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#nessian smut
snelbz2 years ago
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Never Have I Ever {Tag Team Prompt}
Another tag team prompt with @tacmc, this one based off of this wonderful submissionfrom @flora-and-fae:
Hey! Could we have a tag-team Nessian with a classic uh oh there鈥檚 only one bed and lots of sexual tension
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The rain was so heavy that Cassian had no choice but to pull off at the small motel on the side of the road.
鈥淲hat are you doing?鈥
His eyes dragged over to the aggravated voice in the passenger seat. Her blue grey eyes bored into him.
鈥淯nless you鈥檇 prefer to die tonight, we have to stop. I can鈥檛 see and I don鈥檛 feel like wrecking my car.鈥
She rolled her eyes. 鈥淚 asked one thing: get me home for break, but no, you can鈥檛 even do that.鈥
Cassian didn鈥檛 respond. He knew that if he did, he鈥檇 regret the words that came out of his mouth.
He and Nesta had both gone off to college in Adriata. She had asked him for a ride home for summer break when hers had broken down, and it had all been going well...until the rain began.
He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. 鈥淲e don鈥檛 go back to school for 3 months. One more night away from home is not going to kill you. I鈥檒l be back, stay here and keep the doors locked.鈥
With that, he opened the door and stepped out into the downpour, running towards the small main office of the motel. When Nesta realized that after a few seconds, she couldn鈥檛 see him in the dark, even through his headlights, she begrudgingly accepted that he may be right.
Though she would never tell him that.
She waited, foot tapping against the floorboards, arms crossed. By the time he came back, he was drenched.
With a curse, he shut the drivers side door and ran a hand through his dripping, shoulder length hair.
鈥淎lright,鈥 he said, pulling a room key out of his pocket.
Nesta blinked. 鈥淲here鈥檚 mine?鈥
Cassian laughed, outright. 鈥淚鈥檓 not going to spend money on two rooms. I鈥檓 a college student, broke off my ass. You want to spend $60 so you can sleep with a wall in between us? No. I鈥檒l sleep on the floor.鈥
Nesta scowled. 鈥淵ou didn鈥檛 even get a room with two beds? Are you fucking kidding me?鈥
Cassian met her gaze and grinned. 鈥淭hey didn鈥檛 have one with two beds, princess. Were in the middle of nowhere at a damn motel.鈥
She only glared at him.
鈥淚f you want to grab some stuff out of your bag, I鈥檇 do it now. This rain won鈥檛 be letting up until tomorrow morning and I don鈥檛 care how pretty you are, once I鈥檓 in that room, I鈥檓 not coming back out.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e an ass,鈥 she said, turning around to grab her backpack from the floorboard of the backseat. She unzipped her luggage and grabbed some necessities, a change of clothes, and her toiletries, stuffing them into the bag.
Cassian just grabbed his entire duffel bag and hauled it into his lap. 鈥淵ou ready, sweetheart?鈥
鈥淒on鈥檛 call me that,鈥 she growled.
鈥淚鈥檓 so excited to share this experience with you,鈥 he said, monotone, before throwing open his door and running up to the motel, under the awning.
He didn鈥檛 wait for Nesta before strutting down to a door, entering the key, and tossing it open.
Once he caught sight of a rain soaked-Nesta, scowling, tossing her things down onto the bed, he howled.
鈥淵ou look like a drowned cat,鈥 he said, leaning over and resting his hands on his knees as he laughed.
鈥淕o to hell,鈥 she breathed, trying not to let her dripping hair and clothes soak the bed. She announced, 鈥淚鈥檓 taking a shower first,鈥 and walked into the bathroom, slamming the door.
Cassian groaned and ran a hand down his face. He pulled his clothes off, taking them over to the sink and ringing them out. He tied his hair back and pulled dry clothes on, flopping onto the bed and turning the television on. There were 3 channels and none of them got reception. He sighed and flipped the tv off, grabbing a book out of his bag and began to read.
He heard the door crack open and a quiet voice asked, 鈥淐ass?鈥
He knew that the use of his nickname probably meant she wanted something.
When she was nice, she always wanted something.
鈥淗mm?鈥
鈥淯m, do you have an extra shirt?鈥
Cassian slowly closed his book. 鈥淵ou want to wear my shirt?鈥
鈥淚 don鈥檛 want to,鈥 she snapped, returning to her charming self. 鈥淏ut unless you want me to walk around topless for the rest of the evening, I would like to borrow a shirt. Or, you could run back out to the car in the storm and get one of out my bag.鈥
Cassian laid back against the pillows and reopened his book. 鈥淭opless? Well, as long as I鈥檓 getting a choice-鈥
鈥淐assian!鈥
He chuckled and rose to his feet. 鈥淔ine.鈥
The door slammed back shut and he crouched by his bag, looking for a shirt that was suitable for her. Most of the shirts he had and had brought were from football and were torn or full of holes. He found one tucked in mthe corner of his bag and pulled it out, walked to the small connected bathroom and knocked on the door. It opened a crack and Nesta鈥檚 manicured hand appeared. He gave it to her and the door snapped shut again.
鈥淵ou鈥檙e welcome,鈥 he called and made his way back to the bed.
When she came out, her wet hair slicked back off her face, his light gray shirt reaching her mid thigh, completely hiding the short shorts she was wearing, his mouth dried up. He sat up, covering his groin with his book. He hadn鈥檛 thought about this when he agreed to book the room with one bed and now he cursed himself for it.
Nesta Archeron was the sexiest thing he鈥檇 ever seen and there was absolutely nothing in the room to distract themselves from each other.
She looked over her shoulder and caught him staring. She blinked. 鈥淲hat?鈥
鈥淣othing on tv,鈥 he said, reaching, grasping for casual conversation.
She shrugged. 鈥淚 was going to read, anyways.鈥
He cleared his throat. 鈥淚 should ask the front desk for a few blankets and pillows. This floor is hard as hell.鈥
As he reached for the cordless phone on the nightstand 鈥 an unconventional choice for a motel phone 鈥 a large clap of thunder shook the building, and the lights went out.
鈥淪hit,鈥 he breathed, and picked up the receiver, pressing the button in vain and swearing under his breath. 鈥淭he phone isn鈥檛 hardwired in. No power, no phone.鈥
Nesta stared him down for a long while. Cassian wasn鈥檛 fazed.
鈥淎re you going to say something or-鈥
鈥淪tay on your side of the bed,鈥 she said, voice clipped. 鈥淚f I feel your hand, I will slap you. If I feet your foot, I will slap you. If I feel something hard pressed up against my back in the middle of the night, you鈥檒l be sleeping outside in the storm. Clear?鈥
Cassian grinned. 鈥淵es ma鈥檃m.鈥
She climbed under the covers and he did the same, even though it wasn鈥檛 even 8:15.
鈥淵ou know,鈥 he said, into the dark. 鈥淲e don鈥檛 have to go to sleep, we could always-.鈥
鈥淔inish that sentence and I will personally cut your favorite part off.鈥
He continued, acting as if she hadn鈥檛 interrupted him. 鈥淚 was trying to say we could play a game. Something to pass the time. I鈥檓 not tired.鈥
She didn鈥檛 want to admit it, but neither was she. 鈥淕ames are for children, Cassian,鈥 she said, then paused. 鈥淲hat kind of game?鈥
He took a minute to think. 鈥淣ever have I ever.鈥
She rolled her eyes. 鈥淚sn鈥檛 that a game that includes alcohol?鈥
鈥淚t does,鈥 he said and threw back the covers, going for his bag. He pulled out a mostly full bottle of whiskey and grabbed two of the cheap cups from the bathroom vanity.
鈥淲hy am I not surprised?鈥 She asked and sat up, propping her pillow up behind her.
He sat back on the bed and poured a shot in the glass for each of them. 鈥淚鈥檒l go first,鈥 he announced and smirked at her, a devilish glint in his eye. 鈥淣ever have I ever streaked across Greek Row.鈥
She blushed and threw him a vulgar gesture, before drinking it in one swallow.
She cringed, then shook her head. 鈥淵ou can鈥檛 use things you know I鈥檝e done.鈥
He lifted a brow. 鈥淎nd why is that?鈥
鈥淏ecause I鈥檒l be drunk off my ass in five minutes.鈥
鈥淣ot my fault you can鈥檛 hold your alcohol.鈥
Blue-gray eyes narrowed. 鈥淔ine. Never have I ever fucked a professor, on campus, in her office.鈥
Cassian took a deep breath. 鈥淥kay. Who told you that. Rhys? Feyre. It was Feyre wasn鈥檛 it.鈥
Nesta gestured to his glass, delight contouring her lips. 鈥淒rink up.鈥
He tossed his head back, draining his glass in a second. 鈥淚 hate to say that the professor incident wasn鈥檛 even the worst decision I made Freshman year.鈥
Nesta, despite herself, chuckled. Cassian refilled them both. 鈥淥kay, fine, we鈥檒l play 鈥榝air鈥.鈥 He said, throwing up air quotes. 鈥淣ever have I ever had to pull an all-nighter before a final.鈥
鈥淏ull shit,鈥 she said, pointing at him. 鈥淭here鈥檚 absolutely no way.鈥
He grinned. 鈥淪wear on my 3.3 GPA. I like to party, but I know how to study.鈥
She glowered, but took her shot regardless.
鈥淣ever have I ever sat drunk through a lecture.鈥
Cassian smiled, hazel eyes bright as he took a shot. 鈥淔air enough.鈥
鈥淔eeling the buzz yet?鈥 She crooned.
鈥淥h no, sweetheart,鈥 he winked. 鈥淚 can go all night.鈥
She pursed her lips, ignoring his comment, the image it created in her mind, and the fire it sparked between her legs. 鈥淣ever have I ever forgotten the name of the person in my bed the next morning.鈥
鈥淥kay, one,鈥 he said with a laugh. 鈥淚t definitely wasn鈥檛 your turn, so drink.鈥 He laughed as she scoffed, but poured another shot. 鈥淎nd two, I can tell you the name of every woman who鈥檚 been lucky enough to wake up in my bed, so that鈥檚 two shots.鈥
She shook her head, downing both shots. 鈥淚 never considered you the gentlemanly type.鈥
He raised a brow. 鈥淚 don鈥檛 sleep around, if that鈥檚 what you鈥檙e hinting at.鈥
She laughed, outright, body growing lighter. 鈥淵our professor?鈥
He tilted his head to the side, hazel eyes dancing. 鈥淣ever have I ever had a sex dream about a friend.鈥
Nesta watched him for a minute, smile fading, before she took a shot.
Then, not to her surprise, Cassian took his, too.
She thought for a second. 鈥淣ever have I ever sent a nude picture to someone.鈥
His eyebrows raised. 鈥淣ever?鈥
She shook her head, surprised at how light headed she already felt, but she felt triumphant in this small victory. 鈥淣ot a single one.鈥
鈥淲ell damn,鈥 he breathed, and took the bottle from her hands, putting it to his lips. He took a long drag, longer than a single shot. 鈥淣ever have I ever made out with someone of the same sex.鈥
Nesta threw her head back and groaned. 鈥淥h, my God, it was one time!鈥
鈥淲ait,鈥 he said, eyes darkening as she took her shot. 鈥淵ou have?鈥
She wiped her lips and nodded. 鈥淔reshman year was a little wild.鈥
鈥淭ell me about it,鈥 he laughed.
Cassian took a minute to think before he said, 鈥淣ever have I ever gotten drunk in a hotel room with a smoking hot piece of ass.鈥
Nesta laughed, covering her mouth with her hand to hide her teeth. 鈥淣ow you鈥檙e feeling the shots, aren鈥檛 you?鈥
But he wasn鈥檛 laughing.
He reached up and gently took her hand in his, pulling it down into her lap. 鈥淒on鈥檛 cover your smile. It鈥檚 too beautiful to hide.鈥
She couldn鈥檛 breathe. His hand was still in hers and suddenly the room seemed far too hot and too cold, all at the same time. She whispered, 鈥淢aybe we should stop drinking.鈥
鈥淔ine,鈥 he said, taking another huge swig, but set the bottle on the nightstand. 鈥淭hen we play for clothes. Ask me another.鈥
Her voice was shaking when she said, 鈥淣ever have I ever ignored my feelings for someone for seven years.鈥
He looked her dead in the eyes as he pulled his shirt over his head. 鈥淣ever have I ever wanted to kiss you.鈥
Her eyebrows furrowed as she said, 鈥淭hat doesn鈥檛 make any sense. If it was-.鈥
His lips were on hers before she could finish her sentence.
Her body tensed in surprise but it quickly relaxed as his tongue brushed along her bottom lip.
He pulled back, only an inch, looking into her eyes for any indication of what she was feeling.
But she had so many emotions swirling through her body - lust, fear, complete adoration - that she couldn鈥檛 decipher one from the other.
鈥淒o that again,鈥 she whispered, her voice much steadier than she felt.
He did. His tongue swept into her mouth and she clung to his bare shoulders, felt the hard muscles moving as he pulled her to him, until she was straddling his lap. He tasted like whiskey and mint and she groaned as he nipped at her bottom lip, gripping her hair tightly.
Her hands wandered steadily down his back, his skin warm beneath her touch.
She felt him twitch beneath her, his chest rising and falling quickly.
鈥淣esta,鈥 he whispered, a question in her name.
But she wasn鈥檛 sure what exactly it was he was asking for. Sex? Love? Was he too drunk to even remember the details in the morning? Was she?
It was Cassian.
Cassian, whom she had known for years.
Cassian, whom she had always adored...a fact she could never fully accept.
She had no doubt every ounce of courage coursing through her body was thanks to the alcohol.
She kissed him, again.
He pulled her head back, exposing her throat and kissed down it until he got to the neck of her shirt, of his shirt. 鈥淭ell me to stop,鈥 he breathed. 鈥淚f you鈥檙e too drunk and this is just the alcohol, tell me to stop. If this is just a one time thing, tell me to stop.鈥
Nesta did no such thing.
She pushed him back against the pillows, her fingertips trailing from his hard jawline, down his chest, his abdomen, to the waistband of his sweatpants, low on his hips.
Cassian said nothing as he watched her, mouth hanging open, his whiskey-coated breathing hardly heard above the storm outside.
鈥淒o you want me to stop?鈥 She asked, quietly. 鈥淚f I don鈥檛 want this to be just a one time thing?鈥
His eyes were glazed and dark, but his tone was light when he shook his head and said, 鈥淣ever have I ever wanted someone as badly as I want you.鈥
Nesta鈥檚 breath caught in her throat. With shaky fingers, she lifted his tee shirt over her head, her breasts on display for him to worship.
A calloused thumb brushed over her nipple before he leaned up, bringing his lips to each one. Nesta鈥檚 eyelids fluttered shut at the sensation.
Her hands threaded into his hair, the strands still damp from the rain. When his teeth bit down on the sensitive nub, her grip tightened and she cried out. His tongue soothed the pain as he sucked and she ground her hips into his own, desperate for friction where she needed it.
Her voice was breathy when she asked, 鈥淲hat do you want, Cass?鈥
鈥淵ou,鈥 he whispered, into her ear. 鈥淎ll of you. I want to lie you down, and make love to you. All night. Every night. Now.鈥
Although there was a slight slur to his words, she felt the emotion. He meant every one of them.
鈥淚-,鈥 she hesitated, only for a moment. 鈥淚 love you, Cassian. Gods, I鈥檝e loved you since high school when you used to torment me on the bus. When you used to make fun of my cheerleading uniform and would get me in trouble in class. You鈥檙e the reason I鈥檓 at Adriata, the reason I鈥檓 thousands of miles from home. Because I鈥檓 in love with you and gods be damned, I can鈥檛 take it anymore.鈥
She crashed her lips against his, loving the feeling of his bare skin against hers. His hands were roaming her back, clinging to her, and his nails dragged lightly down her back. She arched into him and she gasped when she felt his arousal against her core.
鈥淚 love you,鈥 he said, repeating her own words. 鈥淚 love you, Nesta.鈥
He wrapped an arm around her waist and rolled them until he was on top of her, his weight pressing her down into the mattress. His hips settled against her own and she spread her legs for him, stifling a moan as he kissed her.
鈥淣ow,鈥 she begged, 鈥淐ass.鈥
He needed no further permission, kissing her long and hard. He leaned back and hooked his thumbs in her shorts and dragged them down, as she lifted her hips to help him. After he tossed them across the room and she was bare before home, dragged his gaze along her body, allowing himself to take her in, to take his time. He dragged a possessive hand from her throat through the valley of her breasts, over her stomach and between her legs, barely skimming where she yearned for him to touch.
She whimpered, quietly, the throbbing between her legs growing unbearable.
Cassian leaned down, pressing his mouth to the inside of one thigh, then the other as thunder shook the night sky. She began to squirm, trying to get his mouth where she wanted, so he banded an arm over her lower belly. 鈥淏e still,鈥 he breathed, looking up at her through his lashes. 鈥淥r I鈥檒l tease you.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e already teasing me,鈥 she hissed, and he laughed.
鈥淧atience, sweetheart,鈥 he crooned.
She didn鈥檛 have patience. She had want, need, lust and love all for the man who sat before her, mouth against her warm skin.
鈥淐assian, I swear to the Cauldron, if you don鈥檛 put your mouth against me right now, I鈥檒l-.鈥
She screamed as he closed his mouth over her and sucked on the sensitive bundle of nerves. Her hand dove into his hair and one of her legs wrapped over his shoulder, digging her heel in.
He gave her a long, flat lick, and pressed his fingers into her as he flicked his tongue over her clit. He slowly pumped his fingers in and out in time with the suction of his lips and she whispered his name like a prayer, uttered at the most precious alter.
Her body was shaking as he moved, a soft whimper escaping her. 鈥淐assian Cassian Cassian.鈥
He thrived on those sounds, found comfort in his name coming out of her mouth. He removed his lips, trailing kisses to her thigh. He bit and sucked on her skin, the purplish mark blooming on her skin, and he licked the hurt away, as he used his thumb to circle her clit, still agonizingly slowly pumping two fingers in and out of her.
Nesta felt like she was on fire, like she was physically burning from the inside out. Gods, the things he was doing to her. His lavish movement were slow and deliberate and he knew what he was doing to her. He was going to build her up until she felt like she was going to explode.
She needed him. She needed him hard and fast, but she knew this man. She loved him. She knew if she told him how badly she wanted him, how much she needed him, he would torture her and tease her until she was begging him to fuck her.
So she remained quiet.
She didn鈥檛 beg, didn鈥檛 plead as he discovered her body, until his mouth found hers and Nesta was pushing his sweatpants down with the heels of her feet.
She reached down, gripping him, stroking him, and his lips pulled away from hers as he looked down, between their bodies and watched her work him. She twisted her wrist as she rubbed her thumb over the head and he groaned, dropping his forehead between her breasts.
鈥淒o you like that?鈥 She breathed, twisting her wrist back the other way. She felt him shudder above her.
He looked up at her, lips parted as he breathed heavily. 鈥淚 fucking love it. Gods, keep doing that and I鈥檓 yours. I鈥檒l give you anything you ask for.鈥
She chuckled, biting at the skin of his neck and she pumped, slowly.
He shuddered, whiskey radiating off his breath.
鈥淣esta, fuck, I-.鈥
She silenced him with a kiss and rolled them back, so she was on top, straddling his waist once more. She began a trail of long, languid kisses down his torso, pausing to trail her tongue through the grooves of his defined abdomen. She followed the trail of dark hair that led to his cock. He growled as she ran a finger up the underside and followed it with her tongue. 鈥淲hat will you give me, Cassian, if I take you in my mouth?鈥
Cassian couldn鈥檛 speak.
He would give her anything.
She pressed kisses to his hips, continuing to slowly stroke him, teasing him, as he鈥檇 just threatened to tease her. 鈥淣esta, please.鈥 His voice shook and he wasn鈥檛 embarrassed in the slightest.
鈥淲hat will you give me, Cass?鈥 She pressed a line of kisses up his shaft, pausing to kiss the tip. It was so soft and erotic, he had to fight the urge to grab her face and thrust into her mouth. 鈥淭ell me, baby.鈥
His voice was quiet, rough, when he said, 鈥淲hatever you ask of me. Anything. Everything. Please.鈥
She wrapped her lips around him and watched his face as she took him into her mouth. His hands immediately gripped her hair, holding it back so he could see her beautiful face while she sucked his cock.
He鈥檇 imagined this for years, had used this exact fantasy while getting himself off so many times, that it was hard to believe it was actually happening. But as he licked his bottom lip, wetting his mouth, he could taste her on his lips. He could still smell her essence in his beard. His nails scratched at her scalp and he growled as she took him deeply.
He whispered her name, over and over again, the sound of the rain against the metal roof of the motel intensifying.
His voice hitched as he begged, 鈥淐ome here.鈥
She obliged, kissing back up his body, pausing to lightly nip at his nipple, eliciting a growl from him. He grabbed her chin and dragged her face to his own, crashing his lips to hers. He rolled them so he was on top of her and he positioned himself at her wet heat. He ran his length up and down her slick wetness, teasing her, probing her entrance with the tip, but not quite pushing in.
Nesta froze. 鈥淐ondom,鈥 she breathed. 鈥淲e don鈥檛 have any condoms.鈥
Cassian blinked, breathing hard, eyes growing clear. He looked down at their bodies, at their current position, and cursed.
鈥淪hit,鈥 he said, head falling into the crook of her neck. 鈥淚 don鈥檛 think I have any in my bag. I didn鈥檛 exactly plan on needing them.鈥
Nesta tried to stop it, laughter bubbled from her chest, at his words, at their situation. Cassian also laughed, but continued to stroke her with his member.
She tilted his chin up until he looked at her. 鈥淚 love you, Cassian. I have loved you for as long as I can remember. I鈥檓 on the pill, it鈥檚 okay, but maybe,鈥 she blushed, as if the words embarrassed her, 鈥淧ull out and come on me, instead of in me. Just in case.鈥
Hearing her say 鈥渃ome on me鈥 had Cassian almost doing just that.
He didn鈥檛 need any more convincing. He pressed his mouth tenderly against hers as he pushed inside of her.
Nesta gasped as her body tensed, then quickly relaxed. It had been a while since she鈥檇 been with anyone, but it hadn鈥檛 been like this with any of them. Her fingers became tangled into his damp hair as his hips moved against hers.
He stopped once he was all the way inside of her, letting her adjust to his size. He kissed her, soft and slow, the haze of the alcohol seeming to lift as he focused on how good she felt around him, how tight she was. 鈥淔ucking hell, sweetheart,鈥 he whispered, resting his head against her forehead. He pulled out and slowly pushed back in. She whimpered and he repeated the motions, thrusting back in harder.
鈥淐ass, please,鈥 she breathed, and his name falling from her lips was an unleashing.
His body was beginning to tremble. Never in a million years would he have imagined he鈥檇 be here, making love to her in a cheap motel as a storm raged outside.
Inside of that motel, with her, in that moment, was his own personal paradise.
It was not rough and hard, it was not the thorough fucking he longed to give her. He wanted to hear her screaming his name, wanted to thrust into her so hard that the bed frame slammed into the wall, but not tonight.
Tonight, he wanted to show her how he felt. He wanted to make her moan and wanted to hear the little noises that fell from her lips when he thrust into her. He wanted to hear her whisper his name like he was her salvation, because whether or not she knew it, she was his.
This was not just a claiming of her physical body, this was a claiming of heart and soul.
鈥淐assian,鈥 she breathed, and he held her gaze as he made love to her.
鈥淚 love you,鈥 he said, quietly. Now that he could say it aloud, it was hard to stop.
Gray-blue eyes ignited as he rested his forehead against hers.
She wrapped her legs around his waist, leaving barely any space between their bodies. He wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her as close as he could as he continued to roll his hips into hers.
He was shaking when he kissed her softly and whispered, 鈥淣esta, I鈥檓 close.鈥
She was sweating, her hands shaking as she pressed one gently against his cheek.
The sounds that followed, flowing out of her lips, had Cassian on the edge. He lowered his mouth to her breast and that was her undoing.
She cried out, her head thrown back in utter ecstasy as she came, repeating his name like a prayer. Her climax had him barreling through his own and he roughly pulled out, stroking himself as he came on her lower belly, a low groan tearing from him.
They stayed like that for a minutes, both breathing heavily as they came down. Before he could stop himself, he crashed his lips against hers again.
鈥淔uck, I love you,鈥 he breathed against her lips, not willing to break the connection, already wanting to be back inside of her. 鈥淚 love you so much that it hurts, Nes.鈥
鈥淎nd I love you,鈥 she whispered, kissing him softly. 鈥淚 love you, too.鈥
The storm outside was still heavy when Cassian moved off Nesta and pulled her tightly against his chest.
鈥淐ass,鈥漵he said, face pressed against his skin.
鈥淵eah, baby,鈥 he whispered, already lulling into a deep, comfortable sleep.
鈥淚鈥檓 still covered in your cum.鈥
His eyes snapped open and he looked down at her, down to where she was gazing at her body. Indeed, his seed was still coating her stomach and while the sight of it did turn him on, he began to laugh and let her go.
He went into the bathroom and grabbed a towel before cleaning her off and tossing the dirty towel on the floor. He kissed her forehead, then her mouth, then the spot of her neck just above her collarbone.
鈥淚 never want to leave this shitty motel.鈥
She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him down on top of her. 鈥淛ust think of what we get to do when we get home.鈥
鈥淢mm.鈥 He kissed down her neck. 鈥淎nd what鈥檚 that?鈥
She pulled his face back to hers and he saw the sparkle in her blue-grey eyes. 鈥淲e get to tell our families that we鈥檙e together.鈥
His smile was gentle when he said, 鈥淚 can鈥檛 wait.鈥
He couldn鈥檛. He couldn鈥檛 wait to tell their families, tell the world how much he adored this woman. They made love all through the night, until the storm let up and the early morning sun greeted them, lying tangled together in the sheets of a cheap, shitty motel outside of the city.
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acomaflove2 years ago
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Cassian: *walks into the room and hands Nesta a puppy* I found this homeless dog in the street.
Nesta: Okay, and...?
Cassian: It needs a home. We should raise it together.
Nesta: Cassian, you can鈥檛 use a puppy to trick me into dating you.
Cassian: Come on, don鈥檛 fight with me in front of our son.
Nesta: THIS ISN鈥橳 OUR CHILD.
Cassian: If you want our first child to not be a dog we can work on that too *smirks*
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swishandflickwit3 years ago
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Nessian 鈥 i was swimming in darkness (till i met you) 1/1
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Summary: Set in ACOWAR, when the Inner Circle comes home to Velaris immediately after the war. Everyone spends the night in the townhouse celebrating鈥攅veryone, that is, except Nesta. Nesta locks herself in her room all night, and neither she nor Cassian have spoken of their moment on the battlefield since. He鈥檚 more than fine with the silence until a little prompting from Feyre makes him think twice鈥
鈥淎s her sisters, there are things that we鈥 that I cannot give her.鈥 Her brows crease with anguish, the thought of having provided for her family for so long yet unequipped to give them what they truly聽need, weighing heavy on her soul. 鈥淏ut maybe you聽can.鈥
Words: 13k
Rating: Mature
Warnings: NSFW. ACOWAR spoilers. References Wings & Embers.
Also on: ff.net | AO3
For Selina鈥攖he other half of my soul.
My favorite part of me is always you.
They drank all night.
The decanters that held Rhys鈥 finest alcohol had long since run empty and the burn in his throat from glass after glass of the drink had long since faded, leaving a dull, dry ache in his throat.
He is the only one awake. Feyre and Rhysand retiring early on that night (Rhys鈥 distasteful joke of 鈥渄ying, as it turns out, is exhausting鈥 received with protests and barely concealed indignation from Feyre. The asshole merely replied with a sheepish smirk and a 鈥渢oo soon?鈥 to which he was ambushed with more jeering and Feyre hitting him on the back of his head so strongly, he winced鈥攖hat sight, admittedly, made him howl with laughter). His friends are strewn about the living room, either too tired or too drunk, to make it to their respective beds.
The girls dominate the couches, Mor on one side and Elain on the other. Mor looks beautiful as ever, a gleam to her person even in the low-dimmed yellow light of the room and her mouth hung open the way it does when she鈥檚 rooted in intoxicated slumber. He chuckles softly, careful not to wake or jostle her too much as he tucks in any of her hanging limbs and drapes a blanket over her body. He presses a kiss over her brow that has her snuggling into the cushions and he smiles.
He surveys Azriel, who remains ever the gentleman despite his drunken state, having taken board on the floor (he always was the more gallant one between the two of them). He breathes a sigh of relief when he roams an eye over his wings and sees the line where the skin has mended itself together. It鈥檚 a miracle, in and of itself, that none of the stitches pulled, considering the amount of power he expelled on the battlefield the previous day. He and Az have come too close to losing their wings in the past year that he can鈥檛 help but murmur a small thanks to the Mother for her mercy and Madja鈥檚 skillful, healing hands.
A frown works its way to his mouth. Though he鈥檚 assured that Azriel will heal physically (he鈥檚 certain Az would heal himself through sheer will聽if that鈥檚 what it took), he wonders about his emotional well-being. Good as Cassian is at fighting out his feelings, the worry for his friends, his family, never really goes away. While Cassian has never had a problem speaking his mind, Azriel is all too comfortable at concealing his emotions, even amongst the Inner Circle, and Cassian never knows how to help him beyond giving him his space or cajoling him into letting off some steam through a spar鈥擟assian isn鈥檛 known for his delicate touch, after all. He loses a breath. The spymaster spends too much time in his shadows, he surmises with more than a little melancholy.
At the thought of Azriel鈥檚 penumbra companions, it occurs to him that the shadows frequently surrounding his friend seem somewhat鈥 dimmed. A quick look at his face has him marvelling at the expression of pure content he finds there, at the way his face is awash in blissful repletion. He trails his gaze towards the source of his peace鈥攈is arm, extraneously outstretched over his head and fingers innocuously touching Elain鈥檚.
His frown disappears. Elain鈥檚 own face is lit with a sleepy smile and her fingers are curled around the edges of Azriel鈥檚, a near fascimile of a lover鈥檚 entanglement were it not for the miniscule distance left between their palms.
Perhaps neither Cassian nor Rhysand or even Mor and Feyre may be equipped to heal all of the shadowsinger, but it was comforting to know that there was聽someone聽who would be more than equal to the task.
He smiles.
He dares not wrap Elain in as he did with Mor no matter the crick in the neck she might receive in the morning from such an awkward sleeping angle. He doesn鈥檛 have the heart to interrupt their physical connection, so at the very least, he places the spare throw over Elain to ward off the cold in lieu of Azriel who has his wings to keep him plenty warm.
His tasks done, he extends both arms over his head to work out the kinks in his body and winces when the muscles in his wings twinge in protest. He spares the three prone figures one last fond glance before waving a hand at the lights in the room till they have diminished. He鈥檚 relieved to see a glimmer to his Siphons despite, for the most part, its ashen sheen as his magic crawls to replenish itself.
Perhaps it was foolish to be walking through the townhouse in near darkness but he knows this place like the back of his hand, could navigate it with his eyes closed which is essentially what he鈥檚 doing as he makes his way to the second floor.
Remnants of Rhysand鈥檚 fine liquor burn hot through his blood but for the most part, he is sober. Unlike his two other lightweight鈥攚ell, compared to him聽at least鈥攃ompanions (Elain opting not to drink at all), he鈥檇 built a tolerance for the hard stuff in the last few centuries of his life. It鈥檚 most likely the reason he feels every shooting pain up the length of his mangled, albeit bandaged, leg as he slowly climbs up the stairwell.
It鈥檚 been, what appears like, a lifetime since he鈥檚 experienced injuries as severe as these ones. Though he is considered young by fae standards, he鈥檚 never felt every year of his age as he does now, panting as he leans against the banister to wipe at the sweat that鈥檚 gathered on his forehead and catches his breath. He starts to wonder if the trip is even worth it when he considers the three doors to his right. While the floor of the town house living room would have made for decent sleeping accommodations, why waste a perfectly functioning bed? And there happens to be two empty mattresses at his disposal and one with his name on it.
He knows the third door leads to the guest chambers since the middle room belongs to Elain and he means to go there, truly,聽except鈥 the door to his immediate right captures his attention.
Rather, the occupant聽of those bed chambers, manages to stop him in his tracks.
She hadn鈥檛 stepped out of her room since they all arrived鈥攏ot for dinner or drinks, and not even at Elain鈥檚 quiet urging to join them. Feyre had tried insisting she not starve herself and eat something, but her petulant stomp down the stairs is only a testament to her sister鈥檚 will. She remained resolute. Rhysand, Azriel and surprisingly even Mor had shot him barely inconspicuous looks throughout the night that intended to goad him into approaching the eldest Archeron but he dare not make a move. If she was going to freeze them out, then so would he. Two could play at that game and she wasn鈥檛 the only stubborn one here.
Yet now, with his thoughts the loudest din in the darkness, it all seems so silly. Short of declaring his love for her, something聽clicked for them, like a spark in the dimness or a flame in the gloom. They were laid bare that day, a hope bursting from the chasm in their chests to pour light onto the ground, forming a tether between them鈥攖hat they might find each other, always, in this life and the next life and again and again and again.
They had pledged themselves to each other on that battlefield.
There is none of that here.
He wasn鈥檛 exactly sure what he was expecting, if he was being honest. She did not visit him on his rest bed and he didn鈥檛 begrudge her for it, knowing that the battle was overwhelming and they could all do with some space. Then the Meeting occurred and while he was still out of commission, she was the human-fae emissary. Her presence was vital.
But as they all prepared to go home, she hadn鈥檛 spared him a glance nor a word and he鈥 for all the battles he鈥檇 fought and the foes he鈥檇 slain, he couldn鈥檛 muster up the courage to face her. Cassian didn鈥檛 fare well when he was defenseless, regardless if it was physically or emotionally. It鈥檚 why all his life he鈥檇 trained so much harder, someone like him鈥攁 bastard born as one of the most powerful Illyrian warriors ever to train, commander to the Night Court armies and one of the High Lord鈥檚 Inner Circle鈥攃ould never聽be caught off guard, and if he couldn鈥檛 fight it then he sure as hell would be flying from it so that he could find a way to fight it.
When it came to聽her聽however鈥 the very thought of her has him coming undone and he forgets everything he鈥檚 ever learned about compartmentalizing his emotions. His tongue loosens and it鈥檚 like his mind is unhinged. Something about the way she looks at him, her gaze piercing in its coldness, it鈥檚 as if she sees all the way inside him鈥攖he angry, the violent, the pain, the ugly鈥攁nd he unravels right before her very eyes.
And he聽hates聽it.
So he leaves.
Or at least he鈥檚 about to, when the door at the end of the hall opens to reveal Feyre, wrapped in a robe and appearing as if she hasn鈥檛 slept a wink despite her early retirement. There are dark circles under her eyes and she must be spent, but she smiles at him, like seeing him outside her sister鈥檚 door in the middle of the night isn鈥檛 a bizarre happenstance. In his addled state, he smiles back and then they鈥檙e both stood there, staring as a vertical plank of wood is all that separates them from聽her.
Feyre breaks her gaze to give him a long, appraising look.
鈥淗ow are you, Cassian?鈥
He鈥檚 surprised she doesn鈥檛 outright ask him what he鈥檚 doing but if that鈥檚 how she wants to play it, he won鈥檛 deny her. He shrugs and with a charming smile, replies, 鈥淚鈥檝e still got my good looks so I can鈥檛 really complain.鈥
Feyre rolls her eyes good-naturedly. 鈥淚 suppose you can鈥檛 be too hurt if you鈥檙e cracking jokes, even at this hour.鈥
鈥淪peaking of,鈥 he raises an eyebrow. 鈥淲hat are聽you聽doing up? Given everything that鈥檚 happened, I thought neither you nor Rhys would be coming out for at least a couple days.鈥
鈥淗a-ha,鈥 she sticks her tongue out and he covers his mouth to stifle a laugh. Feyre crosses her arms. 鈥淚 could say the same for you.鈥
Cassian flexes his arms despite the pain that shoots down the length of his body at the action. He hides his wince behind a grin. 鈥淎h, you know me. Nothing can keep me down too long.鈥
It doesn鈥檛 fool Feyre as she schools her face into a disapproving frown. 鈥淚聽do聽know you, no matter how short of a time we鈥檝e spent together, which is why I don鈥檛 understand this mask you鈥檝e decided to put back on again.鈥 Disapproval melts into concern. 鈥淵ou don鈥檛 have to hide from me.鈥
Alarm surges through his veins. There鈥檚 that look, and the resemblance between the youngest and eldest Archeron is never more evident than it is now, that same blue-gray gaze burning a hole into his skin, thankfully not as searing as her sister鈥檚, but calculating enough to raise his hackles all the same.
With a little panic, he considers that he might be gravely injured after all, since it takes him longer than usual to compose himself and respond when Feyre addresses him again.
鈥淪he does the same thing you know,鈥 she returns her gaze to the door, leaving little room to wonder about who she might be pertaining to. 鈥淎lthough, her style is more cutting remarks and ice-cold glares than humor and fight training.鈥
There鈥檚 no use denying it when it鈥檚 the truth, and he doesn鈥檛 know if he鈥檚 allowed to laugh given how protective Feyre gets when it comes to her sisters (her reaction to the aftermath of Rhys flying with Nesta comes to mind) so he says nothing.
Feyre doesn鈥檛 seem to be looking for an answer anyway. 鈥淏ut you two have a lot in common.鈥
He snorts and with a somberness that frightens even him, he whispers. 鈥淚 would聽never do to you what she did.鈥 He shakes his head, the lowness of his tone not detracting from the vehemence of which he speaks. 鈥淚 would never let any sibling of mine, let alone the聽youngest聽one, go off into the woods on a daily basis, knowing the dangers that lurked there, so that they could provide for our family. For聽years.鈥
He wants to kick himself. If only there was a way to shove one鈥檚 foot in their mouth! Why is he saying any of this? Didn鈥檛 he all ready establish Feyre鈥檚 protective nature towards her sisters? Besides, they鈥檝e been over this鈥攈e聽has said as much to Nesta鈥檚 face and lived to tell the tale. Yet a part of him, no matter how small, niggles at his doubt of her and thrives in the push and pull of聽them, as if any moment they might break and use the shards to destroy each other and he might prefer it, if only because he鈥檚 so used to the Fight.
(He鈥檚 hesitant to admit to the bigger part of him that might just live聽at the certainty of him and her, at how they might break each other just to use those broken halves to form a whole, the jagged edges of him fitting into the razor sharp contours of her)
(They鈥檙e all just pieces in the end, aren鈥檛 they? And he鈥檚聽afraid of the puzzle of them)
He turns to her, his eyes both imploring and wavering.聽鈥淗ow?鈥澛爃e sighs, his breath coming out in ragged stutters. 鈥淗ow can you forgive her?鈥 Then just as quickly, he shuts his eyes, afraid of the answers.
(Afraid of the truth)
鈥淏ecause I love her,鈥 she breathes, and he nearly trembles at the words. 鈥淎nd I know she loves me.鈥
He shakes his head, the thought incomprehensible to him. Not the notion that Nesta loved her sisters, that was never in question, but that she might deign to love him anyone else.
The question must be written on his face because Feyre lays a gentle hand on his shoulder to get his attention.
鈥淚 don鈥檛 know if you know this but, she went looking for me when Tamlin took me to the Spring Court. Not even his magic could enslave her mind.鈥 She shakes her head, as if she were still amazed at Nesta鈥檚 strength. Perhaps he was too.
(Except it was always, always聽there. That鈥檚 how he knew, whether consciously or not, she could put up with his shit and give just as good as she got)
鈥淪o maybe she鈥檚 not the greatest at showing she cares, Cauldron knows it took me聽ages to come to terms with my feelings for Rhys, never mind actually admitting it to him.鈥 He chuckles and she smiles and for once in this conversation he looks at ease. But when the laughter dies down, a silence blankets them, deafening in its emptiness yet weighing on their shoulders like an anchor.
鈥淣esta is鈥 difficult, I understand that. But she didn鈥檛 go. I turned my sisters into the thing they hated most鈥斺
鈥淭hat was not聽your fault!鈥
鈥淏e that as it may,鈥 her face twists in bitter anguish and her nostrils flare, no doubt in memory of the events in Hybern and the revelation of the Spring Court鈥檚 betrayal. 鈥淭heir association with me cost them their mortality. They could have left, that much I know now that Nesta told me that she ventured on her own to find me. I subjected them to an uncertain existence, so it wasn鈥檛 far-fetched to think that either of them might have鈥︹ she gulps audibly, as if it physically pains her to say the next words and he understands why, 鈥渢hey could have ended their lives.鈥
He shakes his head and opens his mouth to respond, to deny her, to assure her, to rage, to roar聽but his thoughts are a riot in his head and all the talk in him gets tangled up in his throat and he鈥檚 choking because blue-gray eyes empty of that fire and lovely, curved cheeks faded ashen and losing her, a world聽without聽her and鈥
鈥淏ut they鈥檙e here Cassian,鈥 she gives his shoulder squeeze, as if to shake him from his discernment and he鈥檚 all too grateful for the jolt in reality, for the reassurance of, 鈥渟he鈥檚 here. And maybe,鈥 she gives him a watery smile. 鈥淢aybe that鈥檚 enough鈥攖hat she stayed聽by my side, despite my sins and despite her misgivings.鈥
A distant look bleeds through her eyes and it occurs to him that she may not just be talking about her sisters, but of the Father who had seemed to abandon them, only to return when they needed him most. For a moment, his entire countenance softens for her and her family, as he considers everything she鈥檚 lost. Not for the first time, he has to remind himself that the woman before him is younger than he is. He marvels at the strength she鈥檚 shown, at all that she鈥檚 done for this world of his that she never asked to be a part of.
鈥淭hey say time heals all wounds, except even time has an end鈥攖he setting of the sun or the closing of the hour but鈥 not love. Rhysand鈥檚 love saved me from Amarantha just as my love for him allowed us to defy death. Beyond the boundaries of time, I think most things can be healed, most things can be聽forgiven, if someone loves you enough.
鈥淎nd she hasn鈥檛 said as much but I know she loves me, because I feel it.鈥 Her eyes shine. 鈥淚 feel聽it.鈥
He shakes his head, his heart thundering in his chest at the way his emotions seem to encompass his very body. 鈥淲hat are you trying to say?鈥
鈥淚 think you all ready know,鈥 she murmurs. 鈥淚 love her, and you鈥︹
He sucks in a sharp breath and Feyre seems to catch herself. She looks down at her clasped hands sheepishly.
鈥淲ell, that鈥檚 between you and her now isn鈥檛 it?鈥
鈥淔eyre鈥︹ he starts, 鈥渨hy are you telling me this? What do you want聽from me?鈥
At the frustration in his tone, she focuses that searing gaze on him. This time, instead of hiding from it, he stares right back, hoping he might find an answer to his feelings there.
鈥淚 told Elain that we would help Nesta, when the time came and she was ready to accept it. But, truth be told, I don鈥檛 know when that is. Or if it鈥檒l come at all.鈥 She sighs, a world of heartbreak in that release. 鈥淎s her sisters, there are things that we鈥 that聽I聽cannot give her.鈥 Her brows crease with anguish, the thought of having provided for her family for so long yet unequipped to give them what they聽truly聽need, weighing heavy on her soul. 鈥淏ut maybe聽you聽can.鈥
His face contorts in confusion, at the way it comes out like a question. As High Lady, she has free reign to command him to do anything and he would gladly follow despite any reservations he might have because he knows that before High Lady, she is first and foremost his friend. She would never lead him astray.
At his own reminder, he feels the chaos of his emotions simmer down into quiet repose鈥攁ll the feelings of restlessness and being adrift abate till everything in him clicks into place.
鈥淵ou asked me what I wanted from you. After everything I鈥檝e done, there is nothing I want more for you, for Nesta, for all my loved ones, than your happiness.鈥 She glances between him and Nesta鈥檚 room. 鈥淎nd I think you might find that with each other.鈥 She brings her clasped hands beneath her chin, imploring. 鈥淪o, please, allow me to give you a piece of that happiness. Life, even the eternal kind, is too short to waste another moment, another聽breath.鈥 She shudders. 鈥淚 should think I know that better than anyone by now.鈥
She grasps his hand. 鈥淚f there鈥檚 anything Rhysand has taught me it鈥檚 that at some point, you only need the courage to take your life from Fate鈥檚 hands and choose聽where you want it to lead鈥 whom聽it might lead to.鈥 She gives it a squeeze. 鈥淎nd you鈥檙e the bravest person I know.鈥
He returns it. 鈥淭hank you.鈥 The two words loaded with more meaning than they could convey and that which he could ever express.
She beams at him as if to say, 鈥渕essage received鈥, eyes crinkling in the corner into little smiles of their own, before making towards her chambers. It washes over him, a radiance in the darkness, giving him the confidence and peace he had so been yearning for when he first stood before this door.
Before she leaves, she waves a hand over Nesta鈥檚 room, articulating through her daemati聽powers that she lifted the silencing charm she placed earlier so as not to disturb her sister, from the room.
Her door clicks shut.
He takes a deep breath.
Alone, the doubt starts trickling in, taking a stifling hold of his limbs and locking him in place. What the hell is he doing?聽What is wrong with him? What if Feyre鈥檚聽wrong about him? About them? And, the most loaded question of all鈥攚ith awful manners, no tact, a morbid sense of humor, enemies in all courts, a dangerous skillset, issues larger than Prythian itself and 500 years of blood on his hands, does he even deserve聽a formidable woman such as Nesta? Why聽would she even want anything to do with him?
The questions swirl in his brain and he rubs at his temple to quell the budding headache forming there. Cauldron, was she even awake?
Well, that question is easy enough to answer鈥攆ae hearing aside. If he is being honest with himself, which he is (honestly) struggling with right now, then the truth of the matter is: all his answers are laying in wait just beyond the wooden door before him.
鈥淚 only need the courage,鈥 he mutters to himself. 鈥淚鈥檓 in charge of my聽fate.鈥 He paces鈥攖wo, deliberately slow, rounds of it鈥攄own the length of the hall, his mind still nothing but a jumble of questions, before stopping in front of her room once more. He wishes he could jump in place, if only to have some way to expel his nerves, so he opts for shaking his arms and hands.
鈥淚 only need the courage,鈥 he huffs. 鈥淚 only need the courage.鈥 He clenches his fist and, because he鈥檚 not Azriel, prepares to barge in鈥攕pewing from his lips, a steady murmur of, 鈥淚 only need the cour鈥斺
He nearly falls to the floor when the door opens and he鈥檚 met with none other than her signature frigid glare.
鈥淵ou seem to have a fondness for lurking outside my quarters.鈥
He鈥檚 thankful for the gloom that surrounds them, masking the blood rapidly rushing to his face. He grins to cover his discomfort, his pearly whites gleaming in the dark to counter the flashing of her eyes. He leans closer to her, his hands braced against the door and his weight on his good leg so as not to jar the other. His mouth hovers over hers.
鈥淚t鈥檚 a habit I鈥檝e been meaning to break.鈥
For the most part she is unmoved, save for the way she gulps. He delights in the movement鈥攏early indiscernible were he not looking for any effect he might have on her. It鈥檚 a far cry from their earlier encounters, when she was nothing more than a pillar of ice and steel. His eyes trace the line of her throat and the memory of his lips against her soft, pale skin floods his senses and he longs to taste.
The last time he was this close to her had ended with him on his back, and not in the most pleasurable way one can聽be on their back.
That鈥檚 another thing that鈥檚 changed鈥攊t was all about his most carnal desires then, and his ego. She was a first for him, the first to resist and the first to challenge him, in a long time.
She was unsettling, and so聽unaffected聽by him鈥 it was unnerving! Still, he wanted to prove that it meant nothing, that she聽meant nothing, to him (though the question as to whom he was proving, himself or her, remains unanswered). Yet that day in the Archeron abode only revealed one certainty and one quandary鈥攖he certainty being that Nesta Archeron was worthy, and most importantly, she knew it.
The only question that remained, that forever circled his head鈥
Was he?
鈥淲ell, break it quickly,鈥 she replies.
Standing before her and that scrutinizing gaze, he feels unsure as ever. 鈥淵our insufferable muttering gave me a headache.鈥 As if to emphasize her point, she brings a hand to rub at her temples.
He straightens. 鈥淚 don鈥檛 mutter,鈥 he mutters聽says, folding his arms across his chest.
Nesta raises a delicately arched eyebrow at him that somehow manages to effectively communicate her disbelief. 鈥淥f course you don鈥檛,鈥 she remarks airily and with a dismissive wave of her hand, continues, 鈥渏ust as you don鈥檛 flap around the roof of people鈥檚 houses ten minutes after you鈥檙e supposed to meet them.鈥
She turns her back on him, insolent as ever, and he鈥檚 close to letting out a growl that his wings flutter from the act of withholding the sound. But that would only confirm her suspicions of that day (of which, no matter what happens after tonight, he will never admit to) so he enters her room, surmising that the open door is as good an invitation as any, and shuts it quietly behind him.
When he turns to face her, he finds her stood by her bedroom window. Like most of the rooms in the townhouse, one wall is made entirely of glass, providing the occupant with an undoubtedly spectacular view. Hers overlooks the city of Velaris, beautiful and alive despite the late hour, the lights of the establishments rivalling that of the diamond-studded sky with the moon being the biggest of them all. Yet in the din of the night鈥
Nesta is the brightest.
In his extensive research of the creatures dwelling in the Prison, he came across the histories of the Seraphims and the Peregryns. It is said that they were descended from celestial beings known as 鈥榓ngels鈥 that were guided by one of the old gods and sworn to protect those in the world who could not protect themselves. They were human in appearance, save for their wings鈥攎assive, white and feathered wings that allowed them to travel between聽universes. Like the gold skin of the Seraphims, the angels had a glow about them, halos so bright they were nearly blinding to mortals. They were said to be kind, loving and vigilant鈥攗ntil one angel began lusting for more power like that of the old god he submitted to and so he sought to overthrow him. War struck, one of the very first, in which everyone lost. Little by little, the angels fell to earth, retaining little of their powers, one of them being their wings.
She聽reminds him of that story. He may be the one with wings but with the moonlight spilling over every expanse of her exposed skin like how he imagines those halos, Nesta is a fallen angel鈥攆iercely protective yet greedy in her quest to keep everyone, save for Elain, at arm鈥檚 length鈥攁nd he is lost in her radiance, at how she outshines even the moon.
鈥淒id you come in here to ogle at me, or did you actually have something of import to say?鈥
But then she opens her mouth.
He clenches his fists and through gritted teeth he hisses, 鈥淵ou鈥檝e been avoiding me. We need to talk.鈥
鈥淎bout what?鈥
鈥淵ou know what.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 certain I don鈥檛 know what you mean.鈥 She crosses her arms. 鈥淏esides, I鈥檓 not in the mood鈥攃onsidering the hour.鈥
He rolls his eyes. 鈥淏ecause you were sleeping so soundly, right?鈥
鈥淎s a matter of fact, I was聽till your lumbering steps woke me.鈥 A lie, he now knows thanks to Feyre鈥檚 silencing spell (which he hopes聽she鈥檚 reinstated, given how loudly they鈥檙e yelling talking). 鈥淚 thought you were injured?鈥
鈥淥h, so you聽have noticed me in your botched attempt to completely ignore my existence!鈥
鈥淚t鈥檚 hard to ignore someone who makes it their life鈥檚 mission to bumble through life like an idiot鈥斺
鈥淣esta.鈥
Her name pours from his lips in a whisper, though it might as well have been a shout for all the meaning he鈥檚 loaded onto it. Except, he doesn鈥檛 know if he鈥檚 calling for her attention, if it鈥檚 a plea, a prayer, a warning, an apology or everything in between. Everything unspoken between them hangs heavy in the air and it鈥檚 enough to silence her, to stutter his breath. He takes a measured step towards her.
鈥淣esta,鈥 he breathes.
No response. He makes another calculated step.
鈥淔ace me.鈥
She shakes her head, and he inches closer.
鈥淔ace me?鈥 he asks and the break in his voice is most certainly a plea.
鈥淣o,鈥 another shake of her head, 鈥測ou cannot make me.鈥
鈥淚 can鈥檛.鈥 If she鈥檚 surprised by the acquiescence, she does not show it. 鈥淪o I ask it of you. Please.鈥
There is naught but a few lines of space between them now that he can see in her reflection how her eyes are shut鈥
How her shoulders tremble in the most miniscule of movements.
How her arms are crossed, not in indignation, but in a bid to hold herself closer.
鈥淲hy won鈥檛 you look at me?鈥
The question is a caress of breath at her ear as he stands flushed against her back, nothing but a hairsbreadth of space between them, his chest brushing the fabric of her dress with every slow breath. Her scent, all ready strong to begin with, floods his senses that he nearly drowns in the smell of her鈥攕weet and fierce and afraid.
He wonders if she senses his fear as well.
(Not afraid of sinking, but afraid of swimming, afraid of being saved)
A blow of hot air along her shoulder as he exhales causes her to turn her head from facing the window to the side, as if she might move away from him.
She doesn鈥檛.
鈥淏ecause I won鈥檛 give in to you,鈥 her tone a harsh tremor. 鈥淚 can鈥檛.鈥
鈥淲hy?鈥
鈥淚 don鈥檛 owe you any answers. I don鈥檛 owe you anything. Why would I,鈥 a muscle feathers in her jaw. 鈥淵ou鈥檙e nothing to me.鈥
He鈥檚 so taken aback by the declaration that his jaw drops. This time, anger surges through his veins, anger and something else, something more deadly and potent鈥
Pain.
How it burns and chokes him. His wings flare behind him, injuries momentarily forgotten as the muscles ripple and rage rips through the sinew. He spreads them, wide as the room allows him, before folding them over their bodies and encasing them in darkness, save for what little light trickles through overhead.
Such an insidious thing鈥攑ain. It tears through the body and leaves everything in you blind because the agony is all you can see.
(At least that鈥檚 how he鈥檒l justify his actions, later)
And seeing her, a pillar of immovable steel, so cold and unfeeling in the face of his wrath鈥攈e is anguish exemplified, its grip so firm till it coats his very breath and fills the air around them. He ventures a step, finally closing what little distance remains between them, his legs folding into the fabric of her skirts as he lines his feet along the outsides of hers and his hips pin sinfully into her own. He places his hands atop the glass window as his arms come up to encircle her. He brushes his lips along the shell of her ear.
鈥淔ace me, Nesta Archeron, and I鈥檒l show you just how meaningful聽I can truly be.鈥
They are oh so close, one might mistake them to be lovers if the windows allowed outsiders a glimpse into the townhouse. Yet there is nothing intimate in Nesta鈥檚 gaze when her head snaps from the side and their eyes meet through the glass. As they lock gazes, he feels his heartbeat speed up and it鈥檚 suddenly a different sort of heat that rushes through his veins, dizzying in its exhilaration. He noses at the tendrils draped along the back of her neck where it鈥檚 fallen from her bun, feeling his scent change as he breathes in hers. He presses closer, lips dangerously close to her pulse as he nestles the line of his stirring cock into the crook of her ass cheeks.
鈥淥r are you that scared of me?鈥
At the taunt, she finally turns to face him. If he is pain personified then she is ice incarnate鈥 yet even in their reflection he can feel the ire in her hard stare at his brazen actions. Now, with nothing between them, the fire in her eyes burns hotter and brighter than ever, to match the inferno in his own. She snarls, teeth bared like some wild, untamed animal and he revels in the crack of her otherwise perfectly iced fa莽ade.
鈥淢en, mortal or otherwise, you are all the聽same. All you want is one thing, someone to鈥攖o wet your appetites and warm your beds.鈥
鈥淲hat an impassioned speech, for someone who supposedly feels 鈥榥othing鈥.鈥 He tuts. 鈥淪uch hypocrisy, dear Nesta.鈥
鈥淔or you,鈥 she reiterates, nostrils flaring in barely concealed acerbity. 鈥淚 feel nothing for you.鈥
鈥淭hen you won鈥檛 mind me returning the favor and saying that you鈥檙e right.鈥 He takes a deep breath, hardening when her natural scent floods his senses to the point of intoxication. He grins though his eyes reveal the very opposite of humor as he readies to strike his fatal blow. 鈥淵ou鈥檙e nothing to me, nothing but a hole to fill.鈥
He shifts and there鈥檚 no mistaking the feeling between his thighs. Her eyes widen when he rocks gently into her hips but narrows when his actions only serve to confirm her beliefs.
She snarls. 鈥淗ow dare鈥斺
Her hand is quick as lightning as it flashes up and towards his cheek. But they鈥檝e played this game before and like last time, he is quicker, catching her palm with his. She growls, her eyes flashing in what he assumes is recollection as he lays it against his chest in perfect imitation of the last time they were this close. It鈥檚 why he鈥檚 able to catch her knee before it reaches its intended target, and through the skirts of her dress, he slides his palm beneath her knee so he can hitch it against his hip till he鈥檚 nestled into the cradle of her thighs.
He clicks his tongue. 鈥淣ot this time.鈥
In fairness to Nesta, she doesn鈥檛 move, not even to fight back. She could have been stone for all he knew, were it not for the brush of her breasts against his chest with every heaving breath she takes or the apparent wrath in her gaze鈥攁 wrath that, tethered to the Cauldron or not, promised worlds of torture and pain. His grin, if it could be called such a thing, widens till it鈥檚 nothing but a feral flashing of teeth.
His wings unfold, finally releasing them from the darkness he鈥檇 trapped them in and allowing moonbeams to float between them. Beneath the light he can clearly see the blush in her cheeks, can taste the sweetness of her breath in his tongue as he moves her hand from his chest to splay it against the window. His free hand moves to cup her ass so that he might pin her hips underneath his once more, his intent clear.
The clouds clear and the full moon鈥檚 radiance hits them in extremes. It鈥檚 how he鈥檚 able to tell鈥攖hat he鈥檚 crossed a line, he鈥檚 gone too far. While she was quite tense to begin with, a different tension takes hold of her as he feels every inch of her where they are touching go deadly frigid. Gone is the fiery zest in her eyes, replaced by the glaze of a panic in her memory, one she only spoke of once before and her scent, not the figurative fear of earlier but true聽fear鈥攂linding trepidation and paralyzing despair.
The full force of his actions hits him and he fumbles back, using his wings to propel him when he feels he isn鈥檛 fast enough, only to end up on his backside when he lands on his injured leg and the physical pain of his fractures returns.
His cry of pain seems to jolt her from her daze, frozen as she was with her legs spread apart and her hand still against the window. She snatches it from where it was resting against the glass and straightens her skirts before dropping her hands, her arms limp at her sides. Then she stares at him. It鈥檚 a hard stare, yes, but a blank one and yet鈥
It鈥檚 the most frightening look she鈥檚 ever given him.
鈥淚鈥檓 sorry,鈥 he says, the words so small and insignificant and stupid聽in the face of what he鈥檇 just done.
Of what memory it incited in her.
鈥淚鈥檓 sorry,鈥 he says again when she doesn鈥檛 respond, back to being that pillar of steel except without the sharpness鈥攋ust the stillness.
鈥淚 didn鈥檛 mean it,鈥 he tries again, reduced to that pleading mess of earlier, every word and look tinged in desperation now鈥攕houting at her to react and begging for a salvation he didn鈥檛,聽wouldn鈥檛,聽ever deserve. 鈥淚 was angry and I didn鈥檛聽mean a word of鈥斺
鈥淥f course you did.鈥
The funny thing about pain, though, is when you let it take a hold of you, you end up hurting more than just yourself鈥
鈥淵ou were angry. You wanted me to suffer and that, more than anything, is why you meant it at all.鈥
鈥攜ou hurt the ones around you.
The words are clipped and hollow, telling him that she is still lost in the sea of her memories. And in the sea of聽his聽emotions, his shame is the biggest barge, weighing so heavy in his chest he could drown.
鈥淲hy have you come here, Cassian?鈥
There is shame and at the question, suddenly, there is something else too.
Hope.
It鈥檚 a flicker, so fleeting, a whisper of a breath could blow it out and yet, there it remains鈥攁nd it is from there that he draws his courage, to turn from his instinct to flee an unfamiliar situation and face a fight he鈥檚 been avoiding for decades.
The fight for his heart.
Because it鈥檚 not about whether he deserves her love or whether she deserves his. He鈥檚 a killer, she was willing to let her family starve鈥攚hat did any of them truly deserve? He鈥檚 saved the lives of his friends, his聽family,聽countless times and Nesta stayed, has remained present, despite every opportunity provided for her to leave, and her sisters felt loved because of it. So maybe it鈥檚 less about what any of them deserve.
Maybe鈥 it鈥檚 more to do with finding the people who will see through your darkness, about them loving you enough to be willing to pull you out of the gloom.
Even if it means swimming in it to get to you.
He rises.
(And tries not to rejoice at her attention when he leans on his bad leg for a moment and winces)
(Suffice to say, he does not succeed)
鈥淵ou and I鈥 we are not mates.鈥
She snorts鈥攖he sound so unlady-like, so unNesta, that they are both taken aback. He almost laughs, the twitching of his mouth the only betrayal of his untimely amusement. A bit of heat returns to her eyes as she dares him to laugh. He purses his lips to contain himself, though for the most part, his humor has faded, replaced by a profound relief at seeing her slowly return to herself.
She clears her throat. 鈥淭hat鈥檚 a gross understatement.鈥 She raises a brow, in that infuriating manner of hers, gesturing for him to get on with his point. He rolls his eyes.
鈥淏ut,鈥 he emphasizes, a solemnity returning to his voice, 鈥渢here is something here, between you and me. A connection. And I don鈥檛 even understand it because half the time,鈥 he throws his hands up in the air in exasperation, 鈥淚 can鈥檛 even stand聽you! You hardly ever laugh or聽smile because you have absolutely no sense of humor鈥斺
She frowns, as if to confirm it.
鈥溾攜ou鈥檙e spoiled, entitled, apathetic鈥斺
At that, she snarls. 鈥淵ou reprobate鈥斺
鈥淎nd that!鈥 He points at her. 鈥淵ou鈥檙e cruel.聽You never have a nice thing to say about anybody, not even your own flesh and blood!鈥
At that she looks away, and he thinks it鈥檚 guilt that he sees coloring her cheeks. He softens his tone.
鈥淏ut who am I to talk, right?鈥 He sighs, tugging at the knot atop his head to hide his apprehension. He hangs his head. 鈥淚 say a lot yet it鈥檚 nothing meaningful. I use humor as a buffer for what I really feel. I鈥檓 careless with other people鈥檚 feelings. You know that I鈥檓 a killer,鈥 he brings his palms up, as if he can still see the blood of the countless individuals he鈥檇 slain.
The wrongs he鈥檇 committed to his own family.
He鈥檚 always felt haunted by what he鈥檇 done with Mor the day she asked him to sleep with her, knowing how Azriel felt for her but agreeing anyway out of an inflated sense of self-worth. A self-worth that all but disappeared after he realized what he鈥檇 just done and replaced with that crippling guilt, till his life felt meaningless and colorless.
But Nesta鈥 from the moment they met, she鈥檇 awaken in him a zest for his own life that he found was lacking since that day and all the days that followed.
His world was empty鈥攆iltered through a bleak lens of black and white till she came in. She was all the colors, the earth in her hair, the sky in her eyes and the bloom of blood-red flowers in her cheeks.
Amren and Feyre had theorized that Nesta inherited the power of Death when she took from the Cauldron that day.
Yet in saving him on the battlefield, she鈥檇 given聽him life鈥攈ad聽chosen聽to risk her own to do so.
He approaches her in a calm gait now, rather than a predatory one. This time, he remains a respectful distance, leaving the choice of eliminating that space for her to make.
鈥淵ou could have let me die that day, but you stayed鈥攖ill the very end.鈥 Feyre鈥檚 words echo in his head, maybe that鈥檚 enough.
鈥淲e鈥檙e not mates,鈥
There鈥檚 a reprieve from the tension when she rolls her eyes and replies caustically as if offended, though he鈥檚 hopeful to note that it鈥檚 half-hearted, 鈥淪o you keep saying.鈥
鈥淢y regret was that we didn鈥檛 have time,鈥 he continues, throwing her a quick reproachful look, 鈥渁nd yet, here we are.鈥 He finally deigns to acknowledge, what could have been, his last words. At the way she tenses, he can tell she鈥檚 thinking of it too, and he has never felt more tethered to her than he does now, when her perpetually glacial expression melts away as they look at each other and they鈥檙e both聽still petrified鈥攖hat this could be a cruel trick inflicted onto them by Hybern, only for him to snatch it away and have them wake up, returned to that blood-splattered land. He gulps nervously, before giving a tiny shake of his head.
This聽is real.
鈥淵ou know, Fate may have played a factor in us meeting at this point in our lives, but either of us could have chosen聽to walk away, too. I could have chosen not to swear my protection to you and you could have chosen not to call me to you, and perhaps鈥 that is the point of us. That聽is what makes it, us, all the more powerful because鈥斺 he takes a deep breath.
鈥淚 choose you, Nesta.鈥 The words are spoken so softly, despite the way his heart yammers and roars for her. 鈥淚 choose you.鈥
He can hear her heartbeat, how it quickens and stutters鈥攊n perfect sync with his, as they reach a precipice he鈥檚 aware they can never return from after tonight.
She lays a hand on his chest, next to his Siphon. His breath hitches and he鈥檚 aching聽to touch her except she maintains her distance but for that one simple touch, and he burns with it. She runs her fingers along his leather and he feels it down to his soul.
鈥淚t鈥檚 not that I don鈥檛 feel,鈥 she murmurs, for once not looking him in the eye. 鈥淚 feel anger. I feel sadness, misery, happiness, pain.鈥 The hand on her side clenches to a fist, 鈥渁nd that鈥檚 the problem鈥擨 feel it all.鈥
鈥淚 know that now,鈥 he nods. 鈥淏ut I鈥檓 not asking for everything.鈥 He dips his chin till he catches her gaze and the weight he sees there is astounding enough to shatter anyone.
But not her. Never her.
Still, no one should have to bear their burdens alone.
鈥淛ust whatever you鈥檙e willing to give, Nesta, and I will carry it with you. I鈥檇 carry it all if you asked it of me.鈥
鈥淭his is too much,鈥 she says in an evasive manner.
鈥淭ell me to leave, and I will.鈥
Her brows furrow and she gives one, slight shake of her head. He breathes a sigh of relief. She gently trails her fingers from the planes of his chest to the hollow of his throat.
She looks up at him鈥攈er expression the most vulnerable it鈥檚 ever been and this time, he returns in kind. He feels utterly exposed but for once, calm about it, knowing that she is as trepid as he is.
鈥淚f we do this,鈥 she starts, her voice watery though she tries to hide it, 鈥測ou have to know that I am not some broken thing waiting for you to fix me.鈥
He hides his smile, lest he reignite her ire. But he can鈥檛 quite mask his admiration when he says, 鈥淚 don鈥檛 think anything could break you, Nesta.鈥
鈥淵ou could,鈥 she whispers honestly, eyes going downcast. 鈥淵ou are so much older than me. What happens once you鈥檝e grown bored with this, with us? You can鈥檛 expect me to sit around waiting for you like some mindless little chit.鈥
鈥淲ho says you聽won鈥檛 grow bored with me?鈥 He grasps her chin till she is focused on him. 鈥淵ou don鈥檛 have a monopoly on shitty behavior. I know聽I鈥檓聽a lot to handle.鈥 He covers her hand on his chest with his. 鈥淚鈥檓 a troublesome asshole that doesn鈥檛 know when to shut up half the time. And the other time? I鈥檓 just kind of鈥β爈ost.鈥 He shrugs to cover his discomfort though he has a feeling he doesn鈥檛 fool her. That aside, he continues earnestly, 鈥淣ow you聽have to know that I don鈥檛 want to change you. I鈥檓 willing to change with聽you, for the better, if that鈥檚 alright with you?鈥
She clutches the hand holding her chin in a vice grip, as if in apology, though he鈥檚 confused as to what for till she speaks. 鈥淚f you鈥檙e looking for someone to save you, then I can鈥檛 help you.鈥
鈥淒on鈥檛 you see?鈥 He lets go of her chin to entwine their fingers and squeezes back. 鈥淭here are days when I think that I鈥檓 beyond saving, but聽you聽did.鈥 He shakes his head in disbelief, in awe.聽鈥淵ou saved my life.鈥 He thinks of the way she鈥檚 managed to awaken his zest for life, in the way she evokes him, makes him fight, makes him feel聽again. 鈥淵ou鈥檝e saved me in all the ways that matter.鈥
A pregnant silence fills the air, after which Nesta lets him go and he thinks, this is the moment he breaks鈥攈is mind spirals as he genuinely believes she will tell him to leave because it鈥檚 too much, nothing is alright, she wants nothing to do with him, he鈥檚 wrong about everything and that they鈥檙e over before they even started.
But he realizes that the time for words is coming to an end when he finds the answers to his questions in her actions. She steps back and reaches for the remaining pins holding her hair up. She drops them, one by one, till her locks are a tangled mess down the length of her back. She moves to her sleeves and, weak as he is, he doesn鈥檛 tell her to stop. Just watches helplessly as, true to Night Court fashion, all it takes is a tug before her dress is nothing but a pool of fabric on the floor. Left in nothing but her underthings, the tremble of her limbs becomes all the more prominent.
鈥淚鈥檓 so scared,鈥 she whispers.
He holds a hand up supinely, so that she might see the way he quakes. 鈥淪o am I,鈥 he murmurs reassuringly. 鈥淏ut I鈥檓 tired of being afraid. I think鈥 maybe we could find a way to be brave. Together.鈥
His voice nearly breaks at the vehemence with which he speaks. But there鈥檚 a veil of calmness that blankets her eyes鈥攕o bright in the dark鈥攖hat conveys a quiet understanding, as if she actually聽believes him.
Believes in聽him.
She slides her palm over his upturned one and with a gentleness he can only muster up in her presence, he brings it back to his chest, over his heart鈥攖he space he is certain,聽now belongs to her.
From his chest, he glides her hand to the clasps holding his armor together鈥攖he armor that he rarely ever takes off because it serves as his protection, in all the personal ways an armor is.
With a guiding hand, he allows her to chip at that armor until his upper half is bare, Siphons gleaming in the moonlight, Illyrian leathers strewn about the ground and scars from battles past standing stark white under the blanch light. He鈥檚 close to tears when, without prompting, she drops to her knees to relieve him of the armor covering his lower half. Utterly bare, he steels himself as he submits to her ever impertinent scrutiny and despite all the declarations of that night, he still expects her rejection.
(Perhaps 500 years of flight instincts should be the bad habit he endeavors to break)
He takes a deep breath to cleanse his mind of the doubts.
鈥淚 choose you,鈥 he affirms.
And Nesta, for all her silence, seems to heed the words he can鈥檛 seem to say. There鈥檚 a delicateness to her touch as she traces the angry abrasions on his flesh, an apology in her orbs when she takes in the damage to his leg.
In a move that surprises him, she takes both his hands and places it on her hips. For someone renowned for her coldness, her skin radiates warmth even through the quite thin garment. He sucks in a breath when she moves his hands lower, to the hem of her slip.
鈥淎re you sure?鈥
鈥淚 trust you.鈥
He smiles, the first genuine upturn of his lips in her presence. There鈥檚 a shift inside him, as he finally comprehends what Feyre means when she says she feels聽whatever it is that鈥檚 unspoken.
With Nesta, he is learning how to speak without words. Her actions convey her messages more meaningfully than feckless words ever could, that the words she does use are laden with deliberate sententiousity鈥攖hat there are a million and one ways to say 鈥淚 love you鈥 without聽actually having to say those precise words.
(They鈥檝e avowed it ostensibly in the short time they鈥檝e known each other, it鈥檚 remarkable鈥攑rotect, I can鈥檛, I will find you again, I trust you, I choose you. I choose you, I choose you, I choose you)
鈥淣o going back now,鈥 he says lightly, though he knows that if she changes her mind, she need only say the words.
But she breaks into a smile, radiating a light he鈥檇 akin to the brilliance of the sun after a week-long downpour. It鈥檚 one that simultaneously manages steal his breath and breathe life back into him.
He bites his lip. 鈥淵ou鈥檒l be the death of me.鈥
鈥淎 shame,鈥 her breath hitches when his palms make contact with her skin, 鈥渨hen I put so much effort into saving your life.鈥
He barks a laugh, his wings jostling with the shaking of his shoulders that it brushes her calf. She peeks at it fleetingly, a question in her eyes. He nods, and she leaves his hands on her hips, flitting over the tendons of his arms to rest them on his shoulders. She steps more fully into his space, the tension in the air veering from pensive to鈥 heady鈥攂ut both equally poignant.
It intensifies when she skims a curious finger over the sharp curve on the edge of his wing. He shudders.
鈥淪ensitive,鈥 she notes.
鈥淵ou have no idea.鈥
Her eyes darken at the tone of his voice, low and gravelly and laced in molten desire. She surveys him, her orbs hungry and heated in a decidedly much different manner from the beginning of the night.
(It鈥檚 a manner he very much might find himself growing addicted to)
Without breaking eye contact, he slides his hands up, his fingers greedily going over every patch of skin revealed as he takes her slip off, fingers lightly skimming over the curve of her waist, thumbs lingering along the underside of her breasts and noting the way she shivers and her nipples pebble to sharp attention at the touch. She raises her arms to aid him before dropping them limp at her sides. Standing as naked as him, for once in his long life, he is struck speechless.
He understands the need to wrap herself in steel, for standing before him, she is the most exquisite creature he has ever beheld. While perhaps a biased opinion, simply put鈥
The world would not be able to handle the force that is her鈥攖he woman with a soul of fortitude and a wild, untameable heart.
Luckily for the both of them, he鈥檚 weathered his fair share of storms.
How strange it is that not so long ago, he thought her somehow untouchable.
(An admittedly frequent occurrence鈥攖hinking of her, that is)
It鈥檚 probably why he was so determined to break through the walls she鈥檇 built around herself, just to see what he would uncover underneath. With the utter trust she鈥檚 displayed thus far in the night, it is with hope coating his every action that he firmly believes he is on his way to learning the heart of Nesta. Though, he has a feeling it would take more than a couple of lifetimes to truly understand the uniqueness of it鈥攊t is a heart that somehow manages to be both full and bottomless because of the uninhinited way she loves. Still, no matter how long it takes, he has been granted the gift of time and he intends to make the most out of it.
On the other hand, the study of bodies聽is one he has always been adept at. Hers is an uncharted territory, one she has given him free reign to explore in the most thorough and gratiating manner.
And explore he determinedly and unashamedly does.
Even as a human, she had an otherworldly beauty to her, a grace beyond any comprehension. Becoming High Fae had done nothing but enhance her features, from the sharp intelligence of her bright eyes, the proud jut of her chin to the elegant slope of her neck. Her hands are delicate to the touch, that much he knows, but therein lies a quiet strength鈥攖hese are the hands that covered him vigilant defiance, the arms that encircled him in refuge. Still, he does not dare touch her and remains motionless, save for his eyes. They burn with the heat of his stare as he takes in all the dips and valleys of her unblemished skin, from the sharpness of her collarbones to the contradictory roundness of her generous breasts. He follows boldly down the flat line of her stomach to the smooth top of her sex.
He inhales.
The sweet scent of her arousal floods his senses, fueling his own desire. His blood races madly to his cock, making him feel almost lightheaded as his fingers twitch with an unbearable ache to touch her.
Their eyes meet and he鈥檚 overwhelmed by the blatant lust he sees further darkening her stare, the blue of her pupils drowned by the black and borne 聽from her own perusal of his body. Her breaths come out in jilted stutters and it awakens in him that primal need to coat her in his seed, to take and take and take聽and鈥攈e clenches his fists. He reminds himself of the pain in his leg to keep from giving into the haze. He鈥檚 fighting to reign in his instincts, a fight he is聽losing聽when鈥
鈥淚t鈥檚鈥 you鈥檙e,鈥 she stutters and even he鈥檚 struck by the way she鈥檚 grasping for the right word.
Finally, she settles with, 鈥淏ig.鈥
The way her eyes shift downwards then up in a movement so miniscule yet so swift (it could have been a fraction of a second and would have been easy to surpass were it not for his trained eyes), leaves little room for him to doubt as to which of his appendages she could be referring to. Normally, he鈥檇 preen under such high praise. But given how vulnerable the events of the night have left him, all it manages to do is make him feel bashful as a blush stains his cheeks. He chuckles though, thankful for the moment of reprieve.
鈥淭hank the Cauldron my wings were the only聽things that got shredded,鈥 he jokes. At her puzzled look, he rushes to explain.
鈥淭here鈥檚 a rumor amongst Illyrians that the wider the male鈥檚 wingspan, the larger the, well鈥︹ he trails off, hoping she catches his meaning. He sees the moment she does when she bares her teeth in wicked amusement.
鈥淎nd how wide do your聽wings spread?鈥
鈥淲ould you care to find out?鈥
鈥淎nd what would you say if I did?鈥
鈥淯nder different circumstances, less naked聽circumstances, I鈥檇 be happy to oblige. But seeing as how this room is just too聽small,鈥 he smirks. 鈥淚鈥檒l have to make do with showing you my鈥β爋ther聽wingspan. Don鈥檛 worry,鈥 he adds, a bit of his cockiness returning to him, 鈥渋t鈥檚 equally impressive.鈥
He expects a smile or a roll of eyes at the very least, not the unease suddenly clouding her face. 鈥淗ow is it going to fit?鈥
鈥淗ey,鈥 he murmurs, unable to help himself as he steps closer and caresses her cheek with the pad of his thumb in a soothing gesture. 鈥淢aybe we shouldn鈥檛 do this.鈥
She tears herself away from his touch as she turns her back on him. He detects anger in her tone when she replies, 鈥淪o you聽don鈥檛聽want me?鈥
He laughs, actually聽laughs. She swivels back to him at the sound and before she can get a punch in like he guesses she really聽wants to, he abruptly stops.
鈥淵ou think I don鈥檛 want you?鈥
He growls and shuffles closer, leaning down to whisper in her ear, his breath a hot, damp mist of desire on her neck that sends goosebumps all over her body. He grins deviously against her skin.
鈥淚 want you so badly I ache.鈥
She gasps at the flick of his tongue at her earlobe. He moans.
鈥淚 can鈥檛 see straight when I鈥檓 near you. And not just because I want to bury myself inside you,鈥 he moves to the other side of her neck, where he presses an open-mouthed kiss against her pulse. She lets out a breathy laugh and his smile broadens at the discovery. Ticklish. 鈥淚 want to know what you鈥檙e thinking, all the time,鈥 he pulls back so he can admire the blush coating her skin a lovely red, witness the desire glow in her eyes鈥攖hat she might see the utter longing and devotion in his.
鈥淚 want to know you鈥檙e alright. I want your thoughts, your hopes鈥 your聽dreams.鈥 He twirls a stray lock of her hair around his finger before tucking it behind her ear. Her breath hitches when he presses his forehead to hers. 鈥淎nd I want to be near you, all the聽fucking聽time. You think I鈥檝e got a bad habit? I have to restrain myself from sleeping at the foot of your bed like the dog Amren keeps claiming I am.鈥
He leans back, enough so that his eyes don鈥檛 cross when he cups her face in his hands, and looks at her with all the emotions his bleeding heart can bespeak.
鈥淵our presence is鈥︹ he shakes his head. 鈥淚 could drown聽when I鈥檓 with you and it would be alright, so long as I was drowning in you. I鈥檝e never felt this before but with you鈥 I feel everything聽with you. You鈥檙e intoxicating鈥攜our voice, your spirit, your scent,鈥 he stares at her lips, 鈥測our taste.鈥
鈥淐assian.鈥 She whispers and he鈥檚 never heard his name said so reverently before. As her lips shape around the letters, it occurs to him that he hasn鈥檛 truly kissed聽her like she deserves.
(Because kisses on battlefields are too鈥 final. Kisses on battlefields are goodbyes and it shouldn鈥檛 count as their first. It shouldn鈥檛 count)
鈥淲hat would you say, if I told you I was going to kiss you right now?鈥
鈥淚鈥檇 say, it took you long enough.鈥
He鈥檚 on her in less than a heartbeat.
There is nothing soft or gentle about the kiss. 500 years of experience is dashed away from the moment their lips meet for theirs is a clash of push and pull, give and take. Chapped lips rub sharply against one another as he suckles on her full bottom lip, tugging on it lightly with his teeth. In retaliation, her tongue slips into his mouth in one fluid motion timed so perfectly, her inexperience is a marvel to him. He doesn鈥檛 complain, given the way the taste of her explodes in his tongue鈥攕tale from the dryness of her mouth after hours without food or drink, but still oh so sweet in its fervor and desperation and he loses himself to it鈥 in her.
Like a wave cresting over the shore, they crash into each other. Cassian鈥檚 arms encircle her waist in a grip so tight, the very tip of her toes are the only parts of her touching the ground. Her hands flutter everywhere, as if she can鈥檛 decide where she wants to place them before settling in his hair and tugging on the strands till the strap of leather holding it up falls to the floor, too. Her fingers bury into his locks in a tangle to rival hers, angling his head the way she prefers so that she can deepen their kiss and sink even further into his embrace.
He never really grasped the concept of losing one鈥檚 self in another鈥檚 eyes till her. For when the need for air becomes too great, his lungs burning with the lack thereof, that is exactly what befalls him when he pulls away and looks into her blue-gray gaze. He is entranced by what he sees there, the lust but more than that, the certainty.
He鈥檚 loathe to let her go but the pain in his leg nags at him so he takes a small step in the direction of the bed. In perfect synchronization, she moves with him, sensing the direction of his thoughts and they shuffle towards the mattress, stealing kisses and caresses along the way.
The backs of her knees hit the mattress and though she stumbles, breaking from his lips in a most unceremonious manner, she still falls with the grace of queen. So it is with deference, that he falls to his knees before her (ignoring the pain in his leg in doing so), a question in his eyes as he places gentle hands on her outer thighs and looks up at her鈥攁 question answered with the slightest tilt of her head.
She聽is聽a queen鈥 because she has commanded his heart like no other, and for once he gladly surrenders.
He doesn鈥檛 tell her to lay down or shut her eyes. He doesn鈥檛 talk at all. He lets his eyes, his tongue,聽speak of his worship as he bows his head before the space between her legs in silent request and she opens for him beautifully, his fingers trembling with the utter trust displayed in the action. Without breaking eye contact, he lowers his mouth to the apex of her thighs.
And devours her.
Because she is water, he thinks. She is water and he is a male dying of thirst, suckling on her as if she were the only drop of water after miles of miles of desert. She is water in the way her desire coats his tongue in delicious rivulets that he eagerly laps up, in the way her steadily increasing puffs of breath mirror the soft trickling of a stream, the only other evidence of her enjoyment when the rest of her remains upright. Her stare is unflinching, tracking his movements in burning want and curiosity as sensations of her arousal, of his tongue in her most private of areas, assaults her.
She is water in the way her body ripples with her very first release, quick and unexpected like a storm in the middle of the sea yet just as devastating. She comes apart under the ministrations of his tongue, her hips rocking gently with his mouth as he closes it around her clit and helps her ride out the tide of her high.
That same storm brews in her blue-gray eyes, more gray the heavier they are lidded with hunger when she whispers, demands, 鈥淎gain.鈥
He captures her lips and growls into the kiss, his cock straining more than he thought possible at the command. Heated flesh presses upon heated flesh as he covers her body with his own and lowers her onto the sheets. Her legs instinctively lock around his hips and he shudders, has to break away from the kiss as he feels his temperature rise and the frenzied haze of arousal begins to overpower his mind. He rests his head in the valley between her breasts and begs, 鈥淭ell me to stop, Nesta,鈥 because this is the last of his offers of an out, because his blood sings with the need to take her, to claim聽her and it is only her first time. He wants to savor this moment, he wants to draw out the ecstacy and take his time, go slow and鈥
She yanks him by the hair till they are facing each other, the movement so unexpected that he barks in pain, a pain that only intensifies when she cups the sides of his face and grips him, hard.
鈥淚 am yours,鈥 she growls through gritted teeth, 鈥渟otake me,鈥 she grinds into him, his cock slipping between the folds of her nether lips and he nearly goes blind. She hisses in his ear, 鈥淎nd do not be gentle.鈥
With a roar he enters her, the cavern of her sex so wet with her excitement that he barely feels the barrier of her chastity break. She is so ready, her body so open, it was as if she was made for him鈥 as if she were merely waiting聽for him.
So he wastes no time, burying himself in her wet heat. His thrusts are hard, following on her edict that he not be gentle, but shallow鈥攂ecause piercing the fume of his fervor, is the pain from his injured leg.
With his remaining strength, he grips her hips and then flips them over, so that Nesta be on top. Nesta sits up, surprise coating her features at the change in position.
鈥淢y leg,鈥 he grumbles, sitting up. He can see the apology blooming in her eyes but refuses to accept it. He holds her hips, having effectively remained inside her as he rolled them over. He鈥檚 so lost in the feel of her, he nearly forgets this is her first time. Through gritted teeth, he asks her with all the remaining gentleness he can muster, 鈥淗ow are you feeling?鈥
Her jaw equally tense, she clenches her walls around him. He digs his nails onto her hips, her skin marred by the crescent moon shapes he leaves behind, so as not to come right then and there. He glares at her.
She glares right back, as if offended by the concern鈥攖he assumption聽that she wouldn鈥檛 be alright so far.
鈥淭ell me what to do.鈥
It鈥檚 more statement than request, the tone seemingly vulnerable yet commanding in that way only聽Nesta can manage. So it is with guiding hands that he bids her to rise onto her knees before instructing her to slide down the length of him. Again and again, till she sets a steady pace. In this position, he can feel the stretch of her walls every moment he enters her, his cock so sensitive encased as it is in her heat that he can鈥檛 keep the sounds from tumbling out his mouth, drawn out grunts and moans in a symphony of his pleasure. Nesta does not cry out her satisfaction, her ragged breaths the only soundtrack of her enjoyment, that and her thundering heart. He doesn鈥檛 mind, not with her thighs so slick and him making enough sounds for the both of them.
He grips her chin. 鈥淚 am yours,鈥 he returns. 鈥淯se me as you will and,鈥 he smirks, 鈥渄o not聽be gentle.鈥
Desire, pure and uninhibited, ripples down her spine, as something in her uncoils, unleashes鈥 as she takes everything from him, as he gives himself wholly to her and she to him. For once, he forgets about his own pleasure and his need for release in order to marvel at her鈥攁 creature of desperation and heat as she towers over him. She is a fortitude of ardor, so tall and strong in the way her muscles clench around him and the nails of her fingers dig near painfully into his shoulders.
So strong, yes, but so vulnerable too. She doesn鈥檛 close her eyes, perhaps as fearful as he is of the tether between them breaking should they look away from each other and he sees聽everything聽there, the longing for another bout of release mingled with that niggling pain and fear too.
鈥淚 will be here,鈥 he pants in response to her unspoken query. 鈥淐ome sun rise, I will still be here.鈥
At the declaration, she releases a sound that could have been a moan or a sob, maybe both. He sees it for what it truly is鈥攁cceptance鈥 faith聽that he鈥檒l stay true to his word.
She sets an unforgiving pace now and he鈥檚 helpless, awash in the current of her. With his leg a hindrance to his movements, his hands and lips do most of the roaming. Fingers spanning miles and miles of skin when he can鈥檛 decide where he wants to touch her so he settles for touching her anywhere he can reach鈥攌nuckles kneading the ridges of her spine, thumbs brushing the underside of her breasts before leaving bruising kisses in his wake (that he does again, and again, and聽again,聽when it elicits the filthiest moan he鈥檚 ever heard anyone utter,聽ever), teeth nipping not-so-lightly on her rosebud nipples before laving his tongue soothingly over his bites and lips sucking angry marks onto her neck, the purple mottling of her skin in places that would surely remain unconcealed, especially with the Night Court鈥檚 fashion, giving him untainted male pride.
(He could never own an untameable, wild thing such as Nesta but he鈥檇 sooner kill any other who would dare touch her lasciviously without her consent, not with聽him聽to contend with鈥 not with聽her聽laying waste to them with her barbed words and sharp glares)
Because much like their tumultuous relationship, there is nothing soft or slow or calm about their coupling. Nesta herself rakes her nails down the length of his back and he arches with the swirl of pain and pleasure that engulfs him at the rough gesture. She tugs at his scalp when he does something particularly pleasing to her with his lips, mouth or tongue. Then she returns those bruising kisses with imprints of her own, his neck peppered with bites and discolorations鈥攐f which he will proudly show off beneath the glaring radiance of the sun.
And when her thighs tremble and her walls flutter with her impending release, he rests his brow against her own and brings the pad of this thumb atop her clit, the callus of his digit rough against the velvety curve of her nub. With that blessed Fae agility, she increases her thrusts, nearly vibrating with the speed of which she chases that blinding golden peak. He rubs that bundle of nerves to aid her in the chase, unsure himself of how much longer he can hold back his release. A few, roughened swipes of her clit has her throwing her head back in a silent scream as she tumbles over the edge and into her climax, and he follows her鈥攁lways, always follows her鈥攁s he too reaches the crest of his passion with a mighty roar.
They fall into a heap of tangled limbs, hands entwined as Cassian molds the hard edges of him into her soft, feminine curves and rests his head onto her chest. He has since softened inside her but makes no move to withdraw, uncaring of the way sweat has built atop their skins. He will not let her go again, not now that the war is over, not now when in her arms, he has found sanctuary, he鈥攂astard-born and unclaimed by any bloodline鈥攈as found a home,聽different from that of the one the Inner Circle has provided him but one he has coveted, has thought of as underserved, all the same.
He only hopes she feels as he does, but given the way she clutches him tightly, as if any sort of space between them鈥攏o matter how diminutive鈥攚ould be unbearable, he gets the feeling their thoughts are one and the same.
Hearts slow and breaths even out as their blood gradually cools from the body bliss. This, here, is the calm he鈥檇 been first expecting.
Minutes, hours, lifetimes pass and still, they do not speak鈥攏ot in the traditional sense at least. Cassian tucks his wings in best he can as they both lay on their sides, facing each other. The tempestuousness that marked 聽their joining has ebbed and they take the reprieve and turn it into a tranquil exploration of each other.
And when they have drunk their fill for the moment, she asks him what are they to do now.
He doesn鈥檛 bother with flowery speeches or platitudes. With cutting frankness, he tells her that it will be difficult. More likely than not, they will argue as in any given moment, they will not see eye to eye. He is careless as she is cold. He will make mistakes and so will she. Learning when to push and when to hold back will be an experiment of trial and error. Two stubborn individuals used to getting their own way acclimating into being a unit is sure to have disastrous results. But as he鈥檚 starting to accept, many things can be forgiven.
If you鈥檝e got someone loving you.
The kind of love that makes you want to be better, not just for your partner, but for yourself. The kind of love that you don鈥檛 get lost in but the one to help you find yourself.
He says it then, those three words. The affirmation paling in comparison to everything else that鈥檚 been said between them. But he means it, with every bit of his dark and crippled heart, and love is love is love.
So she takes his face in her hands, the most gentle she鈥檚 ever been, and they make love in that delicate way that lovers do鈥攁s hearts give in to each other and their souls meld.
The sky awakens as they grasp the zenith of their ardor, his wings encircling them as if to contain their intimacy. She eyes the leathery pinion, her touch feather-light as she says with a twinkle in her eye, 鈥淥n the habit of lingering outside my door?鈥
He raises a curious eyebrow, affecting an air of nonchalance he does not feel given the way she fingers the lines of tendons on his wing. 鈥淲hat about it?鈥
She moves on to trace the contour of his face, before nudging at the bridge of his nose with her own. She kisses him then, her mouth opening divinely at the slightest prod of his tongue. She whispers against his lips, 鈥淒on鈥檛 break it too fast.鈥
With the affection so heavy in her every caress he sees the words for what they truly mean鈥攖he first crack in her armor, the first break in the wall of ice encasing her heart.
Come in,聽she seems to sigh contentedly.
The first sign of dawn breaks through the horizon when she smiles up at him. His wings flare at the vision of exquisite effulgence she paints, at the look on her face as she gazes at him with unadulterated exhilaration. It drives away that insidious pain and the lingering shadows that deign to plant doubts into his mind.
They were so timid and afraid. They still聽were timid and afraid. After all, it was so easy, to slip into the comfort of that darkness as if it were a blanket to ward off the cold. An aching familiarity, but a familiarity all the same after swimming in its perilous waters for so long, in comparison to the newness聽of them. But there is no unchoosing her, there is no聽undoing聽her as he bends and breaks and builds himself around her. Together, he reminds himself. Together they are a force so strong that not even darkness dares touch them.
A sunbeam arcs over the mountaintop and she enforces their bright fort with a final, fervent asseveration.
鈥淚 choose you, too.鈥
And beneath the glimmering, pale light鈥
They shine.
AN: Title inspired by the song, Lonesome by SHAED, which has nothing to do with Nessian lol but it was a great mood setter for this fic.
This was a gift for my best friend, Selina ( @captainwiley here ) who loves Nessian so much she pretty much commandeers the trash can and whose birthday was last December 12. I maintain, I AM SO SORRY THIS WAS SO LATE聽but I got there in the end, didn鈥檛 I bae? Finally got around to sharing it on here so, hope you guys liked it!
If you wanna cry about all things SJM, come say hi!
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wingsofanillyrian3 years ago
Text
Welcome Home, Commander (NSFW Nessian)
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@eternallyautumnal asked:聽鈥 Ummm ok Nessian... how about Nesta surprised Cassian with some new lingerie after he鈥檚 been away at the Illyrian camps training the girls. And idk you can expand or change anything you want. 鈥
Apparently I鈥檓 feeling the smut this week.. Not that you guys seem to mind.
Send me a request!
Masterlist
Nesta looked herself over one last time in the full-length mirror as she sensed her mate鈥檚 approach through the bond they shared. She had been waiting for him to come home; he鈥檇 been gone a day longer than she had expected. Taking advantage of his delay, she had shopped at one of the lingerie stores in the Rainbow and bought some particularly spicy underthings.
Honey, he crooned as she heard him land on the balcony leading to their room, I鈥檓 home.
A blast of cool air hit her as the French doors swung wide, Cassian鈥檚 hulking form silhouetted by the white moonlight leaking in behind him. She smiled over her shoulder, hugging her robe closed before turning to him.
鈥淲elcome home,鈥 she purred, swaying her hips as she walked to him. 鈥淗ow were the camps, Commander?鈥
鈥淪ame as always,鈥 he said, opening his arms. She stepped into them gladly, hugging his sweaty body tight.
鈥淚 missed you,鈥 she murmured, inhaling his distinctly Cassian scent. It washed over her, cloaking her in his presence.
鈥淚 missed you too.鈥 His nose was pressed to her hair as if he could breathe her in.
鈥淚 have a surprise for you.鈥
鈥淥h, and what鈥檚 that?鈥
She wiggled out of his embrace, grinning as she took a few steps back. 鈥淭his.鈥
Slowly, she pulled on the belt tied around her waist. The silk shift fell open to reveal the crimson lace set she鈥檇 painstakingly chosen. His breath caught in his throat, wings flaring in shock. His gaze raked over her nearly-bare body, the intensity of it sending a thrill of anticipation coursing through her.
鈥淲hen did you get that?鈥 He asked, voice hoarse.
鈥淛ust a little something I picked up while you were away.鈥 She let the robe slide from her shoulders, pooling at her feet. Looking at him through her lashes, Nesta took slow, calculated steps towards him.
鈥淒o you like it?鈥
鈥淵es,鈥 he rasped, swallowing thickly.
Nesta鈥檚 coy smile nearly set him off as she neared him.
They both enjoyed these little games they played. By making the first move Nesta had assumed dominance for the night, and she intended to keep it that way. Cassian鈥檚 hands were clenched into fists at his sides, trembling with restraint.
She allowed her gaze to dip to his throat, the only bit of exposed skin she could see, thanks to his leathers. His Siphons flared as she leaned in, nose brushing his neck, getting drunk on the scent of his arousal.
鈥淵ou seem a little鈥 Tense.鈥
His beautiful hazel eyes slid shut as her hands lazily traced across his chest. Her fingers worked at the buckles at his shoulders, loosening the straps securing the upper half of his flying leathers. Satisfied when they popped free, she ducked under his membranous wing and stood behind him.
鈥淲ould you like me to help ease some of that tension, Commander?鈥
Cassian鈥檚 chest heaved with every breath, wings twitching every now and then. 鈥淵-yes,鈥 he stammered, reaching a hand back to grip her hip. She clucked her tongue in disapproval, but allowed his hand to remain where it was as she worked the straps under his wings.
鈥淥ff,鈥 she said as soon as the buckle was undone. In one practiced movement, he tore the leathers from his upper body, leaving his torso bare. His skin glisened with sweat from his flight, the tattoos along his spine more prominent. Gods, she loved every inch of his inked flesh.
鈥淎nd now the rest,鈥 she purred, stepping back in front of him. His hands trembled as he undid the button of his trousers, kicking out of them. His member strained against his boxers, begging to be released.
But she had other things in mind first.
鈥淥n the bed,鈥 she ordered, her fingers trailing one last time over his chiseled abdomen. 鈥淔ace down.鈥
Cassian鈥檚 chest rumbled with a growl, but he did as he was told. He crawled on top of the furs strewn about and stretched his wings wide. The ends of them hung off either side of the king size bed, and Nesta鈥檚 mouth watered as she crawled on after him.
She settled herself on his ass, one leg on either side of his hips. He groaned, no doubt already able to tell how soaked she was even through the layers of fabric. Bracing her nimble hands on the small of his back, she leaned forward and whispered, 鈥淗ow does a massage sound, my love?鈥
鈥淏loody brilliant,鈥 he said breathlessly, folding his arms under his head as a pillow.
With a smile, Nesta set about kneading the tense muscles along his spine. She rubbed out the knots and was rewarded every once in a while with a ragged moan. She let her breasts graze his back when she reached for the bases of his beautiful wings, and he bucked his hips in search of friction.
鈥淪omeone missed me,鈥 she said, stroking the base of his left wing. She delighted in the sight of how it twitched under her fingers, begging for more, more, more.
鈥淕ods yes- ah! Yes I missed you baby- just please,鈥 he moaned again as she ghosted the fingers of her free hand over the thin membrane.
鈥淧lease what?鈥
鈥淟et me show you how much I missed you.鈥
Nesta pondered for a moment, teasingly rolling her hips. His choked whimper only served to fuel her arousal, and she leaned forward to press a kiss between his shoulder blades.
鈥淚 suppose.鈥
As soon as the words left her mouth, Cassian tucked in his wings and flipped under her so she was properly straddling him. Both gasped at the sensation of his cock pressed against her dripping sex.
Bracing her hands on his chest, she ground her hips against his. His grip on her waist tightened before he released her, one hand migrating towards her core.
It only took a moment for him to rip through the thin red lace of her panties.
鈥淐assian!鈥 She glared at him as he snaked the ruined undergarment out from between them, tossing it aside. 鈥淚 just got those. Must you ruin every pair of underwear I own?鈥
鈥淚鈥檒l buy you new ones.鈥 He lifted his hips, wiggling free of his boxers. With nothing between them, the feeling of skin on skin was enough to spur Nesta into action.
鈥淵ou better,鈥 she said, dropping her voice to a purr. She gripped his length, rubbing it between her slick folds and causing him to moan in anticipation.
鈥淚 swear I鈥檒l buy you whatever you want, so long as you fuck me!鈥
Nesta grinned, knowing that she had him ensnared. 鈥淎nything?鈥
鈥淵es, anything you desire-鈥
Cassian鈥檚 head fell back as Nesta sank down on his cock. Her eyes slid shut and she bit her lip as he filled her completely. Even after all their years together, she never grew used to his size.
His fingers dug into the flesh of her bottom as she rode him, his mouth open in a silent moan. Their hips snapped together, the sounds of their coupling echoing throughout the room.
鈥淔uck, Nes I鈥檓 gonna-鈥
鈥淐ome, Cass.鈥 Reaching forward, she stroked a finger along his inner wing, where the membrane was most sensitive. 鈥淐ome for me.鈥
With a final roar that shook the foundations, Cassian spilled himself inside his wife. She followed not a moment later, continuing to ride him as they both crested their highs.
Spent, Nesta slumped forward onto his chest. 鈥淵ou need a bath,鈥 she said, listening to his heart pound.
鈥淥nly if you join me.鈥
鈥淒eal.鈥
@eternallyautumnal @mydarlingwhitethorn @spegetty @marabarrow @photofeesh@districtsimonlewis @kybaeza @andreywasnthere @bookaholic1012 @a-court-of-ruin @xsannesmitx @starzablaze @thereitisthatfamousscowl @tog-trash @highlady-of-slytherin @tntwme @queen-archeron @rkjar1646 @howtotameyourillyrian @urbisie @acourtofstoriesandthings @thelaughingzeebra@my-ships-will-never-be-sank @keladrym99thefangirl @stopthisrightnow12345 @feysans4life@missing-merlin @fandoms-everywhere-united @avap12 @vilya1 @ignite-my-love @emilyshi101emu@aelinashgalathynius @heyyitsangie @filthycorrade @mywritingbox @longlivetheweird@youngsweetonlyseventeen @alicethelonerabbit @emily10501 @princesslysandra @limeie02 @eli-ong-hello @fanwhore99 @panicatendovier @rhysand-darling @mickle-the-pickle@jennifer2430 @nerdy-stuff @heyheyheylemonade @kingrowangalathynius @feysandiseternal@writer-reader-traveller @seashade @goldbooksblack @gabi422
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maastrash3 years ago
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The Nessian Book(s)?
This is what I would LOVE to see
Nesta finally agreeing to train
Cassian taking care of Nesta when she gets her period
Cassian telling Nesta what was in the box
Nesta and Cassian sharing their pasts
Nesta wearing Cassian鈥檚 clothes ;))
Nesta and Cassian 鈥渞eading鈥 together聽
Nessian cuddles聽
Celebrating a birthday or holiday together
Going out to dinner like a normal couple
Cassian helping Nesta with her bathtub and fire fears
Nesta massaging Cassian after long training days (and vice versa)
Nessian SMUT
Maybe Nesta gets jealous after seeing one of Cassian鈥檚 exes ;)
Maybe Cassian gets jealous seeing all the guys looking at his girl
A NESSIAN WEDDING PLEASE
Nessian babies
Maybe a mate bond :))
Literally every fanfic and HC idea I鈥檝e ever read I would love to see happen fr. Feel free to add on!
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acomaflove2 years ago
Conversation
Nessian In A Nutshell
Nesta: Ever since I've become a Fae I've been lonely.
Cassian: I'd keep you company if you'd let鈥
Nesta: No one wants to be around me.
Cassian: I've asked you out on SEVERAL dates鈥
Nesta: And I never have anything to do.
Cassian: I'd let you do me鈥
Nesta: CASSIAN SHUT UP NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU.
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mightymorphingayagendaa year ago
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All fics are nessian and definitely not child-friendly but any that feature explicit smut are marked with a ** and those that flirt with a lil鈥 lemony content are marked with with just one. My inbox is always open.
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Lethal Combination聽
Growing up not knowing where her next meal was coming from didn鈥檛 exactly satiate Nesta Archeron鈥檚 appetite for the finer things in life. But at twenty-four such things are a collateral comfort; from her gorgeous apartment in New York, to the trigger finger that paid for it, Nesta Archeron has a lot of things.聽One thing she doesn鈥檛 have though, is a boyfriend, something her youngest sister Feyre seems intent on remedying when she sets Nesta up with her brother in law, Cassian. Now she has something else to add to her list of things: a big fucking problem.聽
chapter one *
鈥淗ey Feyre, just calling to say that I know you want me to go on this blind date, but I actually can鈥檛 because you see, I鈥檓 a gun for hire, which as you can imagine makes dating rather tricky. Also I鈥檓 absolutely gone for my latest target鈥檚 bodyguard, who I鈥檝e never actually spoken to but in the month and a half I鈥檝e been stalking him has somehow managed to make me fall head over heels for him. Anyway, we still on for brunch on Thursday?鈥
chapter two *
She knew it was irrational to be angry at him. But something uncomfortable and tight wriggled in her chest at the way he was looking at her. Because it wasn鈥檛 her he was looking at like that. Instead, it was the random girl he thought she was, all pristine ringlets and baby blue gaze like a god-damn angel.
chapter three **
God this man could kiss. He kissed her like her full lips were some overripe peach spilling a too soft sweetness he鈥檇 die before wasting a drop of, hungry and slow and indulgent he devoured her with an abusive and perverse affection.
chapter four **
Nesta鈥檚 hands might have been trembling slightly as she knelt to the floor and lifted one of the bathroom tiles, revealing what for all intents and purposes, should have been a bible. It wasn鈥檛 of course. It鈥檚 was an industrial safe.
chapter five **
鈥淎nd I thought we鈥檇 grown out of sharing toys, but it seems both our expectations were thwarted.鈥澛
鈥淗umans aren鈥檛 toys!鈥 Feyre reminded her. Not that Nesta didn鈥檛 already know that. No vibrator had never made her cum as hard as Cassian had.聽聽
chapter six **
鈥淔eyre only thinks she wants me there, Cassian. She鈥檒l change her mind as soon as Rhys implies I think I鈥檓 better than him聽for not touching the carrots his private chef put too much butter on and I call him a hedonistic asshole who loitered round playgrounds looking for a wife before meeting Feyre.鈥
鈥淢aybe don鈥檛 do that then?鈥
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festive fluff
This was one of those little moments Cassian would bundle up like a cherished Christmas ornament and tuck inside his heart forever. If his heart remained in one piece. It was so full he was worried it might break. (Modern AU)
seasonal smut **
聽鈥淚 figured we could both be naughty tonight and save Santa the trip,鈥 she said, licking her upper lip in an arcing motion with the tip of her tongue. Eliciting a number of lovely memories that made his already half-hard cock stir. (Modern AU)
hogwarts au聽
He鈥檇 have know that bracelet if it had hit him in the back of the head, which it had done before, twice. He鈥檇 watched Nesta tucking her hair behind her ear in a potions class or giving him the middle finger enough times to recognise the interlinking charms that normally graced her pale wrist.
鈥渃assian begs nesta to wear a couples costume with him for halloween.鈥 **
Cassian Siphon was her equal in ambition and lust for a challenge, but he didn鈥檛 seek to sooth his raw passion and volatility with a carefully curated air of intimidating class like Nesta did. He also had the impulse control of a teenager. (Modern AU)
鈥渂ikini shopping with your best friend is a lot harder when you鈥檙e in love with them鈥 **
Thrusting her plethora of perspective bikinis into his arms she turned on her heels. 鈥淐ome on, I need to try these on鈥 she sauntered off and Cassian couldn鈥檛 keep his eyes off her ass as she lead him toward the dressing rooms. (Modern AU)
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writevswrong3 years ago
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Nessian Short Convo #7? 8?
Nesta: What are you staring at?
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Azriel: He鈥檚 staring at you.
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Mor, Amren, Elain, Feyre: Definitely you.
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Cassian: I most certainly am not.
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Rhys: He鈥檚 staring at that rock over there.
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Cassian: Yeah! Wait, what rock?
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Rhys: Nesta it is.
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wingsofanillyrian3 years ago
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After Dinner (Nessian NSFW)
Anonymous asked:聽鈥 nessian smut would rlly help cleanse my skin and help me be less stress wink鈥
@spegetty why do I have a sneaking suspicion that this was you??? ;) Either way, nonnie, I hope you enjoy this as much as Nesta did!
Send me a request!
Masterlist
The moment they walked through the door, Nesta slammed Cassian back against the wall, earning her a small cry of alarm. She pressed her body against his, their curves molding together like clay. He struggled the tiniest bit, trying to free his wings.
鈥淵ou know, I don鈥檛 usually let anyone pin-鈥
鈥淪hut up,鈥 she growled, capturing his lips in a heated kiss. It was all tongue and teeth, filled with the passion that had been growing in her core since the beginning of their night. 鈥淵ou think you can get away with teasing me under the dinner table like that? Right in front of our brothers and sisters?鈥
She had no doubt that they had known exactly what Cassian had been doing. It started off innocently enough; his hand on her thigh, thumb rubbing small circles above her knee. Then he鈥檇 slowly started to inch that hand upward, under her dress and closer to her center. It was partially her fault, she supposed, for wearing that green dress with the slit up the thigh that she knew drove him mad.
鈥淟ike you didn鈥檛 enjoy it.鈥 Cassian gasped as Nesta ground herself against his thigh, in desperate need of friction. His fingers dug into her hip hard enough to bruise, but she didn鈥檛 register the pain. Her focus was wholly on the heat building between her legs and the press of Cassian鈥檚 erect length against her side.
鈥淭ake me to the counter,鈥 she demanded, wrapping her arms around his neck and jumping into his arms. He hadn鈥檛 been expecting that, but he caught her anyway- just like he always did. Calloused hands gripped her ass, left bare from the dress she had hitched up over her hips.
Everywhere their skin touched sent a fire burning through Nesta鈥檚 veins, and she couldn鈥檛 get enough. Her lips trailed down his shoulder, leaving small red marks in their wake. Nesta wasn鈥檛 usually so aggressive during their couplings, but Cassian鈥檚 long, low moan told her that he enjoyed it.
鈥淵ou are mine,鈥 she growled, reaching her hand around to stroke the thick base of his wing. He shuddered as she pumped her hand, and Nesta knew he was trapped under her spell. He moaned against the skin of her shoulder and continued to the kitchen, breathing heavily as he set her down.
Gasping as the cold from the marble countertop seeped into her skin, she tangled her fingers in Cassian鈥檚 ebony locks and yanked. Lust shone in his hazel eyes, which were locked on her blue ones as he knelt before her. She braced her hands beside her, spreading her legs wider for him.
She knew her wetness had soaked completely through her thin, lacy panties. His gaze tracked her hand as it slid down, down, down her torso. She slipped her thumb under the waistband of her underwear and pulled them down her legs. Tossing them aside, she looked to her mate, who was watching her with predatory intent. She could feel the desire pulsing off him in waves, but he sat frozen before her.
鈥淭ouch me,鈥 she instructed, scooting to the very edge of the counter. There were nights when she was the one being commanded by her Commander, and then there were nights like this- when he was putty in her hands.
She tipped her head back as he licked and sucked a trail up her leg, his tongue leaving goosebumps in it鈥檚 wake. The moan loosed from her lips was nothing short of a plea, and his hands further parted her thighs.
鈥淎ll for me,鈥 he commented, breath hot on her dripping core. His teeth found the sensitive nub between her folds, grazing it lightly in the way he knew she loved.
鈥淎ll yours.鈥 She bucked her hips, straining to make contact with his teasing mouth. He pulled back and she growled, glaring down at him. 鈥淔uck me with your tongue now, Cassian, or I swear to the Mother-鈥
He cut her off, licking a thick stripe up her center and flicking his tongue across her knot. She threw her legs over his shoulders, avoiding the sensitive wings with expert caution. Leaning back on her elbows gave him better access, his hands sliding around to her bum once more as his mouth continued to pleasure her.
鈥淕ods, Cass!鈥 She cried his name like a prayer and used one of her hands to toy with a nipple through the thin fabric of her dress. Her mouth dropped open with a soundless moan, indicating her impending release. Cassian sucked on the bundle of nerves at her apex, thrusting two fingers into her without warning.
Her world narrowed to the feel of those two fingers curling inside her and the sensation of his mouth on her clit. It was a type of pleasure she had never felt with anyone else, and never wanted to. Pressure built up in the pit of her stomach, and her bark arched off the counter.
鈥淒on鈥檛 stop,鈥 she pled, letting out a low whimper.
Come for me, sweetheart, he crooned, their bond alight with his primal need to satisfy his mate.
She shattered around his fingers with a final ear-splitting scream, overwhelmed with pleasure as her orgasm rocked through her in waves. Cassian withdrew his fingers, placing a tender kiss to her aching core before he stood and cradled her sweat-slick body to his heaving chest.
He stroked her hair as she unwound from her high. 鈥淢y turn?鈥 His voice was soft, but laced with an undercurrent of pure, unfiltered need.
鈥淚 don鈥檛 think so,鈥 she grinned, wagging a finger at him. He gaped at her, evidence of his arousal pressing against her knee.
鈥淏ut Nes-鈥
鈥淢aybe that will teach you to act like a respectable male while in the presence of our family.鈥 She hopped off the counter, smoothing down the wrinkles in her dress as if she hadn鈥檛 just been moaning Cassian鈥檚 name minutes before.
She left him gaping in the kitchen, swaying her hips as she padded to their bedroom. She was aware that he watched her the entire way, eyes most likely glued to her ass. She stripped from her dress and reclined on their king size bed, expecting him to be seconds behind her. He surprised her, however, by staying put until she called to him.
鈥淎re you joining me?鈥
Before she had even finished her sentence, she heard a kitchen chair topple to the floor as he scrambled to get to her as quick as he could. He halted abruptly in the hall, eyes falling to her voluptuous bare breasts.
鈥淚 thought I was being punished.鈥
鈥淚鈥檝e changed my mind.鈥
His demeanor changed as he realized he now had the upper hand. Her core was still aching for him, and now he held all the cards. He shot her a cocky grin, standing at the foot of the bed.
鈥淥h, really? Because I鈥檓 not so sure I want to-鈥
鈥淕et over here.鈥
The next day, it was safe to say everyone in Velaris knew what went on the night prior in that small riverside apartment.
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5,8 and 9 for nessian's first time making love pls!!
5. hands on the other person鈥檚 back, fingertips pressing under their top, drawing gentle circles against that small strip of bare skin that make them break the kiss with a gasp
8. being unable to open their eyes for a few moments afterward聽
9. one small kiss, pulling away for an instant, then devouring each other
A/N: SMUT SMUT SMUT SMUT SMUT.聽 I hope this is what you were looking for!
Genuine
He鈥檇 really intended the kiss to be a chaste one, the stereotypical end-of-first-date peck.聽 And when he pulled away Cassian had half expected a slap given their history, so when Nesta immediately tugs him back by his neck and practically devours him he鈥檚 a bit caught off guard.
Still, he feels guilt settle in his stomach when she releases him and he sees her eyes are still shut, grip still there but loose, uncharacteristically hesitant.聽 "Did- was that a mistake?鈥
Her eyes shoot open when laughter rumbles through his chest, an indignant reproof on her lips that vanishes when his hands grasp her waist and pull her forward, his mouth firm against hers.
Nesta鈥檚 lips part with a gasp as his fingers rise beneath her blouse, gently teasing the soft skin there as Cassian deepens the kiss.聽 鈥淣esta.鈥
Given this scenario, Cassian likely would鈥檝e guessed the next few moments would involve desperate removal of clothes and clumsy stumbles through the apartment, but his expectations are upended as Nesta pulls away and strides toward her bedroom, leaving a trail of clothes in her wake.
Cassian manages a few steps in her direction before his brain short circuits somewhere near the bathroom and his swollen mouth gapes open.聽 Somehow, it鈥檚 a nearly naked Nesta standing before him, hands on hips, that jars him back to reality and he鈥檚 back in gear.
When his hands skim up her sides and he makes to unsnap her bra, Nesta slaps him away and he starts back tracking, trying to guess when he misjudged her intentions.聽 Until she speaks to clarify, 鈥淭his isn鈥檛 going to be one of those, 鈥榮he鈥檚 naked and he鈥檚 just unleashed the necessaries,鈥 she mostly ignores his snort as her hands fall to the straining zip of his jeans, 鈥淚f I鈥檓 doing this with you I want all the spoils.鈥
He鈥檚 considering whether being called 鈥榮poils is a compliment as he tugs his shirt off and Nesta removes his pants and boxers in one go, then turns toward what鈥檚 presumably her bedroom.聽 鈥淲e鈥檒l save the adventurous locations for later.鈥
鈥淟ater?鈥 Cassian asks hoarsely as he follows.
Nesta turns to him again, the lace of her bra brushing deliciously against his bare chest.聽 鈥淒oubting whether your performance will have me asking for seconds?鈥
It鈥檚 the challenge in her eyes that truly brings him out of the haze of mostly naked Nesta and gets his brain in gear.聽 In one sweep she鈥檚 in his arms, legs around his waist, glorious friction below the belt.聽 鈥淒oubting whether you鈥檒l be able to keep up, more like.鈥
They鈥檙e dropped back onto the bed at this point and Nesta鈥檚 eyes are glinting dangerously when she flips their positions.聽 鈥淲e鈥檒l see who鈥檚 keeping up with whom, Cassian.鈥
Then she鈥檚 fully bare too and they鈥檙e a hurricane of grasping hands and desperate lips until she鈥檚 fully seated atop him and if his mind could manage a coherent thought Cassian might be embarrassed by the whimper that leaves his lips.聽 Then again, if it makes her face light like it is right now, makes that deep-throated laughter fill the room - there鈥檚 probably little he wouldn鈥檛 do.
Time passes as they battle for control, more like a dance than an actual clash of wills, but either way he鈥檚 on the precipice entirely too soon and can鈥檛 bear to not bring her with him.聽 Not that she seems likely to let that happen either.
Cassian bats her fingers away and his own take their place and soon he鈥檚 hovering over her, Nesta鈥檚 back arching against the rumpled sheets and his mouth going dry at her beatific expression.聽 She鈥檚 just crashed over when he follows with a low growl, just enough thought left in his brain to collapse next to her.
He almost thinks he鈥檚 in some catatonic dream state when fingers card through his hair gently, followed by the soft press of lips against his temple.聽 Still, he鈥檚 too content to question it and simply pulls her closer as they drift off.聽 Confirmation comes a few hours later when Nesta slips beneath the sheets pooled at his waist and decides to show him just how serious she is.
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arinbellea month ago
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Suits
Notes: I can't believe I actually did this. It started as a harmless post by @nessiansimp and here we are. I did not edit this much. I just wrote it non-stop for 3 hours because I couldn't not. Also, I know the title is basic. I don't care. I'm obsessed with Suits right now so that's what you're getting. Also, I know nothing about law school except for Legally Blonde, Suits, and Google searches. So I apologize in advance for all the stuff I portray incorrectly.
Summary: Nesta is stressed the day before her first day of classes in Law School. She calls up a familiar face to set herself at ease, not realizing just what trouble she's about to get into. A student/teacher fic. Everyone is an adult!
Warnings: NSFW, swearing
~*~
Nesta turned her phone on and off again, for the sixth time in a row. She needed to get her head straight.
She'd be starting school again tomorrow. Her first day of law school. Her first day of law school.
Fuck, she needed a drink. Or dick. Preferably both.
But there was no way he was awake at...she glanced at the clock. Way past midnight. No way in hell.
It won't hurt to try.
No it definitely wouldn't. The worst that could happen was he didn't pick up, and Nesta went to bed like she should have done 3 hours ago. But the nerves...
The nerves were going to end her if she didn't let herself loose a little.
Picking up her phone one more time, dialing the number from memory, she lifted it to her ear, listening to the ring and wondering if she'd hear something different.
"Yeah?"
The voice was deep and masculine and utterly perfect. At least, she'd found it to be, from the second she'd heard it.
"Can you come over?" Nesta didn't bother with trivial cover-ups. She needed to sleep and she had no plans of using alcohol to get it done. Not the day before classes started. Mindblowing sex would just have to do for the night.
Nesta couldn't see his face, but she knew the grin that'd be playing on his face at her request. He'd say yes. He always did. And within fifteen minutes, she heard the knock on her apartment door, telling her that she had been right to call him.
He hadn't let her down yet.
Cassian looked just as good at two in the morning as he did at any normal hour of the day. Shirt clinging to his muscled torso, a peek of black ink at his collar that she knew crept all over his chest, back and arms. And the telltale leather jacket that had made her want him in the first place. It was either that or the hair. Or the hazel eyes. Maybe it was just all of him. He was too beautiful for words on most days, and in her current sleep-deprived state, Cassian looked like a god.
A smirk played on his lips as he asked her, "Are you going to stare all day or can I at least come in first before you jump me?"
Nesta rolled her eyes but moved away from the doorway to let him in. He snuck in a quick glance at her own attire and she inwardly cringed at the fact that she was wearing only an oversized T-shirt and no pants. Not that it really mattered considering what they were about to go on to do. But, that stupid smirk on his face, the knowing look in his eyes, had her irritated.
Insufferable ass. That was why she'd kept it so casual with him. Gods knew they'd tear each other to pieces if it ever became more than just physical between them.
Cassian didn't go to her bedroom, instead stopping in her small kitchenette, drinking from her bottle in the fridge. It was almost domestic to see it happen, and Nesta almost laughed at it. Almost even smiled at him and the sight of him like this.
Almost.
"Let's go, I have an early morning tomorrow," she called from the hallway, knowing he'd follow. He knew the layout of her small but functional apartment. She knew all about his too considering she preferred to go over to his place rather than he come to her.
She didn't like to show the cheap secondhand furniture she'd purchased with Emerie and Gwyn's help from a thrift store. Or the fraying carpet and cramped hallways. It was home for her. At least for now. But that didn't mean she didn't feel slightly embarrassed by it each time Cassian visited.
She likely never would have felt so strongly about it, had she not gone home with him one night instead of the other way around.
Condo didn't seem like a good enough word. Cassian was rich. In all the ways that Nesta's family had been a long time ago. Maybe he was richer. She really didn't know nor was she going to ask. All she knew was that his bedsheets felt like heaven and everything in that damned apartment was a guilty pleasure. From the type of coffee he had to the stupid multiple settings in his showerhead.
Cassian entering the room behind her dragged her away from her thoughts on who had more money and better showerheads.
He'd taken off the leather jacket somewhere and Nesta took in the plain black button up that outlined the cord of muscles all over him. She wanted to tear it off of him.
Cassian began unbuttoning his shirt walking towards her. Nesta backed up, caught in his thrall, in the snare of his glinting eyes. When he reached her, the back of her legs had already hit the mattress of her bed. His shirt had already been discarded. Nesta raised a hand to his chest, to trace the tattoos, to maybe follow the outline with her tongue afterwards.
But Cassian caught her by the wrist, stopping her advances. He went for her shirt instead. Pulling it up above her waist and then her head as she lifted her arms to help him.
He growled as he took her in then. She hadn't bothered with a bra. Just a lacy black underwear she'd forgotten she owned until after Cassian had told her he was coming.
"That's a nice surprise," he muttered, ducking his head down towards her. She wrapped her arms around his neck, expecting a kiss.
Instead Cassian bypassed her lips, going straight for her peaked nipples.
The first flick of his tongue had her reeling. The hot and wet sensation had her keening into him for more. Looping her fingers into his belt and pulling his closer as he kissed a path up her chest and nuzzled her neck. Pressed a kiss to a spot under her ear that made her whimper and wetness to pool between her legs.
Then she got a hold of herself.
"Get on with it," she warned, breathless and not quite in any shape to be making demands. Cassian seemed to think the same thing because when he kissed her, he nipped just a touch harder than usual on her bottom lip. Just this side of pain and pleasure and enough to cause Nesta to moan into his mouth. He swallowed that moan up with a long, languorous drag of his tongue against hers.
Quicker than she'd expected, Cassian had wrapped a hand across her waist and she'd locked her legs behind his back as he put them both down on her bed.
Gasping for air, she broke their kiss and Cassian used it to drag his mouth lower. Lower. Lower...
"Yes," she hissed, as Cassian pushed the lace fabric to the side and dragged his tongue down her sex. She could feel how wet she already was, how wet he was making her with his tongue. With how good he was tasting her.
Cassian broke away from her skin, lips glistening as he smiled at her, and with her head still fogged up from a near orgasm, Nesta returned it. Never mind that she didn't like to show any softness like that to anyone to, especially not in these moments. But he'd broken down her defenses with that infuriatingly talented mouth of his. Had almost brought her to lay herself bare to him in ways that sex never had before.
Cassian hooked his fingers into the sides of her underwear and made to pull down.
"Lift up for me baby."
She did and the cool air hit her already warmed and wet skin, making the sensation all the more delicious when he fastened his mouth back onto her clit, and began all over again.
Cassian didn't take off his pants even when she'd asked him to. He'd made her come once with his mouth. She'd stayed there on bed, catching her breath for just a minute before reaching for his belt.
Cassian had denied her, catching her by the ankle and pressing a soft kiss to the skin there before working his way back up. Running his lips over her calves, her knees, the insides of her thighs. And then he'd eaten her out again, much to her protest in the beginning. But she'd quickly forgotten that she'd asked him here to fuck her when he dipped his tongue inside of her, curling upwards while she cried out his name over and over. Until her climax had been wrung out of her in an almost dizzying finale.
Then and only then had he let her undo the buckle at his hips, a cool, wicked smile dancing on his face at her eagerness. She'd opened the zip and almost slipped her hand in to palm him right then and there, but Cassian had laughed at that and pulled away. Moving off the bed to discard his pants himself before joining her again.
Nesta's mouth had dried as she'd taken him in. Naked. Hard. His cock already dripping with moisture at the tip. She wanted him in her mouth. Wanted to taste him. Feel him along her tongue, along her lips until she could take him deep in her throat.
"What are you doing?," Cassian asked with a laugh, grabbing her wrists again and hauling her under him.
Nesta huffed. "What did it look like I was doing? I was going to suck your-"
Cassian silenced her with a kiss.
"That mouth will be the death of me," he muttered, kissing her again and she couldnt help but twine her fingers into his hair. And pull slightly.
"Maybe you should fuck it and make it better," she whispered, dragging her tongue along his jaw and down his neck. Biting at the delicate skin there. Cassian didn't even flinch at the teeth marks she'd left behind beside the tattoo along the column of his throat.
Cassian chuckled darkly at her antics. "Maybe I'll just fuck you instead."
"It would be about time," she shot back, not at all caring how he'd take it. How he'd make her beg for being so mouthy.
Cassian seemed to even consider it. She could practically hear the thoughts in his head. But in the end, Cassian instead settled on leaning back until he rested on his knees before her. Kneeling he grabbed her legs, hauling her closer as he pulled them up until their undersides rested on his chest. Her feet hooked over his shoulders as her hips became flush with his own. With the hard demanding press of his cock against her sex, Nesta couldn't help but writhe desperately, craving any friction she could get.
Cassian didn't enter her right away, choosing instead to take his two fingers and place them at her mouth. Nesta took them in, swirled her tongue over them as she bobbed her head like she was sucking him off instead.
"You look perfect like that," he breathed, when she let his fingers go with a pop. Nesta didn't respond to the compliment. Not when he dragged those fingers through her folds, smearing her wetness around her clit until a soft, glowing pleasure began to build.
He entered her slowly. Much too slowly for her to take it well. Stretching and filling, in and in and in he sank. Deeper in until there was no more room for him to go. It was always too much for her. In those initial moments that he entered her. Nesta swore she stopped breathing every time he filled her up. Swore he'd filled her to a breaking point, no matter how burning and good it felt. But he'd always done it so fast, the moment of breathlessness was there and gone. A moment barely captured in the sharp intake of air she took.
But today, he'd gone slow. Had given her time to adjust although, with his size, it didn't really matter how fast or slow he went. He'd always be a touch too large for her. Just this side of stretching pain, which she loved even if she never admitted it to him.
And when he fucked her, it wasn't their characteristic way of doing so. There was no savage pounding of him into her, so hard and rough she could only scream most of the time. There was no dragging of nails across skin that sometimes drew blood. Nor any bites or bruises that she often loved to look over when he was long gone.
She couldn't lie and say this slower, almost romantic way of fucking didn't have her heart pounding for a different reason.
Because it did.
Almost as if he were making love to her. Something they'd never bothered with before. She supposed something in her had told him she was upset. That she'd needed the reassurance of his body in more than just their casual fucking ways.
As he drove his hips upward into her over and over, rocking on his knees as he held her legs tight against him, Nesta couldn't help but let the tumble of cries and moans fall out of her mouth. Not when he went faster, hit that spot deep inside her that had her on the verge of screaming her throat raw. Not when she came in a glorious crest that made everything bad go away from her mind. In that stilted moment stuck between reality and forever, Nesta had felt peace. Had forgotten her worries and troubles and the whole reason behind why she'd called Cassian over in the first place. Instead, she let it go through her until she was boneless and spent, Cassian now no longer thrusting into her, but his hard cock still inside.
He'd made her come first. Had made sure she'd come at least three times tonight with not one care at all for himself. It shouldn't have bothered her so much. After all, they just fucked. It wasn't a serious relationship. Yet it bothered her enough that when she caught her breath, Nesta unhooked her legs from his shoulders and pushed him down to where she'd been.
Climbed over him and sank down without a moment's hesitation, causing Cassian to groan aloud at the sheer ecstasy she too was witnessing.
That second time, she made sure he became unchecked and wild. No matter that she rode him. Nesta had circled his wrists and placed his powerful hands at her hips.
"Fuck me as hard as you want," she told him, leaving his hands tightening at her hips. "I want to feel it when I move tomorrow," she added salaciously.
Cassian seemed to appreciate that. When he thrust up into her those final times, Nesta swore she saw stars dance across her vision with her head thrown back. When she came to, pleasure slowly leaving her body, Cassian was panting just as hard underneath her, softening inside her and leaking out.
It had been his climax, the moan he'd let out as he'd reached that precarious precipice, so close to falling off, that had made Nesta come. She'd known how close he was, and so she'd flexed her inner muscles once, twice, and the sound of his moaning her name had had her tightening involuntarily as her orgasm crashed through her. He'd followed not long after and she'd cried out his name along with an incoherent mess of sounds she'd deny he'd ever gotten out of her.
Cassian had let himself take a minute to recover, and then he was pulling her off of him, walking over to the bathroom joined to her room. She'd heard the run of water and soon he returned with a warm, wet washcloth to clean between her thighs. It was moments like this where she was glad of being with Cassian, even if it was just for sex. Her past whatever they should be called weren't very good in bed. And they weren't very good out of it either. Nesta had opted for condoms then, when she'd hated having to waddle over to the bathroom, some stranger man's release dripping out of her.
It wasn't until after she'd fully caught her breath, gotten up to pee because she'd be damned if she got a UTI tonight, and taken a long swig of her water bottle that Cassian had brought over, that Nesta settled down. Pulled the covers up to her breasts, not bothering to get dressed, and just breathed.
Cassian had pulled his boxer briefs back on, but that was all. His clothes still lay discarded haphazardly around her room, although that was the deal for most things in her room anyways, so she shouldn't be surprised. Cassian seemed to think the same thing as he looked up from typing something on his phone, surveying the room around him with a hint of distaste on his face.
Her hackles began rising. No she didn't like her place that much either when remembering the type of place Cassian lived in. But that didn't mean she'd take shit from him about it.
Before she could say anything though, Cassian turned his attention to her, "Who lives like this?"
"I beg your pardon," she spluttered, not expecting that as his first comment on the state of her home.
"I mean," he gestured around them, "why is it so messy? Have you never cleaned up your room?"
Nesta snorted. "What am I a child and you my mom? It's my place. I'll keep my room as tidy or not as I like."
Gods knew she'd earned it after the way she'd been living before.
"Very mature," Cassian remarked, shaking his head in disbelief as he went back to whatever was going on in his phone.
"I think so," she added, rather coldly if were being honest with herself.
Cassian was older than her. Not old enough for it to be creepy or gross, but old enough for Nesta to know he no longer ate ramen for dinner because he was behind on student loans. Old enough to keep things like bourbon and whiskey and other really old bottles of liquor he often poured for her when she went over. It was a stark contrast to the refreshments she could offer. Hard lemonade or coke was about it in terms of choices.
Cassian had flicked his eyes up at her from her sudden change in tone but had decided not to comment, going back to whatever business he was attending to. Or texting to, whichever it was.
She had no idea what he did. Just that he was rich, gorgeous, drove a really fast, really expensive car, and that he could fuck her silly.
She'd seen the college diploma in a wall in his living room in passing. A few family photos with two other men that looked like him in the way people from the same country often did. He'd mentioned his foster brothers to her a few times. Nothing about foster care itself, and she hadn't felt it right to pry. Not when she wasn't sure what exactly they were.
They weren't supposed to be anything anyways if she really thought about it. She'd run into him in a club of all places. He'd been with his brothers- she'd found out months later- and hadn't wanted to be there. She'd been dragged along by Emerie and Gwyn for Gwyn's 21st birthday celebration. Nesta who was already 22, hadn't been as excited to go to a club when she'd been sneaking into them since she was 16. But Gwyn was her best friend so she had relented. Once Gwyn had come across some handsome tall stranger on the dance floor, Nesta had been left behind. Emerie finding her own dance partner in the form of a petite, curly haired woman named Maria hadn't helped Nesta's situation.
In her haste to go home, or at least take a breather from the stuffy nightclub, Nesta had run into a very large, very solid mass of some sort.
It had been Cassian. With his infuriating smile, disarming charm, that leather jacket and those fucking tattoos. She'd chewed him out for not watching where he was going.
Then she'd let him fuck her in front seat of his car. Or, she'd fucked him. It didn't really matter to her anymore. It had been the best sex of her life and when he called her up a few days later, Nesta hadn't hesitated to let him come over to her apartment.
Gwyn had been horrified when she'd found out. Emerie had warned her about bringing home a serial killer. But it had already been done and Nesta had known deep down, she'd never be the same again. Her friends didn't really get it. Their entire situation, but Nesta didn't really care about that either.
Cassian was easy. Easy to he around. Easy to talk to. There were no expectations. No rules and no limitations either. He just...was.
And he let Nesta breathe in a way she hadn't thought she would in a long time.
So what if she didn't tell him that she'd gotten into law school after working her ass off in her last year of undergrad? After the hell her junior year had been for her, he was lucky she told him where she had even gone to college. After graduating, Nesta also hadn't told him where she worked. Nothing about the paralegal job, the name of the firm, or the application she'd put into law schools.
She couldn't risk whatever tenuous normalcy she'd finally reached if Cassian did indeed end up becoming a problem for her as Gwyn and Emerie were worried about. Definitely not after she'd worked so hard to get where she was.
In that spirit, Nesta didn't ask about his own life either. Not outside of anything he offered her, which also wasn't much.
She liked that too. No expectations. For all he knew, she was a part-time hooker. But he never asked.
Eventually, Nesta had ended up crawling over to where Cassian had sprawled out on her bed, and tucked herself against his chest as he'd continued typing away. No matter that the blanket had become a bunched mess underneath her or that they never did this. He'd stayed longer than he ever had before and Nesta didn't care if she admitted to herself that she hadn't cuddled with anyone in a long time. Certainly not with anyone worth the effort.
Cassian hadn't seemed miffed at all. Running a hand down her hair as she'd tucked closer, pressing a kiss to the crown of her head. Nesta had soon fallen asleep to the sound of his beating heart.
When she came to, Nesta awoke alone. It wasn't the first time. In fact, she'd never not woken up alone after Cassian visited. And yet, after last night, she'd felt some sort of change between them. Had sworn Cassian could too. Which was why his disappearance seemed to harp on her so strongly. Why his text that he'd talk to her later but that he'd had to run to work had left her feeling empty. And when she entered her first class of the day, after barely finding it, and only being on time because she'd come earlier, thoughts of Cassian still swirled around in her mind. More than she ever should have allowed herself to.
Nesta turned on her laptop, taking in the students filing in around her. It was a full class. She'd taken the class on a whim, seeing that it was a seminar that discussed criminal cases, taught by a professor Emerie had said was an easy A if you showed up and talked a few times. Easy enough. Nesta had no plans of messing up her first class of her first day in her first step towards a better life and better future. She'd do the best. Be the best. It was what she'd lived on for most of her life anyways.
As more students filed in, Nesta wondered where the professor was. Emerie had mentioned he was old, sort of deaf, but a softie if you talked to him enough. Yet, everyone looked to be around the same age in the room. No sign of a professor anywhere.
The clock struck 8:00 AM, and as she typed in her password, she saw a figure get up from the front row and make their way to the board.
What idiot was already playing pranks on the still absent professor, on a first day no less, Nesta had no idea. She wanted no part in it though, she knew that much.
"Alright everyone, good morning. I'm sure some of you are wondering where Professor Jackson is. He's unfortunately going through some medical problems and I was asked to step in for him. Now, Professor Jackson taught me, in this very same classroom, in the very same way that he planned to teach all of you. And I'm going to, hopefully, be just as great and inspiring as he was." The man laughed and added, "Hopefully," earning him a round of chuckles scattered across the room.
But Nesta had frozen. Hadn't moved from the moment she'd heard his voice. Because she knew that voice, could pick it out from anywhere. It had been a voice that greeted her with teasing jests every time she glowered at him and his antics. A voice that whispered sweet nothings and the most filthy delicious promises to her when his body pressed her deep into the mattress.
As she stared transfixed in horror towards the front of the room, Cassian smiled brightly towards the class, scanning the room as he opened his mouth.
"My name is Cassian Virin and you can call me either Professor or just Cassian. Either is fine. I'm a practicing attorney at Solis and Vanserra. It's a firm in this city that I'm sure many of you have heard of." More chuckles arose because who the hell hadn't heard of Solis and Vanserra.
"I'm going to be here just for this semester while I also work on some pro bono cases at my firm, and-"
Cassian stopped talking as he finally saw her. She was sure the same panic was evident on her own face that she mirrored in his own. Except Cassian mastered himself faster than she ever could in such a fucked up situation.
Not breaking eye contact with her, Cassian finished his sentence. "And I'll be your teacher this semester for this class. Welcome to Criminal Law.
Taglist:
@bookstantrash @duskandstarlight @greerlunna聽@queenestarcheron 聽@nessiansimp @cassianscool 聽@sjm-things 聽@perseusannabeth 聽聽@courtofjurdan 聽@vasudharaghavan 聽@sayosdreams 聽@moe8 聽@arielle-reads 聽@theoverlyenthusiasticwriter 聽@nahthanks 聽@oversizedbats 聽@swankii-art-teacher 聽@inardour 聽@rowaelinismyotp 聽@starryblueskies7 聽@nestaarcher0n 聽@vidalinav 聽@nessiantrashh 聽@lanyjoy-13 聽@iwastoowildinthe70s 聽@nessianlordandladyofillyria @ladygabrielli1997 @moonlitchandeliers
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simpingfornestaarcheron5 months ago
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Acosf chapter 58-59
You don鈥檛 wanna know how many times I鈥檝e reread the Solstice chapter. Everything about it is absolutely perfect. Azriel and Nesta hugging, Cassian鈥檚 gift, the mating bond shining between them while they made love, Nesta鈥檚 walls slowly coming down, both of them crying, forever,forever,forever. Nessian waking up together the morning after, the soft smiles, Nesta feeling safe in Cassian鈥檚 arms, the mention of the snowball fight which I鈥檓 sure Cassian won this year. Perfection.聽
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wingsofanillyrian3 years ago
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Sore Muscles (NSFW)
I saw a post about wanting some Nessian smut and was inspired by @foxboy-lucien to act on it. This is my first real attempt at writing smut, CONSTRUCTIVE criticism is appreciated!
Tagging those who I think would enjoy (and that reblogged the original post!):聽
@deathbytitanium @readinglikewildfire @queen-archeron @verifiefangirl @lovely-starfall @stopthisrightnow12345 @autumn03 @isokeytobeafangril @hermee-onee @thtmaria聽@aedicn @highfaenesta
Groaning, Cassian pushed open the apartment door. Every muscle in his body ached. Teaching younglings to fight and fly was rewarding, but Cauldron, was he sore afterwards.
Nesta鈥檚 sweet voice greeted him down their bond. Welcome home, Cass. I鈥檓 in the washroom, if you鈥檇 like to join.
While the offer is enticing, he replied, trudging to their bedroom, I鈥檓 too sore to do anything but sleep.
I could certainly relieve some of that tension, she crooned, causing him to halt at the washroom door. The lust she shot through the bond surprised him. She usually wasn鈥檛 so forward, preferring to keep their intimacy for the bedroom.
Nesta sat in the claw-footed tub, hair tied up in a messy bun and white suds covering everything below her neck. Her hands rested on the lip of the tub, the golden band on her hand glinting in the candlelight. Having mastered her fear over water years prior, she was the picture of serenity.
鈥淐ould you, now?鈥 He murmured, padding into the room and shucking off his leathers. She peeked at him, shifting so her back rested against the porcelain tub. Her eyes traveled down his body, taking in the sweat soaked tunic and the too tight pants. Her tongue darted out over her lips, and Cassian swore under his breath as all the blood in his body went to his groin. She crooked a finger at him.
鈥淛oin me and find out.鈥
He had his clothes off in record time, stuffed hastily in the laundry basket. Unfurling his wings, he stood back as Nesta surveyed every inch of him. She quirked an appreciative brow as her gaze dipped below his waist, biting her lips at the sight of his already hardened length.
鈥淲hat are you waiting for?鈥 She taunted, blue eyes burning with passion. He crossed the room in two long strides, stepping into the tub. He groaned as he sank into the steaming water, his back facing her. He let out a contented sigh, the hot water soothing his sore muscles. He let his wings droop over the sides, the candlelight turning the scarred membrane sunset orange.
Nesta鈥檚 hands settled at his shoulders, kneading out the knots. Arching his back, he smiled.
鈥淔eels good,鈥 he mumbled, leaning into her touch. From the corner of his eye, he noticed her pick up a soapy washcloth. She dipped it in the water, then set about washing the dirt and sweat from his shoulders. Her fingers brushed against the base of his wing, and he hissed.
She leaned forward to whisper in his ear. 鈥淪orry about that.鈥 Cassian barely heard her, the feeling of her pert breasts grazing his back demanding all of his attention.
鈥淗ow鈥檚 that, Commander?鈥 She purred, slinging the cloth to the floor.
鈥淲onderful,鈥 he sighed, looking over his shoulder and noting her smirk. She delighted in torturing him, taking pleasure in knowing how much she affected him. With no small amount of effort, he untangled their legs and shifted so he was facing her. He rested his back against the cool ceramic tub, his legs on either side of hers.聽
Her fingers ghosted along his calves, her breasts peeking above the suds as she leaned forward. Frozen, his hazel eyes locked on her chest, then on the hand she reached towards his wing. A single stroke of her finger down the sensitive membrane had him moaning, needing more of her.
鈥淪till tired?鈥 she asked innocently.
鈥淣ot the least bit,鈥 he replied, seizing her wrists and pulling her to his lap. 鈥淚 can think of much more intriguing ways to spend my time than sleeping.鈥
Nesta giggled, his innuendo staining her cheeks a beautiful scarlet. She looked at him with hooded eyes as her fingers traced a pale scar along his bicep.
鈥淚 missed you today,鈥 she murmured. 鈥淚 was beginning to think I would have to entertain myself in your absence.鈥 Cassian鈥檚 hazel eyes flared, just as she had planned, and she bit her lip to hide her smirk.
鈥淚t鈥檚 a good thing I鈥檓 here now then.鈥 Without warning, he surged forward and captured her lips with his. Her surprised gasp had him gripping her hips beneath the water, and she quickly sank into the kiss. Her slender hands ran through his ebony curls as she tilted her head and swept her tongue into his mouth.
Moving his lips to her neck, he rocked his hips forward and his cock teased her entrance. Nesta moaned, the sound like a beautiful melody to his ears.
鈥淐ass,鈥 she gasped, hooking her nails into his shoulders and grinding her hips against his length. 鈥淧lease.鈥
鈥淭ell me what you want,鈥 he demanded, lips attaching to her neck. Nesta reached a hand over his shoulder, ghosting her fingertips along the base of his wing.
鈥淵ou,鈥 she breathed, breath hitching in her throat as his mouth found her breast.聽
鈥淣ot here,鈥 he growled, hands cupping her bottom. She took the hint, wrapping her slender legs around his waist. Water sloshed over the lip of the tub as he stood and stepped out, kissing her roughly. He carried her to the counter, setting her on the edge and moving a hand to the apex of her thighs. He moaned at the slickness he found there, dipping a finger inside her. She let out a low whimper, eyes begging him for more.
鈥淵ou鈥檙e mine,鈥 he reminded her, another finger slipping inside her. Pumping his fingers in and out, he pressed his thumb to the sensitive nub of her clit. A sound like a whimper left her lips, and he grinned. He quickened his pace, curling his fingers and hitting her sweet spot. She cried out, throwing her head back in ecstasy.
鈥淧lease,鈥 she gasped, lust flooding the bond.
Cassian withdrew his fingers, bringing them to his lips. Without breaking eye contact, he took them in his mouth, eyes sliding shut at the taste of her. Her hand closed around his wrist, causing his eyes to snap open.
鈥淚鈥檓 yours,鈥 she said, spreading her thighs wider for him. With a groan, he positioned himself between them, gripping her hips hard enough to bruise. Slowly, teasingly, he slid himself inside her.
鈥淕ods, Nesta, you鈥檙e so fucking wet.鈥
Her heels dug into his backside, urging him to move. He thrust into her again and again, his name dripping from her lips like a prayer. He latched his mouth to her breast, flicking his tongue across her nipple. Calloused fingers caressed the other, threatening to push her over the edge.
With a final cry, she shattered around him, nails dragging angry red lines across his shoulders. He coaxed her from her high, finding his own release soon after and spilling his hot liquid inside her.
Gasping and panting, he slid out of her and circled his arms around her, holding her up. He kissed her breastbone, wrapping her in a soft white towel.
She pushed her wet curls back from her forehead with a trembling hand. 鈥淗ow are those muscles?鈥
鈥淣ever felt better.鈥
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featherymalignancy10 months ago
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CHAPTER EIGHT鈥擨n Vino Veritas: A Nessian Story
鈥淚n Wine Lies the Truth鈥
Summary: Nesta Archeron is convinced she has everything she wants: a law degree from an ivy, a prestigious job, a gorgeous boyfriend, and excellent taste in wine. However, when she wanders into her local wine vendor and meets a handsome stranger unafraid to play her quick-witted games, she begins to wonder if the life she鈥檚 built is really the one she wants.
Cash Kahukore worked his entire adolescent life to become a sommelier, ignoring the slurs his mixed heritage have always earned him as he fought his way to the top. However, after five years abroad buying for Michelin star restaurants and dealing with rich white assholes, he鈥檚 grown bored with his life. When a gorgeous lawyer comes in to his uncle鈥檚 shop one afternoon, he immediately recognizes a worthy opponent in her. Undaunted by her sharp tongue and possessive boyfriend, he鈥檚 determined to be her friend, and鈥攁s time goes on and their circumstances change鈥攑ossibly something more.
THIS STORY IS NOT APPROPRIATE 聽FOR CHILDREN, INCLUDING TEENAGERS UNDER THE AGE OF 18. If you are under 18, this story鈥檚 mature themes were not intended for your consumption. Please consider seeking more age-appropriate media.聽
This story takes place three years before Navy Suits and Chelsea Boots.聽If you love Elriel (and don鈥檛 mind finding out how this story ends) check it now.
Check out the masterlist for In Vino Veritas here!
Also I talk a lot of The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar in the is chapter, so if you鈥檙e interested in (or confused by) the descriptions of this very real bar inside The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, click on the link above to see footage of the interior (and of the fake thunderstorm!!)
TRIGGER WARNING: This chapter has brief allusions to abuse and self-harm. Please proceed with caution
Chapter Eight: Domaine Serene
Nesta was a person who was rarely unsure.聽
She hadn鈥檛 always been, though; as a child she鈥檇 been chronically anxious, fretting over even small decisions for fear of making the wrong one. But when her parents died, she鈥檇 been forced to make a number of hard choices within a very short span of time. With her sisters鈥 happiness and wellbeing hanging in the balance, there hadn鈥檛 been room for second-guessing. They needed structure and assurance in their lives, and Nesta forced herself into the habit of making definitive decisions and seeing them through.
聽However, tonight she couldn鈥檛 shake a lingering sense of uncertainty, and it was bothering her to the point of irritation. She had no reason to feel this way. She was a logical person who always carefully weighed the pros and cons, and going on this date tonight鈥攊t just made sense. After what had happened with Cash, she just needed...more data. A better baseline for where she was at. Tonight was a reasonable means to achieve that end, so why was her stomach wending in such knots?
It was a stupid question; she knew exactly why the idea of going on a blind date with a stranger had her feeling slightly queasy.聽
聽Still, she reminded herself, she had no logical reason to feel guilty. This was鈥攊n a somewhat roundabout way鈥攂est for all parties involved. And though it wasn鈥檛 something she necessarily planned to discuss with Cash, she was confident he would understand should the topic come up. He was an adult, after all, and so was she.
聽Nesta鈥檚 attention was drawn back to the present at the sound of an incoming text, and still dressed in her underwear and a silk robe, Nesta crossed to where her phone lay on the fainting couch in her palatial closet.聽
聽She expected to find a text from Owen confirming the details for the evening鈥檚 plans; she couldn鈥檛 help the way her heart shot up at seeing Cash鈥檚 name instead.
聽鈥淔ree tonight, gorgeous? I鈥檓 craving Cliff House but Aely and Ro both hate seafood.鈥
聽Nesta bit her lip, tempted despite everything to say yes. In truth, spending an evening with Cash was infinitely more appealing than being fawned over by a stranger. Still, she knew she couldn鈥檛. This date with Owen鈥攊t was as much for Cash鈥檚 sake as it was for hers.聽
聽鈥淚 wish,鈥 she said. She debated leaving it there, but not wanting to seem dismissive she bit her lip and added, 鈥淚 promised my sisters a night in.鈥
聽She regretted it the minute she hit send. It was one thing not to tell Cash she was going on a date; it was something else entirely to lie to him. Nesta鈥檚 stomach immediately began to ache at the thought.聽
聽It had to be done, she told herself. And it was only one night.
聽聽After that...well, she鈥檇 just have to see.
聽The knot in Nesta鈥檚 gut tightened when his reply came through several seconds later.聽
聽鈥淚 can鈥檛 compete with that. Have fun, and tell my girls I say hi. xx鈥
聽Nesta鈥檚 eyes burned.
聽My girls.
聽It was how Cash always referred to Elain and Feyre, and it made Nesta鈥檚 throat constrict every time he said it.聽
聽For Tom谩s, Elain and Feyre had merely been a tool through which he was able to strengthen his control over Nesta, and he鈥檇 always treated them as an inconvenience he politely bore for Nesta鈥檚 sake. She wouldn鈥檛 have tolerated such apathy from someone else, but the truth was she鈥檇 needed Tom谩s. When her parents' life insurance payout had run dry Nesta鈥檚 first year at Yale, he鈥檇 stepped in to cover the tuition for Feyre鈥檚 expensive private school.聽
聽Nesta had known she鈥檇 been handing him a loaded gun the minute she鈥檇 accepted that first check, and that every new semester was a box of fresh bullets; she hadn鈥檛 cared. Her first priority had always been keeping her sisters safe and happy, and was no burden she wouldn鈥檛 gladly bear to ensure they always were. To this day they didn鈥檛 know about the checks or the price Tom谩s had demanded for them, and Nesta was determined they never would.
聽Cash, on the other hand, had no reason to fake his affection for her sisters. He gained nothing by pretending to care, and besides, he wasn鈥檛 the pretending type. His affection for both of them was genuine, and it was like a hot beverage after too much time spent in the cold.
聽鈥淣es, are you home? We brought Thai.鈥
聽Elain鈥檚 voice filtered up from the main floor and Nesta swore under her breath. Tonight really wasn鈥檛 something she wanted to get her sisters involved in. Still, she didn鈥檛 have it in herself to lie to them.
聽鈥淚n my room,鈥 she called back.
聽Nesta listened as Elain and Feyre bounded up the stairs, and she quickly flipped her phone as a text from Owen pinged with last-minute details. She tried to school her face into neutrality as they both burst in.
聽Elain鈥檚 eyes immediately went to the white eyelet cocktail dress hanging on the back of the closet door, and she whistled.
聽鈥淟adies and gentleman, the time has come!鈥 she said. 鈥淭he 鈥榳hite-hot summer nights鈥 dress is making its first appearance of the season; summer is officially upon us.鈥
聽At this point Feyre had noticed the dress as well, and she grinned in growing realization.
聽鈥淲ait, does that mean you鈥檙e going on a date tonight?鈥
聽鈥淵es,鈥 Nesta said, rising from her vanity and slipping the dress off the hanger. 鈥淏ut I won鈥檛 be out late.鈥澛
聽Nesta busied herself with the zipper of her dress to avoid having to look either of her sisters in the eye. Perhaps if she just acted natural, they wouldn鈥檛鈥
聽鈥淔inally!鈥 Feyre said, plucking a long string of pearls hanging off the vanity mirror and putting them on. 鈥淲here are you going?鈥
聽It was precisely the question Nesta dreaded them asking, knowing her answer would betray her. Still, she tried to remain casual as she said, 鈥淭onga.鈥
聽鈥淏ut Cash hates Tonga!鈥 Elain protested with a laugh.
聽鈥淚鈥檓 not going with Cash,鈥 Nesta said in an even tone. 鈥淚鈥檓 going with Owen. I met him on Hinge.鈥
聽鈥淲hat?鈥 Her sisters demanded in unison.
聽鈥淚t鈥檚 a dating鈥斺
聽鈥淲e know what Hinge is,鈥 Elain snapped, face uncharacteristically sullen. 鈥淲hat about Cash?鈥
聽Nesta grit her teeth, not wanting to get into the whole messy business right now. She just had to do this, and then everything would be fine.
聽鈥淲hat about him?鈥 she said archly. 鈥淗e鈥檚 not my boyfriend.鈥
聽鈥淓w, are you kidding me that?鈥 Feyre said with a sneer. 鈥淲e are way past you playing dumb about this.鈥
聽鈥淎greed,鈥 Elain said, arms crossed. 鈥淒on鈥檛 pretend he didn鈥檛 stay the night after your dinner party. We know he did.鈥
聽Nesta fought not to cross her own arms in a more defensive posture.
聽鈥淚 never said he didn鈥檛, but it was only because of the storm; we didn鈥檛 have sex.鈥
聽Feyre pursed her lips.
聽鈥淎 lot of grey area between 鈥榥othing鈥 and 鈥榙idn鈥檛 have sex鈥.鈥
聽Nesta abruptly crossed to the wall of shoes on the other side of the room, needing to nip this whole situation in the bud before it escalated any further.
聽鈥淟ook,鈥 she said, grabbing a pair a nude stilettos from their box and slipping them on. 鈥淚 love you both, but this is none of your business. Cash and I are adults, and we aren鈥檛 together. I鈥檓 allowed to see other people, and so is he.鈥
聽鈥淲hy?鈥 Feyre demanded. 鈥淲hen it鈥檚 obvious you two are totally鈥斺
聽鈥淔ey, that鈥檚 enough. I said drop it.鈥
聽It was at this point that Elain chimed in, adding, 鈥淚鈥檓 not sure what you鈥檙e trying to prove, but I just want to say for the record that I think you鈥檙e going to regret it.鈥
聽鈥淔ine,鈥 Nesta said, patience fraying. 鈥淣oted. Now please, I have to finish getting ready.鈥
She gestured to the door, but neither of her sisters moved.聽
聽鈥淒oes Cash know you鈥檙e doing this?鈥 Feyre said. 鈥淪ince you two are such mature, independent adults.鈥
聽Nesta tried to swallow the rising lump in her throat as Feyre scrutinized her reaction.
聽鈥淒idn鈥檛 think so.鈥
聽鈥淎re you done?鈥
聽鈥淣o!鈥 Feyre said. 鈥淏ecause honestly, this is bullshit. After everything Cash has done for you, this is how you鈥檙e going to treat him?鈥
聽鈥淪top, Fey,鈥 Elain said, reading Nesta鈥檚 expression before tugging on her younger sister鈥檚 arm. 鈥淪he鈥檚 right; this isn鈥檛 our business.鈥
聽Elain was the empath of the family, the peacemaker, and she always seemed to know when Nesta was nearing her breaking point. Unfortunately, Feyre鈥 the firebrand鈥攚as not so easily put off.
聽鈥淵es, it is!鈥 she said, shaking Elain off in irritation before glaring at Nesta. 鈥淐ash is our friend, too! Did you even consider that, or were you just thinking about yourself like always?鈥
聽Nesta couldn鈥檛 fight the way her shoulders tightened, throating positively aching now. It was Feyre鈥檚 favorite scab to pick when they fought, her ace in the hole for cutting Nesta to the quick: accusing Nesta of being selfish.聽
聽As a lawyer Nesta had to admit that her sister had chosen her target well, because it preyed on Nesta鈥檚 biggest fear: that even after everything she鈥檇 done for her sisters, it hadn鈥檛 been enough.聽
聽Even now, ten years after her parents鈥 death, there was an enormous guilt in knowing that her sisters鈥攁nd Feyre in particular鈥攈ad never gotten to know or be loved by their parents the way Nesta had. She鈥檇 done her best to pull double duty over the years, to be both a mother and a father to them, but she was painfully aware that she鈥檇 failed more than she鈥檇 succeeded. In that way, she was terrified she鈥檇 cheated her sisters out of something essential.
聽Feyre must have read at least some of this pain on Nesta鈥檚 face, because she softened immediately.
聽鈥淣es, I鈥檓 sorry,鈥 Feyre said. 鈥淚 didn鈥檛 mean to make it sound like鈥斺
聽鈥淚t鈥檚 fine,鈥 Nesta said, voice tight. 鈥淚 just need to finish getting ready.鈥
聽Feyre opened her mouth like she wanted to add more, but Elain gently grabbed her shoulders, guiding Feyre to the door.
聽Nesta sank onto the vanity as it snicked shut behind them, exhaling a shaky breath. Perhaps she couldn鈥檛 do this after all. Perhaps it would be better to simply talk to Cash, explain that she鈥
聽No.
聽Tempting as it was, she didn鈥檛 want to take the risk. And when she remembered the panic attack after she鈥檇 kissed Cash, her mind was made up. She needed a litmus test, and she鈥檚 chosen Owen for a reason.聽
聽Fluffing her hair and putting on some dark red lipstick, Nesta stuffed her phone into her clutch and headed downstairs.聽
聽Her sisters were sitting at the island eating out of plastic takeout containers when she emerged, and Nesta could feel the tension as it snaked around her.
聽鈥淵ou look pretty,鈥 Feyre said, voice uncharacteristically meek.
聽Her way, Nesta knew, of apologizing.聽
聽鈥淭hank you,鈥 she said, forcing a small smile as she grabbed her keys. 鈥淟ike I said, I won鈥檛 be out late.鈥
聽鈥淒o you want us to leave you food?鈥 Elain said.
聽鈥淭hat鈥檚 alright. I can pick something up on the way home if I鈥檓 hungry.鈥
聽A tense beat of silence reigned before Nesta finally cracked.
聽鈥淪ee you both later. Text if you need anything.鈥
聽They both nodded, and Elain added quietly, 鈥渉ave fun.鈥
聽At this point Nesta wasn鈥檛 sure how she could, but she forged on anyway, trotting down the back stairs to the garage without looking back.
聽The drive from her townhouse to the bar was blissfully short, which meant Nesta had little time to fret and even less talk herself out of it. Less than fifteen minutes later she was sliding out of her car and handing her keys to the valet.
聽With a deep breath, she forced herself through the front doors, trying not to gag at the humid air. She glared at the culprit, a large indoor meant to give the feeling that one was sitting waterfront on the ocean.聽
聽It was a tawdry illusion at best, and the smell of commercial-grade chlorine gave Nesta an instant headache. No wonder Cash hated this place; it was terrible.
聽鈥淣esta?鈥
聽She fought not to tense as a hand brushed her bare elbow, turning to see a good-looking man in his mid-thirties smiling at her.
聽鈥淥wen, hi,鈥 she said, trying to avoid sounding too breathless.
聽Owen Knox, a software developer from San Mateo, could best be described as 鈥減olitely handsome.鈥 Dressed in slacks and a button-down, his dark hair neatly combed away from his face, he was clean-cut and polished in a way that once would have checked all of Nesta鈥檚 boxes. Now as she looked at him, all she could see were the things he lacked. No earrings, no tattoos, no wicked glint in his placid blue eyes.
聽God, her stomach ached.
聽鈥淚 just spoke to the waitress and she said our table鈥檚 not quite ready,鈥 Owen said, smiling again. 鈥淲ould you like to grab a drink while we wait?鈥
聽She nodded in agreement, following Owen to the bar and smiling as he pulled out her stool for her. He was polite; she had to give him that at least.
聽鈥淭his place is interesting,鈥 he said as he looked at the menu. 鈥淒o you come here often?鈥
聽Nesta glanced at it herself, internally groaning at the array of brightly-colored frou-frou drinks pictured on the plastic menu. Nesta didn鈥檛 drink cocktails beyond the occasional martini, and she certainly didn鈥檛 drink them out of gimmicky tiki cups.聽
聽鈥淚've actually never been here,鈥 she admitted. 鈥淚 just thought we鈥檇 try something different.鈥
聽In truth, she鈥檇 chosen it because it was the one bar in San Francisco where she could be assured she鈥檇 never run into Cash. Just the idea of him seeing her here had her stomach in knots.
聽She was such a fucking coward.
聽鈥淚t鈥檚 definitely different,鈥 Owen said with a smile, interrupting her internal castigation. 鈥淏ut I think I like it.鈥
聽They ordered Mai Tais and chatted mindlessly for several minutes after that, and Nesta was grateful when the hostess appeared to escort them to their table.
聽She was less grateful to find it was directly beside the pool, and the mediocre band which played on an 鈥渋sland鈥 nearby. Still, she persevered.
聽They covered all the basics over the course of their second round of drinks: their backgrounds, their educations, their hobbies. Owen鈥檚 answers were all painfully normal鈥攎iddle class, Pepperdine, golf鈥攂ut Nesta didn鈥檛 really care. She was focused on his body language instead, analyzing her own heart rate and breathing every time he adjusted in his seat or uncrossed his legs.
聽Polite as he was, he hadn鈥檛 bothered to hide his physical appreciation of her, and Nesta analyzed that, too. If he touched her cheek, could she let him? If he kissed her, could she let go and relax into it, or would it send her into another panic?
聽The scars Tom谩s had left were deep; that much was clear after what had happened after she鈥檇 kissed Cash. The question that lingered was whether Nesta could learn to extract the fear that had become so tightly entwined with sex and desire.聽
聽It was why she鈥檇 gone on this date in the first place; so she could determine her tolerance for physical touch, and hopefully increase her stamina considerably. In psychology, it was called exposure therapy: gradual exposure to a feared situation or object in order to become less sensitive to it over time.聽
聽She just needed to let Owen touch her so she could work through her shit and prove to herself she wasn鈥檛 broken. The idea admittedly wasn鈥檛 appealing, but it was better than the alternative of putting that burden on Cash instead. If she was going to have a meltdown, she鈥檇 rather she had it in front of Owen; she鈥檇 put Cash through enough already.
聽She鈥檇 repeated that lie so many times that by time they ordered a third drink and got up to watch one of Tonga鈥檚 famous faux-thunderstorms, it seemed almost true.聽
聽She was fine, and she could handle this.聽
聽Then, just as a clap of contrived lightning forked across the ceiling and the room fell into relative darkness, Owen leaned down to kiss her, and the entire house of cards Nesta had spent the evening constructing fell in a single gust. She locked up the minute his lips touched her, the muscles in her neck and shoulders twinging with restraint as his fingers gently twined in her hair.
聽However, it wasn鈥檛 the PTSD and panic she鈥檇 so expected when being touched in a romantic context鈥攖he sound of Tom谩s鈥檚 grunting in her ear as he deliberately thrust into her too hard, or the feel of his hands as they bit into her skin, leaving bruises no one but her would ever see.
聽Instead, when Owen brushed his tongue to hers, Nesta simply felt...hollow.
聽A moment later the numbness ebbed and realization coursed through her like the sharp pain of an electric shock. She could see now where she鈥檇 gone wrong in her calculations: she鈥檇 thought that the fear she鈥檇 had regarding intimacy had been centered on the physical, and that it was an aversion that she could overcome by wearing it down the way she had all the other roadblocks in her life.聽聽
聽But kissing Cash had been more than physical; it had been Nesta finally letting herself be vulnerable with him, and that is what鈥檇 truly scared her. This wasn鈥檛 about touch; it was about trust.
聽Nesta could see now that Tom谩s had never loved her. He鈥檇 only loved the power he鈥檇 had over her, and understood how to use that power to keep her under his control. But Cash鈥攈e knew her. He knew her better than anyone, and even in her darkest moments he鈥檇 never seemed afraid to care about her.聽
聽That morning when he touched her in a way that only Tom谩s ever had鈥攁nd done it with such tenderness and reverence鈥攈e鈥檇 also touched the piece of her that Tom谩s had made sure to break first: the conviction that she was worth loving at all.
聽And at Cash鈥檚 touch, both physical and emotional, that piece of her had finally begun to heal. And all these weeks she鈥檇 spent fixating on exposure therapy and how to hide her brokenness from him, what she鈥檇 actually needed was...him.
聽Nesta practically jerked back from the kiss, hurriedly untangling herself from Owen and retreating a step away.聽
聽Owen frowned in confusion.
聽鈥淚s everything alright? Did I do鈥斺
聽鈥淓verything鈥檚 fine,鈥 Nesta interrupted, forcing a smile. She really thought she may be sick. 鈥淚 just need to use the restroom.鈥
聽Not waiting to hear his reply, she hurried off the would-be patio and past the hostess stand until she was safely in the adjoining lobby of the Fairmont Hotel.
聽She pressed a hand to her chest, trying to calm her breathing to avoid another panic attack. In and out, she coached herself, forcing herself to focus on the veins in the marble floor as a distraction. When her heart rate began to slow, she exhaled, cursing herself from not grabbing her purse.
聽She needed to leave, right now.聽
聽She needed to make her regrets to Owen, then she needed to go to Cash鈥檚 and tell him the truth about what had happened after he鈥檇 left that morning. She needed to explain why she鈥檇 been evasive about it, and ask him to just be patient with her. Because she knew she was bad at expressing her feelings, but if he could just give her some time, she could show him that she鈥
聽鈥淣es?鈥
聽Her heart fell from her throat to the pit of her stomach at the sound of that achingly familiar voice.聽
聽No, she thought, please, let this be a mistake.聽
聽It wasn鈥檛, though. For whatever reason Cash was here, actually here, and now she鈥檇 have to face him with what she鈥檇 done.
聽聽She slowly turned, feeling like she was inside some sort of lucid nightmare.
聽Cash was wearing his usual grin, though this one was tinged with confusion at seeing her. Still, his eyes sparkled in that familiar way they always did when he looked at her, and it made her want to run into his arms and never leave.
聽Oh God, what had she fucking done?
聽鈥淲hat the hell are you doing here?鈥 he asked with a laugh. 鈥淒id you lose a bet with Feyre or something?鈥
聽It was a reasonable assumption. This was just the kind of bar that a 20-year-old would find oddly fascinating, and Feyre had an endearing, unironic love of all things kitsch. That Cash knew that about her sister, that he loved it the way he did, made Nesta want to cry more than ever.
聽鈥淣o,鈥 she croaked. 鈥淭hey aren鈥檛 with me.鈥
聽The fact that Cash鈥檚 smile remained undimmed had Nesta鈥檚 stomach in absolute knots. He wasn鈥檛 suspicious of this new revelation, because he trusted her.
聽And she鈥檇 just betrayed him.
聽鈥淲ho are you here with, then?鈥澛
聽鈥淐ash,鈥 she began, voice thick with tears.
聽Cash didn鈥檛 notice, and he pressed on with a growing smile.
聽聽鈥淧lease tell me it鈥檚 not Clare鈥斺
聽鈥淣esta?鈥
聽They both looked up to see Owen striding towards them with Nesta鈥檚 clutch in hand, his expression a mixture of concern and confusion. Nesta鈥檚 heart was beating so fast she thought she honestly might pass out.
聽Beside her, Cash had gone rigid, though he didn鈥檛 speak. Owen tossed him a glance and a polite nod before focusing his attention on Nesta.聽
聽鈥淚s everything alright? We鈥檙e tabbed out, so we can go to another bar if鈥斺
聽鈥淚鈥檒l be right there,鈥 she interrupted. 鈥淚 just need a minute.鈥
聽Owen looked at Cash again, expression growing slightly wary. However, after a second he relented, passing Nesta her purse before retreating back inside Tonga鈥檚 dimly-lit interior.
聽The minute he was gone, Cash turned to her, his gaze cold enough to burn.
聽鈥淎re you serious?鈥 he demanded, voice soft but razored. 鈥淵ou鈥檙e on a date right now?鈥
聽鈥淚t鈥檚 not what you think,鈥 she began, but he held up a hand to stop her.
聽鈥淣o,鈥 he said, shaking his head as if trying to clear his thoughts. 鈥淣o lawyer-lingo bullshit, Nesta. Tell me the truth: are you on a date right now?鈥
聽She tried and failed to swallow the jagged lump in her throat.
聽鈥淵es,鈥 she admitted. 鈥淏ut鈥斺
聽鈥淣o,鈥 he said, throwing his hands up. 鈥淵ou fucking lied to me! Tonight when I asked if you wanted to go to dinner, you lied to me like it was nothing.鈥
聽Nesta felt herself bend to near-breaking, and though she tried to keep her claws sheathed, she could feel them punchng through her skin, the vitriol the first and only real defense mechanism she had.
聽鈥淲hat does it matter to you what I do?鈥 she snapped.
聽His expression darkened.
聽鈥淗ow can you honestly ask me that with a straight face?鈥
聽She bit her lip and dug her nails into her palms, anything to keep herself from falling apart. She couldn鈥檛, not here.
聽鈥淚鈥檓 sorry I lied to you. It should have told you鈥斺
聽Cash鈥檚 jaw clenched, and Nesta could see that even in his anger, he was trying to temper his reaction so as not to scare her. When he spoke again, his voice was quieter but no less hard.
聽鈥淚t鈥檚 more than that, and you know it. You asked me to turn my back while I waited for you to make up your mind about us, then you put a knife in it.鈥
聽She could feel the foundation of the trust they鈥檇 built buckling under her feet, and prideful instinct kicked in. She could taste the words, bitter and false, as they formed on her tongue, but she wasn鈥檛 quick enough to catch them before they rolled off.
聽鈥淲e don鈥檛 owe each other anything, Cash. You鈥檙e allowed to go on dates with other women鈥斺
聽He groaned, the sound edged in a pain that Nesta almost couldn鈥檛 bear.
聽鈥淚 don鈥檛 want to see other women!鈥 he snapped. 鈥淚 want you. Jesus Christ, Nesta, you know how I feel about you! Please, don鈥檛 toy with me.鈥
聽By the end of the sentence his tone had gone brittle with suppressed emotion, and she blinked to try and keep the tears from her eyes.
聽鈥淲hat do you want me to say?鈥 she asked.
聽He screwed his eyes shut for a second, as if he too was fighting the urge to fall apart. After a moment he seemed to collect himself, and his expression was flinty as he turned to face her.
聽鈥淚 want you to tell me why you felt the need to string me along. If you wanted鈥斺 he gestured to where Owen had disappeared. 鈥淵ou should have just told me that. Instead you let me think鈥︹
聽He trailed off, shaking his head. Before she could tell him he鈥檇 been right about them鈥攖hat tonight had just been a massive mistake鈥攈e spoke again.
聽鈥淚 can鈥檛 do this with you right now,鈥 he said, turning to head back inside. 鈥淓njoy your date.鈥
聽She could see the doubt and self-recrimination limning every line in his body, and it was enough to break her. Desperately she reached out to grip his hand and keep him from walking away.
聽鈥淧lease, Cash, just let me explain.鈥
聽For the first time since she鈥檇 known him, he pulled away from her touch, as if it disgusted him.
聽鈥淒on鈥檛 come to the shop,鈥 he said in a quiet voice. 鈥淚 don鈥檛 want to see you.鈥
聽鈥淐assian!鈥
聽He merely shook his head again.
聽聽鈥淗ave a great life, Nesta.鈥
聽With that he too disappeared inside. Not bothering to say goodbye to Owen, she sent him a quick text and a venmo for roughly half the bill before deleting his number and the dating app off her phone.
聽She could feel a breakdown coming, and she needed to be out of traffic and home before she did. She sped the entire three miles, running every yellow light until she was safely parked in the garage.聽
聽Only when the door closed did she let go, sobbing in a way she hadn鈥檛 since the day of the trial.聽
聽She wept for herself, for what her arrogance and blindness had just cost her. She also wept for her sisters, who鈥檇 now lose someone they鈥檇 allowed into their small circle of trust. She wept for Cash and everything she鈥檇 put him through, and for the fact that he now believed she鈥檇 never cared about him when it was completely the opposite.
聽Finally, she wept for the teenager she鈥檇 been before she met Tom谩s. She cried the hardest for the future she鈥檇 stolen from that version of herself, one in which Nesta could have met Cash and simply acknowledged from the start what he meant to her. Because even in an imaginary alternate universe where everything was different, there was still Cash. For Nesta, there would always be Cash.
聽Why could she only admit that now that it was too late?
聽Or perhaps it wasn鈥檛. She鈥檇 probably ruined any real chance she鈥檇 had with him, but at least she could stop the bleeding. She didn鈥檛 expect him to forgive her, but at the very least, she owed him the truth.
聽Picking up her phone with shaking hands, she called him.聽
Please, she silently begged. Just let me make this right for you.
聽The call only rang once before it went to voicemail, the sound of Cash鈥檚 pre-recorded message enough to send her into tears again.
聽Blinking through them, she called a second time, only for the call to be rejected after a single ring. She called a third time, and a fourth, and a fifth. On the sixth time, the call lasted for the full five rings before going to voicemail, and Nesta鈥檚 heart sank.
聽He鈥檇 blocked her number.
聽Nesta鈥檚 spiral was quick and sharp.
聽She couldn鈥檛 stop picturing the look on Cash鈥檚 face as he turned away from her earlier.聽
聽It would never have worked always, she thought in despair. She was broken and jagged, and Cash鈥擟ash was good. Besides, he was also right; she鈥檇 stabbed him in the back.聽
聽She didn鈥檛 deserve him. In fact, after what she鈥檇 put him through tonight she wasn鈥檛 sure she deserved much of anything.
聽A dangerous notion stirred at the thought, uncoiling from where it鈥檇 lain dormant in her chest before wending up her spine to whisper poison in her ear.
聽Egged on by self destruction, she found herself reaching for the glove box, where she still kept a bottle of xanax in case of emergencies.聽
聽Only half a pill when you need it, her psychiatrist had said, and never when you鈥檝e been drinking.
聽She was three drinks in on an empty stomach; it would surely be more than enough.
聽As Nesta felt resolve beginning to settle in her gut, a thought permeated the cacophony and chaos, the only one strong enough to permeate the fog and stop her from grabbing the bottle.
聽If she harmed herself, it would be her sisters who found her.
聽Swearing, she slammed the glove compartment shut. Not tonight, and not ever. She鈥檇 done a selfish thing to Cash, but she wouldn鈥檛 compound the hurt with more selfish actions. No matter what happened in her romantic life, Nesta still had a duty to her sisters, and she wouldn鈥檛 betray that鈥攏ot for anything.
聽Taking a shuddering breath, Nesta wiped the makeup from beneath her eyes and forced herself to get out of the car. Perhaps she鈥檇 never be able to make things with Cash right; that was a consequence she would learn how to live with. But first鈥攆oremost鈥攕he needed to make them right with her sisters.
聽As for the situation with Cash, she had no choice but to weather the storm; either she鈥檇 be washed clean, or she鈥檇 drown.
x
By the time Cash re-entered the bar his eyes were burning, throat so tight he could barely speak. The fake thunderstorm was still raging overhead, and it made Cash want to scream.聽
聽God, fuck this place.聽
聽Fuck this place, fuck tonight, fuck everything.聽
聽Something had felt off since he鈥檇 gotten Nesta鈥檚 text earlier about staying in; at least now he knew why. At the time he hadn鈥檛 wanted to acknowledge it, but on some level he鈥檇 known she鈥檇 been lying to him. Even on a night in he would normally hear from her, or at least get snaps chronicling their activities. That it had been radio silence鈥
聽Still, Cash had refused to be paranoid about it, and had called Rowan and Aelin in the hopes that he could get his mind off things until Nesta got in touch. The irony was that until he鈥檇 seen Nesta standing in the lobby, it had been working.
聽He felt stupid for it now, but when he鈥檇 first saw her he鈥檇 imagined she鈥檇 somehow known he鈥檇 be there, and that she鈥檇 come to see him, perhaps to even tell him she鈥檇 finally made up her mind about that, and that she wanted to be together.
聽And then the date had showed up. He鈥檇 been everything Cash wasn鈥檛, and he looked enough like Tom谩s in his grooming and style of dress that Cash could deduce he was very much Nesta鈥檚 鈥榯ype鈥.
聽Cash couldn鈥檛 decide who he hated more: Nesta, for bringing some uptight prick to a bar he鈥檇 told her about, or himself, for actually believing that a well-educated, accomplished woman like Nesta could be interested in him.
聽Fuck, he needed a drink. A real one; not some bullshit beach cocktail with an umbrella and a pineapple garnish.
聽His expression must have been conveyed at some of this when he finally reached the table again, because Aelin was instantly on her feet, concern shading her mesmerizing blue eyes.
聽鈥淓verything okay, querido?鈥
聽鈥淣o,鈥 Cash said, voice humiliatingly thin. 鈥淚 need to go. Tell Ro I will call him tomorrow.鈥
聽鈥淲ait, what鈥檚 going on?鈥 Aelin demanded, trailing Cash as him wove through the tables towards the exit, spilling onto Mason Street a minute later.
聽鈥淐ash!鈥 Aelin said, catching at his wrist. 鈥淲hat the hell is going on?鈥
聽He tugged immediately from her grasp, unable to bear being touched while his conversation with Nesta was still so raw.
聽What does it matter to you what I do? She鈥檇 said.聽
聽What did it matter to him? Cash wasn鈥檛 sure even to begin. Because he was in love with her? Because he felt a duty to protect her, even if it was from herself or some harmless Chad she decided to date? Because he鈥檇 thought鈥
聽We don鈥檛 owe each other anything, Cash.
聽The way she鈥檇 said it, the conviction in her voice, it had seriously been enough to break him.
聽The pain and humiliation of it all made Cash feel like he was being eaten alive, and he wasn鈥檛 sure he鈥檇 ever been this close to falling apart. He tensed at feeling Aelin鈥檚 hand at his elbow.
聽鈥淚s this about Nesta?鈥 Aelin asked. 鈥淒id she say something? Because say the word, and I will rip her鈥斺
聽Hearing Nesta's name was Cash鈥檚 undoing, and before he could stop himself he whirled on his friend, teeth bared.
聽鈥淛esus Christ, Aelin!鈥 he snarled. 鈥淐an you please just fuck off?鈥
聽Aelin reeled back as if she'd been slapped, and Cash felt her pain as it filtered through him, gritty and cold.
聽鈥淎ely,鈥 he croaked, heart sinking down to sizzle in the acid in his gut. 鈥淚鈥檓 so sorry, I didn鈥檛鈥斺
聽She forced her lips upward even as her glittering eyes shone with hurt.聽
聽鈥淣o pasa nada,鈥 she said tightly, face still stretched in an uncomfortable mimicry of a smile. 鈥淏ut you seem like you want to be alone, so I鈥檓 just going to鈥斺 she gestured vaguely behind her before turning and heading back towards the restaurant.聽
聽Normally, he would have called after her and apologized until he鈥檇 made it right; tonight he didn鈥檛 have the strength.
聽Cash heard the deep rumble of Rowan鈥檚 voice as Aelin retreated, asking her if she was okay. Proud as always, Aelin gently brushed off Ro鈥檚 concern and disappeared back inside, making Cash feel even worse.
聽First Nesta, now Aelin鈥
聽Defeated he sank down onto the curb, head in his hands as he fought the genuine urge to cry. He could hardly believe how stupid he鈥檇 been, and how stupid he felt for it. He should have never鈥
聽Cash didn鈥檛 turn as Rowan approached, his voice pitched low as he said, 鈥淵ou okay?鈥
聽Cash was grateful when Rowan didn鈥檛 add more, clearly waiting for Cash to answer.
聽鈥淣o,鈥 Cash admitted finally.
聽鈥淲hat happened?鈥
聽She鈥檚 dating some other guy, probably fucking him, too鈥
聽鈥淚 don鈥檛 really want to get into it,鈥 he said, laboring to his feet. 鈥淚鈥檓 going to head home. Tell Aelin I鈥檓 sorry.鈥
聽Rowan only nodded.
聽鈥淐all me if you want to talk.鈥
聽Cash nodded as well, grateful despite knowing he would never take his friend up on the offer. It was all too raw. He wasn鈥檛 even sure he could admit what had happened to Az or Rhys, though the sudden urge to hear their voices nagged at him.
聽He raised a hand in wordless farewell, turning towards where his jeep now idled in valet.聽
聽鈥淐ash?鈥 Rowan called.
聽Cash reluctantly turned, unsurprised at Rowan鈥檚 flinty expression.聽
聽聽鈥淒on鈥檛 ever speak to Aelin like that again.鈥
聽Cash could only manage a nod. He would make it up to her鈥攖hey both knew he would鈥攂ut even still, he couldn鈥檛 bring himself to speak enough to make another apology as he slid in the car.聽
聽The drive home was a blur, and Cash found himself in an endless loop. He should drive to Nesta鈥檚 and demand鈥攏ot that. He should go to Shotwell鈥檚 and drink whiskey until he鈥攏ot that, either. He should call Mor鈥攏o, definitely not that.聽
聽As furious as he was with Nesta, he didn鈥檛 have the heart to tell either Mor or Aelin what she鈥檇 done. He knew they鈥檇 both want to scorch earth, and as tempting as the idea was at the moment, he couldn鈥檛 bear to hear Nesta torn down, even if she perhaps deserved it.
聽Part of Cash was tempted to slap a 鈥楪one Fishing鈥 sign on the front door of the Merchant and fly home to Hawai鈥檌. Nothing cured an aching heart like seeing his grandmother, and it would be a relief to be around people who wouldn鈥檛 ask him about Nesta the way his friends in San Francisco would.
聽He knew he couldn鈥檛 leave the business for that long, though. He鈥檇 promised his uncle he鈥檇 keep things running smoothly while Devlon took care of Cash鈥檚 ailing kuia, and the shop being closed for a week or more would kill any momentum towards expanding the business that Cash had built these last months.
聽Still, he couldn鈥檛 just do nothing. Making a decision, he pulled his phone from his back pocket and prepared to make a call.
聽Before he could, his phone began playing Adagio for Strings, a special ringtone he鈥檇 selected just for Nesta months ago.
聽Hearing the plaintive melody was like a fist to kidneys. Quickly he denied the call before dialing another number and bringing the phone to his ear.
聽He glanced at his watch and did the math as it rang. It was just after nine pm in San Francisco, which meant it was about five am in鈥
聽His phone buzzed again to signal an incoming call, and he denied it without checking, knowing who it must be.
聽鈥淐ome on,鈥 he growled to himself. 鈥淧ick up.鈥
聽The line clicked just before his call would have rolled to voicemail.
聽鈥淭his better be good,鈥 the voice at the other end said, the sentence trailing off into a yawn. 鈥淭he sun鈥檚 not even up yet, and I鈥檝e only got to bed two hours ago.鈥
聽It was hard to describe what hearing that posh Londoner鈥檚 accent鈥攖inted by a wry, wicked humor that even expensive schooling hadn鈥檛 managed to completely buff out鈥攄id for Cash鈥檚 nerves, particularly as Nesta called a third time.聽
聽As much as Cash loved and respected Rowan, he couldn鈥檛 fully understand what this felt like. He and Aelin had been love at first sight, and though it hadn鈥檛 always been perfect between them, Ro had never had anyone stomp on his heart the way Nesta had just stomped on Cash鈥檚.
聽Tonight Cash needed the two people in the world he knew would understand. The two who knew Cash better than he could ever even hope to know himself. Besides, if there was one person Cash could always count on to help him forget his troubles鈥攅ven for an hour or two鈥攊t was Rhysand Sadeghi.聽
聽鈥淗ow soon can you be in Vegas?鈥 He said in greeting.
聽This seemed to get Rhys鈥檚 attention, and sheets rustled on the other end of the line as Rhys鈥攑resumably鈥攕at up in bed.
聽鈥淚s something wrong?鈥
聽Nesta called a fourth time, and Cash rejected it.
聽鈥淓verything鈥檚 wrong. I need you.鈥
聽Cash heard the soft mew of a second voice in the background.
聽鈥淲ho is it, Rhysie? Tell them to sod off.鈥
聽Rhys didn鈥檛 respond to his bedmate, his focus still on Cash as he said, 鈥淗ave you called Az yet?鈥
聽Cash rejected Nesta鈥檚 fifth call before the phone had even begun properly buzzing.
聽鈥淗e鈥檚 my next on my list.鈥
聽There was more shuffling on Rhys鈥檚 end of the line, followed by another soft protestation from the woman he was with. Cash listened to Rhys鈥檚 diplomatic and surprisingly persuasive explanation for why he was kicking her out of his bed at half five in the morning. He was careful not to make any false promises about calling her when he got back to London, and Cash wondered if the woman realized that she鈥檇 likely never see him again.聽
聽Rhys wasn鈥檛 a man interested in settling down, but he also wasn鈥檛 one to lie about his intentions. For most women, getting to brag that they鈥檇 spent a night with billionaire bad boy Rhysand Sadeghi seemed to be more than enough to satisfy.
聽鈥淚 just texted my pilot,鈥 Rhys said once the woman had left. 鈥淚 can be wheels-up in an hour, which will put me in Vegas around midnight. Meet at the Waldorf?鈥
聽Cash鈥檚 phone was going off again, and somehow the pain of it鈥攐f her鈥攆inally hit himself. Instead of rejecting the call, he blocked her number.
聽鈥淪ounds good,鈥 he told Rhys, voice growing unbearably tight. 鈥淪ee you then.鈥
聽He prepared to hang up before Rhys stopped him.
聽鈥淐ash,鈥 Rhys said, his tone unusually grave. 鈥淚s this about your girl?鈥
聽Cash鈥檚 throat ached like he鈥檇 swallowed a fistful of jagged glass.
聽鈥淪he鈥檚 not my girl. At least, not anymore.鈥
聽鈥淲hat鈥斺 Rhys began, but Cash cut him off.
聽鈥淧lease,鈥 he forced out, voice almost hoarse from the effort not to cry. 鈥淒on鈥檛 ask me about her.鈥
聽鈥淔air enough,鈥 Rhys said. 鈥淪ee you at midnight, brother.鈥
聽Cash said his goodbyes and hung up, staring numbly at the five missed calls on his phone. Part of him was tempted to unblock her number, maybe even answer her next call in order to hear what she had to say for herself.
聽He didn鈥檛, though, afraid of what it might do to him if she didn鈥檛 call again; it was easier not to know. She鈥檇 made her choice, and now he needed to start making some of his own.
聽Before he could pick up the phone again to call Az, a text pinged through.
聽Rhys called. Got a flight out of LAX at ten fifteen, I鈥檒l see you in two hours. -Az
聽Cash grabbed a duffle of his own and began throwing clothing and toiletries in it, trying to not to picture Nesta鈥檚 tears or the look on her bland, hapless date鈥檚 face when he鈥檇聽 seen her and Cash together. It would take more than a Vegas bender to forget how it had felt to walk away from her, but at this point it was either drown his sorrows in liquor or be drowned by them himself.
聽And Cash wasn鈥檛 ready to go under yet.聽
聽x
聽The weekend in Vegas had been like witch hazel on a wound; enough to stop the bleeding, but not nearly enough to heal it.
聽In the two weeks that followed, Cash threw his energy into sucking out as much of the poison as he could while attempting to cast his eyes towards the future.聽
聽His first move had been making things right with Aelin. He鈥檇 sent her an obscene bouquet of yellow roses, and when several days had passed and he still hadn鈥檛 heard from her, he鈥檇 gone to her and Rowan鈥檚 brownstone to make his apologies in person.
聽He still couldn鈥檛 bring himself to explain what had happened that night, beyond admitting that things between him and Nesta had fallen apart, and that they would no longer be in each other鈥檚 lives.
聽At this Aelin had begun to cry, blaming herself for pushing him and promising that next time, she wouldn鈥檛 interfere.
聽Next time.
聽Cash didn鈥檛 want 鈥榥ext time鈥. He wanted this time. He wanted to go back to the morning after the dinner party when everything seemed to fall apart. He wanted to take back that kiss鈥攚onderful as it had been鈥攁nd simply tell Nesta how he felt instead. Maybe if he鈥檇 opened up to her more, she wouldn鈥檛 have felt the need to seek affection elsewhere.Or maybe he鈥檇 pushed something she hadn鈥檛 been ready for, and scared her into retreating to more comfortable territory. Even after weeks of tortured reflection, Cash still wasn鈥檛 sure where things had gone wrong, but it didn鈥檛 keep him from longing to fix it all the same.
聽On his good days.
聽On his bad days, he raged and swore and drank too much, refusing to answer his friends鈥 calls and occasionally smashing a bottle of wine or two to keep himself from losing it on ornery customers. At least Nesta had managed to keep her friend Clare away; Cash wasn鈥檛 sure what he鈥檇 do if faced with the prospect of fending off her unwanted attention with no Nesta as a buffer.
聽Seeing Clare would also only serve as a reminder of what he鈥檇 lost, and that was the last 聽thing he needed. Even if he someday found a way to fill the hole Nesta had left in his life, there would be no forgetting her, not in a million years.
聽It was this thought in particular that plagued him one Saturday afternoon, his mood as dark as it鈥檇 even been. He rushed through inventory as he counted down the minutes until he could lock the door, even as he admitted to himself that he had little reason to hurry. He鈥檇 already bailed on his plans to get beers with Ro after work, and he was currently ignoring Mor鈥檚 repeated attempts to rope him into a FaceTime date.聽
聽Still, since he鈥檇 broken off things with Nesta he found himself hating being in the shop. He could still picture the way she鈥檇 looked that first day he鈥檇 met her, her lips pursed in a signature Disney Villainess frown as she watched him pour her a glass of Cheval Blanc. He鈥檇 broken more than a few bottles of that the last few weeks. He鈥檇 even briefly attempted to take it off their list, at which point Devlon had called demanding to know why Cash was trying to ruin the business by removing one of their best sellers from distribution. Not wanting to cop to his juvenile reasoning, Cash had simply added it back.
聽Perhaps he鈥檇 open a bottle tonight himself. He hadn鈥檛 fully explored the 鈥渘uclear sadness鈥 option yet, and maybe it would be cathartic.
聽Or maybe he鈥檇 chug the whole bottle and follow it with enough whiskey to make him forget.聽
聽Always an option, though not a particularly appealing one considering he was going to the gym with Rowan in the morning. Ro might have allowed Cash to skip an outing to the bar, however reluctantly, but skipping the gym would never fly. Rowan Whitethorn was a person who didn鈥檛 believe in 鈥榙ays off鈥, and determined to keep Cash from drowning in misery, pizza, and booze, Ro鈥檇 turned into his personal drill sergeant. Cash had to admit it was effective, if slightly miserable.
聽Cash was just running the last of the weekly sales reports when he heard the shop鈥檚 bell ding.
聽He glanced at his watch. Three minutes after six.
鈥淲e鈥檙e closed,鈥 he snapped, no patience left to be cordial.
That patience only frayed when he glanced up to find Nesta standing there dressed in a pair of black jeans and a simple white tank top, looking every bit as lovely as she had the first day he鈥檇 met her.聽
His heart ached at seeing her, the pain one he鈥檇 never experienced before. It was like an unused muscle after a new workout, tender and unpleasant.
鈥淚 meant what I said, Nes,鈥 he said quietly. 鈥淚 don鈥檛 want to see you.鈥
鈥淚 know,鈥 she said, her stilettos clicking against the worn floorboards as she cautiously approached. 鈥淏ut you blocked my number.鈥
鈥淚 would have thought that was a clear enough indication of how I felt.鈥
It was at this point that he realized she had a bottle of wine in her hand. And not just any bottle; he would recognize that ubiquitous all-black design anywhere.聽
鈥淲hat is that?鈥 he asked uselessly.
鈥淚t鈥檚 for you,鈥 she said, gingerly extending it so he could better see the label.
As angry as he was, her uncertainty still tugged at him. She seemed hesitant to get too close, as if he might snatch the bottle from her and smash on the ground at her feet. Cash didn鈥檛 have to wonder where that particular fear stemmed from, and it made him despise Tom谩s more than ever.
鈥淒omaine Serene Monogram Pinot Noir,鈥 she said, arm still outstretched. 鈥淵ou said it was your favorite vineyard in the Willamette Valley.鈥
He had said that, months ago and only in passing. That she鈥檇 remembered鈥
Cash pursed his lips.
鈥淲here did you get it? Domaine Serene sold out of their distribution stock in April.鈥
鈥淚 know,鈥 she said before quietly repeating, 鈥淏ut you said it was your favorite.鈥
It was then that realization struck.
鈥淵ou flew to Oregon to get this?鈥
She looked sheepish. Or as sheepish as a woman like Nesta could be.
鈥淒rove. I took Feyre and Elain. We made a weekend of it.鈥
Cash had made that drive before; it was almost nine hours.
鈥淚t鈥檚 a 2008,鈥 she continued. 鈥淥ne of their best harvests in the last decade, and firmly within its drinking window.鈥
A part of Cash wanted to be moved by the gesture. Eighteen hours and $275 dollars for a bottle she knew he鈥檇 love, all because she鈥檇 been paying attention. Still, if he let himself be so easily swayed, he鈥檇 deserve whatever he got next time she decided to betray his trust.
鈥淪o, what?鈥 he said instead. 鈥淵ou thought you could come here and buy my forgiveness with expensive wine?鈥
鈥淣o!鈥 she said, cheeks flooding with color. 鈥淚t鈥檚 a gift.鈥
鈥淚n that case,鈥 Cash said, reaching over to take the bottle from her and setting it on the counter. 鈥淭hank you. You can see yourself out.鈥
He turned towards the storeroom but she caught his arm. Even now it set his skin to tingling.
鈥淚 know you鈥檙e angry with me,鈥 she said, letting go as soon as she was sure she had his attention. 鈥淎nd I don鈥檛 blame you. But if I could just鈥斺
鈥淚鈥檓 not angry with you,鈥 he said honestly. 鈥淚鈥檓 angry with myself. I didn鈥檛 have to let you string me along, but I did, and that鈥檚 on me.鈥
鈥淭hat鈥檚 not what this was,鈥 Nesta said. 鈥淣ot at all. Please, Cash, just let me explain.鈥
聽鈥淓xplain what?鈥 He demanded. 鈥淭hat you were so disgusted by our kiss that you felt you had to rush out for a palette-cleanser?鈥
聽鈥淚t鈥檚 not鈥斺
聽鈥淥r that you think so little of me and our friendship that you lied to me about it?鈥
聽鈥淐ash鈥斺
聽He held up his hand to stop her. She had tears in her eyes now, and he felt some of the fight bleeding out of him even as she fell silent.聽
聽He ran his hand through his hair and let out a shaky breath. It was painful to be this vulnerable with her after what she鈥檇 done, but he could no longer hide from the unspoken truth that had been hanging between them for months. He was sure she likely already knew, but he needed to say it out loud, at least once.聽
聽He forced himself to meet her glassy eyes, even as he felt himself drowning in their storm-ridden depths.聽
聽鈥淣esta,鈥 he began, voice almost a plea. 鈥淚 am stupidly in love with you; I have been for a long time. And I don鈥檛 expect you to feel the same, but I can鈥檛鈥斺
聽He blew out another breath, throat almost unbearably tight.聽
聽鈥淚 can鈥檛 do this with you anymore. The flirting, the looks, that morning in your bed鈥攊t鈥檚 too painful. Please, just give me space to get over you. I think I deserve that much at least.鈥
聽鈥淚 care about you,鈥 she whispered.聽
聽Cash only shook his head.
聽鈥淚f that were true, you would never have done what you did. If you鈥檇 really cared about me, you wouldn鈥檛 have strung me along, and you definitely wouldn鈥檛 have lied to me.鈥
聽鈥淚 know,鈥 she said, the first of her tears skidding down her creamy cheeks. 鈥淚 fucked up so badly, but please Cash, please, just let me explain. After that, I will go. I promise.鈥
聽He knew he shouldn鈥檛 agree, knew he was perilously close to accepting whatever flimsy excuse she was about to give and running back to her.聽
聽If he did though, he鈥檇 have no one but himself to blame for it. When things went South again鈥攚hen she met another Harrison, or Tyler, and Kyle鈥攈e鈥檇 be right back here, scraped up and bleeding from having dragged himself along at rock bottom.
聽Still, that pleading in her eyes was enough to break him, and he鈥檇 decided he鈥檇 rather be the one breaking instead of her. This one last time he would fall on the sword for her, because he frankly didn鈥檛 know any other way.
聽鈥淵ou have two minutes,鈥 he said.
聽She nodded, wiping at her cheeks and seeming to steady herself.
聽鈥淚鈥檝e wanted you for a long time,鈥 she said after a beat. 鈥淧robably since before I even broke up with Tom谩s. I wanted to see you, and be around you, and laugh with you. On my birthday I wanted so badly for you to kiss me, and after Feyre interrupted, I wanted you to knock on my door. You have no idea how often I鈥檝e imagined鈥斺
聽She shook her head, wringing her hands with such ferocity that the skin had begun to redden. Still, she didn鈥檛 relent.
聽鈥淭hat morning after the dinner party I could hold back from you anymore, and in the moment it felt so right. But after you left, I had a massive panic attack, and I worried that after everything with Tom谩s I鈥檇 developed a complex around physical intimacy.鈥
聽She paused, wrinkling her nose to keep the worst of her tears at bay.
聽鈥淪o I went out with Owen as a...test run. I thought that maybe if I was exposed to the fear of being touched in a big enough dose, I could overcome it.鈥
聽鈥淲ho does that?鈥 Cash demanded. 鈥淎nd did this guy know you were only using him as a practice dummy?鈥
聽Nesta bit her lip.
聽鈥淚鈥擨 don鈥檛 know.鈥澛
聽Cash opened his mouth to snap out what a pathetic excuse that was before catching sight of her face and falling silent.聽
聽This was Tom谩s, he realized. This was what Tom谩s and his bullshit had done to her. Made her afraid to make a mistake, or admit when she needed help. How must he have belittled and mistreated Nesta in bed to make her concerned with her ability to let go and enjoy herself during sex? The idea made Cash sick to his stomach.
聽Nesta waited for him to speak, and when he didn鈥檛 she wiped at the wetness on her cheeks and continued.
聽鈥淎fter everything we鈥檝e been through together, I just couldn鈥檛 bear the idea of having a meltdown while we were intimate, so I thought I could...fix it. But then Owen kissed me, and I realized this isn鈥檛 about sex or being touched; it鈥檚 about us. About you and me, Cash.鈥
聽She swallowed, mastering herself with an aplomb only Nesta could ever manage.
聽鈥淭hat kiss was the first time I let myself be truly vulnerable with you. And it terrified me, because the only other man I鈥檝e ever let in abused that privilege. But even before I saw you that night at Tonga, I realized that I wasn鈥檛 afraid anymore, because when I鈥檓 with you, I know I鈥檓 safe.鈥
聽She paused, eyes blazing with conviction as they skated back and forth across his face. It was the fire of baptism that burned in her gaze, melting him down and recasting him into a man forever altered.
聽鈥淵ou are鈥攅verything to me, Cassian,鈥 she whispered. 鈥淎nd never meant to hurt you. If you don鈥檛 believe anything else, please, believe that.鈥澛
聽He scrubbed a hand down his face, the sincerity in her voice enough to break him. How long had he yearned to hear those words from her, and why did they have to come now, when it was already too late?
聽鈥淚 do believe you,鈥 he said. 鈥淏ut what does it change, Nes?鈥
聽She nodded, looking down at her feet. When she looked up he thought she might come closer, maybe even touch his cheek. Instead she clenched her hands into fists, as if fighting the urge.
聽鈥淚 wish I could go back to the day we met and do it all differently,鈥 she admitted. 鈥淚f I鈥檇 just realized all of this sooner, maybe we could have鈥斺
聽She broke off, throat working as she tried to swallow more tears. She glanced at the ceiling to compose herself before meeting his eye.
聽鈥淚 know it鈥檚 not enough to apologize for what I did, but I am sorry. Truly.鈥
聽鈥淚 want to forgive you,鈥 he admitted. 鈥淏ut I鈥檓 not sure if I can.鈥
聽She nodded, hand coming up to press on her chest in a gesture of insecurity and fear he鈥檇 seen less and less of these past few months. It was a reminder of what she鈥檇 been through and how far she鈥檇 come鈥攈ow far they鈥檇 come together. Before he could speak, she glanced up to look at him a final time, hand dropping as she did.
聽鈥淏e happy, Cash,鈥 she said after a long pause. 鈥淵ou deserve it more than anything.鈥
聽His tongue felt glued to the roof of his mouth as she slowly turned, back ramrod straight as she headed for the door. It tore every stitch he鈥檇 clumsily sowed these last few weeks to watch her walk away from him, knowing somehow that this time it would be for good.
聽And perhaps he ought to just let her. She could have just told him all this before, instead of intentionally kissing another guy in some kind of fucked-up amateur psychology experiment.
聽On the other hand鈥
聽Nesta was nearly to the door when Cash finally regained the ability to speak. Taking a deep breath, he made up his mind. He鈥檇 rather risk drowning to try and save what they had than watch their ship sink from the safety of the shore.
聽鈥淎re you just going to make me drink this alone?鈥 he called.
聽Nesta turned, half-stunned, and Cash held up the bottle she鈥檇 brought. She bit her lip, fresh tears welling.
聽鈥淣es,鈥 he said, voice soft but resolute. 鈥淧lease, stay.鈥
xx
Next Time on In Vino Veritas...
鈥淚 never meant to hurt you,鈥 Nesta said, desperate to make him see. 鈥淚 thought I was sparing you from something painful.鈥
Cash鈥檚 gaze skated back and forth across her face as he studied her, expression intent but not unkind.
鈥淭his is what you do with them,鈥 he said, almost as in realization. 鈥淲ith Ellie and Rae. You take the pain so they don鈥檛 have to. You鈥檝e destroyed yourself to shield them, and they have no idea, do they?鈥
鈥淭hey鈥檝e been through enough鈥斺 she began, cut Cash cut her off, eyes blazing with conviction.
鈥淪o have you.鈥
PREVIOUS CHAPTER聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽聽NEXT CHAPTER
REMEMBER: SHARING IS CARING AND IT CAN BE FUN. If you enjoyed this, please reblog. As always, thank you for your support, and if you鈥檇 like to be tagged please comment on this chapter, even just with the word 鈥渢ag鈥, that鈥檚 just the easiest way I鈥檝e found to tag effectively
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Text
Photgraph
In this modern au, Nesta is a model, running late on one of her shoots, so Cassian goes to pick her up.
Also, this was an uneditted and quick fanfic. I hope you guys enjoy. I know I haven鈥檛 posted in a while, but school is kicking my ass.
Waring: Contains content not suitable for some readers, read at your own risk.
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Cassian shoved his hands into his pockets as he made his way to the studio, worried when Nesta hadn鈥檛 answered his texts. She was supposed to be done an hour ago, and while he knew she probably wouldn鈥檛 want him in her work place, he just needed to make sure she hadn鈥檛 been kidnapped.
The lady at the desk smiled when he entered. 鈥淎re you here for a shoot?鈥
Cassian blushed. 鈥淣o--well. I鈥檓 here for my girlfriend. Nesta Archeron.鈥澛
鈥淥h.鈥 She perked up, her smile widening into a grin. 鈥淪he鈥檚 right this way.鈥
He tensed. He鈥檇 been allowed to pick her up from the lobby, but never been offered to see her while she worked. He followed the woman to a plain white door, walking past her when she opened it for him.
The first thing he saw were the cameras. Posed around the room, some even on the ceiling. Three photographers walked around the scene, snapping pictures and chatting animatedly.
Then his eyes fell on the bed.
Nesta lay there, her face serene, wearing a tangle of dusty pink lingerie, a transparent sheet draped over her body. She tilted her chin up, moving at the photographers鈥 commands, her back arched in a way that shot blood straight to his groin.
鈥淭hat鈥檚 it. Good. Remember, tongue聽 behind your teeth. Yes. Just like that.鈥 A photographer moved in front of Cassian, blocking his view. 鈥淎lright, sit up for me, doll. One leg down. Perfect. Stunning.鈥
Doll.
As she moved into position, Nesta鈥檚 eyes caught Cassian鈥檚 and widened. 鈥淐ass!鈥
He offered a weak smile as all eyes turned to him, waving awkwardly. 鈥淭he front desk lady told me to come in here.鈥
Nesta blushed madly beneath her makeup, holding the sheet to her chest. 鈥淔ucking Clare.鈥
鈥淒o you want us to kick him out?鈥 one of the photographers asked, a short, stout woman Cassian recognized as Nesta鈥檚 friend, Emerie.
鈥淣o, I mean鈥 What time is it?鈥
鈥淨uarter after six,鈥 Cassian answered, shoving his hands into his pockets. 鈥淵ou didn鈥檛 tell me you were doing boudoir photos.鈥 He slowly grinned. 鈥淚s this my valentine's present?鈥
鈥淕ood, god, no. The other model was sick and offered me the shoot. Stop. Stop smiling like that. I should have texted you.鈥
The other two photographers were studying him now, whispered to each other. Cassian ignored them. 鈥淚 don鈥檛 mind this outcome. You look absolutely breathtaking, sweetheart.鈥
She looked away, twisting the sheet in her hands. 鈥淚鈥 I should be done soon. Right, Simon?鈥
Simon, presumably, glanced between them. 鈥淎ctually, you鈥檝e got quite a fine specimen here. We could do some couples pictures too. We have outfits that would fit him.鈥
鈥淲hat?鈥 Nesta snapped at the same time Cassian answered, 鈥淪ure.鈥
She glared at him and he blew her a kiss.聽
Simon said, 鈥淚t would be significantly less awkward with him than with a stranger. Plus, that extra chemistry shows up on camera. You know we already had a shoot planned, so why not now?鈥
Nesta worked her jaw in a way Cassian immediately recognized. She was thinking. Perhaps a little too hard. 鈥淚 mean鈥 if he鈥檚 okay with it.鈥
Cassian grinned and in an instant, he was ushered out and filed into a dressing room by Simon. A bundle of clothes were shoved into his hands. 鈥淧ut these on. Nothing else.鈥澛
鈥淯h, alright.鈥
After he was gone, Cassian stripped down, discovering the finest pair of silk boxers he鈥檇 ever seen. With that was a pair of black slacks and suspenders.
No shirt.
He shouldn鈥檛 have been surprised, but he was.
It took only a half an hour to do his makeup and hair before he rejoined Nesta. She鈥檇 changed too鈥 into a deep red version of what she鈥檇 been wearing before. It stole the air from his lungs.
So it began.
Cassian stood at the foot of the bed, crossing his arms while she looked up at him, her hair in perfect waves around her shoulders.聽
鈥淒o what comes naturally,鈥 Simon said as the cameras started snapping.
Cassian put a knee on the mattress, leaning forward as she crawled towards him. Rising up on her knees, she put a hand on his chest, drawing him in, close enough for a kiss.
鈥淎re you comfortable?鈥 she asked, her breath a warm rush across his lips.聽
He nodded as that hand trailed down, gripping his belt. He fell forward at her tug, bracing his arms on either side of her head. Leaning in, he brushed his mouth across hers, running a hand over her thigh to tug it around his waist.
鈥淧erfect. Yes.鈥 A camera clicked as he shifted, kissing her throat in the way he knew she loved.聽
Her gasp came too soft for anyone else to hear, for his ears alone.聽
He lowered himself onto an elbow, brushing a stray hair from her face. 鈥淚 love you so much.鈥
She smiled, showing off those dazzling teeth. 鈥淚 love you too.鈥
He took her mouth, quickly forgetting that anyone else was in the room until one of the photographers hissed.
鈥淭oo much tongue. Die it down.鈥
Cassian lifted his head, tempted to snarl, but Nesta pulled him back down. 鈥淎ct a little rougher.鈥
鈥淩ougher?鈥
She nodded, eyes wide.聽
鈥淲hat the fuck is this even for?鈥 he muttered, but obeyed.
Gripping her hair, he forced her body to mold more into his, kissing the junction between neck and shoulder.聽
鈥淕et into his lap. I want some upright shots,鈥 Simon ordered.
Cassian slid back to his knees and Nesta moved gracefully to straddle him. 鈥淗and in my hair again,鈥 she whispered onto his throat.
His hand gliding back into those caramel locks he loved so much. He twisted the bulk of her hair around a fist, pulling her head back so he could look into those storm eyes. He gripped her ass in his other hand, tugging her closer so their centers lined up. Silently, he was grateful for the sleeve the dresser had given him, otherwise he supposed she鈥檇 get an inkling on how much he really would have prefered to be alone.聽
鈥淕ood. Good. Brilliant.鈥
And so it went.
*****
Cassian scrubbed his face as he sat at his desk, trying and failing to focus on the screen before him. He blew out a breath, leaning his chair on the back two legs.
鈥淣esta?鈥 he called, lifting his head when he heard the door to his apartment open. He felt vaguely like a dog as he rose to go find her, but he鈥檇 take anything at this point to get him away from his desk.
He found her standing just inside the apartment, pushing the door shut with her heel as she flipped through a manilla folder.
鈥淲hat鈥檚 that?鈥 he asked innocently, doing his best not to peer over her shoulder.
She snapped the folder shut and grinned at him. It took the breath straight from his lungs. 鈥淚t鈥檚 your Valentine鈥檚 present.鈥
鈥淰alentine鈥檚 isn鈥檛 for a few more days.鈥 Fuck, or was he wrong? Had he really lost track of the days?
鈥淚 know.鈥 She walked past him into the kitchen. 鈥淏ut it came early. Unless you want to wait鈥?鈥
鈥淗ell, no.鈥 He quickly caught up to her, catching her around the waist. Pressing a kiss to her neck, he asked innocently, 鈥淐an I see?鈥
She nodded, handing the folder over to him. 鈥淪it down first.鈥
He obeyed, plopping on the worn couch. Opening the folder, he almost dropped it.
It was from the photo shoot they鈥檇 done a few weeks ago. He鈥檇 thought it was for a magazine, but鈥 鈥淵ou little terror.鈥
Her grin widened and he only got a flash of it before he returned to the photos. Flipping through them, he tried to keep his breathing even. Here was the first one. A shot of Nesta crawling across the bed to him, her ass a perfect curve against the white curtains in the background.
Another with her draped out beneath him, their mouths locked together.
One of her on her knees before him, a hand on his thigh. Her lashes were swept up, lips parted slightly.
鈥淒o you like them?鈥 Nesta asked, drawing his eyes to her. She was biting her lip, almost鈥 nervous?
Cassian couldn鈥檛 breathe. 鈥淚 love them.鈥 He turned to the next one. Nesta was forward on his lap, her head tilted back thanks to his hand on her throat. His other hand was between her thighs, the moment almost too indecent to be caught on camera. If only she had known how painfully hard he鈥檇 been then.
鈥淪weetheart, these are鈥 I don鈥檛 have words.鈥 He set the folder aside.
鈥淭here are more鈥斺 Nesta started to say.
鈥淐ome here.鈥 He tugged on her waist, pulling her into his lap. Cupping her face, he couldn鈥檛 help the grin tugging at his lips. 鈥淵ou had this planned all along, didn鈥檛 you?鈥
She nodded, blush high on her cheek bones. 鈥淎 few of them were for the magazine, but most were for you.鈥
鈥淪how me your favorite.鈥 He handed the folder to her.
She blushed harder as she took it, chewing on that damned lip. After a few moments, she plucked a photo. 鈥淗ere.鈥
He looked at the photo. It was more innocent than the rest, just a shot of their hands, fingers entwined against the sheet with a hint on her hair in the background.聽
鈥淏eautiful,鈥 he whispered, kissing the back of her hand as he once again set the pictures aside.
鈥淐assian.鈥
He lifted her, marching them to the bedroom.聽
She let out a laugh. 鈥淎ren鈥檛 you going to look at the rest?鈥
鈥淟ater. For now, I have other plans.鈥
Her lips parted in a silent O.
*****
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lynyrdwrites3 years ago
Text
Comfort
It was @accidental-rambler鈥榮 birthday this week. 聽 Which means I had the perfect excuse to write Nessian smut! 聽Happy birthday, Kate!
---
He felt weary to his very bones.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Cassian knew he should probably eat, but his appetite had been dulled by his visits to the camps, his fight to get the girls trained. All he really wanted now was his bed and her.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Nesta.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 The name was like a 聽prayer in his mind, and he found himself almost desperate for her, as he opened the door to the room they shared. 聽He wanted the familiar sight of her 鈥 so often, he鈥檇 come back to this room, to see her cross legged on their bed, wrapped in a heavy dressing gown, her hair tugged up into a messy mass on top of her head. Cassian knew he was the only one that ever got to see her like that; to the rest of the world, she was always carefully dressed, her hair wound into an impeccable braid around her head.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 He opened the door to the room, his weariness almost entirely replaced by eagerness, and came up short.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 There she was, but she wasn鈥檛 in that oversized dressing gown. Instead, she wore grey-blue that left her legs bare and clung to her body. The way it hugged her ass immediately drew Cassian鈥檚 gaze, and he felt a thrill of lust rise in his body.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淵ou鈥檙e late,鈥 Nesta commented. Her hair was loose 鈥 a 聽rare sight, even for Cassian 鈥 and she tossed it 聽back as she looked at him over her 聽shoulder, her expression 聽cool. She eyed him for a moment, and then turned away once more.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 She was reading, Cassian realized with amusement. And that was the one thing entirely normal in the situation.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Quirking his head for a moment and feeling a smile curve his lips, Cassian simply watched her for several moments. 聽He chuckled to himself at his own foolishness, and quickly stripped off his upper fighting leathers, tossing them to the floor. He 聽heard Nesta huff in irritation, but she continued to read. 聽
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Naked to the waist, Cassian climbed 聽onto the bed and crawled slowly until he was 聽braced over her. He didn鈥檛 allow his full weight to fall on 聽her of course 鈥 he was far too heavy 鈥 but he did press himself flush against her.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淵ou missed your opportunity for this,鈥 Nesta told him, and he had to give her props; had he known her less, he might have thought her bored tone genuine. But Cassian had made a study of Nesta Archeron, so he heard the slight catch in her voice, the way she hesitated, just slightly, when turning the page of her book.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淧erhaps I can convince you to 聽take pity on a poor man?鈥 Cassian replied. 聽He brushed her hair away from her shoulder and neck, and found himself distracted by it for a moment. 聽There was a curl to it that fascinated Cassian for a reason he couldn鈥檛 quite understand, and on those rare occasions Nesta left it down, he loved to run it through his fingers. This occasion was no different. Nesta鈥檚 shoulders relaxed slightly at the motion, making Cassian feel smug with 聽the reminder that she enjoyed his petting, even if she wouldn鈥檛 admit it. Finally dropping 聽her hair, he turned 聽his attention to the skin of her neck and shoulder, left bare except for a thin strap.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Cassian pressed a kiss to her throat, trailing his lips down to her shoulder, and back up again. One of Nesta鈥檚 hands tightened on her book, but still she continued to read 鈥 or at least pretended to. 聽Narrowing his eyes, Cassian let his tongue slip out to trail along her skin as well, and was rewarded with Nesta giving the slightest of jolts.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淗mmm,鈥 she mused, not looking at him. 鈥淚鈥檓 still not really in the mood.鈥
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Cassian grinned at the back of her head, inexplicably pleased with this woman that owned so much of him.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淟et me try a bit harder,鈥 Cassian responded, and he pressed a kiss to the back of her neck. 聽He kissed his way down, and ran his hand along her side. 聽He froze for a moment, when his fingers felt an odd texture, and pulled back to inspect the cause.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 The side of her nightgown 聽had lace insets, he realized with glee. 聽Between the patterns, he could see her pale skin, and he stroked her again, delighted with the feel of her skin between the fine lace.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Nesta sighed heavily again, and rolled over. Cassian pulled back just enough to let her do so, before positioning himself over her again.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淵ou鈥檙e getting distracted,鈥 she informed him, one of her hands stroking along his abs. Her eyes followed the 聽move avidly, a sure sign she was a little distracted herself.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淚t鈥檚 not my fault,鈥 Cassian replied, his muscles flexing beneath 聽her touch. 鈥淭here鈥檚 so much to be distracted by.鈥
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Such as the way her nightgown dipped low, leaving the curves of her breasts bare to his gaze, including a small pattern of freckles that Cassian had loved since he had first discovered them. 聽He found he needed to show his appreciation of 聽those freckles, and he pressed kisses to the skin, and lightly dragged his teeth over them.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Nesta arched into his mouth, her hand slinging to the back of his neck. 聽She tugged at his hair after a moment, and Cassian allowed her to pull him up, mostly because it made him impossibly hard when she decided to take control, and he found himself more than happy to kiss her as she desired. 聽Never breaking their lips apart, Cassian rolled to his back, Nesta sprawled over his chest.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淵ou don鈥檛 want to be on top?鈥 聽Nesta asked, pulling away, her brow furrowing.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淚 thought I鈥檇 let you do the work,鈥 Cassian replied, his fingers digging lightly into her hips.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Nesta frowned down at him, resting her hands on his chest. 聽After a moment, she reached up to brush his hair from his forehead, then cupped his face with her hand.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淒o you want me to kill the bastards?鈥 she asked, and Cassian let out a bark of laughter, not because he thought she 聽wouldn鈥檛, but rather because he knew the 聽Illyrian generals were terrified of this delicate woman with the power of death in her hand, and damn if it wasn鈥檛 tempting to let her loose on them.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淜iss me,鈥 he said instead, and Nesta did, pressing her lips to his in a kiss so soft that Cassian found himself utterly helpless beneath her.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淚 love you,鈥 she murmured against his lips, and Cassian knew no one else 鈥 not even her sisters 鈥 would get to see this side of her, so very vulnerable to the emotions that raged between them.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淣esta,鈥 Cassian murmured, and he pulled her into another kiss, her name a prayer each time they took a breath. 鈥淣esta. Nesta. Nesta.鈥
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 She dragged her nails softly down his sides, and fumbled with his pants, fighting to undo them without breaking contact between them. 聽She somehow managed to achieve her goal and set his cock free. 聽She stroked him, as she positioned herself over him. And then she sank down.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Cassian cursed and released her hips to clutch the blankets instead. Nesta rested her hands on his chest and lifted herself, dropping again. 聽Cassian arched himself with her movements, and they rapidly aligned on their momentum. Cassian sat up, and Nesta clutched at his shoulders while he pressed hungry kisses along her collar bone and up her neck. 聽There was nothing soft in their kiss this time, when Nesta bit down on his lip 鈥 hard enough to sting, but not break skin 鈥 Cassian growled in response and thrust up a bit harder.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淐ass鈥︹ Nesta moaned, letting her head fall back. Cassian twined his hand in her hair and rested his head on her chest, gritting his teeth to try and keep from coming before Nesta did. 鈥淐ass, come with me.鈥
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Nesta titled his head up, and rested her forehead against his. Their eyes met, and Cassian couldn鈥檛 look away, caught up in everything that was Nesta. He saw the moment she came, her eyes not breaking from his, but instead going hazy, and she clenched around him, making Cassian come right after her.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 They collapsed to the side, both of them breathing heavily, Cassian spooning her back and clutching her close, even as he fought for breath.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淭oday was difficult,鈥漀esta said, cuddling her backside against him. 聽Despite his exhaustion, Cassian still felt the stirrings of interest at the motion, but Cassian was used to being half-aroused around Nesta; found it almost comforting by this point. 鈥淲hat happened?鈥
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淭hey still refuse to give the girls the opportunity to fight,鈥 Cassian replied. 鈥淥ne of them鈥he鈥檚 the best of all the trainees, far more talented than any of the males. And they鈥檙e punishing her for it.鈥
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 He felt Nesta tense in anger at the girl鈥檚 plight, and he pressed a kiss to her shoulder and buried his nose in her hair.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淚 think I should visit the camps. It鈥檚 been a while.鈥
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 It was on the tip of Cassian鈥檚 tongue to refuse her, but then he reconsidered. 聽The Generals truly feared Nesta, and though Cassian鈥檚 instinct was to protect, he knew she was more than capable of taking care of 聽herself. He was fighting for the right for women 聽to fight鈥 how could he deny that same right to Nesta?
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淚f you convince them you鈥檝e cursed them, I鈥檒l buy you all the books you want.鈥
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淵ou buy me all the books I want anyway,鈥 Nesta replied, and he could hear amusement in her voice. 鈥淏esides, I don鈥檛 need to be bribed for this. I like terrifying the Illyrian Generals.鈥
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 She did, taking a sort of childish glee in it that never ceased to amuse 聽Cassian. Just thinking of it had him grinning and nuzzling her neck fondly.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 鈥淚 love you, Nesta Archeron,鈥 he said, echoing her earlier confession.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 In response, she tugged him in for another kiss.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 And suddenly, he was far more than just half aroused. 聽 聽 聽
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CHAPTER SEVEN鈥擨n Vino Veritas: A Nessian Story
鈥淚n Wine Lies the Truth鈥
Summary: Nesta Archeron is convinced she has everything she wants: a law degree from an ivy, a prestigious job, a gorgeous boyfriend, and excellent taste in wine. However, when she wanders into her local wine vendor and meets a handsome stranger unafraid to play her quick-witted games, she begins to wonder if the life she鈥檚 built is really the one she wants.
Cash Kahukore worked his entire adolescent life to become a sommelier, ignoring the slurs his mixed heritage have always earned him as he fought his way to the top. However, after five years abroad buying for Michelin star restaurants and dealing with rich white assholes, he鈥檚 grown bored with his life. When a gorgeous lawyer comes in to his uncle鈥檚 shop one afternoon, he immediately recognizes a worthy opponent in her. Undaunted by her sharp tongue and possessive boyfriend, he鈥檚 determined to be her friend, and鈥攁s time goes on and their circumstances change鈥攑ossibly something more.
This a prequel to Navy Suits and Chelsea Boots that takes place three years before. If you love Elriel (and don鈥檛 mind finding out how this story ends) check it now.
Check out the masterlist for In Vino Veritas here!
Chapter Seven: Domaine du Pegau
Nesta growled.
鈥淲e鈥檝e been on the road for almost two hours; just tell me where we鈥檙e going already.鈥
Cash鈥攚ho was driving鈥攐nly grinned, his teeth bright against his bronze skin. It used to annoy Nesta how handsome he was, and how his smile made her stomach flop.
These days, it...didn鈥檛 anymore.
鈥淚f I told you, it wouldn鈥檛 be a surprise!鈥
Nesta pursed his lips.
鈥淚 hate surprises.鈥
Cash rolled his eyes, though he was still smiling.
鈥淲ell I, for one, am shocked by this revelation.鈥
In lieu of responding Nesta jabbed him in the ribs with a finger, hitting a spot she knew made him ticklish. Cash batted at her with one hand still on the wheel, and soon she was mock-wrestling with his free hand, trying to get past his defenses to poke him again.
鈥淨uit it!鈥 He said, laughing as he caught her wrist.
She didn鈥檛 fight him as he intertwined their fingers and rested their joined hands on the gearshift, though neither did she comment. She simply let herself relax into the casual intimacy of his thumb softly tracing a path back and forth across her knuckles.
鈥淭ell me where we鈥檙e going,鈥 she ventured again after a minute or two of contented silence.
Cash gave her hand a little squeeze.
鈥淚f I said sushi, would you believe me?鈥
Nesta gave him a withering look that only served to make him laugh again.
鈥淣o.鈥
鈥淚n that case, prepare to feel very sheepish.鈥
She narrowed her eyes. She鈥檇 known Cash long enough now to understand his tricks.
鈥淥kay, then where are we going before sushi?鈥
He grinned.
鈥淵ou鈥檒l see.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e impossible,鈥 she said.
鈥淎nd you love it,鈥 he shot back, batting her away as she extricated her hand from his and attempted to flick his nose. 鈥淒on鈥檛 be such a birthday brat.鈥
鈥淚 hate birthdays,鈥 Nesta sniffed. 鈥淎nd technically mine isn鈥檛 until tomorrow, anyways.鈥
鈥淥f course you do, my little grinch. And don鈥檛 be a nitpicker; I promise you鈥檒l change your mind when we get there.鈥
鈥淎nd where is 鈥榯here鈥, again?鈥
鈥淧atience, Archeron!鈥 He said, and this time it was his turn to poke her. 鈥淕ood lord.鈥
Nesta glanced out the window, gauging the mountainous California countryside that steaked by as they raced down the 101.
鈥淲e left San Francisco at nine am and you said we鈥檙e going to sushi for dinner鈥斺
鈥淚 never said dinner!鈥 He protested. 聽鈥淔or all you know, I could be taking you to an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.鈥
鈥淵ou wouldn鈥檛 dare.鈥
He laughed.
鈥淕ood point. Go on.鈥
Nesta soldiered on as if he鈥檇 never interrupted.
鈥淎ssuming that most nice sushi places don鈥檛 open until dinner service starts at five, we must be going somewhere suitably far away to leave so early.鈥
Nesta did the math in her head.
鈥淲e鈥檙e going to LA.鈥
Cash gave a mock groan.
鈥淚 knew I should have taken a weird route.鈥
鈥淲hy are we going all the way to LA for dinner? There is plenty of good seafood in San Francisco.鈥
鈥淲e鈥檙e aren鈥檛 going for the sushi, though it is going to be amazing鈥斺
鈥淣obu, then?鈥 Nesta cut in.
鈥淕oddamnit, woman!鈥 Cash laughed. 鈥淐an鈥檛 you turn off your deductive superpowers for one day?鈥
鈥淚t鈥檚 a great choice, if you鈥檙e going to drag you all the way down to LA. The only choice, really.鈥
鈥淲ell I鈥檓 glad I got something right,鈥 Cash said, giving her a playful jab this time. 鈥淭hough when you see where we go before dinner, I think you鈥檒l be very pleasantly surprised鈥斺
鈥淭he Getty? I鈥檝e been.鈥
鈥淣ope.鈥
鈥淗ollywood Bowl.鈥
鈥淲hat are we, tourists? Obviously not.鈥
鈥淕riffith Observatory鈥斺
鈥淪top guessing,鈥 Cash said, smiling. 鈥淵ou鈥檒l never figure it out. And Griffith Observatory? Why would I take you stargazing in the middle of the day?鈥
鈥淚 have no idea why you do the things you do, Cash,鈥 she said, settling back in her seat. If they were going to LA, they still had almost four hours on the road. 鈥淚t鈥檚 one of the most intriguing things about you.鈥
鈥淥h yeah?鈥 Cash said, the grin he flashed her sleepy and slightly wicked. 鈥淎nd what else do you find intriguing about me? Don鈥檛 be afraid to get specific, no detail is too small.鈥
Nesta fended off all the things that came鈥攗nbidden鈥攖o mind. His infectious smile, of course, and his gorgeous hair, which he鈥檚 scraped half up into a bun that she could no longer deny suited him.
And then there was his laugh, and his kindness, and the witty retorts he wasn鈥檛 afraid to dish back to her if she got defensive and too sharp. More than any of that was his way of seeing the world, as if anything was possible. Even for a cynic like Nesta, it was impossible not to be moved by his optimism and good humor.
鈥淔antasizing about me?鈥 He said, drawing her from the train of thought she refused to consider a 鈥榝antasy鈥.鈥
She sniffed.
鈥淛ust imagining what Keith Morrison would title our episode of Dateline were you to try and kidnap me.鈥
Cash sputtered.
鈥淜idnap you? Christ Almighty, Nesta!鈥
鈥淚 say 鈥榯ry鈥,鈥 Nesta continued, flashing him a wicked smirk. 鈥淏ecause I鈥檇 obviously get the drop on you first. By the time the cops showed up, you鈥檇 already be in cuffs.鈥
鈥淐uffs, huh? Now you鈥檙e got my attention.鈥
She huffed in amusement as they lapsed into casual silence. Nesta wondered if he was thinking the same thing she was, about Tom谩s and the assault. It was hard to believe that had only been eight months ago. Some days it felt like it had just happened, and she woke screaming as she fought off the spectre of his hands around her throat. On days like today, it felt like little more than a bad dream.
Maybe it was because it was her birthday, she mused, or because it was a beautiful, sunny California day, the kind that made all your cares seem inconsequential. Or maybe it was Cash, and the way he made her feel safe in a way she hadn鈥檛 since her parents were killed.
鈥淣ow what are you thinking about?鈥 He asked, though his gentled tone seemed to suggest he already knew.
鈥淪anta Monica Pier,鈥 she said in answer, and he rolled his eyes.
鈥淕ive it up already, Archeron. You鈥檒l never guess in a million years.鈥
鈥淜orean Bell of鈥斺
鈥淣esta Flaviana Archeron, so help me God, I will turn this car around.鈥
鈥淥kay, Dad,鈥 she said, rolling her eyes.
She only realized the opening she鈥檇 given him when he flashed her a sinful smile; the kind鈥擭esta was sure鈥攈ad dropped more than a few pairs of panties in its day.
鈥淜inky roleplay? Now we鈥檙e getting somewhere, sweetheart.鈥
She mimed a gag, though the look he was giving sent a pleasant tingle down her spine.
鈥淒on鈥檛 be gross,鈥 she sniped. 鈥淭hat鈥檚 not what I meant and you know it.鈥
He gave a sniff of haughty derision she was sure was meant to be an imitation of her.
鈥淚鈥檒l take my opportunities as they arise and I鈥斺
鈥溾攕han鈥檛 apologize for it,鈥 she finished. 鈥淵es, so I鈥檝e been told. How much longer until we get to this Shangri-La of yours?鈥
In reality, it took another five hours after they hit LA traffic coming into the Valley, though Nesta found the time slipping effortlessly by as they bickered over which podcast they should listen to before discussing everything from politics to travel to Feyre鈥檚 new boyfriend, a feckless philosophy major named Isaac who Nesta couldn鈥檛 stand.
鈥淥f course you can鈥檛 stand him,鈥 Cash said as he navigated to the West side. 鈥淵ou鈥檒l never like any of your sister鈥檚 boyfriends, and that鈥檚 a fact.鈥
Nesta huffed but offered no retort beyond that, which made Cash laugh.
鈥淓xactly,鈥 he said.
Eventually they turned onto a quiet street, and Nesta studied the industrial-building-come-trendy-apartment as they pulled up to a wrought-iron gate surrounding the property and Cash typed in a code on the security system鈥檚 keypad.
After a minute the mic beeped to signify the call had been answered.
鈥淗ey, it鈥檚 Cash.鈥
A cool voice鈥攕mokey and deep鈥攁nswered.
鈥淐ash who?鈥
鈥淗a-ha, cashew; so clever. Just open the gate, dick.鈥
Nesta bit her lip to keep in a smile.
鈥淲as that鈥斺
Cash grinned as the gate opened and he pulled inside.
鈥淚 told you that you鈥檇 never guess.鈥
Nesta鈥檚 mirth immediately faded as she felt herself going on the defensive. If they were here, it likely meant鈥攗gh, she should have known Cash would try and pull an ostentatious stunt like this.
鈥淐ash,鈥 she said through slightly-gritted teeth. 鈥淚 can鈥檛 let you buy me an expensive piece of furniture.鈥
鈥淲ho said anything about 鈥榖uy鈥?鈥 He said, parking the jeep and pressing a gentle hand to the small of her back. 鈥淟et鈥檚 go.鈥
鈥淔ine, then I can鈥檛 let you鈥斺
鈥淲ill you relax, birthday girl? There was...little to no purchasing involved.鈥
鈥淚鈥斺
He turned, grinning at her as he walked backwards towards what looked like the garage.
鈥淲ould you feel better if I said there is no gift, and I just brought you here so you could finally meet my best friend?鈥
鈥淵es,鈥 she admitted, not sure what to do with the bright feeling the idea inspired.
As much of her life as she鈥檇 shared of her life with Cash, there was still so much she longed to learn about his.
鈥淧erfect!鈥 Cash clapped his hands together. 鈥淭hen I just brought you here so you could finally meet my best friend.鈥
鈥淪o there isn鈥檛 actually a gift?鈥
Nesta felt herself relax, though the feeling only lasted until she caught sight of Cash鈥檚 face.
鈥淥f course there is. But you felt better for a second, didn鈥檛 you?鈥
鈥淵ou are absolutely鈥斺
鈥淵our favorite? Yes, I know. No need to be obsequious about it.鈥
At her bemused expression, he grinned.
鈥淚 write down all the big words you use and look them up later. I think my vocabulary has tripled since I met you. C鈥檓on.鈥
He took her hand and led her through the garage and past a car under a heavy canvas covering. Cash noted her interest and smiled.
鈥淵ou love expensive things, I feel like you鈥檒l appreciate this.鈥
Before Nesta could object to that rather unsavory observation, Cash pulled back the cover to reveal a sports car painted a striking tangerine orange.
鈥淟amborghini Aventador,鈥 Cash explained, watching as Nesta ran a hand along the line of the car鈥檚 perfectly angular body. 鈥淭he color is called 鈥楢rancio Atlas鈥. V12 engine, zero to one hundred in 6.4 seconds. Pound-for-pound, this is the best-performing sports car money can buy. We call this beauty the FUD.鈥
鈥淭he FUD?鈥
It seemed a less than impressive nickname for so gorgeous a car.
Cash flashed a sardonic smile.
鈥淭he 鈥楩uck You Dad,鈥欌 he explained. 鈥淎z鈥檚 dad was鈥斺
鈥溾擜 huge prick,鈥 a voice finished, and Nesta yanked her hand away as a tall, well-built figure emerged from the shadows, smiling faintly. 鈥淪till is, last time I checked.鈥
Cash grinned as his friend approached, and despite herself, Nesta had to fight off a nervous exhale.
Where Cash was winsome and roguishly good-looking, 聽Azriel Macar was the sort of fairytale-handsome best suited to the pages of a tween fantasy novel. His glossy dark hair was styled away from his face in a well-manicured undercut, the blue-black hue setting off the copper in his smooth skin and the green in his hazel eyes. Despite their light color, the way their slender shape tapered up slightly at the corners made Nesta think that one of his parents鈥攐r perhaps grandparents鈥攎ay have been Native American.
If Elain were here, she鈥檇 have fainted to the floor by now. She loved sharp cheekbones and tattoos on guys, and Azriel Macar had both in spades. Like Cash, Azriel had a sleeve running down his left arm, though where Cash鈥檚 were made up of only black lines, Azriel鈥檚 had strategically placed splashes of color that accentuated the striking geometric pattern. Nesta wondered if he'd designed them himself.
Azriel gave her a soft, almost bashful smile as he approached, offering her his hand.
鈥淚鈥檓 Azriel,鈥 he said.
鈥淣esta,鈥 she said, surprised to find herself anxious to make a good impression.
Azriel鈥檚 smile grew a fraction more relaxed.
鈥淚t鈥檚 good to finally meet you. I鈥檝e heard a lot about you.鈥
鈥淵ou can't say that to people,鈥 Cash said, eyes widening in a silent warning to his friend that trilled pleasantly through Nesta. What had Azriel heard about her that Cash didn鈥檛 want repeated?
Azriel, for his part, merely shrugged.
鈥淵ou can if it鈥檚 true.鈥 At this he turned to Nesta. 鈥淐ash literally never stops talking about you. I think our friend Rhys may be in love with you from the stories alone.鈥
Nesta smirked, the warmth in her chest growing as she said, 鈥淯nfortunately for him, I鈥檝e been forewarned.鈥
Azriel gave an approving nod, the corners of his mouth tugging up slightly.
鈥淪mart girl.鈥
Nesta fought not to preen. She鈥檚 never considered herself a person particularly adept at making a good impression on strangers, and it felt good to imagine she鈥檇 earned Azriel鈥檚 approval.
鈥淚t鈥檚 good to meet you as well,鈥 she said. 鈥淎nd can I just say, your work is beautiful. That table you made for the tasting room at The Merchant is a piece of art.鈥
Azriel鈥檚 cheeks went pink and Cash added, 鈥淣esta nearly swooned the first time she saw it.鈥
She punched him in the arm, but Azriel merely smiled.
鈥淭hank you, that鈥斺 he touched the back of his neck. 鈥淚t means a lot to me. Also, ignore Cash; he鈥檚 just jealous he has no discernible skills of his own.鈥
Cash threw up his hands in exasperation.
鈥淚鈥檓 literally a classically-trained sommelier?鈥
鈥淧lease,鈥 Azriel said breezily. 鈥淎nyone can drink wine.鈥
鈥淭here are only 229 Master Somms the world!鈥
Azriel only raised a skeptical brow.
鈥淪ounds fake, but okay.鈥
When Cash rolled his eyes Azriel seemed to relax, smile growing enough to reveal his beautifully straight teeth.
鈥淚t鈥檚 good to see you, brother,鈥 he said, making Cash grin as well.
鈥淚 would say the same, but after that I鈥檓 not so sure.鈥
鈥淵ou are such a drama queen,鈥 Azriel said.
鈥淵ou mean drama king?鈥 Cash ventured.
鈥淨ueen,鈥 Azriel and Nesta echoed at the same time, making Azriel laugh softly.
鈥淪ee, Nesta gets it.鈥
It was a sound that鈥攁 year ago鈥攎ight have made even Nesta鈥檚 knees go a bit weak. Now, she just found herself glad this was going as well as it was.
鈥淗appy birthday, by the way,鈥 Azriel said. 鈥淵ou鈥檙e handling it remarkably well considering the fuss Cash likes to make.鈥
鈥淵ou too?鈥 Nesta said, and Azriel gave a soft wince as Cash grinned fiendishly.
鈥淔or Az鈥檚 twenty-fifth Rhys and I kidnapped him and took him to Ibiza.鈥
Azriel shuddered, and Nesta didn鈥檛 think it was entirely for show.
鈥淚 hate clubbing. Always so much fake smoke and glitter.鈥
鈥淪ee,鈥 Nesta said with a smirk. 鈥淎zriel gets it.鈥
鈥淲hat have I done, introducing you two?鈥
鈥淣othing that can be undone now,鈥 Azriel said. 鈥淐ome to the workshop; I actually just finished, and I can鈥檛 wait for you to see it.鈥
Nesta felt a twinge of unease at the idea of a gift, but she didn鈥檛 know how to voice her objection without offending Azriel and decided to stay silent instead.
Cash gingerly pulled the cover over the FUD again before offering Nesta a hand as they followed Azriel. For a moment she wondered if she should take it before realizing it didn鈥檛 matter. All that did matter was that she wanted to.
So she let him intertwine their fingers as they followed Azriel through a glass hallway that connected the garage to the rest of the house and, presumably, his studio. It was a gorgeously-appointed space, exactly what she would have expected from a designer of his caliber.
Cash offered casual observations as they walked, pointing out the set of original Picasso sketches Rhys had gifted Azriel after he鈥檇 made his first major sale and a beautiful Eames lounger, which Az had evidently sworn no one would be allowed to sit in when he鈥檇 first bought it. There was currently a squash-faced cat asleep on the chair鈥檚 accompanying ottoman.
鈥淏eans,鈥 Azriel snarled, gently tipping the cat off the ottoman with a nudge of his work boot. 鈥淭he Eames is a piece of living art. Have some respect.鈥
Beans鈥檚 only reaction was a disinterested snarl of his own.
鈥淚 didn鈥檛 imagine you as a pet owner,鈥 Nesta admitted as Azriel鈥檚 shooed the cat out of the den and into the open-plan kitchen.
鈥淏eans isn鈥檛 my cat,鈥 Azriel said immediately. At seeing Nesta鈥檚 bemused expression he went on, 鈥淚 made the mistake of feeding him once like a year ago, and somehow he lives here now. Believe me, I would get rid of him if I thought I could.鈥
Cash bubbled his lips.
鈥淣o you wouldn鈥檛, you big softie. You love that evil furball.鈥
Azriel rubbed the back of his neck as he huffed a sheepish laugh.
鈥淗e doesn鈥檛 like it when there are strangers in the house for too long. He gets grouchy and it鈥攕cares people.鈥
Before Nesta could feel awkward that she was going to upset Azriel Macar鈥檚 cat, Cash grinned.
鈥淗e doesn鈥檛 like when women spend the night, you mean. Maybe it鈥檚 all the noise that upsets him. You always seem to go for the screamers.鈥
Azriel鈥檚 cheeks flushed.
鈥淣o, I don鈥檛鈥斺 he broke off, huffing. 鈥淚f you report any of this back to Mor, I will kill you.鈥
鈥淲hy? If she knew you were getting laid, she might get off your back about meeting someone.鈥
Azriel鈥檚 blush went impossibly deeper, and he tossed Nesta a quick, urgent glance. She wasn鈥檛 sure if it had been a plea for help or a gauge to determine how she was interpreting this new information.
Deciding to take pity she chimed in, 鈥淐ash is probably just trying to live through you. He hadn鈥檛 gotten any in months.鈥
Cash鈥檚 grin grew wolfish as his gaze swiveled to rest on her instead.
鈥淎nd how would you know?鈥
His tone was low and honeyed, and had she been a lesser, more malleable creature, Nesta鈥檚 knees may have gone weak. Instead, she crossed her arms and flashed him a sardonic smile.
鈥淚 know all.鈥
鈥淚鈥檒l try not to be flattered by the idea you鈥檙e keeping tabs on my sex life,鈥 he crooned. 鈥淣o promises, though.鈥
Nesta savagely fought off the desire to push the issue, chiding herself for her almost-pathological need to prove she was right. 聽Besides, if she felt like being honest with herself, that wasn鈥檛 the only or even the main reason she wanted to hear the answer. In the end, it was only the fear of hearing an answer she didn鈥檛 like that held her back from asking. Instead she rolled her eyes.
鈥淓nough about my nonexistent love life,鈥 Cash said, offering Nesta a hand down the several steps into the studio before sliding behind her to cover her eyes. 鈥淚t鈥檚 showtime.鈥
With a gentle hand at her back Cash ushered her forward, and she listened to the sound of a sheet being pulled off as Cash squeezed her free hand once.
鈥淎re you ready?鈥 He said, leaning in so his breath brushed her ear.
Nesta fended off a pleasurable shudder.
鈥淵es,鈥 she said. 鈥淭he sooner I can see how beautiful and expensive it is, the sooner I can start working through my鈥斺
Cash dropped his hand from her eyes, and she felt the retort curling up like burnt paper on her tongue as she took in the piece of furniture prominently displayed on the workshop pedestal. What she鈥檇 expected was one of Azriel鈥檚 original designs, modern and sleek. What she got was so much better than even that.
There, in the middle of the studio, stood her grandmother Saraiva鈥檚 walnut bookcase, the same one which had been broken during the struggle with Tom谩s all those months ago.
It had been masterfully reassembled, the seams where the wood had been glued back together so neat that they were impossible to spot unless you knew where to look. And the parts like the figural Atlantes columns and decorative frieze鈥攚hich Tom谩s had made sure to destroy after the fact鈥攚ere so precisely rendered and stained that they looked original to the piece.
Nesta couldn鈥檛 fight the tears which blurred in her eyes as she stepped forward to brush a hand along the polished wood. She could still picture where it had stood in her grandparent鈥檚 house in Braga, its shelves filled with classics her av么 had taught as a professor of antiquities in Coimbra before his retirement.
She was so lost in the memory of it that she barely noticed when Azriel鈥檚 phone began to ring and he excused himself to answer it. However, she found her composure slipping as the door snicked quietly shut behind him and she finally turned to face Cash.
Perhaps she鈥檇 been secretly waiting for Azriel to leave, not wanting an audience for what happened next. Her throat grew almost unbearably tight as she met Cash鈥檚 eye, and one syllable was all she managed to choke out.
鈥淗ow?鈥
Cash bit his lip, seeming almost unsure.
鈥淚 had Ro鈥檚 guys collect the pieces after they鈥檇 processed the scene. I was going to tell you, but I wasn鈥檛 sure that Az could fix it and I didn鈥檛 want to get your hopes up. Do you鈥斺 he broke off, eyes desperately searching her face for a reaction. 鈥淒o you like it?鈥
Nesta felt herself break at that鈥攁t the quiet hope in his tone鈥攁nd she pressed forward, burying her head into his chest as she let out a little sob.
His body seemed to unwind as his arms came effortlessly around her shoulders, his scent enveloping her and making her feel more safe than she swore she鈥檇 ever been.
鈥淚 could never bring myself to put something in the spot it had been,鈥 she said through her tears. 鈥淓ven after all this time, I didn鈥檛 want to admit it was really gone.鈥
Cash rested his cheek against her temple.
鈥淚 know,鈥 he said quietly, stroking her hair.
Nesta wanted to tell him that he always did seem to know what it was she needed, and how much she adored him for it. However, her throat was still too tight for words, so she settled for squeezing him tighter.
鈥淭hank you, Cash,鈥 she said, tipping her head back to look at him. 鈥淚t鈥檚 perfect.鈥
His face was solemn but still achingly handsome as he touched her cheek.
鈥淚 know there are still hard days for you, but I wanted you to be able to look at this bookcase and know that there is nothing so broken that it can鈥檛 still be fixed.鈥
She tightened her grip around his waist as a fresh wave of tears flooded her vision. They skidded down her cheeks as she nodded her wordless assent, and she made no move to stop Cash when he wiped each away. Nesta wasn鈥檛 sure how long they stood there waiting for her tears to stop, but when she finally did feel calm enough to pull away, it was to find Cash smiling at her, the twinkle back in his eye.
鈥淪o,鈥 he said, raising his eyebrows. 鈥淪urprised?鈥
Nesta let out an unexpected laugh as she wiped the mascara from beneath her eyes.
鈥淪hocked,鈥 she admitted, and his grin broadened.
鈥淚 should have gotten a recording of that for posterity.鈥
鈥淵ou should have,鈥 she agreed, smiling as well. 鈥淏ecause I will deny it if asked.鈥
鈥淭here鈥檚 my girl,鈥 Cash said, though his voice had taken on a reverence that hadn鈥檛 been there a moment earlier. A year ago, Nesta would have snarled at him for it. Today, all she managed was a slight flush.
She felt herself slipping into the familiar eddy of their mutual attraction as she met Cash鈥檚 gaze again, and she couldn鈥檛 decide if she was relieved or frustrated when Azriel slipped back into the studio, causing Cash to take a casual step back.
Though mild, Azriel鈥檚 expression when he looked at Nesta seemed best described as apologetic, as if he expected her to start castigating him for ruining her family heirloom. Aware that her own expression might be conveying that very thing鈥攁lbeit unwittingly鈥攕he softened, offering him a small smile.
鈥淭hank you,鈥 she said, surprised at how steady her voice sounded. 鈥淚t鈥檚 so lovely.鈥
Azriel rubbed the back of his neck.
鈥淚 haven鈥檛 done figure work since design school,鈥 he said in deflection, gesturing to the two Atlases. 鈥淎nd I had to do a bit of guessing on the frieze. The photo your sister gave Cash was at a downward angle.鈥
Nesta turned to Cash, thunderstruck.
鈥淓lain is in on this?鈥
Cash grinned.
鈥淢y partner in crime? Of course she is.鈥
鈥淪he鈥檚 usually terrible at keeping secrets!鈥
At this Cash鈥檚 feral amusement softened slightly.
鈥淪he knew what it would mean to you,鈥 he said.
Nesta鈥檚 eyes began stinging again, but she shrugged the feeling off, not wanting to cry anymore.
鈥淲ell congratulations, then,鈥 she said, and she could tell from Cash鈥檚 answering smirk that he鈥檇 sensed she didn鈥檛 want to dwell in deep emotion anymore. 鈥淵ou win this round .鈥
Cash looked over his shoulder in bewilderment before pointing to himself.
鈥淚鈥檓 sorry, are you talking to...me?鈥
鈥淒on鈥檛 be glib,鈥 she warned, but he only offered her a flash of pearly teeth as he put a finger behind his ear.
鈥淒id I hear that correctly? Nesta Archeron admitting I won? Man, is it your birthday or mine, because this is the best day of my life.鈥
Nesta pursed her lips and turned the Azriel, who was leaning in the doorway with arms crossed, a silent observer to their tete-a-tete.
鈥淗as he always been this insufferable?鈥
Azriel shrugged, though the corner of his mouth curled up slightly as he said, 鈥淚 would say no, but I don鈥檛 want you to be unrealistic in your expectations; Cash is an incredibly sore winner.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 not worse than Rhys.鈥
Azriel bubbled his lips.
鈥淟ow bar, brother.鈥
鈥淚 can鈥檛 pretend I鈥檓 not intrigued,鈥 Nesta said. 鈥淗e sounds like a fascinating creature, if only from a sociological perspective.鈥
Cash clapped a joking hand over her mouth.
鈥淒on鈥檛 even say that out loud, lest he should be summoned here by the sound of a beautiful woman saying his name. We鈥檇 never hear the end of it.鈥
鈥淓thically dubious to compare your Persian friend to a genie,鈥 Azriel pointed out, though his expression remained playful.
鈥淎 genie? No way, I meant like Beetlejuice.鈥
Azriel laughed, shaking his head.
鈥淪o where are you two going to dinner?鈥
Cash and Nesta spoke at the same time.
鈥淣obu.鈥
鈥淟a Boucherie.鈥
When Nesta whirled on Cash, mouth open in wordless protest, he gave her a triumphant smirk.
鈥淥ops, did I say 鈥榮ushi鈥? I meant French.鈥
Nesta punched him in the arm.
鈥淵ou unprincipled swine! You lied to me!鈥
鈥淎h, ah,鈥 Cash said. 鈥淣ot lied. I implied sushi, and when you objected I said you鈥檇 feel sheepish, which now鈥攐f course鈥攜ou do.鈥 He closed her still-open mouth with a finger under her chin before tapping her nose. 鈥淐heckmate, gorgeous.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e a vile wretch,鈥 Nesta said, though she couldn鈥檛 deny being impressed. It wasn鈥檛 often that someone got the best of her in a nefarious scheme.
鈥淗ave you been to La Boucherie, Nesta?鈥 Azriel interrupted. 鈥淭he food is divine.鈥
鈥淎nd it has the best wine list in the city,鈥 Cash said. 鈥淵ou should have known better, Nes. You think I would take you to a place I couldn鈥檛 show off? I don鈥檛 know enough about sak茅 for that.鈥
鈥淵ou should,鈥 Azriel said, arms still crossed. 鈥淵ou鈥檝e certainly bombed enough of it in your day.鈥
鈥淒on鈥檛 you have a nighttime guest you should be preparing for?鈥
At this, Azriel blushed, the color flooding his cheeks a stunning compliment to the burnished undertone of his skin.
鈥淚鈥檓 with Nesta,鈥 he said. 鈥淵ou鈥檙e a vile wretch.鈥
鈥淚 love you, too, handsome,鈥 Cash said, blowing Azriel a mocking kiss. 鈥淵ou ready?鈥
As he turned to offer Nesta his arm, she had a revelation.
鈥淐ash, I can鈥檛 go to a steak dinner; I鈥檓 in jeans!鈥
鈥淎h yes, I was wondering when that would come up! Don鈥檛 worry, my co-conspirator has it handled. There鈥檚 an outfit waiting for you at the hotel.鈥
鈥淗otel?鈥 Nesta snarled. 鈥淐assian!鈥
鈥淵ou can鈥檛 expect us to have a boozy dinner and then drive five hours back to San Francisco! Don鈥檛 worry, I got us separate rooms so you won鈥檛 be tempted to spy on me when I鈥檓 in the shower.鈥
鈥淔ine,鈥 she said, ill-at-ease with the idea of being fussed over, even if some part of her liked that it was Cash who was doing the fussing. 鈥淭hen you have to let me pay for dinner.鈥
Cash rolled his eyes.
鈥淥n your birthday? Be reasonable, Archeron.鈥
鈥淵ou can鈥檛 puppy-guard the table forever; the minute you drink too much and go to the restroom, I will make sure the server understands the consequences should the check be placed in the wrong hands at the end of the meal.鈥
Cash鈥檚 eyes danced with mischief as he crossed his arms and took a step closer.
鈥淪o cute of you to think I didn鈥檛 put my card in the file when I made the reservation. There won鈥檛 even be a check, darling.鈥
鈥淯gh!鈥
Cash glanced around appreciatively.
鈥淚s this how it feels to be you, always ten steps ahead of everyone else? I could definitely get used to this.鈥
鈥淚鈥檒l get my revenge,鈥 Nesta promised. 鈥淚鈥檓 going to buy you a yacht for your birthday.鈥
Cash鈥檚 face melted into an expression of melodramatic horror.
鈥淥h no, not a yacht. Please, Nes, spare me the indignity!鈥
鈥淚f he doesn鈥檛 want it,鈥 Azriel chimed in. 鈥淚鈥檒l take it.鈥
Cash grinned.
鈥淵our female friends would just love that, wouldn鈥檛 they?鈥
鈥淲ill you knock it off,鈥 Azriel snarled quietly, face flushed again. He turned to Nesta. 鈥淚鈥檓 not鈥斺 he cleared his throat, clearly miserable, and Nesta felt for him.
鈥淚 know,鈥 she said.
She considered adding that he ought to come to San Francisco soon meet Elain before quickly deciding against it. Cash鈥檚 best friend or no, it was a bit of an overstep to suggest this stranger date her sister. Still, he was just as Cash described: kind and unassuming with dark hair and what was clearly a heart of gold. Even by Nesta鈥檚 stringent standards he seemed to pass muster. And if he were to start seeing Elain, she would have an excuse to have Cash around even more often...
鈥淵ou ready, love?鈥 Cash asked, drawing her from her reverie.
She debated snapping at him for it just to prove she still could, though it seemed a poor ruse for the truth: she loved when he called her that, and she hoped he never stopped.
鈥淚t was nice meeting you,鈥 she said to Azriel. 鈥淎nd thank you for the bookcase. It鈥檚鈥erfect.鈥
Azriel rubbed the back on his neck again, even as he flashed her a bashful smile.
鈥淢y pleasure.鈥
鈥淵ou need to come up to San Fran for dinner sometime, brother,鈥 Cash said. 鈥淣esta鈥檚 sister Elain is in grad school for Art History, I think she鈥檇 be elated to have someone to talk to about design.鈥
Cash shot Nesta a wink over Azriel鈥檚 head. The latter鈥攖rue to form鈥攐nly flushed.
鈥淚 think I鈥檇 embarrass her with how little I know about actual art,鈥 he demurred.
鈥淲ell then you鈥檒l just have to come for the excellent wine.鈥
Azriel rolled his eyes but nodded, full lips etched with the shadow of a smile.
鈥淔inally, something I know I can handle.鈥
Cash laughed, patting Azriel鈥檚 cheek before being batted away.
鈥淣esta,鈥 Azriel said, giving Cash a hearty shove as he tried to wrestle Azriel into a hug. 鈥淗appy Birthday, sorry you have to spend it with this asshole. I will have my guys deliver the bookcase this week.鈥
Nesta nodded, throat getting tight as she admired the beautiful job Azriel had done.
鈥淭hank you again. It鈥檚鈥擨 couldn鈥檛 have asked for anything better.鈥
鈥淭hank Cash,鈥 Azriel said, voice soft. 鈥淗e was the mastermind. I鈥檓 just the loyal henchman.鈥
Nesta turned to offer Cash a smile, her hand coming to rest on his forearm.
鈥淭hank you,鈥 she said. 鈥淔or all your masterminding.鈥
She bathed in the warmth of his eyes as they skidded back and forth across her face and he said, 鈥淔or you Nesta Archeron? Anything.鈥
Nesta couldn鈥檛 help but preen a bit at that, even as she tried to remind herself not to do anything she might later regret. Sure, Cash was gorgeous, and generous, and funny, and wonderful. But he was also her friend, and she couldn鈥檛鈥攕he wouldn鈥檛鈥攍ose him now.
So she forced herself to step back, giving the bookcase a final, loving stroke before ascending the stairs out of the studio.
鈥淲ould you join us for a drink before dinner?鈥 she said to Azriel, wanting to ensure she鈥檇 properly won him over for Cash鈥檚 sake.
鈥淚鈥檇 love to,鈥 Azriel said, hand at his neck again. 鈥淏ut I have some things I need to get done in the studio tonight. Thank you, though.鈥
鈥淟iar,鈥 Cash said, grinning. 鈥淲hat鈥檚 her name?鈥
鈥淣one of your business and also I have no idea what you鈥檙e talking about,鈥 Azriel said archly. 鈥淣ow get out before you upset Beans. Nesta, feel free to hang around as long as you like; Cash can wait on the curb.鈥
Cash laughed, stringing a gentle arm around Nesta鈥檚 shoulders.
鈥淭rying to steal my best girl, Az?鈥
鈥淒on鈥檛 be a clown,鈥 Nesta said, not wanting to acknowledge the way those words flooded through her.
Despite all Cash鈥檚 flirting and long looks, he鈥檇 never once made a move; if that didn鈥檛 prove his lack of amorous intentions towards her, nothing would. Nesta often assured herself that that was how she wanted it between her and Cash, if only to keep the twinge of the alternative at bay.
鈥淐鈥檓on, troublemaker,鈥 she said, taking Cash鈥檚 arm and smiling at Azriel. 鈥淎zriel, Cash鈥檚 offer stands. Come to San Francisco anytime.鈥
He smiled, waving as they got back into Cash鈥檚 jeep.
鈥淟ooking forward to it.鈥
Nesta and Cash dipped into a comfortable silence on the drive to the hotel, and Nesta felt her heart swell almost painfully as the impact of Cash鈥檚 gift swept over her a second time. That he鈥檇 thought鈥攅ven with everything else going on that night鈥攖o collect the pieces of her grandmother鈥檚 bookcase, that he鈥檇 thought to collect them at all...He鈥檇 never been to her house before the night of the attack, never heard her talk about the piece or what it meant to her family.
Perhaps it was a fitting metaphor for Cash鈥檚 presence in her life: from the day she鈥檇 first met him and he鈥檇 poured her that glass of French red, Cash had understood her implicitly. He was always quick to ask what she needed, but most of the time he needn鈥檛 have bothered; he seemed to know her better than she knew herself.
It was only when she realized she鈥檇 been staring that Nesta pulled back from her musings. Cash, it turned out, had been watching her as well, and he gave her an odd smile as he shook his head.
鈥淯h-oh,鈥 he said. 鈥淚 know that look.鈥
Nesta鈥檚 mouth went suddenly dry, but she forced herself not to react beyond a raised brow.
鈥淕o on, then, Madame Zora; what look is that?鈥
鈥淭he 鈥楢zriel Macar is gorgeous鈥 look.鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 not better-looking than you,鈥 Nesta blurted.
Cash鈥檚 grin faded from impish to slightly awed, and Nesta鈥檚 cheeks were suddenly on fire. 鈥淥h, don鈥檛 get excited; you know you鈥檙e handsome.鈥
鈥淥f course I do,鈥 he said. 鈥淏ut you鈥檝e never given me any indication that you think so.鈥
鈥淚 didn鈥檛 realize your ego was so fragile, Cash.鈥
鈥淥h, like brittle glass. Kiss it better?鈥
She rolled her eyes as they pulled into the valet of the Intercontinental in downtown LA.
鈥淭hat metaphor doesn鈥檛 even make sense,鈥 she pointed out.
鈥淣ot everything has to,鈥 Cash said, hopping out before opening her own door for her. 鈥淪hall we?鈥
True to his word, Cash had gotten them two separate rooms, albeit side-by-side. A neatly-packed overnight bag had been waiting in Nesta鈥檚, one of her favorite Dolce & Gabbana cocktail dresses tucked inside. It was calf-length and made of midnight blue silk, fitting through the thighs before belling into a tasteful ruffle at the hem.
It wasn鈥檛 just Cash who knew her well, Nesta decided as she admired the way the dress hugged her slender silhouette; it was exactly the dress she would have picked for herself had she known where she鈥檇 be going tonight. Thanking Elain for her keen sense of observation, Nesta freshened her makeup and put on the diamond drop earrings her sister had included before making her way to the 70th floor of the hotel where La Boucherie, the famed french steakhouse, resided.
Cash was leaning on the host stand chatting to a preening waitress when Nesta arrived, though he quickly fell silent as he turned and took Nesta in.
鈥淵ou look鈥斺 he began, throat bobbing slightly as he swallowed. 鈥淣es, you look gorgeous.鈥
鈥淚 know,鈥 she said. 鈥淏ut thank you.鈥
He must have just put on cologne, and the smell鈥攃ool and sharp鈥攚as like satin sliding on bare skin as he leaned in to kiss her cheek. Nesta felt her own prickle in response.
鈥淪hall we, then?鈥 Cash said, his fingers just barely brushing the small of her back.
鈥淟ead on.鈥
He smiled, gesturing for her to follow the slightly-disgruntled waitress as she seated them at an intimate bistro table near the wall of windows overlooking the glittering lights of Los Angeles. The girl continued to try and catch Cash鈥檚 eye as she handed them both menus and rattled off the specials, but Nesta found she couldn鈥檛 bring herself to listen or care. Instead her focus was fixed on Cash, who was studying her with similar appreciation.
Nesta thought again of the girl Cash might end up with, unsurprised at the pang the idea caused. Still, she would force herself to accept it when the time came; Nesta could only pray she鈥檇 been less annoying than this twit.
Unable to take it anymore, Nesta interrupted.
鈥淕reat, thank you so much for your expertise, can you bring us a wine menu?鈥
The girl didn鈥檛 bother to hide her disappointment as she offered Nesta a fake smile and stalked off.
鈥淚 think I upset your girlfriend,鈥 she said when they were alone again.
Cash laughed.
鈥淭oo young, too blonde, and too boring. Besides, only room for one girl in my life tonight.鈥
Nesta bit her lip to keep in a smile.
鈥淒o you practice these lines, or are most of them off the cuff?鈥
鈥淚t鈥檚 a mix,鈥 he said, opening his menu. 鈥淲hat are you in the mood for?鈥
Nesta flipped open her own menu, making a quick scan before gritting her teeth. There were no prices listed. When she glanced up to give Cash a murderous look, he merely smiled.
鈥淚 had them print a special menu that excluded pricing. I knew you鈥檇 try and go the 鈥榣ess expensive entree on the menu鈥 route, but I also know you aren鈥檛 so boorish that you鈥檇 ask the waiter what their cheapest dish is.鈥
鈥淛ust how long have you been planning this?鈥
He leaned in, his earrings burnished by the low light of the chandeliers overhead.
鈥淚f I say 鈥榯he day we met鈥, is that creepy?鈥
鈥淵es!鈥 she snarled.
鈥淥kay great. Then about two months.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e a bastard.鈥
鈥淚 still don鈥檛 fully understand your aversion to gifts, but it鈥檚 something I鈥檓 hoping we can get to this evening, maybe after a bottle or two of wine.鈥
Cash had just opened the newly-dropped off wine list when Nesta snatched it away.
鈥淣ot so fast, maestro.鈥
She gestured over a reedy server.
鈥淚s your wine manager in? Would you mind sending him over?鈥
The man frowned.
鈥淚s everything鈥斺
鈥淥h fine,鈥 Nesta said brightly. 鈥淚 just need to test something.鈥
Still puzzled, the man gave a dubious nod and shuffled off.
Cash narrowed his eyes, still smiling.
鈥淵ou tricky minx; what are you up to?鈥
She gave him a cat-like smirk.
鈥淵ou鈥檒l see.鈥
When the wine manager鈥攁 gentleman in his early fifties with salt-and-pepper hair and a kind smile鈥攁rrived, Nesta pulled him aside to explain what she wanted before he was off again. She resettled in her seat, her smile gone slightly wicked now as Cash studied her. After a second he relented, laughing in realization.
鈥淵ou don鈥檛 think I can do it.鈥
She rested her chin in her fist, amusement growing. 鈥淒o what?鈥
鈥淲hat,鈥 he said, leaning in as well. 鈥淵ou think they just gave me that Master Somm pin for being cute?鈥
鈥淪o you really think you can identify a wine just by tasting it?鈥
鈥淚 guess you鈥檙e about to find out,鈥 Cash said with a grin as two glasses of red were set on the table, the wine manager slipping a piece of paper into Nesta鈥檚 hand.
She read it quickly before tucking it into her dress. Cash watched her do it with undisguised male appreciation before turning to his glass. He studied his it for a moment, smoothing his hands across his grey slacks as he took a deep breath.
鈥淕o on, then,鈥 Nesta said, chin still propped in a fist. 鈥淒azzle me.鈥
Cash laughed, though he seemed less sure of himself than usual.
鈥淥kay, here I go,鈥 he said before quietly adding to himself, 鈥渞eally hope I don鈥檛 make an ass out of myself.鈥
鈥淒on鈥檛 forget to show your work,鈥 Nesta said, wanting to listen as he worked his way through it鈥.if he could.
Holding up the glass, he studied the color under the dying light of the spectacular California sunset.
鈥淚t鈥檚 not a pinot,鈥 he began. 鈥淭he color is wrong.鈥
鈥淲rong how?鈥 Nesta prompted, ever the curious student.
鈥淎 young pinot is almost pink, and an older pinot is rust-colored. I would say it鈥檚 probably not a Merlot or young Cab, either, but that鈥檚 getting ahead of myself.鈥
She watched as he swirled the wine, studying the way it clung to the glass鈥檚 side.
鈥淧robably between 14-15% ABV.鈥
He paused to grin at her.
鈥淒amn, sister, you trying to get me drunk?鈥
Nesta smirked.
鈥淨uit stalling.鈥
He gave the wine another swirl with an elegant flick of his wrist before taking a sip and holding it on his tongue.
鈥淥ld World,鈥 he said immediately.
鈥淗ow do you know?鈥
鈥淣ew World wine is all about experimentation and creativity. That鈥檚 why they are usually so lush and fruit-forward; they鈥檙e an expression of the winemaker鈥檚 imagination.鈥
鈥淎nd Old World?鈥
鈥淥ld World wine is an expression of the grape itself. A love-letter to earth in which the grape is grown. It鈥檚 called鈥斺
鈥淭errior,鈥 Nesta finished.
Cash grinned.
鈥淢y star pupil. This is too subtle and too refined to be New World.鈥
Cash took another sip, holding the wine on his tongue.
鈥淚t鈥檚 got a beautiful body,鈥 he said, pausing to wink at her in a not-so-subtle insinuation that he thought she did, too. She ignored the way that made her belly tighten.
鈥淚t鈥檚 dry, but not enough to make your mouth pucker,鈥 he went on. 鈥淭annic, but not enough to give you a massive headache. It鈥檚 a blend.鈥
He studied the color again, a rich burgundy which glittered with a cardinal red undertone in the light.
鈥淭he predominant grape is definitely Granache. Secondary grape could be Mourvedre, or maybe Syrah?鈥
鈥淎ppellation?鈥
鈥淔rance,鈥 Cash said. 鈥淪outhern France. There is herb de provence and olive with the fruit.鈥
鈥淲hich are?鈥
鈥淒ark berries. Black cherry and grilled plum, I think? I don鈥檛 know, plum always gets me.鈥
He paused long enough to make her smile.
鈥淭hat all you got, Maestro?鈥
His expression melted to a bronzed grin, as if he鈥檇 simply been waiting for her to ask.
鈥淥f course not. The body opens up the longer it sits, which means the grape has really had time to develop. That is achieved through temperature. It can鈥檛 be too hot or the grape will wither. Too cold and they will ice over and make Madeira.鈥
鈥淚 get it, Goldilocks; they have to be just right.鈥
鈥淓xactly. And you know what makes the grapes just right? Galets roul茅s. Smooth pebbles that absorb heat from the sun and release the heat overnight, keeping the grape right in the sweet spot. Galets roul茅s are naturally occuring in the soil. Ask me where they come from.鈥
She rolled her eyes, even as her pulse trilled. Watching him work through this was quite possibly the sexiest thing she鈥檇 ever seen.
鈥淲here do they come from?鈥
鈥淭hey鈥檙e river stones, worn down over time by the freeze and flow of the river. But not any river, the Rhone river in Southern France. And while you sometimes see the effects of galets roul茅s in wine from the C么tes du Rh么ne, the sub-appellation most famous for galets roul茅s, especially in Grenache, is Ch芒teauneuf-du-Pape. A lot of great winemakers in that area, but the most refined wines鈥攖he most seductive鈥攁re from a father/daughter vineyard called Domaine du Pegau.鈥
Cash paused to grin, his teeth diamond-bright under the glow of the chandeliers.
鈥淭his is a Domaine du Pegau Cuv茅e R茅serv茅e. Now vintage, I admit, is not my strongest suit, but gun to my head, I am going to say this is鈥︹ he paused, head weaving back and forth in consideration. 鈥淚t鈥檚 so damn good, I鈥檓 going to say it鈥檚 a 2016.鈥
Nesta couldn鈥檛 help it; by the time he鈥檇 finished, her mouth was slightly agape, but she couldn鈥檛 even grasp her thoughts enough to make a witty retort.
Cash鈥檚 smile was feline as he said, 鈥淚鈥檓 going to guess from the adorable look on your face that I鈥檓 right.鈥
鈥淗ow did you do that? That was鈥斺
When she broke off, Cash rubbed his hands together theatrically.
鈥淥h boy, here it comes: my first Nesta Archeron compliment!鈥
鈥淚鈥檝e never seen anything like that before.鈥
Cash blew a good-natured raspberry.
鈥淪ort of lackluster, but I鈥檒l take it.鈥
Just then the waiter passed by, and Cash caught the man by the elbow.
鈥淐an you bring us a bottle of the Domaine du Pegau Cuv茅e R茅serv茅e and a pair of bordeaux glasses?鈥
Nesta shook her head as the man disappeared and Cash continued grinning.
鈥淲ell what are you waiting for?鈥 he said, gesturing to her glass. 鈥淭ry it for yourself.鈥
Nesta took a sip and had to bite back her moan. It was amazing, made all the more satisfying by Cash鈥檚 impressive demonstration.
She almost said it then, almost told him what had increasingly been on her mind when they were together, and even when they weren鈥檛. It was, admittedly, the perfect place for it; the lights were low, the wine was flowing, and he was giving her that look he sometimes did, the one that made her feel as if she were the only woman on earth.
She wasn鈥檛 sure what was stopping her. Still, she felt the words tangled in her throat as she studied him. Cash was as close to perfect as she was certain men came, and the covetous part of her wanted to keep him all to herself.
But there was another part of her which looked back on her relationship with Tom谩s and wondered if his cancerous decline into abuse had somehow been her doing. If she鈥檇 pushed him too hard, demanded too much, subjected him to her punishing standard of perfection so long that he鈥檇 snapped. Perhaps it was just a result of his years of gaslighting, but it was a thought she had yet to fully shake, and if there was even a chance it was true鈥
She couldn鈥檛 bear to do the same thing to Cash.
鈥淓nough day-dreaming,鈥 Cash interrupted, holding up his glass to her. 鈥淟et鈥檚 celebrate.鈥
It wasn鈥檛 until several hours later that Nesta found herself heading back to her room, heels in her left hand and Cash鈥檚 in her right. She was swaying slightly from all the wine, but she was pleasantly surprised to find she wasn鈥檛 overly drunk, just...buzzy. It was a sensation which only increased as Cash squeezed her hand.
鈥淕ood birthday, then?鈥
She snorted, the sound turning to a laugh as she said, 鈥渁s far as such things go.鈥
He shook his head, still beaming. Nesta was honestly convinced he was the most handsome man on earth.
鈥淲hat am I going to do with you, Archeron?鈥
She had to bite down the several suggestions that came to mind as she found her door, turning to lean against it as she gazed up at Cash.
She was so often in heels that it was easy to forget how much bigger he was than her. With other men鈥攅ven ones like Rowan whom she trusted鈥攖hat often made her nervous. With Cash it made her feel...safe.
鈥淭hank you,鈥 she said, watching him through her lashes as he took a step closer. 鈥淚t really was a lovely day.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 glad,鈥 he said. 鈥淢aking you happy is...鈥
鈥淚s what?鈥 she prompted when he trailed off.
He laughed.
鈥淣ot easy to do.鈥
She couldn鈥檛 help it. She deflated a bit at that, even knowing it was true. She was prickly and could be exhausting even to the people that loved her. Cash was too good a guy to ever admit the burden of it, but she was sure it was heavy enough most days to give him a backache.
She tried to keep her face neutral, her smile easy, but Cash must have noticed the change in her.
鈥淔uck,鈥 he breathed, chancing another step forward. 鈥淚 have no idea why I said that. That was a complete lie. I鈥擨 just didn鈥檛 want to freak you out.鈥
鈥淲hat did you mean, then?鈥
His expression softened .
鈥淚 meant that making you happy is my favorite thing in the world. You鈥檙e incredible, Nesta. I don鈥檛 think you get told that enough, even by me.鈥
She flushed, the words from earlier rising again in her throat.
鈥淚 think you鈥檙e okay, too,鈥 she croaked out, and he laughed, seeming to relax.
鈥淭here she is. Happy birthday, Nes. Sleep well.鈥
He leaned in to kiss her cheek, his sharp jaw brushing her cheekbone as his lips met her skin. She wasn鈥檛 sure she was breathing as he lingered before finally pulling back.
She couldn鈥檛 help her gaze as it fell to his well-curved mouth, close enough to hers that she could feel his breath on her lips. Gentle shackling her wrist with a hand, he guided her arm above her head so her body naturally curved towards his.
鈥淣es,鈥 he breathed.
This was either the best or the worst idea Nesta had ever had, but at this point she was way too far gone to care. Cash slowly intertwined their fingers as he leaned in farther, her breasts nearly brushing his broad chest as her lips nearly brushed鈥
Nesta鈥檚 phone began quacking obnoxiously, a signal that Feyre was calling. The sound startled sense into her and she pushed Cash off with a nonchalant laugh, as if they hadn鈥檛 been about to cross that final line still drawn between them.
鈥淚f you鈥檇 like to be scarred for life,鈥 she said. 鈥淵ou can hang around and listen to Feyre sing.鈥
Cash laughed, too, the heat gone from his expression. Or perhaps she鈥檇 imagined it being there in the first place, and this had all been some sort of wine-soaked fever dream.
鈥淭hat bad?鈥
鈥淲orse.鈥
He laughed again, the sound easier this time.
鈥淚 think I鈥檒l have to pass; I want to be able to still look her in the eye.鈥
鈥淕ood choice,鈥 she said, sliding her key into the door. 鈥淪ee you tomorrow.鈥
鈥淪ee you then,鈥 he echoed. 鈥淲e can leave whenever you鈥檙e ready.鈥
She blew him what she hoped was a friendly鈥攆riendly?鈥 kiss before answering the phone and listening to Feyre鈥檚 pitchy, half-screamed happy birthday.
She found as she brushed her teeth and changed into her pajamas that she kept one ear trained on the door, waiting to see if there would be a knock. If there was, she decided, she would open it and let Cash in.
However, there was still nothing as she crawled into the plush bed an hour later, and she sang herself to sleep with the repeated lullaby that it was for the best, and she would be glad in the morning.
She and Cash鈥攖hey were just friends, and she could ask for nothing more from him than that.
xx
Cash knocked on the door of the townhouse, a crate of wine under one arm and flowers in the other, wishing he鈥檇 thought to spit out his gum. After weeks of playful begging from Nesta鈥檚 sisters to throw another party, he鈥檇 received an invitation (a literal, physical invitation printed on thick paper and sent through the mail) to one of Nesta鈥檚 famed dinner parties. He鈥檇 certainly been invited to dinner at her place before, but this felt different somehow. More...formal.
As much time as he spent with Nesta, he rarely interacted with her friends, and he sometimes wondered if she didn鈥檛 consider him fit for the polished, well-educated social circle she鈥檇 rekindled since breaking up with Tom谩s. Somm training aside, Cash had never been a particularly engaged student, and though he considered himself at least moderately intelligent, he certainly had no opinions on the merits of Russian literature or the philosophical theories of history鈥檚 greatest thinkers or whatever else it was you learned in college.
So when he鈥檇 received her invitation to this evening鈥檚 soiree, he felt the fear of his own inadequacy fade. If Nesta had been embarrassed of him, she never would have invited him, no matter the pressure her sisters or anyone else might put on her. 聽Cash only hoped her friend Clare wouldn鈥檛 be in attendance; it would be a nuisance if he had to fend off her attentions all night. Especially because鈥
Cash took a steadying breath as he heard soft footfall on the stairs. Especially because tonight, Cash had promised himself he鈥檇 finally sack up and tell Nesta how he felt.
He鈥檇 been putting it off since her birthday, not sure how to bring up what had happened without it seeming as if he鈥檇 only brought her to LA so he could sleep with her. It had never been his intention, and he couldn鈥檛 bear the possibility that Nesta might interpret it that way.
Still, that was not to say he wouldn鈥檛 have, had things gone differently that night. Before Feyre had called, Cash had been more than ready to take Nesta to bed and worship her the way he was confident only he could. But then they鈥檇 been interrupted, and Nesta had pushed him off like it had been a misunderstanding鈥
He鈥檇 debated for almost an hour if he wanted to go back and knock on her door, though whether to explain himself or kiss her senseless, he didn鈥檛 know. In the end, he couldn鈥檛 find a way to broach the subject without possibly offending her, and he鈥檇 decided it hadn鈥檛 been worth the risk of ruining what had otherwise been an incredibly lovely evening.
It was a decision that had haunted him in the weeks since, and he was determined to remedy his mistake tonight. Not by sleeping with her鈥攖hough the prospect was sorely tempting鈥攂ut by finally admitting just how hard he鈥檇 fallen for her. Besides, he was running out of time. A few more weeks and he was afraid Aelin was going to tell Nesta everything herself, strangers or no.
He couldn鈥檛 help but grin as the door swung in to reveal a smirking Nesta, her mouth painted with a beguiling red lipstick he wanted to kiss off her.
鈥淢y hero,鈥 she said in greeting, gesturing to the crate in his arms before noticing the flowers and going still.
鈥淭hese are for you,鈥 he said, extending them to her.
Her cheeks went the same petal pink as the asiatic lilies in the bouquet.
鈥淭hey鈥檙e lovely,鈥 she said.
鈥淪o are you,鈥 he replied, loving the way her blush deepened.
鈥淭hank you,鈥 she said before quickly adding. 鈥淔or the flowers. The tawdy compliment, obviously, you can keep.鈥
He grinned.
鈥淧lease, you loved it.鈥
She glanced up at him through her lashes. Even in her heels she was considerably shorter than him.
鈥淢aybe,鈥 she admitted.
There was a beat of silence as they stood studying one another, and Cash weighed the merits of simply closing the distance between them and kissing her right there, on her front step. Before he could decide one way or another, they were interrupted with a call from the second floor.
鈥淨uit hoarding Cash!鈥
鈥淎nd the wine!鈥 A second voice added, and Nesta rolled her eyes, stepping aside to let Cash in.
He brushed kiss on her cheek as he did, remembering how close he鈥檇 come to the real thing in LA. He tried to shove the thought aside, but it lingered with renewed vigor as he followed her up the stairs and her perfect, heart-shaped ass was right at eye level.He could tell through the fabric of her slim-fitting dress that she must have been wearing a thong, and it was the most exquisite torture to imagine what she would look like in only a thong.
He cursed himself a swine as they emerged onto the second floor and he set down the wine, the smell of some sort of delicious braised meat hitting him a minute before Feyre did.
She practically leapt into his arms, and he had to bend his knees to absorb the unexpected impact as his arms came automatically around her.
鈥淰ery dignified,鈥 Nesta sniffed as she went in search of a vase for her bouquet.
Feyre only laughed.
鈥淚t feels like it鈥檚 been forever!鈥 she said, finally letting go and sliding to her bare feet. 鈥淚t gets boring here without you.鈥
Unlike Nesta, who鈥檇 dressed for the occasion in an elegant cocktail dress, Feyre was in faded leggings and a slouchy sweater, it鈥檚 sleeves slightly discolored by paint stains which had been washed over several times.
鈥淚t鈥檚 good to see you, too,鈥 Cash said, giving her hair a playful ruffle. 鈥淲hat did you do with Ellie?鈥
鈥淐inder-Elain is in the kitchen, and in desperate need of some wine,鈥 a voice called, and Cash laughed, cutting through the open-plan living/dining area to the enormous kitchen. Elain was at the stove, her hair in a messy braid and an apron reading, 鈥淏aci il Cuoco鈥, strung around her neck.
鈥淟ooks amazing,鈥 Cash said in greeting, doing as her apron instructed and kissing her on the cheek. 鈥淲hat are you making?鈥
鈥淥ssobuco with risotto alla milanese,鈥 she said, beaming. 鈥淚t鈥檚 a new recipe.鈥
Cash nodded.
鈥淚t must be the veal that smells so good.鈥
鈥淥h no!鈥 Elain said, her smile fading to an adorably pert frown. 鈥淚 could never eat a baby animal! I used short-ribs instead.鈥
鈥淓llie鈥檚 the only decent one of us,鈥 Nesta said, coming to stand next to Cash as he opened one of the bottles he鈥檇 brought and emptied it into a crystal decanter sitting on the gorgeously-appointed dining table. 鈥淚 would eat veal-stuffed lamb with a side foie gras and never lose a wink of sleep over it.鈥
鈥淭hat鈥檚 terrible,鈥 Elain snapped. 鈥淒o you know what they do to the ducks to fatten their livers?鈥
鈥淣othing I want to hear about before dinner,鈥 Feyre said. 聽鈥淲ho else are we waiting for, Nes?鈥
For a moment Cash felt unease sluice through him as he wondered if this wasn鈥檛 one of Nesta鈥檚 famed parties after all, and if she鈥檇 simply deflected by inviting him to a dinner (albeit a fancy one) with just her sisters.
However, the feeling quickly faded as Nesta said, 鈥淟ucien and Andy and Manon and her new boyfriend.鈥
鈥淣o Clare?鈥
Cash was halfway through a sigh of relief when Nesta added, 鈥淥h and Clare.鈥
Cash nearly dropped the bottle of sparkling rose he鈥檇 been in the middle of opening, and Nesta smirked.
鈥淵ou should have been clever and brought a buffer like Lucien.鈥
鈥淧oor Andy,鈥 Elain tutted. 鈥淗e has no idea what he鈥檚 in for.鈥
鈥淧oor Cash,鈥 Cash said. 鈥淗e doesn鈥檛 have a buffer!鈥
Feyre laughed as Elain said, eyes twinkling, 鈥淣es is your buffer.鈥
鈥淣es is the hostess,鈥 Nesta interrupted. 鈥淎nd as such she has to remain impartial.鈥
鈥淲hat鈥檚 Manon鈥檚 new boyfriend like? He should probably have been forewarned as well,鈥 Feyre pointed out.
Cash only laughed, pouring the ros茅 into flutes and passing them out.
鈥淚f Clare thinks she鈥檚 going to cross Manon and get away with it, God bless and keep her.鈥
鈥淚鈥檒l drink to that,鈥 Nesta said, raising her glass. 鈥淐heers.鈥
She caught Cash鈥檚 eye as they touched glasses and drank, and he tried not to dwell on her full lips as she took a sip, wondering what they might look like it they were wrapped around鈥
鈥淪o what do we know about this guy?鈥 Elain said.
鈥淥nly that we aren鈥檛 allowed to use the b-word, even though they鈥檝e been exclusive for months and Manon鈥檚 clearly in love.鈥
鈥淒idn鈥檛 think she had it in her,鈥 Cash muttered into his glass, earning a surprisingly painful punch on the arm from Nesta.
鈥淲hat else do you know about him?鈥 Feyre said. 鈥淚鈥檓 living through her.鈥
鈥淥h yeah, where鈥檚 your boy-toy?鈥 聽Cash asked Feyre.
鈥淲e broke up,鈥 she said airily.
鈥淭hank god,鈥 Nesta murmured, blowing Cash a kiss as he topped off her flute.
He wondered if she鈥檇 notice that he was serving the same Cuv茅e they鈥檇 drank on her birthday at dinner.
What was he saying; of course she would.This was Nesta he was talking about, and she missed nothing. He only hoped she鈥檇 understand the meaning behind that choice.
That night was one of the best of my life, and I want a thousand more like it.
鈥淗e was just so boring, Rae Rae,鈥 Elain added, drawing Cash from his own thoughts. 鈥淚 only talked to him for like ten minutes and I wanted to cry.鈥
Feyre opened her mouth, surely to tell Elain she was in no position to complain about other people鈥檚 boyfriends, when the doorbell rang.
Noting the tension, Nesta said, 鈥淔ey, will you get that please?鈥
Feyre rolled her eyes but did as she was told, at which point Elain went back to her cooking and Nesta turned to Cash.
鈥淵ou look nice, by the way,鈥 she said, absently running the lapel of his blazer between her middle and index fingers.
Cash considered pretending it was something he鈥檇 just thrown on. However, he realized it would be a giveaway to just how much time he had spent picking out something suitable, so instead he settled for, 鈥渟o do you.鈥
Nesta鈥檚 smile was feline, the heat in it enough to turn Cash鈥檚 legs to jelly.
鈥淒on鈥檛 I always?鈥 she said.
鈥淵es,鈥 he said candidly. 鈥淏ut this is鈥斺 he paused to admire the prussian blue dress she wore before throwing caution to the wind and brushing a casual hand down her side, as if he were merely admiring the fabric. 鈥溾攑articularly fetching.鈥
She tried to hide it, but he could see her preening a bit at the comment. As happy as it made him to see her smile like that, he also felt a dull rage rumble in his gut. Nesta had never admitted as much out loud, but he could tell Tom谩s had made a deliberate exercise of never paying Nesta compliments, and now鈥攄espite her bravura鈥攕he was unaccustomed to getting them.
Before he could debate pushing the issue by telling her how the dress set off her gorgeous gray-blue eyes, Elain interrupted with a delighted squeal.
Cash turned to watch two men鈥攐ne a tan redhead and the other a darker-skinned brunette鈥攕tep into the great room.
The redhead, Cash realized, was familiar, though he couldn鈥檛 say quite why.
鈥淟ucien!鈥 Elain said, skirting the marble island at which Cash and Nesta sat to hug the redhead.
Lucien.
Cash studied the man again as he tried to remember why that name sounded familiar. It hit him when the stranger turned to greet Nesta.
Lucien was Eris Vanserra鈥檚 little brother.
He gave Nesta a fleeting kiss on the cheek before turning to extend a hand to Cash.
鈥淟ucien.鈥
鈥淐ash,鈥 Cash said, and though he told himself not to, he couldn鈥檛 help adding, 鈥淵ou look just like your brother.鈥
鈥淗alf-brother,鈥 Lucien corrected archly, some of the light going out of brown eyes. 鈥淲e have different dads.鈥
A pointed distinction to prove he wasn鈥檛 Beron鈥檚 biological son. Upon further inspection, Cash could see it was true; while Lucien had Eris鈥檚 same auburn hair, his skin was a smooth shade of brown that no amount of time in the sun could ever produce, especially in a red head.
鈥淒on鈥檛 be grouchy, Luc. Eris is very handsome,鈥 Elain said, shooting Cash a conciliatory smile.
At this Lucien鈥檚 displeasure melted to a bronzed grin, as if he too wanted to avoid upsetting Elain.
鈥淗e鈥檇 be beside himself to hear you say that,鈥 he said, and she wrinkled her nose.
鈥淚 would literally rather die.鈥
鈥淚 still swear there鈥檚 a notebook hidden somewhere in his apartment with 鈥楳r. and Mrs. Elain Archeron鈥 scrawled all over it with hearts.鈥
鈥淟eave her alone,鈥 the dark-haired man offered, punching Lucien in the arm. 鈥淣o one wants to be pined after by your creep brother.鈥
鈥淗ere, here,鈥 Cash said, and the younger man smiled, pleased to have found an audience.
鈥淚鈥檓 Lucien鈥檚 friend, Andr谩s,鈥 he said, sticking out his hand.
Cash did the same, though Feyre cut him off before he could speak.
鈥淎ndr谩s?鈥 she repeated as they shook hands. 鈥淪o formal tonight!鈥
Andr谩s rolled his eyes.
鈥淢ostly I go by Andy,鈥 he explained.
鈥淣o, I like it,鈥 Feyre said. 鈥淎dds a certain gravitas to the proceedings. She turned to Cash, grinning. 鈥淢aybe we should be calling you Cassian tonight, too.鈥
鈥淥h god, please don鈥檛.鈥 To Andr谩s he added, 鈥渃all me Cash.鈥
Andr谩s鈥擜ndy, Cash corrected himself鈥攏odded, accepting a proffered flute from Feyre and holding it up in salute.
鈥淪o,鈥 Lucien said, taking a sip of his own glass before studying the contents appreciatively. 鈥淲hat time is the Wicked Witch of the East due to arrive?鈥
鈥淚f you mean Manon, she鈥檚 on her way,鈥 Nesta said before putting a finger in Lucien鈥檚 face. 鈥淎nd she鈥檚 bringing someone, so play nice.鈥
鈥淲ho is Manon?鈥 Andy asked.
Lucien was already shaking his head, a conspiratorial grin on his face.
鈥淎 sorceress of terrible power,鈥 he said, earning a slap upside the head from Nesta.
鈥淎nd you wonder why you鈥檙e still single,鈥 she snarled.
鈥淭hat鈥檚 easily remedied,鈥 Feyre pointed out with a beatific smile. 鈥淐lare鈥檚 coming tonight.鈥
Lucien鈥檚 smile only grew at this, and he could see why he was such good friends with the Archeron girls; he was as devious as they were.
鈥淚 have a feeling she鈥檒l be too distracted to care that I鈥檓 here,鈥 Lucien said, his smile turned on Cash now. 鈥淕ood luck.鈥
鈥淲ouldn鈥檛 be so sure,鈥 Elain said airily, even as her eyes flicked between Cash and Nesta. 鈥淪he doesn鈥檛 know you and Jes broke up yet.鈥
Some of the smugness drained from Lucien鈥檚 face.
鈥淵ou鈥檙e evil, Archeron.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 not the one who slept with her,鈥 Elain said, lips pursed. 鈥淚f you want her to stop chasing after you, stop sending her mixed signals.鈥
Lucien鈥檚 face tightened but he offered no retort, a signal that he knew Elain was right.
鈥淏ack to Manon,鈥 Feyre said. 鈥淲hat else do we know about this guy? What does he do?鈥
Cash tried not to seem overeager for the answer, hoping Nesta wouldn鈥檛 say he was an astrophysicist or some sort of 聽tech prodigy out of Silicon Valley.
鈥淗e plays hockey for the鈥rinces? I don鈥檛 know.鈥
鈥淭he Kings, you mean?鈥 Andy offered.
鈥淲hatever team plays in LA.鈥
鈥淭he Kings,鈥 all three guys said at once.
Cash could barely suppress his sigh of relief. A professional sports player he could definitely handle. Ordinarily he was more of a football fan, but he鈥檇 watched enough hockey this season to keep conversation flowing, provided the guy wasn鈥檛 a total prick.
鈥淲hat position?鈥 Andy asked. 鈥淎nyone we might have heard of?鈥
鈥淚s Center a position? I think that鈥檚 what he is. He鈥檚 a starter, I know that.鈥
Realization struck Cash, but it was Lucien who spoke first, demanding, 鈥淢anon is dating Dorian Havilliard?鈥
鈥淲hy?鈥 Feyre said with renewed interest. 鈥淲ho is that?鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 the next Wayne Gretsky,鈥 Andy supplied. 鈥淗ands-down the best player in the league right now.鈥
鈥淲estfall?鈥 Lucien countered, but Andy shook his head.
鈥淗avilliard is definitely better. Dude鈥檚 a stud.鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 handsome, too,鈥 Elain supplied, and when the boys gave her a quizzical look she clarified, 鈥淕raysen loves hockey.鈥
She ignored Lucien鈥檚 poorly-disguised cough of disapproval.
鈥淢anon鈥檚 a total badass,鈥 Feyre said in appreciation. 鈥淚鈥檓 not surprised she鈥檚 got some gorgeous millionaire panting after her.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e just as accomplished and beautiful as Manon. Maybe some gorgeous millionaire will fall for you, too,鈥 said Elain obligingly.
鈥淢ostly likely not, though,鈥 Lucien added, grinning again.
鈥淛ust for that,鈥 Feyre shot back. 鈥淚鈥檓 going to marry a billionaire, and I鈥檓 going to demand you to walk me down the aisle so I can remind you of this moment and say 鈥業 told you so.鈥欌
Lucien鈥檚 wicked amusement faded to something softer.
鈥淣o demanding necessary, Rae Rae,鈥 he said, chucking Feyre鈥檚 chin with the affection of an elder brother. 鈥淚鈥檇 be honored to give you away, even if you are marrying a billionaire and I have to endure a lifetime of 鈥業 told you so鈥檚 for it.鈥
鈥淟uckily Feyre doesn鈥檛 know any billionaires,鈥 Nesta said with pursed lips. 鈥淪o we don鈥檛 have to discuss her getting married any time soon.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 not a child,鈥 Feyre said, arms crossed.
鈥淐lose enough,鈥 Nesta said as the bell rang again. 鈥淲ill you get that, please?鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 not a footman, either,鈥 Feyre grumbled, though she dutifully rose to her feet.
鈥淎nd I repeat,鈥 Nesta said, smirking. 鈥淐lose enough.鈥
She gave Feyre a playful tap on the butt, shooing her towards the stairs. Feyre rolled her eyes before doing as she was bid.
Cash was just finishing opening a fresh bottle of the ros茅 when Manon swept into the room, a sickeningly handsome dark-haired man in tow.
As always she was a vision, her moon-white hair hanging in a shining curtain down her back and her slender eyes accentuated with shimmery powder. The creme silk cocktail dress she wore should have clashed horribly with her hair, but somehow on Manon it worked, and the way she carried herself鈥攈ips swishing so the material shone under the lights鈥攖old Cash she was certainly aware of just how devastating she was in it. Still, he found that, as always, Manon鈥檚 beauty was having no effect on him.
Her eyes found Nesta first, the amber in them softening to honey as she smiled.
鈥淪alut,鈥 she said, kissing Nesta鈥檚 cheek before holding her at arms length to survey her attire. 鈥淭u es magnifique.鈥
Cash had to agree. In that dress, Nesta was beyond gorgeous.
鈥淪o do you, annoyingly enough,鈥 Nesta said in response, eyes falling on Manon鈥檚 companion before extending her hand.
鈥淣esta,鈥 she said. 鈥淪o nice to finally meet you.鈥
The man鈥檚 smile was easy, the gesture of a person accustomed to female attention.
鈥淭his is Dorian,鈥 Manon said for him before turning back to Nesta. 鈥淚s there wine, coquinette?鈥
At this her eyes fell on Cash.
鈥淎h, of course there is, you are here.鈥
鈥淕ood to see you, too,鈥 Cash said. 鈥淚 think.鈥
Manon only raised her eyebrows at him in response. Cash braced himself for her next comment before she noticed Lucien and her lips pursed.
Seeing she was about to eviscerate him, Lucien beat her to it, looking her up and down and drawling, 鈥淗ow are you, Manon? Even get those ruby slippers back from Dorothy?鈥
Manon flashed him a truly terrifying smile, and Cash had to give Lucien credit that he hadn鈥檛 tucked tail and headed for the hills by now.
鈥淚f only you would tell me where she鈥檚 hiding, you scrawny little scarecrow.鈥
Dorian surprised Cash by chuckling. Perhaps Cash should make some effort to get to know him; any guy who was unafraid of Manon likely had some staying power.
鈥淵ou must be the boyfriend,鈥 Lucien said to Dorian, meeting Manon鈥檚 glower with an edged grin.
Before Dorian could respond, Manon once again cut him off.
鈥淒orian鈥檚 not my boyfriend,鈥 Manon said, smiling at Nesta as the latter offered her a glass of sparkling wine.
鈥淒orian, can I get you a glass?鈥 Nesta offered
Dorian flashed a rueful grin, rubbing the back of his neck.
鈥淭here isn鈥檛 going to be a test later, is there?鈥
Cash realized with surprise that the question was for him, though he didn鈥檛 have a chance to answer before Dorian went on, 鈥淢anon told me you鈥檙e a sommelier. I鈥擨鈥檓 terrible with wine.鈥
It struck Cash, then; this guy was as nervous about fitting in as Cash had been. It made him feel better to know that he wasn鈥檛 the only one.
鈥淣o tests,鈥 Cash said. 鈥淯nless we find out you鈥檙e sober at the end of the night, in which case you鈥檝e failed. I鈥檓 Cash. Great to meet you, man.鈥
He extended a hand, which Dorian seemed more than grateful to shake.
鈥淒orian,鈥 Dorian added uselessly. 鈥淎nd thank god. I was terrified I was going to be exposed as the stupidest person here.鈥
鈥淥f course you鈥檙e not,鈥 Manon said. 鈥淲hy do you think I asked Nesta to invite Lucien?鈥
Nesta鈥攅ver the consummate hostess鈥攆orged on as if Manon had not spoken, making the remainder of the introductions and getting Dorian a drink. Conversation flowed rather easily after that, and Cash was relieved to find that Dorian was not, in fact, a huge prick, and that Cash actually enjoyed his company. He鈥檇 been so wrapped up with Nesta these past months that he sometimes forgot how few male friends he had. Lucien seemed like an acquired taste, but Cash could see Dorian getting along well with Ro and the others. And if Dorian truly was dating Manon and he and Cash became friends...it was just another opportunity for him to spend time with Nesta, a prospective which trilled in his blood.
鈥淎re we waiting on someone?鈥 Manon asked finally. 鈥淚f I don鈥檛 eat something soon, I鈥檓 going to be stinking drunk.鈥
Just then there was the sound of the front door opening and closing and a voice calling up the stairs, 鈥淣esta, did you know your door was open?鈥
鈥淏atten down the hatches,鈥 Lucien muttered to himself, refilling his wine glass.
鈥淏e nice,鈥 Nesta snarled back, just in time for Clare Beddor to walk through the door.聽
She really was a prettier girl than they often gave her credit for, though there was always a 鈥渇atal attraction鈥 gleam in her eye than set Cash on edge. A glance at Lucien told him the latter was thinking the same, though Andy鈥
He eyed Clare with undiluted appreciation, not yet immune to her fresh-faced charm. Cash couldn鈥檛 have been more grateful as Clare made the rounds greeting everyone, her gaze practically devouring him as she took note of his presence.
When she reached Dorian in the circle, Manon interrupted Clare鈥檚 introduction with a clipped, 鈥淭his is my boyfriend, Dorian.鈥
Cash and Nesta traded a mirthful look at the not-so-casual reversal on Manon鈥檚 part, even as Clare gave a polite鈥攊f slightly wary鈥攕mile.
鈥淚 know who you are,鈥 she said mildly. 鈥淢y brothers love hockey.鈥
鈥淗ell of a playoff run you made last year,鈥 Andy added, winning Clare鈥檚 eye at last.
Cash had to hold in an audible sigh of relief as their gazes caught and held. It was one last thing to worry about tonight, though he鈥檚 earlier promise to himself did churn the feeling of anxiety buried in his gut.
Luckily he didn鈥檛 have long to think about it, because a minute later Elain appeared, hair freshly braided as she announced, 鈥淟et鈥檚 sit down. Dinner鈥檚 almost ready.鈥
xx
Another perk of being friends with Nesta鈥擟ash decided as they sat around the table sometime later, plates cleared but glasses still full鈥攚as that he got to enjoy Elain鈥檚 cooking. They鈥檇 started the meal with some sort of wilted spinach and fig salad, and though Cash would have sworn he liked neither figs nor leafy greens, it was delicious. And the meat...The ribs had been braised to perfection, and Elain had subbed the cilantro for the italian parsley in the gremolata topping and made what would have otherwise been a meddlesome condiment into one of Cash鈥檚 favorite parts of the dish.
The tiramisu Feyre had made for dessert鈥攖hough less polished that Elain鈥檚 dishes鈥攈ad been no less delicious, and now Cash was sure he couldn鈥檛 eat another bite. He鈥檇 protested a bit when Nesta had produced a bottle of limoncello and poured them all a glass, but he couldn鈥檛 pretend it hadn鈥檛 helped break up the heavy meal.
Now he sat working on his third glass, letting the conversation ebb and flow around him. Mercifully, Clare鈥檚 attention had been almost wholly fixed on Andy throughout dinner, which had allowed Cash to focus his attention on Nesta instead.
聽It had been hard not to read into things when he鈥檇 found his place card at the table (because of course Nesta had made place cards) and discovered he鈥檇 been seated next to her. What was even harder to ignore was the looks they鈥檇 traded or the way her hand had fallen onto his knee as she鈥檇 laughed at a story Feyre had told.
Currently his arm was casually strung across the back of her chair, and it was an effort not to play with her hair as he listened to a debate about where the group should go for Lucien鈥檚 birthday the following weekend. When someone mentioned karaoke, he snorted.
鈥淏etween Feyre and Nesta, would we even survive karaoke?鈥
鈥淣esta?鈥 Elain repeated, laughing. 鈥淲hat do you mean, she鈥斺
Feyre cut her off with a hand over her mouth.
鈥淵ou don鈥檛 know,鈥 she said, grin going wicked. 鈥淪he never told you!鈥
鈥淭old me what?鈥
Feyre glanced at Nesta, who only narrowed her eyes.
鈥淒on鈥檛. You. Dare.鈥
鈥淭old me what?鈥 Cash repeated, starting to feel a little sheepish now.
鈥淣esta鈥檚 major in college,鈥 Manon cut in, running a long, pewter-grey fingernail around the rim of her glass.
鈥淚 hate you all,鈥 Nesta said, baring her teeth.
Elain cut in, 鈥淣esta was a vocal performance major in college. Opera track.鈥
Cash turned to Nesta, agog.
鈥淵ou said you had a terrible singing voice!鈥
鈥淵ou said I had a terrible singing voice,鈥 she corrected, mouth tugging up slightly at the corners. 鈥淚 just didn鈥檛 correct you.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檝e seriously never heard her sing?鈥 Feyre demanded. 鈥淚t鈥檚 breathtaking.鈥
鈥淒emonstration!鈥 Dorian prompted. 鈥淵ou can鈥檛 tell us all that and expect that to be the end of it.鈥
鈥淣ever,鈥 Nesta said, taking an ambitious swallow of limoncello.
However, it was too late. By now the chant had started, candle flames jumping as fists pounded the table.
鈥淒o it, do it, do it!鈥
鈥淚 don鈥檛 negotiate with terrorists,鈥 Nesta sniffed, though Cash could see her resolve waning.
鈥淔ine,鈥 Feyre said. 鈥淭hen you won鈥檛 mind if I play this video of you singing 鈥楶hantom of the Opera鈥 from freshman year of high鈥斺
鈥淔ine!鈥 Nesta said, half-laughing, half-groaning. 鈥淚 will sing one song.鈥
Immediately the Archeron sisters began firing off requests, most of them opera songs Cash was only vaguely familiar with.
鈥淗abanera!鈥
鈥淣o, Queen of the Night aria!鈥
鈥淥h, how about the one where you say 鈥楩igaro鈥 a million times!鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 not warmed up,鈥 Nesta protested. 鈥淣o big arias or I鈥檒l blow a chord.鈥
Elain and Feyre traded a look of consideration before Elain鈥檚 eyes lit up.
鈥淕ranada.鈥
鈥淵es,鈥 Feyre agreed. 鈥淚 love that song.鈥
Nesta pursed her lips but offered no further retort, and Elain clapped her hands in delight as Feyre took control of the room鈥檚 speaker system. They were greeted a second later to the sonorous majesty of a full orchestra, the cavalcade of trumpets and strings indeed reminding Cash of the Flamenco music of Southern Spain.
Nesta got to her feet, kicking off her heels as she pressed a hand to her diaphragm, clearly running through a breathing exercise as the introduction rolled through the speaker.
鈥淎v么 would be rolling in his grave if he knew I was singing this,鈥 she muttered, taking a final breath before tipping her chin up and starting to sing, the song a stirring oration about the magic and majesty of Andalusia.
Cash felt his mouth fall open. Nesta鈥檚 voice was more beautiful than he practically comprehend. Even when Elain had said 鈥渙pera鈥, Cash had imagined something technical and cold; it was neither. The timbre of her voice was smooth and incredibly rich, like honey which had been heated to the perfect temperature.
And her accent...The Castellano sounded so natural on her tongue, and if he hadn鈥檛 known better, he would have sworn Spanish was her native language. Or perhaps it wasn鈥檛 so much her handling of the language as it was the words, the way she expressed the lyrics in not only her voice, but her posture, her hands鈥
When Nesta finished, Cash found himself at a physical loss for words. Sweet Jesus, and he thought he鈥檇 been enamored with her before. Now, after hearing her do that鈥攈is heart was sprinting in his chest like he鈥檇 just run a mile full-tilt.
Nesta, seemingly abashed by the table鈥檚 reaction to her, had busied herself with pouring everyone more digestif, but Cash couldn鈥檛 bring himself to stop staring even when she leaned across him 聽to refill his glass.
He couldn鈥檛 believe she鈥檇 just done that.
And to think he鈥檇 once teased her about it and she hadn鈥檛 even corrected him...he loved how full of secrets and surprises she was.
Elain gave a slight cough from across the dinner table, and when Cash glanced up at her she rubbed a pointed hand beneath her chin, raising her eyebrows at him in obvious suggestion.
Cash only watched her, confused, before realization dawned: his mouth had literally fallen open watching Nesta, and he鈥檇 yet to gather his wits enough to close it.
Cash felt everything he鈥檇 been dying to say to her bubbling up in his throat, and he almost told her then, even if in front of all these people. Almost told her how she鈥檇 set his world on fire the day he鈥檇 met her, and how it had been burning like a beacon ever since.
Company aside, it seemed as good a place as any to do it. The drinks were flowing and spirits were high. If he could just have a moment alone with her, perhaps take her to the rooftop garden, he could finally, finally just tell her the truth.
Nesta, I adore you, and if you鈥檇 let me, I鈥檇 spend the rest of my life鈥
What was he saying? He couldn鈥檛 tell her that, not after she鈥檇 worked so hard to wrestle out from underneath the years of abuse Tom谩s had heaped on her. She deserved to be free, to try new things and sleep with a bunch of strangers, if that鈥檚 what she chose.
Besides, if she had wanted to pursue something with him, she would likely have done it on her birthday. Cash鈥檚 heart kicked up a beat as he remembered how鈥檇 close he鈥檇 come to finally touching her, tasting her鈥攂ut then she鈥檇 pulled away, and had given no indication the next morning that it had meant anything to her.
Cash would have to find a way to put Aelin off, he decided as he watched Nesta smile. He was no longer willing to entertain the idea of confessing how he felt when he knew it might only hurt her or push her away. Nesta was his everything, but she could still be that from a distance.聽
And maybe鈥攈opefully鈥攖he romantic feelings he had for her would eventually fade, and she could just be his best friend. Maybe with time he could come around to the idea of watching her meet someone, and maybe meet someone himself in turn. It seemed impossible to want another woman when he knew Nesta Archeron walked the earth, but he supposed for her sake he could at least try.
Besides, he thought as he looked around at the group, no amount of sex or romance was worth sacrificing the joy he鈥檇 found here tonight. If it meant getting to share in more evenings like this with Nesta and her friends, it was worth the emotional blue-balling.
The party dragged on well into the evening, the conversation flowing as freely as the new bottle of wine Cash opened when they鈥檇 polished off the limoncello. It was only when a thunderstorm began rumbling around one am that others said goodbye. Manon and Dorian left first, followed by Andy and Clare, whose bedroom eyes had only gotten more nauseating as the night had worn on.
Cash turned to look for Lucien when they slipped out, wanting to see his reaction. However, he and Elain were already asleep on opposite ends of the enormous L-shaped couch in the den. Throwing a blanket onto Lucien, Nesta prompted Cash to pick Elain up and carry her to her own room on the third floor.
Feyre鈥檚 door was already closed, and Nesta put a teasing finger to her lips as she and Cash crept back downstairs. The storm arrived a minute later, rain pelting the windows as lightning lit the darkened apartment in alternating bursts.
鈥淚 should probably get going,鈥 Cash said. 鈥淚t鈥檚 only supposed to get worse.鈥
Nesta frowned, though there was something softer shining in her eyes.
鈥淵ou didn鈥檛 drive, did you?鈥
鈥淗ell no. I鈥漧l just call a car.鈥
鈥淥r you could stay. It鈥檚 not good to be on the road when it鈥檚 raining this hard.鈥
Cash鈥檚 head snapped up, though if he鈥檇 been hoping for heat in her expression, he was sorely disappointed. Instead she looked sad, the spectre of some long-past horror creating long shadows on her otherwise-lovely face.聽
It was her eyes, though, the bleakness in them, that had realization dawning.
鈥淲hat happened that night?鈥 he asked quietly.
Nesta didn鈥檛 seem to need clarification on what he meant, just as he hadn鈥檛 needed an explanation to know why it was she didn鈥檛 want him getting into a car during a downpour.
鈥淢y dad was driving,鈥 she said. 鈥淭hey got caught in a flash flood, and while they were trying to get out of it, another motorist struck them from behind. My mom was killed instantly. They rushed my dad to the hospital, but he died in surgery.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 so sorry, Nes,鈥 he said.
He expected her to brush it off like she usually did, but instead she wrapped her arms around herself.
鈥淵ou think it will get easier, and sometimes it is. But others鈥︹
鈥淚 know,鈥 he said.
She nodded.
鈥淗ow did your mom鈥斺
鈥淐ancer.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 sorry,鈥 she said, and he nodded.
鈥淢e too,鈥 he admitted, not sure he was willing to get into the whole thing after all the wine they鈥檇 drank. 鈥淏ut I know she鈥檚 still with me. And I like to think I鈥檝e made her proud.鈥
鈥淵ou have,鈥 she said. 鈥淵ou鈥檙e a wonderful man, Cassian.鈥
There were no words for what her approval meant to him, so he merely nodded towards her bedroom.
鈥淪hall we, then? I鈥檒l sleep on the floor.鈥
She rolled her eyes, ushering them back into more familiar territory with her bossy tone.
鈥淒on鈥檛 be a martyr,鈥 she said. 鈥淭hat bed is huge. I promise not to take advantage of you.鈥
He grinned.
鈥淚 wouldn鈥檛 blame you if you did,鈥 Cash said, earning another coveted eye roll of her.
鈥淚 don鈥檛 make me regret this,鈥 she snarled quietly. 鈥淟et鈥檚 go.鈥
xx
Cash woke up on his side, and his attention immediately shot to his legs, which were tangled with Nesta鈥檚. Despite the size of the bed, they鈥檇 migrated closer through the night, and now they were practically in each other鈥檚 arms. He tried to ignore the fact that one shift of his thigh and he鈥檇 have her pretty little sex pressed against him.
Had she done it on purpose? He couldn鈥檛 decide. He gingerly shifted, not wanting to embarrass her if it had been involuntary. She ran a foot down his calf in reply, giving a contented noise.
His heart jumped into his throat. He wanted to string an arm around her waist and pull her into him so bad it hurt. He tucked his hands under the pillow instead, watching as her eyes fluttered up.
Goddamnit, she was so beautiful. Without makeup her eyes were piercing against her pale skin, and he wanted to kiss his way across the trail of freckles spanning the bridge of her nose.
Realizing he was staring he forced himself to focus, only to find she was giving a similarly appreciative look.
It wasn鈥檛 the first time he鈥檇 caught her checking him out, but that had been with a bar between them, not when she鈥檇 been lying half-naked beside him.
Gently, he reached out to tuck a silky strand of her hair behind her ear, and his heart nearly burst when she turned to gently rub her cheek against his palm. All that castigating himself last night, and now she was鈥
He felt his control straining at the gesture, and when she looked up through him through her lashes, it snapped.
He threaded a hand into her hair, scooting a little closer to her. Her lips parted slightly in invitation as he slanted his mouth over hers, and when he hesitated, afraid he might be pushing for something she wasn鈥檛 ready to give, she surged forward the remaining distance.
Cash moaned when she sank her teeth into his bottom lip, his tongue brushing hers as he opened for her.
She threaded a hand into his white undershirt to pull him closer and he slid his free hand around her back, resisting the urge to pull her against him. He鈥檇 woken up half hard, and the noises she was making had turned his cock to granite. He didn鈥檛 want to rush things, and his gut was telling him that they needed to talk things through before they went too far.
Still, he only had so much control, and when she slid her hands under his shirt to explore his abdomen, he let his hands begin to wander as well. He started by running his palm down her back, and when she relaxed at the caress, he ventured lower, hand skimming over the soft cotton of the cheeky underwear she wore. She moaned, and he palmed her heart-shaped ass in response.
Her shirt had ridden up while they鈥檇 kissed, and he let his hand trail from her back to her front, gently brushing his fingers across her taut stomach. She exhaled against his lips as he traced her navel, careful to keep his touch gentle as he explored.
Things had gone from zero to one hundred at a dizzying speed, but somehow he couldn鈥檛 bring himself to take his foot off the gas. He wouldn鈥檛 let things go all the way, he promised himself, but that didn鈥檛 mean he needed to throw on a chastity belt and jump into a cold shower right this second.
They could just as easily have the conversation about boundaries after he鈥檇 gone down on her. Oh god, the idea of getting her out of those panties she was wearing鈥.
When she arched into the palm he splayed across her stomach, he considered the silent invitation before his hand drifted higher.
She let out a quiet exhale as his knuckles brushed the underside of one breast.
She made a small, needy noise as he traveled north, palming her right breast before circling her tight nipple.
He groaned, tongue still tangling with hers.
Her tits were as gorgeously petite as the rest of her, small enough that they fit in his cupped palms. He groaned again as he imagined watching them bounce while she was riding his co鈥
鈥淣es, Are you up? We can鈥檛 figure out the new espresso machine, and I鈥檓 afraid Lucien is gonna break it.鈥
Nesta jerked back as if Cash had burnt her, clapping a hand over his mouth to keep him silent as she called to Elain, 鈥淚 will be right there.鈥
鈥淭hank you!鈥 Elain said through the door. 鈥淚鈥檓 making breakfast too if you鈥檙e hungry.鈥
鈥淕reat,鈥 Nesta called. 鈥淭hanks, baby.鈥
Nesta was up and out of the bed before the sound of Elain鈥檚 footsteps had even faded, tripping into yoga pants and throwing a slouchy sweater over the tank-top she鈥檇 slept in, through which her nipples were still tortuously visible.
All the languid heat had gone out of her, and she was a column of frosted steel as she turned to him.
鈥淚 have to deal with鈥斺 she gestured to the door. 鈥淵ou can stay for breakfast if you want.鈥
She didn鈥檛 sound particularly enthused at the prospect, and Cash tried not to let his disappointment show. All his careful planning with Nesta, and now the whole fucking house of cards had come down over one kiss.
He glanced at his watch and swore. And now on top of everything else, this.
鈥淔uck, I have to go,鈥 he said. 鈥淚 have rep from a new vineyard coming in鈥斺
鈥淭hat鈥檚 fine,鈥 Nesta said, cutting him off. 鈥淵ou can use the back door if you don鈥檛 want to deal with my sisters.鈥
He鈥檇 known Nesta long enough to interpret what she meant鈥攑lease use the back door so my sisters don鈥檛 see you鈥攁nd though he wanted to fight her on it, he really didn鈥檛 have the time.
鈥淐an I call you later?鈥 he asked, tripping into his own clothes now, too. 鈥淚 want to talk about鈥斺
鈥淪ure,鈥 she interrupted, brushing a dismissive kiss on his cheek. 鈥淕ood luck with the new rep.鈥
With that she swept from the room, leaving Cash standing there half-hard, half-clothed and feeling lost.
What the fuck had they just done?
Also I decided to link the song Nesta sings in the body of the text, hopefully that鈥檚 not distracting but I figured for those who wanted to, you could open in another tab and listen to it for a multimedia experience? If you didn鈥檛 want聽to listen to the song during the chapter, here it is again HERE.
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