the female’s brown eyes. Sharp and shrewd. Taken aback by his presence, but unafraid. Her dark hair was braided simply, offering a clear view of her tan skin and narrow, angular face. Not a face of beauty, but striking. Interesting.
Her eyes did not lower, not in the way Illyrian females had been ordered and trained to do. No, even with the clipping scars that proved traditional ways ran brutally deep in her family, she held his stare.
It reminded him of Nesta, that stare. Frank and unsettling.
“Proteus was my father,” she said, untying her white apron to reveal a simple brown dress before she emerged from behind the counter. Was.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“He didn’t come home from the war.”
Cassian kept his chin from lowering. “I am even sorrier, then.”
“Why should you be?” An unmoved, uninterested question. She extended a slender hand. “I’m Emerie. This is my shop now.”