So I did.
I was loosened, a top whirling around and around, and I didn’t know who I danced with or what they looked like, only that I had become the music and the fire and the night, and there was nothing that could slow me down.
Through it all, Tamlin and his musicians played such joyous music that I didn’t think the world could contain it all. I sashayed over to him, my faerie lord, my protector and warrior, my friend, and danced before him. He grinned at me, and I didn’t break my dancing as he rose from his seat and knelt before me in the grass, offering up a solo on his fiddle to me.
Music just for me—a gift. He played on, his fingers fast and hard upon the strings of his fiddle. My body slithering like a snake, I tipped my head back to the heavens and let Tamlin’s music fill all of me.
There was a pressure at my waist, and I was swept away in someone’s arms as they whisked me back into the ring of dancing. I laughed so hard I thought I’d combust, and when I opened my eyes, I found Tamlin there, spinning me round and round.
Everything became a blur of color and sound, and he was the only object in it, tethering me to sanity, to my body, which glowed and burned in every place he touched.
I was filled with sunshine. It was like I’d never experienced summer before, like I’d never known who was waiting to emerge from that forest of ice and snow. I didn’t want it to end—I never wanted to leave this hilltop.
The music came to a close, and, gasping for breath, I glanced at the moon—it was near setting. Sweat slid down every part of my body.
Tamlin, panting as well, took my hand. “Time goes faster when you’re drunk on faerie wine.”
“I’m not drunk,” I said, snorting. He only chuckled and led me from the dancing. I dug my heels into the ground as we neared the edge of the firelight. “They’re starting again,” I said, pointing to the dancers gathering before the refreshed musicians.
He leaned close, his breath caressing the shell of my ear as he whispered, “I want to show you something better.”
I stopped objecting.
He led me off the hill, navigating his way by moonlight. Whatever path he chose, he did so out of consideration for my bare feet, for only soft grass cushioned my steps. Soon, even the music faded away, replaced by the sighing of trees in the night breeze.
“Here,” Tamlin said, pausing at the edge of a vast meadow. His hand lingered on my shoulder as we looked out.
The high grasses moved like water as the last of the moonlight danced upon them.
“What is it?” I breathed, but he put a finger to his lips and beckoned me to look.
For a few minutes, there was nothing. Then, from the opposite side of the meadow, dozens of shimmering shapes floated out across the grass, little more than mirages of moonlight. That was when the singing began.
It was a collective voice, but in it existed both male and female—two sides of the same coin, singing to each other in a call and response. I raised a hand to my throat as their music rose and they danced. Ghostly and ethereal, they waltzed across the field, no more than slender slants of moonlight.
“What are they?”
“Will-o’-the-wisps—spirits of air and light,” he said softly. “Come to celebrate the solstice.”
His lips grazed my neck as he murmured against my skin, “Dance with me, Feyre.”
“Really?” I turned and found my face mere inches from his.
He cracked a lazy smile. “Really.” As though I were nothing but air myself, he pulled me into a sweeping dance. I barely remembered any of the steps I’d learned in childhood, but he compensated for it with his feral grace, never faltering, always sensing any stumble before I made it as we danced across the spirit-riddled field.
I was as unburdened as a piece of dandelion fluff, and he was the wind that stirred me about the world.
He smiled at me, and I found myself smiling back. I didn’t need to pretend, didn’t need to be anything but what I was right then, being twirled about the meadow, the will-o’-the-wisps dancing around us like dozens of moons.
Our dancing slowed and we stood there, holding each other as we swayed to the songs of the spirits. He rested his chin upon my head and stroked my hair, his fingers grazing the bare skin of my neck.
“Feyre,” he whispered onto my head. He made my name sound beautiful. “Feyre,” he whispered again—not in question, but simply as if he enjoyed saying it.
As quickly as they’d appeared, the spirits vanished, taking their music with them. I blinked. The stars were fading, and the sky had turned grayish purple.
Tamlin’s face was inches from my own. “It’s almost dawn.”
I nodded, mesmerized by the sight of him, the smell and feel of him holding me. I reached up to touch his mask. It was so cold, despite how flushed his skin was just beyond it. My hand shook, and my breathing became shallow as I grazed the skin of his jaw. It was smooth—and hot.
He wet his lips, his breathing as uneven as my own. His fingers contracted against the plane of my lower back, and I let him tug me closer to him—until our bodies were touching, and the warmth of him seeped into me.
I had to tilt my head back to see his face. His mouth was caught somewhere between a smile and a wince.
“What?” I asked, and put a hand on his chest, preparing to shove myself back. But his other hand slipped under my hair, resting at the base of my neck.
“I’m thinking I might kiss you,” he said quietly, intently.
“Then do it.” I blushed at my own boldness.
But Tamlin only gave that breathy laugh, and leaned in.
His lips brushed mine—testing, soft and warm. He pulled back a little. He was still staring at me, and I stared right back as he kissed me again, harder, but nothing like the way he’d kissed my neck. He withdrew more fully this time and watched me.
“That’s it?” I demanded, and he laughed and kissed me fiercely.
My hands went around his neck, pulling him closer, crushing myself against him. His hands roved my back, playing in my hair, grasping my waist, as if he couldn’t touch enough of me at once.
He let out a low groan. “Come,” he said, kissing my brow. “We’ll miss it if we don’t go now.”
“Better than will-o’-the-wisps ?” I asked, but he kissed my cheeks, my neck, and finally my lips. I followed him into the trees, through the ever-lightening world. His hand was solid and unmovable around mine as we passed through the low-lying mists, and he helped me up a bare hill slick with dew.