Silence fell, filled only by the sounds of his heavy breathing. He sank onto the bed and pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes.
His words echoed through me, melting my anger, turning everything inside me watery and frail. “How … how long do I have to go away for?”
He didn’t reply.
“A week?” No answer. “A month?” He shook his head slowly. My upper lip curled, but I forced myself into neutrality. “A year?” That much time away from him …
“I don’t know.”
“But not forever, right?” Even if the blight spread to the Spring Court again, even if it could shred me apart … I would come back. He brushed the hair from my face. I shook him off. “I suppose it’ll be easier if I’m gone,” I said, looking away from him. “Who wants someone around who’s so covered in thorns?”
“Thorny. Prickly. Sour. Contrary.”
He leaned forward and kissed me lightly. “Not forever,” he said onto my mouth.
And though I knew it was a lie, I put my arms around his neck and kissed him.
He pulled me onto his lap, holding me tightly against him as his lips parted mine. I became aware of every pore in my body when his tongue entered my mouth.
Though the horror of Rhysand’s magic still tore at me, I pushed Tamlin onto the bed, straddling him, pinning him as if it would somehow keep me from leaving, as if it would make time stop entirely.
His hands rested on my hips, and their heat singed me through the thin silk of my nightgown. My hair fell around our faces like a curtain. I couldn’t kiss him fast enough, hard enough to express the rushing need within me. He growled softly and deftly flipped us over, spreading me beneath him as he wrenched his lips from my mouth and made a trail of kisses down my neck.
My entire world constricted to the touch of his lips on my skin. Everything beyond them, beyond him, was a void of darkness and moonlight. My back arched as he reached the spot he’d once bitten, and I dragged my hands through his hair, savoring the silken smoothness.
He traced the arc of my hipbones, lingering at the edge of my undergarments. My nightgown had become hitched around my waist, but I didn’t care. I hooked my bare legs around his, running my feet down the hard muscles of his calves.
He breathed my name onto my chest, one of his hands exploring the plane of my torso, rising up to the slope of my breast. I trembled, anticipating the feel of his hand there, and his mouth found mine again as his fingers stopped just below.
His kissing was slower this time—gentler. The fingertips of his other hand slipped beneath the waist of my undergarment, and I sucked in a breath.
He hesitated at the sound, pulling back slightly. But I bit his lip in a silent command that had him growling into my mouth. With one long claw, he shredded through silk and lace, and my undergarment fell away in pieces. The claw retracted, and his kiss deepened as his fingers slid between my legs, coaxing and teasing. I ground against his hand, yielding completely to the writhing wildness that had roared alive inside me, and breathed his name onto his skin.
He paused again—his fingers retracting—but I grabbed him, pulling him farther on top of me. I wanted him now—I wanted the barriers of our clothing to vanish, I wanted to taste his sweat, wanted to become full of him. “Don’t stop,” I gasped out.
“I—” he said thickly, resting his brow between my breasts as he shuddered. “If we keep going, I won’t be able to stop at all.”
I sat up and he watched me, hardly breathing. But I kept my eyes on his, my own breathing becoming steady as I raised my nightgown over my head and tossed it to the floor. Utterly naked before him, I watched his gaze travel to my bare breasts, peaked against the chill night, to my abdomen, to between my thighs. A ravenous, unyielding sort of hunger passed over his face. I bent a leg and slid it to the side, a silent invitation. He let out a low growl—and slowly, with predatory intent, raised his gaze to mine again.
The full force of that wild, unrelenting High Lord’s power focused solely on me—and I felt the storm contained beneath his skin, so capable of sweeping away everything I was, even in its lessened state. But I could trust him, trust myself to weather that mighty power. I could throw all that I was at him and he wouldn’t balk. “Give me everything,” I breathed.
He lunged, a beast freed of its tether.
We were a tangle of limbs and teeth, and I tore at his clothes until they were on the floor, then tore at his skin until I marked him down his back, his arms. His claws were out, but devastatingly gentle on my hips as he slid down between my thighs and feasted on me, stopping only after I shuddered and fractured. I was moaning his name when he sheathed himself inside me in a powerful, slow thrust that had me splintering around him.
We moved together, unending and wild and burning, and when I went over the edge the next time, he roared and went with me.
I fell asleep in his arms, and when I awoke a few hours later, we made love again, lazily and intently, a slow-burning smolder to the wildfire of earlier. Once we were both spent, panting and sweat-slicked, we lay in silence for a time, and I breathed in the smell of him, earthy and crisp. I would never be able to capture that—never be able to paint the feel and taste of him, no matter how many times I tried, no matter how many colors I used.
Tamlin traced idle circles on the plane of my stomach and murmured, “We should sleep. You have a long journey tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” I sat upright, not at all minding my nakedness, not after he’d seen everything, tasted everything.
His mouth was a hard line. “At dawn.”
He sat up in a smooth motion. “Please, Feyre.”
Please. Tamlin had bowed before Rhysand. For my sake. He shifted toward the edge of the bed. “Where are you going?”
He looked over his shoulder at me. “If I stay, you won’t get any sleep.”
“Stay,” I said. “I promise to keep my hands to myself.” Lie—such an outright lie.
He gave me a half smile that told me he knew it, too, but nestled down, tugging me into his arms. I wrapped an arm around his waist and rested my head in the hollow of his shoulder.
He idly stroked my hair. I didn’t want to sleep—didn’t want to lose a minute with him—but an immense exhaustion was pulling me away from consciousness, until all I knew was the touch of his fingers in my hair and the sounds of his breathing.
I was leaving. Just when this place had become more than a sanctuary, when the command of the Suriel had become a blessing and Tamlin far, far more than a savior or friend, I was leaving. It could be years until I saw this house again, years until I smelled his rose garden, until I saw those gold-flecked eyes. Home—this was home.