I surveyed the spread my preferred jeweler had laid out on black velvet atop the glass counter. In the lights of her cozy shop bordering the Palace, they flickered with an inner fire, beckoning.
Sapphires, emeralds, rubies … Feyre had them all. Well, in moderate amounts. Save for those cuffs of solid diamond I’d given her for Starfall.
She’d worn them only twice:
That night I had danced with her until dawn, barely daring to hope that she might be starting to return a fraction of what I felt for her.
And the night we’d returned to Velaris, after that final battle with Hybern. When she had worn only those cuffs.
I shook my head, and said to the slim, ethereal faerie behind the counter, “Beautiful as they are, Neve, I don’t think milady wants jewels for Solstice.”
A shrug that wasn’t at all disappointed. I was a frequent enough customer that Neve knew she’d make a sale at some point.
She slid the tray beneath the counter and pulled out another, her night-veiled hands moving smoothly.
Not a wraith, but something similar, her tall, lean frame wrapped in permanent shadows, only her eyes—like glowing coals—visible. The rest tended to come in and out of view, as if the shadows parted to reveal a dark hand, a shoulder, a foot. Her people all master jewel smiths, dwelling in the deepest mountain mines in our court. Most of the heirlooms of our house had been Tartera-made, Feyre’s cuffs and crowns included.
Neve waved a shadowed hand over the tray she’d laid out. “I had selected these earlier, if it’s not too presumptuous, to consider for Lady Amren.”
Indeed, these all sang Amren’s name. Large stones, delicate settings. Mighty jewelry, for my mighty friend. Who had done so much for me, my mate—our people. The world.
I surveyed the three pieces. Sighed. “I’ll take all of them.”
Neve’s eyes glowed like a living forge.
“What the hell is that?”
Cassian was grinning the next evening as he waved a hand toward the pile of pine boughs dumped on the ornate red rug in the center of the foyer. “Solstice decorations. Straight from the market.”
Snow clung to his broad shoulders and dark hair, and his tan cheeks were flushed with cold. “You call that a decoration?”
He smirked. “A heap of pine in the middle of the floor is Night Court tradition.”
I crossed my arms. “Funny.”
“I’m serious.” I glared, and he laughed. “It’s for the mantels, the banister, and whatever else, smartass. Want to help?” He shrugged off his heavy coat, revealing a black jacket and shirt beneath, and hung it in the hall closet. I remained where I was and tapped my foot.
“What?” he said, brows rising. It was rare to see Cassian in anything but his Illyrian leathers, but the clothes, while not as fine as anything Rhys or Mor usually favored, suited him.
“Dumping a bunch of trees at my feet is really how you say hello these days? A little time in that Illyrian camp and you forget all your manners.”
Cassian was on me in a second, hoisting me off the ground to twirl me until I was going to be sick. I beat at his chest, cursing at him.
Cassian set me down at last. “What’d you get me for Solstice?”
I smacked his arm. “A heaping pile of shut the hell up.” He laughed again, and I winked at him. “Hot cocoa or wine?”
Cassian curved a wing around me, turning us toward the cellar door. “How many good bottles does little Rhysie have left?”
We drank two of them before Azriel arrived, took one look at our drunken attempts at decorating, and set about fixing it before anyone else could see the mess we’d made.
Lounging on a couch before the birch fire in the living room, we grinned like devils as the shadowsinger straightened the wreaths and garlands we’d chucked over things, swept up pine needles we’d scattered over the carpets, and generally shook his head at everything.
“Az, relax for a minute,” Cassian drawled, waving a hand. “Have some wine. Cookies.”
“Take off your coat,” I added, pointing the bottle toward the shadowsinger, who hadn’t even bothered to do so before fixing our mess.
Azriel straightened a sagging section of garland over the windowsill. “It’s almost like you two tried to make it as ugly as possible.”
Cassian clutched at his heart. “We take offense to that.”
Azriel sighed at the ceiling.
“Poor Az,” I said, pouring myself another glass. “Wine will make you feel better.”
He glared at me, then the bottle, then Cassian … and finally stormed across the room, took the bottle from my hand, and chugged the rest. Cassian grinned with delight.
Mostly because Rhys drawled from the doorway, “Well, at least now I know who’s drinking all my good wine. Want another one, Az?”
Azriel nearly spewed the wine into the fire, but made himself swallow and turn, red-faced, to Rhys. “I would like to explain—”
Rhys laughed, the rich sound bouncing off the carved oak moldings of the room. “Five centuries, and you think I don’t know that if my wine’s gone, Cassian’s usually behind it?”
Cassian raised his glass in a salute.
Rhys surveyed the room and chuckled. “I can tell exactly which ones you two did, and which ones Azriel tried to fix before I got here.” Azriel was indeed now rubbing his temple. Rhys lifted a brow at me. “I expected better from an artist.”
I stuck out my tongue at him.
A heartbeat later, he said in my mind, Save that tongue for later. I have ideas for it.
My toes curled in their thick, high socks.
“It’s cold as hell!” Mor called from the front hall, startling me from the warmth pooling in my core. “And who the hell let Cassian and Feyre decorate?”
Azriel choked on what I could have sworn was a laugh, his normally shadowed face lighting up as Mor bustled in, pink with cold and puffing air into her hands. She, however, scowled. “You two couldn’t wait until I got here to break into the good wine?”
I grinned as Cassian said, “We were just getting started on Rhys’s collection.”
Rhys scratched his head. “It is there for anyone to drink, you know. Help yourself to whatever you want.”
“Dangerous words, Rhysand,” Amren warned, strutting through the door, nearly swallowed up by the enormous white fur coat she wore. Only her chin-length dark hair and solid silver eyes were visible above the collar. She looked—
“You look like an angry snowball,” Cassian said.
I clamped my lips together to keep the laugh in. Laughing at Amren wasn’t a wise move. Even now, with her powers mostly gone and permanently in a High Fae body.
The angry snowball narrowed her eyes at him. “Careful, boy. Wouldn’t want to start a war you can’t win.” She unbuttoned the collar so we all heard her clearly as she purred, “Especially with Nesta Archeron coming for Solstice in two days.”
I felt the ripple that went through them—between Cassian, and Mor, and Azriel. Felt the pure temper that rumbled from Cassian, all half-drunk merriness suddenly gone. He said in a low voice, “Shut it, Amren.”
Mor was watching closely enough that it was hard not to stare. I glanced at Rhys instead, but a contemplative look had overtaken his face.
Amren merely grinned, those red lips spreading wide enough to show most of her white teeth as she stalked toward the front hall closet and said over a shoulder, “I’m going to enjoy seeing her shred into you. That’s if she shows up sober.”
And that was enough. Rhys seemed to arrive at the same idea, but before he could say something, I cut in, “Leave Nesta out of it, Amren.”
Amren gave me what might have been considered an apologetic glance. But she merely declared, shoving her enormous coat into the closet, “Varian’s coming, so deal with it.”
Elain was in the kitchen, helping Nuala and Cerridwen prepare the evening meal. Even with Solstice two nights away
, everyone had descended upon the town house.
“Any word from Nesta?” I said to my sister by way of greeting.
Elain straightened from the piping-hot loaves of bread she’d hauled from the oven, her hair half up, the apron over her rose-pink gown dusted with flour. She blinked, her large brown eyes clear. “No. I told her to join us tonight, and to let me know when she’d decided. I didn’t hear back.”
She waved a dishcloth over the bread to cool it slightly, then lifted a loaf to tap the bottom. A hollow sound thumped back, answer enough for her.
“Do you think it’s worth fetching her?”
Elain slung the dishcloth over her slim shoulder, rolling her sleeves up to the elbow. Her skin had gained color these months—at least, before the cold weather had set in. Her face had filled in, too. “Are you asking me that as her sister, or as a seer?”
I kept my face calm, pleasant, and leaned against the worktable.
Elain had not mentioned any further visions. And we had not asked her to use her gifts. Whether they still existed, with the Cauldron’s destruction and then re-forming, I didn’t know. Didn’t want to ask.
“You know Nesta best,” I answered carefully. “I thought you’d like to weigh in.”
“If Nesta doesn’t want to be here tonight, then it’s more trouble than it’s worth to bring her in.”