This is the property of Sarah J. Maas and Bloomsbury Publishing.
This scene takes place in A Court of Silver Flames from Feyre’s perspective and can be read during Chapter 21.
“Well, that went better than I thought,” Rhys admitted after everyone had departed, leaning his head back against the arm of the study’s large couch. Nesta and Cassian had returned to the House of Wind, where my sister had promised to find some way to begin looking for the Dread Trove. My mate added wryly, “despite the disaster with Elain and Nesta.”
I’d returned from talking to my sister about the baby- the boy- to find Rhys lounging on the couch, an arm flung over his eyes, apparently needing a moment of peace after enduring Cassian and Azriel’s exuberant elation.
I plopped onto the sofa beside Rhys, lifting his muscular legs to wiggle beneath them. “Elain showed some teeth,” I observed. “I wasn’t expecting that.” Or what she’d said about her lingering trauma. I’d meant what I’d discussed with Nesta- how many times had I focused solely on my terror during Elain’s suffering?
Rhys watched me through half-lidded eyes, the portrait of idle grace. But he said carefully, “how do you feel about it?”
I shrugged, leaning my head back against the cushions. “Guilty. She directed all of it at Nesta, but I deserve it, too.”
Elain and I had grown closer since the war with Hybern had ended. True, I might never go out drinking with her the way I did with Mor, and sometimes Amren, but…well, with a baby coming, I couldn’t drink anyway. And while I might never run to Elain first with problems or for advice, we had a peaceful, amicable understanding. I found her to be a pleasant companion.
I wondered if she’d resent that judgment. I certainly would.
Rhys asked, “have you ever seen Elain act like that before?”
“No,” I chewed on my bottom lip. Rhys’s gaze tracked the movement. “I mean, she’s been brave when she had to be, but she’s never been confrontational.”
“Maybe she was never given the chance to be that way.”
I whipped my head toward him. “You think I stifle her?”
Rhys held up his hands. “Not you alone.” He surveyed the study as he thought. “But I wonder if everyone has spent so long assuming Elain is sweet and innocent that she felt she had to be that way or else she’d disappoint you all.” He sighed toward the ceiling. “With time and safety, perhaps we’ll see a different side of her emerge.”
“That sounds dangerously close to what Nesta said about Elain finally becoming interesting.”
“Sometimes, Nesta isn’t wrong.”
I glowered at Rhys. “You think Elain’s boring?”
“I think she’s kind, and I’ll take kindness over nastiness any day. But I also think we haven’t yet seen all she has to offer.” A corner of his mouth tugged upward. “Don’t forget that gardening often results in something pretty, but it involves getting one’s hands dirty along the way.”
“And torn up by thorns,” I mused, recalling a morning this past summer when Elain had come into the house, her right palm bleeding from several gashes thanks to a stubborn rosebush that had pierced her gloves. The thorns had broken off in her skin, leaving sharp splinters that I’d had to pull free.
I didn’t dare mention that if she had been wearing the enchanted gloves Lucien had gotten her last Solstice, nothing would have pierced them at all.
I sighed, absently rubbing my still-flat stomach. “Let’s focus on helping one sister before we start on the other.”
“Agreed,” Rhys drawled.
I pinned him with a look. “Did you really need to give Nesta that death glare earlier?”
He sat up, the soul of innocence. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Feyre darling.” He leaned in, and the air shimmered briefly as the shield around me dropped away. His lips brushed over my cheek. “I’d never do such a thing. You must be thinking of your other mate.”
“Yes, the cruel, overprotective, half-insane one.” I smiled as he kissed my jaw, then my neck. My toes curled.
“Cruel?” Rhys purred the word against my skin. “You wound me.”
I let him lay me down on the cushion, savoring the weight of him as he braced himself on his elbows. “You look happy,” he said, his smile soft and tender in a way so few in the world beyond Velaris ever saw.
“I am happy,” I said. “I’m happy that our family can share in our joy.” Regardless of how difficult my relationship had become with Nesta, it had lightened something in my chest when she congratulated us.
“If you think I’m overprotective,” Rhys said, his dark hair sliding over his face, “then just wait until Mor comes home from Vallahan. You’ll never leave the house without an escort.”
“I thought Azriel and Cassian would be the ones to worry about.”
“Oh, they’ll be bad. But Mor will probably add a second shield to you and check in six times a day to make sure you’re eating and sleeping enough.”
I groaned, “Mother spare me.”
“Hmmm,” Rhys said, his eyes near-dazzling as he fiddled with the end of my braid.
For a long minute, we smiled at each other. I drank in every elegant plane of his face, every ember of warmth and happiness that radiated from him. “Cassian said you’ve been moody. Why?”
I believed Cassian, but Rhys hadn’t been moody around me at all. Whenever my mate had looked at me lately, only pure love had gleamed in his eyes.
I’d never forget the moment we’d learned I was carrying out child, that beautiful boy that the Bone Carver had once shown me. I’d been sitting at an easel in the gallery late at night, painting a nightmare I’d had the day before.
The children had gone home, and I’d been the only one there- which was unusual these days- and I was left with some rare extra energy after the lessons. The things the children painted often left me in tears, though I was always careful to hide it. But despite the upswell of complicated emotions, this daily work had sparked in me, it had proved gratifying in a way I’d never anticipated. In a way, all of my considerable magic had never made me feel.
And the only thing to do with those feelings was to paint them.
The nightmare had left me off-balance the entire day, lingering in my mind like some sort of bruise. I’d been back Under the Mountain, once more facing my second trial, those jagged spiked descending to impale me if I did not pick the correct lever in time. I’d somehow become illiterate again, unable to decipher the markings on the wall, forced to pick my salvation or doom at random. Rhys had saved me then- but in the dream, he hadn’t been there.
Only Amarantha had been present, the King of Hybern a shadow behind her, and somehow no one knew where I was, that I’d been dragged back here because she’d learned I’d somehow cheated my way out the first time, and I’d never escape, never escape, never escape-
That was the last thought I’d had before forcing myself awake- damp with sweat, my heart thundering in my chest. Rhys had stirred, tucking me into his side, his wing sweeping over us both, and although I’d cuddled into his warmth and strength, true sleep hadn’t found me again.
So I’d waited until the children had left the studio for the day before hauling over a blank canvas and my palette. I made myself a steaming-hot cup of peppermint and licorice root tea and picked up my brush.
I’d been painting out the nightmare for nearly two hours, my back to the door, when Rhys entered. He remained utterly silent. It wasn’t the contented silence he sometimes fell into while he observed me painting. It was pure, shocked silence.
I’d twisted to look at him just in time to see him crash to his knees.
And then he’d been weeping and laughing, and all I could make out in his ecstatic babbling was one word: baby. I’d leaped off the stool. I was weeping too by the time I launched into his arms, knocking us both to the ground, and he’d put a hand to my stomach in wonder.
Something had altered in my scent since I’d bid him farewell that morning, perhaps even since I’d said farewell to the children. Life had taken root within me at last.
We’d lain together on the floor, our laughter and our tears mingling, and only when we’d calmed had I kissed him. Our clothes had vanished after that, and I’d ridden him on the floor of the studio, letting the light within me shine brightly enough to cast shadows through the room. He’d begun crying again as he watched me move, silent tears streaming through the star-kissed night pouring off him, and when I’d leaned in to lick them away, he’d climaxed so hard it sent me spiraling to my own peak.
And now, just as he had after that time in the studio, his fingers began tracing idle circles over my stomach, up to my breasts, already heavy and aching in a way that had nothing to do with the desire building between my legs. It had been one of the first signs, beyond the vomiting that lately had been nearly around-the-clock: my breasts swelled, and hurt.
Rhys circled one of my nipples, and it hardened beneath his touch. He watched it pebble through my shirt, like a cat watching a mouse.
“Rhys,” I said when my question remained unanswered. “Why did Cassian say you’ve been moody?”
He closed his mouth around my breast, teeth grazing me through my shirt. “No reason.”
“Liar.” I tugged on his hair, forcing his head up. “Tell me.”
He shook off my grip and nuzzled his face into the side of my neck, lowering his body just enough that he showed me precisely how this was going to end. I couldn’t stop my hips from rising to meet him. Another early sign: I’d been ravenously hungry. Not only for food.
There had been nights when I’d barely waited for Rhys to enter the bedroom before I’d ripped his clothes off before I’d dropped to my knees and taken his cock deep in my mouth, or asked him to fuck me against the wall. There were entire days when I’d found myself needing him inside me so badly that I’d used my daemati gifts to ask him to meet me at the townhouse during lunch since it was closer to the studio than our new home.
This lovely, perfect home that we’d built- with a nursery that, Cauldron willing, would be occupied sometime late this spring.
Rhys had matched my relentless hunger with his own. Sometimes we went slow, savoring every inch of each other, the embodiment of making love. Other times- usually- it was pure, rough fucking. Just this morning, I’d been so swarmed with need that we’d barely gotten through a private breakfast in our room before I climbed into his lap and rode him until we were both senseless with pleasure.
I’d asked Madja about it yesterday- whether it was…normal to want him this much.
Yes, she’d answered, eyes sparkling. Many expectant mothers do not talk about it, but it has to do with your body’s altering essence. I can’t tell you why that is, but it is normal. Enjoy every moment of it.
Rhys said against my neck, “I’ve been moody because I’m not getting any sleep.” He licked up the side of my throat, and his hand drifted into my pants. I didn’t stop it, not when his fingers found the slickness waiting for him. He let out a pleased growl. “See?”
I knew he was hedging, and I let it slide. I’d learned that Rhys would tell me what was bothering him when he was good and ready. Maybe Cassian had been misinterpreting it- maybe it had been directed toward my sister.
I knew that was unlikely.
But as Rhys slid his fingers inside me, setting a wickedly lazy rhythm, I let it drop. It had always been part of our friendship: to give each other the space to decide when we were ready to talk.
And then there was our final bargain, inked on us since we’d defeated Hybern…I kissed him deeply, tongue tangling with his. We wouldn’t spend a moment in this world without each other. I could only pray that our child would find such love one day.
Rhys brought me to the edge of climaxing, and then his hand and my clothes were gone. He unbuckled his pants with taunting slowness, watching my face as he pulled his considerable length free. He watched my face the entire time he slid into me in a single, mighty thrust, seemed to savor each of my moans and breathless pleas as he moved deep inside me.
As if he were memorizing it- all of it.
When we were both panting, Rhys’s face still buried in my neck, my fingers idly tangling in his sweat-damp shirt, I said, “it feels real now that the others know.”
Rhys knew what I meant. “There’s one person left to tell.”
I smiled, tugging his hair to get him to look at me. Rhys obeyed, staring down into my face. “You want to break the news to Mor or can I?”
He’d known her the longest, but I considered her my dearest friend. A sister, perhaps more so than my own.
“I think we should let him tell her,” Rhys said, nodding down to my belly.
I arched a brow. “How?”
He smiled wryly. “The next time Mor’s home, we’ll drop the shield around you. See how long it takes her to scent you. And him.”
I smiled back. “I like that.” I already wished I had some way of capturing Mor’s face in that moment. I brushed my hand through Rhys’s silken hair. “Do you have any names in mind?”
Rhys grinned. “Oh, yes.”
“I don’t trust that grin for one moment.”
“Why?” He pulled out of me, and with a wave of his magic, we were both cleaned. I stifled the rising hunger in me at the sight of him tucking himself back into his pants. “I’d never name him anything ridiculous.”
“I don’t believe you.” I tapped his nose. “Your family name-”
“Let’s not talk about my family name,” he said, nipping at my fingertips.
I laughed. “Fine.”
But his eyes dimmed. “What about naming him for your father?”
My heart strained. “You’d be all right with that?”
“Of course I would.”
I had to swallow the tightness in my throat as I sat up, facing him fully. “Perhaps for a secondary name, but…no, I want our son to have a name of his own.”
Our son. The words were foreign, yet lovely on my tongue.
Rhys nodded, face softening as if the words moved him as well.
I could already see the father he’d become- see him laughing as he tossed our child skyward, see him slumbering with the boy on this very couch, books left open in their laps. Our son would never, not for a moment, doubt that he was loved and cherished. And Rhys would go to the ends of the world to protect him.
I smiled at the daydreams, hands already aching to paint them.
Rhys let out a hum of contemplation. “What about Nyx?”
I blinked. “Nyx?”
Rhys pointed to one of the walls of books in the study. A leather-bound tome floated toward his open fingers. He wordlessly flipped to a page and then passed it to me.
I scanned the text inside. “An ancient night goddess?”
“From around the time of the Trove, actually,” Rhys said. “She’s mostly been forgotten now, but I like the sound of her name. Why not use it for a boy?”
“Nyx,” I mused again, the name echoing in the silent study. I brushed my tattooed fingers over my stomach. Rhys’s hand came over mine, and we both smiled at the little life forming within my body.
“Nyx,” I said one last time and could have sworn a flutter of night-kissed power rose in answer.
Rhys sucked in a sharp breath as if he’d also felt that kernel of power.
Together, we gazed at our linked hands, my stomach beneath them.
Together, we gazed at our son, and I offered my silent thanks to the Mother for the beautiful future that bloomed before us.