“When did you last eat?”
A sullen silence.
“I thought so.” I hauled a fleece-lined robe around my shoulders. “Wash up and change. We’re leaving in forty minutes. I’ll be back soon.”
He tucked in his wings, the faelight gilding the talon atop each one. “You don’t need to—”
“I want to, and I’m going to.” With that, I was out the door and padding down the cerulean-blue hallway.
Five minutes later, Rhys held the door open for me wearing nothing but his undershorts as I strode in, tray in my hands.
“Considering that you brought the entire damn kitchen,” he mused as I headed for the desk, still not anywhere near dressed for our visit, “I should have just gone downstairs.”
I stuck out my tongue, but scowled as I scanned the cluttered desk for any spare space. None. Even the small table by the window was covered with things. All important, vital things. I made do with the bed.
Rhys sat, folding his wings behind him before reaching to pull me into his lap, but I dodged his hands and kept a healthy distance away. “Eat the food first.”
“Then I’ll eat you after,” he countered, grinning wickedly, but tore into the food.
The rate and intensity of that eating was enough to bank any rising heat in me at his words. “Did you eat at all today?”
A flash of violet eyes as he finished off his bread and began on the cold roast beef. “I had an apple this morning.”
“I was busy.”
He set down his fork, his mouth twitching toward a smile. “Feyre.”
I crossed my arms. “No one is too busy to eat.”
“It’s my job to fuss. And besides, you fuss plenty. Over far more trivial things.”
“Your cycle isn’t trivial.”
“I was in a little bit of pain—”
“You were thrashing on the bed as if someone had gutted you.”
“And you were acting like an overbearing mother hen.”
“I didn’t see you screaming at Cassian, Mor, or Az when they expressed concern for you.”
“They didn’t try to spoon-feed me like an invalid!”
Rhys chuckled, finishing off his food. “I’ll eat regular meals if you allow me to turn into an overbearing mother hen twice a year.”
Right—because my cycle was so different in this body. Gone were the monthly discomforts. I’d thought it a gift.
Until two months ago. When the first one had happened.
In place of those monthly, human discomforts was a biannual week of stomach-shredding agony. Even Madja, Rhys’s favored healer, could do little for the pain short of rendering me unconscious. There had been a point during that week when I’d debated it, the pain slicing from my back and stomach down to my thighs, up to my arms, like living bands of lightning flashing through me. My cycle had never been pleasant as a human, and there had indeed been days when I couldn’t get out of bed. It seemed that in being Made, the amplification of my attributes hadn’t stopped at strength and Fae features. Not at all.
Mor had little to offer me beyond commiseration and ginger tea. At least it was only twice a year, she’d consoled me. That was two times too many, I’d managed to groan to her.
Rhys had stayed with me the entire time, stroking my hair, replacing the heated blankets that I soaked with sweat, even helping me clean myself off. Blood was blood, was all he said when I’d objected to him seeing me peel off the soiled undergarments. I’d been barely able to move at that point without whimpering, so the words hadn’t entirely sunken in.
Along with the implication of that blood. At least the contraceptive brew he took was working. But conceiving amongst the Fae was rare and difficult enough that I sometimes wondered if waiting until I was ready for children might wind up biting me in the ass.
I hadn’t forgotten the Bone Carver’s vision, how he’d appeared to me. I knew Rhys hadn’t, either.
But he hadn’t pushed, or asked. I’d once told him that I wanted to live with him, experience life with him, before we had children. I still held to that. There was so much to do, our days too busy to even think about bringing a child into the world, my life full enough that even though it would be a blessing beyond measure, I would endure the twice-a-year agony for the time being. And help my sisters with them, too.
Fae fertility cycles had never been something I’d considered, and explaining them to Nesta and Elain had been uncomfortable, to say the least.
Nesta had only stared at me in that unblinking, cold way. Elain had blushed, muttering about the impropriety of such things. But they had been Made nearly six months ago. It was coming. Soon. If being Made somehow didn’t interfere with it.
I’d have to find some way to convince Nesta to send word when hers started. Like hell would I allow her to endure that pain alone. I wasn’t sure she could endure that pain alone.
Elain, at least, would be too polite to send Lucien away when he wanted to help. She was too polite to send him away on a normal day. She just ignored him or barely spoke to him until he got the hint and left. As far as I knew, he hadn’t come within touching distance since the aftermath of that final battle. No, she tended to her gardens here, silently mourning her lost human life. Mourning Graysen.
How Lucien withstood it, I didn’t know. Not that he’d shown any interest in bridging that gap between them.
“Where did you go?” Rhys asked, draining his wine and setting aside the tray.
If I wanted to talk, he’d listen. If I didn’t want to, he would let it go. It had been our unspoken bargain from the start—to listen when the other needed, and give space when it was required. He was still slowly working his way through telling me all that had been done to him, all he’d witnessed Under the Mountain. There were still nights when I’d kiss away his tears, one by one.
This subject, however, was not so difficult to discuss. “I was thinking about Elain,” I said, leaning against the edge of the desk. “And Lucien.”
Rhys arched a brow, and I told him.
When I finished, his face was contemplative. “Will Lucien be joining us for the Solstice?”
“Is it bad if he does?”
Rhys let out a hum, his wings tucking in further. I had no idea how he withstood the cold while flying, even with a shield. Whenever I’d tried these past few weeks, I’d barely lasted more than a few minutes. The only time I’d managed had been last week, when our flight from the House of Wind had turned far warmer.
Rhys said at last, “I can stomach being around him.”
“I’m sure he’d love to hear that thrilling endorsement.”
A half smile that had me walking toward him, stopping between his legs. He braced his hands idly on my hips. “I can let go of the taunts,” he said, scanning my face. “And the fact that he still harbors some hope of one day reuniting with Tamlin. But I cannot let go of how he treated you after Under the Mountain.”
“I can. I’ve forgiven him for that.”
“Well, you’ll forgive me if I can’t.” Icy rage darkened the stars in those violet eyes.
“You still can barely talk to Nesta,” I said. “Yet Elain you can talk to nicely.”
“Elain is Elain.”
“If you blame one, you have to blame the other.”
“No, I don’t. Elain is Elain,” he repeated. “Nesta is … she’s Illyrian. I mean that as a compliment, but she’s an Illyrian at heart. So there is no excuse for her behavior.”
“She more than made up for it this summer, Rhys.”
“I cannot forgive anyone who made you suffer.”
Cold, brutal words, spoken with such casual grace.
But he still didn’t care about those who’d made him suffer. I ran a hand over the swirls and whorls of tattoos across his muscled chest, tracing the intricate lines. He shuddered under my fingers, wings twitching. “They’re my family. You have to forgive Nesta at some po
He rested his brow against my chest, right between my breasts, and wrapped his arms around my waist. For a long minute, he only breathed in the scent of me, as if taking it deep into his lungs. “Should that be my Solstice gift to you?” he murmured. “Forgiving Nesta for letting her fourteen-year-old sister go into those woods?”
I hooked a finger under his chin and tugged his head up. “You won’t get any Solstice gift at all from me if you keep up this nonsense.”
A wicked grin.
“Prick,” I hissed, making to step back, but his arms tightened around me.
We fell silent, just staring at each other. Then Rhys said down the bond, A thought for a thought, Feyre darling?
I smiled at the request, the old game between us. But it faded as I answered, I went into the Rainbow today.
Oh? He nuzzled the plane of my stomach.