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#acosf fanfic
ekbelsher · 11 days ago
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Everyone thinks my version of Cardan looks like Cassian, so why not do him too? Thought I’d take a stab at straight-up digital colour over a pencil drawing, and it came out looking kind of like a page from a comic book. Based on a scene from Embers & Light by @duskandstarlight -- check it out if you’re up for some Nessian! 😊
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duskandstarlight · 6 days ago
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Embers & Light (Chapter 39, NSFW Nessian)
Notes: Well, over a year you've had to wait for these two to seal the deal... BUT NO LONGER. And because I'm thankful to you all for sticking with this story, I've granted you with over 16k of sinful naughtiness. I think it's safe to say this is NSFW but you guys have read my smut before, you know the drill.
Embers & Light has always very much been the alternative story to Habits, but I couldn’t help but write in some crossover moments here to highlight the differences in events--timeline is a fascinating thing! Lemme know if you spot the moments :)
Please let me know what you think :) Comment and kudos will make my day!
I won't be able to write much of August (wedding & mini-moon) but I'll be doing my best to get you guys something as soon as possible. Hopefully by the end of the month, anyways <3
Oh! And I got a bookstagram. Find me at bookships.and.fandoms (and bear with me, I cba to take pretty pics atm)
Chapter 39 Cassian POV
Cassian stared at the doorway and the staircase beyond it, his gaze fixed and unwavering. Nesta had slipped out of the living room to follow Feyre up the stairs over ten minutes ago and he was already consumed with the biting sort of worry that gnawed at your insides.
He wasn’t concerned about what Nesta might be discussing with Feyre—that was her business—but because he couldn’t help but fret when it came to Nesta’s wellbeing.
It was a myriad of concerns that trampled through his mind like a herd of cattle. Had she slept enough? Had she recovered from being caught in the crowds the day before? Was her conversation with Feyre going to have her take three steps back rather than one forward? Cassian had spied the book of fairytales she’d slipped into her bag. Had guessed what she’d intended to do with it.
And then there was the fact that Nesta had left the bed before he’d woken again. Cassian couldn’t help but feel disappointed that she’d not been there when he’d opened his eyes, especially after the night before.
But that was how it was with he and Nesta. When the sun dipped below the horizon, Cassian often felt as if they were on the right path; as if once the world shut its eyes, the pressure was off and their play could continue. But as soon as light bled back into the sky, things weren’t the same. They weren’t cold… but Cassian felt suspended in a limbo of flirtatious banter and respectful distance. Which was hard, when all Cassian wanted to do was be as close to her as possible: to hold her hand and wind a hand through her hair. To kiss her brow and mouth and sink his teeth into her neck—
Cassian’s jaw tightened. He wanted to do wicked things. He wanted to make her moan and shatter. Wanted to know how she felt wrapped around him. Wanted to see if she’d gasp awake as he pushed inside of her.
Their trip home was going to be a turning point. Or at the very least it would be a milestone—a hammered notch as they progressed towards something. Yet, Cassian wasn’t naive: he wasn’t expecting Nesta to fall into his arms and never leave. But he hoped that it might make Nesta see their connection—not the tie between them, but the chemistry that Cassian knew would forever exist even if the mating bond was severed.
From the very first moment his gaze had settled on the haughty, vicious sister Cassian had known. Had nearly been brought to his knees—the heart-stopping moment so powerful, it suspended time as he felt something turn inside of him, as if something that had lain dormant had finally snapped open an eye.
And because of that Cassian would willingly allow Nesta to forge the reigns when it came to whatever it was between them. He could go slow. He would take the chance that Nesta might grow to accept him, even as he was seized by the terror that she might grow bored and draw a line under things before he had the chance to prove that he was worthy.
Cassian took a deep, steadying breath that made his ribcage heave. Thought of the lullaby that sat in his room at the House. Used that to ground himself and banish the painful thoughts.
Nesta had cared enough to gift him a piece of his past that nobody else had ever gone to the effort to find for him. And that was… everything. It was everything to him.
“I can hear the worry grinding gears in your brain.”
Rhys was standing where Mor had been a few moments earlier, his hands tucked into the pockets of his trousers, his eyebrows raised. Cassian hadn’t noticed Mor slip away. Couldn’t even recall what she'd been saying to him. Had he ignored her? He didn’t know. Didn’t really care. They all knew he was head over heels when it came to Nesta anyway.
Cassian blinked. It took him a moment to process Rhys’s words, but his body finally caught up. An instinctive grin tugged at the corners of his mouth and he commanded his eyes to sparkle, even though it was all fake. “I was under the impression you didn’t think I had one.”
Rhys didn’t chuckle or retort with something dry. Sometimes his brother allowed him to indulge in his self-deprecating behaviour, but it didn’t seem like today was one of those days. Instead, he cut to the chase. “They’re fine.”
Cassian bristled. Didn’t bother to pretend his mind wasn't solely on what was happening upstairs. “Feyre’s speaking with you now?”
Nesta would hate that. Would know if her sister was communicating to her mate whilst they were talking.
His brother’s laugh was as smooth as velvet. “No, she locked me out. It’s a habit she’s started recently and it’s usually coupled with the mental finger.”
This time, Cassian’s smile was genuine, as was the chuckle that chased it. “Feisty.”
“You have no idea,” Rhys responded with a wink.
Mor, who had breezed back to Cassian’s side with a new cup of coffee, rolled her eyes. “We do actually, you two are like rabbits.”
“We’re mated,” Rhys replied with a wave of his hand. “It’s to be expected.”
Mor lifted her eyes to the ceiling. “Cauldron, I need to bed someone rather than hearing about my cousin’s exploits with my best friend.”
“Head to Rita’s and find yourself a pretty fae,” Cassian drawled, tugging Mor into a one armed hug.
“Mmm,” Mor hummed, but she chewed on her lip again. Glanced nervously at Azriel, who was in deep conversation with Elain. His shadows were tucked in neatly to his frame rather than trailing, ever-moving and loose around his body, but Cassian knew he could hear them.
Cassian dropped a friendly kiss to Mor’s head before he let her go. Tussled her hair, grinning mischievously when she squawked in disapproval.
As if sensing that his cousin wanted a change of subject, Rhys looked square at Cassian. “Azriel will come over later to update you on the latest movements.”
Cassian sobered as if someone had poured icy water down his back. “Not later,” Cassian corrected firmly.
Tomorrow. No the day after that. Cassian couldn’t guarantee that he’d be able to stop once he’d had his first proper taste of Nesta.
But of course they couldn’t do that—wouldn’t. The situation in Illyria was too dire for them to be so selfish as to lock themselves away for days.
It didn’t mean Cassian didn’t want to, though.
“You’ve got plans?” Rhys asked lightly and Mor froze.
You’ve got no idea, Cassian thought. But then realised his brother knew. Of course he did. Surely everyone in this room knew how desperate he was to get back to Illyria. To have Nesta in his bed again, writhing and moaning, their bodies slick with sweat as they moved in unison.
Clenching his jaw, Cassian grounded that desire between his teeth, until it was nothing but broken, delicious shards that scraped down his throat. His blood coiled. “Yes. Maybe.”
If she doesn’t change her mind.
“It has to be tomorrow, Cass.”
Biting back a sigh, Cassian nodded. “I know. Come at noon. I suppose I’ll be camped out in Illyria for the foreseeable future.” He cast a stern look at Mor. “Send me letters.”
“You have a housemate,” Rhys reminded him. “You’re not going to be entirely alone.”
Mor grinned slyly. “A very beautiful housemate.”
Cassian was more than aware of that.
He grunted and unable to stop himself, he voiced the fear that always niggled away at the back of his mind. “For now.”
But Rhys just loosed another manicured shrug, that was at odds with the ground-breaking revelation that followed it. “For a long while. Nesta has expressed her desire to remain in Illyria long-term despite the discontent. Assuming you don’t mind sharing your bungalow.”
It felt as if an iron band of hope was clamped around Cassian’s chest. He stared at his brother. Tried not to blink. Crossed his arms firmly over his chest, protecting his heart. “And you know this how?”
“Nesta spoke with me. We have arrived at a truce, of sorts.”
That must have been what they’d spoken about yesterday on the balcony. He wanted to know more—everything—but Cassian would not press Rhys. If Nesta wanted to tell him, she would. He had to respect that.
So, he bit back his curiosity and grumbled, “About time.”
Rhys clapped his hand on Cassian’s back, but there was something wary in his expression, as if there was something he wanted to say but wouldn’t. Finally, he said, “Patience is a virtue, brother.”
“I’m not the patient sort.”
“You are when it counts,” Rhys countered, and Cassian didn’t say anything because they both knew what he was referring to. Rhys had been the first to know. Had witnessed Cassian in a tangled web of despair and longing and unwanted visions. His brother had immediately put two and two together. Because he’d been there, too. Knew what it was to want someone you thought you couldn’t have. To hope that someone might finally grow to see you in colour rather than in black and white.
Cassian cast another look towards the empty doorway and the quiet hallway beyond it.
A shiver of anticipation ran through him. It was time for them to go home.
***
In the end, Cassian folded to his worry and had Elain fetch Nesta from upstairs. It was time to go, he’d insisted, even though there was no true reason as to why they needed to leave quite so quickly.
“No guesses required to identify why you want to head back to Illyria,” Mor muttered out the side of her mouth, as the creak of the stairs a few flights above heralded the sisters return. Cassian jabbed his elbow into his friend’s ribs and Mor yelped through her grin, even as she had to sidestep, the nudge throwing her off balance. “What? It’s all over your face. You think I can’t read you after five hundred years?”
“Don’t announce it to the room,” Cassian muttered darkly under his breath, “and you won’t find yourself torn to pieces.”
Mor briefly bumped against his arm, the jostle affectionate. Unfazed by his threat, she glanced sideways at him with rich chocolate eyes. “I won’t. We just want you to be happy, you know.”
Cassian’s mouth flattened into a thin line. “Now isn’t the time for a lecture about finding a more suitable mate.”
The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. He hadn’t meant for it to happen, hadn’t meant to voice what he’d kept inside for so long.
Mor’s eyes widened, but she wound her arms around his waist. Cassian allowed her to tuck herself under his arm. His friend scented of citrus and cinnamon. When she craned her neck to look up at him, her expression was glowing with sincerity and Cassian realised that she hadn’t been insinuating that Nesta wasn’t right for him at all. “We’re all cheering you on from the sidelines, Cass, I promise.”
The muscle in Cassian’s jaw flexed. He looked away from her, towards the doorway again, unable to help himself. “Don’t say anything.”
She tightened her grip on his waist. “I won’t. I promise.”
“She doesn’t want it.”
Mor untangled herself from him. Shook her head in disagreement. “She does. She just isn’t ready to admit it yet.”
They both fell quiet as Nesta walked through the door with Elain and Feyre. The first thing Cassian noticed was that she scented of water and salt—tears.
Heart pattering with concern, Cassian quickly scanned Nesta’s expression and body language, searching for clues. But Nesta remained close to her sisters rather than apart, her fingers snagged in Feyre’s, her expression not in tatters but smooth and calm, like still waters.
“Ready to go?” Mor chirped from beside him. “I can winnow you back when Sala arrives.”
Nesta’s grey-blue eyes slid to Mor. “I called her on my way down.”
“Then you have time to see the snowdrops you gave me before you leave,” Elain responded eagerly, tugging at Nesta’s arm. “The cuttings took well to the soil. I planted them beneath the shade of the birch trees near the river.”
Cassian watched Nesta disappear into the garden. Surveyed the way a strand of golden brown hair that had escaped her loose braid floated on the breeze, as if it was part of the element rather than separate, as Elain bent to show her the snowdrops.
Yet despite the clear ease to Nesta’s movements, Cassian couldn’t help but ask Feyre whether everything was okay when she came over to hug him goodbye.
“We’re fine,” Feyre assured him, as together they watched Mor tentatively sit beside Azriel on the couch. For once the Shadowsinger’s shadows didn’t lighten, but Azriel still turned to her, drawn by some magnetism as she began to speak with him.
Slim fingers closed around his. Squeezed. “Thank you for fetching the book of fairytales for Nesta.”
The strand of ebony hair that had wrangled free of Cassian’s hair tie tickled the side of his forehead as he inclined his head. That had been a long time ago, when Nesta was a viper that he dared to poke with a stick, just so he could get a reaction. “Of course.”
“You travelled all that way on barely healed wings just to fetch a book.”
It wasn’t just a book, but Cassian knew Feyre understood that, so he only grunted, “Az took me most of the way. He waited to winnow me back.”
But Feyre’s eyes were burnished, as she asked, “Is there anything you won’t do for my sister?”
“It depends,” Cassian replied honestly. Because although he’d rather die than see Nesta hurt, Cassian wouldn’t hesitate to stand up to her when her fire was ill-wrought. And that’s what he liked about the both of them: if he was an ass Nesta told him straight, and he did the same for her. A grin slashed across his face. “Your sister has claws and teeth when she’s angry.”
It wasn’t long before Sala landed on her four large paws in the garden, prompting goodbyes. Mor winnowed Nesta and Sala, whilst Az’s scarred hand closed around Cassian’s arm.
Together, Cassian and his brother passed through realms of shadows and light and raging wings. Then Illyria was taking shape before Cassian bit by bit: there was the sting of winter on his cheeks, the crunch of snow beneath his feet, the scent of pine and untamed air. It felt like that wonderful first heave of your lungs after being starved from air. It alerted Cassian senses—woke him up.
Not bothering to say goodbye for the second time, Azriel bled straight back into shadow, but Mor raised a hand in a parting wave from where she stood beside Nesta and Sala. Her long golden hair caught on the breeze. It tussled behind her like its own puff of wind, before she vanished into nothing.
When Cassian’s eyes snapped to Nesta, he found her standing with her eyes closed, breathing in the wilderness of their surroundings. After a few beats, Sala jumped onto her hind legs, climbing up Nesta’s body with her snow-crusted paws to knock her head impatiently against Nesta’s.
A breath of laughter clouded in front of her as Nesta ruffled Sala’s ears. She murmured something Cassian couldn't identify in the manticore’s ear, before Sala dropped onto all fours and padded through the snow in the direction of the main camp.
Cassian watched the manticore go. He suspected Sala was going to seek out the widows camp and check everything was in order. It was the kind of thing Nesta would fret about—that whilst she was warm and fed, others might not be extended the same courtesy.
Or, the dark part of his mind whispered, she wants Sala out of the house.
You can fuck me wherever you like in the bungalow, Cassian.
The many needles of thrill pierced through him just as Nesta met his stare from across the snow. Suddenly, Cassian didn’t know what to say. His tongue felt swollen and thick in his mouth, words suddenly as viscous as tar. The atmosphere had altered—the aura surrounding them despite the distance suddenly heavy with promise: a change that pointed to something new.
The siphons on the back of Cassian’s hands glowed in anticipation. Nesta merely raised an eyebrow at him. Turned. Walked towards the house just as he caught the thick scent of jasmine and vanilla on the wind.
Cassian’s nostrils flared as it wound around him; invisible ropes of arousal. And then he was moving, following Nesta’s footprints.
His friends had winnowed them to the back of the house, halfway between the small stone outhouse and the backdoor. They weren’t far from the bungalow, but it felt like miles as Cassian stomped noisily after Nesta, his boots compacting the snow as if they were grinding shards of glass into powder.
When Cassian drew up behind Nesta, she already had a hand half-raised towards the door. Even though he wasn’t touching her, she was a whirlpool of warmth. It sucked him in, begging him to line his torso against her back, so when she cursed, realising she hadn’t taken her gloves off, Cassian didn’t hesitate to reach over her shoulder and rest his palm against the wood, encasing her.
The touch of his bare skin—or Nesta’s—was the key to the magical lock. A thunk sounded as the bolt released but Cassian didn’t push open the door—was too preoccupied with the female before him—who had twisted to stare up at him.
As soon as their gazes snagged, history began to knit together in a rush of thread, until it was a tangible, living thing. Because this moment had been written in the stars as soon as Cassian had seen Nesta in her amethyst dress in the human realm; her hair wielded into a mighty crown, her expression haughty and defiant, yet burning with the potential of a life not yet lived. They’d denied that history, even as it waited patiently in the wings. It had watched as they danced around each other, fumbling and snarling their way to this very moment—
They moved in unison. Cassian’s head bowing just as Nesta reached upwards; her body bowing to his, her palms sliding across his jaw until they were around his neck. Their lips met with a force that rattled Cassian’s bones. This wasn't a brush of a kiss. This was immediate and awakening: Nesta tasted like life and breath, like destiny. And yet again, Cassian knew with startling clarity that they were meant for this, he and Nesta. They were meant for each other and nobody could tell him otherwise, including her.
A soft breath whooshed out of Nesta as her back hit the door, but then Cassian was pushing it open, guiding her inside in a whirlwind of noise and wreckage.
The scrape of wood on the flagstone tiles sounded as Nesta’s back knocked against the table before Cassian turned them, his wings grazing against cupboards and the cool walls. Items clattered and shattered, but Cassian used his wings to keep a check on his surroundings, the touch guiding him to the left-hand wall where he could press her against the wall and devour.
Because Cassian could not tear his mouth from Nesta’s. Couldn’t stop tasting her. Couldn’t stop craving the roll of her tongue and the sound of her guttural moans. It fuelled a fireball inside of him; it roared into life in the centre of his heart, before spreading throughout his limbs, rushing through his body until it settled deep in his groin, aching and burning—screaming for relief.
When they finally hit the wall, the thud of their bodies shook the cabinets and the porcelain within it. Without thinking, Cassian took the brunt of it, his hand flying to cup Nesta's lower back and head to purposefully shield her from the hurt.
Because he was coarse and rippling, galloping towards a primal sort of wilderness that Cassian wasn’t sure he could control.
If Nesta was ignorant to the fact or wholly aware Cassian didn’t know. All he knew was that her hands were scrabbling at his leather like dancing flames, tugging him closer.
When he pressed his body over hers, aligning every inch of her to every inch of him, she whined.
Cassian swallowed it. Slanted his mouth across hers. Tucked his wings in tight as every muscle in him tensed in anticipation.
Nesta tasted of chai and vanilla and embers with a destiny to roar.
Another strangled noise came from her throat as Cassian sank his hands deep into the hair at her scalp, coaxing strands free from her braid as his fingers threading through her hair, just as he had done the night prior when he’d coaxed her to sleep. But this wasn’t a soothing touch. This was a touch to startle every nerve ending to life.
Time began to bleed around them, but Cassian only registered the fluidity of the frantic dance they had not learnt. The way Nesta arched into him as his palm slid back to span her waist. The pant of her breath against his skin. His heaving chest. The way his wings began to spread again of their own volition, like a fan unfolding to reveal a secret pattern—as if they were controlled by nothing but the ache of his cock as it strained against the leather of his pants.
As if in acknowledgement that his body was no longer ruled by him, his hips slanted upwards of their own accord. It was a desperate bid to relieve the ache, and his throat vibrated with a thunderous growl as Nesta dug her nails deeper into the leather of his jacket, using it for leverage as she arched into him.
Something turned further inside of Cassian, like a lock beginning to grind as a key turned. And then it felt as if he were plunging beneath water; ducking into the depths and travelling beneath an invisible barrier before emerging on the other side buoyant and surging with power.
Ruby crashed through his veins, like the walls of a dam broken free and… singing light. Magic roared so loudly in Cassian’s ears that he no longer heard the galloping beat of his heart or the sawing of their breath.
Reeling, he tore his mouth from Nesta’s. Her eyes were just as wide, puddles of startled moonlight—endless mercury—and Cassian didn’t need to look down to know that her hands were wreathed in silver.
For a moment they stared at one another. Time slowed until it was sluggish around them and then the feeling receded, as if Cassian was being carried by a wave as it was dragged unwillingly from the shore on thundering feet.
Sound bled back into Cassian’s ears, like raindrops slowly blotting paper. A moan whispered on a wind carried through him, the words fleeting—her name three times, like always—before they dispersed into nothing and ragged breathing filled the hole.
Fuck, they needed to be careful. He needed to be careful if just kissing her led to some transcendental experience. Cassian knew Nesta became open during sex—had seen tumbled images of tangled limbs and heard her moans—and he couldn’t afford to lose her when she had finally let him in. Couldn’t let her down, even though he wanted nothing more than to finally be found worthy by someone.
That twisted rope between them couldn’t widen and strengthen. Couldn’t finally open and click into place with a consensual snap.
Because Cassian had heard stories of mates who had gone to bed. Who had fleetingly accepted what they wanted in their hearts but not in their minds. And after they had both finished and life had been breathed into that bond, only death could sever their Cauldron-blessed connection.
Cassian would not have a mate with regrets, but he didn’t have the will-power to deny himself of her any longer. Not when he could scent how much Nests wanted him. When he could feel it like an unquenchable ache in his bones—an ache which made him tremble and shake. His rocky warrior exterior ground to nothing but sand.
As if Nesta could read his thoughts she tipped her head back, baring the column of her neck.
A resounding guttural sound dragged from his throat. The noise was animalistic and unchained. A booming crack ricocheted around the walls, the muscles in Cassian’s back burning as his wings snapped outward.
Something toppled from somewhere and crashed to the floor, but Cassian didn’t bother to raise his head to look at what it was.
And then time seemed to both slow and drive into a frenzy. Cassian launched at Nesta’s neck at the same time he tugged at her hair, urging her head to fall back even farther.
His lips were against the column of her throat in the blink of an eye; his teeth scraping, his mouth sucking until her blood pounded in his ears. Nesta’s knees buckled but Cassian quickly pinned her body to the wall, holding her up, his knee sliding firmly between her legs…
And… nothing. There was no panic or sensation of being trapped—no sudden fire launching him back thirty feet—but Cassian still tore his mouth from Nesta’s neck. Had to know she wasn’t panicking. “Ok?” he rasped.
A frown burrowed Nesta’s brows. Her swollen lips parted in confusion. Somehow it made her look more beautiful.
Cassian raised a shaking hand to trace it away. “Nesta. Are you ok?”
Understanding dawned like millions of unfurling petals.
When Nesta spoke she was short of breath, the words an exhale. “Don’t hold back.”
Cassian practically arched into her at the words but he made himself remain still, even as his body vibrated with tension. His bones creaked but he held fast.
That stubborn, beautiful chin lifted and Nesta’s eyes glinted wicked yet pure. Always an oxymoron, his Nesta.
“Don’t hold back,” she repeated, her voice stronger this time. She pushed her hips against his thigh and the friction had her lips parting, a shaky breath tumbling from her lungs. “I can take it.”
The words were like slashing knives of pleasure, severing the leash on any control Cassian thought he had.
The subsequent rush of air Cassian loosed was akin to a snorting horse.
Then he was moving and their mouths were fused together again, their tongues a delicious push and pull of control and pleasure before he yanked away.
“Thank fuck,” he gasped. His hands flew to her hips, guiding her to ride his thigh. “Thank fuck, Nesta.”
The friction had Nesta moaning, her fingernails digging so hard into the leather of his jacket Cassian was sure she had dented the material. But he didn’t care. Didn’t care about anything but the living fervour that clawed at them.
His hands were everywhere at once. Tangled in her hair. Sliding over her cheek. Cupping her ass. Attacking the buttons at the back of her dress, until they popped and scattered. Until he could pull the material down her arms, exposing tantalising creamy skin.
At the first sight of her breasts, Cassian growled. He bowed his head to capture a nipple sharply between his teeth before he laved over it with his tongue, smoothing over the wound. He relished the way Nesta cried out. Arched into him. She began to tear at his jacket. It snagged on his wings but Cassian shrugged it off until it hit the floor with a thud.
The first slide of Nesta’s palms beneath his tunic was like oil sizzling in a pan. Cassian hissed as the callouses of her palms scraped deliciously over his skin and scars and ink. Snarled as she made quick work of the stays and fastenings. Tried to focus on her other breast as she inched her hand beneath the tight leather fabric and eased him free.
Fingers wrapped sinfully around him, causing Cassian to snarl around a peaked nipple—to buck sharply—pressing them more firmly against the wall.
“Don’t bother,” Nesta moaned as Cassian wrenched desperately at the fabric of her dress, trying to coax it further down her body. She ground down onto his thigh as it to emphasise her point—her need—and the heat of her burned.
It was all Cassian needed to hear. He fumbled desperately with her skirts until a hand was under the material and sliding up her thigh. Until fabric ripped and her underwear fell away in what Cassian imagined to be a ripple of lace.
In one swift movement, Cassian lifted Nesta’s body upwards, until her legs were gripped tightly around his hips and her back was flush against the wall. Her hands flew to find purchase, grappling at the back of his neck, and when she was steady she raked her hand purposefully through the hair which had come loose from his tie. Tugged at the leather until his hair fell over his face. Whined. Tangled her fingers through the ebony strands as if they were her reigns.
Cassian splayed the hand that wasn’t supporting her body against the cold wall. Tried to catch his breath, but the position evened out the height between them. Just a slight movement would allow him to capture her lips with his, and Cassian couldn’t deny that demanding tug that drove him to devour. Nesta seemed to feel the same way. Moaned in relief as Cassian tasted her as if he couldn’t get enough, gave back as good as she got. Over and over they moved, until they were nothing but an undulating wave of tongue and teeth and groans. The pleasure was a surging, roiling entity. It was all consuming. It overtook Cassian’s body, demanding that his hand drag from her ass straight to her core.
When his fingers slid through wetness, Cassian’s groan sounded like thunderous defeat. He dropped his head to Nesta’s collarbone. Gently pressed his lips to her clavicle. To her shoulder. Tried to ground himself as he slid straight to the spot that made her keen—as pleasure ignited down the bond like a crashing wave. Brushed over it again and again and again. Relishing in the noises he coaxed from her. At the curling fists of desire that clenched agonisingly inside of him.
Cassian had to see Nesta fall. Had to look into her eyes as she broke.
But he wanted to be inside of her when it happened.
Cassian was reaching for his cock at the same time that Nesta let out a broken moan. “Do it,” she breathed. There was no bite of authority in her voice, as if all of the energy she had directed in the pursuit of pleasure had smoothed over the serrated edge of her personality he loved so much, leaving a softer version in its wake. “Please. Just—”
A satisfied snarl ripped from Cassian as he felt her want. And in that moment, Cassian knew there would be nothing gentle about how this was going to play out. It was going to be rough and frantic, riding a wave of pleasure that had been building for too long. Knew afterwards that they would sink to the cold floor in a mass of tangled limbs and mingled breath.
And Cassian wanted that. Had never wanted release so badly in his life.
Something clambered in the back of his mind. Something he needed to remember, but his limbs were moving of their own volition. He didn’t even bother to pump his cock or squeeze it to relieve the tension. Only cared about finally being inside of her.
The heat and slickness of her was sinful and divine when he lined himself up at her entrance. The hand he had braced against the wall came to span her cheek. It relied on Nesta clamping on tightly to his waist with her legs and the press of his torso against hers, but they managed it.
Shaking, Cassian raked back the hair that had fallen free from her braid back from Nesta’s face, just as she tugged him in for a bruising kiss.
There was a moment when everything paused and trembled. As Nesta pulled away and stared at him, her eyes swimming silver—glowing with it—her pupils obscured.
His magic surged at the sight of it. Crashed against his skin as if it was trying to escape. His siphons burned bloody.
“Cassian,” Nesta panted. Despite the keen desperation, there was cushion to his name. Gently, Nesta bowed her head until her forehead rested against his. The gesture was surprisingly tender. It tugged at his heartstrings, triggered his hips into movement as they finally pushed forward.
The tight heat that wrapped around him like velvet was so immediate that Cassian swore. Sweat trickled down his back and seeped into the tunic Nesta hadn’t gotten round to discarding. He trembled as Nesta’s breath stuttered and he felt the burning pain mixed with pleasure as he sunk in an inch. Felt the stretch of Nesta’s body as it strained to fit around him.
Claws dug into his back—Nesta’s nails—biting into his skin, until the metallic tang of blood infused the air.
Cassian’s body stilled before he even had a second to register that he needed to stop. That instinct buried deep to make sure she never hurt.
And then a knock rapped at the front door.
“No,” Nesta moaned. She shifted her hips and Cassian sank a little deeper. That pain flared again through the pleasure and Cassian grip on her turned vice like.
Sense stumbled into his desire addled brain, like a fawn on gangly legs.
But then it righted itself.
Another sharp rap at the door cleared his head completely.
He bowed to bury his face in the crook of her neck but Nesta whined. Tilted her hips again, urging him deeper. “Nesta, stop.”
“No.” Her whimper was doused in frustration, but all Cassian could feel was that sharp needle of pain.
He tried to pull back, but Nesta clamped down around him with that incredible strength of hers. The strength that only seemed to appear at times of desperation or anger.
Cassian’s jaw flexed, his features hardening. “I’m hurting you.”
“You’re not,” Nesta countered, defiance colouring her expression.
“I am,” Cassian retorted, not allowing for a passing beat of their hearts to pass before he replied. “I’m hurting you. Don’t pretend that I’m not.”
I can feel it, Cassian wanted to explain, but didn’t. Knew somehow that if he did they might not end up joining at all.
Desire fogged Nesta’s mind and it fuelled the punch to her next words. “I don’t care.”
Ire punched through Cassian’s desire enough for him to see red. “Well, I do,” he snapped.
Nesta’s nostrils flared at his tone and her eyes burned silver. Cassian wondered how everything had gone southward so quickly—they were on a sinking ship and he needed to patch it up. Knew she felt rejected. So, he kissed her and pushed back that unquenchable ache he felt for her. Knew it hit home because she gasped softly into his mouth, her surprise tart on his tongue.
He pulled out. As soon as his cock fell free that pain throbbed and ebbed. But Nesta moaned all the same.
Moaned again as he drew his head back to stare at her.
She surprised him when her eyes remained open rather than closed off. There was no hard shield. Nothing but want and a vulnerability that made his heart squeeze.
It gave him the courage to do the right thing.
He kissed her again. Trailed a thumb across her swollen lips, ignoring the desire that roared as Nesta sucked it into her mouth, her tongue darting across the top before the bit down lightly.
“This is how things are going to go,” Cassian murmured lowly, pulling his thumb out of her mouth and across her jawline, trailing the wetness all the way to the sensitive spot behind her ear. Nesta shuddered.
“I’m going to get the door and send whoever it is away,” Cassian continued. He paused to let the words sink in. Lowered his head to trace a path with his nose, up the slope of her shoulder, all the way up her neck until his lips were grazing the shell of her ear. “You will go to your bedroom. When they’re gone, I’ll find you.”
Another shiver coursed through Nesta’s body. Her fingers tightened around his neck.
When Nesta next spoke, Cassian knew he’d piqued her interest. “What then?” she demanded.
“Then I’m going to make you come until you see stars.”
Nesta’s entire body froze. For a long moment, she didn’t so much as breathe, but Cassian felt the throb of her blood and magic as it pounded against her skin.
Then, Nesta’s hands worked between them, until her small palms were splayed across his chest. She pushed firmly, indicating that she wanted to get her down. Her body slithered to the floor, her lean legs falling away from his body.
The sudden distance between them felt like miles.
Nesta lifted her chin. “Hurry or I’ll start without you.”
A breath heaved at Cassian’s lungs and he felt his pupils contract, pushing out his irises until they were swallowed by black. The image of Nesta sprawled on the bed wearing nothing but skin, her legs open, a hand moving between her legs had that coil within him tightening to the point of pain.
A growl spiked through the air as another knock sounded at the door.
Nesta must have known she’d wrangled back control, because she arched a cool eyebrow at him.  “I thought you were going to answer the door?”
A dark chuckle forced its way out of his chest, but it was mechanical rather than true. Because there was nothing funny about resisting Nesta right now and his body seemed to know that.
Cassian reached for her before he knew what was happening. Rested his forehead against hers. Breathed once. Twice. “I need to calm down,” he confessed.
Nesta snickered, but the sound fell flat as her breath hitched upwards at the end. It betrayed the effect he had on her, even as she said silkily, “Did the image of me pleasuring myself get you hard?”
“I was already hard,” he growled. He pressed a lingering kiss to her mouth. “As you well know.”
A hand reached between them. Stroked over him—the touch feather light but tantalising enough that Cassian bucked into her touch.
And then cunning words, “Maybe I’ll let you watch.”
A string of swear words left Cassian’s mouth. He yanked back from Nesta, as if someone had tugged firmly on a leash. Tugged up his pants and jerked ruthlessly at the ties until they fastened, trapping his cock back into the leather.
With a growl, Cassian waved a hand towards the living room—to Nesta’s room to the right of it. “Leave before I fuck you against the wall, Nesta,” he barked.
Nesta’s sly laugh skittered over his skin, and without pulling her dress back up to cover herself, Nesta sashayed through the nearest arch and disappeared.
*** It had been Mas and Roksana at the door, laden with bags full of groceries and supplies from the market. With full access to the house, there was no reason why they shouldn’t have just come right in. Which meant Mas had suspected somehow, enough so that she had left the bags on the front step and remained standing with Roksana a few feet back.
“I am sorry Sinta, but the meat might spoil,” the housekeeper had apologised as soon as he’d opened the door, his hair a tangled mess from where Nesta had yanked it free of its tie. He hadn’t had the sense to recover it from the floor, but he had righted his tunic and fastened his pants.
And thank the Cauldron for that, because Roksana peeked up at Cassian with wide eyes from her position of safety behind Mas’s legs. He didn’t know when Lorrian had brought the youngling back to the camp, but Cassian guessed it hadn’t been easy on the two of them to take a little girl out of the warmth and back into the snow.
Cassian tried to soften the eyes that he knew were a little wild. He raked his hands through his hair and sent them his most disarming smile, but there was fuck all he could do about his scent. So he thanked her, trying to keep his voice light and conversational. Ordered her to take the rest of the day off.
To the housekeeper’s credit, she did not linger. Had merely nodded and rushed Roksana back into the snow, towards the main vein of the camp.
Yet, whilst the housekeeper’s interruption had been unwanted, it did grant Cassian some breathing space as he rammed perishables into the cool box. Because even though Cassian would allow Nesta to decide how this all played out, he needed to lay down a rule of his own: he could give her the space to decide what she wanted—for him to prove that he could be what she needed—but there was one thing he could not suffer through.
And if they had stormed ahead in a hurricane of lust; with Nesta’s back against the wall as Cassian pounded into her… Well, it would be too late for Cassian to lay down his one condition once they were sweaty and sated. Nesta was more likely to get up and walk away. To not look back.
Cassian found Nesta sitting at the dresser in her room re-braiding back her hair.
Leaning against the doorjamb, Cassian opened his mouth to explain who had been at the door, but an iron band closed fast around his chest, robbing him of breath.
“What are you wearing?” The words came out of him eventually, entirely uneven to the point of being choked.
Because Nesta was wearing his shirt. It was the same steel blue shirt she’d worn that first day in Illyria. The shirt that was an identical match to her eyes, purchased before Cassian had realising what his subconscious had done. A shirt he’d had to hide away in the spare room because Cassian hadn’t been able to bare seeing it in his closet—of being reminded that his mate was a ghost who had banished him away.
Go home, Cassian.
Nesta met Cassian's eyes in the mirror. Announced with cool simplicity, “You ripped my dress.”
“And this is your way of torturing me?”
An indifferent shrug. “Why wear my own clothing when I know what fate it will suffer?”
Cassian knew his nostrils billowed, but he remained propped up against the doorframe. Pretended he was stuck to it like glue because his body was trembling for him to launch across the distance and claim her mouth. Her neck. Her.
The silence seemed to unnerve Nesta. Cassian knew that from months of living with her. From months of studying her slight tells when her masks slipped.
Right on cue, Nesta reset her posture—a gesture that most people read as defiant. But Cassian knew it was also a sign of nerves. She shrugged with feigned indifference, even as her throat tightened and that damned pulse fluttered temptingly against her throat. “You liked it the last time I wore it.”
Cassian huffed a breath. He had liked it the last time she wore it, even if she’d been so gaunt that he’d worried she might wither away. But the shirt… it had put images in his mind that Cassian had long tried to store away, imprisoned in rock and flame: her in his clothing, not fucking other males but him, her lithe legs wrapping around his waist as he sank deep—
Which brought Cassian neatly to the point he needed to discuss with her…
Nesta’s eyes tracked Cassian in the mirror as he peeled himself out of the doorway and came to stand behind her. When their eyes locked into place, it felt as if someone had punched him in the chest. There was something deep in Nesta’s gaze that made it feel as if he was tumbling down a rabbit hole, that magnetism between them drawing him in like gravity.
When Cassian’s fingers brushed Nesta’s neck—ran down the braid she had draped over her shoulder—Nesta shivered. “You had your hair down then,” he rasped. Didn’t wait for her to protest, as he slowly coaxed the tie free from the end of her hair.
Nesta turned preternaturally still, watched him gently part her hair in the mirror until it fell free from her plait, his calloused fingers brushing over her skin as he coaxed her hair to fall down her back.
The pulse hammering at her throat and the warmth radiating from her skin were the only indications that Nesta was alive rather than stone.
Only when Cassian had finished and lifted his hands from her neck, did Nesta come back to life.
Her throat bobbed as she swallowed. But she cocked her head slightly to dissect him. “It’s a nuisance like this. It gets in the way.”
“It’s beautiful,” Cassian corrected, his voice rasping, like sand scraping against skin. He ran a hand through her hair as if to emphasise his point, his fingers running down, down, down until her waist.
When Nesta stood and turned into the warmth of him, Cassian scented what she wanted. But there was something else simmering in her expression—surprise. As if she’d caught the truth in his words and hadn’t expected someone to truly think her beautiful.
She stepped closer, until the lines of her torso ghosted his. Until Cassian’s heart pounded so hard he could hear the frantic tempo of it in his ears. Nesta tilted her head back so she could stare up at him and Cassian’s hand weaved through the mane of her hair before he could stop himself.
He was desperate to touch her again. Desperate.
But Cassian waited. Waited for Nesta to reach up on tiptoes and press her mouth to his.
The kiss was not like their bruised, desperate kisses from earlier. It was coaxing and unsure; the tentative beginning of something that was not merely fuelled by ardour. But it soon blossomed into something more, like a snowball rolling down a mountain blanketed white, gaining speed as it grew and grew—
Dragging his mouth away from hers, Cassian fought for breath. Battled to remember what he needed to do and say. But then Nesta was tugging his head back down again, her fingers tangled in his hair, the gesture indicative of an insistent need that Cassian knew would not go away.
As always, Nesta tasted divine. Addictive. He could taste the curl of her power on his tongue—silver and white, life and death—and he wondered if she could taste his. Knew his siphons were glowing scarlet—
“Nesta,” he murmured hoarsely, her name a caress against her lips. He couldn’t invoke a distance between them, couldn’t stop touching her. His nose brushed hers as her drew back an infinitesimal amount. Closed his eyes. Inhaled deeply, summoning courage. “You can dictate how this goes between us. But if we do this, I can’t—there’s no-one else. Just you and me.”
The subsequent pause was one of the worst of Cassian’s life. It was barely a breath. The blink of an eye. But it felt as if it was malleable and elastic, drawn out by the hands of fate as everything suspended in time.
He didn’t want to open his eyes, but in the end he managed it. Caught Nesta’s eyelashes flutter downwards, casting shadows on her skin. Her fists tightened in the fabric of his tunic, anchoring him to the moment.
She swallowed. Shook her head. Agreed with a conviction he had not been expecting, “No-one else.”
The relief that swooped through Cassian was so fierce it was painful. But he still didn’t dare to believe it.
He caught her chin between his thumb and forefinger so Nesta could not look away. So he could look into the deep waters of her irises and know she was telling him the truth.
But her gaze was steady and unwavering, as he demanded, “Say it again.”
His voice cracked but Nesta didn’t appear to notice. Her grip on him tightened. “No-one else,” she repeated on an outward breath.
A low, ravaged moan sounded from Cassian’s throat. “Diyosa,” he murmured, slipping into Illyrian. Goddess.
“Bruha,” Nesta corrected. She fumbled over the pronunciation but Cassian felt as if he had been an ember that had burst into flame. Witch.
He let out a rough bark of laughter. Then he swore in a long, drawn out moan. “No Illyrian,” he ordered roughly. Pressed his mouth firmly against hers, the kiss searing. “Otherwise this will be over far too quickly.” Another kiss. “And I want to take my time.”
The smile Nesta painted against Cassian’s lips was feline. “You’ve made a lot of promises, General. I hope you don’t disappoint.”
Cassian snarled. Spun her body until her back was cradled against his chest. “I have, haven’t I?” he mused lightly, even though the hammering of his heart must have beat a betraying rhythm against her shoulder blade.
In the mirror, Nesta’s expression grew less poised and controlled. Delight mixed with anticipation clung to her features at this game they played; this tussle for control. She did not try to wrangle free from his hold or shift uncomfortably in his arms at having her back enclosed against his.
It thrilled him—that trust. Enough so that when he met her eyes in the mirror, Cassian found that his irises had been swallowed by his pupils until they were only a ring of chocolate gold.
Slowly, Cassian brushed Nesta’s hair over to one shoulder with his left hand. Traced his fingers down the arc of her neck to her collarbone. Continued a path down the centre of her chest, to the pyrite which glittered between her breasts.
When his fingers met the first button of his shirt, Cassian toyed with it. Purposefully grazed his nose against the shell of her ear. “Shall I start here?” he murmured. “Undress you in front of the mirror whilst you watch?”
Nesta suppressed a shudder, but Cassian caught it. Could swear he felt her blood boiling beneath her skin as he slipped the button free of its hole. Then another. And another. Until there were no more buttons and the material hung free.
Leaning back into his body, Nesta rested her head against his chest. Curved her back slightly so her chest thrust upwards, silently instructing him where she wanted his hands.
And Cassian couldn’t deny her. He turned his palm so it was face up and curled into a loose fist. Brushed his knuckles down her sternum all the way to her bared naval, before bringing it back up. His fingers ran up the side of the material free of buttons, until he was at her collarbone—her shoulder—leaving a litter of goosebumps in his wake.
This time, Cassian snickered when she shivered. Dropped a slow and deliberate kiss to her bare shoulder as he slowly, slowly inched the material down, down, down over her arm. Repeated the motion on the other, until the shirt pooled onto the floor, exposing her bare body to the mirror: endless creamy skin, divine curves, the luscious full weight of her bare breasts, and… lower.
Nesta’s eyes, which had been tracking the fabric as it fell away, snapped to his as a feral growl ripped from him. And she moaned at the expression on his face. Grabbed at his hands, pulling them to her body.
“Touch me,” Nesta hissed, but it came out strangled. Almost pleading. Another crack in her armour as it broke and fell away.
The sight was enough to threaten Cassian to his knees. He guided her body backwards, his hands splaying firmly across her stomach despite her whine, until his legs hit the edge of the mattress
Neither of them broke eye contact in the mirror. Not when Cassian coaxed Nesta down to sit on the bed with him. Not when he pulled her between his legs, her back firmly against his chest. Not when he bowed his head to kiss the slope between her neck and shoulder.
When Cassian finally brushed a thumb over her nipple, Nesta back bowed so fiercely Cassian was thankful he had an arm strapped across her stomach.
The small noise she loosed fuelled his fire and Cassian held on to her. Stroked over that peaked nipple again as Nesta careened into his touch. Followed it with a firmer roll with his thumb and forefinger. Used the fingertips of his other hand to draw slow, tantalising circles across the silken skin of her lower stomach, before he moved southwards…
The air around them hushed when Cassian’s fingers stilled. Anticipation built and only when it vibrated with tension did Cassian slide his hands to cradle Nesta’s hips.
A snarl of frustration, but Cassian paid the sound no heed. Only grazed his thumbs over Nesta’s hipbones. Watched her expression in the mirror—the way her face contorted as she squirmed into his touch as if she was a puppet on strings. Ground back onto him, pressing into that building ache that was bordering on painful.
Fuck, Nesta.
Cassian wasn’t sure if he had spoken out loud or in his head, all he knew was the blessed, fleeting relief he felt as he bucked into the small of Nesta’s back on instinct. He was rock hard and thirsting to be touched, but the thickening scent of Nesta’s arousal pulled his focus.
A groan rumbled from Cassian’s throat as Nesta’s hand darted between her legs. He caught her wrist just in the nick of time. Kissed the heart of her palm. Rumbled into her ear, “Not yet, sweetheart.”
His voice was coarse enough that Nesta shivered, the goosebumps travelling down her skin like a cresting wave. She didn’t struggle against him, nor did she move to disobey him as he dropped her wrist. Instead, she waited, trembling and shaking at every pass of his thumbs over her skin.
Cassian buried his nose behind the shell of her ear. Breathed Nesta in, steadying the drum of his pulse.
Not once did he take his eyes off of hers in the mirror, especially as he murmured, “Shall we find out if you’re wet for me?”
Nesta squeezed her eyes tightly shut, as if the movement would steady her. Swallowed hard. It was so unlike her to take stock, to show any signs that she was rattled, that Cassian softened. He nuzzled at her neck, trailed a line of kisses instilled with promises. A hand flew up to tangle in Cassian’s hair, keeping him there.
“Yes.”
The word stuttered out of Nesta on several staccatos, but she forced her eyes open and met his gaze in the mirror. Watched as he pulled her tighter against him and hooked her legs over his thighs so she was spread wide. Slipped his hand across and down…
The first ghost of a touch had Nesta panting through her nose. The second had her gritting her teeth. The third had her moaning, her back bowing so sharply as he skimmed straight over the place she wanted him the most.
Her head hit the centre of his chest with a resounding thud that had his bones creaking, but she did not look away from him. Seemed to know the game they were playing without him having to express it.
When Cassian brought his fingers lower and discovered just how wet Nesta was, he had to force his wings in tight to his back to hide his surprise. Growled, “You’re soaked.”
Pleasure and embarrassment twisted in Cassian’s stomach, and Cassian wanted to tell her that it was not something to be ashamed of, that he wanted her just as much as she clearly wanted his fingers between her legs.
Her eyes glinted steel, her stare commanding. “Make me come—“ she ordered, but Cassian chose that moment to roll his finger over that spot at the apex of her thighs.
The command bottomed out of Nesta as she inhaled sharply. Satisfaction bloomed inside of Cassian; because he may have done this countless times before but barely enough with her. And nothing seemed to matter apart from him seeking out her satisfaction. Of learning about what made her body freeze with pleasure and what made her come undone. “There?” he murmured into her ear, repeating the movement, before he passed his fingers down further. Until they were at her entrance, playing gently before he drew upwards and circled.
This time, Nesta groaned. Her hips jerked sharply beneath him, tilting, guiding him to just the right place.
Picking up on the cue, Cassian increased the tempo and friction until Nesta’s hips were rolling in a punishing rhythm against the hard length of him.
And Cassian snarled in satisfaction, his fingers tightening around her hip in a plea for her to keep moving—to not stop pushing back on him—because it was blissfully good. The rapid tightening in his groin was almost painful, the cord so tight that Cassian thought it might snap. But he couldn’t stop Nesta, not when she looked so bewitching, the arousal so stark on her face as he stroked and circled and pressed.
Burning pleasure clambered to its peak and Nesta’s eyes grew so heavy they fluttered closed. Something unintelligible left her lips, her head tipping back into the heart of his chest.
When Nesta’s arms wound around his neck, her knuckles accidentally grazing the leather of his wings, Cassian part-snarled, part-roared. Swore. Held her even tighter as his wings snapped out high and mighty behind him. They wrapped around Nesta’s body before Cassian’s pleasure-fogged mind could stop them curling towards her, starved for her touch.
Fuck, he was unhinged. So desperate for relief—in the scent and feel of his mate—that his control was barely there. Enough so that he didn’t react when Nesta reached out her hand—
Sense knocked Cassian for six only when Nesta’s fingers were millimetres from touching the membrane. He drew back his wings so fast  the air around them stormed, but he swooped in before surprise could register on Nesta’s face. Dipped his chin and coaxed her head even further back so he could claim her mouth.
The taste of her lips was as vital as breathing, the scrape of her nails on his scalp grounding. He moaned into her mouth at the same time as she whimpered. His hand was still moving between her legs, interchanging the same three patterns over and over again, mixing things up as soon as Nesta’s moans grew too untamed: he wanted to draw out her pleasure, not sate it with a few choice strokes.
Pulling away, Cassian pressed a kiss to her forehead. Coaxed her to dip her chin until she was looking back at their reflection in the mirror: ebony and golden brown, tan and cream.
Nesta’s irises were wisps of silver, but when he traversed past that bundle of nerves so he could slip two fingers inside of her, they flickered into living flame.
That was indication enough that she liked what he was doing. Cassian had quickly learnt that Nesta became completely readable between the sheets, that mask slowly crumbling away until she broke completely.
Curving his fingers as much as he could, Cassian pressed upwards hard—again and again— revelling in the strangled sounds Nesta made. The way she writhed but tried her best to hold his gaze.
Cassian dropped a lingering kiss to the crown of Nesta’s head. Murmured into her hair, “Is that good, sweetheart?”
The only response Cassian received was a long moan which extended into a whine as he withdrew his fingers. Then a sharp cry as he swept them upwards, swirling them in a well-practiced motion that had Nesta’s lower half seizing in pleasure.
Cassian circled again. Again. Firmer. Faster. Nesta’s cries grew louder, her breathing became more laboured. A silver wreathed hand flew to his forearm—not to stop him, but to keep him there.
Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Don’t stop.
The bond between them creaked and cracked as it expanded.
Nesta panted his name.
“Are you going to come for me, sweetheart?” Cassian scratched out.
In vain, Nesta attempted to burrow her head into his shoulder, but Cassian’s voice dropped out of soft and into the role of general within the fraction of a heartbeat. “Eyes on the mirror, Nesta, or I’ll stop.”
It seemed to take all of Nesta’s energy to fight her leaded eyelids and meet his dark eyes in their reflection. When she did, Cassian’s magic roared and pounded beneath his skin, as if it was trying to break free and join Nesta’s. There was a pressure and power fuelling the sensation that was separate to him. It was like the magnetic force which rules the relentless ebb and flow of the tide—that desperate crash followed by a scrabbling, thundering retreat.
That twisted rope between them grew corporeal, tugging at their ribcages as if it was clambering to remind them both of its existence. Of the cost of this exchange.
Something deepened in both of their gazes, but if Nesta had felt what Cassian had, she gave no indication. She only arched her hips back into his, grinding backwards.
Cassian loosed a rough groan that skittered across the shell of her ear. Her gaze was purposeful but hooded, as if she was in a continual battle with the pleasure weighting her eyelids.
“Good girl,” he praised as Nesta’s eyelashes fluttered from the strain of maintaining eye contact. And then his fingers were everywhere at once and Nesta’s moans fell away to short gasps that rose in volume.
Nesta tightened her fingers around his neck, scrabbling for purchase, for some sort of tether as her pleasure launched high into the air. The hand that had been at her hip, steadying her, encouraging her to roll back on him moved to her breast; cupping and pinching and rolling as she stuttered pants and words that Cassian couldn’t make out.
When Cassian slid two fingers inside of her again and pressed down firmly on her clit with his palm, Nesta’s cry was wild.
“Look at me,” Cassian ordered as Nesta’s eyes flew shut. His voice was resonant—startling—even to him. It punched through the bubble that had encased them—their entwined scent—and Nesta’s eyes snapped open.
For a beat, time seemed to stand still around them. Their gaze fastened back into place and for a moment, Cassian could see a conflict of thoughts swirl in the magic of Nesta’s irises.
He froze just as anguish crashed down that bond, right into the heart of his chest.
It knocked the breath from him. Confusion rattled inside of his head but he came up empty of answers. Had he gone too far? Had he hurt her somehow?
“Sweetheart—“ he started, but stopped. Unsure of what to say because he could still smell how much she wanted this. Could feel how soaked she was. But perhaps that was what the mating bond did. Fooled reason with an overwhelming drive to pleasure and claim.
Cassian went to draw his hand away but Nesta’s hand whipped out, her fingers curling around his wrist. Desperation flooded her next words—the plea in them stark. “Don’t stop.”
As if to punctuate her point, she rolled her hips. His fingers slid over her of her own accord and she stumbled a moan. Light barrelled down the bond and Cassian’s blood spiked, thrilled as he felt the truth of her words, as she ground back into him again.
“Fuck that feels good,” Cassian grunted into her ear. His hips pushed into the small of her back, accentuating his point. It chased the delicious reprieve from the ache in his cock, even as he knew this moment wasn’t about him. As he pulled her back into the solid muscle of his chest, steadying her movements so he could pick up where he left off: so he could watch the pleasure whip away her conflicted expression until her eyes were once again blazing with the promise of flame.
Silver mist climbed from Nesta’s fingertips into the air. It crawled over the glowing ruby siphons across the backs of his hands, past the corded muscle of his forearm and the rolled up sleeves of his tunic, to his chest, his neck…
A sheen of metal shone in Cassian’s eyes, flickering across his irises so they appeared to turn a metallic gold. The lick of Nesta’s magic didn’t burn. It was a rush of heat—the tender caress of a lover’s kiss instilled into his skin over and over again, ascending Cassian to another realm of pleasure, as if he’d climbed a staircase to an entirely new place.
It felt like an extended method of foreplay Cassian had never been privy to before, lighting up every nerve ending until he was so hard he could cut stone.
Gritting his teeth through the pain-cloaked pleasure, Cassian focussed instead on Nesta’s bare skin.
The tempting fullness of her breasts. The way desire had completely rewritten her countenance. The way she whimpered and then cried out.
Cassian sped up his movements. Until his fingers were no longer teasing, but dancing over her with sure, quick movements designed to thrust her towards a crescendo.
Nesta’s magic swirled into flame, the heat of it a licking promise down Cassian’s limbs. He groaned, swore at the exquisite pain on her face as she hung at the precipice, ready to plummet into rapture.
Her climax became a tangible, living thing and Cassian wanted to see it play out for as long as he possible could. Wanted to see her break for him again and again and again.
So, he waited until she reached the summit and when she was there he slowed down his movements. Ordered through her whimpering, “Look at me Nesta.”
Metallic irises met his, and then Nesta was trembling and shaking in fits and bursts as her release ripped out of her like a taut cord cut loose. Cassian drew her orgasm out as best he could, suspending that pleasure until finally Nesta slumped against him, spineless.
She turned her head to bury it in his shoulder and Cassian let her. Stroked her hair. Pressed a kiss to her sweaty head. Murmured, “Good?”
Slowly, Nesta nodded, but for a long while, that was the only communication he received. But Cassian let her recover. Watched the way her ribcage moved as she heaved for breath. Relished the way her body was splayed out over him, her legs held wide open from where they were hooked over his thighs.
Unable to help himself, Cassian brushed over her sex. Delighted in the way Nesta shuddered rather than batted him away. Fresh desire reignited across her expression and Cassian played gently for a few minutes, revelling in the wetness that had gathered from her release.
Finally, Nesta lifted her head to meet his gaze again. “Did I burn you?”
“No,” Cassian replied hoarsely, his heart squeezing at the genuine fear in her words. He let out a rough laugh, passed his fingers lightly over the knot at the apex of her legs for the last time before he withdrew them.
Nesta moaned softly, even as her brow twisted into a small frown.
“It felt good,” Cassian elaborated. He kissed her shoulder at the same time that he pushed his hips into hers as if to demonstrate just how much he’d liked her magic. “I’m being strangled to death in these pants,” he confessed.
When Nesta cocked her head, her hair moved in a golden tangle. Then she smirked. Unravelled her limbs from him and turned.
Nesta slung her legs over his waist so she was straddling him just as Cassian’s hands caught in her hair. A booming sounded as his wings snapped out and fanned behind him, settling like falling fabric.
“We can’t have that,” Nesta remarked, her breath a whisper against his skin.
“No,” Cassian agreed roughly. “It’s your favourite part.”
Nesta snorted a laugh, but it was not derisive. “Egotistical bat,” she muttered.
A slow, smug smile was Cassian’s only reply. Because he was more focussed on her mouth. With the feel of her silken skin beneath his palms as he ran them up her legs and over her rounded ass. His touch was a promise as he tugged her into his body and ground up into her core, the seam of his trousers doing nothing to relieve the damning ache in his cock.
Together they gasped, and then, as always, they moved at the same time, their mouths slanting one another within a fraction of a second.
The heat of Nesta was liquid, the touch of her smoke—feverish and everywhere all at once. It was the same heat that had roared into existence when Cassian had pinned her against the wall earlier, yet… better somehow. Passionate and awake rather than fogged with lust. Life-giving.
A shuddered groan was pulled from Cassian’s chest as Nesta’s hands slid beneath his tunic and met his burning skin. And then the tunic was on the floor—the rest of his clothing was torn from him soon after. It all happened at such speed Cassian could barely keep up, but when Nesta reached for his bare, burning skin—the tattoos on his arms and the faint scar on his stomach—her fingers were gentle.
“Battle scar,” Cassian panted in explanation, as Nesta’s fingers lingered on the silvery tissue that wound over his lower abdomen: a permanent reminder of what had happened to him during the final battle with Hybern. “The trauma was too great for Madja to heal completely.”
“I remember,” Nesta replied shortly and she looked so fierce that Cassian reached for her. Cupped her cheek with his palm.
“Still breathing, Nes.”
Nesta nodded, but when she kissed him this time there was something fierce and desperate about it, her fingers burying deeper into the mane of his hair.
And then a hand was trailing down his skin and closing around his cock. The touch was sinful and a glimpse of the heavens. When he hissed into her mouth, Nesta gripped tighter—until pain laced the pleasure—just how he liked it.
His groan was that of rumbling thunder as she began to move her hand. It was everything Cassian needed, but it was too much, too good. He scrambled to hold on to some sense of control, because he’d never been this close to losing it from just a few touches.
Then Nesta stopped. Glanced downwards—
The realisation thumped through Cassian so loudly his heartbeat punched like a fist against his ribcage.
“Don’t you dare,” Cassian choked out.
Nesta’s eyes shot to his, but rather than looking startled she arched a challenging eyebrow.
“If you so much as try to put my cock in your mouth I’ll explode,” Cassian rasped.
Before she could protest, he was gathering her to him and had slipped a hand down between her legs.
Just the touch of his fingers had Cassian seizing back control. Nesta stilled at the sudden pleasure, as if she was trying to coax time into suspending the sensation.
“Still so wet,” Cassian purred against the tip of her ear.
Gliding his fingers over the centre of her, Cassian paused briefly at the apex of her legs, toying with her clit, before he ran them back down. When he drew his fingers back, rubbing them together and raising them to the faelight, they glittered.
Nesta’s nostrils flared as if she was an animal in heat. And Cassian knew before he spoke that his voice? would be what pushed them over the edge. But he said it anyway, his voice dropping impossibly low,  “Is this all for me?”
Nesta launched at him until their mouths collided, until they were nothing but a clash of teeth and tongues, their skin so flush they may as well have been fused together.
Burying her fingers deeper into the tangled mane of his hair, Nesta tugged sharply. Met his gaze head on. Demanded, “Fuck me.”
All it took was those two words. Cassian moved, flipping them so Nesta’s back was flush against the mattress. He covered her body with his and Nesta whined at the contact, her body bending and arching towards him as if she were a plant and he was sunlight.
Cassian ran a hand up her bare thigh to her ass, coaxing her leg to bend, but Nesta was too impatient. She broke free from the weight of his body, repositioning herself until legs were wrapped tightly around his hips.
An uneven laugh choked out of him. “So stubborn,” Cassian chided darkly, but he allowed his hips to fall into the cradle of hers. Hissed as he loosed his control and thrust so his cock could glide through her centre. “Fuck,” he grunted. “Nesta, fuck.”
Nesta’s breathy whine fuelled the sparks of pleasure that crackled through him like static energy. He kissed her hard. “There’s a high probability I won’t survive this.”
The snort Nesta loosed tried to sound unaffected, but her voice shook as she accused him, “Liar.”
But he wasn’t lying. And Nesta knew it. She had to know it because his walls were now shattered around them in splintered shards.
Yet, Cassian found himself assuring her. “Not lying," he grunted as he passed over her again. Pressed a lingering kiss to her mouth—a parting goodbye as he moved to kiss the underside of her jaw, down the column of her throat. Down further, to flick his tongue and scrape his teeth over both nipples.
He moaned when she moaned; their sounds a chorus of want until he couldn’t take it anymore. Cassian’s claws clipped around the metal of the bed frame at the same time that he pushed off of the palms that were framing her face, until he was on his knees before her.
Despite the desire coursing through him, Cassian’s head was nothing but clear as he slid his hands under Nesta’s ass and lifted her effortlessly, positioning her so that the undersides of her thighs were flush against his knees.
Nesta’s hair was tousled over the pillow, her lips swollen and parted as she surveyed him. When she tried to wrap her legs back around his hips, Cassian held firm. And despite the fact that Nesta listened to nobody, she allowed him to bend her knees and press his calloused palms to the insides of her thighs in silent instruction.
They fell open and a growl rumbled in Cassian’s throat. His hand was fisting his cock, lining it up to her entrance before he knew what was happening. But then he remembered the pain from before. And even though Nesta was more than ready for him, the thought of hurting her made him feel physically sick.
When he moved away, Nesta let out a strangled noise. A hand shot out, closing around his wrist. “You said you’d fuck me.”
Cassian wanted to explain, but that meant alluding to that tie between them, that instinct that couldn’t allow him to see her hurt. Cassian knew Nesta wasn’t ready for that. Knew that if he so much as breathed a word about it that this precious moment would fall away.
And Cassian was selfish. He had to see how this played out. Had to know if Nesta could grow to accept the bond between them—deem him worthy enough to accept something that was Cauldron blessed.
So, he only drawled, “Patience is a virtue, sweetheart.”
One swift movement had Cassian gathering Nesta into his arms. This time, he allowed Nesta’s legs to wind around him. She gripped him like a vice and Cassian knew it wasn’t from fear of him dropping her. When he sat back against the headboard and guided her onto his lap, Cassian expected her to bite out a comment about doing all of the work, but Nesta only let out a pleased sound. Weaved a hand back into his ebony hair. Wrapped a tight fist around his length, twisting once at the tip, before she guided him to her entrance.
Cassian hissed a curse as she closed around the head. Murmured her name into her mouth. Gripped tightly at her hips when she didn’t stop sinking down on him, as he felt that pain mixed with the sweetest pleasure.
“Nesta.” The way he said her name was firm and commanding, but he still had to dig his fingers hard enough into her skin that he was sure it would leave temporary bruises. The thought made him falter, but then that sharp pain flared again as she resisted against him, and he knew that the bruises were a necessary evil. “Nesta,” he barked, “Go slowly.”
Something creaked and cracked between them. A stretching, growing pain reached its fingers down that bond, the sensation strong rather than constricted as it fought to make its way down their usually thin tie.
Nails dug into Cassian’s neck. A whimper sounded in his ears as Nesta fell forwards, burying her face into his neck. “Please,” she whined in frustration. “Cassian—”
She broke off as she clamped down around him and Cassian felt an ebb of pleasure cut through the pain—that promise of something more.
“Don’t make me hurt you, sweetheart,” Cassian pleaded and the rawness in his voice stopped her resisting against him. He eased a hand between them, touched her right where she wanted him. Allowed her to tug his face upwards so she could kiss him. It was infused with desperation and Cassian eased his hold on her hip. Allowed her to lower herself downwards until she had slid another inch deeper. Continued to stroke her until Nesta began to shake.
“I’m going to—,” Nesta gasped against his mouth. Her body trembled and Cassian’s blood roared at bringing her to the edge again so soon, despite the pain. “Cassian—”
Abruptly, Cassian moved his hand away.
Nesta’s snarl whipped around the room, but Cassian smoothed the sound away by fusing his mouth on hers. She stopped shaking but the sharp bite of Nesta’s glare pierced its teeth through his flesh in a flash of silver.
“It will be better if you wait,” Cassian gritted out in explanation when they parted. Nesta’s breath gusted against his skin. “And I don’t think I can hold on if you come so soon. You feel so good, Nesta. So tight.”
As if on cue, Nesta contracted around him and Cassian ground his teeth together so hard that the muscle in his jaw worked. But he let Nesta slide down on him another inch. Then another. And another. Until their hips were finally flush with one another and that pain had bled away until it was nothing.
The moaned words that fell from Nesta were indistinguishable, but he felt her tremor. Felt that surge inside of him as Nesta repeated herself with a whine that indicated she was toppling over the ledge of control, like a glass teetering before it fell.
And then she was moving and Cassian let her. He was unable to think or breathe. Could only focus on the feel of her.
“Fuck,” Cassian groaned. His head thunked back hard against the headboard as she ground her hips into his, testing the feel of him. “This is better than I’d dreamed.”
No soft snicker, only an untamed whine. Then teeth scraping a sinful path down his neck to his pulse.
Cassian’s hips kicked up hard as her teeth nipped.
“Sorry,” he gasped, because even though Nesta had told him not to hold back, he was still concerned about hurting her. But Nesta’s fingernails bit into his skin and her body moulded to him—a delicious second skin—as she inhaled sharply. “Again,” she demanded with a fierceness that did not allow disobedience. “Do that again—”
It didn’t take a second command for Cassian to thrust up hard. And true to her word, Nesta took him all. Did not change her mind and ask him to hold back. Instead, Cassian knew that this was exactly what she wanted—no, needed. She needed this punishing rhythm just as much as he did.
And it felt… incredible. Beyond anything Cassian had ever felt before. The blood roaring in his ears intermingled with Nesta’s cries and the slap of his hips meeting hers, was the only thing he could hear, his senses narrowed down to the sensation of her wrapped around him, so tight …
It was too good. It threatened to break him, to take everything that he was and reform it entirely, as if he was going to shatter and be pieced back together as someone else entirely. The air around them became taut with pressure, tanning leather stretched too tight over a rack, as if their joining controlled one of the essential elements.
“Cassian.” That one word threatened to break him. Not bat or it or you, only his name falling from her lips as if it was their secret. “More.”
Exhaling a curse, Cassian planted his feet firmly on the mattress and thrust up with as much vigour as he could muster. The movement had them slipping from their upright position and Cassian’s claws absent-mindedly closed around the metal bed frame, strapping them in for the ride as his body coiled and tensed as he slammed into her over and over.
Nesta cried out. Grabbed fistfuls of his hair as they moved together as if they had been made for this moment, their wild gasps melded together until they were one.
Only when release teetered too close to the edge did Cassian drop the rhythm. Cupped the breasts he had dreamed of more times than he could count. The breasts he’d had the privilege of seeing bare and glorious only twice before.
Capturing a nipple between his teeth, Cassian scraped his teeth hard enough that Nesta stopped rocking and angled her hips until he was pressing impossibly deep inside her. She whimpered. Clenched and unclenched. Throbbed in a way that told him she was as close as he was—that if he wasn’t so close himself, he could drive her over the edge with a few well-timed thrusts.
The understanding had him letting out a jagged groan. “Are you close, sweetheart?”
A whine in response, but Cassian didn’t let it go. He raked back the hair from her sweaty forehead. Pressed his lips to her swollen ones in a lingering kiss. Watched the frown that knitted her brow as she was overtaken by the feel of them.
“What do you need, Nesta. Tell me and I’ll give it to you.”
Nesta wound her hands around his head, buried her face into his neck. Began swaying and circling her hips in a rhythm that was dictated purely by the chase of pleasure. “Just… this,” she panted. “I just need this.”
Then it was only the licking fire of her breath against his skin. The magic that curled around them like a heated blanket and the building anticipation of both of their releases, which pulled at him like a strange sort of magnetism, begging him to fall with her in unison.
“Cassian—” Nesta began in warning, but he had already felt her begin to quake, as if the ground was moving beneath their feet—the mountains trembling.
That pull became a driving force—a cresting wave of pleasure so profound that Cassian felt that twist inside of him—that signal that he was about to join her.
He groaned, jerking his head back so it collided with wood, the pain grounding him enough that he could say, “That’s it, sweetheart. Come for me.”
As soon as the words left his lips, Nesta broke, as if she’d been waiting for him to ask it of her. Her cry was muffled and Cassian wanted to tear her mouth from his neck—to hear her break for him—but then she was sinking her teeth into his skin right over his pulse.
Roaring, Cassian kicked his hips up hard on instinct as she marked him, but the shock distracted him. Clouded the desperate clamber of his release so he could hold himself back.
Cassian held tightly onto Nesta as she slumped against him. When she lifted her teeth from him, Nesta whined like an animal. Dragged her tongue over the dent she’d made in his neck—once, twice, three times.
He shuddered. Couldn’t help it. Turned his face into her hair. Breathed her in. The gesture was tender, like an animal tending to the wound of a significant other—its mate.
And wrapped in this moment, Cassian could almost believe that this was something more than sex for Nesta as her forehead came to rest on his collarbone. As she kissed the hollow of his throat. Then the knot. His lips.  
“Good?” Cassian asked softly. He lifted a hand to her face, ran a calloused thumb over her cheekbone.
Nesta made a rare, content sound that vibrated through him like a balm. She leant into his hand, her eyelashes swooping down.
When she finally pulled back to survey him, her eyes were still dark. She shifted her hips. Moaned quietly. Rasped, “You’re still hard.”
It was a miracle Cassian hadn’t followed. If it hadn’t been for her teeth in his neck, Cassian would have been wrestling with the embarrassment of finishing too soon.
“I was too preoccupied with your teeth in my neck.”
A flush crept its way up Nesta’s face, like vines reaching their wicked encroaching fingers up a wall. But she raised her chin. “You wanted me to do it.”
It was true, he had wanted her to. And he wanted to do the same to her—to mark her as his so everyone would know that she was off limits for the brief hours before her body healed.
“And what about you?”
The patter of Nesta’s heart broke into a sprint. It was the only thing that betrayed her feelings, her expression devoid of any reaction. “What do you mean?”
Cassian leant forward until their noses brushed. Lifted his eyebrows. “Do you want me to bite you, Nesta?”
Nesta’s nostrils flared. If she had wings, they’d have flung wide by now. Would have collided with furniture and cut through air.
That was answer enough.
In one movement, Cassian lifted himself up and over, until Nesta was on her back and he was pressing her body into the mattress. Breath gushed out of her lungs but it was not from fear, not as Nesta turned herself out bare and tilted her chin for him—for once not in defiance but as an act of vulnerability—of complete and utter trust.
Every instinct in Cassian clambered to the surface, but he closed a fist around it until its life fluttered against the cage of his palms and fingers: his to control, rather than the other way around.
Slowly, Cassian lowered his nose to the exposed skin and breathed her in: her scent and the life that pummelled beneath her skin, the roaring of her blood as it crashed through her veins. It took everything in him not to move inside of her, to thrust up hard and feel the way her breasts would move against his chest.
“I could do it right here,” Cassian murmured, his mouth ghosting over the pale column of her neck until he came across that pulse. He brushed a tongue across it.
The movement was a mirror of what he’d done before in the human realm and Nesta knew it. But this time she did not jerk back from him demanding what he’d done. Instead, her body drew up beneath him, exposing more of her neck, begging for more.
Cassian groaned, raking his teeth over that swell at the same time that he pushed in deep. Nesta’s groan was guttural and everything. His blood turned molten, so hot that he expected his skin to melt away until he was nothing but bones.
“Please,” Nesta panted, her fingers tightening around his back.
Another flick of his tongue over her pulse. “Do you want me to bite you or fuck you?”
“Both.”
That was enough to loosen the fist on Cassian’s control. He sat back on his knees, prying her hands from his neck, coaxing her fingers until they were above her head and clasped around the railings of the headboard. Nesta’s breasts rose with the movement, her peaked nipples so tempting he bent to take one into his mouth. Then the other. Suckled until she mewled and her nipples were no longer rosy but red from his attention.
Cassian lifted his head and surveyed Nesta. Warned her, “Hold on tight.”
And then there was no thinking, no worrying or desperation to hold back. It all came as easy as breathing, their tempo,the snap of his hips and the shift of the mattress as her body shouldered the impact. At some point, Cassian’s body fell over hers, needing to feel every inch of her against him. His wild, punishing rhythm dropped into a rough rocking that was intimate at the same time it was claiming.
Nesta didn’t seem to mind—let out a pleased moan of consent, her legs clamping tighter around his hips until they were flush with hers. When he next moved she whined, and Cassian felt that change inside of her—somehow—that twisting fist of pleasure that glimmered down the bond, pushing against the walls of that thread, pushing it wider and wider, like a heart expanding.
Silver-wreathed fingers tugged his head down until Nesta could claim his mouth, fusing them together so they were complete. Cassian shuddered as her fire cascaded from her fingertips and down his body. His magic, attracted to hers, began to suck out of his pores, but it didn’t leech him of power. Instead, it was like his magic was searching for its mate, desperate to be reunited.
Then that sensation again, as if Cassian had ducked beneath something and had come up for air somewhere else.
Ruby greeted silver like a long-lost lover, blending until their magic was a metallic sheen of scarlet—a fog that misted their bodies, rubbing tantalisingly against their skin as they rocked and moaned their way to release.
“Don’t stop,” Nesta begged desperately through stuttered breaths, and Cassian wondered how many times she’d reached this pinnacle with other males only for it to be taken from her.
Cassian’s hand found its way to her face, his thumb stroking over her cheek as that coiled release twisted across her devastatingly beautiful face. “Can’t,” he panted honestly, his other hand searching for hers across the mattress until he was clasping it—holding on for dear life. “I’m so close, sweetheart. You have no idea how good you feel.”
“Come with me then,” Nesta pleaded. Her eyelashes had fluttered downwards as she took in a sharp breath of pleasure, but now they opened. Stared deep into his soul. “Come with me—”
Then her body turned both loose and taut, clamping yet completely molten as her release ripped out of her.
“Fuck,” Cassian swore. Invisible hands clasped around his ass, tugging him deeper—deeper. Everything in him tightened as Nesta crashed around him, and that siren called to him, singing her name, over and over as pleasure clawed at him, desperate to whip out of him.
Nesta, Nesta, Nesta.
Cassian launched at her neck, his teeth sinking deep enough to claim as Nesta cried out, her body trembling as he continued to thrust into her, wringing out her release at the same time he desperately clambered towards his own.
He managed to pull out just in time, his teeth still deep in her neck, his release spilling hot onto her stomach in bursts of pleasure.
And even though Cassian had vowed to bite her and Nesta had already marked him, he found himself apologising at the red, angry dents in her skin. How was it that he couldn’t bare to hurt her but biting her neck was a completely different story?
“Sorry,” Cassian rasped. His mouth was as dry as a desert as he gingerly touched his fingers to the marks, but Nesta’s fingers clasped around his, halting him. Then she raised her other hand and brushed her knuckles over the identical marking on his. Reminding him that she’d done the same—had been the first to do it.
“I liked it,” Nesta admitted brazenly, but she didn’t stop him from dragging his tongue over the marks. Shivered instead. Held his head to her.
“That was intense,” Cassian rasped eventually against her ear, after the quiet had settled over them like a blanket. He nuzzled at her neck again, unable to help it—just one more precious moment like this until he had to pull away.
When Cassian pulled back to meet Nesta’s eyes, he found that the blue bled back into her irises. “It was always going to be intense,” she replied frankly.
Then Nesta looked down at her body, as if she’d only just remembered how he’d marked her in a different way. “You didn’t have to do that—pull out. I can take a tonic.”
Cassian hadn’t wanted to pull out at all—and neither had that tie which bound them together—but that wasn’t the point. “I’d rather be cautious,” he explained—a little too shortly, because Nesta bristled.
“Neither of us have had a tonic in a while,” Cassian elaborated when Nesta’s expression hardened.
He tried not to think about how his body had been desperate to spill inside of her. For him to press as deep as he possibly could until he was spent.
Climbing off of the bed, Cassian disappeared down the hallway and into the bathroom. When he returned, he was holding a wet towel.
“A while?” Nesta queried, picking up their conversation, as he began to clean her up.
Cassian cocked an eyebrow, but he didn’t dare meet her eyes lest she read him. His shoulders turned rigid at the thought. “Have you been sneaking people in and out of the bungalow that I’m not aware of?” he asked.
They both knew that Cassian would tear any male she brought back to the bungalow to pieces, but neither of them voiced it.
“You go back to Velaris,” Nesta accused. “You visit the other camps.”
For a moment, Cassian stared at her. Did she believe that he’d been fucking other fae? She had taunted him in Velaris the other day, but Cassian had thought that it was just their extended, agonising tussle of foreplay.
Perhaps you should go in search of some female company tonight.
Cassian managed to huff a breath, but it wasn’t one of amusement. He knew that his expression was steely as he said, “I told you that I don’t sleep with Illyrians. And I haven’t been fucking around in Velaris.”
From the way Nesta’s expression darkened, Cassian wasn't sure she believed him.
She opened her mouth to throw back a retort, but Cassian wanted the discussion to end. If she knew he’d barely touched another female since he’d met her, she’d run the other way. It was too intense a confession for someone who didn’t know what they wanted.
“It was self-inflicted,” Cassian supplied, his tone flinty enough to warn her that he wasn’t willing to discuss the subject any further.
Climbing off of the bed to further his point, Cassian extended a hand towards her. Banished any of the rigidity to his posture. “Come stand in the tub with me.”
There was a sinful promise behind the order. Already Cassian could envisage how he’d press Nesta against the tiles, his lips trailing open mouthed kisses as he kneeled before her—
Nesta must have thought similarly, because the pleasure that sparked in his stomach was not his own. But still she studied him, her head cocked as if she was trying to figure him out. Her hair was a muss of golden brown, her skin glistening with sweat that Cassian wanted to lick off.
Nesta parted her lips, taking stock, but Cassian didn’t allow her to speak. “I’ll make it worth your while,” he vowed. Meant it. Because already he was turning hard again, that desire to have her roaring.
He’d known this would happen. Knew that finally being inside of her wouldn’t sate him but stoke the embers into flames. But Cassian didn’t hide it—utterly unashamed of this need for her. From the way Nesta’s nostrils billowed, he knew she'd marked the change in his scent.
Nesta’s eyes flicked to his cock and the she-devil smirked, her lips curving in a way that had Cassian thinking about how they might wrap around him—how her tongue might feel, how warm she’d be…
In one supple movement, Nesta stood. Took his hand, her slim fingers threading around his large ones. Raised her chin and levelled him with a smoky blue gaze that promised wicked, wonderful things. “Then lead the way, general.”
Tags (let me know if you want to be added/removed): @arinbelle @superspiritfestival @sayosdreams @perseusannabeth @mylittlebigplanet @biggestwingspan-az @bellsqueen @ekaterinakostrova @bookstantrash @prophecyerised @rainbowcheetah512 @awesomelena555 @wannawriteyouabook @lovelynesta @melphss @darkshadowqueensrule @laylaameer01 @a-trifling-matter @grouchycritic7794 @thalia-2-rose @champanheandluxxury @swankii-art-teacher @princessconsuela02 @lavendergoomsltd @princessofmerchants-reads @jeakat @sjm-things @imwritingthesewords @nestable @inejbrekkxr @silvernesta @inyourmindeye @amelie775 @helen-the-weirdo @pizzaneverdisappoints @wishfulimaginings @trash-for-nessian @my-fan-side @sophilightwood @valkyriesupremacy @vidalinav @onceupona-chaos @inardour @thesunremembersyourface @teagoddess99 @ellies-iced-coffee @nehemikkele @misswonderflower
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sayosdreams · 9 months ago
Text
NESSIAN FIC WRITERS
Hi! Here’s some awesome Nessian fic writers if you’re looking for Nessian fics! I wanted to add more, but unfortunately you can only tag 50 people in a post... I’ll definitely add on tho! Let me know if u want me to add you or if the link for your Masterlist is wrong. :)
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@aelin-and-feyre - Masterlist
@caotica-e-quieta - Masterlist
@charincharge - Masterlist
@cinaja - Masterlist
@danaanruhn - Masterlist
@darling-cas - Masterlist
@dawninlatin - Masterlist
@deathbytitanium - Masterlist
@empress-ofbloodshed - Masterlist
@featherymalignancy - Masterlist
@fireheart-of-your-dreams - Masterlist
@flowerflamestars - Masterlist
@happy-smiling-things - Masterlist
@herpowerisdeath - Masterlist
@highqueenofelfhame - Masterlist
@howtotameyourillyrian - Masterlist
@illyrianwitchling - Masterlist
@inkedstarlight - Masterlist
@itsyouraveragebooklover - Masterlist
@julemmaes - Masterlist
@ladynestaarcheron - Masterlist
@lady-therion - Masterlist
@ladyvanserra - Masterlist
@librarian-of-orynth - Masterlist
@louiseleblancdiggory - Masterlist
@maastrash - Masterlist
@maas-trash - Masterlist
@mariamuses - Masterlist
@mightymorphingayagenda - Masterlist
@modernbookfae - Masterlist
@nightcourtcinnamonroll - Masterlist
@noodlecatposts - Masterlist
@perseusannabeth - Masterlist
@propshophannah - Masterlist
@thebluemartini - Masterlist
@theoverlyenthusiasticwriter - Masterlist
@thewayshedreamed - Masterlist
@queen-archeron - Masterlist
@radientwings - Masterlist
@regolithheart - Masterlist
@rhysanoodle - Masterlist
@rhysismydaddy - Masterlist
@rhyswhitethorn - Masterlist
@sarahjtrash - Masterlist
@secretlynestaarcheron - Masterlist
@sensitiveillyrian - Masterlist
@stardustsroses - Masterlist
@swishandflickwit - Masterlist
@tacmc - Masterlist
@wingsofanillyrian - Masterlist
—————
Part 1.5 of this list can be found here
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tacmc · a month ago
Bat boys out in Velaris just being bat bro’s? I need some of that chaotic energy 😂
"Cassian, you're a terrible drunk."
“I am- I am not,” Cassian said, only able to keep himself upright by having his arm slung around Rhysand’s shoulders. “I am....a delightful drunk.” 
Azriel snorted. “Last time you got drunk, Cass, you flew over the city yelling how much you love Nesta, then went into way too much detail about what happens between you two behind closed doors. And you were nearly nude.”
“It was a great look for our court,” Rhysand snorted, sarcastically.
“At least I’m easy going,” Cassian slurred. “You two...” He scoffed. “You two have sticks shoved so far up your asses-.”
Rhysand began to laugh as Azriel shook his head and said, “We’re cutting you off.” 
“Cutting me off?” Cassian repeated, arm still slung around Rhysand’s shoulder. “I....am the General Commander of the Ni-Night Court’s...Armies...” He hiccuped and sighed. “And I want wine. Let’s go to Rita’s.”
Azriel shook his head. “Cass, we just left Rita’s.” 
“Then let’s go to the Rainbow,” Cassian said, pushing off of Rhysand and spreading his arms wide. “Let’s go to the fucking Rainbow! They always have a party going on.”
A couple walked by, chuckling, and said hello to Rhysand as they passed. The High Lord bowed his head in greeting before looking at Cassian. “And what will we do at the Rainbow?” 
“We can go to the theater,” Cassian said, spreading his wings and carrying himself just a few feet off the ground. “They have alcohol at the theater.”
“That’s the only reason you want to go to the theater?” Azriel chimed. “You know, people perform there, too.”
“And they would be honored to have their High Lord there to watch,” Cassian said, his feet hitting the ground, both hands outstretched to Rhysand. “We should grace them with your presence.” 
Rhysand laughed, his smile bright. “There aren’t any shows tonight, Cass. I should bring you home to your Mate.”
Cassian snorted. “Nesta made it very clear that it was a ladies’ night. Emerie and Gwyn are there, and they’re reading naughty books and talking to the house.” Cassian shrugged. “I was told to get the hell out, so here I am with you pricks.” 
“Drunk off your ass,” Azriel muttered, with a grin. “Something tells me you’ll be sleeping on Rhys and Feyre’s couch tonight.”
“No, no,” Rhysand jumped in. “Last time he slept over drunk, he woke Nyx up because he was singing at the top of his lungs around four a.m. After that, Feyre banned intoxicated sleepovers.” 
Azriel’s grin widened.
“I sleep at Azriel’s then,” Cassian said, bringing Azriel into a hug. The latter groaned. “He loves when we cuddle.”
“We have never cuddled,” Azriel protested, then hesitated. “Well, there was that one time, but it was cold and we had no blankets.”
“Don’t-Don’t deny our love affair, Az,” Cassian slurred. “Rhys would never judge.”
Rhysand tossed his head back and laughed. 
“Fine,” Azriel said, huffing a laugh, himself. “I’ll take your drunk ass home. Let’s go-.”
“Party at the Rainbow!” Cassian yelled, pushing Azriel’s arm off his shoulder as he rain into the square, where music was blaring and people were dancing.
Rhysand and Azriel watched him go, standing side by side, shaking their heads.
“He really is a terrible drunk,” Azriel muttered.
Rhysand laughed. “That’s true. But, he’s our terrible drunk.”
Azriel sighed. “That means that have to go dance with him, don’t we?”
Rhysand put his arm around Azriel’s shoulder as they walked toward the square. “Yes. Yes it does.” 
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Masterlist
Here’s a master list of all of my fanfictions that no one asked for, but I probably should have made a while ago. Merry Christmas.
 Ps, all works are Nessian unless stated otherwise.
Pps, I have an addiction.
Music (Siren au) master list 
Cassian is a pirate through and through. When a bad habit of steeling rum and a loose tongue land him rocking in the waves with his brothers, he meets someone that will change his life. Someone with a tale, a some secrets, and a heart just beginning to remember what love really is. Someone not entirely human.
Careful Cassian
Nesta encounters her first period as a fae and it isn’t fun. Luckily, though, Cassian is there to help, although it may not be as easy as he first thought.
Morning
Nesta and Cassian wake up as their first morning as a mated couple. All fluff, kinda smutty, not gonna lie.
Shower
Nesta and Cassian take a romantic shower together when they first get to the camps. Just a short little snippet. (I’m not crying, you’re crying.)
Warmth and Truth
Caught in a storm on their way to the Illyrian camps, Nesta and Cassian find themselves alone, drenched, and cold. Through the night, truths are revealed about each of them yet even more is left unsaid.
Starfall
A year after Nesta and Cassian are sent to Illyria, Starfall comes and Nesta, healed more than she’d ever expected to be, finds she has somethings to say to Cassian.
Hold You
(Starfall sequel) Following the events of the night, Cassian and Nesta sway on the balcony, a little bit of their souls finally locking into place.
Good Enough
Cassian is tired. Tired of having to watch his tongue and coming home to Nesta gone in another person’s home. The only difference tonight is that Nesta is home, and Cassian is angry. Words explode from both ends. Many they needed to hear, and many that meant nothing. It’s up to them to decide.
Sister
Nesta and Cassian return to the Illyrian camps after their mating frenzy. Still half wild, Cassian finds himself caught in a rage, and a full winter spent with Nesta leaves him with some choice words for his brother.
Nesta’s Love
A short description from Cassian’s point of view of how Nesta loves him properly.
Nesta’s Happiness
A short description of how Cassian spots the signs that he’s made Nesta happy.
Bath Time
After training for hours, Nesta is extremely sore and Cassian knows it. Helping her in the bath, however, may take more of him than he’d initially thought.
Lessons on Love
After meeting the General Commander, Nesta is stubbornly attracted to him and he knows it. She lets him teach her the art of love making, and maybe a few things about her heart along the way. This begins in the middle of the extra “Wings and Embers.”  WARNING: this is an extremely mature story, not suitable for some readers. Read at your own risk.
A Court of Fever and Frustration
Cassian, ever the idiot, falls ill and it’s up to Nesta to take care of him.
Broken Lines
Put into a position of authority amongst the Illyrian’s, Nesta is only looking for a little respect. Unfortunately for everyone else, Cassian will take fear first, to the chagrin of his mate.
Why Are You Hiding?
At the beginning of their relationship, a few of Nesta’s insecurities are revealed and while Cassian may not be able to fix what she sees in the mirror, but he can give her a nudge in the right direction.
Photograph
In this modern au, Nesta is a model, running late on one of her shoots, so Cassian goes to pick her up.
Forgotten Gods
Sometimes, Nesta forget who she is. Where her power has gone. When she goes looking for answers, Cassian goes looking for her.
Asphyxiation (Elucien)
Alone with Lucien, Elain has to set her feelings straight. When an innocent hike, turns to something a little more meaningful, she finds it hard to breath.
The Healer and the Soldier (Madja x OC)
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Madja learned how to heal Illyrian wings when she spent some time among them. Working beneath an older healer, she finds herself exhausted, exhilarated, and a little bit exasperated.
Wondrous Misfortune
Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
The bone carver’s prediction is not all that meets the eye and so Cassian and Nesta meet the struggles of family head on, loving every bit of it with two children possibly more wicked than themselves.
Armor
Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4,
A few months after Acofas, Cassian finds out what Nesta does when he’s away. Her rebellion isn’t what it seems, however. WARNING: this is an extremely mature story, not suitable for some readers. Read at your own risk.
Flowers Across a Kingdom
This is my take on the second generation of my favorite Throne of Glass and Acotar ships.
Prompts
“I lost the baby.” “You’re a monster.”
“Get that thing away from me!”
“It isn’t what it looks like! Okay... Maybe it is...”
 “The bed is cold without you.” “It’s just a nightmare, it’s nothing real.”
Forbidden kiss and against a locker kiss
Before bed kisses
I almost lost you kiss
Staring at the other’s lips, trying not to kiss them, before giving in (Elriel)
Accidentally witnessed kiss and against a wall kiss
A hoarse whisper, “kiss me”
Moving around while kissing, stumbling over things, pushing each other back against the wall/onto the bed
Kisses where one person is sitting in the other’s lap
This wasn’t meant to be a date, but we’ve had such a good time and now it’s 2 a.m. and I should really go home
We slept in the same bed for space reasons, but now we’re just waking up and there’s something about your bleary eyes and mussed hair. (Elriel)
“I’m not leaving” + “It’s just you and me”
“How long have you been standing there?”
“Have you lost your damn mind?”
“Do you…well…I mean…I could give you a massage?”
“Make me.” 
Feel free to comment on any of my posts, whether its to give feedback, make suggestions, rant, scream, cry, whatever you want. Us writers love to hear from you and hear that our work is affecting you, even if your comment is just a series of capital letters and emjoiis. I understand completely. Also, please let me know if any of the links don’t work, or if you’d like ot be tagged in anything.
With all my love, Ella.
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duskandstarlight · a month ago
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Embers & Light (Chapter 38, Nessian fic)
Notes: Happy Wednesday everyone! An update a week later, as promised. I hope you enjoy this one. The latter part of the chapter has been planned for a long time (like a lot of E&amp;L moments). I really hope you enjoy reading it--as usual let me know your thoughts :)
Big thanks to @han-soul-o on Tumblr for proofing this for me :) And this chapter is for @princessconsuela02 who has been having a shitty few weeks--I hope this update cheers you up <3
Chapter 38 Nesta
The sweeping drive of the river house was crystallised with ice when Cassian landed on the stones with Nesta in his arms. It frosted the evergreens that Elain had planted in the beds on either side, the berries of the many bushes dusted in what looked like icicles of sugar.
Nobody moved behind the windows. Nesta supposed everybody was in the rooms that looked out onto the back of the property: the floor to ceiling glass leant an extensive view of the garden, which hugged the entirety of the house and the river that ran at the bottom of it—an arresting canvas for Elain to lend her green fingers to.
Nesta stepped quickly out of Cassian’s hold the moment he set her down on the ground.
They were running late. Their impromptu discovery had left them all reeling but Cassian had stood firm on putting Nesta through her paces in the ring. He’d trained Maya too, insisting she joined them before the female could disappear both literally and figuratively. There had been a self-punishing look to the twin that settled like lead in Nesta’s stomach—a weighty sense of doom, a pregnant thundercloud about to split its seams.
Warm fingers snapped close around Nesta’s wrist before she got too far. It stopped her in her tracks, and whilst the hold was gentle yet firm, Nesta’s body still jerked back in surprise.
She scowled. “What? We’re late.”
Cassian didn’t blink at her bite. Knew her better than anyone else. Held on to her wrist, until Nesta finally yielded and turned to face him fully.
“What?” she repeated. Demanded. Their revelation earlier about Kallon had left a sour taste in her mouth and she wanted nothing more than to be rid of it. She was itching to return to Illyria—to do something. Nesta was fed up of waiting around for Kallon to make a move. They needed to be proactive. Ensure the females in the camps were safe. Had to stop the princeling from completing a ritual that would spill and taint innocent blood.
Yet… there was nothing Nesta could truly do. Even going back to Illyria wouldn’t change their circumstance. According to Rhys, Azriel had left for Illyria in the middle of the night after his shadows had whispered the latest spy reports into his ear. There had been a lead that Azriel believed to be concrete on Kallon’s whereabouts: a makeshift camp in the Northern-most peak of Ironcrest’s territory, where Prythian’s craggy coast rose out of the sea. It had reeked of the rot that came with dark magic—the same they’d found at the cave—but when Azriel had bled out of shadow and into the starry, mountainous landscape, the camp had been deserted.
Nesta was keen to press Azriel for more information over lunch. Wanted to know everything they could do to stop Kallon from bonding a sword to him that clearly had not yet found him worthy.
Because Kallon couldn’t be worthy—not when the blade vanished when he struck to wield it. And yet… Kallon was the epitome of male entitlement. He did not even consider the possibility that the blade was not his right.
And his mother, even knowing what he was, still believed in the prophecy. Even when it seemed that someone was actively forcing themselves into a timeline they did not fit.
The disturbing interpretation of Heroicis also didn’t sit right with Nesta. Why would the book state that a blade instilled with innocent blood would cut down evil, when that act in itself was technically slaughter? Lorrian had said that to clip a younglings wings was perceived as the greatest sin in Illyria, but this was worse. Kallon was breaking girls wings, abusing them and draining their bodies of blood.
When Nesta had raised that point to Rhys, his perfectly carved face had turned flinty enough that Nesta sensed the foreboding of his power. “Magic is balance, but it is not sentient. It does not discriminate between right and wrong. To cut down evil one must forge a blade in its image.”
It was those words that haunted Nesta the most. It didn’t make sense to her, but when she tried to grasp for it, comprehension flitted away, like an insect skating on still air.
Caught in a tangled web of thoughts, she and Cassian had flown down to the river house in rare silence. Sala hadn’t yet returned to the House from flying with the girls, so Cassian had wordlessly tucked Nesta to his body before he’d launched into the skies.
Nesta guessed his thoughts were churning, too, given that he made no attempt to engage with her. Knew Cassian was immersed in them because of the stony quality to his features: the hard, unyielding jaw; the shuttered eyes.
But now that mask had dropped, falling away to reveal what Nesta dissected as concern as he stared down at her.
He opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it again. “You’re feeling less tired?”
Nesta blinked. It wasn’t what she had been expecting. In fact, she had barely noticed that they hadn’t truly spoken alone since the night before. Their revelation had seen to that.
“Yes,” she conceded slowly, her brow creasing.
“You were gone when I woke up,” Cassian supplied uselessly, and for a moment, Nesta wondered if he was not just worried about her, but…disappointed. As if he had been hoping that when dreams gave way to morning light, she’d still be folded in his embrace.
But Nesta hadn’t been able to stay in the bed with the temptation of him there; with all of his ink licked skin and the tangle of his hair across the pillow. With his wings fanned out and flexible, one moulding to her frame and the other draping behind him across the mattress.
Nesta had an Illyrian bed in her room. Always had. As if the House had known the moment she had been turned freshly fae that Cassian might stay with her.
Elain hadn’t had one. Her bed in the House had been human-size, and rather than hosting intricate carvings of Illyrian wings and the engraved swirls similar to Cassian’s tattoos, her sister’s had been carved with intricate flowers: primrose, hyacinth and crocus.
Just one look at Cassian that morning had a heat tensing in Nesta’s lower belly—an image of him clasping open her thighs as he eased into her. The thought had been unbidden and so pleasurable Nesta had nearly moaned. Had nearly hiked up her nightdress and touched herself with him right there.
Because that desperation to hurtle towards completion—to sate herself—had only gotten worse since they had come together.
It wasn’t just an itch now that wrangled control of her dreams—it was a living fervour. A relentless, pressing ache driving her to inner hysteria.
It was as if being together had opened something intrinsic and addictive. Nesta wasn’t sure if the frenzy would disappear when they got to the bungalow—she had a feeling it would only get worse—but she didn’t care anymore. It had gotten to the point where her subconscious was marking every breath she took, counting them, as if it shaved off a few more seconds until they were alone. Until her back was thumping against a wall, Cassian’s mouth hot on hers, his hands scraping deliciously up her legs as he hoisted her up…
Nesta blinked. The world slid back into focus, but all she saw were Cassian’s wings move and stretch, as if he had caught the scent of her thoughts and was unable to control that innate instinct in him to display and attract.
And if he was barely able to leash his self-restraint when her scent changed, what would Cassian have done if he had woken to find Nesta touching herself that morning? Nesta didn’t think they’d be waiting until the bungalow for him to finally be inside of her. She wasn’t naive or deluded enough to deny what she knew: Cassian wanted her badly. Had felt it stabbing and burning through her when he let his shields slip in those moments when their skin became flush.
Nesta could still scent him on her skin, even though two days had passed since he had spilled across her stomach.
She wanted him to do that again. She wanted to do everything with him and more. She wanted but Nesta knew that things could never extend beyond the bedroom. Because in the end things were always taken from her. It was her punishment for being cold and cruel and spiteful.
It was her comeuppance.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about Kallon,” she answered eventually, deflecting from the heat bubbling beneath her skin. “And I was hungry.”
For a moment, Nesta saw the possibilities rush across Cassian’s expression—all the things he could say. But in the end he only tucked in his wings in a manner that was far too controlled. Nodded tightly.
It hurt to witness. Yesterday they had been so open. Another bit of ice creaking and cracking as they pushed it apart, but it needed to close, so Nesta clamped down a little bit. Not wholly—she was too selfish to get rid of that whisper of ruby power curling around hers—but enough.
She could control her power over their shared tether most of the time. At first it had been instinctive; indicative of her steadfast iron will and denial as she drank and fucked her way through Velaris. But recently she’d blink and realise that she’d let her wards slip without noticing, as if her subconscious was melting the ice that froze that connection between them.
Like yesterday when she’d given him the lullaby. Maybe even before that: when she’d become lost in the crowds. It happened when she was in danger, too. Or when her body thought it was. Her battle fatigue yesterday had rid her of every protective wall she had built around herself.
And as a result, Cassian had found her as if he had been following purposefully scattered breadcrumbs. Those powerful wings had stretched wide as he cleared the crowds and stalked towards her. His worry had been a trapped bird in her throat, and Nesta had known, despite the oily fingers tugging her down into the numb, that she had called him somehow.
That she had sent him a message and he had answered.
Another movement of Cassian’s wings sighed through the silence and Nesta couldn’t help but study them. They were beautiful. With the sun casting its light on the membrane they had turned the colour of the sandstone at the House of Wind: a burnt sumac interwoven with cinnamon.
Her fingers itched to reach up over his shoulder and brush them. Wanted to know what they felt like beneath her fingertips and how Cassian would react when she did it.
She knew what it meant to touch an Illyrians wings. Knew that most Illyrians saw it as the greatest violation to have them touched by another outside of matrimony or the bedroom. But Cassian was different. He treated his wings more like an extension of his limbs; bumping a friend’s arm or curving a wing around someone’s shoulder to guide them where he wanted them to go.
And in the bedroom… Nesta had imagined he’d have been just as open. But he hadn’t extended or encouraged her to touch them, so she had bit down on her curiosity until it quietened. Had thought that he might not want to be that vulnerable with her.
Yet, Nesta still wondered whether he’d shudder or moan or shiver.
Or perhaps he’d do none of the above. Perhaps something would turn inside of him and all that self-control would bleed away into something far more delicious and sinful.
Nesta wanted him that way the most. Frantic and desperate and raw.
She didn’t want to think that he’d extended the courtesy to someone else. But five hundred years without letting someone play with your wings seemed like a very long time to Nesta.
And even though she had no right to be jealous, it stabbed through her like a jagged toothed blade, hooking onto her insides.
Cassian cocked his head at her as Nesta blew out a slow breath to cool the magic that had whooshed to life beneath her skin—at the mere thought of him with someone else.
In her mind’s eye, Nesta imagined throwing a sodden blanket over a silver flame. It extinguished, her blood plummeted and cooled. And not for the first time, Nesta wondered what would happen if that corded threadbare rope between them was severed. Would she still feel this way? Would she not care? How much of their connection was fabricated and how much was true?
It was these questions that kept her up at night, so Nesta tried not to think about it at all. But denial was only sweet until you least expected it, and then it would leap for the throat with bared teeth, sinking its sharp canines into her skin every time Cassian touched her or said something that had her heart galloping.
How I feel about you, it’s always been startlingly clear, Nesta.
But would it be as clear if their bond didn’t exist?
Desperate to deflect her thoughts, Nesta spoke before she had the time to curate her next words, “We’ll go home after lunch?”
As soon as the sentence left her mouth, she realised her mistake. Heat burned her cheeks and Nesta tried to instil ice into her veins, but it was to no avail. “To Illyria,” she supplied quickly—uselessly. “The bungalow.”
The shadow of conflict across Cassian’s face disappeared and he smiled at her—the corner of his lips kicking upwards. It was a true smile. One of soft surprise rather than in delight at the slip of her mask.
And it was that raw reaction that had Nesta’s embarrassment washing away rather than igniting it into an inferno or spat words.
Cassian cleared his throat. Nodded. “Yes.”
“You’re ready to leave?” Nesta continued, waving to the scenery behind her with a hand. Trying to iron over her previous stumble. “Won’t you miss being here?”
“It’s time to go back to Illyria,” Cassian supplied with a shrug, and even though Nesta knew he was referring to Kallon and the training of the females, Nesta’s blood spiked in anticipation. Of his vow to her. And when his voice dropped, knots of desire curled deliciously low inside of her until a glimmer of pleasure rippled. “We have things to do.”
I want to be inside you.
But not until we’re back home where we can have each other wherever we want for as long as we want.
The memory of the dark, guttural words scraped over her skin, a tantalising, drawn-out promise.
Cassian clearly didn’t catch wind of her thoughts, because he lifted a muscled shoulder. “I’m sure I’ll be back in Velaris soon anyway.”
But Nesta wasn’t so sure. With the rising dissent and the threat of Kallon, she suspected they would not return to Velaris for a long while.
“I said I’d take you to the theatre,” Cassian continued, “and you’ll find I hold fast on my promises, Archeron.” Uncertainty flickered onto his expression and in her gut. “Or not,” he corrected quickly. “Up to you.”
Nesta shrugged. Pretended for his sake that she hadn’t seen through his nonchalance. “I’d like to visit Maya.”
And her sisters. But Nesta wasn’t brave enough to admit that yet. There were many things she wasn’t brave enough to admit—like how she had felt a duty to visit her father’s grave but hadn’t found the courage. Because what could she say to her father when there was still so much hatred in her heart? How would she ever reconcile her feelings with the man who had allowed his daughters to starve? With the man who had brought them an armada of ships?
Her father might have struck himself a martyr but to Nesta he would always be someone who had not loved her or her sisters enough to fight until the very last moment.
“We could run further next time we’re here. To the coast, maybe,” she supplied, banishing all thoughts of her father.
Cassian’s gaze on her stilled and deepened. As if he were trying to figure her out.
“You like the coast,” Cassian observed eventually and Nesta nodded. She could have sworn Cassian looked irritated, as if he should have made the connection sooner. “There are some lovely coastal views in Illyria. I’ll take you.”
Nesta lifted her shoulders, even as her pulse began to beat frantically, its usual flutter thrusting into a quickening tempo under his scrutinising gaze. “Ok.”
A pause caught the air and for a moment everything hushed and stilled, like freshly blanketed snow.
“You look nice today.”
Cassian’s voice had melded into deep, rough velvet; a jagged blade wrapped in silk.
It took a moment for surprise to register through the drumming of Nesta’s heart. She cast a surprised look down at her dress. It was nothing unusual—one of the Illyrian dresses Mas had made for her. It was warm and practical but a beautiful royal blue that Nesta was partial to. She had worn it countless times in Illyria…
Swallowing, Nesta reset her stance. Tilted her head so she could analyse him with a dissecting stare that usually had males recoiling. But not him. Cassian just stared right back at her, his expression… serious.
He wasn’t joking. Nesta knew that without lowering her empath shields.
“And usually?” she asked coolly. “Do I look horrible?”
Cassian grunted. It was not with displeasure but amusement. The green in his eyes glinted as if in challenge. He stepped closer and she felt the warmth of him despite the chilled air. “You could wear a paper bag and threaten to bring a male to his knees, and you know it.”
That wasn’t true—not any more. Even though her figure had filled out, Nesta always thought she looked a little too thin—the angles of her face cutting and sharp rather than gentle.
The thought spiked a bitterness in her and she knew without looking in the reflection of Cassian’s eyes that her irises had become chips of ice. “My knee certainly can,” she countered coldly.
A memory played between them—of Cassian’s lips on her neck and her knee connecting between his legs—and for a moment, Nesta didn’t know what Cassian would do or say next. They remained in suspended limbo, two drumming heartbeats the only sound, until mirth kindled across Cassian’s expression.
His laugh was a booming rumble that was caught and brushed into something softer and more intimate—just for her—as he stepped even closer. “It certainly can. I’m not sure my pride has recovered.”
“I’m sure it hasn’t,” Nesta replied, her voice fashioned and distant. “Your wings barely fit through the window.”
A low growl was pulled from Cassian’s throat. It wasn’t threatening, but… excited. As if he relished in playing this game with her—this tussle of control. “Did you watch me fly away, sweetheart?”
Strike, parry, strike.
A cold, short laugh. “Why would I have bothered?”
Cassian grinned widely, his teeth flashing as he gestured to himself with large hands.“Why wouldn’t you bother, Nes? Look at me.”
And despite herself, Nesta huffed a breath of amusement.
Triumph lit up Cassian’s expression, but rather than gloat he tugged at a stray strand of her hair. It was meant as a teasing gesture but it morphed into something else as he clung on, their proximity altering the tempo.
The warmth of him thawed her limbs and the scent of him was heady as she breathed him in.
“I was talking about your hair,” he murmured hoarsely as he stared down at her. The cocky facade he had worn whilst they bantered whispered away on the soft, winter breeze filtering through the sweeping front drive. To Nesta’s surprise, Cassian’s throat bobbed. “It’s different from your usual…”
He trailed off and made a circling gesture around his head.
“Oh,” Nesta replied faintly, too taken aback to laugh at the movement. She’d forgotten to braid her hair into its usual coronet—a habit, really. She’d dressed in a rush after training and it hadn’t even occurred to her to wind it into her usual armour. Instead, it was loosely plaited to drape over her right shoulder. “I forgot to re-braid it.”
“It’s nice,” Cassian assured Nesta, but his eyes darted to the exposed stretch of skin on the left of her neck. The air around them grew thicker—scented of pine and musk—and heat drummed through Nesta’s blood—the scent a siren call. A vision struck her of Cassian’s canines sinking into her skin.
His tongue darted out to wet his lips and her body groaned at the sight.
“Not for you,” Nesta clipped sharply.
Cassian’s eyes flicked up to her in surprise, his dilated pupils narrowing slightly, as if her words had shut something down.
“My neck,” she surmised with an abrupt snort. “Stop thinking about it.”
But she mentally shivered as his eyes fell to her neck again. Couldn’t help it. Couldn’t stop remembering how it had felt as his teeth grazed his teeth over her pulse. How he had sucked it into his mouth, as if he were trying to drink the very life of her until they were one beating heart—her life fluttering completely at his mercy.
“Only if you do,” Cassian vowed hoarsely. He stepped even closer… until his torso brushed against hers. A predatory focus narrowed his movements wholly towards her. He raised a hand to her neck and slowly—torturously—drew a path with a calloused thumb down the curve, from behind the shell of her ear all the way down to her collarbone. “Have you been thinking about it? About my lips on your neck?”
Breath hitched in Nesta’s throat, a fist closing around her windpipe. But she wouldn’t let him win, not now.
“Have you been thinking about my hand on your cock?” Nesta rallied back.
Cassian actually growled. A hand gripped at her hip, tugging her closer to him, until her curves were lined up firmly with the hard muscles of his torso and hips. She felt the hard length of him pressing against her—the rough exhale of his breath against her neck at the fleeting sweet release of tension. “What do you think?”
“I think you’re going to struggle to get through this lunch,” Nesta supplied crispy. She pushed away from him, her hands briefly splaying against his firm chest.
Cassian remained as still as a statue, his beautiful wings half-extended and held high, the apex of their glorious peaks above his head. Only his hair moved in the breeze, as if it were wild and independent from the rest of his body. His eyes remained focused on her with dead intent and Nesta knew in this moment, that nothing would drag his attention from her.
“Remember,” Nesta crooned as she began to head towards the house. She glanced over her shoulder and stared up at him through her lashes with a sultry smile. “You can fuck me wherever you like in the bungalow, Cassian.”
***
The river house had too many staircases. That was Nesta’s first thought as she climbed the final steps that led to the third floor landing.
Lunch at Feyre and Rhys’s had been a casual affair. Food had been laid out on platters and in steaming serving dishes on the dining room table, but everyone had chosen to remain near the silver-wreathed fire in the living room, a plate balanced on their laps.
Nesta found it was her preferred way of dining. She had been raised from birth to eat in front of company with silverware, pressed linen napkins and impeccable manners. But eating lunch in an inviting armchair was the exact opposite of how Nesta had been groomed to find herself a husband, and Nesta revelled in the fact that her mother was most likely turning in her grave. Understood in that moment that she was perhaps a little rebellious like Feyre after all. That the Night Court might offer her opportunities to figure out who she actually was when she stripped off the layers of conditioning and bitterness: a wolf rid of its pelt.
Murmured conversation and laughter wrapped around the walls of the living room. And for once Nesta was encompassed in it. She was by no means free of her many layered masks but she had smiled slyly as Amren detailed her extensive plans to tie Varian to his bedroom during her visit to the Summer Court in a few days. Had listened as Elain detailed her latest plans for one of the city’s garden squares. Had watched out of the corner of her eye as Cassian laughed with Mor.
As usual, there had been a roguish grin on Cassian’s face as he poked fun of his friend, but Nesta felt no stab of jealousy. Bizarrely that emotion had bled away since she had decided to take Cassian at his word. When she had started believing rather than doubting him, even if it didn’t always come naturally.
It helped that Mor was not one to shield her emotions. Nesta suspected the female was powerful enough that she simply did not care, and aside from the lingering, sad glances she cast at the Shadowsinger when she thought nobody was looking, there was nothing beneath the simple affection she felt for Cassian and the rest of her family.
So, Nesta had contentedly sipped the chai tea Cassian had fetched her from the kitchen. And when Feyre disappeared upstairs, Nesta had slipped out of the room and followed her sister all the way to her art studio.
That was where the many, many stairs had come in.
Nesta’s first thought upon entering Feyre’s art studio was that it was full of light. So much so that if Azriel were to step through the door, Nesta was certain it would banish his shadows more effectively than when he spoke with Elain.
To Nesta’s left, two large portrait windows graced the wall, which looked out onto the extensive gardens and the snaking river beyond it. Paint splattered trestle tables adorned the space with no seeming logic, to the point that Nesta suspected they were moved around depending on the position of the sun.
Adjustable easels, wooden stools, paint tubes and palettes were for the most part stacked away, but there was still a well-suited creative mess to the space, as if it could never quite be tidy. And propped up against the white walls—some empty and some full of brush strokes and paint—were dozens of paintings.
The room scented much like Feyre’s art studio in the rainbow—of turpentine and surging emotion—but more personal and less somber, as if this private space was used for things that brought Feyre joy.
“Feyre.”
Her sister’s head turned sharply to the right at the sound of her name, her braid slipping back over her shoulder and down her back.
Feyre’s eyes were wide as she held a tattooed hand to her heart and took in a slow, steadying breath. “I didn’t notice you following me.”
“Cassian,” Nesta supplied simply.
“Ah,” Feyre responded. A small smile flicked up at the ends of her mouth. “Learning to track someone was one of my first lessons. Thank the Cauldron he’s not here, he would be reprimanding me for not having read the signs.”
Nesta tried not to stiffen at the mention of the Cauldron but failed. Feyre clocked it, her eyes softening, so Nesta fizzed out a breath.
It was a poor distraction to pull her sister’s focus away from discussing the one thing Nesta did not like to mention.
“You still wouldn’t have noticed,” Nesta said.
Feyre cocked her head slightly as if Nesta was a puzzle to figure out. It was the way Cassian often looked at her—a soul-searching gaze. And perhaps her sister was finally learning to tell the difference between Nesta’s barbed retorts and curt honesty, because Feyre just admitted slowly, “No, I don’t think I would have.”
Other, an ancient voice hissed in Nesta’s ear, before it tapered into a moan. Nesta, Nesta, Nesta.
White and silver gushed through Nesta’s veins, clambering and twisting and turning, spiralling like a dolphin in water. Not scared but… excited.
Nesta willed quiet into her veins, and although silver must have wiped over Nesta’s irises, Feyre did not flinch. Did not indicate that the enormity of Nesta’s power overwhelmed her. Only jerked her chin to a large landscape canvas that was clamped to an easel.
“I was just checking on a painting I left to dry,” Feyre explained as Nesta looked to the canvas. “I want to varnish it but I’m trying out a new paint. It’s supposed to be even more durable than the oil paint I use, but the drying time is longer. It’s—“
Feyre stopped abruptly. And to Nesta’s dismay, her sister flushed. “I’m probably boring you,” she said quickly. Shook her head. “I was just checking on it,” Feyre summarised.
Nesta’s response was frank and void of unnecessary intonation. She wasn’t one to decorate her speech. “I don’t find it boring. What does the varnish do?”
A blink was the only indication that Feyre had expected Nesta to shut the conversation down. It hurt, but Nesta tried to banish the feeling. Fortified her resolve to show that she could be different.
“It preserves the painting,” Feyre explained. “Protects it from dirt and dust.” Her sister walked over to the sink and rolled up her sleeves to reveal pale skin and ink. “It also gives the painting a nice glossy finish. Or a matt finish, actually. It depends on what effect you’re after.”
Absent-mindedly, Feyre began to rinse a brush under the tap, but her focus remained on the painting—of the garden scene she had rendered so expertly onto canvas. “When I was in Spring I thought I had the most beautiful view,” she admitted, “but the longer I stayed there, everything became twisted and wrong. I suppose I began to see all of the weeds and thorns. But this garden… I can take joy in nature again. Elain has done a good job.”
Nesta considered leaning back against a long dry paint splattered table but thought better of it. Didn’t really know what to say as they tiptoed around Feyre’s trauma. So, she only stated simply, “Elain has always been good at nurturing a space until it blossoms into something beautiful.”
Elain had shown Nesta around the gardens the day before, including the squares Rhys had assigned to her. Elain was working beneath the head gardener of the city—a blonde-haired male Elain had sweetly introduced Nesta to.
From the way the male had gazed a little too long at Elain, Nesta knew that her sister had unwittingly enchanted another male with the purity of her heart.
Nesta wondered if Azriel knew. She had observed the Shadowsinger when nobody else was looking: the way his shadows retreated slightly when Elain spoke. The way he fastidiously asked Elain questions and enquired after her health when others forgot she was in a room. Elain was sweet, gentle and kind. It meant people had a tendency to see her sister as timid, but Nesta had always thought Elain just needed to be coaxed out of her shell. That there was stubborn, iron-determination and dedication beneath her soft exterior, when her sister grew the courage to unsheathe her claws.
Feyre nodded in surprise. Opened her mouth to say something, but Nesta wanted to get in first. Didn’t want to deflect from her sister’s olive branch—the mention of her own ghosts.
Nesta used to hate when everyone would compare Feyre’s hardships to her own. It had only served to remind Nesta of where she had failed.
But Nesta was facing her past, not running from it. So, she said, “It must be nice to enjoy the garden again.”
Feyre’s expression unspooled. “Thank you. The Night Court is… different to Spring, but I think it’s even more beautiful.”
Nesta thought of her sister’s ex-fiance. Reigned in a dismissive snort. “I haven’t been to Spring, but I imagine it tamed and manicured to the point of being superficial.”
A delighted surprise of laughter left Feyre at the frost coating Nesta’s words. She turned off the tap at the sink and began to dry her hands with a rag that had seen better days.
Once she was finished, Feyre leant her willowy frame against the porcelain sink and wrapped the rag around the bristles of the paintbrush, coaxing out the excess water. Her sister hadn’t dressed for lunch and was still wearing the dark leggings and oversized jumper she had no doubt been painting in that morning.
“That’s a very apt description,” Feyre explained when Nesta raised an imploring eyebrow. “Actually,” her sister muttered, her smile falling away, “I couldn’t have described it better myself. You’ve always been good with words.”
Words were Nesta’s arsenal of weapons. They could be manipulated to injure and impale as well as any sword. But they could also correct mistakes and strike an apology.
Feyre might be an artist who rendered images onto canvas, but Nesta captured the world and the human condition in words.
“It seems we finally agree on something.”
For a moment, Feyre stared at Nesta, as if she was weighing up whether her next words would strike peace or war.
In the end, Feyre said slowly—casually, “I actually think you and I agree on more than we realise, even beyond Elain.”
When Nesta said nothing, Feyre looked down at the paintbrush in her hands. Absent-mindedly began to play with the bristles—a nervous gesture that signalled a course in the conversation that the old Nesta would have cut down immediately.
“Do you ever wonder whether we might have had more in common if we had both been born to different parents and had different upbringings?”
The question sent a stab of something through Nesta. It was followed with prickling anger that pierced like millions of tiny needles as they clambered down her spine. But it wasn’t at her sister.
Nesta’s expression hardened until it was gathered taut. “You mean if I hadn’t been born and raised by mother to be sold to the highest bidder and you hadn’t been neglected?”
Feyre’s face wrinkled but there was a steadfast determination set in her jaw. She lifted her chin. “Yes. If things had been different, we might have got on more—understood one another. Perhaps we wouldn’t have been such opposing forces. You always got on with Elain, but not me. I always wondered if we had been raised differently whether things might have been better between us.”
Nesta thought of how she had failed Feyre but how Elain had still been hers to guard and protect. Elain had been too innocent—easy prey in a den of wolves.
But Nesta didn’t explain that. Instead, she announced brusquely, “You and I got on better when you were young.”
Feyre cocked her head. “I don’t remember that.”
Nesta had known her sister hadn’t remembered it. Feyre had been too young to retain that sort of information. So she pulled a book from her bag—the book she had retrieved from her dingy apartment a few days before—and extended it to her sister.
Surprise flashed across Feyre’s expression. “What’s this?”
The shrug Nesta loosed was too indifferent, but it was too late for her too correct it. “A book,” she supplied unhelpfully.
Feyre’s lips twitched but her eyes swam with a different emotion. When she spoke, her voice was a little rough. “I can see that.”
“It’s a book of fairytales. I used to read to you when you were small. It’s a...” Nesta trailed off. Rolled back her shoulders. Made her spine straighter. “It’s a piece of our history that’s not complicated. I wanted you to have it.”
A beat of silence followed. Feyre blinked a few times, as if something was caught in her eye. “Thank you,” she whispered. She ran a hand tenderly over the worn front cover, as if she understood how precious it was to Nesta. “I recognise this—you had this at the cottage…”
Feyre trailed off, but Nesta felt the burning question at the tip of her sister’s tongue. But Feyre didn’t release it. Instead, she fell quiet, her brain no doubt working overdrive as she wondered how Nesta had been reunited with a piece of their history.
It had been a favour Nesta had asked of Cassian when she was still reeling from becoming fae. When Nesta had spent every waking moment worried that Elain would end her life, and every second in her sleep replaying those few seconds of memory; of when Cassian had tried and failed to crawl towards her, his wings tattered and bleeding.
But Cassian’s wings had slowly healed. He’d visited her every day, his presence the only thing grounding her even as they threw insults at one another until he inevitably left her alone. But that day Cassian had listened to Nesta’s request without a taunting word. Had turned on the spot and dove off the balcony and into the sky. Had returned later that night, his entire expression void of his usual playfulness as he pressed the book into her hands—as if he knew how precious it was to her.
Yet… the request had given Cassian license to start dictating how Nesta might live her new life when she was too busy mourning her old one. He’d immediately encouraged her to go out into the city—fresh air would do her good, he had told her—as if the favour he’d granted her meant that she would finally give in and embrace the awful life that a Cauldron had dealt to her.
The two of them had ended on a bad note: Nesta had stood at the window of the library with the book clutched to her chest and watched him fly away. Knew then that even though he made her want to shatter things, that Cassian was something significant—a shift in her life that ran well beyond the Cauldron and her role in the War.
Feyre looked expectantly at Nesta and Nesta nodded. Took the book back from her sister. She didn’t want to think about she and Cassian before Illyria. Of how she had wounded him so deeply but he had weathered it all. Not because he was soft, but because he couldn’t stay away.
“The tale of the Albern and the Princess Who Never Laughed used to be your favourite story,” Nesta told Feyre. She flipped to the correct page and pressed her finger to the paper. “This one here.”
“I recognise it,” Feyre announced with surprise after a few seconds pause. She squinted in concentration, accessing a memory from long ago. “There was a golden goose and… a growing chain of people. They became stuck.”
“That’s right,” Nesta agreed, the frost in her voice falling away. “Because an innkeeper plucked a feather when Albern wasn’t looking. You always wanted to join the procession.”
Feyre snorted in a way that sounded so like Nesta that when she smiled sheepishly in apology, Nesta only exhaled her own amusement. “I can’t say I’m surprised.”
Nesta closed the book. Held it out to her sister again.
For a while, Feyre flicked through the pages, reading the titles of each story, until Nesta broke the silence. “I should have known you couldn’t read.”
Her sister was too absorbed to look up. “It wasn’t your duty to remember,” she assured Nesta faintly.
As if sensing the conversation was not over, Feyre closed the book. “Father was our guardian, Nesta, not you. The duty fell on him.”
“It was my duty to remember,” Nesta countered firmly. There was a sharp quality to her voice that made Feyre’s head snap up. “Don’t say that my negligence was acceptable when it wasn't. We all knew father was failing in his role as provider of the house. I was the eldest. I should have stepped up.”
Feyre’s eyes widened with a shock so stark it was almost as if Nesta had slapped her.
Surprise speared through Nesta’s gut, but she ignored it. Raised her chin and looked squarely at her sister. “I take responsibility for not looking after you when we were starving. I should have stepped up but I didn’t know how.”
Nesta looked away, unable to weather Feyre’s gaze. Swallowed. Balled her hands into fists and squeezed—until her nails cut into her skin. The pain grounded her. Allowed her to finally admit out loud what she had kept secret for all of these years. “I wanted father to fight for us. I thought if he saw us starve he’d do something. And then when he didn’t do that, I wanted to starve just to spite him. I wanted him to live and die with the knowledge that he killed his daughters and I wanted him to rot for it.”
There was a wrathful fire to Nesta’s admission but Feyre’s surprise had fallen away into an expression that Nesta could only describe as understanding.
“I know,” Feyre admitted aloud. “I know that. And you did try to help us, Nesta—with Tomas.”
Just Feyre saying his name aloud sent a flash of panic through Nesta. Invisible hands gripped and tore at her clothing. Nails raked down her back. Her skin stung.
Nesta tried to focus on the present. On the light in the room. On the frank and open conversation that needed to be had rather than the memory of Tomas’s heavy breathing as he fumbled with the ties of his trousers.
Back in that gloomy, dank cottage, Nesta and Feyre had fought over Tomas. Feyre hadn’t seemed to piece together that Nesta was trying to lighten Feyre’s burden, but somewhere along the way her sister had finally understood. Had Cassian pointed it out to her? Had Elain? Or was it of Feyre’s own volition when she’d seen into Nesta’s memory and witnessed just how terrified Nesta was of being attacked from behind that day at the cave? It was the sort of terror that couldn’t be born from anything but experience.
“That wasn’t brave,” Nesta replied shortly, but she couldn’t meet her sister’s eyes. “It wasn’t facing the woods and what lurked in it day after day.”
In a few strides, Feyre closed the distance between them. She set down the book on the table and reached for Nesta’s hands.
Feyre’s palms were dry like Mas’s. It was no doubt a consequence of scrubbing paint from her skin, but the touch was grounding.
Nesta looked up. Allowed Feyre to search her steel blue eyes without flinching.
“I thought you were being ignorant of what Tomas was, but you knew, didn’t you?” Feyre asked quietly. “You were going to tie yourself to someone abusive just so I had one less mouth to feed.”
Nesta’s expression hardened. She considered floating away but only reset her posture until she was regal and formidable. Not for the first time, Nesta wished she could simply say yes, I tried to help, but the words froze in her throat.
In the end, she managed to force out, “It was all I could do.”
Feyre squeezed Nesta’s fingers. Shook her head slightly, as if the world had tilted on its axis and now granted a different view. Nesta wondered how often Feyre self-analysed their life from before, when everything had been leached of light and hope. “I’m glad I found the wolf in the woods, Nesta. I’m glad it fed us and that it led me beyond the wall, despite all of the hardship. But I am sorry that it made you fae. What happened to you and Elain—I will never forgive myself for it.”
Nesta thought of the males who had snatched her from her bed in nothing but her nightgown. The memory of the King of Hybern’s cruel face, the Cauldron’s icy depth and that ethereal voice. That bead of light that sank into the meat of her palm. The quiet of the stars and the scrape of rock against her skin as she had scrabbled to her feet and turned her face to the night sky.
Nesta flexed one of the curled hands at her side, feeling that pearlescent light—the existence of it. Her power was multifaceted: one side of it burned and the other side sung. It made her strong and resilient. Powerful.
As a human, Nesta had been weak and defenceless—useless, really. And knowing what she could be now… would Nesta really choose to go back to her old body if she had the chance? Could she truly turn her back on this new way of life?
Cassian had asked her about it once. At the time, Nesta hadn’t hesitated to tell him that she wanted to be human again. But what did Nesta truly have in her old life? In Prythian there was freedom and choice and possibility. She could make a difference. Could carve a path for a version of herself that was not full of hatred.
So, whilst her body might be different and odd, Nesta wouldn’t trade her power and the good she could do with it. After all, a human life wasn’t nearly long enough to do everything you set out to accomplish.
Clarity was suddenly crystal clear—a fog lifted in Nesta’s mind.
“I forgive you for it,” Nesta told Feyre abruptly. She levelled her sister with a stare that shone with a sincerity Nesta hadn’t known existed inside of her until that very moment. “I forgive you for all of it.”
Surprise speared through Nesta, the surge of it so fierce that it seeped over her half-built wall and into her bones. It scented of pear and lilac. It was coupled with a sense of overwhelming relief and it threatened to crumple Nesta’s spine—that unwavering pillar of strength.
There was a long silence of simmering disbelief and then something washed out of Feyre on a breath: stark relief and the bubble of joy that came with it in the form of tears.
“And I forgive you,” Feyre said softly, as if she knew Nesta needed to hear those words again. Tears continued to well in the corners of sister’s eyes, but Feyre paid them no heed. Squeezed Nesta’s fingers as one ran down her cheek. Asked, “I want to show you something, Nesta. Will you come with me?”
Nesta studied the sincerity across her sister’s features and stiffly dipped her chin.
Feyre led Nesta by the hand up another flight of stairs, until they were on the top floor of the house.
Together, they walked across the open landing towards a closed oak door.
Her sister plucked a key from her pocket and turned it in the lock.
The door creaked softly and warmth spilled over their skin as it escaped beyond the wood.
Together they stepped over the threshold to find… books. Hundreds of them stacked into the many bookshelves that had been built into the walls; their spines a variety of colours—reds, greens, yellows, browns, blues and the glitter of gold lettering.
To Nesta’s left, interspersed between the bookshelves, were huge floor-to-ceiling windows, divided by muntins into square pieces of glass that showcased the beautiful garden below.
But it was to the left that pulled at Nesta’s attention; where a curved oak staircase with bronze intricate railing swept like the tail of a snake before it straightened to caress the inner wall of the house. It climbed up to what looked like a mezzanine, where Nesta spied the foot of a large bed and the pelt of a fur rug.
Something overtook Nesta and that crafted mask she always wore cracked and withered away until it was nothing but floating dust particles that hung in the air. She floated into the space, her fingers already itching to run over the spines. The room smelt elemental—of old vanilla, woodsmoke and freshly turned earth. Of the fresh promise of snow in the air, which filtered through one of the propped open halves of the arched windows. Nesta almost expected pine to drift in on the breeze, as if Illyria waited outside rather than Velaris.
The room smelt homely. Of wilderness and comfort. Perfect, really.
Without a word, Feyre gently tugged at Nesta’s hand, coaxing her to a snug reading space that sat beneath the mezzanine.
A velvet green couch the colour of The Steppes faced a cosy looking fireplace. And above the hearth… Nesta swallowed. A painting of her: a sword of fire in one hand and white healing light glowing from the soul of her other palm. Her magic illuminated the fierce determination on Nesta’s face—the eyes that smoked silver. At her side, Sala was leaping, her muscles rippling, her tail of flame pointing with intent at a victim beyond the frame. And on Nesta’s other side was Feyre, her hair flying, her sword mid-stroke. Two sisters fighting side-by-side for the same purpose.
But it wasn’t simply a painting—it was Nesta. Who she truly was beneath the bitter, hostile rage that had consumed her before she had stripped herself bare. As if her sister had somehow captured Nesta’s very soul and rendered it true with canvas and paint. Had understood Nesta’s truth, accessing a moment and cataloguing history so it was remembered. It was a legacy and a beginning—a rebirth. Emotion swarmed from Nesta’s heart to her throat, lodging itself there, tears rising to the surface because somehow this was everything.
On each side of the hearth were more paintings. Of Nesta and Elain together at the top of the mountain, Nesta’s legs flung over the edge and Elain holding a blue snowdrop. Of Roksana tucked into the crook of Nesta’s arm as she taught her to read. Of Mas flying.
“Cassian lent me a few images from his memory,” Feyre confessed softly into Nesta’s ear. Feyre pointed to a gold frame. “This one with Roksana and Sala is my favourite.”
It took Nesta a moment to place the memory, but then she remembered. A tear finally spilled down her face but she did not brush it away. It was the first time Roksana had met Sala. Nesta was framing the youngling’s body from behind, her chin tucked atop the girl’s dark tangle of hair. Nesta was wearing a rare smile on her face. It softened her features, made her eyes burnished rather than sharp.
It had been moments before the youngling had squirmed out of Nesta’s grasp and buried her face in Sala’s ruff. Nesta remembered how they had all laughed. How Cassian’s deep rumble had vibrated through the room—the sound an underlying, accompanying sound to the a higher pitched melody—but Roksana had not flinched or scrambled to hide.
Nesta moved on to the paintings to the right of the hearth. She spied the white crumbling arches of Kamanam amidst the churning sea. There was the snow-capped mountain where Cassian had told Nesta about pareho: where a waterfall spilled down the staggered rocky staircase of the cliff face.
And then Nesta was staring at the last canvas. It was slightly smaller and didn’t use oil paint like the others. Nesta wanted to say that Feyre had used watercolour, but there was something more opaque to the colour… something more concrete. Yet, it still created the illusion of something soft and precious—peaceful: three sisters curled up together on a fur rug, exhaustion clear on their dirty faces even in sleep.
Is that what it had gotten to with her sisters, Nesta wondered? That they could only get along when they were absent from the world?
“I had this one in my own collection,” Feyre murmured from behind Nesta. “I think it’s the first time we all shared a bed without fighting for space.”
“That’s because Elain wasn’t dead,” Nesta stated simply.
“Yes,” Feyre admitted frankly. “Elain used to be the only common tie between you and I. It’s what made us work together even when we didn’t want to.”
Her sister was not wrong, but Nesta couldn’t find the words to agree. So, all she asked was, “And now?”
“Elain doesn’t need us to protect her and that tie between us is gone,” Feyre shrugged. She looked conflicted and… sad. “It’s nice to be able to live,” she admitted. “To not think about how we’re going to survive and how we’re going to ensure her safety. But if it wasn’t for my duties, I’d be a little… lost.”
And was ‘lost’ not exactly what Nesta had been? Floating with no purpose, drowning willingly in the ill omen of trauma because she had once again failed to protect and fight for what mattered.
“I understand,” Nesta responded before she could think too hard on it. Thought instead of how abandoned she had felt by Elain who chosen Feyre and left Nesta to struggle alone. How Elain had not fought for Nesta to be well, even after Nesta would have given everything for her sister’s safety, even if that had meant a life of abuse in the hands of Tomas Mandray.
In a way, Nesta had always been a guardian: a fearsome, fire-breathing dragon. Not a sister, but now… she could be, if she wanted.
Is that how Feyre felt? Always the parent and never the sibling?
“I know you are carving out your own life and I don’t begrudge you for that,” Feyre said, her voice pillowy and… apprehensive, as if she was worried how Nesta might react. “But I wanted you to know you will always have a room here if you need somewhere to stay. Or if you simply want to visit. You are always welcome.”
“And your mate?”
“Is stubbornly protective,” Feyre scowled. “But he has admitted his prejudices have been proved wrong. You will always be welcome here—by both of us. I can promise you that.”
Nesta thought of this morning. Of how Rhys had looked at her with respect rather than disdain.
They were both trying. Nesta supposed that was all that mattered.
“Elain and I thought you’d feel most at home surrounded by books,” Feyre continued. A sheepish smile graced her face. “I asked your friend Emerie for some recommendations, so I hope you like them.”
Nesta huffed a breath. She and the female Illyrian had become closer in recent weeks, always partnering up during training sessions at dawn. Emerie had a dry quick wit about her that complimented the thornier side of Nesta’s personality, but the two of them also bonded over books. It had not become unusual for Cassian to find Nesta in Emerie’s shop when dusk bled into the sky, sitting behind the counter with a steaming mug or chai as they discussed their latest read.
“Up the stairs is a bedroom,” Feyre added, waving a slim hand to the curved staircase that climbed to the mezzanine platform built into the roof. When Nesta looked up, she spied thick oak rafters and endless windows. “It has an amazing view of the Sidra,” Feyre confessed. “I had the windows enchanted so they will block out the light when you sleep.”
Nesta wondered who had told Feyre that she loved a good view. Perhaps her sister had studied her, or maybe Cassian had mentioned their night time excursions.
Fingers caught at hers and Nesta turned to find Feyre’s eyes shining with… worry. Her sister caught her lip between her teeth. Gnawed on it nervously before she released it.
“Do you like it?”
“I—“ Nesta started. Because this room was… perfect. It had been tailored for her even when Nesta had expressly pushed her sisters away. Nesta swallowed back the lump in her throat, but her voice was rough as she said, “It’s lovely.”
She turned back to the painting of her and Feyre above the hearth. Stared and stared at the person she had become—the girl she had forged anew from rage, remorse, trauma and introspection.
Nesta had been a troubled, bitter human who had been turned against her will into an even more vengeful fae. Yet… Nesta had fought. She had bled and screamed as she clawed at oil slick waters and grabbed handfuls of power. She had made decisions to do things that were wholly good. Had allowed silver to become white as she knitted back tendons and sinew. Had saved lives and punished those who deserved vengeance.
Blindly, Nesta reached for Feyre’s spare hand. Squeezed it hard. And finally facing who she had been to her sisters, and who she was now, allowed that leash on her tears to truly fall away.
A sound came from behind them—slippered footsteps—and a few moments later, Elain rushed into the room in a breeze of jasmine and honey.
“Oh, you are here,” she exclaimed. Her cheeks were flushed pink from climbing the steep stairs. “Cassian says it’s time to go—”
She broke off as she studied Nesta’s wet face. Then Feyre’s. “Do you like it?” Elain asked softly. “We tried to get it right—”
“I do,” Nesta assured Elain. She let go of one of Feyre’s hands and reached for Elain’s instead. Elain grasped onto Nesta. Took Feyre’s other hand until they were all linked together; bound by blood and duty but also with love.
“I do like it,” Nesta repeated. Looked pointedly into her sisters eyes so they saw the sincerity shining there. “Thank you.”
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nehemikkele · a day ago
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Hybern's Edge - Chapter 3
1 Year and 3 days after Nesta’s marriage to Eris.
They were celebrating in a small dining room in the Forest House. The one year anniversary of Beron’s death, well more like his assassination. The last year had gone swimmingly well, at least politically in Nesta’s eyes.
As the conversation flowed she recalled that after Morrigan had departed she had felt more confident when the Lady of the Autumn Court had looked her in the eye and whispered, “We will protect you. Trust us.” That was well founded when two days later Beron had died in a mysterious hunting accident.
One of the hunting party had sworn he had seen wings and shadows after Beron had chased off unaccompanied seeking a 14 point stag. He was found with a broken neck, evidently having fallen off his horse in his eagerness. Nobody wanted to investigate too much, particularly as Eris and his beautiful new wife seemed to provide a new beacon of light for the Court.
Nesta realised that the Rhys’ bargain with Eris had been completed and that was that.
The hunting party had forlornly returned to the Forest House awaiting their fate as to what the Vanserra family would do. With only the clopping sound of their horses’ hooves they rode into the courtyard and asked a sentry to fetch Lady Adalya.
One look at her husband’s dead body was enough to send her heart leaping, but as always she kept a cool and haughty look. “Tell Eris to meet in the Great Hall in five minutes.” The command was peremptory and not to be disobeyed. She floated off to the Great Hall after giving instructions for Beron’s body to be taken to the Vanserra mausoleum and immediately interred.
“Mother, is it true?” Eris was breathless after sprinting his way to the rendezvous, Nesta not far behind him. “It is, my son. No time to waste, take the throne now!” There was no refusing her tone and he gave a quick glance to Nesta to receive her affirming nod while she strode up the dais to stand at Eris’ right shoulder. Adalya joined them both on the left side of the throne.
Adalya called over to a page, “Summon the Court. Well, whichever members are currently in the city. Summon my other sons last.” The page scurried off with alacrity seeking aid from other members of the nobles’ servant class which made the ranks of the pages.
Eris looked up at firstly his mother who gave him a tight smile and then to Nesta who was gazing at him with wide eyes. “Hold my hand, Nesta.” His voice was quiet, yet powerful. Not commanding, not to her. She was his equal in all things, if not better in many. She took his offered hand with hers. Let them see, she thought, let them see we are a full partnership in Autumn.
The thoughts of a golden eyed Illyrian intruded again. Mate, mate, mate! The bond sang to her. For the third time that day she pushed it away. What did he say that morning after she got married?
‘We started the cycle, and now you perpetuate it. One thing I am sure of is that there is much more pain coming for both of us because of this.’
Maybe I should reject the bond sooner rather than later. If it’s going to keep coming back to haunt me I won’t be able to concentrate on improving the Autumn Court with my husband.
A squeeze on her hand brought her back to the present, Eris had seen her frowning and becoming more distant and acted in the right way to get her attention. Nesta needed to be focused as the Court members started filing into the Great Hall to understand what it meant with the three fae on the dais.
Soon enough the hall was half full with the remainder of Eris’ brothers, excepting Lucien, finally pushing their way to the front.
“What is the meaning of this?” Ciaran, the next oldest brother, had snarled out. “Our father is hardly cold and you’ve seized the throne?”
Adalya began to speak, but then remembered Eris was in charge. “Dearest brother, our father abhorred weakness. You know that well enough.” You torturing, murderous bastard. But what choice did any of us have to survive? Become like him or flee with nothing. “Therefore as eldest, and strongest, the throne is mine. Accept it or be exiled. If you accept I will reward you as long as you follow my way in how Autumn will be reformed. By us.” The last was said with a look towards Nesta. Not for the first time he wished he could use the bond to communicate wordlessly to his wife.
“The silver witch? You’re not serious, Eris!” The contempt was evident in Ciaran’s voice.
“Be very careful how you speak to my Consort, brother mine. Be very very careful.” Eris’ face was neutral but the voice carried a menace with it.
“Because of what you might do to me? Your own flesh and blood.” Eris could smell the malice, mixed in with….fear?
“No, because of what she might do to you.” This time Eris just smirked mirthlessly. At this cue Nesta let the silver flames rise in her eyes and silver mists rippled round her hands. Mists and shadows scared most living beings if used right, that she had learnt from observing Azriel on different occasions.
The entire Court drew back involuntarily. The power of Eris’ traditional fire and his wife’s ethereal Cauldron-taken power was too formidable for any to take on. It was a done deal and as one the Court bowed to the couple.
Eris drew himself up to his full height, bent down to whisper into Nesta’s ear, “Thank you my wife. We shall do great things together in Autumn. You and I, together.” Her body warmed, here she could make a difference and not be locked away to be moulded by others. This was freedom away from her mother’s and the Night Court’s vision. Mate, mate, mate. Nesta savagely buried that thought.
The High Lord of the Autumn Court addressed the assembly, “Today begins a new era in Autumn. No fae will face pain and fear from their rulers. We will mend relations with our neighbours. We will build and become better. From being better we will become stronger. This is the new truth of Autumn.”
He switched his gaze to his brothers. “As a reward for your continuing loyalty, we will discuss with you your new roles as regional governors and Emissaries to other Courts. Additionally, advantageous marriages which will suit you, rather than be ordered to you. It will be a conversation not an imposition.” He looked at their mother who smiled, but Eris knew the emotion that was ripping through her. He knew it only too well. No, too early for those feelings. Eris’ own emotions were pushed down hard.
The brothers bowed to Eris, and then fairly intelligently repeated the gesture to Nesta and their mother.
“We will reconvene tomorrow after the noon hour meal, where we will issue the first edicts of our Court.” With that Eris took his wife’s hand and strode from the Great Hall with the Dowager Lady of Autumn following slightly behind. The assembled courtiers parted for them, bowing again.
Yes, thought Nesta, I think this new life is for me. A shared look behind Eris with Adalya confirmed both females were thinking the same thing.
---------------------------
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tacmc · 26 days ago
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Wedding Pie {Elriel}
Naked Texts & Pie #4
Warning: nsfw. 18+. Dom/sub. Y’all asked for daddy!Az....You ask, we grant.
Written alongside @snelbz <3
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Azriel pulled on the navy pants he’d be wearing as a groomsman. They were tight, far tighter than he preferred, but it wasn’t his day and Feyre didn’t give a damn about his discomfort.
He was wearing the pants.
The door to the groomsmen’s dressing room burst open and Cassian swept in, already dressed. “The groom needs a drink.”
“Already?” Azriel snorted. “It’s not even noon.”
He shrugged, opening up the mini fridge beneath the bar on the far wall. “What Rhys wants, he gets, and right now the man wants shots. When you’re done getting dressed you’re required to come get that messy mop on the top of your head fixed.”
With that, he was gone.
Azriel looked in the mirror.
He supposed his hair was a little wild.
It wouldn’t hurt it to be tamed.
He’d just finished buttoning up his shirt as his phone chimed from somewhere in his backpack.
He dug through his bag, thinking through the rest of his day and decided he might join Rhys in a shot as he stood up, his phone in his hand.
He saw a new message from Elain, swiping across the screen, before setting the phone down and continuing to search through his backpack for his belt. He didn’t pay attention to his phone as he buckled his belt, but glanced at it as adjusted his tie.
He froze.
It was a picture of her, a selfie of her reflection in the mirror. Her makeup was pristine, her long, brown hair in ringlets. 
She had yet to put her dress on. 
In fact, all she had managed to put on were the white, lacy boyshorts she wore.
It was a very similar situation to the one that had happened, purely by accident, nearly two years before.
Azriel cleared his throat. “Seriously?” He muttered. “Why am I always the one you accidentally send nudes to?” 
He wasn’t complaining, no matter how much it sounded like he was. 
Before he could muster up a reply, Cassian poked his head in, again. “Come on, man. Hair. Pictures. We’re on a schedule here.”
He looked up at him and nodded, clearing his throat again. “Be right there. Just…give me a minute.”
Cassian held up a hand and tapped his wrist. “Tick tock, let’s go.” He was gone again a second later.
Looking back down at his phone, Azriel stared at the picture again.
It wasn’t like he’d forgotten what that first accidental photo looked like. No, it was still vivid in his imagination, something he still thought of often, even though that picture had been deleted long ago.
He really did try not to stare at her bare breasts, toned stomach and long legs, but damn, was it nearly impossible. He didn’t miss the nearly full glass sitting on the counter and he sighed.
She must be drunk. There was no telling how many mimosas she’d had, since the girls had been getting ready for nearly three hours longer than they had.
So, once again, it had been an accident. He wasn’t meant to be the recipient of that picture. He decided not to reply, tossing his phone back into his bag, but just because it wasn’t meant for him, it didn’t mean it didn’t affect him.
After a deep breath and trying to think of cold showers, sick puppies and old women, Azriel adjusted himself as best he could in the damn tight pants Feyre had stuck him in, and went to find Rhys.
He could definitely use one of those shots.
-
Azriel hated pictures.
And there he had been, taking a million of them. Once the bridal party had come together and the groomsmen took their pictures with the bridesmaids, he and Elain kept their distance, even though he kept catching her looking at him.
She kept giving him looks.
He gave them right back to her.
But they carried on, doing their duties in the whirlwind that was Feyre and Rhysand’s wedding day.
He had been right, though.
She was definitely tipsy.
He could tell by how giggly she was. 
Before they knew it, the ceremony was beginning and Azriel and Elain were lined up behind the set of double doors with the others, preparing to make their entrance. 
She looped her arm through his and leaned over against him, whispering, “Did you get my gift this morning?”
Azriel arched a brow, looking down at her. “What gift?”
“Check your phone,” she said, simply.
He blinked, unsure of exactly what she was implying, but before he could ask anything more the doors were opening and the music began.
That was their queue.
Maybe it made him a shitty friend, but Azriel didn’t remember a damn thing from Rhys and Feyre’s vows. He was sure it was a lot of the same, generic things that were in all vows, but he was so focused on trying to think of what else she’d sent him that morning. Maybe there was a text she’d sent him before she’d accidentally sent the picture, and he’d missed it because he’d been so caught up looking at her tits.
At one point, he glanced over at her during the ceremony, and though she’d been watching Rhys and Feyre with a happy smile on her face, as soon as his eyes fell on her, she met his gaze. The smallest of smirks graced her pink-painted lips, and she winked at him, going back to watching the happy couple.
He blinked a few times, wondering if he’d seen her correctly, but every time he’d glance her way, she was watching him with that knowing smile on her face.
Either she had sent him that picture on purpose or he was completely losing his mind.
Once the ceremony was finished, it was time for the reception, and Azriel was swept away with the bridal party.
Elain stayed close to the bridesmaids, although those little looks continued.
He needed to get her alone.
Had to ask what the hell was going on.
When Rhysand pulled Feyre onto the floor for the first dance, Azriel looked for her, but she was nowhere to be found. 
The DJ announced that food would soon be served, but Azriel couldn’t eat, not until he talked to Elain.
When he couldn’t find her, he settled on a drink, approaching the bar for a Jack and Coke.
Cassian’s hand landed on his shoulder. “Just think,” he said, indicating he wanted the same to the bartender. “We get to do this all over again when Nesta and I get married.”
Azriel took a drink and glanced over at him. “You and Nesta aren’t engaged. You aren’t even dating, she hates you.”
“She only thinks she hates me,” he replied, nodding his thanks to the bartender and dropping a few dollars in the tip jar. “She actually loves me and our wedding is going to be a massive party. Just wait.”
Azriel rolled his eyes and he and Cassian headed back to their table. He asked, “Have you seen Elain anywhere?”
“Pretty sure I saw her and Nesta heading towards the room they got ready in. Something about changing shoes, before the dancing starts.”
Azriel nodded and headed that direction. Outside of the main hall was quiet, with little to no one to be seen in the hallways.
After hauling ass up a flight of stairs, he was slowing down in front of a heavily decorated door that read bride.
He raised his fist and knocked.
The door swung open, but it wasn’t Elain that he was met with, but Nesta.
After letting out a disappointed sigh, he asked, “Where’s Lainy?”
Nesta crossed her arms. “Not happy to see me?”
Azriel blinked. “Do you really want me to answer that question?”
Nesta rolled her eyes and slipped past him, shutting the door behind her. “Elain left a minute ago. I think she went to check on her pies.”
Of course. She had been the one to make the pies for the dessert table.
He sighed. She was going to be busy for a few minutes, making sure that everything was just right. He knew her and her perfectionist tendencies too well. Knocking back the rest of his drink, Azriel hurried down the hall to the room they’d gotten ready in. He ditched his suit jacket and dug through his backpack, retrieving his phone. He knew he was alone, but it still didn’t stop him from glancing around to make sure no one else could see the screen before he unlocked the phone and opened his text thread from Elain.
He ignored the image of her perfect body, scrolling up to ensure he hadn’t missed anything else from her.
Sure enough, he was right. Before she’d sent him the picture, the last text had been from the night before, when she’d asked him to bring a few emergency items to the venue they may need.
He knew he shouldn’t, knew he should delete the picture, just like he’d done the last one, like she’d asked. But until she confirmed that he wasn’t supposed to have it, he was going to keep it.
And he was going to take one more good look at it before he went back down to the party in the main room.
-
Elain took one good look at her pies and decided they were completely perfect before going out into the main room.
She looked around for Azriel but didn’t see him anywhere. So far, he hadn’t given her any indication that he had seen her picture, which only made her anxious.
Or, even worse, maybe he had seen it and didn’t like it.
She had wanted to make a move with Azriel for years, had been waiting for him to make a move with her for years, but nothing had ever happened.
Just do it. Get it all out there. You’ll never know unless you try. Those were the words of wisdom from a tipsy Mor that morning, and she had been right.
It was time.
She decided a picture would be a cute, seductive callback to the incident years before, when she had accidentally sexted him.
Now she was rethinking that decision. 
“Care to dance?”
Elain spun around as a slow song began, finding Azriel standing behind her, one hand outstretched toward her.
She tried to put that carefree smile back on her face, but there wasn’t near as much champagne in her system as there had been during the ceremony. Not to mention, she’d spent the last half hour making sure the caterers knew exactly how everything was supposed to be set and served. She wanted Rhys and Feyre’s wedding day to be perfect, and she would not let her pies be the cause of something going wrong.
“Of course,” she said, taking his hand and letting him lead her onto the dance floor.
Rhysand and Feyre were, of course, lost in each other’s eyes where they danced in the middle of the floor and there were quite a few other couples swaying gently to the slow beat.
“You look beautiful tonight,” he said into her ear as he settled a hand on her lower back.
“Thank you,” she replied, looking up at him. “You look pretty good yourself.”
He smiled at her and they fell into a comfortable silence as they danced. Or, at least, Elain thought it was comfortable until she felt a charge in the air around them.
“So,” Azriel whispered, his breath warming her ear. “I think you may have accidentally sent me another picture earlier.”
Elain hesitated, but then she told her confidence to kick it into gear. It was now or never.
“Who said it was an accident?” She replied, quietly.
Azriel pulled back, just slightly, and met her eyes. “You’re telling me that it wasn’t?” 
Elain’s eyes remained on his as she slowly shook her head. “No, it wasn’t.” 
Azriel’s throat bobbed, and he pulled her close. Whispering in her ear once again, he asked, “So, then, why was I blessed with such a gift?”
Elain’s heart was nearly pounding out of her chest, but her voice remained quiet as she said, “Because I’m tired of pretending that I don’t have feelings for you. I want you to see me….like that.”
“Like what?” He breathed.
She shrugged as they swayed back and forth. “Sexy.”
Azriel huffed a laugh, and shook his head slowly. “Elain, I’ve always seen you like that.”
She pulled back again, needing to see his face. “Then why haven’t you ever done anything about it?”
His head tilted to the side slightly. “Because you’re my best friend, El.”
She opened her mouth to reply, but he went on.
“Because I’m terrified to ruin what we have by making the wrong call and making a move on you. But mostly because last time, you baked me an apology pie so I’d forget the entire situation even happened.”
Mentally, Elain was smacking herself. That made sense. Physically, she let him lead her through the dance, eyes on him.
But Azriel lowered his mouth to her ear, and confessed, his breath warming her skin, “But I’ve never forgotten about it. Not for a single second. I still see that picture every time I close my eyes, even though I deleted it, just like you asked me to. I can still see every detail of it, like it was yesterday.”
Goosebumps had broken out over Elain’s body and her breathing had gone slightly ragged. Their bodies were pressed flush to each other, no room left between them.
“And the picture from this morning?” She asked, voice shaking.
“Haven’t been able to concentrate because it’s all I can think about,” he swore, and Elain realized that their dancing had slowed to nearly nothing, and they were just standing pressed together in the middle of the dance floor.
Elain took a deep, unsteady breath. “I need some air. Care to join me?”
“Of course,” he replied, without any hesitation. 
She took his hand and instead of leading him outside, she led him towards the side of the room that led to the hallways beyond.
They said nothing as she pulled him along, passing the rooms where they had both gotten ready, heading for a room at the end of the hall, where Feyre had had a few minutes to herself before the ceremony. She wondered if he could hear her breathing, which was becoming quicker and heavier with every step they took closer to that door. Slipping inside, she let Azriel in, the only light coming from the setting sun outside the windows.
Leaning back against the door, she looked up at him.
“Good place to get some air,” he said, voice quiet.
“I thought so,” she replied. “Too many people on the back deck.”
“I agree.” He took a step towards her. “So…about that picture?”
Elain reached for him, grabbing his crisp white shirt and crashing her lips against his. He reacted immediately, one arm wrapping around her waist, pulling her as close to him as he could, while his other hand dove into her hair.
Elain moaned quietly against his mouth, which made Azriel melt into her even further. 
The kiss was full of hunger, an image of two people making up for lost time. She clung to him, to the firm muscles beneath his thin button down. She had imagined countless times through the years what this moment would feel like, but none of them compared to the real thing.
It was magical.
Elain wanted Azriel like she had never wanted anything or anyone else. 
Judging by the way his hands swept down the back of her dress and cupped her ass, Elain only assumed that he felt the same way. 
Azriel was the one to break the kiss, even though his hands remained where they were as he met her eyes, his forehead pressed against hers.
“If you want me to stop, tell me when to stop and I will,” he whispered. “But, I know what I want to do with you, and it doesn’t involve stopping.”
Elain slowly shook her head as she began unbuttoning his shirt, slowly, one button at a time. “Don’t stop.”
She wasn’t going to delude herself, she knew exactly where this was leading, and she wanted it to end exactly where he did. There wasn’t a single bed in this place, but there was a couch across the room. And that couch was where she wanted this to end. 
Elain was nearly whimpering as he ground his hips into hers, feeling him, and dying to see what was straining behind his pants. Those pants were magical, she’d spent far longer staring at his ass today than she’d like to admit.
He tore his mouth from her lips, his forehead resting against hers, and breathed, “What do you want, Elain?”
“I want you,” she replied, her voice coming out in a breathy moan.
“In what way?” He asked, nibbling on her jaw. Against her skin, he said, “Tell me what you want.”
“I want you to see me, all of me. And I want to see all of you. I want to make you feel good,” she breathed, her eyes fluttering shut as his lips closed around a spot just below her ear that drove her wild.
“And what is it you want from me?” He asked, words muffled against her skin.
Elains eyes slowly opened as she released the last button of his shirt and ran her fingers slowly down his abdomen. “I want you inside of me.”
The noise that left Azriel was purely primal, as if he had waited years to hear those words and was finally released from his own personal version of hell.
Azriel pulled back and yanked off his shirt, tossing it aside. She admired his tattoos and longed to trail her lips over every line and swirl. 
“Take off your dress,” he ordered.
Azriel was not one to state blatantly what he wanted, but now as he ordered her to strip, butterflies grew in the pit of Elains stomach.
She liked that tone.
With her chin lifted high she slowly shimmied out of her gown, starting with the thin straps and slipping it down. Once it fell past her bare breasts, Azriel licked his lips, and when it reached the floor, his chest was rising and falling in slow, heavy motions. 
She was wearing nothing but her own skin and the thin white boy shorts she’d sent him the picture of earlier.
“Gods, these breasts,” he whispered, and the words were so quiet that Elain wondered if he even meant to voice them out loud. One of his hands gripped her hip, pulling her to him and the other raised. He circled a peaked nipple with his knuckle. “The thoughts I’ve had about these breasts.”
Elain was fairly sure she wasn’t breathing, not as his hand covered her breast and he ran a thumb over her nipple, back and forth. Something was building inside of her, from just having his hands on her and she closed her eyes and let her head fall back.
And then a warm, soft wetness closed around her other nipple and Elain whimpered as she looked down at where Azriel’s mouth was on her. His eyes were closed and he pinched and squeezed her other breast, and she thought she may combust at the sight. Her hand wove into his hair and his eyes opened, meeting hers. Pulling his lips away, he flicked his tongue over her nipple before closing his teeth over it.
The moan that fell from Elain was loud enough that anyone in the hallway could have heard. And she couldn’t bring herself to care.
There was a certain roughness to him that Elain didn’t realize existed. He was articulate in the way his fingers pinched, the way his tongue moved, and she realized that he sure as hell knew what he was doing. 
Which meant that Elain was about to be in for one hell of a ride.
Her fingers dove into his hair, completely messing it up, but he didn’t seem to mind as his teeth once again grazed her nipple.
She breathed his name, and his free hand swept to the band of her panties, which he was slowly inching down.
She didn’t stop him, wanted him to move faster, but after he’d slipped them down just a bit, he moved them no further, instead letting his fingers dance along the inside of her thigh. Up and down, he skimmed, going higher and higher each time, but never touching where she needed him. As they slipped down to her thighs, Azriel leaned back, sure that he would get the full reveal. 
He was teasing her and she’d enjoy it in any other situation, but gods, she needed him. Needed him to touch her.
“Azriel, please,” she groaned, as his fingers just barely grazed her sex, before brushing back down her thigh.
He froze, his fingers stopping entirely, the lavish kisses and licks on her nipple halting, too. His mouth left her breast, and his lips were by her ear a second later, his other hand tugging her head back by her hair. “Please, what?” He asked, those fingers gently brushing over her clit.
She shuddered at the touch, whimpering. “Please touch me,” Elain moaned, pressing her hips forward to further prove her point.
He could feel how warm she was, how wet she was, just for him, and he obliged her. “Since you said please, like such a good girl…”
He slid a finger between her folds, her slick heat coating him, welcoming him, and slipped a finger inside her.
A whimper fell from her lips, her nerves already on edge. She edged her hips forward, allowing him better access between her thighs.
She snuck a glance down at his hand, his long fingers disappearing inside of her, then at his pants, at the perfect outline of his hardened cock.
It was magnificent.
She wanted to see it.
He slid his fingers out of her before pushing them back in in one, quick motion.
“See something you like?” He asked, voice low.
Oh, she saw many things she liked.
When he began steadily pumping his finger inside of her, she said, “I want- I want to see you.”
He slid a second finger inside of her and took her chin in his other hand to make sure their eyes stayed connected when he breathed, “And how do we ask?”
“Please,” she gasped, gripping his shoulders as he moved in her. “I want to see your cock. Please.”
The smile on his face was purely male, satisfied, and the last thing she expected from him. This dominating side of Azriel, it was the last thing she ever expected, but gods, did she love it.
“You can see my cock after you come,” he said, leaning down and skimming his nose against hers.
She nodded, well on her way to said orgasm. 
Elain couldn’t remember the last time a man had made her come. She had become satisfyingly familiar with her vibrator over the last few years, after she and Grayson had broken up.
She hadn’t been with a man since then, and he had been her first.
Elain had plenty of fantasies throughout the years, though. She certainly wasn’t a saint, and had imagined herself in the arms of the man before her, in bed, on the floor, on her knees before him… She’d imagined it all.
And the thought alone that it was finally happening had her already preparing to combust.
“So wet,” Azriel murmured, biting her neck. Elain moaned, and it only grew louder when a third finger entered her body.
His thumb began to circle her clit, harder and faster with each pass, and the shuddering gasp she drew in as she clutched Azriel’s shoulders was the only sign of her impending release.
He wrapped an arm around her waist and held her up as she came on his hand, her legs giving out.
“Good girl,” he cooed in her ear, as she shook, his fingers still pumping in and out, drawing every last thread of her orgasm out of her.
Elain was floating on air.
Her entire body felt light, free, unraveled. It was euphoric.
Azriel held onto her until her body went slack, and her breathing began to even. The moment her feet hit the floor, she looked up at him through her long, dark lashes, and asked, “My reward, please?”
His grin widened, undoubtedly because she used her manners. 
Azriel let go of her and stepped back, biting his bottom lip as he observed her, post-orgasm, love-drunk, lust-drunk before him.
“Are you doing me the honor or do I have to do it myself?” he asked, brow raised, now a few feet away.
“Do it yourself,” she said, finding a dominant tone of her own. “I don’t want to miss an inch.”
He smirked and took her hand, crossing the room. He sat down on the couch in front of the window, tugging her down beside him. The second she sat down, she was very nearly crawling into his lap, her lips finding his again.
He gripped her chin and pushed her away.
“No ma’am,” he said, leaning back against the couch and unbuckling his belt. He didn’t think she was breathing, as he pulled it free from his belt loops and tossed it across the room, with her dress. He popped the button free and glanced up at her face, smirking when he saw her eyes we utterly fixated on what his hands were doing.
Pulling down the zipper, Azriel lifted his hips, slipping his pants and boxer-briefs down in one motion.
Elain’s eyes widened and he took satisfaction in the look on her face. He stroked himself a few times, watching the ragged rise and fall of her chest.
“Do you want to touch me?” He asked, leaning in and kissing her shoulder.
She nodded.
His fingers found her face, making her look at him, and he asked, “I said, do you want to touch me?”
Letting out a shaking breath, she whispered, “Yes, please.”
In response, Azriel’s hands fell away and rested beside him on both sides of the sofa. Elain took her sweet time standing up, and she could feel Azriel’s eyes following her, burning into her, as she rose, and stood in front of him. 
Those hazel eyes left hers and trailed down, across her plump, parted lips, down her breasts, her torso, her pretty pink sex, where his eyes remained before making their way back up. 
It was then that Elain fell to her knees before him and took his cock into her delicate hands. Azriel’s breathing halted and his jaw locked the second she made contact.
He was so hard, so ready, and Elain felt proud that it was her that made him react so beautifully. After running her thumb over the head, she pumped her hands down to the hilt, feeling every solid inch of him. Azriel didn’t move, he simply watched, perfectly still. 
“How would you like me to pleasure you?” Elain asked, quietly. “With my hands?” She pumped again, slowly. “Or, with my mouth?” Azriel breathed in as Elain leaned forward and brushed her tongue across the tip of his cock. 
Azriel let out a long, slow, raggedy breath, and took Elain’s hair into his hand and pulled her head back, so that she was looking up at him. 
“Mouth,” he said, and pulled her hair back a little harder. Elain gasped, and gripped his cock tighter. “And touch yourself while you suck me dry. I want you ready.”
There was no need to tell him that she was already ready, that she didn’t need the extra push, but as her pussy throbbed between her thighs, begging to be touched, she sure as hell didn’t complain. She started slow, wanting him to enjoy every second of having her on her knees before him. She circled the head with her tongue, gazing up at him the whole time, and gently stroked him before wrapping her lips around him. She took a little more of him in with every bob of her head, her hand still working him in time with her mouth.
Elain’s own hand slid between her legs, and she didn’t try to hide her quiet moan as her fingers found her clit.
The sound and feel of that moan had Azriel’s hand tightening in her hair, almost to the point of pain, but gods, she loved it. Her eyes fell closed as she squeezed his cock tighter, took more of him in her mouth and pushed two fingers inside herself.
“Do you have any idea how beautiful you look like this?” He asked, brushing a thumb over her hollowed out cheek. “On your knees, touching yourself, with my cock in your mouth?”
Pulling him free of her mouth, she gripped him and stroked him slowly. “How many times have you imagined this?”
He leaned forward and captured her lips in a searing kiss. “More times than I care to admit.” Pulling back, he led her mouth back to his erection. “I didn’t tell you to stop.”
There were no protests from Elain. Her mouth wrapped around him, once again, and she fell back into her rhythm. She moved quickly, bobbing up and down his cock, her finger moving circles against her clit. 
Azriel swore, one foul word, and it lit a fire beneath Elain. Her body began to tense at the rising sensation within her, and she begged her mouth not to stop. 
But Azriel’s hand pulled her head back, and she met his eyes, wild and crazed. 
“I need to be inside of you,” he said, swallowing harshly. “Now.”
Elain’s knees weakened at the demand, but she needed it, too, had needed it for far too long. Elain began to rise, but Azriel moved quicker. He leaned toward her, hitting the floor on his knees and pushing Elain back onto the rug.
He covered her body with his and kissed her with a passion greater than anyone had ever kissed her before.
Elain spread her legs for him, and he settled on his knees between them before taking Elain by the hips and pulling her closer to him, positioning her just right at the head of his cock.
“Ready?” He asked, quietly.
Elain nodded, unable to control her breathing.
“And what do we say when we’re ready?” He asked, his voice low, a growl lacing his tone.
“Yes, I’m ready,” she moaned, her head falling back against the rug. “Please, daddy, I need you.”
Something in him snapped at that. He was far from gentle, pushing into her all the way to the hilt, filling her in one long thrust.
She cried out, eyes screwed shut in pleasure, and her hands found his back. Azriel groaned quietly, loving the feeling of her nails dragging down his skin, and the way she felt wrapped around him.
One hand was planted next to her head and the other found her chin, making her look at him. “Eyes on me,” he grunted, pulling back and snapping his hips back into hers. “Do you understand?”
She moaned, but did as she was told, keeping her eyes locked on his.
Azriel pulled out, and fell back into her, over and over again, their eyes remaining locked on one another’s as he did so. Elain’s legs wrapped around his waist as her ass lifted off the rug, only to get as close to him as possible.
“How does that feel?” He asked, snapping his hips into hers, once more.
“Good,” she breathed. “So- so good.”
Azriel took her by the hips and pulled her into him, forcing her to cry out, yet again.
He continued that, over and over again, thriving on her moans and cries, not caring that anyone who walked by would surely hear. 
When Elain’s knees began to shake, Azriel began to moan, and the sound alone made Elain unable to control herself.
His name was like a prayer on her lips, reverent and sweet as she chanted it over and over and over. It was the greatest sound he’d ever heard and he wanted to hear it for the rest of his life.
“Are you close?” He asked, not slowing his pace.
She nodded, eyes wide and frantic. “Yes, sir.”
He felt a sense of immense satisfaction that he didn’t have to ask her to answer out loud, that she remembered. “Do you want to come?”
“Please,” she groaned. “God, yes, please.”
“Not yet,” he breathed, leaning down to brush a kiss to her forehead. “Hold on just a minute for me.”
Elain whimpered, and he could feel her walls tightening around him. She was close and having to physically restrain herself from her the wave of release threatening to crash over her.
“Not yet,” he repeated, flicking a finger over her nipple.
Elain cried out, and he knew full well that she couldn’t hold on much longer.
Then again, neither could he.
As he continued, gripping her ass so hard it would surely leave marks, a sound left his mouth that he could no longer contain. 
He pounded into her, relentlessly, and from the way she screamed out, he knew her release was coming.
“Fuck,” he moaned. “Come. Come for me, baby.”
Her release barreled through her and she came around him.
Azriel swore as he started to slow, his movements becoming less fluid and more ragged. Elain watched, her breathing hard as she came down from her climax.
With one final groan, Azriel pushed into her one last time, his eyes nearly rolling back into his head.
He grunted as he came, burying his face in her neck, and Elain’s hands gently caressed his back as he spilled inside of her. He quietly breathed her name, the aftershocks of his orgasm rocking through him.
Her hands kept smoothing over his skin as his breathing returned to normal and after a moment, he lifted his head to look at her.
“I thought I was supposed to keep my eyes on you,” she whispered, brushing his loose, messy hair out of his eyes. “How can I do that with your face in my neck?”
He smirked, leaning down to press a kiss to her lips. “Couldn’t help it. You felt too damn good.”
She rolled her eyes, kissing him again. He asked, “Are you okay? I wasn’t too rough?”
Elain couldn’t help but huff a laugh. “I liked the roughness.”
Azriel’s’s grin widened. “Yeah?”
She nodded, and pulled on the back of his head, bringing their lips together. 
“I’ve wanted to do that for so long,” he muttered, against her mouth. “So, so long.”
“Me too,” she promised, and kissed him again.
She didn’t think she would ever tire of that.
Kissing him. 
With a deflating sigh, and one last kiss, Azriel pulled out of her and strode to the other side of the room, where a small bar was.
He found some paper towels and wiped himself off, then wiped her off, too, before tossing them into the trash and coming back to her, holding out his hands to help her up.
She happily accepted his help, and when she got to her feet, she fell into his arms, once again.
“Any chance they won’t miss us at the reception?”
Elain gasped, jutting back and meeting his eyes. “Ohmygods, the wedding.”
Azriel arched a brow, amused. “You forgot?”
“You didn’t?” She asked, with quiet laughter.
He shrugged. “I found something more important.” He kissed her. “And, if it were up to me, we wouldn’t be leaving this room.”
“And is it?” Elain asked, quietly. “Up to you?”
“Only if you call me daddy again,” he mumbled, brushing her hair back before he pressed a lingering kiss to her forehead.
Elain huffed a laugh and groaned, knowing full well they had to make themselves presentable and find their way back downstairs.
“I did make the pie,” she said, at last. “You need to try it.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t miss your pie,” he promised, and laughed as she rolled her eyes.
Those little kisses continued as they got ready. He helped Elain back into her gown, and she made sure that her hair and makeup were back to perfection, along with Azriel’s messy hair. 
After his shoes were on, he took her hand and began leading her out of the room. “Maybe after this you can come home with me?” He asked. “Spend the night.”
Elain’s smile was bright, and for once, she felt like she had it all. “I’d like that.”
His grin was contagious. “Good.”
“Good,” she repeated, and refused to take her hand out of his. “But, first, dancing. And pie.”
Azriel pulled her into his arms in the hallway and kissed her, slowly. “I would never skip the pie.”
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sarah-bae-maas · 5 months ago
Text
Gwyn is Ready to Have More from Azriel
I’m trash for them, okay? And I will simply not apologise for it. Can we all agree that their ship name is Gywnriel? 
Masterlist Ao3
_____
For months now, all that had been between them were tentative touches, kisses that would end before they could become too heated. Gwyn appreciated it deeply. The time Azriel had given to her, the steps they had taken together took her to places she thought she’d never reach. She still remembered the way she shook when he first held her hands, and now she was bedazzled with daily reminders of his feelings for her.
She smiled at him. He was seated next to Cassian, the two males shirtless and sprawled on the floor after training discussing how they might seduce Mor into taking on her own class of novices. They would’ve asked Rhys or Feyre, but between all their ruling duties, Feyre’s art classes and little Nyx, they barely had time to breath.
Az saw her look and smiled back, the shadows clinging to his hands disappearing as he looked at her. It made her cheeks go red to see it, and she couldn’t help but gaze down at his beautiful abdomen, the powerful muscles nothing short of wondrous. Being near him, and having him want her, made her feel powerful too. But the age-old fear always crept in before things went too far.
“Cassian and I are heading into Velaris for lunch, would you like to join?” Nesta asked her, her eyes glinting as she looked at Gwyn and knew exactly what she was thinking. “Az will likely come, and he’ll fly you down.”
“Thank you, but I’ll let you and Cassian enjoy yourselves.” Gwyn touched the pendent at her throat, the stained glass hidden beneath her leathers. “Are we still on for tomorrow?”
“Of course. Morrigan will get Emerie in the afternoon, and Cassian is making himself scarce.”
“He doesn’t need to do that!” Gwyn didn’t want him thinking he couldn’t spend time with them when they all stayed together at the House. Gwyn trusted Cassian as much as she could any man, and loved that her dearest friend had found a male who loved and cared for her so very much. Seeing them together is what gave her the courage to approach Azriel after months of shy glances and quiet conversations.
“He wants to give us our privacy. He’ll have dinner with us, and then I think he plans on stealing Nyx.” Nesta smiled at the thought of her mate and a baby, and Gwyn couldn’t blame her. There was just something about a deadly warrior caring for something so vulnerable that set her evolutionary instincts on fire.
Before Gwyn had the chance to reply, the man of the hour approached them, holding out a hand to both of them to help them up. They stood, Nesta stepping into him and resting her chin on his chest, peering up at him with unbridled admiration.  
Cassian said his goodbye to Gwyn, pressing a featherlight kiss to her cheek in farewell. She didn’t blush, used to it by now. One of the things she liked most was little kisses to her cheeks and forehead, the main perpetrators of the act being Emerie and Nesta. The kisses didn’t speak of the violence she’d endured, but rather of how much her friends loved her. Friendship was an intimacy she craved outside of anything else, and she’d nearly cried the first time Nesta had kissed the top of her head, her friend hugging her after a particularly bad scalding in the library.
Nesta and Cassian left, leaving Gwyn alone with Azriel. He grinned at her the moment they had peace. He walked over, his steps hurried as if he couldn’t wait to be near her. He placed his lovely hands on her cheeks and pressed their foreheads together.
“A veritable Valkyrie,” he said.  
“You give me too much praise.”
“I could never say enough kind things about you.”
She kissed the tip of his nose, happy to be in his arms.
***
Gwyn laid alone in her room, the single bed not big enough for all that she was feeling. She had spent nearly her entire lunch break kissing Azriel, but it had gone no further. But she’d wanted more. Needed more. She couldn’t stop thinking of the way his lips had touched her neck, or how his hands were so steady on her waist. She was half tempted to beg him to clutch her harder, to grab her in other more sensitive areas, but she didn’t know how to ask. Az was respectful to a fault. Well, no, not a fault, she loved how patient and gentle he was with her. But it meant he would never ask for more, or take more, fearful that he might spook her.
She squeezed her thighs at the thought of him, her hand idly running up and down her stomach. There had been a few times, in her rare moments of privacy, that she had taken Nesta’s advice and explored herself before having another touch her. She had scarcely in her youth, but she’d been a fumbling teen who didn’t understand what to touch to make it feel good.
As always, her thoughts drifted to him, and as she inched up her dress…
The door opened, the two other acolytes she bunked with going to bed early. Gwyn managed to snatch her hand away, but it was painfully obvious what she was about to do.
She rolled to her side and tried to suppress a groan, her fellow acolytes giggling under their breath.
Wanting to clear her head, she got up and feigned going to the bathroom, instead going into the bowels of the library. Most people were still at dinner, and she made a wide berth from the hallways that led to their dining hall. She wasn’t sure where to go. She could keep studying, although it wasn’t an appealing thought, or maybe she could go to the heart of the House and let it sneak her treats and tea.
Instead, she found herself walking until she was in the training ring. She hadn’t bothered putting shoes on. She loved the way the cool stone felt beneath her feet – like it was centring her. She would have been content to stay here forever, pitch a tent and claim this spot as hers. This was the spot she found her sisters, Nesta and Emerie. This is where she became strong, where she started tackling the demons that haunted her at night. This is where the elusive man that saved her that fateful day at the temple became a friend, and then more. Yes, she could have stayed here forever with the breeze caressing her face and the stars winking in greeting.
She heard a creak to the left and turned, worrying an acolyte might have followed her out. Instead, she saw the usually locked entry to the House open, warm and welcoming light spilling from its threshold. One to take a hint, she walked inside. She couldn’t hear Nesta or Cassian, but they had long put silencing wards on each room. She looked around the entryway, and another door opened to her left, leading her down the grand staircase and into a hallway. Once again, all the doors were shut, but as her feet touched the landing one opened, Gwyn knowing it to be the study. Going where the House was prompting her, she caught Azriel curiously staring at the door, trying to make it shut when it wouldn’t budge.
“I don’t think you’ll have much luck. It seems the House wanted me here.”
She revelled in his small gilt of surprise, an honour that he let his composure down enough around her for her to see any sort of emotion.
“Gwyn, what are you doing here?” His tone, not accusatory in the slightest, sent a shock through her stomach.
He looked… different in the dark. Of course she’d seen him in the night, whether it be in the city or over a meal with Cassian and Nesta, but never alone in a room lit only by scattered candles. His beauty was different like this, his face a marble sculpture carved by the most brilliant artists, his hair silken black, his eyes the night sky between the spirits on Starfall.
“Is this your study?” She ignored his question, entering the room. The door closed behind her, and she felt a sudden absence in the room, as if the House had given them some privacy.  
“It is, I forbade Nesta and Cassian from coming in here a year ago. I didn’t want them tarnishing my stuff,” he laughed.
She swallowed hard, her hands clasped in front of her.
He looked at her thoughtfully. “Are you okay?”
She paused before she answered, not quite knowing what to say. It’s not like she could go oh, Azriel, don’t mind me, I just think my horniness was so palpable the House wrapped you as a gift and planted you in my lap.
Instead, she took a step forward, close enough to place her hands on his chest.
“I’ve been having thoughts,” she murmured, not looking him in the eyes. His hands came to rest over hers, and she was embarrassed at the fluttering in them he must feel.
“What kind of thoughts?”
Her breath shuddered. She pressed her face into the space between their hands, not able to bear the look on his face. “We’ve been taking things so slowly, and I’m so grateful that the little I’ve been able to offer you has been enough.”
“Gwyn.” His voice trembled. “Whatever you can give, whether it’s an ounce or nothing, I would happily take.”
“But what if I wanted to take?” One of her hands snaked around his neck. “What if I wasn’t ready for everything, but couldn’t get the thought of you touching me out of my head?”  
It was his turn to shudder, but he didn’t move an inch. He just let her explain. She pressed herself into him harder, her face reddening when she felt what her words were doing to him. She dared peek down, his arousal present and obvious. It made her mouth water.
“Whatever you want, you can have. Just tell me.” He hands left hers, moving until they were on her waist and he could draw her nearer again. When she was close enough, his index finger landed on her chin, titling her head until he could look into her eyes. She saw fire in them, practically glowing with want. She knew hers would look the same.
“What do you want, Gwyn?”
Him.
“I want you to take your shirt off.”
And it was done. He didn’t hesitate to do as she asked and didn’t speak as she gingerly ran her fingers up and down his bare chest, letting her feel and press. He was a sight to behold – years of training crafting him into something magnificent. His mind, his body-
She kissed him, letting her hands wander to their desire. She kissed his mouth, his neck, and then steeled herself up to kissing the muscled chest she’d admired for so long. All the while, he ran his hands down her back and up to cup her head, his hands tangling in her hair.
“What do you want, Gwyn?”
“I want to sit on that desk as you kiss me. I want the earth-shattering kisses I read about in books. I don’t want you to hold back. I want to know how everyone else feels.”  
He nodded, and before she had a chance to say anything else, his hands were on her thighs and he was lifting her. She gasped as he wrapped her legs around his waist, their kiss not breaking as he used one hand to wipe away the paper and knives that littered his workspace. He sat her on his desk, but she tightened her legs around him, wanting him to know she didn’t plan on letting go anytime soon.
Her mouth opened for him, and she groaned as his tongue swept in, unhindered by fear. By the Cauldron, she couldn’t believe how much he had been holding back if this was how he kissed her uninhibited. One hand was on her thigh, the other around her waist to keep them close. So close, she dared to move her hips, just a bit, just to see what it would be like to grind against him. He groaned, his lips moving away from her to savour the feeling of her clothed pussy against his concealed length.
He kissed her again, his passion palpable as he held her, and Gwyn thought she could never go back to before. How could she tolerate the sweet, closed mouth presses of his lips when she could have this? When she could have his mouth working hers so hard she could feel herself start to drip?
She ground her hips again, desperate for the friction.
Azriel pulled back, hip lips swollen and his hair in a mess from where she had unconsciously dragged her fingers through it.
“What do you want, Gwyn?”
Her already racing heart faltered. How far did she want to go? She certainly wasn’t ready for sex, but she thought she might die if she didn’t have more of him. She glanced down between them, swallowing hard when she realised truly what she wanted. Knew that the dreams she had in her mind when her hand was between her legs could be a reality if she just asked.
“I want – I want your mouth on me.”
He stood up straight, her shaking legs barely holding on.
“Do you want me to taste you, Gwyn?” he asked.
She nodded.
“I need you to tell me. I need to know you want this.”
“Yes, yes Azriel. Taste me. Devour me.”
He smirked, and he started to lift her dress.
A jolt went through her, a change in mood he felt instantly. He stopped and stepped back, his hands going to behind his back.
Her eyes widened; she didn’t want him to stop – didn’t mean to make him stop.
“You will lick me until I cry your name so loud the people of Velaris can hear me. But my dress stays on,” she ordered breathlessly.
His smile was serpentine, and she felt it like a pinch to the bundle of nerves he would soon head for.
“Yes ma’am.”
He guided her so she was leaning back, and she yelped as he pulled her hips so she was balanced on the edge of the desk. He ran his hands up her dress, up her legs, as he knelt before her like a knight bowing to his queen. Her dress, which would stay on but had ridden up, bunched at her thighs, giving Azriel ample time to explore.
She watched as he peppered kisses to her calves, her knees and then the soft skin of her inner thighs. Her breathing was hitched, and when Az lifted her legs so that they were over his shoulders she could have ascended.
“Are you sure this is what you want?” he whispered, looking up at her.
Those eyes alone had her feeling a way she’s never experienced. She nodded, whispered her yes.
“If you want to stop, at any time, just tell me. Or kick me. Anything you want. But don’t do something you’re uncomfortable with just because I’m here.” He smoothed over her thighs and pressed a kiss to her wet panties, giving her a tease of what was to come. “Do you want this?”
“Yes.”
“Then you’ll have it.”  
He pulled her panties aside and made a wide swipe up her centre, leaving her gasping. His tongue was relentless, but so perfect on her. He had her moaning his name in seconds, and he returned them like the act of pleasuring her was enough for him to find his own. One of her hands stayed in his hair, pulling it with a ferocity that might have pained him, but when she tried to take it away, he snatched at her hand, growling that she can pull it all she wanted. Her other hand went to her breast, feeling like she had to touch the nipples now peeking through her thin dress. Her legs shook in time to his tongue flicking against her clit, and it made a deep ache built between her legs. She moved her hips, unable to stop herself from grinding against his tongue.
His rhythm was better than a royal orchestra – her moans a melody she didn’t think herself capable of. As he continued to feast, the deep ache spread through her stomach and down to her toes, and with one final press of his delicious mouth she screamed his name, gripped onto the desk for support as her back arched and toes curled. His tongue rode her through the orgasm, and it wasn’t until she was whimpering his name that he stopped.
He gently slid her legs off his shoulders. They tremored, the limbs limp jelly in his hands. He hummed in satisfaction, rising to his feet so he could brush the hair from her face. A bead of sweat ran down her cheek, and he leaned forward to kiss it away.
“How are you feeling?” he asked, voice low. He didn’t move away from her, his lips brushing her cheek as he spoke.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to walk back to my room.”
Azriel laughed softly, a hoisted her up so he was carrying her like a bride.
“You can stay here.”
“I can’t-”
“In a separate room from me.”
She loved that he knew what she would say before the words even had a chance to form. She may have let him do holy things to her, but she wasn’t ready to share his bed – even if there wasn’t touching involved.
As he carried her, she stared at his beautiful face, awestruck that she might’ve had even just the smallest part of him.
“Thank you, Az.”
“My pleasure.”
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duskandstarlight · 2 months ago
Text
Embers & Light (Chapter Thirty Six)
Notes: Your latest update of E&L is here. I hope you enjoy it--I know a lot of you are anxious after the teaser. 
I really loved writing this chapter. It tugged at my heartstrings and had me sobbing onto my keyboard. I hope it resonates with you all, too. I’ve had this planned for a very, very long time. 
As usual, please reblog or comment if you enjoy my writing. I love hearing from you--it makes all the time (which is a lot of time, haha) I spend writing DOUBLY worth it <3
Let me know if you want to be tagged/untagged...
Also, I’m sorry for any typos. I can’t look at it any more!
Chapter Thirty-Six Cassian
Cassian had submerged himself into a cold bath the moment he got back to his room.
For a split second, it had smoothed over the throbbing of his blood, his skin, his very self, until that need was roaring again; an unquenchable, raging fire.
As if the House knew what he was suffering, it had unceremoniously dumped ice chips into the bath—it seemed the only fae the House treated nicely was Nesta. Cassian had growled his thanks before he’d warned told the House to scarper. Somehow, despite the burning, bone-numbing water, Cassian had brought himself to completion over and over again, until he felt less feral and more fae—composed. Even if it was a constant, relentless battle.
That tie that held he and Nesta together wouldn’t rest until they were bonded, Cassian knew that. Knew he’d be suffering for the rest of his life, given Nesta’s unwavering, understandable hatred towards anything Cauldron given.
Which Cassian did understand, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t hard for him to maintain control on that territorial part of him that clambered to seek Nesta out anyway. To see if he could persuade her to stay.
But Nesta wanted to see her sisters. Wanted to try with them and Cassian wouldn’t take that away from her, despite his joking earlier.
Yet, that unfulfilled desire was still there—barely contained, pushed back just enough that he could focus on the present with the entirety of his will power. When the sun had long bleed into dusk and Cassian was shivering from the cold, he had hauled himself out of the bath. Dress. Got himself to the restaurant; where he was now waiting impatiently with most of his friends and family for Nesta to show.
And all the time he waited, a growing sense of doom blossomed in the pit of Cassian’s stomach. It felt like a flower unfurling its petals, the sensation only intensifying the more the minutes passed. But still Cassian did not catch sight of Nesta amongst the crowds of fae walking along the river—towards the heart of the city, where the annual fire procession took place.
He drummed his fingers hard against the surface of the table; a patternless tune, a dull thunk that grew in pace, mimicking the beating of his heart. A flicker of something flared down the twisted rope that Cassian barely dared to acknowledge half of the time, given that it was usually clamped tightly shut at the other end.
But that sensation was panic; a silver metallic tang that closed around Cassian’s throat like an imaginary fist. It made it hard to breathe. To think.
Something was wrong. Cassian knew it in his bones.
But he didn’t get up. Knew that if he went to investigate as he’d done the day before, he would be betraying Nesta’s trust and belittling her freedom.
When Nesta hadn’t shown at the House earlier that evening, Cassian had flown down to the estate by the river. He had been sure she’d still be with Elain, but she hadn’t, and Mor had only taken it upon herself to inform him moments before they left—as if it wasn’t an issue at all—that Nesta had told her she had some business in the city and would meet them at the restaurant.
Neither Elain or Mor had thought to remind Nesta about the procession. It probably hadn’t even crossed their minds that it could be an issue. Unlike him, they had not seen Nesta deep in battle trauma. They had not seen her expel her power when she was
terrified or watched her struggle to breathe when it all became too much.
And that was not entirely their fault. For the most part, especially recently, they had only witnessed or heard of Nesta being strong. But despite the Illyrian widows calling Nesta a Goddess, she was just a fae who had her own demons to deal with. Cassian wished others would remember that. Wished they would see beneath the composed mask of Nesta’s surface and truly understand what she faced underneath.
It was easy to forget that a path was not free of bumps and set backs. That just because Nesta had been forging ahead recently and clearing the brambles, it did not mean that she could get cut by thorns.
Cassian continued to thump a finger nervously onto the table; the thunk of the wood hollow and ominous.
Nobody commented. Everyone at the table could read him like a book. It was his downfall, Cassian knew that; the way he wore his heart on his sleeve so obviously when it came to Nesta. But Cassian had been denied love in the early years of his life and he couldn’t help his inability to so blatantly crave what he’d always thought he would not be granted.
The same extended to the mating bond: whilst it was a curse for Nesta, it was a blessing to Cassian. A sign from the Cauldron, the Gods, the Mother—Cassian didn’t care which—that he was worthy of something great. That he had been granted an equal who made the magic inside of him sing and soar—elated at finally having a companion to his yearning heart.
Conversation swilled around the table, forcibly casual. Nobody berated Cassian for the tapping, although Mor was throwing him enough concerned glances that he knew she’d cave eventually. Whether it was because his friends and family knew better or because they sympathised, Cassian wasn’t sure. Instead, they let him internally panic and attempt to feign an aura of calm, whilst his emotions churned like a choppy sea inside of him.
After they had been sitting beneath the restaurants canopy for over thirty minutes, Mor finally broke.
“Drink Cass,” she urged airily, but her honey brown eyes were shadowed with concern. She made a deliberate point of topping up his wine glass until it was full to the brim of burgundy liquid.
The corners of her mouth tipped upwards into a half-hearted smile that seemed a little sad. “Consider it a liquid starter to keep us going before everyone arrives. They’re probably held up by the festival traffic. The streets are crowded.”
It was true that the streets were more alive than usual. Even Amren had not yet arrived with Varian and she was usually a stickler for punctuality. But it was the busy streets that had Cassian worried. Wherever Nesta was, she’d be pressed against the crowds by now—a writhing storm of emotion and overwhelming noise that Nesta struggled with on the best of days. And whilst Nesta had been working hard with Azriel to fortify her empath shields, Cassian knew that if something took her by surprise, her battle trauma could sweep in and consume her.
Cassian suspected he could only thank Oya and all of the Gods combined that silver fire had not yet blazed across the sky. That he had not yet been privy to imaginable panic lancing down that plaited tether with such ferocity that he forgot his vow to stay put and launched himself into the sky.
He could find her, Cassian knew that. He was always able to find Nesta in times of need, as if a compass was built into his blood that would always point him towards her.
Feyre met Cassian’s eyes over the table. She leant over, lowering her voice. Her hair was down tonight and it fell over her shoulder in a golden sheen as the movement loosed it from a pointed ear. “Are you worried about the fire procession?”
Cassian continued to rap his fingers sharply on the wood: a sharp, anxious beat. “I thought I’d be flying Nesta down,” he admitted. “That she’d be far away from the crowds.”
Sarsa was one of Cassian’s favourite restaurants in the city. Like many of the eateries he and his friends liked to visit, the restaurant was tiny, only hosting a few rustic tables inside its four walls. But it was on the outside of the restaurant—on the wide marble pavement that hugged the river—that most diners sat. Long trestle tables stretched along the front of the establishment, and above them, tiny stringed faelights interwoven with ruscus and other greenery lined the wooden canopy.
The food was excellent but it was also situated at the south of the city, far away from the fire procession that overtook its heart in the early evening. The procession ran from West to East, and finished just before midnight, when the fire display from the sea would hail the new year. Here, just above the southern docks, the crowds would peter out in half an hour, leaving a quiet, relaxed setting free of spitting fire and the sounds of celebration.
There was a movement at the far head of the table, the sound of a scraping chair, and then Elain was walking past Azriel who had been sitting beside her, towards them. Her blush gown trimmed with subtle lace swishing as she walked and Cassian didn’t fail to notice how Azriel’s shadows stilled slightly, as if they were captivated.
Nobody could deny that Elain always looked lovely, but Elain was too timid and sweet for Cassian—her constitution too fragile for his wild, raging heart. But Nesta… she was the elements—untamed and unpredictable and vital. Thrilling, really.
The first time he’d beheld her in the Human Realm, he’d nearly fallen to his knees. She’d been a shock—this resuscitation to his ribcage, as if he had only been existing rather than living—and his knees had buckled. He’d been so furious about it that he’d snapped. Told Nesta exactly what he’d thought of her all the while he’d breathed in her scent and committed it to memory.
That was before Nesta had got her power. Before she’d called his name in the War and saved him from the Cauldron’s blast. He’d known for sure then, what they were. And it hadn’t surprised him in the least, because no other woman had ever threatened to bring Cassian down onto his knees.
“I’m worried about Nesta,” Elain announced in a hushed voice as she drew up beside Feyre. “What if she’s got caught up in the crowds? Or perhaps she’s lost her way. I didn’t think to warn her earlier—”
Cassian threw up his hands. The action was overly dramatic and his siphons flashed, reflecting the twinkling faelight overhead. Elain’s worry had unleashed his own panic. It rose in his throat—a thick, obstructive lump. “It’s good to know I have some company in my concern,” he said gruffly.
He could feel his temper rising—his irritation. His neck felt hot under the collar of his shirt but the sweat that broke out beneath his clothing was cold and clammy. Cassian tried to concentrate on the assurance that Nesta knew where the restaurant was; he had pointed it out to her during their amble through the city earlier that morning. But… Cassian didn’t know how familiar Nesta was with the southern part of the city. During her short period of living in Velaris, Nesta had spent most of her time in the eastern streets, where the taverns were seedy and the unsavoury company was plentiful.
Ignoring Cassian’s outburst, Feyre pressed Mor, “What exactly did Nesta say when you saw her?”
Frowning, Mor searched back into her memory. The action irritated Cassian. It couldn’t have been more than a few hours ago. Why was everything taking so damn long?
Mor raised one shoulder in a shrug, but her eyes were regretful as she glanced at Cassian. “Nesta said she was running late. That she had to pick something up but she’d try to hurry. That we should start eating without her, but that she knew where the restaurant was.”
“She’ll have Sala with her,” Azriel consoled Cassian from further down the table. Everyone else had fallen silent without Cassian realising it. “If Nesta is in trouble, she’ll fly her out of there.”
But Cassian’s brother’s words did nothing to ease his panic. Instead, icy water sluiced through him so suddenly that he couldn’t think or breathe above the roaring in his head. Because Nesta wouldn’t call for Sala. He’d ordered her not to take the manticore into town with her only a few days prior. And all because he’d been a panicked bastard who hadn’t wanted to give Nesta her independence lest she fall back into her old ways.
A string of swear words left his mouth.
“She won’t call Sala,” Cassian admitted roughly after he’d finally stopped cursing. He pressed his palms to his eyes in despair. He thought desperately of Sala. Wished the manticore would take Nesta up, up and away from it all. Knew that Nesta would already be safe if he’d have just swallowed his damn fear. “I told her not to take Sala into the city,” he confessed.
Feyre’s expression contorted—her calm facade breaking. “Why on earth would you have told her that?”
“Because I wanted to go with her,” Cassian snapped and then regretted it. Because it wasn’t Feyre’s fault he had been a dick. “Sorry,” he apologised quickly, rubbing his palms into his eyes again—harder this time. He tucked his wings in tight against his back—a reminder that he would not be launching into the air to track Nesta down. “I thought Sala might scare the pedestrians. I told Nesta it would be best to keep her in the skies rather than on the streets.”
“The fae of Velaris will have to adjust to Sala at some point,” Feyre replied, but her voice had softened slightly, as if she knew exactly why Cassian had lost his temper. “But Nesta can master the crowds. She’s proven over and over again how strong she is.”
Elain nodded. Said quietly, “Nesta’s not who she was four months ago.”
But Cassian was already turning to Azriel, whose shadows were curling thickly around his ears. “Get your shadows to look for her,” he ordered.
For a moment, Cassian could have sworn Azriel’s eyes flickered with something akin to wariness, but then the faint emotion evened out, revealing nothing but a blank expression. His broken nose from yesterday was completely healed and as usual, his face looked like it had been rendered perfectly from marble—classic, undeniably handsome yet cold. “She’s fine. She’s half a mile from here, but walking this way.”
Cassian’s fists clenched at his sides and the hand Mor rested on his arm did nothing to settle him. “You already went to check on her,” Cassian growled through gritted teeth. “And you just let us sit here and worry.”
“My shadows only just came back,” Azriel replied simply—distantly. The shadowsinger gave no indication that Cassian’s short temper affected him. It probably didn’t, given Azriel had mastered living with it for over five hundred years. “You are not the only one who cares for Nesta’s well-being.”
But… there, when his shadow danced away from his cheek, Cassian spied the faintest line of tension bracketing the Shadowsinger’s mouth. Was Azriel truly concerned for Nesta? He had to be, for him to have already sent his shadows to seek her out.
That was a breach of privacy Azriel usually wouldn’t adhere to—especially given Cassian’s undeniable connection to her. He knew they could all scent Nesta on him. Amren’s eyes had gleamed earlier when he’d met her in Rhys’s study; a slow, serpentine smile which had curved at her lips and those grey eyes had lit up with all of the words she wanted to say but hadn’t.
Perhaps Rhys had warned her not to. Usually it was only Rhys who could stop Amren from saying something she shouldn’t, and even then, she didn’t often listen.
“Rhys is on his way, too,’ Azriel told Feyre, tearing his dark hazel eyes from Cassian’s. “Amren and Varian are just rounding the corner now.”
But Cassian barely heard them above the noise in his head. Quickly, he calculated
how long it would take Nesta to arrive. Kept a mental hand closed around his side of the bond, ready to yank should he feel a blast of emotion that was comprised of full-blown terror. But nothing came. Instead, the emotion that wound its way down the tether was muted, dull and murky, as if Cassian was wading through water. It made it hard to dissect. Only once did Cassian catch a sensation that felt like overwhelming relief, before everything went quiet again.
So, when Cassian felt a keen tug he stood with such abruptness that his chair scraped against the marble cobbles.
Ten sets of eyes stared at him but he just threw down the napkin that had been settled across his lap onto the table.
“She’s coming, thank Oya,” he announced, and then, without looking back at his friends, Cassian left the table and plunged into the crowds.
***
Even though the fae swarming the streets had dwindled, it was still a battle for Cassian to  fight through the throng of people. Blindly, he crossed the first bridge he came to, which connected to another street branching off from the river.
For a moment, as Cassian reached the other side, he tasted his heart in his mouth, but then it was there again, that pull. Not a tug on that tether so much as he’d first thought, but an innate magnetism that made his magic rush through his veins, urging him towards what he knew to be Nesta.
It felt different in a way Cassian could not explain. Perhaps that was why the sensation had been so sudden seconds before.
Up ahead, the crowds began to part, like the helm of the boat sluicing through water. A manticore led the way for two other figures, her prowl tapered down so it was soft around the edges, her haunches swinging gently rather than in the tantalisingly menacing way Cassian had seen before when Sala was weighing up her prey.
It only took a few beats of Cassian’s hammering pulse for him to make out the curling ram horns that belonged to Erol. And beside him, Nesta looked… small, despite her straight back and the way she floated regally towards him, ignoring the stares and palpable awe of the pedestrians. She was still too far away—too unreachable—and unable to help himself, Cassian pulled gently.
Nothing happened. Those metallic eyes didn’t fly to his and their gaze didn’t snap into place. Desperate now, Cassian pushed a sensation to soothe down that shared, twisted rope, but it bounced off an impenetrable wall, as if Nesta had retreated wholly into her empath shields so as to stop her feeding off the crowds emotions.
Siphons winking to the beat of his hammering pulse, Cassian strode towards them. The crowds parted easily now but Cassian spread his wings, urging them to distance themselves even further, thinking only of how soon he could wrap them around Nesta and deem her truly safe.
Erol’s eyes grew wary as he spied Cassian and his outstretched wings, but he didn’t stop walking, not until they were at an arms length from him. There was a grim determination to him that was entirely male, but the glance he tossed at Nesta was stricken with concern.
It took barely a breath for Cassian to notice that Nesta’s eyes were sparking silver, like a roiling thunderstorm waiting to strike. Her fists were bundled at her sides and Cassian could scent her blood—knew that her nails had sliced through her skin as she used the pain to keep her grounded.
It was the metallic tang of salt that had Cassian taking a small step forwards. He swept his wings back, tucked them in tightly to his back in a soft rush of air.
Nesta’s fists slowly began to unfurl and Cassian jumped at the chance, knowing somehow she had sensed him.
“Nesta,” he murmured hoarsely, because he didn’t want to go ahead and reach for her—not when she could so easily be startled. The relief that filled his voice was not contained but full of stark feeling but he didn’t care. Would never care how exposed he made himself as long as she was all right.
“It’s just me,” he said softly, repeating the words he’d said to her before, back in The Steppes after the kerit attack.
Silver stormed in Nesta’s eyes like a terrified cloud—a swarm of bees. Her eyes finally snapped to his. They were like puddles of living moonlight, the eery power in them pressing and promising.
“Ok, sweetheart?” he rasped. Slowly, Cassian reached out a hand. Brushed her cheek with the backs of his fingers. For a moment, the intense cold of her skin took his breath away. Magic moved beneath his veins, whispering and uncoiling—stretching. He stilled warmth into his palms as he splayed a palm across her cheek, ran a palm over the arch of her cheekbone.
For a moment, Nesta didn’t move. But then she lifted a hand to grip his and that ancient, rippling power smoothed over until her irises warmed enough to reveal a hint of frosty blue.
“Can you breathe?” he said quietly, because even though her lungs weren’t rattling, her breath was shallow. He clasped her palm to his chest, right over his hammering heart, pleading with her to copy the slow rise and fall of his lungs as he began to moderate his breathing.
When Cassian was sure Nesta was slowing her breath, he turned to Erol. The male stilled—like a prey trapped by a predator—but he didn’t turn and run. Instead, he only stood his ground, shifting his hooves into a stance that told Cassian he wouldn’t be leaving until he knew Nesta was ok.
Erol crossed his arms firmly over his chest as if to solidify his point.
Respect wound through Cassian and such… gratitude. If Erol hadn’t been with Nesta, Cassian wasn’t sure what might have happened.
Curling a wing around Nesta’s shoulders, Cassian asked Erol, “You got caught in the crowds?”
Clearly braced for a fight, Erol blinked in surprise at the conversational tone of Cassian’s voice. The male shifted uncertainly on his hooves, as if he was still expecting Cassian to be hostile, but he dipped his chin. “By the time it was time for Nesta to leave my studio, the procession was already starting in the Western streets. I offered to walk her back. I tried to stick to the backstreets but the crowds were still thick enough to slow us down. I couldn’t avoid the procession by the Palace of Bone and Salt.”
Grim understanding set Cassian’s mouth into a thin line. No doubt that had been when Nesta’s eyes had started to glow, given her aversion to fire that was not her own. The main vein of the street that flanked the Palace would have been lined with spectators eager to see the travelling performers, which included fae practicing fire-breathing and swinging fireballs, that blazed and crackled with a heated roar that rose above the music and festivities.
From the way Erol was staring at Nesta’s eyes—at the silver whisper of magic that was still moving across her irises—Cassian could tell he hadn’t seen her fire before. He must have known about Nesta—about her Cauldron given power thanks to the War—but for Nesta to have kept it so well hidden for near on a year, especially from a male who she had spent a lot of her time, just showed how deep and layered her trauma had been.
Instinctively, Cassian raised a hand to cup the back of Nesta’s neck, wanting to coax her to his chest. But Nesta only swayed slightly before she returned upright and unnervingly still. Didn’t so much as blink.
In fact, Nesta didn’t appear to be tuned in to the conversation at all. Her face was so pale that Cassian thought she might vanish into nothing.
The worry that wound through him made him want to be sick, but he knew better than to direct her movements. Knew she needed the time to come back to herself—if she even wanted that.
“The manticore found us twenty minutes ago,” Erol added. “It was easy to part the crowds after that.”
There was a pause and then Erol’s gaze darted to the manticore. “She’s Nesta’s?” he asked Cassian quietly.
“She is,” Cassian confirmed with a dip of his chin. Gently, he ran a thumb over the soft, fine hairs at the nape of Nesta’s neck. Anything to stop himself from bringing her hand to his lips and instilling all of his relief that she was safe by pressing his mouth to her knuckles. “She was born from blood and sacrifice.”
Erol’s features drew tight. It was not a tense expression, but one of focus. Nesta clearly hadn’t divulged in depth about her life in Illyria—about how she had brought a widow back from the dead and become a beacon of hope for so many of females as she encouraged them to defend themselves.
As if Sala knew she was being discussed, she butted her head hard against Cassian’s legs. Cassian lay his spare hand on the top of the manticore’s head in thanks without looking down. He was going to buy the manticore the best game he could find from the butchers tomorrow—she deserved it.
“Sala is only deadly to those who pose a threat,” Cassian explained. “She won’t harm anyone here. She chose Nesta and they act for one another.”
Erol shook his head with what Cassian could only describe as proud disbelief; his large, curled ram horns somehow more prominent with the movement. “It shouldn’t surprise me that Nesta was gifted a manticore, but seeing one in the flesh…”
He trailed off, unable to finish his sentence, but Cassian understood. Manticores were rare creatures—so rare many thought them to be merely mythical.
There was no doubt that the whole of Velaris would soon be talking. It would seem Nesta and her manticore would now be a topic of conversation that extended well beyond Illyria.
“I didn’t summon her—”
Both Erol and Cassian’s heads snapped to Nesta. Her voice was hoarse and dry, but Erol’s mention of Sala seemed to have cut through the trauma that had settled over her like a shroud.
The mother hen in Cassian was desperate to get her some water, but he made himself calm that urge in his veins, knowing that Nesta didn’t like a fuss.
“Perhaps you did it subconsciously,” Cassian told her.
But Nesta was frowning so deeply the arrows at the base of her nose appeared. “I didn’t even have time to think of her.”
Cassian didn’t understand how Sala had known to find Nesta without that thought. Frawley had made it very clear that Nesta had to will Sala to appear to spark the connection between them.
“Think of Nesta as a compass,” Frawley had told Cassian one evening at the cottage. “The connection between them is activated by thought, but that thought also pinpoints Nesta’s location so Sala can find her.”
Yet… Cassian also knew how far Nesta retreated into herself when her battle trauma struck. How she became consumed by it—the trigger activating the demons of the past until she could scarcely breathe.
So, all Cassian said was, “I’m glad she found you. I was being a prick about Sala. I wanted to fly you down yesterday.” The manticore rose onto her hind legs and climbed Cassian’s side with her paws. Butted her head gently against Cassian’s as if she was forgiving him, too. “You’re a good girl,” he told the manticore softly, ruffling her ears.
Then, he turned to Erol, knowing suddenly what he needed to do. That he needed to extend a hand out to this male because he could never thank him enough for keeping Nesta safe. “We are celebrating Hogmanay up at the House of Wind later. Please, come and celebrate with us. The view of the harbour is second to none.”
Surprise and apprehension flitted across Erol’s expression and… shame. “I am not sure I am the right calibre for the palace in the mountain and the company you hold,” he said stiffly.
Cassian huffed a derogatory snort as he thought of he and Az—how they were the lowest born faeries. “I’m an Illyrian bastard, you can’t get a lower calibre than me.”
But Erol’s expression remained cloudy. “We don’t have… airs,” Cassian continued. “There will be plenty of whisky. Cards, too—and music.”
The musician had been a last minute addition. Cassian had asked Rhys to source someone as a birthday present, knowing that Nesta would appreciate it. Just the thought of Nesta’s shining eyes as she listened to the music had been enough for Cassian to weather the knowing look Rhys had pinned him with.
But in the end, Rhys had only nodded and told Cassian to consider it done.
Having a brother as a High Lord meant finding a last minute musician on Hogmanay was easy.
“Any friend of Nesta’s is a friend of mine and my family’s,” Cassian assured Erol with a bow of his head. “You are more than welcome to join us, but I understand if you would rather stay down here for the festivities.”
Something dark flitted across Erol’s features. He studied Nesta, who was still looking as if she was half there, before his gaze seemed to turn inward. Cassian wondered what Erol was thinking about. Was it of The Horseman and drinking himself into oblivion? Was it of the wife Nesta had mentioned he had lost in the attack on Velaris?
But eventually Erol nodded. “I will consider your offer.”
“Good,” Cassian said. “I’ll come down to the base of the mountain at ten. If you’re there I’ll take you up. If you aren’t, that's fine too.”
Nodding again, Erol turned to Nesta. “Here you go, ice queen,” Erol said with an underlying gentleness that belittled his jest. He handed a brown paper package to Nesta, which was tied with string. “Don’t forget this.”
Then, Erol bowed his head in goodbye and left.
Together, Nesta and Cassian watched the male’s back, until his horns and hooves were swallowed by the crowds.
When Cassian turned to Nesta, he found her hugging the parcel tightly to her chest, as if she were afraid it might disappear.
He touched his fingers to her cheek again and those eyes cleared even further, the final wisps of moving silver vanishing into the blue of her irises. “Want to go back to the House, sweetheart?”
But Nesta shook her head and a sudden determination struck across her features, lancing through her previously hollow expression. “No. I don’t—no. I want to stay.”
“Nobody will mind if you want to go back up to the House,” Cassian dared to tell her, because he needed Nesta to know she was not expected to suffer thorough a dinner for the sake of him. But he knew she would do it, somehow, and that knowledge was warming—like the sun’s first rays at the hint of spring.
“I don’t want to run away from it,” Nesta said quietly. She gripped at the sleeve of his shirt. “I’m fed up of treading on eggshells. If I have to live with it, I won’t hide from it. Not anymore.” She clutched the parcel more tightly to her chest. Lifted her chin. “I want to go and eat. I’m hungry.” That surprised Cassian. Usually Nesta’s trauma swept away any desire for food, but he studied the determination set into her brow and knew that this was her way of accepting her battle fatigue. Of acknowledging it and moving on.
Even so, Nesta cast a wary look over her shoulder. The crowds had thinned out now and the street was all but empty.
“The procession doesn’t come this way,” Cassian assured her. “It travels from East to West.”
He wanted to touch her again—to be obvious with his affection—but now she had come back to herself Cassian wasn’t quite sure what was allowed. Despite their handholding earlier that day, Cassian couldn't banish the words Nesta had told him the night prior: that she didn’t know what she wanted.
It meant that Cassian was in a tenuous position: if he was to initiate something that Nesta wasn’t ready for she might spook and backtrack. He needed her to lead the way—to dictate what she did and didn’t want, even if that meant yielding any sense of control outside of the bedroom.
And Cassian had made a vow to himself that he would let her do just that, even if it killed him. But knowing he had to reign himself in—check himself at every turn—was already exhausting.
So, he settled for what he’d done the last time she’d had a severe episode. He rested his lightly hand on her lower back—a grounding touch rather than a possessive one.
“We haven’t even gotten around to ordering food yet,” Cassian told Nesta conversationally as they began to head back to the river. “Amren and Varian also got caught in the crowds and Rhys was held up at the Hewn City.” Relief flickered in his stomach. “Lorrian and Frawley should be here by now, too,” Cassian announced. “Roksana, too.”
Nesta’s head whipped to his and there—life sparked in her eyes. It wasn’t as bright as usual, but it was there, and Cassian felt the dull bubble of her joy. “Really?” she asked. Her gaze intensified, her expression disbelieving as she raised on her tiptoes in an attempt to spy over the railings of the bridge as they crossed the river towards the restaurant.
“Really,” Cassian assured her, one corner of his tilting upwards. He coaxed her fingers away from the rectangular package she was holding. It was fairly light and wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, but he plucked it from her hands.
Nesta let him. Admitted, “I didn’t know they were coming.”
“Of course,” Cassian replied, as he ghosted a wing around her shoulders in replacement of the hand that had been resting on her lower back.
“Frawley all but invited herself,” Cassian admitted with a grin as they neared the table. He spied Frawley’s white hair and Lorrian’s broad shoulders clad in a green tunic. Elain waved at them and he spied the apex of tiny wings. “Conniving witch,” he muttered.
And rather than retreating into herself at all of the people sitting at the table, a faint smile transformed Nesta’s face at his mock insult. Gods, she was so unbelievably beautiful, Cassian thought. He’d been so beside himself with worry that he’d not had a moment to truly look at her, but… her hair was down, with only the front swept to the back of her head and held with a golden leaf pin. Paired with the light eggshell blue of her simple gown, her features were less mask-like and more… soft. Vulnerable.
“I thought I was a witch?” she asked, twisting to look up at him.
Cassian grinned. “You’re a haughty witch. It’s different, Nes.”
Nesta huffed a breath of laughter which left Cassian’s teeth flashing. He was happy—so happy to see her coming back to herself—that he forgot he was supposed to maintaining his composure around her.
Cassian opened her mouth to tell her she was beautiful, but a flash of black and wings drew his attention. Cassian’s eyes snapped to the table to see a little blur zooming towards them—
Nesta barely had time to instinctively hold out her arms as Roksana ploughed into her. Little arms tried in vein to wrap around Nesta’s skirts and the surprised laugh that left Nesta was so light and full of gentle joy that Cassian couldn’t help but laugh, too.
“Hi sinta, are you well?” Nesta asked in Illyrian, bowing her head to press a kiss to the top of the youngling’s head as Roksana squeezed Nesta’s legs. For once, Roksana’s hair wasn’t tangled but gleaming, contained in a woven plait by a ribbon.
“Are you well, Roksana?” Nesta asked again in Illyrian when the youngling didn’t reply. She smoothed a hand over the girl’s head, the gesture affectionate, not catching the way everyone around the table straightened at Nesta’s unexpected use of Illyrian.
Most fae did not bother to learn it. Did not deem Illyrian worthy, but most around the table  knew it well enough given either their upbringing or due to court dealings.
Nesta’s pronunciation was much better than when Cassian had last heard it. Cassian suspected Mas had been teaching Nesta in exchange for the writing lessons—even Illyrians such as Mas did not like to leave a gift unpaid.
Nodding, Roksana pressed her face further into the skirt of Nesta’s dress, until Sala bopped the little girl with her head in hello. Roksana grinned, pulling at Sala’s ears so she could hug the manticore’s head to her.
“I didn’t know you were coming,” Nesta greeted, looking between Frawley and Lorrian. The witch was seated next to Amren with Lorrian opposite next to Rhysand, who had forgone his wings and was wearing his usual immaculate black pants and shirt.
Lorrian winked at Nesta from where he was sitting next to Rhys, his wings rustling behind him as if he was uncomfortable in his formal tunic.
“We decided to venture out of The Steppes for the belligerent oaf,” Frawley told Nesta brusquely, as if she was completely uncaring that it was Cassian’s birthday. An ice blue eye landed on Cassian briefly whilst the hazel remained fixated on Nesta. “It’s mainly an excuse to see you,” she finished with a slow grin.
A soft snort issued from Nesta. The sound was echoed by Amren, who held up a glass and knocked it against Frawley’s. Cassian did not know how they had become such fast friends in the minutes they’d been sat together, but it didn’t surprise him; both Amren and Frawley had an ancient bite to them that was similar to Nesta’s.
Gods, the three of them together were going to wreak havoc and decimate any sense of male pride around the table.
As if sensing Cassian’s thought, Varian shot he and Lorrian a despairing glance. Lori  looked unconcerned, as if he had expected nothing less and was overjoyed at the prospect.
“I’m already regretting inviting you, witch,” Cassian mock-growled at Frawley.
Amren cackled in delight. Tapped a neatly manicured nail on the table to indicate the spare seat opposite her, and told Nesta, “I saved you a seat, girl.”
Raising her eyebrows, Nesta slid into the seat beside Cassian. Roksana climbed up into Nesta’s lap with the elegance that betrayed her age.
“Sorry I’m late,” Nesta murmured.
“You’re not late,” Mor replied, sweeping the eyelashes of one of her eyes into a wink. The gesture was overly familiar in a way that roused Cassian’s suspicion. “In fact,” Mor continued, dodging the frown he shot her way, “here comes our food, which means you’re actually just on time.”
***
To Cassian's utmost surprise, Nesta did make an effort to eat. He didn’t know if it was to prove to herself that she could best her trauma, to set an example to Roksana, or simply because there were enough of them around the table to notice if she didn’t touch her food, but he didn’t care.
Watching out of the corner of his eye, Cassian clocked every small bite, and when he noticed her looking for a second helping of the chicken only to find it gone, he had slipped his quietly onto her plate.
The wide set to her eyes as Nesta stared at him had only rendered her irises more captivatingly blue. She had murmured her thanks. Passed him the potatoes he was so fond of with a flicker of a smile.
Cassian’s heart had sped up but he had made himself grin back at her. Discreetly passed the dish to Mor disguised with a wolfish grin, but his friend raised an eyebrow at him anyway, the gesture knowing.
They had flown back to the House of Wind around ten, Cassian deliberately leading the way for Nesta, Roksana and Sala around the outskirts of the city so as to avoid the celebrations. And all the while Cassian tried not to fly too close to her. Allowed her space and time to be herself without him acting as a shadow.
It didn't stop Cassian from spending half of the evening with his eyes on his cards and the other on Nesta. Watching surreptitiously as she spoke with Frawley and Amren on the chaise lounge by the silver fire. With Maya and the girls. With Erol, who to Cassian’s amazement had been at the base of the mountain when Cassian had flown down to collect him.
An easy camaraderie existed between Erol and Nesta, and Cassian soon found that Erol was a likeable male, his demeanour easy, even if it was used to mask a layer of pain. The latter of which Cassian could have sworn he felt as he, Rhys, Mor, Azriel, Varian and Erol played cards around a large, three legged circular table.
“Do you have family in Velaris, Erol?” Mor asked conversationally, as she raked some chips towards her with an air of satisfaction.
Mor’s win had been a lucky one and Cassian knew that she’d soon be parting with chips faster than she was gaining them. Despite her protests, Mor was not a strategic player; often losing patience and stumbling after a dramatic, thrilling game than remaining steadfast for the long haul.
“My wife died a year and a half ago during the attack on Velaris outside of her shop in the Rainbow,” Erol replied with a lightness that did nothing to cover the abrasive agony that fell like a shadow across his features. “She was a musician—a violinist,” he added, casting a look to the lone fiddler Rhys had employed for the evening on Cassian’s request.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Mor said softly. “Was the shop Strings & Scrolls?”
When Erol nodded, Mor shook her head mournfully. “I used to visit. I was sad to see it close.”
Erol swallowed. “It didn’t make sense to keep it open without her,” he replied, his eyes firmly on his cards rather than those around the table.
It was again that Cassian felt it—a sharp flare of deep cutting pain that was not he or Nesta’s. It… felt different. Scented different.
Cassian remembered Nesta saying that she could distinguish peoples emotions by scent. He had jokingly asked Nesta what he had tasted like when she’d told him, but now he didn’t find it funny at all.
And this shared gift… it was new. Was it because the bond between them was less constricted at the moment? It hadn’t happened before.
But Cassian didn’t allow himself to ponder too long. Made himself plaster on a grin, knowing that was what was needed—a distraction. “Mor is tone deaf,” Cassian drawled to Erol. “Your ears have been saved from near destruction.”
Mor let out a burst of outrage, but Erol lifted his eyes above his cards and met Cassian’s. They swam briefly with gratitude and then the pain disappeared, as if a door had been slammed shut.
“You’re an ass,” Mor cried at Cassian, but her eyes were laughing. “And you can come down from your high horse, whenever I have the misfortune of dancing with you my feet are bruised the next day.”
“The only dance I can perform seamlessly is in battle,” Cassian told Mor with an air that was wholly unfazed. Leaning cockily back in his chair, he stretched his wings to relieve the ache. “Nobody can fault me for that.”
“That’s true,” Mor grumbled, because even Cassian couldn’t deny that when he fought on the battlefield he might as well have been in a ballroom; every move and cut a fluid, faultless dance, that was in Cassian’s mind, more intricate than any waltz or foxtrot.
“He’s uncommonly good,” Mor admitted to Erol, before her gaze snapped to Azriel. “As are you,” she told him.
And to Cassian’s surprise Azriel’s shadows did not lift. He only turned his dark eyes to Rhys and said, “Looks like you’re no longer deemed worthy on the battlefield.”
And that had marked the end of any further questions regarding Erol’s past and started a heated debate on how good Rhys truly was in combat without his magic, instead.
At midnight—at Amren’s insistence—Nesta had allowed her magic to swirl, until the fire that was blasted from the ships cannons turned silver.
Together, they watched metallic flames sizzle across the sky in a licking, fiery sheen.
Cassian smiled to himself.
“She could be more powerful than me,” Rhys commented in his ear. Cassian was leaning against the rail with a glass of wine clutched in his hand. “She is more powerful than me,” his brother corrected, but there was no derision in his tone, only curiosity.
“Yes,” Cassian admitted, because he’d known that for a long time. Knew that the power Nesta had torn from the Cauldron’s depths was ancient, wholly other and so multi-faceted.
Rhys didn’t say anything else, but Cassian sensed he’d wanted to. As if a thought or knowledge had taken root in his brother’s mind. But for now, Cassian was happy to let it lie. Rhys would speak to him when he deemed it necessary… if it was truly important at all.
So, Cassian allowed Mor to drag him back into the House on the insistence that they finish their game. Rhys remained out on the balcony, having lost his chips early on in the evening, and when Cassian watched the glass doors whisper open a good half hour later and Nesta floated out into the dark, he sat up straight.
Tracked her movement as she moved to the balcony and began to talk to someone—to Rhys.
Everything in Cassian stiffened. Rhys and Nesta made a deliberate point of ensuring they were never alone. And even though the two of them had been making an effort in the past few days, Cassian lasted all but five minutes before he set down his cards in the middle of the game and followed Nesta outside with as much subtlety as a brick to the face.
“Am I interrupting?”
The deep rumble of his voice lanced through the low conversation and the swoosh of the doors as they closed behind him.
The night air was brisk outside the House’s magic, but he weathered the icy wind without so much as the bat of an eyelid. Instead, his eyes roamed to Nesta, where she was standing close to the ledge with zero fear.
It was something that had always terrified Cassian when she’d first come to stay in Illyria: at times, he’d known she had wondered what would happen if she stepped off the ledge. But Sala was beside her now, and Cassian knew that the manticore would throw herself into the sky and catch Nesta should she somehow escape the balcony railing and fall.
Rhys, who was standing a five or six feet away from Nesta, stopped speaking and slowly turned to his brother. There wasn’t ire in his expression—or worse, that thundering calm that usually accompanied his conversations with Nesta. Instead, his violet eyes were still and steady, glittering only with the reflection of the stars that twinkled brilliantly in the sky.
Raising her chin, Nesta caught Cassian with the intense steel blue of her eyes, even though their gaze was already locked in place. “No.”
Cassian’s worry eased enough to test the atmosphere. It was not awkward—intense, perhaps—but Nesta seemed… relaxed enough. Not hostile, anyway.
Cassian fired a question towards Rhys’s mind, What are you talking about?
His brother made a tsk sound. Never you mind.
Tell me, Cassian demanded, and he made the mistake of looking at Rhys rather than Nesta. And in that stupid, minute moment, Cassian knew that Nesta would clock that they were speaking mind-to-mind.
Rhys’s laugh was amused, as if he too had watched the realisation of Cassian’s mistake flit across his features. You are an open book. Ask Nesta, if you want.
“I’m going to bed to find my mate,” Rhys announced loudly. He clapped Cassian’s shoulder as he left. “Goodnight brother.” He turned and dipped his chin at Nesta, in a gesture that seemed to hold more weight than a simple farewell. “Nesta.”
Be a good boy and behave, Rhys crooned into his brother’s head as he slid back through the glass doors, no doubt sensing the rising territorial beast that was snapping at Cassian’s heels. No fucking on the balcony, even if you want to.
Cassian’s snort was a growl. As if you’d be able to stop me.
My House, my rules.
A smooth chuckle sounded in Cassian’s head as Cassian envisaged flipping Rhys off. Then, Rhys was retreating entirely from his head and Cassian’s mental shield of fire was an impenetrable ring.
“Were you talking about me?” Nesta demanded as soon as Rhys disappeared.
“No,” Cassian replied on instinct. Then winced. Yes. Sort of. “He was telling me to respect the House.”
Nesta snorted. “As if that would make the slightest bit of difference.”
Cassian barked a delighted laugh. The sound was rich. “That’s exactly what I told him,” he confessed, but then his expression sobered as he noticed her sluggish movement as she turned back to the balcony—the slight slack to her posture which was usually ramrod straight.
“How are you faring?” he asked softly.
Nesta shrugged simply. “I’m fine.”
And she was fine, but she was also undoubtedly exhausted. Now Cassian had noticed it, he could Cassian feel the weight of her tiredness tugging on his stomach, trying to coax it to his toes.
Nesta needed to sleep, and the constant worry that lived inside of him when it came to Nesta’s wellbeing peaked.
But telling Nesta what to do was akin to prodding an angry kelpie with a stick. So, instead, Cassian stated the obvious. “It’s cold out here. Do you want to come back inside?”
Nesta simply shook her head. “I like to look at the faelights,” she admitted.
Curling a wing around her body to ward off the chill, Cassian faced the balcony rail and peered down at Velaris. “You prefer the view here to Illyria?”
He glanced sideways at her just in time to see Nesta scrunch up her nose. “It is beautiful,” she said, but there was a firmness to her voice as she continued, “but the stars aren’t as vivid here. You can barely see pareho.”
“No,” Cassian admitted, because that was the one thing about living in Velaris that had bothered him.
Pareho had always been like a compass to him—a piece of home wherever he travelled.
“My mother and I used to look for pareho every night,” he announced, parting with another piece of himself. “I think it was a method to distract me from the brutal weather. Our fires were always too small and once the cold set in your couldn’t rid it from your bones.”
Nesta nodded in a way that told him she understood what it was to be unable to get warm. Slid her hand across the railing until the tops of her fingers were touching his. It was her way of comforting him and whilst it might seem like a simple gesture to anyone else, it was monumental to him.
Starved of a loving upbringing after he’d been torn from his mother, it had taken Cassian a long while of living with Rhys, his mother and Azriel, to understand that he needed contact more than the average person.
So, when Nesta withdrew her hand, the cold that swept in was especially biting. Everything in Cassian wanted to reach for her again, to connect them in some physical way, but then Nesta was holding the rectangular brown-wrapped item she had been carrying earlier.
Cassian could have sworn the package hadn’t been there seconds earlier. The soldier in him had already scoured the balcony the moment he’d stepped outside, which meant that the House had magicked it into existence; either because Nesta had willed it or because the House was a nosy, interfering being.
Given that the House had dumped ice chips into his bath earlier, Cassian seriously suspected the latter, but he quickly lost his train of thought as Nesta all but thrust the parcel into his hands—as if she was nervous.
“Here,” she announced abruptly. Her eyes slid away from his face, to the apex of his wings, as if she had never seen them before and was suddenly mesmerised.
Unable to stifle his grin at her awkwardness, Cassian tilted his head until he caught her eyes again, even though his breath had started to bubble in his throat. “What’s this, sweetheart?”
Nesta raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow. Downplayed the moment in the only way she knew how. “Is it not customary to gift someone something on their birthday?”
“It is,” Cassian confirmed unnecessarily, still grinning. His pulse pushed desperately against his skin and he hoped to Oya that Nesta hadn’t spotted it. Was this why Nesta had been late? Had she been caught up in the procession because she’d deemed him worthy enough gone to buy him a gift? “I didn’t expect—” he started.
Ice blue eyes flashing in irritation, Nesta made a grab for the parcel, stopping him in mid-sentence. “If you don’t want it, I’ll take it back—”
Cassian was too quick: he held the gift high above her head, so she couldn’t reach it.
“Good try, sweetheart,” he snickered softly. “It’s too late to take it back now.”
Nesta opened her mouth to speak, but then her eyes dragged away from him, to her left… to the remaining friends and family in the open room beyond.
“Now or later?” Cassian asked, his voice dropping out of its usual playfulness and into something soft—shared only between them. He dared to raise a hand to her cheek. Grazed his knuckles over her skin until she was looking at him again.
A moment passed in which Cassian suddenly couldn’t breathe. He didn’t know if it was because he was so taken by the unknown gift he was holding in one hand, or because Nesta was consumed by nerves. Since their scent had interwoven, Cassian sometimes found it hard to dissect who was feeling what—as if their connection had morphed into something more, despite the fact that it was not fully formed.
Nesta didn’t bow to her discomfort. Only shifted her weight to her other foot. Announced firmly, “It’s your birthday.”
“Later then,” Cassian told her selfishly, because he knew if he said later she’d have to be with him, and he hoped that was in his bed—or hers. He didn’t care, as long as he was with her.
He thought back to what he had told her yesterday. Good enough. And being with her like this was enough if it meant that she wanted him, even if there wasn’t a label. He could learn to live with that even though he would secretly always yearn for more.
His mate. She was his mate. Cassian had known it for so long—from the moment he’d heard her voice across the battlefield. Everything had snapped into that first lock then, and now the key was turning again and he hungered after it; that final connection that meant that someone regarded him as worthy enough to be bonded to him in the utmost way.
As if Nesta had seen right through him, she snorted. And even though she’d already told him earlier that he could come and find her in bed, she admonished him, “Good try. Open it now.”
Lifting an enquiring eyebrow, Cassian gave the parcel a little shake—testing its weight and solidity. “It’s not a book,” he announced.
Another snort—but this one was laced with amusement. “I can see why Azriel is the spy and not you,” she quipped wryly.
Delight coursed through him, pounding with the nervous tempo of his heart. But he leaned towards her, unable to help it, whispering away the distance between them. He bowed his head, ran his calloused thumb along the perfect line of her jaw until his free hand was cupping her cheek.
Nesta allowed him to tip her face up towards his, until his breath rasped against her skin, “So cold, you cruel, icy witch.”
When Nesta’s lips parted, everything inside of Cassian tightened and coiled in anticipation. But Nesta didn’t raise on tiptoes to brush her mouth over his. Instead, she gripped at his wrist and breathed, “Open it. Please.”
Cassian paused. Searched her imploring, vulnerable eyes and drew back. Obeyed her command, until brown paper fell away to reveal a silver frame. Beneath the glass was a midnight piece of parchment bordered with a perfect rendering of the night sky and its stars. And in its centre, full of neat lines of swirls and sweeps of black, was an artistic rendering of something familiar. It was Illyrian, Cassian realised, as his eyes scanned the writing, but it was more than that, this recognition, as if it was buried deep inside of him and the words were being pulled to the forefront.
It was a poem—no, a lullaby—and Cassian knew what the lullaby was from the first line, but he continued to read through the blur in his eyes. And when he arrived at the last stanza, some inner shell broke inside of him and memories broke free, tumbling one after the other: the whisper of breath against his ear as a soft lilting voice sang in his ear; dark hair tumbling over his shoulder as a cheek was pressed to his; crisp winter air with a perfumed undertone of something green and floral—the scent of his mother as she enveloped him in her arms.
For a long while, Cassian couldn’t speak. He had turned stock still and the lump in his throat was so overwhelmingly prominent that he couldn’t even work his throat to swallow it down.
But eventually, he somehow got his body to obey, even though he couldn’t look up at her. Couldn’t stop staring at the last verse of the lullaby he had never forgotten—that had stayed with him through everything.
Goodnight my warrior heart, Soon Mother won’t hold you fast.
One day she will watch you go,
But she’ll search high and low,
For the twin stars in the night.
A hush fell over the balcony, like a sweeping rush of wind.
“What’s this, Nesta?” he asked eventually, aware that he’d already asked the exact same thing minutes earlier.
It was a low, broken command that he couldn’t tamper down. He felt Nesta’s heart skip a beat—but he barely processed it—couldn’t do anything but stare and stare at the frame in his hands and the words; some of which were familiar, whilst some remained entirely foreign.
Cassian sucked in a shaky breath. “How—” he asked hoarsely. “How did you find this?”
There was a rustle of movement as Cassian felt Nesta move closer.
“Since you told me the few lines from the lullaby your mother used to sing to you, I’ve been speaking to a lot of the widows,” Nesta began, her voice hushed and unsure.
Cassian hated that she was doubting herself, but he couldn’t look at her—couldn’t let her see the vulnerable window into his very self. Not yet, anyway. For a moment, it was just for him.
“I didn’t mean to find it for you as a birthday present,” Nesta continued, “I just—I thought it would bring you solace, to have a piece of your mother that wasn’t a memory. Something tangible. But then I found it and—”
Nesta broke off abruptly and Cassian finally looked up. He had been hanging onto her every word, and as she spoke it had seemed like something greater than a confession—a secret being created and divulged wholly for him.
Cassian needed to hear more—needed to know everything—so he met her eyes.
Nesta’s cheeks were flushed pink. Her lip was trapped between her teeth and as Cassian stared at her, she bit down hard enough that Cassian felt the faint pain of it flare down the bond.
Cassian wanted to wipe the uncertainty from her features. Wanted to kiss her eyelids, her nose, her lips, but his hands only clutched the frame that finally connected him to a past that had previously been a murky, precious fragment.
“That’s why I was with Erol today,” Nesta confessed. “He’s a calligrapher. He copied down the Illyrian for you. I thought you could hang it in the bungalow.” There was a stumbling pause. “If you want to,” Nesta added quickly. “Or you can just keep it somewhere else. Wherever you want…”
She trailed off. Swallowed. It was the most unsure Cassian had ever seen her and somehow it made that feeling sharpen inside of him. The mental fire around his mind sputtered out and Cassian let them. Knew Nesta could feel everything when her eyes widened.
“I know it’s not much—” she started.
“It is everything,” Cassian interrupted, his eyes shining. “It is everything to me, Nesta. I—” he fumbled, but then his face was wet and he couldn’t stop it.
Nesta’s eyes grew even rounder but then he was wrapping her in his arms and his face was buried just above the hollow of her collarbone. His wings furled around her on instinct, cocooning them as Cassian felt eyes on his back—the membrane of his wings—but then they were gone.
As nosy as they were, Cassian’s family knew when to become scarce.
Fingers splayed across his back and Cassian tasted Nesta’s surprise, the tartness of it in his mouth, like sugared lemons.
Nesta seemed to sense that he couldn’t say much. His eyes travelled the black, beautiful ink thanks to the light that filtered down upon them from the moon and stars.
“Do you like it?” Nesta asked quietly after a long, stretched out moment.
Cassian dropped a hand from the frame to touch Nesta’s cheek. “I love it,” he said roughly. I love you. “Thank you. I don’t—I don’t know what to say.”
Nesta’s soft, knowing smile was the most beautiful he’d ever seen. It opened up an entire new world for him as she shook her head slightly. “You don’t have to say anything. I just… wanted you to have it.”
“I love it,” Cassian repeated again. Hesitated. Wanted to kiss her so badly, but in the end, only bowed to brush a kiss against her cheek.
When he drew back, the House vanished the frame from Cassian’s hands.
He started but Nesta just smiled again. “It’s safe in your room.”
Cassian levelled Nesta with a look. “The House has become a meddler.”
Nesta huffed a breath but her lips were tilted up towards the night sky. “It thinks it knows best.”
“I think it likes you,” Cassian corrected, but Nesta only shrugged, her smile dropping.
Cassian’s heart stumbled after it, flailing in vain to catch it and keep it on her face.
“That would be a first,” Nesta murmured wryly.
“Not true,” Cassian challenged fiercely. He searched her eyes, desperate for her to understand how sincere he was. He supposed she could feel it. The shields around his emotions were well and truly extinguished with no chance of being ignited. “I have liked you from the moment I saw you below the wall.”
“You told me I was a selfish brat who would have allowed my family to starve if it was not for Feyre,” Nesta shot back, but there was no bite in her tone. It was… self accepting.
Nesta looked away. Stared to the right—out at the faelights twinkling below them. Shrugged. “Which is true,” she commented lightly.
She turned back to the railing and Cassian withdrew his wings. “I wasn’t raised like Feyre. She was young and wild and my mother deemed her unworthy for the marriage mart from a young age. But I was born and bred for it.” Nesta took a deep breath. It sounded like a tired, defeated sigh but it was interwoven with something grim. “I didn’t know how to use a bow. So, when the food ran out I got engaged. I thought it would give my family one less mouth to feed, but then Feyre brought home food.”
Nesta shrugged as if it was nothing, but Cassian’s heart stopped beating as her expression turned distant.
And Cassian knew somehow, that was when that human bit of filth had attacked her.
“He hurt you,” Cassian stated softly. There was a dangerous edge to his voice, even though he knew the answer.
The slightest dip of Nesta’s chin had Cassian’s blood roaring in his ears. He willed it to be quiet. And because he needed to erase the haunted look that had settled across her features, Cassian confessed hoarsely, “I was captivated by you from the moment I met you.”
Nesta’s head snapped to his, her lips parting in surprise.
“Nothing is ever black and white,” Cassian insisted, searching her face. “Neither are people. But how I’ve felt about you, it’s always been startlingly clear, Nesta.” He raised a hand to her cheek. Dropped it. “I like you for exactly who you are. I always have.”
A silence whipped through the balcony with the accompanying wind, ruffling the mountain peaks in the distance. Surprise scenting of jasmine and vanilla pushed insistently at Cassian’s insides, travelling down that bond that was still open rather than clamped close at her end.
The sensation made Cassian hyperaware and when he delved deeper, he found that below the startled shock there was something else… that deep, underlying exhaustion he had read in her posture earlier. It was relentless and heavy to the point that Cassian was surprised she was still awake.
Before he could think, Cassian murmured the instinctive words that would always rise when it came to her well-being. “You need to sleep.”
Nesta didn’t question him. Only dismissed him by turning her head back to the view. “I’m fine.”
“I know it wears you out,” Cassian confessed softly. He had seen Nesta suffer from battle trauma many times now. Usually it ended up with her passed out in bed, and whilst Nesta’s trauma hadn’t completely overtaken her this evening, it had been significant enough for her fire to want to act independently of her will.
“Let me take you to bed,” Cassian insisted.
A smirk ghosted across Nesta’s expression. “It’s not your birthday any more, you don’t call the shots.”
But Cassian wasn’t listening. He swept her up in her arms before she could protest, flying them down to the level of the House that harboured Nesta’s bedroom. Once he’d landed softly on the balcony, he said, “I don’t think I’ve ever called the shots when it comes to you, sweetheart.”
Begrudgingly, Cassian let her step out of his embrace. Followed her to her bedroom and tried to focus on that exhaustion winding around his ribcage that told him that Nesta was tired.
Because right now, if they were to do more than sleep, Cassian would give Nesta everything. Knew that whatever happened would morph beyond pleasure for him. He wouldn’t be able to keep his emotions in check. Certainly wouldn’t be able to pretend that she was his everything and he wanted every single piece of her in a way that was so intense he could scarcely breathe when he thought of it.
It was something Cassian needed to consider when they were finally back at the bungalow: if they were to join completely, he’d have to remain wholly in control. Would need to find his completion on her skin or in her mouth, rather than inside of her.
Just the thought of Nesta’s lips wrapped around him had everything in Cassian groaning, the phantom pleasure pushing with an insistence that made his skin ache.
Nesta cocked her head at him. She had floated into her bedroom but Cassian halted at the doorway. And even though her eyes gleamed, they remained a little dull—as if the spark was unable to take life. “What are you thinking about?”
“That you’re more tired than you’re letting on,” Cassian stated, even as his arousal seeped into the air. “That you need to sleep even though you won’t admit it.”
“I don’t want to sleep.”
“Sweetheart,” Cassian murmured softly, and somehow, that one word had Nesta slumping.
“I’m tired,” she admitted. Her nose wrinkled in irritation—or was it frustration? “But I want—”
“Tomorrow,” Cassian vowed, his wings ruffling in anticipation. Mother above, he would never stop wanting her. Would never stop craving the taste of her skin—of her. “When we’re back in Illyria.”
“Will you stay?” Nesta started, her voice husky but hesitant at the same time. She reached for Cassian’s hand, pulling him across the threshold. “I don’t think—“
She stopped. Flushed before she could freeze the pink rushing to her cheeks. And Cassian knew what she meant, but he also knew that if he touched her like that he’d lose all sense of control.
She raised her chin anyway—the act so aggressively Nesta that the left side of Cassian’s mouth kicked up.
“I can help you sleep,” he vowed and tugged her towards the bed. “Come.”
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tealnymph24 · 5 months ago
Text
A Song of Shadows: Chapter 1
Title: You Are My Friend, Right?
Gwyn gives Azriel a friendship bracelet, and he starts to wonder if there might be something more between them.
Read on AO3
Azriel X Gwyn
Warnings: Just straight fluff.
Word Count: 1,074
Single pov
Masterlist
If you would like to be tagged in updates, please let me know.
Tags: @angrypotatofairy | @lizziewanda
Staring out at Velaris from the balcony at the House of Wind, Azriel let his mind wander. For once, he wasn't restless. He felt calm, peaceful almost, and he couldn't quite figure out why.
He was still working far too much and war was looming again. Yet the aching in his chest had eased, his sleepless nights had become fewer and his yearning for Elain, and even Mor, had become an infrequent part of his thoughts. What had caused this shift?
His musings were interrupted by the gentle sound of footsteps from the dining room. He turned just in time to see Gwyn emerge from the glass doors.
Of course, he should have guessed it would be her. His shadows never seemed to warn him when she was coming.
"Good evening," he greeted her with a small smile. "What are you doing up so late?"
"I could ask you the same thing," she teased with a glimmer of amusement in her teal eyes. "It's almost 1 a.m., we should probably both be sleeping."
"Fair enough," he chuckled. "I'm sure Cassian and Nesta would agree with you."
He watched as she made her way over to the edge of the balcony to stand by him. As she came to a stop, his shadows danced across the distance between them and settled themselves in her red-brown hair, as they often did lately.
He had stopped trying to keep his shadows from going near her weeks ago. She didn't seem to mind (she had said as much), and they wouldn't listen anyway. They seemed to like her too much to pay attention to his commands when she was present.
"Were you in the training ring again?" He asked, noting the leathers she was still wearing.
"Yes," she admitted with a shy smile. "I can't help myself. I want to perfect that dagger technique you showed me."
He couldn't stop himself from grinning at her. She was just as obsessive as he was about conquering any challenge that presented itself.
In the few months he had been training her, both alone and in groups, he'd learned they both shared a deep love of competition and strategy. It was something he admired about her.
"Don't worry," he encouraged her. "I'm sure you'll get it in no time. In a few weeks, you probably won't even need me to teach you anymore. You'll have mastered everything."
At that, her face unexpectedly clouded.
"Are you going to stop training with me?" She asked, a hint of disappointment in her tone.
"No, of course I'll still train with you," he quickly responded. "Someone needs to make sure your technique stays consistent, and we both know Cassian is too distracted to do it."
Her face lit back up at his answer. Good, he thought. He hated seeing her the slightest bit unhappy.
"Nesta isn't much better these days," she playfully replied. "That reminds me, I have something for you."
"You have something for me?" He questioned, taken aback by her statement. He was so rarely shocked, but she seemed to have a talent for it.
"Did I forget a holiday? I didn't know we were exchanging gifts." He couldn't recall any summer holiday that required presents.
She laughed at his confusion, irreverent amusement dancing across her freckled face.
"Calm down, it's just something I made for you," she said. "I was going to slip it under your door, but I saw the lights on and knew you must be out here."
He tried to hide his curiosity and nervousness as she slipped a hand into her pocket to retrieve the item.
She pulled out what appeared to be a delicately braided bracelet of blue, black and gold threads with a small charm in the middle.
Her hands shook slightly as she handed it to him, a faint blush appearing on her cheeks.
"It's a friendship bracelet," she explained, the words quickly tumbling out of her. "The colors are supposed to match your spirit. I know it doesn't really go with your normal all black look. You don't have to wear it. If you don't want to, I mean. I just wanted to –. "
"I'll wear it," he interrupted, already moving to tie it on his wrist. "It's perfect. I... I don't...you didn't have to do this, Gwyn."
A friendship bracelet. For him. He'd never had anyone make him anything like it. He suddenly couldn't speak around the unexpected lump in his throat.
Her blush deepened as she watched him finish securing the bracelet. His shadows gently grazed her cheek as if they wanted to feel the warmth pooling there.
"Thank you," he finally choked out, bringing his eyes up to meet hers. "I'm sorry I don't have anything to give you in return."
"It's alright," she quietly responded. "I wasn't expecting anything, I just wanted to give it to you because you're my friend. You are my friend, right?"
"Yes," he said, a strange spark building deep in his chest. "Of course, I'm your friend."
That is what they were, wasn't it? Friends. After all, they had been training together for months, with long-winded debates frequently ensuing afterward. And he'd lost count of how many times she'd found him on this very balcony and they'd fallen into easy conversation about everything from astronomy to the ridiculous plots of her favorite romance novels. Gwyn had most certainly become his friend these last few months. A very good friend.
"I'm glad you like it," she said, bringing him out of his reverie. "I should probably go to bed. I have to help Merrill in the morning, and she won't be happy if I'm late."
"Yes, you're right," he replied, his thoughts drifting back to the precious gift on his wrist. "I should probably try to get some rest too,"
"Well, good night," she said as she moved towards the door, his shadows still dancing around her.
"Gwyn?" He called after her.
"Yes?"
"I'm glad we're friends."
"Me too, Azriel," she smiled, happiness radiating from her. "Sleep well."
"Good night, Gwyn," he said as she disappeared into the house.
As her footsteps faded into nothing, he couldn't help the smile that slowly spread across his face. Gwyn was his friend. The thought made his heart burst in a way he wasn't quite sure he understood, but he didn't care. He would explore the feeling later. For now, it was enough to just know...Gwyn was his friend.
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tacmc · a year ago
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The Ranch {1}
An A Court of Thorns and Roses, Nesta x Cassian, Modern AU, fanfiction.
Collaboration: @throne-of-ashes-and-beauty​ x @tacmc​
Summary: Nesta had spent years in Paris, living her dream and drowning in riches as a gourmet chef, capturing the hearts of the city and its people. But, after her father passes away unexpectedly and leaves his cozy, countryside B&B to his oldest daughter, Nesta is moving back home to the tiny town of Velaris, where the ranch, her sisters, and her father’s unfulfilled dream, awaits.
Sidenote: Being posted between two blogs, it is too chaotic to keep up with a tags list, so all chapters will be tagged with “#TheRanchNessian” & “#SharaCollab”.
A/N: Shelby and I have been writing this for MONTHS and we are so excited to start sharing it with you all! As always, let us know what you think, and enjoy. :) We will be going back & forth posting chapters, so look for chapter 2 on her blog! 
The Ranch Masterlist
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Nesta knew absolutely nothing about ranching.
Even worse, she felt absolutely nothing as she got out of her little red car and stepped onto the dirt path that led to the house.
She had grown up on this ranch, had run around and had adventures with her sisters in these pastures. Yet, as she took in everything she had inherited, she felt nothing.
She hadn’t been to the ranch in years, not since her mother died when she was eighteen. Now, almost a decade later, it was all foreign. It used to look so lively and magical during her childhood, but now it was nothing more than an old, big house built upon a huge chunk of land full of cattle.
Nesta hated cows. They smelled horrible.
She started walking up the path to her childhood home, when she saw the faded, peeling sign in the yard.
Belles & Blossoms Bed and Breakfast
The restraint Nesta used not to roll her eyes was only thanks to the fact that she was well-rested from her stay in Velaris’ newest hotel, the Manor House. The five-star hotel was supposed to be a hotel and spa, but it was more of a resort than anything. After her flight had landed, she had treated herself to a nice dinner and a massage and facial. The stress of knowing she had to come here had been wreaking havoc on her nerves and the special treatment was exactly what she needed.
But now that she was here, now that she was standing in front of the place she’d fought so hard to get out of, she wanted to turn around and check back into her room. Instead, she walked up the stairs, swiped the key from the underside of the rocking chair - where it had always been -  and let herself into the house.
The first thing she noticed was the heat. There was a definite breeze coming from the vents, but the air was by no means cool. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, hoping this was not going to be an indication of how this all would go.
It looked exactly like she remembered, not a single thing having changed. The leather furniture was still prominently featured in every room, the rodeo memorabilia hanging on every wall. She sighed as she walked into the kitchen and to the sink, gazing out the window. She could see the house her father had built on the property a few years back. It had stayed mostly empty, as her father had opted to still live in the old farmhouse.
She would not though, she would move into the modern house on the back of the property, close enough to still be there for her guests, but far enough that she could have privacy if it was ever needed.
Nesta didn’t anticipate it would though.
Her own sisters didn’t even know she was back in town. It had been years since she’d spoken to Feyre and Elain and her texted occasionally, but Nesta knew nothing of their personal lives and they knew none of hers.
Nesta hadn’t even come to her own father’s funeral.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want to. But she couldn’t.
Quickly, she made her way through the rest of the house, cataloging what she saw in her head and already thinking about what changes she would make. When she got to her old bedroom, she paused, lingering in the doorway as she took in how it was the only room in the house that didn’t match the style of the rest.
No, Nesta had never cared for the rodeo lifestyle her father grew up in. Her sisters tolerated it, but just like her mother, Nesta couldn’t stand it.
The walls were still the deep grey she’d painted them, covering up the awful wallpaper featuring ropes and steers. The furniture was elegant and simply stated, dark wood with sleek lines. 
There were no blinds on the windows, leaving the view down to the river uninhibited.
Nesta smiled, feeling a bit of pride as she took in how good her room looked in comparison to the rest of the house. She also let out a breath of relief as she realized it was one less room she’d have to redecorate.
She would do the rest later. Being back was beginning to take its toll. Nesta hurried back out the front door and hopped in her car, driving it further down the old dirt road. Nesta used to love the scenery. There were trees scattered across the landscape, trees that Nesta used to sit underneath in the spring and summer and read her books. Her father used to ask her to help out around the ranch, but Nesta was never interested in ranching. Her sisters helped him, always, and that seemed to be good enough for him.
Nesta pulled up to the little house her father had built and turned off her car. For a moment, she just sat in the quiet, staring at the little house. 
It was cute, even on the outside. There was a little porch with one old rocking chair. The door had been painted red, and Nesta smiled, remembering it was her mother’s favorite color. 
Once she got out, she opened the trunk and pulled out her bags. Much like the main house, the key was underneath the rocking chair. She let herself in and froze.
It was practically empty.
Her father really hadn’t spent much time in there. But why would he? He loved the main house, loved interacting with the guests that would stay there once he turned it into a bed and breakfast.
Besides, it was the home they had lived in as a family. As much as Nesta wanted to get away from the ranch, her father had always taken pride in his family.
Nesta included.
Which was why he left the ranch for his firstborn, she assumed. 
Nesta walked through the empty living room and into the back bedroom, where a simple, bare, full-sized bed sat opposite of a wooden dresser. Other than that, a mirror hung on the wall as the single piece of decor. 
Nesta tossed her bags on the mattress before finding her way into the bathroom. There was a shower with no curtain, a sink with no soap, and a toilet with no toilet paper. 
At least the place was decently clean.
After rummaging through her bag and changing into jean shorts and a t-shirt, Nesta found herself in the kitchen, finding it - shockingly - empty before making a serious mental note to go to the store before the day was over. Sheets, soap, shower curtain, shampoo, food…
She needed it all. 
Before she could feel even more overwhelmed, she found herself on the front porch and breathed in the fresh air. It was then that she noticed the little log cabin sitting on the other side of the dirt road.
There had been a ranch hand, hired by her father, when Nesta was little that used to live in that cabin. She couldn’t remember his name, but she remembered his smile. He was a kind, older man who had passed away before Nesta turned ten. 
Promising she’d revamp the little log cabin after taking on the main house, she slipped on her tennis shoes and walked back up the dirt road. 
She could hear the cows in the distant field and supposed she would have to hire a new ranch hand if she were to keep the ranch going. She sure as hell didn’t know what to do.
Jogging up the stairs, Nesta let herself back in and paused in the entryway, trying to decide what her plan of attack should be. She could clean first, but then when she decided what should stay or go, she’ll just discover more dirt and dust. Or she could start a throwaway pile, but that would definitely stir up the dust.
Nesta groaned and dropped her head in her hands. When she’d first gotten the phone call from her father’s lawyer, letting her know that he’d left the B&B to her, she didn’t even want it. She started looking into what she needed to do and how much she could sell it for, house, land, and business. It had been a decade since she left and she hadn’t looked back once. Why would she now?
She’d found early success in the culinary arts. She studied in Miami, New York, Paris, Rome. She traveled the world. Her father couldn’t really expect her to give all that up, to give up her life, to come back to the town she grew up in, and run the bed and breakfast he started after she got out.
But he did. He trusted her with his dream and with his ranch.
And so she found herself back in Velaris, in the middle of summer, in a house with limited air conditioning, scrubbing the antique baseboards on her hands and knees. After she’d completed the living room, the molding a wholly different color than when she started, she stood and wiped the sweat from her forehead. She fanned herself and looked at her watch.
Only 10:45 in the morning and it was already pushing 85° outside. Nesta quickly realized she’d need to get someone out to work on the air conditioning unit as quickly as possible, and went to the kitchen to grab a bottled water from the fridge.
As she walked through the house, she quickly opened up her browser and looked up a number for a local company that could hopefully get to her quickly. She found one that could work on HVAC and plumbing, and decided to have a once overdone on the entire house. She selected the number and hit send, putting the phone to her ear and opening the fridge.
Nesta hung up the phone, slammed the fridge shut and gagged all in the same second.
Apparently, in the past four weeks, the fridge had gone out. Everything inside had gone bad and though she was used to working in a kitchen, she had never smelled anything so foul in her life.
Nesta has already planned on replacing the fridge, and every other appliance, in the outdated kitchen, so she wasn’t too upset. Just frustrated that would have to be handled so soon. She put the phone down on the counter and tied her hair back in a ponytail.
Air conditioner would have to wait. This fridge had to go.
She sized the thing up, eyeing it from top to bottom. Maybe there was a dolly out in the shed she could use to push it out the back door. It was smaller than an average refrigerator, after all. What could go wrong?
She reached back behind it to make sure everything was unplugged. Then, she slowly took everything out one by one, tossing it a giant black garbage bag she had found in the cabinet.
Nesta was so focused on what she was doing, she didn’t hear the back door open and shut.
“There’s a six pack in there. Hopefully you didn’t throw that out, too.”
Nesta jumped, nearly hitting her head on the open freezer door. “Fuck!” She turned around, and froze. “Who the hell are you?”
He stood there, hair loose around his shoulders, sweat gleaming across his bare, inked chest. He had on filthy boots, covered in the gods knew what, as he stepped into the kitchen.
“I’m wondering the same thing.” The man leaned his hip against the counter that ended at the back door. “Can I help you with something?”
Nesta just blinked, staring at the man, trying to decide if her day could get any more strange. “You can help by getting the hell out before I call the police.” She grabbed her phone, hoping that he knew she was serious. “Have you ever heard of knocking? Trespassing? Or do you always just let yourself into random womens’ back doors?”
The man didn’t try to hide his gaze as he let it drag down her body and settled it on her ass. “Hmm.” He crossed his arms and focused his attention back on her face. “Usually, I like to have dinner with a woman before I ask her to let me in her back door, but I guess if you want to be so direct about it.”
Nesta’s mouth dropped open and she unlocked her phone, giving it her attention. “I’m calling the police.”
“Good,” the man said, pulling a kitchen chair out from the table and sitting down. “I can’t wait for them to get here and arrest your ass.”
Her finger froze where it hovered over the green button. “Me? Arrest me?” She started to laugh.
“Sweetheart, I don’t know what you think is so funny, but I’ve been here every single day for the last eight years, I’ve never seen you in this house once.” He leaned forward and braced his elbows on his knees. “Now, I’ll ask one more time. Can I help you with something?”
Every single day for the last eight years.
“My name is Nesta,” she said, standing a little straighter. “I’m Isaac Archeron’s daughter.”
The man only stared at her, blinking every couple of seconds. “I’m sorry, you said that you were Nesta?”
She nodded.
“You’re kidding me,” he chuckled, standing up. “He left it to you? Really?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Why is that so surprising?”
“Because I’ve met Isaac’s daughters. You know, the ones that have been in his life in the last decade.” He walked toward her and reached past her shoulder to one of the beers that sat in the door of the fridge. He popped it open and took a long, slow drink before saying, “You weren’t one of them.” 
He didn’t move from where he stood less than a foot in front of her. He was massive, but Nesta didn’t cower from his size, although it took everything in her to look up and meet his humored gaze instead of staring straight ahead at his chest. 
“Now that you know who I am, I suggest you tell me who you are,” was all she said, not giving him the satisfaction of a response to his jab.
He grinned, taking another drink before introducing himself. “Cassian. I’ve worked for your dad for-.”
“Eight years, yeah, I got that,” Nesta interrupted. “You take care of the herd?”
He nodded. “And nearly everything else. Used to work alongside Isaac, but did everything pretty much myself once he took a turn for the worse.”
Took a turn for the worse.
Nesta tried to pretend like the words hadn’t punched her in the gut. 
“I see. And do you live here?” Nesta asked, gesturing to the house around them. “If so, you’ve done a shitty job keeping the place up.”
“No,” he said, finally turning his back to her to resume his spot in his chair. “I live in the old log cabin. This house has been neglected for the most part since your dad took-“
“A turn for the worse?” Nesta finished for him. “Yeah, got it.”
“Do you like to finish people’s sentences?” He asked, brow raised. “I’m sensing a theme.”
Nesta ignored him, closing her eyes and sighing. “I’m not sure what my father was paying you but-.”
“He wasn’t,” Cassian interrupted, taking a page from her own book and cutting her off. He finished what was left of the warm beer and threw it across the kitchen into the trash can. It went in with precise accuracy. “What I mean is, he hasn’t been. We came to an agreement at the end of my third summer here, when money was getting tighter. He knew he couldn’t run this place without a ranch hand, but he couldn’t afford to pay me. So he gave me the cabin, signed it over to me. Deed is in my name,” he said, seeing the look on Nesta’s face. “All of my utilities are covered by the B&B. I don’t pay a dime for that house. In return, I do whatever needs to be done on these twenty acres.”
Nesta stared at him, trying to decide if the man - Cassian, he’d said - was trying to deceive her or if he was being genuine. She may not know him, but when it came down to it, she knew her father, and she knew that letting him live for free on their family land is exactly something he would do. “How do you make money then? How do you afford to eat and buy clothes and other necessities?”
“I have other ways to make money, don’t worry about that,” he said, standing and brushing dried mud off of his jeans. He didn’t give her much more time to ask questions as he stood and headed for the door. “I’ll come by and fix the AC later on this afternoon. I have to go into town for feed so I’ll pick up the part I need then.” He was out the back door and his heavy boots were clomping down the wooden stairs.
Nesta ran after him, flinging the door open. “You knew the air conditioning was out? Why haven’t you fixed it already?”
Cassian turned around and looked at her. “I just told you that I don’t technically get paid for the work that I do. My boss, your father, was the one who paid the bills here. It’s been over four weeks since the electric bill was paid and I was trying to keep this place up and running as long as I could with what little money I had saved.” As he passed through the gate that led out to the pasture and the horse stalls, he grabbed a sweat-soaked t-shirt that was draped over the fence and tossed it over his shoulder. He continued to walk backward as he finished explaining himself. “I knew we weren’t going to have many guests in the B&B any time soon and decided that feeding the living creatures that live here was more important than cooling the empty house.”
Nesta watched him walk away. Once he disappeared into the shed, she turned around and went back inside.
Every ounce of anger and frustration had left her. Suddenly, she was feeling empty. Cassian had spent the last eight years with her father, her sisters, working this land and making a home here.
She shook the thoughts away as she tossed the rest of his warm beer cans into her garbage bag.
_____________________________
Nesta had decided to commit the rest of her day to making the little house she now occupied feel a little more homey. She’d gone to the store to pick up a few decor items and some food, along with sheets and a shower curtain.
However, when she pulled back into the driveway, a silver truck was pulled up in front of the main house.
Elain was sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch.
Nesta couldn’t help but smile as she got out. She hadn’t even reached the steps before Elain was running into her arms.
“You didn’t tell me you were coming!” She said, holding her older sister tight. “Cassian texted me.”
“Ah, the rude cow wrangler,” Nesta muttered. “Joy.”
“He’s great,” Elain said, smile fading.
Nesta cleared her throat. “Sorry I didn't let you know I was coming. It…all happened so fast.”
Elain shook her head. “I’m just glad you’re here. Gods, I missed you.”
There was a time when she and Elain had been really close. Leaving her was much harder than leaving Feyre and Isaac. But, Elain was destined to stay in Velaris forever, and Nesta didn’t want that.
Yet, she managed to end up in the damn town, anyway.
Elain got in the passenger seat of Nesta’s car and they headed down to the new house. Nesta began pulling the bags out of her back seat and Elain, helping her carry them up the porch stairs, asked what all she’d bought.
“Everything,” Nesta laughed, pausing to unlock the door, but finding it already open. “Dad didn’t have anything in here, so I figured I’d at least-.”
Nesta froze as she stepped through the threshold, the bags falling to the floor. There was something that sounded far too similar to glass  breaking for Elain’s liking, but Nesta didn’t seem to notice as she breathed, “Where did all of this come from?”
Where there had only been open space earlier, there was now furniture. A couch and entertainment center took up the living room area, and a small breakfast nook now sat in the corner by the kitchen.
“It was mine before I moved in with Azriel,” Elain said, an amused lilt to her voice. “Why do you think I’m in his truck?”
“Elain, I can’t- this is-.” She stopped and swallowed hard, turning to look at her sister. “Thank you.”
Elain just smiled. “It was in storage. I’d rather you be using it than gathering dust in our garage.”
Nesta nodded, slowly, unsure of what to say. “So… Still with Azriel, huh? Moved in together?”
“Yeah, I think he’s going to propose soon,” Elain said, brown eyes lighting up with pure adoration. “I can’t wait.”
“That’s great,” Nesta said, and she meant it, although it didn’t sound like it. She was still in shock. Overwhelmed. She was so incredibly overwhelmed.
“I told Feyre you’re here,” Elain said, sitting on the couch in the little living room. “She said she’ll try to stop by soon.”
Nesta knew it was a lie, but she forced herself to smile. “Great.”
Her and Feyre hadn’t talked since she left. Nesta was eighteen. Feyre was only fifteen, and she refused to understand how Nesta could just take off after they’d just lost their mother.
And Nesta had never attempted to explain her reasoning to her youngest sister.
To anyone.
“So,” Elain began, once the silence became too much. “What plans do you have for this place? Dad, obviously, thought you could bring it back to life. You’ve always had an eye for such things.”
Nesta snorted. “We both know that’s not true. Dad only left this place to me because I’m the oldest. And why don’t you ask me the question you really want to ask?”
Elain attempted to look confused, but failed.
“Don’t bullshit me,” Nesta chuckled. “And don’t worry. No, I’m not selling it. I thought about it. But…” Nesta shrugged. “Dad trusted me enough, for some damn reason, to leave it to me. And we grew up here. I know you all think I’m a heartless bitch, but I’m not that heartless.”
“We don’t think you’re a heartless bitch…” Elain trailed off.
“Just a bitch?” Nesta laughed, sitting next to her and propping her feet up on the small coffee table.
“Shut up,” Elain said, bumping her with her shoulder. Nesta gently shoved her back and Elain laughed, resting her head on her sister’s shoulder. Nesta leaned her own head atop her sister’s. “I missed you.”
“I missed you, too, Lainy.” Nesta smiled. Using the old childhood nickname Elain had hated felt too easy and when she heard her sister groan, she knew she’d hit her mark.
Elain stood. “I should go. I told Az I was running the stuff over here and then I’d be back home. That was almost two hours ago.”
“You did this all by yourself?” Nesta was shocked looking at the furniture around her. It was nice, a good, sturdy quality. It wasn’t cheap by any means, and thanks to that, it didn’t seem light. Nesta imagined her gentle sweet sister trying to get the couch she currently sat on through the door by herself.
Elain laughed and said, “Cauldron, no! I can barely lift the coffee table by myself. Cassian helped me.”
“Cassian?” Nesta lifted a brow.
“Yeah, the rude cow wrangler, remember?” 
Nesta scoffed. “No, I know his name, it’s just…” That was nice of him. Was his shirt still off? “Why didn’t Azriel come to help?”
“He’s at work. Just started a new job in town at the dealership. Mechanic. Works on the tractors and whatnot.”
Nesta didn’t know much about Azriel, only what Elain had told her of him. Although, if she remembered right, they all went to the same high school.
She didn’t care, though. All she cared about is that this Azriel treated her sweet Elain the way she deserved to be treated, and judging by the light in her eyes when she spoke of him, she knew that he was. 
“He said you two got off to kind of a rough start,” Elain said, stopping just in front of the front door.
“Azriel?” Nesta asked, genuinely confused.
Elain giggled. “No, Cassian. He really is a good guy, okay? Give him the benefit of the doubt, I know you don’t trust people easily. But dad trusted him with everything and he’s been around for a while. He’s the best ranch hand you’re going to get for this place. He loves it like it's his own.”
Nesta just huffed. 
“Anyway,” Elain went on, showing herself out. “How about we all get together for dinner tomorrow night? We can go anywhere, your choice.”
“Who is all?”
Elain shrugged. “Me and Azriel? I’ll see if Feyre wants to come. Maybe even ask Cassian-.”
“I don’t think-.”
“I’m glad you’re back,” Elain said, smile bright, cutting off her sister’s protests. 
With that, Nesta watched as her sister walked back up the dirt road toward the main house.
Huffing out a breath, Nesta turned and looked at her new home. It wasn’t much, just a bedroom and a couch and a bathroom, but it was home. She’d make it hers.
Just like the main house and just like the bed and breakfast. She’d make them something she could be proud of.
And so, as the sun went down, Nesta got to work.
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nessianisbestian · 8 months ago
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Problem with these books is that I'm often told the traits of the characters and what to think about them instead of being shown how they act and coming to my own conclusion. I'm told how great Mor is at battle and then I see her sit back and not fight. I'm told how awful Nesta is and then I see her speak up an behave of the humans in need. I'm told how great a leader Rhys is and then I see him treat people like crap and get upset when they don't believe he is a "nice guy". I'm told Amren is a freaking beast but all I see is her growl at people and drink blood. She is as terrifying as edward cullen then. No wonder there is so much divide in the fan group half the people are reading and seeing and the other half believe what they are told without proof.
My hope is that in ACOSF I'm not told what to believe, I want to see it in the characters' actions. I want to believe it.
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duskandstarlight · 24 days ago
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Embers & Light (Chapter 39 smutty teaser, Nessian fic)
The smut is finally here folks! Enjoy this snippet... I don’t have a firm ‘live’ date yet for this chapter given that my wedding is coming up very soon, but I’ll let you know once it’s been sent off to my lovely beta.
Oh... and I feel like you expect the filth from me, but for those not familiar with my writing, this is NSFW
Lastly, if any of you have slipped off my taglist lemme know. Some blog links don’t work, potentially because you haven’t posted? And after a while I remove people. Tumblr is a minefield I don’t understand, so just holler and I’ll try and fix it :) 
Cassian was reaching for his cock at the same time that Nesta ordered, “Now.” The word was a barked, strangled snarl. “Now, Cassian.”
In that moment, Cassian knew there would be nothing gentle about how this was going to play out. It was going to be rough and frantic, riding a wave of pleasure that had been building for too long. Knew afterwards that they would sink to the cold floor in a mass of tangled limbs and mingled breath.
And Cassian wanted that. Had never wanted release so badly in his life.
Something clambered in the back of his mind. Something he needed to remember, but his limbs were moving of their own volition. He pumped his cock once, twice, three times and then he was lined up against her entrance.
The heat and slickness of her was sinful and divine. A hand flew up to span her cheek but it ended up half in the hair that had fallen free of her braid.
He pushed it back from her face just as she tugged him in for a bruising kiss.
There was a moment when everything paused and trembled. As Nesta pulled away and stared at him, her eyes swimming silver—glowing with it—her pupils obscured.
His magic surged at the sight of it. Crashed against his skin as if it was trying to escape. His siphons burned bloody.
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nehemikkele · 21 hours ago
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Hybern's Edge - Chapter 4
1 Year and 3 days after Nesta’s marriage to Eris.
Nesta was only contributing to the celebratory dinner conversation at a superficial level as the starters were cleared away ahead of the main course.
The other three at the table knew it, but were content to let her mind drift in and out when it did so. No pressure or judgement on her, just allowed to be herself in their company.
Just Nesta. Drifting in her own head. Remembering back to Feyre’s birth.
A short while after she had accepted Eris’ proposal Feyre’s pregnancy issues had come to a head. Nesta had received word from Elain by magic parchment that the known complications were intractable. Rhys had become utterly desperate, with the mainly unknown life pact about to lead to the death of three fae in one event. He had begged Elain to write to Nesta to see if her powers could do anything to save his mate and unborn child. No pride, no airs and graces, just the plea born out of total desperation for the lives of his loved ones.
Nesta did what she was best at doing; intervening when the time was right.
Despite their still difficult relationship she travelled to Velaris and surrendered the vast majority of her stolen cauldron power in a bargain with the Mother to save her little sister and their baby son, Nyx. Nesta felt a blessed relief at the relinquishing of the enormous power she had taken in retaliation for being made fae, but also comfort at retaining some of it. She wouldn’t be powerless, but neither uncomfortably puissant.
A short, but cryptic, conversation with The Mother had left her flummoxed, but with an understanding that she could call out to her in times of greatest need.
What precise powers were retained and extent was retained would take time to work out, but with Eris by her side Nesta had a home and protection from Beron to do this. At least she hoped Beron would only see her now as some super charged broodmare, and not a weapon to be wielded. Similar to how he saw the Lady of the Autumn Court, and the thought made her shudder.
“Forgive me,” Rhys had wept on his knees in front of her. “I was wrong, we were wrong. Only you could have done this. Saved all of us. I’m so sorry.”
He loves my sister. I love my sister. I love my nephew. For that love I will forgive him. But who will forgive the monster that I am?
The words weren’t easy to say, but like all things that are worthwhile and necessary she said them and meant it. “I accept your apology, Rhys.” She dropped to her knees, gave him a hug and smiled up to Feyre and Nyx.
That had caused the end of the personal enmity between her and Rhys, another thing which made her life better. The entire Inner Circle were aware of what had transpired, their attitudes softening immediately. Except him. The fae to which the bond linked her too.
Cassian was nowhere to be seen and he had learnt to completely mask his end of the bond. Difficult to break through the fog of misdirection, but not impossible for her silver flames. With the almost daily mate, mate, mate that the bond reminded her of, reaching Cassian through the channel was the last thing on her mind. The constant dreaming of them joined together in her bed was proving almost too much of a distraction as it was. I thought that this was to be his punishment not mine? Damn his prophetic words.
A few days later a much smaller Night Court family dinner was held at the River House. Rhys and Feyre were there, the engaged couple of Eris and Nesta and surprisingly Elain and Lucien.
“Lucien. I didn’t expect you to be here?” The bite had left Nesta’s tone, now she knew the new pathway of her life, but the curtness of tone remained. Elain answered for her mate, “We’ve been busted. No point in hiding it anymore. I’ve decided to give Lucien a try to see if we’re compatible and if we are….then we’ll see what happens.”
“Any visions from the future?” Feyre’s teasing hadn’t stopped since they had been discovered smooching in a little visited grove outside of Velaris (see NSFW Elain’s Adventures during ACOSF).
“No! My powers haven’t made a reappearance.” Elain’s lie was smooth as silk as she employed her demure persona and used her doe eyes to their usual deadly effect. Except Nesta. She didn’t believe a word Elain was saying, but she had now reached the conclusion everyone should be free to choose. Therefore, let her sister go and make her own life. Let go and let my sisters grow up and into their fae lives, Nesta’s inner voice was becoming less bitter and more mature. She was listening more to it and it felt like a weight being lifted off her shoulders.
Elain hadn’t told anyone of the tiny vision that she received that Solstice Night, lying in bed frustrated to heck as her hormones surged uncontrollably in the aftermath of when Azriel had pulled back. A magical ‘seeing’ of Gwyn wearing the necklace as Azriel wrapped his hands round the priestess’ waist while smothering her neck and cheeks in kisses. At that point she realised who was the true owner of the necklace and what might happen with Lucien, after a trial period of compatibility. She had immediately returned it to the pile and decided to get on with her life.
Anxious to switch the attention off her, Elain turned to Eris, “How are you two getting along with the wedding plans?”
A grimace from the Autumn male, “My mother is doing most of the organisation, my father doesn’t really care for that. He’s just rubbing his hands with glee.” Eris’ face darkened at the last sentence uttered, but he gave Rhys a meaningful look. The Night Court’s High Lord nodded, “I’m sure your mother will do a fine job. Your father, well, I’m sure he won’t care about the wedding apart from getting the ceremony done itself. Who knows how much longer he’ll care for?”
Nesta noted this appeared to mollify her fiancé. In fact she was just grateful that Eris was in the River House and not taking the slings and arrows from Rhys. Either verbally or literally. Now was the time to flex her diplomatic skills.
“Rhys, Eris, we need to fix Night and Autumn Court’s relationship. I wasn’t there when it went badly for your cousin with the Vanserra family. But if….the future event….happens then a new start needs to be forged.” She paused to see what the reactions were. Nothing yet, just eyes fixed on her. “It can’t be solved in a few years, but with threats from outside facing us…..well, the less antagonistic we are to each other, then surely that’s better? We all saw what happened when Tamlin let his personal feelings come in the way of the better good for Prythian? No matter that eventually he saw the right way.” And saved your life despite you claiming Feyre.
Rhys was quiet and it was clear that Feyre was leaving him to his own thoughts as she glowed in admiration of her oldest sister. Eris was tense, but Nesta dropped a hand to his thigh to let him know she was there for him. It had the desired effect as she felt the strong muscles there relax a bit.
“One of the bad things about living so long is the ability to hold grudges knowing there is no time restraint to having to make peace.” Rhys’ words were introspective as he looked at Nesta, before turning to the male sitting next to her. “No guarantees Eris. But for the sake of Prythian, let’s find a way and push forward when the time is right.”
I was right. His nature, shaped and defined by being a High Lord, means that the good of Prythian - or at least his version of it - will drive his actions. Except what I was to him, the spiteful sister of his mate. But, that’s finished now and we go forward from here.
A lot of the tension left the room with those words. “My fiancée is a true diplomat and courtier I think? Almost as good as the dancer she showed me. I would like nothing better than to make peace with our neighbours. Nothing more than peace in Prythian for all fae.”
Eris was being genuine and all could see it. Lucien barked a laugh and turned to Elain. “Told you he wasn’t a complete and utter idiot!”
Eris grinned at Nesta, “See, you’re not the only one cursed with unruly younger siblings!”
They all laughed at that, while Nesta basked in her own warmth at being the catalyst to make Prythian a better place.
I always thought that I could be good at this. I’m taking my chance. Now.
--------------------------------
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tacmc · a month ago
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Elain’s Pie {Part 3//Conclusion}
Part 1: Elain’s pov 
Part 2: Azriel’s pov 
NSFW. 18+. 
Shout out to Shelby for writing this with me!
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Azriel stood outside of Elain’s apartment.
He had been standing there for five minutes, at least, unsure of what to do.
Well, he knew what to do.
Knock.
He should knock.
And, usually, knocking would not be a difficult task, but it was the first time he was seeing Elain since…
The incident. 
She had invited him to come over for dinner. Coincidentally, pie was for dessert. 
Azriel closed his eyes and took a deep breath before knocking on her front door, three times, avoiding the giant floral wreath that hung in the top center.
“Coming!” she heard him call.
His entire body flooded with nerves. As her footsteps approached along the wooden floorboards, Azriel felt like he was going to puke.
He should turn around.
He should go home.
He couldn’t stop imagining her breasts.
Damn it, Azriel, you’re a grown ass man, not some horny teenager with only his hand to-.
Elain opened the door, looking absolutely stunning in a lavender sundress. 
“Hey!” she beamed. “Come in, dinner’s almost ready.”
He nodded, and smiled, and walked inside, running a nervous hand through his cropped hair. “Smells good.”
“Yeah?” Elain asked. “Just a simple dinner of roasted chicken and carrots. Nothing fancy.”
Azriel nodded, and realized just how long it had been since he’d been in her apartment. Her pink roses must’ve died. In the middle of her kitchen table, lilies took their place. 
Elain chuckled as she swept past him, back into the kitchen. “Take off your shoes, get comfortable. You act like you’re a stranger.”
Azriel cleared his throat and quickly slipped off his Vans. “Sorry, I- I didn’t sleep well last night.”
It wasn’t a lie.
Knowing he was going to Elain’s, he didn’t sleep worth shit. 
“How come?” she asked, opening the oven to remove the pan within. 
Azriel hesitated. “Not sure,” he lied. “Air conditioning went out. I think I was just hot.”
Elain hummed as she put the hot dishes on top of the stove. The table was already set to perfection, in true Elain fashion, just for the two of them. “There’s a bottle of wine chilling in the freezer. Mind taking it out?”
Azriel nodded and did as she asked. After taking out the bottle of moscato, he found the corkscrew and popped it open. After filling the two glasses on the table, he set it to the side. 
“Can I help with anything else?” he asked.
Elain shook her head as she carried a dish of roasted chicken surrounded by vegetables to the table. “Sit. Make yourself comfortable.”
He did as she asked.
Once he was seated at the table, he continued to watch her. 
“You’re acting strange,” she said, bustling about the kitchen, adding the finishing touches to their meal.
No, not at all, I’m just wondering if you’re wearing that same scrap of lace under your dress tonight. I just keep thinking about it.
“Just tired, is all,” he lied, but then he slipped in a kernel of truth. “A lot on my mind.”
“Well that’s what dinners with your best friend are for,” she replied, rounding the corner and taking the seat across from him. A soft smile that was so quintessentially Elain bloomed in her lips. “So you can relax and get whatever’s on your mind off of it.”
Looking at those lips, he knew there was no chance in hell he’d be able to get the image of her wearing nearly nothing out of his mind. Or the images his mind had come up with, based on pure creativity of his own.
Luckily for him, she hadn’t left much to the imagination. 
“Help yourself, please,” she said, motioning to the plate between them. She took her glass of wine and sipped from the rim. Azriel tracked the movement. 
When it was clear he wasn’t moving, Elain set down her glass. “This is awkward, isn’t it?”
“What?” Azriel asked. “No. No, it’s not-.”
“I was afraid this would be awkward, and it’s so awkward,” she said, her cheeks turning pink.
Azriel laughed, quietly. “Elain, it’s not awkward.”
“Then why are you acting so weird?” she asked, meeting his eyes. 
Azriel hesitated. “I’m not acting weird.”
“I know you better than anyone,” Elain said, pointedly. “You’re acting weird.” 
Azriel looked down at his empty plate, then back up at her. “Maybe we should talk about it.”
They hadn’t talked about it since that first night, since the night Azriel opened his phone to see a sight he never thought he’d have the honor of seeing, and then it was just him joking around to make her feel comfortable and less embarrassed.
Elain nodded, slowly. “Okay. We can talk about it.”
He had suggested they talk about it, yet he had no idea where to start. What exactly to say. He went with the question that had been eating him alive since she explained it wasn’t the picture she meant to send him.
It didn’t explain why the picture existed.
“Why did you even have that picture?” He asked, trying to keep his tone light. He even took a sip of the sweet wine to appear like he wasn’t about to tear out of his skin. “Was it for…someone else?”
They told each other everything. As far as he was aware, she hasn’t been seeing anyone else. Her breakup with Greyson four months ago had been catastrophic enough that she had decided she wanted to be single for a while. Granted, it had been a while, at this point, but he hadn’t heard her talk about a potential beau during any of their dinners, texts or phone calls.
“No!” She blushed, covering her own face. “No, of course not. I never take pictures like that.”
He refrained from telling her that he had seen proof that was a lie, at least once, but let her go on. “I just… I thought I looked good while I was getting dressed that morning. I was…feeling myself.”
Azriel bit his lip to keep from laughing. “Feeling yourself, huh?”
“Yes, feeling myself,” she repeated, and Azriel noted her cheeks had turned a darker shade of pink. “I’d never even taken a picture like that...and I wanted to know what I’d look like on camera.” She shook her head and breathed a laugh. “It was stupid.”
“It’s not stupid,” Azriel said, a little too quickly. Elain raised a brow, and he cleared his throat. “The picture wasn’t stupid. You looked…amazing. Incredibly attractive.”
Elain nibbled on her bottom lip as she said, “Of course you’d think that. I was nude and you’re a man.”
It was a joke, Azriel knew that, but Elain’s voice was far too quiet and insecure for the punchline to really hit.
Azriel just shook his head. “You always look amazing, Elain. I was attracted to you long before I saw you naked.”
There it was.
The confession.
Elain’s lip fell from between her teeth.
Before she could say anything back, he began scooping chicken and vegetables on his plate. “Smells amazing. I’m starving.”
That quickly, he tried to shove what he’d said under the rug.
For a second, she debated pushing him, those words, words she’d never expected to hear from him… They filled her with far more of a thrill than she expected.
So she let him steer the conversation to safer topics, let him drain his own glass and then refill it.
They ate.
They made small talk, talked about their weeks and work and what was going on with their friends. The conversation grew lighter with each word, and that awkwardness they had found themselves in had slowly faded away.
As dinner wrapped up and their plates were cleared, the wine bottle found itself empty.
Elain stood and cleared their plates only to return to the table a moment later with another bottle of wine and dessert.
“I hope you saved room for pie,” she said, setting it down in front of him.
His cheeks heated and he cleared his throat. “Absolutely. Always room for pie.”
The second the words left his mouth he wanted to take them back. Gods, his head was swimming. That was the dumbest thing he could have said, considering.
He could see the smile trying to form as she cut into it and placed a slice on his plate. “Good. I’m proud of this one. It’s a new recipe I found.”
As she leaned over, the dress she wore gave him an unintentional view of her cleavage and he forgot how to breathe. “I’m sure it will be the breast— I mean, best! The best you’ve ever made.”
Mother’s tits, he was hopeless. He was no better than a thirteen-year-old discovering the Internet for the first time. He couldn’t drag his eyes from her cleavage and knew drinking anymore of that sweet wine would land him in so much shit, he would have no idea how to get out of it.
Elain was looking at him. With the smallest, sweetest of smiles, she asked, “Breast?”
“I said best.”
“You said breast.”
“I did not.”
“Are you going to think about my boobs every time I offer you pie?”
Azriel opened his mouth, then shut his mouth just as quickly. “I’m trying not to, but it’s a little hard.”
“It’s a little hard?” she repeated, brows shooting up as she looked down, as if she could see through the tabletop to his jeans.
“No- not- I’m not….it’s hard not to think about…” Azriel sighed, closing his eyes and shaking his head. “Nevermind.” 
Elain suppressed the smile on her lips, and when Azriel opened her eyes and met her gaze, the amused expression on her face had him laughing, quietly. She reached over and refilled his glass. 
“I’m not mad about it, you know,” she said, quietly.
“About what?” Azriel asked, indulging himself with more wine.
“That you can’t seem to get that picture out of your mind.” 
“Good, cause it’s not likely to go anywhere any time soon,” he admitted, thinking back to what else he’d admitted earlier in the night.
She took a drink of her own wine as she sat down next to him, in the spot closer, rather than the seat across the table. “So. Have you ever sent any accidental embarrassing photos of yourself?”
He nearly choked on the bite of pie he’d been taking, and he had to admit, it was pretty damn good. “Have I ever…accidentally sent a dick pic to someone?”
She laughed softly, the sound of it skittering across his bones, and said, “Well, a topless picture of you wouldn’t be nearly as scandalous. So yeah.”
“Never on accident,” Azriel replied, clearing his throat. “Almost did the other night though.”
As soon as the words were out, he wished he could take them back. Especially as he saw her eyes widen.
He was drunk. He must have been so damn drunk to be saying the dumb shit he was saying.
“To me?” she asked, as if she didn’t already know the answer and needed clarification. 
“That’s typically the response, isn’t it?” Azriel asked, unable to control the words coming out of his mouth. “You get a naked picture, you send one back. Until you texted saying it was an accident, I was…thinking about it, yeah.”
Elain nodded, slowly, pursing her lips. “And what would it have looked like?”
The words were quiet, hardly audible, but her deep brown eyes were lit up, waiting for his answer.
Azriel hesitated. “I’m not… I don’t know,” he laughed, and a giggle escaped Elain. “It looks like it looks, I guess.”
“That doesn’t give me a lot to create a mental picture,” Elain said.
“Are you trying to create a mental picture?” Azriel asked.
“It’s only fair, isn’t it?” she asked. 
Azriel simply lifted a brow.
She took another sip of her wine and shrugged, asking, “You said you thought I was attractive, right?”
He nodded, not trusting his mouth to not say something stupid anymore.
“What if I said I found you attractive, too?” She raised an eyebrow and waited.
Azriel waited, too, not saying a word.
Her grin grew. “What if I told you I’d thought about it before?”
He blinked and choked. “You’ve thought about— Really?”
She laughed, the sound bright and amused. “I showed you mine, you show me yours.”
Azriel stared at her, eyes narrowed. “I feel like this is a trick.” 
“It’s not a trick.”
“Are we drunk?”
Elain took a moment to think about it. “I don’t think so.”
Azriel chuckled, knowing full well that she was full of shit. “Fine, you win.”
She raised a brow. “Show me.”
“Patience,” Azriel crooned. “I’m eating my pie.”
Elain leaned over to his plate, dug her finger into the filling and brought it to her lips, sucking it off her fingertip.
Azriel watched her, his heavy breaths going shallow. 
“It is delicious,” she said, giving him one of those bright, heart-stopping smiles.
That smile spurred him into motion. Reaching over, he grabbed her wrist and tugged her towards him, meeting her in the middle. The kiss was soft and sweet and it took everything in Azriel not to nibble on that full bottom lip. He felt her fingers grip his collar, pulling him closer to her and he kissed her until she was breathless.
Pulling away, she stood, smirking, and asked, “Are you all done with your pie?”
In answer, Azriel stood and scooped her up, his mouth instantly finding hers, hungrily. Her legs wrapped around his waist, the skirt of her dress sliding up her thighs. 
She clung to him, and it felt...right.
He had felt Elain’s arms around him a million times throughout the years, but those were only simple, friendly hugs.
This was something entirely different. This was desperation, heat, an awkward situation had turned into years of emotion tumbling out of them.
I showed you mine, you show me yours.
Oh, he would, he would show her everything, anything she wanted. He was in her grasp, and he didn’t want her to let go.
Azriel stumbled into Elain’s bedroom, his lips still on hers. She bit his bottom lip and tugged and the low growl that escaped Azriel had Elain’s fingers digging into his back. 
Azriel dropped Elain onto her bed and she landed, perfectly, her hair spilling into a crown around her head. She watched him, eyes bright.
“Tell me to stop if you don’t want to-.”
“I showed you mine,” she interrupted. “Fair is fair.”
Azriel stepped forward and reached for the hem of his henley, quickly pulling it over his head.
Elain pushed herself up into a sitting position at the foot of her bed and reached out, her fingertips brushing along his inked abdomen. 
Azriel held his breath.
Moving her fingers up his abdomen, Elain studied him. When she reached his chest, she began to trace the lines of his tattoos. She would stop at every scar and brush her thumb along it, as if giving it extra recognition and appreciation. 
When her hands moved back down, she paused at the waistline of his jeans, riding low on his hips. She traced his happy trail until she ran into the button of his jeans, and slowly undid it, bringing his zipper down just after. 
She didn’t wait, didn’t want to waste any more time by teasing him, and tugged his jeans off. He kicked them off, left in just a pair of tight, black boxer briefs.
“You’re sure about this?” Azriel breathed. Not because he didn’t want it, gods, he’d never wanted anything more than he’d wanted Elain. He’d been falling for her for years. But he knew there was a line that was about to be crossed that there was no coming back from.
Smirking, she slid her finger inside the waistband of his underwear, slowly running it back and forth, hip to hip. “Something to hide in there? Is he shy?”
“Absolutely not,” he replied. He was straining against the fabric and he knew Elain could see that.
With a nibble on her bottom lip, she looked up at him beneath lowered lashes and said, “I want to see your cock, Az. I want this.”
The words were the most vulgar thing he’d ever heard from her, and he was so stunned and turned on by them that he could only nod.
She tugged his boxer-briefs down and he sprung free.
Elain stilled as her eyes widened, taking him in. She took a raggedy breath, and Azriel watched every single movement that radiated off of her. The way her eyes took in every inch, the way her lips parted, the way her chest rose and fell in heavy breaths. 
She wrapped her hands around his cock before leaning forward and brushing her tongue over the head. Azriel cursed, hardly able to breathe. There were many ways he thought this would go, but her mouth around him?
It wasn’t one of them.
Not that he was complaining.
He sure as hell wasn’t complaining. 
His hands were fisted at his sides, terrified that if he moved, if he did anything to frighten her, she’d stop, and right now needed to know what her mouth felt like. He needed to feel the warm wetness and thought he might die if she stopped.
And thank the cauldron, she didn’t.
Elain let her tongue pass over the swollen head again, once, twice, before those full, pink lips wrapped around him.
Azriel was unable to stop the groan as his head fell back, but he forced himself to look down, not wanting to miss a second of her mouth on him.
Her eyes were shut and she kept a hand firm around the base of him as she worked him.
“Fuck, Elain,” he breathed, letting his hand slip into the mass of her golden-brown hair. Her eyes opened and she looked up at him.
Azriel had always loved getting lost in the deep caramel depths of her big, brown eyes. However, there was an entirely different feeling those big, brown eyes gave him as they eyed him through her long, dark lashes while her lips were wrapped around his cock.
And with her lips wrapped around his cock, and her eyes on his, Elain slid the straps of her dress down until it was a pool of lavender fabric around her knees. 
Her lips let him go with a soft pop. “Do you want to fuck me, Azriel?”
With every word, her breath was warm against his sensitive skin. She slowly stood, her hands trailing along his skin as she did so. Once she stood, Elain slipped off her bra, then slid down her panties.
The only part of Elain he had yet to see was now on full display.
Quietly, she laid back on her bed and spread her legs open wide before motioning Azriel to come toward her. The breath was knocked out of him as he cursed, and his knees hit the bed as he studied Elain’s perfectly shaved, pretty pink pussy. 
With a growl he’d never heard come out of himself, Azriel lined himself up at her entrance.
She gripped the sheets beneath her, and Azriel gripped her hips.
“Ready?” he asked, quietly.
Her cheeks were rosy. “Yes, please-.”
There was a knock on the door.
Azriel’s head swung around. “The fuck was that?”
Elain blinked. “What was what? Azriel, fuck me-.”
That knock came, once again. 
“Azriel,” Elain pleaded. “Fuc-.”
That knock came again, and Azriel’s eyes shot open. 
Elain wasn’t spread out before him, begging him to fuck her. He wasn’t in her bedroom, he wasn’t even in her house.
No, as Azriel blinked, his surroundings became clearer and he sat up, looking around his own living room.
He’d fallen asleep on his couch after work, his quick, shitty dinner of frozen pizza and a Jack and Coke still sitting on the coffee table.
And his cock was incredibly, painfully hard.
He fell back against the cushioned arm rest, dragging a hand down his face.
It’s was dream. It had all just been a damn dream and—.
Another knock came from the door and he realized that that had been what pulled him from the most amazing dream he’d ever had, right before he’d been about to fuck Elain.
Before he’d been about to fuck his best friend.
“Az?” a familiar, high-pitched voice called. “Are you okay? I thought I saw your truck in the lot.”
Elain.
He looked down to the pitched tent just below the waistband of his sweatpants. “Fuck,” he muttered. “Hey! I, uh, I’m coming.”
No, he wasn’t.
And that was the real problem on so many different levels. He stood, and with his eyes closed, he took a couple of deep breaths. 
Dead puppies. The end of The Notebook. Bad whiskey.
As he walked toward the front door, Azriel continued to think of things that made him sad, hoping his dick would get its shit together before he opened the door.
“Az, it’s raining!” Elain yelled, and he could hear the laughter in her voice.
A sound that made all the sad things Azriel was trying to think about completely vanish.
When he decided that little Azriel was calm enough, he opened the door. Elain stood on his doormat, rain drops falling onto her hair, in jeans and a t-shirt. 
“Sorry,” he said, unable to control his grin. “I didn’t know you were coming by.”
“I texted you about an hour ago,” she said, as he stepped aside to let her in.
“I accidentally fell asleep on the couch,” he said, tossing a thumb over his shoulder. In the process, he highlighted his piss poor meal.
She laughed. “It’s a good thing I brought this then,” she said, lifting the dish in her hands.
He somehow hadn’t even noticed it, but he froze and asked, “Brought what?”
Elain’s cheeks turned a deep shade of pink as she set the dish down on his kitchen table. “It, uh, is an apology pie.”
Azriel stopped on the other side of his table and chuckled. “I’m sorry, it’s a what?”
Elain sighed and covered her face with her hands. “This is an I’m sorry I sent you a picture of my breasts pie.”
Azriel couldn’t help his laughter. “Do people usually make pies for such occasions?”
“I do,” Elain replied, taking the lid off her dish. “And be happy about it, because it’s apple, and it’s going to be delicious.”
Azriel watched her for a moment before he nodded and went to retrieve two plates and forks. When he turned back around, Elain was watching him. 
“I…thought this would be awkward,” Elain confessed as Azriel sat across from her at the table.
“Why?” Azriel asked, cutting the pie. “Cause I’ve seen your tits?” 
Elain’s face turned as red as a tomato as she kicked his shin under the table. “I just… I don’t want this to change anything, you know? You’re my best friend, Az. You’re the one steady thing in my life and I don’t want that changing.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” he promised, plopping a massive piece of pie onto his plate. “It’s already forgotten about, alright? I haven’t even thought about that picture once.”
Elain lifted a brow. “Are you lying?”
“I would never lie to you,” he said, lying through his teeth. He’d thought about that picture every day, both when he was awake and, apparently, while he slept, too. 
“Good,” Elain said, helping herself to the dessert. 
Without another word on the subject, Azriel helped himself to Elain’s pie. 
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geek-girl7 · 3 months ago
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Masterlist
Acotar
Protectors of Illyria
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Summary: Mira Archeron’s life changed the day she was forced into the Cauldron. In order to find meaning in her new life, she becomes the Night Court’s emissary to Illyria while training to become a formidable warrior under the watchful eye of Lord Devlon.
Pairing: Lord Devlon x OC/Reader!ArcheronSister
A/N: slow burn, enemies to lovers, devlon is a sweet teddy bear I swear, updates weekly, SPOILERS POST ACOSF
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Star Wars
Accidental Courtship
Summary: No one ever informed you of Mandalorian courtship customs so when you unknowingly start the courtship process with the man you have been pining for since arriving at the covert, confusion ensues.
Pairing: Paz Vizsla x gn!reader
Blaster Bolt to the Heart
Summary: You’ve disliked Fennec Shand since you began working for Boba Fett but things suddenly change when a army of mercenaries forces your partnership into new waters.
Pairing: Fennec Shand x gn!reader
A Full Sabacc
Summary: You and Fennec take a business trip to Canto Bight where fashion is paramount and credits are up for grabs.
Pairing: Fennec Shand x gn!reader
A Golden Fairytale
Summary: You attend Din's coronation ceremony on Mandalore and find yourself, unexpectedly, falling for a certain clan leader.
Pairing: The Armorer x gn!reader
The Hobbit/LOTR
Restless Love
Summary: You can't help but admire the leader of the Company. What could possibly go wrong when two mischievous dwarves take notice?
Pairing: Thorin x gn!reader
The Royal Bodyguard
Summary: When someone in Erebor threatens you, your brother Thorin places you under the protection of his closest and best warrior. Meddling Thorin hopes to finally bring the two of you together, but will it work?
Pairing: Dwalin x gn!Reader
The Gentlemen
Love, Sweat, and Rainbows
Summary: You and Ray have an eventful hike through the Grand Canyon after attending pride.
Pairing: Raymond Smith x bi!gn!reader
Marvel
Love Is A Dagger
Summary: Sylvie reminisces about her time with you as her bodyguard and lover.
Pairing: Sylvie x fem!reader
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duskandstarlight · 17 days ago
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Embers & Light (Chapter 39 smutty teaser #2, Nessian)
Notes: A second teaser for those of you thirsty for the next smutty chapter. I’m not sure when this will be up just yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as I know :)
Just a warning that this is smut... NSFW ;)
Burning pleasure clambered to its peak and Nesta’s eyes grew so heavy they fluttered closed. Something unintelligible left her lips as her head tipped back into the heart of his chest.
When her arms wound around his neck, her knuckles accidentally grazing the leather of his wings, Cassian part-snarled, part-roared. Swore. Held her even tighter as his wings snapped out high and mighty behind him. They wrapped around Nesta’s body before Cassian’s pleasure-fogged mind could stop them curling towards her, starved for her touch.
Fuck, he was unhinged. So desperate for relief—in the scent and feel of his mate—that his control was barely there. Enough so that he didn’t react when Nesta reached out her hand—
Sense knocked Cassian for six only when Nesta’s fingers were millimetres from touching the membrane. He drew back his wings so fast the air around them stormed, but he swooped in before surprise could register on Nesta’s face. Dipped his chin and coaxed her head even further back so he could claim her mouth.
The taste of her lips was as vital as breathing, the scrape of her nails on his scalp grounding. He groaned into her mouth at the same time as she whimpered. His hand was still moving between her legs, interchanging the same three patterns over and over again, mixing things up as soon as Nesta’s moans grew too untamed: he wanted to draw out her pleasure, not sate it with a few choice strokes.
Tags (let me know if you want to be added/removed): @arinbelle @superspiritfestival @sayosdreams @perseusannabeth @mylittlebigplanet @biggestwingspan-az @bellsqueen @ekaterinakostrova @bookstantrash @prophecyerised @rainbowcheetah512 @awesomelena555 @wannawriteyouabook @lovelynesta @melphss @darkshadowqueensrule @laylaameer01 @a-trifling-matter @grouchycritic7794 @thalia-2-rose @champanheandluxxury @swankii-art-teacher @princessconsuela02 @lavendergoomsltd @princessofmerchants-reads @jeakat @sjm-things @imwritingthesewords @nestable @inejbrekkxr @silvernesta @inyourmindeye @amelie775 @helen-the-weirdo @pizzaneverdisappoints @wishfulimaginings @trash-for-nessian @my-fan-side @sophilightwood @valkyriesupremacy @vidalinav @onceupona-chaos @inardour @thesunremembersyourface @teagoddess99 @ellies-iced-coffee @nehemikkele @misswonderflower
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leighmiller · 17 days ago
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So, I have this headcanon that Cassian would be the best dad in the entire history of dads. Wrote this little scene about Nesta and Cass and their first night with their first baby ❤️
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Nesta hovered in the doorway of the newly constructed nursery in the House of Wind, heart full to bursting at the scene before her.
Her mate, the great general of the Night Court’s armies, one of the most powerful Illyrians in history - and he looked utterly terrified by the tiny bundle in his arms, a bundle wrapped snugly in a soft pink blanket.
Lira.
A musical name for a beautiful, perfect girl.
The baby had been born only a few hours before, and while Nesta knew her mother hen of a mate was certainly going to give her stern scolding for being up and out of the bed he’d so lovingly tucked her into, she could not resist taking in the moment between father and daughter.
Sensing her presence, Cassian turned to meet Nesta’s gaze.
“I don’t know how to do this,” he said.
Nesta would have laughed at the look of near-comical discomfort on his face if she hadn’t been so overwhelmed by the excruciating tenderness of it all.
“You’re doing fine,” she said softly, crossing the room to where he stood by the bassinet, cradling the fussy newborn. “Perfect, in fact.”
And indeed, Cassian had been perfect from the moment Nesta had found out she was expecting some nine months past. He’d sat with her through every stomach-turning morning, indulged her most absurd of cravings, and never let her forget what a beautiful, fearsome warrior she was, even when she’d felt ungainly and awkward as her belly grew too large for her to even see her feet.
“Nes,” he said, something like panic rising in his voice. “We’re parents.”
“I know,” she said, running a soothing hand across the back of his broad shoulders.
“Like, really parents, we have a child.”
“We do.”
“What are we going to do?”
She did laugh then. “I imagine we’re going to raise her. And likely become old and worn long before our time if she turns out to be anything like us.”
“Gods,” he muttered. “I don’t think we truly thought through what we’ve unleashed upon the world.”
Nesta leaned against her mate’s shoulder and reached a hand up to run a smoothing caress across the downy black hair at the crown of Lira’s head. From above the infant’s tiny shoulder, the delicate peak of an Illyrian wing tucked in behind her.
“I love her so much, Nes,” Cassian said, his voice thick with unshed tears. “Already, I do.”
Nesta thought then of her own flawed - though loving - father, of the complicated relationship they’d always had. She looked at Cassian and Lira and could do nothing to stop the flood emotions, the tears that spilled down her cheeks.
“I do too,” she whispered. “And we are both so lucky to have you.”
They stood with Lira for a few more long minutes as the baby settled and finally fell back to sleep. Cassian set her back in the bassinet with aching gentleness, his large warrior’s hands so at odds with the tenderness of it.
When she was settled, Cassian reached down and pulled Nesta into his arms, walking them both from the room and shutting the chamber door softly behind them.
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tacmc · a month ago
Nessian prompt? Nesta braiding Cassian’s hair (or vice versa)
"I think I'm doing pretty good."
Nesta winced. "Yeah, Cass. You're...doing great."
Cassian's fingers stilled. "Too rough?"
Nesta laughed, quietly, as she looked at their reflections in the mirror. Cassian was sitting on the edge of their bed, his fingers in her hair, while Nesta sat cross-legged on the floor, a book in her hands.
He had been learning how to braid.
Nesta had been his practice-tool.
"Stop looking at the mirror," Cassian said, his wings wrapping around her, hiding her line of vision, for emphasis. "I want the end result to be a surprise."
"Then why did you make me sit in front of the mirror?" Nesta asked, unable to stop her laughter. "It brings temptation."
Cassian shrugged, continuing to braid her long, golden-brown hair. "I've always thought you were pretty good at controlling your temptations. We lived under the same roof for months before you finally caved and crawled into bed with me, after all."
Nesta looked over her shoulder and rolled her eyes.
Cassian laughed, quietly, and straightened her head. "Keep still, Nes."
She did as she was told, holding her book back up so that she could see the pages.
Braiding had been Cassian's latest hobby. Since finding out Nesta was with child, he was destined to learn everything he could about being a father. The week before, he had brushed up on every Illyrian lullaby and folktale he could find in the library's history section. The week before that, he had learned how to crochet from some elderly women in town. 
The first blanket he'd brought home was rough.
The second one was slightly better...it was currently sitting in the nursery, draped over a chair, but Nesta hoped he'd give it a third try before the baby arrived.
This week, his mission was to perfect the art of braiding.
Cassian was halfway done with her braid as Nesta looked up to the mirror, but Cassian’s wings were soon blocking her view, yet again.
She snorted. “Seriously?”
“I told you not to look until I’m done. You get the wings.” 
With quiet laughter, she said, “Fine.” 
As Cassian was nearing the end of the braid, Nesta reached up and brushed the tips of her fingers along the edge of his wing.
Cassian jumped, swearing as he did so, which only made him pull on the end of Nesta’s hair, making her yelp.
“Ow!” she laughed. 
“You can’t touch me there!” he scolded, tying a ribbon around the bottom of her braid. 
“Why not?” she crooned. 
“You know why,” he muttered. “It...tickles.” 
“Illyrian baby,” she mumbled. 
“I heard that,” he said, only to see Nesta’s shoulders shaking with laughter. “Alright, alright.” He moved his wings out of her view and she met her reflection in the mirror. “How’d I do?”
Nesta looked at the braid, twisted her head to the left, then to the right. She pretended to study it far longer than she typically would have, only because she knew it drove Cassian mad. 
She leaned her head back and looked at Cassian. “My honest opinion?”
His eyes narrowed. “Yes.”
Nesta sighed, and looked back at her reflection. “I think it’s beautiful, Cass.”
Cassian reached forward and pulled Nesta’s back against the bed, between his legs. “Beautiful enough to cross braiding off my checklist?” 
Nesta chuckled. “Depends, what’s next on your checklist?” 
“Hmmm,” Cassian began, his head tossed back as he looked up at the ceiling. “Wood working, I think. Kid’s gonna need a crib.” 
A light sparked in Nesta’s eyes as she looked back at their reflection, and Cassian wrapped his arms around her. She reached up and fiddled with the end of her braid. “Yeah. I suppose you can cross braiding off the checklist.”
His grin made her toes curl as he kissed her forehead, then stole the book off her lap before pulling her onto the bed on top of him. 
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