Try my cream
Hello, fellow nessian sluts stans! Happy December 1st ✨ It’s time to eat 🍽
This one shot is inspired by the book Make it Sweet -thanks @perseusannabeth for the rec- and it’s been approved by @arinbelle and @bookstantrash 😎
Nesta didn’t like cooking. She had never felt joy in standing at the stove for hours and getting her hands dirty, mainly because every time she had tried, she had ended up making a mess. She had managed to prepare something edible on rare occasions, but nothing compared to the food her mate cooked. Whether it was sweet or savory, his food was always delicious, and the fact that he found pleasure in cooking it for her made it even more exquisite. Cassian put all his skills and care into his food, and in return, Nesta felt cared for too.
Cassian’s cooking was never bland or boring, and neither was the view Nesta had every time she watched him move about the kitchen, all firm confidence, and loose-limbed grace. The way his ropy forearms moved as he whipped up egg whites, the little grunts he made when he kneaded dough, the muscles of his back flexing as he stirred the sauce- because the man didn’t know what a shirt was- made her so hot and bothered she had to press her thighs together to relieve some of the pressure building there. Some days Nesta would sit on the counter and watch him work. Others she would wrap her arms around him from behind and press her lips to the skin between his shoulder blades until both of them forgot all about food.
Over the three years she had been mated to Cassian, Nesta had named about two dozen of his poses too. Ranging from ‘I’m the General, and you will do as I say,’ to ‘Nesta look at my muscles.’ The latter was secretly one of her favorites. Right now, with his pants hanging low on his waist and his chest on display, he was giving her the ‘I’m up to something’ pose.
“Try these,” he said, holding a plate of caramel-covered pasties.
Nesta gaped at him. They had spent the morning tangled in the sheets, Nesta screaming Cassian’s name as she came first on his tongue and then on his cock, and once they were both sated, they had had breakfast, a huge slice of chocolate cake instead of the usual sugar-free oatmeal. For lunch, Cassian had taken her to a beautiful restaurant overlooking the Sidra. Knowing Nesta didn’t like big crowds, he had reserved the entire place for the two of them, something she had thanked him for as soon as they had gotten home. They had spent the rest of the day celebrating with their friends and family, and now Nesta was more than ready to go to bed.
“Are you out of your mind?” She said. “You always say I shouldn’t eat sugar before bed, or I’ll have trouble falling asleep.”
Cassian set the plate on the table, a smile playing on his lips. “Sweetheart, who says you’re getting any sleep tonight?”
“What if I was tired?” Nesta replied, feigning indifference even as every nerve ending in her body came alive. “I’ve had a hectic day. Maybe I just want to go to bed.”
Chuckling, Cassian stalked towards her, rounding the table with slow, deliberate steps until he came to stand right behind her, a hand braced on each side of her body, caging her against the table. “Liar,” he whispered against her ear. His nose skimmed down the column of her neck until his lips brushed her shoulder, causing goosebumps to erupt all over her skin.
“I tried a new recipe,” he continued. “Mango and vanilla cream puffs, covered in caramel sauce.” One of his hands left the table and began tracing circles on her thigh, left exposed by her short nightgown. “There’s a hint of ginger in them. Did you know ginger is an aphrodisiac, believed to increase sensitivity in the erogenous zones? I had no idea.”
Nesta turned in his arms, tilting her head back to look at him. “You’ve done your research, I see,” she breathed.
“I did. I take baking very seriously,” Cassian replied with a smirk. When he reached across the table to grab a cream puff and pressed his hips flush to hers, Nesta bit back a moan at the hardness she felt against her lower stomach.
“Come on, Nes,” Cassian murmured. “Try my cream.”
Laughing, Nesta took a bite from the cream puff Cassian placed on the edge of her lips, her eyes fluttering close as the rich taste of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of mango filled her mouth. Cassian groaned as she moaned and chewed slowly, enjoying the combination of perfectly-balanced flavors. She swallowed and opened her mouth again, eyes finding Cassian’s and holding his stare as he grunted and fed her another bite.
“Fuck, you look so pretty with your mouth full,” he rasped, wrapping a hand loosely around her neck, thumb moving gently over her pulse point. The long fingers of his other hand threaded through her hair. “Swallow,” he groaned, eyes following the bob of her throat.
Nesta obeyed, pressing her thighs together and sliding her hands down his chest, nails scraping against his stomach. “So good,” she hummed. “Can I eat the rest of them?”
A small whimper escaped her when Cassian groaned, using his grip on her hair to tilt her head back and press his mouth to hers, tongue parting her lips and sliding into her mouth. She lifted herself up on her tiptoes and pressed herself closer to him, but the kiss ended abruptly when Cassian picked her up and settled her on the table, guiding her onto her back and hovering above her. “It’s my turn to eat now.”
There were days when Cassian took her hard and fast against a wall, gripping her hips with bruising strength and pounding inside her, but most of the time, he dragged the foreplay for as long as he could, teasing her until she was a panting, writhing mess. For this reason, when Cassian had coaxed her to lay on the table, Nesta was aware he was going to make her wait. What she hadn’t expected was for him to say “Don’t move” and leave her like that, nightgown bunched up and legs bent at the knees.
Nesta took off her panties while she waited. Thanks to her fae hearing, she could hear Cassian’s footsteps clearly, but couldn’t see what he was doing. She guessed he was grabbing something to tie her hands with, but then why not use her panties or the scarf draped across the back of the couch? Smirking, she got rid of her nightgown and threw it on the floor, then dipped her finger in the plate of cream puffs and scooped up a bit of cream from one of the pastries. She was about to lick the cream off her digit when a calloused hand gripped her wrist. “What did I say about now moving?”
Batting her eyelashes at him, she wore her most innocent expression. “I’m sorry, General.”
Cassian’s nostrils flared, and in a heartbeat, he had her back on the table, arms pinned above her head. “Behave, sweetheart.”
Nesta squirmed, trying to get free, but his one-handed hold on her wrists was too strong. “But it’s my birthday,” she whined.
“Yeah, and if you’re a good girl, I’ll let you sit on my face later,” Cassian replied, dragging a finger between her breasts, down to her stomach, stopping as he reached her sex. Biting her lip, Nesta wiggled her hips, trying to get the friction she wanted. Still, Cassian only chuckled and leaned down, brushing a kiss on her neck. “So impatient.”
Sometimes Nesta couldn’t believe the intensity of her feelings for Cassian, the want that coursed through her veins every minute of every day. Twice he had been inside her in the past twelve hours, and yet she was desperate to have him again. He was beautiful. A face and body carved by the gods themselves, majestic wings, whorled black tattoos covering his muscle-bound chest and arms, powerful thighs, and the hardness that was straining against his pants. Gods, how she wanted him, the need to kiss, touch, stroke, burning through her limbs.
His breathing was deep and steady as he reached for something on her right, but the fluttering pulse at the base of his throat betrayed him. He was just as worked up as her. “I made some extra caramel sauce,” he rasped. “I thought we could find some creative way to use it.”
Nesta’s breath hitched when she eyed the bowl of sauce, heat flooding her and gathering between her legs. “I like how you think, Commander.”
Chuckling, Cassian dipped a tablespoon in the bowl and slowly lifted it to his mouth, humming as he licked it until there was nothing left on it. He worshipped that spoonful with his mouth for far longer than it was necessary, knowing Nesta was holding her breath as she watched him.
After what felt like hours, Cassian finally began pouring the warm, creamy liquid on her body, starting from her right breast. Nesta moaned, doing her best to stay still as Cassian watched her with ravenous eyes, The sauce wasn’t cold as she had expected, but it still made her shiver, reminding her of all those times Cassian had fucked her tits and spilled all over her chest. He gave her a knowing smirk, then leaned down and took her nipple into his mouth.
“Fuck,” Nesta cried out, back arching sharply, pressing her breasts toward Cassian’s mouth.
He sucked on her nipple, running his tongue around it and all over her right breast. Panting, Nesta tried to press her thighs together to relieve some of the pressure there.
“Fucking delicious,” Cassian groaned against her skin, sucking the sensitive flesh into his mouth, surely leaving a bruise.
“Look at you,” he groaned once he had licked her clean. He dipped the tablespoon in the caramel sauce again, but he didn’t pour the sauce over her this time. Instead, he touched the back of the tablespoon to her nipple, causing her to hiss at the cold sensation.
“Mine,” he said, dragging the tablespoon across her left breast, circling her nipple, spreading the sauce around. “All mine.” Then his mouth was on her again, lips, tongue, and teeth devouring her like dessert, his unbound hair tickling her skin. She was already so close to the edge, and he hadn’t even touched her properly. A whimper escaped her when his hand replaced his tongue, palming her supple flesh. “I fucking love your tits, Nes,” he groaned, pinching one of her nipples, then the other.
“Really?” Nesta panted. “I never would have guessed.”
Cassian released her wrists, and Nesta took the opportunity to grab his face and kiss him, tasting the caramel still on his tongue. It wasn’t a gentle kiss, but a clash of tongue and teeth, a claiming. She was high on sugar and Cassian, the perfect combination to set her aflame. “I want you inside me,” she whispered against his lips, locking her legs around his hips to pull him closer, but he dragged his mouth away from hers and pinned her arms above her head again. Nesta whined, but stopped when she noticed he had switched hands and was now holding her wrists with his right hand, leaving his clean one free.
Biting his lip, he reached for the tablespoon again and used it to draw an arrow pointing towards her sex, making her laugh. “Really, Cass?” she giggled, the muscles of her stomach clenching in anticipation. “You’re ridiculous.”
“Yeah,” he said, easing his hand between her thighs, toying with the entrance of her sex and making her cry out. “And you love it.” The calloused tips of his fingers slid along her slick folds, and his eyes darkened. “Tell me how much you love it.”
His gaze flared with heat as it slid from her face to her breasts, then back up.
“Yeah, I love it,” she panted as he rubbed back and forth. “You know I do.”
His expression softened, and he bent down to kiss her as he slowly pushed his fingers in. First one, then two, fucking them up into her at an angle that had her keening in pleasure. She moaned as his thick, talented fingers slowly fucked her, as though he had all the time in the world. His thumb found her bundle of nerves and circled it, her hips beginning to rock in time with his fingers. Cassian made a noise, possessive and greedy. “You’re dripping, sweetheart,” he rasped. “Fuck, you drive me crazy.” Then he let go of her wrists and dropped to his knees, wings spread wide behind him. Dragging her to the edge of the table, he palmed her ass in his big hands to hold her steady, lapping at her slit with a groan that sounded almost pained. His mouth was greedy, licking and sucking, and it didn’t take long for Nesta to start rocking her hips against it.
Trying to find something to hold on to, she threaded the fingers of her left hand through Cassian’s hair, pulling at it and making him curse against her sex. As she scrambled to find the edge of the table, her right hand ended up in the plate of cream puffs, but she didn’t care, not when she could feel her climax build inside her. “Don’t stop,” she panted. “Please don’t stop.” Her lids fluttered as Cassian threw her legs over his shoulder and slid his fingers inside her again, mouth working her clit.
“Fuck, Cassian, right there.” She couldn’t take it. It was too much. He ate her like dessert, like a man starved as if he didn’t want to waste a single drop of her juices. The slight curl of his fingers hit a deep spot within her, and that was it. She came in waves, shaking and writhing against his mouth.
“That’s it, Nes,” he said as he coaxed her along, drawing her pleasure out. He placed soft kisses on her clit, inner thighs, and stomach until she came down from her high.
Throwing an arm across her eyes, she noticed something on her hand. “Oh,” was all she managed to say once she saw the sticky mess of cream and caramel all over it. She looked at Cassian, who was now standing, an apologetic smile on her face. “Sorry.”
He didn’t speak, and for a brief second, she thought he was mad at her. After all, he had spent hours baking for her, and now she had ruined all his hard work... But then she saw the laugh he was trying to hold in and pushed herself up in a sitting position, examining her hand and licking some cream off it. “This is amazing.” She said innocently, looking up at Cassian. “Want some?”
Still scolding his face into a serious expression, he gently captured her wrist, examining the sticky mess. His eyes switched from her face to her hand, a mix of humor and lust swimming in them. “Are you offering me food, Nes?” he finally said, voice going soft, and Nesta knew they were both thinking about the same thing.
Nesta was radiant in her white dress, her hair pulled back in a half updo, with a few strands framing her face. Her cheeks hurt. She had never smiled so much in her life, and all her smiles were for him.
Cassian stood in front of her, his smile mirroring hers. He had gotten rid of his suit jacket as soon as the ceremony was over, but Nesta couldn’t complain, not when he looked so handsome and happy, standing tall and proud, his eyes shining with love.
Mine, Nesta thought as she grabbed something from the table and offered it to him.
A stale biscuit? He silently asked her, quirking an eyebrow.
I made it myself, she replied, out loud this time, and Cassian laughed, bending down and opening his mouth.
Nesta fed him the biscuit, not caring about the people laughing and cheering all around them. She had wanted a disgustingly ornate mating ceremony, but she only really cared about a very small number of guests. And at that moment, all that mattered was the man she was offering food to. Her mate. Her husband. Her friend. Her warrior prince.
She watched Cassian chew and swallow, his tongue darting to the corners of his lips to collect the crumbs stuck there. Yours, his eyes seemed to say. I am yours, and you are mine.
One by one, Cassian sucked Nesta’s fingers into his mouth, his eyes never leaving hers. Just like the day of their mating ceremony, the hazel darkened, and a shudder ran through his hulking frame.
Nesta edged closer, her breasts brushing against his chest, and he pulled her completely against him, brushing a kiss first on her cheek and then on the corner of her mouth. He was warm and firm, the smell of burnt sugar mixing with the one of his arousal, which was still thick and throbbing, straining against his pants. As Nesta’s hands edged closer to the elastic of his sweats, her tongue flicked over the hard cap of his shoulder to taste the salty skin. He shivered, humming deep within his throat.
The hot length of his cock was heavy in her hand, and Nesta held him firm, pushing his pants down his hips and stroking the way she knew he liked.
“Nes.” His hips jerked. “Fuck.” He cupped the back of her neck, and she let her forehead drop against his shoulder as his chest rose and fell rapidly. Neither of them spoke, the only sounds in the room that of Cassian’s heavy breathing, his little moans when Nesta swirled her thumb around the head of his cock, spreading the wetness around. A tortured groan ripped from his throat as he gripped her thigh, his other hand fisting her hair.
One hand kept working his length, so thick her fingers couldn’t close around it, while the other snaked around his back and found his wings. A brush of her fingers on the sensitive membrane had him groan against her temple, his hips moving faster.
Cassian’s eyes were glassy, his lips still a bit swollen and wet. “Sweetheart, I-I’m close,” he panted, fucking into the clasp of her hand.
As she scraped her nails against the lower edge of his wings, Nesta focused the pressure more toward the head of his shaft. “I know, baby. I know.”
He didn’t ask her to let go of him, somehow knowing she wanted, she needed to feel him come on her hand. His abs clenched as he groaned, a shudder of pure lust going through him as Nesta arched her back, pressing her breasts against his chest. Releasing her hair, Cassian kneaded her tits, the heavy globes all but spilling from his hands, and when Nesta clamped her teeth around his pulse point, he fell over the edge, spilling all over her hand.
“Say it,” Nesta breathed as she held him through it, peppering kisses on his neck and jaw as his breathing returned to normal. “Say it.”
They hadn’t even had sex, and yet she felt sated and content, and the same feeling shone in Cassian’s eyes as he looked down at her. “You’re mine,” he murmured as his lips met hers. “And I’m yours.”
Later, when they had both had a shower, and the kitchen had been cleaned up, they laid under the covers. They were on their sides, their noses almost brushing.
“Did you have a good birthday, wife?” Cassian whispered in the dark.
“The best,” Nesta murmured in response. “Thank you. For the restaurant, the pastries and- you know-”
“Yeah, that too,” she laughed, rolling her eyes.
Cassian’s expression turned serious as he toyed with the ends of her hair. “Was today enough? Is there something else you want for your birthday?”
Nesta read the question for what it really meant. Am I enough? Do I make you happy? So she took his hand and pressed her lips to his knuckles. “I have everything I always wanted, Cass,” she said. “And you and I- we finally have the time you promised me. I don’t need anything else.” It was true. Nesta had spent many years denying herself happiness, and now that she knew what she’d been missing all those years, she was at peace, perfectly content. Brushing Cassian’s nose with hers, she watched his eyes flutter close and buried her face in the crook of his neck, breathing him in.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Cassian murmured as he tangled his legs with hers.
Nesta dropped a small, sleepy kiss on his collarbone. “Goodnight, husband.”
Tag list (As always, let me know if you want to be added/removed):
@sirendeepity @julemmaes @sayosdreams @bookstantrash @perseusannabeth @letstakethedawn @moodymelanist @starksravings @thewayshedreamed @duskandstarlight @positivewitch @ssardothien @bookologist @talkfantasytome @angelic-voice-1997 @ladyllbookstan @champanheandluxxury @generalnesta @brieq @claralady @sleeping-and-books @confusedfandomslut @arinbelle @vidalinav @rhysandswingspan @rawlollipop33 @oversizedbats @swankii-art-teacher
124 notes · View notes
Somewhere, Part 18
A/N: Another pretty long break between updates, but I appreciate y’all’s patience! Life has been pretty crazy as of late, but I’m hoping this long update makes up for it at 7.9k. More to come soon ❤️
Warning(s) for strong language, mature themes, depictions of self-deprecation and rumination.
Catch up here: Somewhere masterlist
Their families could have reacted better to the news. Nesta knew they had the potential to react much worse, so she decided to take it as a small win rather than the alternative. That logic alone was the reason she agreed to going out with the group the following night, but it hadn’t been quite enough to convince Cassian. He was still processing some of his thoughts surrounding the whole thing, but some time around lunch, he’d decided he had it in him to go.
If that's where you'll be, that's where I go, he had said.
She was still getting used to hearing those things, to believing them.
Cassian had said it nonchalantly, as if it was ridiculous to have to say it aloud at all. There was something that lived deep in Nesta's soul, something restless and resistant to the comforts of any kind of home, that bucked the sentiment. No matter how many times she shoved it down— choked the air from it until it lay limp and lifeless within— its seemingly placid surface would ripple with the intention to wake.
The more Cassian said those things, the quicker Nesta became in stifling the irrational fears that plagued her. It was something she spoke to Madja about in their sessions; how somehow Nesta managed to be the person to dissolve their relationship in the past, yet bore scars all the same. Her therapist mentioned the work they'd done in identifying Nesta's tendency to be self-critical and diminish her own value to a point that she felt unworthy of anything positive in her life. While the message had been loud and clear, it still took some introspection and self-management to land on that perspective independently.
Nesta scowled at her reflection. The rogue hair around her temples seemed hellbent on curling around her face no matter what she did with them. She dropped her hands in a huff, startling slightly at the deep rumble of a voice sounding from her bedroom.
"You look—" Cassian paused, sliding his hands into the pockets of his dark khaki pants. "—fucking perfect."
Nesta's shoulders eased upon realizing her boyfriend was the harmless intruder. He noticed the change in her posture, and his lips drew up in a sly smile as he walked closer.
"Didn't mean to scare you, Sweetheart."
He worked the curls near her right ear, finally tucking them into place. Why they yielded to his ministrations rather than hers shouldn't have been a surprise. He repeated the action on the left before taking her cheeks between his hands and pressing his mouth against hers. Nesta slipped her fingers into his front pockets to tug him closer, but Cassian pulled away too soon.
“Hey,” he murmured, smiling down at her. His hands slid to her shoulders to work the tense muscles under his grip. “Why the stress?”
“My hair won’t cooperate,” Nesta grumbled.
His chuckle warmed her from the inside out, thawing any remaining shards of ice that lingered. Nesta arched into him; partly in relief at seeing him and partly in desire. His self-control lapsed enough to pull her firmly against his form and wrap her in a tight hug.
“Mm,” he groaned. “Let’s stay home. Please.”
Nesta laughed against the cotton of his shirt. "I'm tempted, but we've already said we would go."
Cassian huffed, unimpressed with her logic. His hold on her didn't falter, and Nesta had to admit it made a compelling argument in his favor. With only a week before she had to pack up and leave Velaris, she was willing to share her time with him less and less, but her time with her family was important, too. It was a balance she was determined to protect, even if the seeds of doubt pricked at her nerves. Her anxiety had been inconsistent at best before everything with Tomas and erratic after the fact. Her only safeguard against it was the bubble she had created around her time with Cassian, and that was an unfair weight to put on their budding relationship. Plus, she was confident she could manage a night out surrounded by those who cared about her most, even if they had an odd way of showing it at times.
"I know," Cassian lamented, turning them side to side before pulling away. "How do you feel about staying with me tonight?"
Nesta bit her lip and rocked onto her tiptoes to press a soft kiss to his mouth. His strong hands gripped her hips to steady her, and his lips pulled into a smile.
"I thought you'd never ask."
Starfall wasn't all terrible as far as bodegas went, but it was clamorous compared to their usual nights at Rita's. Change wasn't always bad, Nesta decided, so she squared her shoulders and resolved to keep a positive outlook. The whiskey Cassian ordered from the bar certainly helped, and in no time, she was enjoying herself far more than anticipated. Life was funny that way, she supposed.
Everyone from the previous night's dinner was present, and the lot of them seemed to know dozens of other patrons collectively. Nesta had made more introductions and small talk in a couple of hours than she'd made in the last month or so, and she was more than content to take another hiatus once the night was done.
It had been years since she'd spoken to Kallias Hiems; probably Feyre and Rhysand's wedding. Somehow she'd managed not to speak to anyone beyond her small circle at Varian and Amren's wedding, and she loathed to admit that catching up with him and Thesan was oddly pleasant. Tarquin Theros stopped by their table, but his visit was short-lived and a little tense. Cassian hadn't seemed affected beyond the subtle tells only Nesta knew well enough to notice, but he would tell her why in his own time. Pressing for the information was unlikely to yield anything productive, and as her official ally for the evening, she wanted to keep a smile on his face and a certain laxity in his shoulders.
Their booth wasn't small by usual standards, but with several above-average sized men, the squeeze was tight. Cassian's warmth seeped into her, his arm thrown over her shoulders while he chatted with the group. Her view of his rugged features was unobstructed, and her focus was unwittingly captured by the way his charismatic expression transformed them into something softer, more delicately crafted. His magnetism radiated off of him in social situations, and Nesta found herself in awe watching the ease with which he navigated them.
His booming laugh was a balm to her ever-present nerves, and her heart took an uncharacteristic dip when his hand lifted to play idly with a tendril of her hair. After all the struggle she'd had in fixing it, she wanted to bat his hand away and order him to stop his fussing. Instead, she leaned into the ministrations like an anchor and basked in the comfort of hearing his deep, husky voice locked in an animated discussion with Amren. Their friend's voice was far more shrill in defense of Cassian's teasing, but the veiled affection in it was enough to keep Nesta from bristling.
The music was loud enough that she allowed herself a hum of pleasure, but like a compass set to true north, Cassian's eyes slid in her direction. The possibility that he heard her was infinitely low, but there wasn't a time she'd ever been around him that he wasn't uniquely in tune with every part of her. His hand was warm, so deliciously warm, on the back of her neck, his deft fingers massaging away any tension. His expression was fond, yet ravenous in a way that made her core clench.
"How are you holding up, Sweetheart?"
Nesta swallowed thickly and leaned in close to respond. "Fine."
She rested her hand atop his thigh, acknowledged by a fleeting twitch of his muscles. Anyone else at the table would be none the wiser based on the casual perch of his shoulders, and Nesta had to admire his game face. In challenge, she walked her fingers along the inner seam of his chinos, stopping a few inches from where he usually ached for her. Cassian dipped his head to her ear, his grip tightening ever so slightly against the back of her neck.
"You aren't behaving like someone who wants to stay," he accused, his voice like gravel.
Nesta flexed her own fingers, not to be outdone with his taunt. She turned her face toward his more fully, her lips barely grazing the corner of his mouth.
"Who says we would have to leave?"
His eyes glowed at the implication before he pressed his lips firmly to hers. Public affection was something she would need time to get used to again, but the whiskey had made her blissfully fuckless about the potential of an audience. Everyone knew about them anyway, and making sound decisions had never been her strong suit when Cassian's lips pressed against any part of her body. If she was honest, her decision-making went downhill at his mere proximity; no lips required.
The kiss was chaste by their standards, but the roaring beneath her skin was anything but. He pulled away with a knowing, wicked expression, and Nesta resisted the urge to throttle him for it. Rather than retaliate so blatantly, she added a bit of space between their bodies, scooting toward the end of the bench.
Cassian's large hand reached around her waist and flattened against her stomach. That flame danced, stoked by his touch in a way that only he had ever accomplished. Things would be easier for her if he wasn't aware of that fact, she thought.
"Where are you going?" he asked, his lips brushing a torturously soft path over her ear. Damn her for leaning into him before remembering her mission.
"I need a fresh drink," she purred, easing his hand away from her body. He let her go, albeit reluctantly. With a quick glance over her shoulder, she looked at him beneath heavy lids. His eyes danced over her face, trying to determine if he was meant to follow. With a steady hand against his knee, she asked, "do you need anything?"
His throat bobbed, and the low lights of the place danced in his eyes. "Just a water. Hurry back?"
Nesta stood, smoothing the seat of her dress. It was one she borrowed from Feyre, a deep navy blue sheath that hanged beautifully over her curves and hit right below the knees. Once she'd draped it over herself, Feyre had demanded she wear it, insisting that she didn't even want it back after seeing the way it flattered Nesta. She wouldn't be caught complaining if Cassian looked at her the way he had all night when she wore it.
She squared her shoulders and walked with purpose toward the crowded bar. Admiring stares met her along the way from a number of different men, but she felt Cassian's like a brand as she traveled the short distance. She almost chuckled to herself at what the others' expressions would morph into when they realized whose arm she'd left in her pursuit of the bar. Their welfare wasn't ultimately her responsibility, but she had a feeling their self-preservation would win out anyway.
Keeping her head down to avoid any unwelcome advances, she slipped her body into a small opening along the bartop. She was slotted between two sets of shoulder blades, each about a head taller than her, and she welcomed the small reprieve from all the leering. The bar was cold beneath her elbows when she leaned her weight atop it, waiting patiently for the bartender's attention. She glanced over her shoulder toward the table to see Cassian locked into conversation with the others again, and she allowed herself to bask in her fondness a little longer.
That was until a certain scent enveloped her; familiar, but one that made her hackles rise against her wishes. Before she could slip away to avoid the encounter, a broad chest slipped into her periphery with an elbow perched inches from hers. He was close enough to feel his body heat, but rather than the comfort that came with Cassian's, his warmth painted the edges of her vision in a deep, vivid red. His night-smooth voice met her ears seconds later, but her temper was ready as if it had been given hours to build.
"Nesta," Rhysand greeted, his black hair falling softly across his forehead.
Her brother-in-law had been locked in various conversations throughout the night, ever the people-person. For someone she found so insufferable, he had a way with meeting people where they were, with reading their cues enough to relate to them. His lack of effort in doing so with Cassian— with her, for that matter— stoked her temper a touch hotter.
"Rhysand," she replied coldly, turning her gaze back toward the action behind the bar. If he was deterred by her casual dismissal, he made no show of it.
"I'll cut to it," he began, and she appreciated the lack of pretense at least. "I owe you an explanation."
Nesta's eyes snapped to his face, and to her astonishment, his expression was earnest. That wasn't enough to absolve him of his sins with regard to Cassian, but it was a better start than usual.
"I have no doubts that my sister insisted you do."
His chuckle was silk, and the half-smile he wore softened his features into the devastatingly handsome version everyone else had come to know. Nesta held a certain level of contempt for Rhysand, but she wouldn't deny him his gods-given blessings, and his face was one of them.
"I won't pretend Feyre didn't have choice words for me after everyone left, but that's not what made me want to talk."
Nesta hummed her skepticism, but she admired his nerve in persisting. She would have given up on her frigid heart many moons before, but Rhysand seemed undeterred.
"I meant no offense when you and Cassian shared your relationship."
"Oh?" Nesta's eyebrows crept up her forehead of their own accord. "Was the compliment meant for those clever enough to uncover it?"
Rhysand dipped his head, shaking it as he laughed off the jab. Perhaps it was the liquid courage that made him apt to disregard her offenses, but Nesta wasn't on the same level. Where was the bartender?
"That's not what I meant, Nesta." Rhysand schooled his features, but he kept them soft, sincere. "I meant that my words were less about the two of you and more out of defense of my brother."
Nesta blinked at him. "I don't see how that excludes the two of us."
"I guess it doesn't," he conceded with a shrug. "It wasn't meant to be personal, but you have to understand how Cassian handled—"
"This again? How many of you are going to lecture me over how thoroughly I destroyed Cassian? Do you think it doesn't haunt me enough?"
"No," she insisted, gesturing with a hand between them. "I've had plenty of time to berate myself for the pain I caused him; that I caused myself. It's just like you to think you're the first to point it out."
Rhysand's mouth opened, closed, opened again. "I don't know what to say. I won't apologize for looking out for my brother."
An incredulous, manic-sounding laugh fought its way from Nesta's chest. "Have you ever thought about what that could look like? You think you're looking out for him by making things harder than they need to be?"
"Making things harder?" Rhysand's face hardened into the expression she associated most with him. "By talking things through? Making sure he's considered what this means when the novelty wears away?"
"The novelty," Nesta remarked, her voice slipping into a deadly calm. Rhysand raked a hand through his hair and forced a deep breath through his nose in preparation for her next statement. "There's nothing novel about us, and you know it as well as anyone else. What you don't realize is that all your questions do is take any joy that Cassian has managed to carve out for himself. They undermine his decisions and show him you don't trust him."
He blinked, but they were interrupted by the bartender. Nesta ordered with her usual efficiency and decided against arguing with Rhysand when he instructed the bartender to add them to his tab. She swallowed thickly against her nerves and forced away the tears that pooled over her bottom lids. She would take death before she allowed Rhysand to get the better of her emotions. Never mind the fact that it was actually the Nesta of times long past that hurt her most.
Nesta grabbed her glass of whiskey and Cassian's water, standing to her full height with the purpose of escape. With a paradoxical gentleness, Rhysand gripped her bicep to keep her in place.
"This isn't how I wanted this to go. I wanted to explain, sure, but I wanted to apologize."
She shook her arm free of his hold, and he gave no resistance. "I haven't heard it yet, but for what it's worth, you should save it for Cassian."
He growled, but his frustration was with himself as much as it was their conversation. "He'll get his own. I want to apologize to you, Nesta." She could only muster a weak nod, disoriented by the near desperation in his voice and the lack of his usual swagger.
"I'm sorry; for how I treated you and what I insinuated about your intentions. More than anything, I'm sorry that I minimized what happened to you in the process. I don't expect your forgiveness, but I hope I can make it right. Eventually."
She damned her brittle voice for succumbing to the pressure at the least opportune time. "You're not the only one who loves him."
Rhysand's shoulders sagged, and his sympathy was worse than any of his provocations. Rather than fold her into a hug like he looked inclined to do, he scanned her face for clues she'd never let him find.
"Does he know?"
Nesta raised her chin and willed her tears away. Deigning to nod her assent, she scrambled for a shift in focus; a wry bit of humor to force the intensity away. Rhysand wasn't someone with whom she cared to share such a moment.
"That being said, I know what it's like to love your siblings to madness, so it would be unfair to hold you over the flames forever," she said through a small smile.
Rhysand huffed a laugh. "I could only imagine what my life would look like if I dared to hurt Feyre."
The sparkle in his depthless blue eyes told her he would sooner die, but she humored him for the sake of the conversation.
"Assuming I let you live in the first place."
He barked a laugh at her sardonic delivery, and although the weight of their conversation lingered, it was manageable. Nesta decided they'd reached a stopping point and let him know her intentions to get back to their booth. With a charming smile of agreement, Rhysand waved her on, and she made her way toward Cassian. She was eager to settle in next to him to ride out the rest of the night, her social battery all but depleted by the confrontation with Rhysand. Before she arrived at the table, she took a second to square her shoulders and pulled her lips into the most pleasant version of a smile.
The others greeted her back into the conversation warmly, but Cassian's eyes were locked on her with a disarming intensity. She slid his bottle of water toward him before settling into the booth and scooted tightly into his side. Her backside had barely landed on its destination, her arm wrapped delicately around his and her hand on his thigh, before he addressed her as casually as he could manage.
"Nothing," she lied, that same easy smile stretched across her face. His full eyebrows furrowed, and she used her free hand to smooth over the crease with her thumb. "Relax. There's no need for that."
The calluses of his palm grazed the back of her hand as he eased it into his lap, lacing their fingers together. The crease only deepened despite her attempt to smooth it, and she cursed him silently for being so perceptive. Always.
"Did someone touch you?"
His voice was one that made her stomach drop. His rage was an almost palpable thing between them, but in credit to his carefully placed mask, no one else seemed to notice.
"No, baby. I'm fine. It took a minute at the bar because I ran into Rhysand, but I'm okay."
His jaw clenched several times, a clear indicator that he wasn't pleased with that news either. He certainly didn't lump his brother in with his former hypothesis, but considering that they'd yet to bury the proverbial hatchet from the night before, Nesta could tell his brain was busy calculating the many ways the interaction could have gone.
She released his hand in favor of running her hand over his sternum, increasing how tightly her other arm was still wrapped around his. Their gazes stayed locked together until he lowered his ear close to her mouth to better hear what she had to say.
"It's okay. We talked; he payed for our drinks. Nothing to stress over."
Guilt settled like lead in her stomach, but she hoped the omission would go unnoticed that once. Cassian's words echoed in her mind, and she hated that she made them true once more.
It's our favorite way to lie to each other.
But what was the alternative? Was she to share every detail of the interaction, have Cassian escalate, and prove everyone right in their worries surrounding the fortitude of their relationship? Her intention wasn't to hide the information perpetually, but things felt delicate enough without some public display of only the gods knew what.
She hated how incompetent she felt when it came to Cassian, to their relationship. Being a quick study in most things, it made little sense that she couldn't seem to crack their code no matter her effort. She refused to sulk; however, and resolved to banish those thoughts for another time. In an attempt to lose focus on them altogether, Nesta joined the group's conversation and found herself laughing along with a fairly drunk Azriel about something she scarcely remembered. That was of little consequence to her. It mattered little what brought the joy she experienced in that booth. All she cared for was that she had the means to experience it again and again.
Several times, she caught Cassian taking her in, his attention wholly fixed on her words or actions. She may have grown sheepish at his clear admiration, but she wanted him to look at her that way forever. Maybe one day she would have the courage to tell him as much.
Doubt and self-criticism reared their heads on occasion, but Nesta was nothing if not resilient in chasing them off. Each time she did so successfully, she felt her confidence daring them reappear if only to make her that much more proficient in managing them. Those were the times she was quick to check her ego. They could go rounds another day.
At a lull in conversation, Nesta excused herself to the restroom. Cassian placed a quick kiss to her lips before she made her way there, leaving her momentarily dizzy. Onlookers probably thought her to be a drunk woman struggling to make her way across the floor in high heels, and while they certainly didn’t help matters, her boyfriend was the root cause. Shameless, intoxicating brute.
Nesta had blindly hoped for a solitary trip to the bathroom to get a moment of peace, but she had no such luck. Another woman made it to the door mere seconds before she arrived, and she hoped that the woman's desires were the same. As it turned out, they weren't. The stranger was poised to slip into a stall when her eyes snagged on Nesta, and she halted her steps on a dime.
"You look so familiar," she announced, looking Nesta over from head to toe. The whole bit felt unnecessary. "Wait, you're Nesta Archeron, aren't you?"
Was she meant to know this woman? Because she didn't recognize her for shit, and she wasn't one to routinely forget people she met.
"I— I don't think we've met, have we?"
She laughed, and it was good-natured enough. "I'm sorry. I'm Ianthe. We haven't met officially, but I saw you with Cassian earlier. He and I work together." Nesta nodded, but she didn't have a chance to respond before Ianthe continued. "I also know your sister, Feyre. And I hope you don't mind me saying so, but the two of you favor each other."
Nesta disagreed, but she needed to pee and didn't care to argue with a stranger over her likeness to her youngest sister. "Oh. I see. Well, I'm just going to—" she trailed off, pointing in the general direction of a free stall before disappearing inside.
The bathroom door swung open once more, but before she could emit a sigh of relief for Ianthe's departure, the stall next to her was filled. That left her with yet another stranger on a bathroom trip she hoped would be solo, and she silently chastised herself for jinxing it.
It took genuine effort to keep her eyes from rolling at seeing Ianthe at one of the sinks. Any hopes she had to wash up quickly and slip out were dashed at hearing her high-pitched voice addressing her again.
"So you and Cassian dated a while back, right? I remember him talking about you all the time."
Her second statement brought a blush to her cheeks and filled her with an affection for her boyfriend. Nesta nodded, focusing her attention on stellar hand hygiene.
"I thought so!" Ianthe exclaimed, and Nesta wondered if she fancied herself a damned detective for her skills of deduction. "You two seem pretty close still. Is it hard having to be friends with your ex like that?"
The question was invasive and would have made her bristle without a drop of alcohol in her system. With her inhibitions lowered, it was a challenge to keep her tongue from lashing out at the slightest provocation.
"He's not my friend."
The response was true enough, but Ianthe failed to identify her desire to change the topic.
"Oh," she murmured, but a flash of realization crossed her face. "Oh my gods— so you're dating again? Don't you live pretty far from Velaris?"
Her questions felt less curious as time passed, but Nesta was unsure if they were intentional or if her insecurities bred those instincts. Regardless, the conversation couldn't end fast enough.
"We are, and I do."
"I bet that's hard," she replied, and there was an unmistakable falsehood to her concern. "Do you ever worry about how that'll work?"
Nesta pumped the soap, perhaps more aggressively than necessary, and turned on the water. She scrubbed her hands to fix her gaze anywhere but Ianthe's face, lest her eyes roll of their own accord.
"No more than anyone else in a long-distance relationship," she lied, and the fact that she lied at all filled her chest with dread. At least that feeling was familiar enough.
"Cassian just seems like someone who needs a lot of interaction. He's always around people, and he seems like someone who likes the attention. I'm not saying he would do anything wrong, necessarily. I'm just the type of person who would worry that he would grow tired of not having his partner around, you know?"
Ianthe had no idea how much she knew, how many times she'd wondered if their arrangement would be enough to fulfill him despite his insistence that it was. Cassian wasn't the shallow man Ianthe made him out to be, but the distance would wear on strong, established couples. What about ones with more baggage than she could fathom?
Nesta continued to wash her hands, trying and failing to block out the unsolicited words of concern. To her horror, a stall door opened to reveal a woman she didn't recognize; who must have slipped in moments before. For a second, she took the potential anonymity as a win, but it was revealed to be a false comfort when the woman opened her mouth. Her eyes were fixed on the woman beside Nesta.
"Sorry— I couldn't help but overhear, but since when are you an expert on what Cassian needs?"
Nesta stood silent, not daring to involve herself in the volley. She didn't recognize the woman and thought that maybe she was another one of Cassian's co-workers. She was quite pretty; petite, yet curvy, with long brown waves and bright green eyes.
Ianthe huffed an ironic sort of laugh. "I'm only speaking from experience. It was a valid question."
"How you talk about him tells me you don't know Cassian at all."
Miraculously, Ianthe fell silent, clearly speechless. The unfamiliar woman didn't relent and used the blessed silence to drive her point home. Her words were measured and even, but they held the bite of a much higher intensity.
"If I were you, I would sit on your opinions long enough to know they're valid before you go launching them at other people."
Nesta bit the inside of her cheek to prevent a satisfied smirk from tugging at the corner of her mouth. Ianthe stared at them both before turning away to exit the bathroom. The tension in Nesta's shoulders relaxed infinitesimally when the door slowed to a close, but the stranger in the room wouldn't allow much more. She rolled her shoulders, took a deep breath.
"Thank you," she breathed, forcing herself to make eye contact with the woman in the mirror. Apparently, her pride had more room to fall.
"Don't mention it," she muttered, not speaking again until she finished washing her hands. The wait was prickling each of Nesta's senses. "I should probably introduce myself since I got involved in your business."
Nesta returned her amused smirk and watched as the woman extended a delicate hand in her direction. She remarked the skin tone that was several shades deeper than her own, a small freckle at the base of the woman's thumb. Her nails were manicured, and her fingers were embellished with several thin, golden rings.
A onslaught of emotions and considerations clanged through Nesta's brain, but she mastered her expression to mask her surprise. Of any woman on the planet, Julia owed her absolutely nothing. She thought back to her complete indifference to the woman in front of her, the way she used her relationship with Cassian to taunt him that night at Rita's.
Trouble in paradise?
And what the fuck would you know about paradise with me, Nesta?
Nothing. She had known nothing, too blinded by her own bitterness and entitlement to Cassian's attention. And now, this woman offered Nesta support she didn't deserve, had saved her from an otherwise painful interaction.
Julia rambled on in an attempt to fill the awkward silence. "I'm sorry— I should explain. I thought you might have heard of me considering what she said about you and Cassian, but—"
"I have," Nesta interrupted and hoped she hadn't snapped. "I was processing."
A compassionate, self-assured chuckle bubbled out of Julia. "Understandable. If I overstepped, that wasn't my intention. I've met Ianthe a few times through—" She paused to measure the awkwardness, but Nesta kept her face schooled in indifference. "—through some of Cassian's work functions. She's always seemed to forget her boundaries and talks as if she and Cassian are the best of friends. It struck a nerve."
It was Nesta's turn to laugh. "She struck several of mine, too. It's not often that I'm caught off-guard, so I appreciate you saying something."
Julia crossed her arms, but the stance wasn't provocative. She looked casual, confident, and Nesta resented how grounded she seemed. She shook her head suddenly when she realized she hadn't bothered to introduce herself properly. Perhaps Julia hadn't been concerned with coming to Nesta's aid because she thought she was helping an innocent woman.
"I should probably introduce myself at the very least," she joked, but most of her amusement was feigned. "I'm Nesta."
Julia smiled, her bright green eyes twinkling in the florescent lights overhead. "I know," she murmured. "Well, I assumed anyway. Cassian told me you were in town a few weeks back, and if that didn't spell it out, you and Feyre look a lot alike."
Her reaction to the statement, innocent by any measure, was different from how things had gone with Ianthe. A strange, foreign possessiveness roared beneath Nesta's skin at the thought of Julia being around her family with Cassian. It felt like betrayal, an emotion she had no right to feel, and she promptly smothered it beneath the low-bar of her pride.
“Ah,” she replied dumbly.
“Anyway, I’m sure I’ll see you around.” Julia ran her hand through her dark hair and adjusted the thin gold cuff at her wrist. “It was good to finally meet you.”
“Likewise,” Nesta replied, surprised to find that she meant it.
Her luck would have her insist on joining the others for a night out— having to drag Cassian, no less— to unwittingly put her through back-to-back awkward conversations. The weight of them was obvious, yet not entirely oppressive as they would have been to Nesta little more than six months ago. She was learning to take the little wins.
One feeling she struggled to shake was her internal conflict surrounding Cassian. The more she was around to watch him enjoy himself, the more the idea of him moving away from his life caused a myriad of uncomfortable feelings, each a counterbalance and ghost of the positive ones she dared to feel. The whiskey was doing its job in easing that ache well enough, and the way Cassian extended his arm upon her return to the booth was a lightness all its own. Nesta placed both in the "wins" category.
"Sorry it took me a minute," she murmured so only he could hear. "I had the pleasure of meeting Ianthe in the bathroom."
Cassian tensed. His calculating glare slid toward her, all other conversations forgotten. "Yeah?"
"Yep," Nesta confirmed with the barest of eye rolls. "She's a delight."
Her tone indicated anything but truth to her words.
"She's certainly something. I can only imagine what she had to say."
Nesta launched into the tale without much coaxing, eager to get the recount behind them. She'd omitted enough detail of their evening, and there was nothing about her meeting with Ianthe that inspired her to do anymore.
"She's full of shit," Cassian stated with a subtle shake of his head. "You didn't entertain her, did you?"
He gripped his water bottle and twisted the cap away between his thumb and index finger. Nesta considered a joke about his dexterity, the precision. She decided against it considering all she needed to tell him, but she tucked it away for a rainy day. As if needing something to expend his nervous energy, he spun the bottle around before taking a long pull of it.
"I didn't have to." Nesta bit her lip but decided it was best to get on with it. "Julia said something before I could."
Cassian choked on his water but recovered quickly with a couple of loud coughs into his fist. "Did you say Julia?"
Nesta nodded, trying her damndest to hide her mild amusement. "I have to say, I quite liked her. She's... spirited."
An incredulous laugh sounded from Cassian, and Nesta couldn't help but laugh along with him. "Yeah," he agreed, a certain fondness on his face. For reasons beyond her, his reaction didn't prick at her nerves. "Julia's great. I appreciate her going to bat for you."
"Me too." She paused for a second, then, "You clearly have a type."
Cassian's head fell back in a full, unrestrained laugh. The sight of it reminded her of the way warmth seeped into her blood from cradling a mug of fresh coffee. It was a feeling so familiar yet an entirely unique experience each time. His hazel eyes glowed when he looked at her, a smile still gracing his handsome face.
"Oh yeah? And what might my type be?" He pulled her closer to his body, finished his statement against her lips. "Smart aleck?" His pressed a kiss to her mouth. "Irreverent?"
Nesta returned his affection if only to satisfy her own desires, then palmed his face away playfully.
"Straightforward," she laughed. "Little tolerance for bullshit."
Cassian snapped his teeth toward her hand, and she barely suppressed a squeal as she pulled it back into her lap. The rest of the bar faded away under his direct attention, and Nesta didn't fight him when he brought a hand to her cheek, brushed his thumb over her cheekbone.
"That may be true, but—" He paused to let his eyes trace the planes of her face, ending with them locked on her own. "—I think it's always been you for me, Nesta."
Her smile faded in disbelief, and a blush erupted over her cheeks. There was no blaming the whiskey for it, but she didn't have the words to try, anyway. Those times were the ones that made her grateful for the second language they'd always managed artfully, and she leaned forward to speak it with her lips pressed tightly against his.
Cassian kissed her back firmly, but not enough to scandalize the others. He groaned from deep in his throat, making Nesta eternally grateful for the hustle and bustle within the small bodega that served as their camouflage.
"You sure we made the right decision in coming out tonight?" he murmured, and his voice was velvet.
Nesta pulled away and assessed his face for any rogue lipstick. Finding none, she offered him a mirthful smile. "You think I'd want to stay home and miss out on the poetry? I stand behind my decision."
He dismissed her with a soft laugh, a subtle shake of his head, but she could tell he was bashful all the same. She leaned heavily into his side to spare him any additional embarrassment and went languid when his arm pulled her in tightly. Their blissful bubble only lasted so long.
"This will certainly take some adjustment,"Amren teased dryly, gesturing a manicured hand in their direction.
Cassian huffed an exasperated breath. "Nothing you haven't seen before, Ren."
"It's different this time. You two are far more affectionate this round."
Something about the reference to another round made Nesta's spine straighten. She wasn't mad at Amren, nor was it inappropriate in the purest sense. The mention of how colossally she'd already failed once before picked at the still healing wound all the same. Maybe it was time to switch to water with how hectic her emotions felt.
“Lay off of them, Amren.” Azriel ordered, nearly slurring his words. “Let them enjoy their week without being a grouch about it.”
Their week. While his intentions had been pure enough, Nesta felt the looming sense of ending that she had chased away for weeks. It didn’t mix well with the mental picture Amren’s words conjured of how Cassian may have been in other relationships— with Julia— around the others.
“But it’s true,” Feyre chimed in animatedly. “I’ve never seen either of you so… touchy.”
Her eyes danced with amusement between them, and Nesta offered a soft smile to her sister. Her words eased the pressure from Nesta’s chest at realizing the taunts weren’t specific to their relationship, that Cassian’s behavior wasn’t his usual either. She could squeeze the little thorn in her side breathless for the unintentional support.
Cassian kept his arm around Nesta, yet fixed his eyes on the others with a playful sort of challenge. "I have to give it to you," he began, gesturing toward Amren. "You and Varian are only disgusting when you think no one is looking, but you're not as slick as you'd like to think."
Their tiny friend scowled, and Varian pressed a soft kiss to her temple to hide his smile. Shame didn't have a home with his actions, then or in the future.
"And you—" Cassian challenged, looking at the youngest Archeron beneath a lowered brow. "—have scarred us all with you and Rhysand's public displays."
Feyre managed to look shocked, as if there was any novelty to the information. "We weren't that bad."
Cassian laughed, and the force of it shook Nesta's body along with his. "There's nothing past tense about it, baby sister." Feyre scowled, and Nesta suddenly recognized that likeness.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Her buzz was evident in her rosy cheeks, the rasp of her voice. She was participating in the dance with Cassian, but her blue eyes were more rounded than they had been. Like the sap he was— that he knew himself to be, especially when it came to Feyre— Cassian's shoulders slouched almost imperceptibly. Nesta wondered if she should tell him he'd already lost, but she didn't want to get involved. The state of her mind was delicate enough.
"Don't be like that, Fey," he murmured, his free hand reaching across the table. His hand dwarfed her slender one, and he dragged his thumb gently across the back of her palm. "I only meant that you two are as gone for each other as you always were."
Nesta snickered, and he cut a playful glare her way for the threat to his plea. She bit her lip, dragged her attention back to Feyre. Her sister was resolute and didn't look inclined to forgive so easily for the call-out, no matter how appropriate.
She tried pulling her hand away, an uncanny presentation of the temperamental child she'd been, but Cassian's grip held fast. He wasn't hindered by alcohol, and he'd always had the fastest reflex of the lot, anyway.
"Hey," he coaxed, beseeching her with a look that could thaw even the iciest heart. Nesta knew from experience. "You know I hate it when you're mad at me."
Feyre changed her approach and chose instead to look haughtily down her nose before disregarding him altogether. The interaction had crossed into ridiculous territory from the start, and Nesta admired Cassian's patience for her sister's undue punishment. They weren't strangers to the sibling-like bickering, and the reminder of the sheer amount of time they spent together— time she had missed before and would again— stung. The sensation was the very one that had deterred her too many times from traveling the road with Cassian once more, and she was already mentally preparing to miss those things once she returned to real life.
"Feyre," Cassian called, tugging her hand. Her sister's resolve faltered, and she turned toward him with the barest smile in betrayal of the part she played. He rubbed his thumb in gentle circles over her hand, held her stare to show his sincerity. "I only meant to tease you."
"I know," she breathed, rolling her eyes playfully. "You're already forgiven."
"Good." He shot her a wink for good measure. "I love you."
Nesta flinched, but she recovered in time to camouflage it in a slower stretch. If Cassian noticed, he gave no indication, and she was grateful for the opportunity to calm the roaring in her ears in peace. She was vaguely aware of Feyre returning the sentiment, but the events of the night were already dragging her under.
They'd chipped at the mortar of the fortress she'd built, only to have it crash around her from the inside.
Her breath was too shallow, and worst of all, she hated the guttural reaction she had to his words. Cassian showed her in so many ways he cared for her, and they'd adapted around their past to communicate it. What she hadn't expected was how it would cleave her chest to hear those words roll off his tongue again, only to be a bystander.
But, of course he was comfortable telling Feyre he loved her. Feyre hadn't cradled those words in her palm only to ruin his life. She hadn't used them to break him, hadn't taken advantage of his persisting love for her for years. Cassian trusted her, not only to appreciate the words, but in the knowledge that Feyre loved him, too. They were family in his eyes, and she'd never given him a single reason to doubt it.
Her reaction was irrational, fueled by circumstance and the bone-deep exhaustion that she hadn't allowed to settle until that moment. No amount of knowing helped to quell the rising flame of self-deprecation or shielded her brittle, healing heart from the realization that she'd set her own fate long ago in an attempt to shield from it.
With a muttered announcement to the table that she meant to get some water, she shuffled out of the booth before anyone responded. She'd kept her pleasant mask in place the best she could. The last thing she could afford was to set off Cassian's warning bells and have to reveal how fucked up she truly was.
The bar had thinned significantly since her unplanned rendez-vous with Rhysand, and the chill of a water bottle pressed into her palm within seconds. She allowed the stark sensation to ground her before taking a long drink. Returning to their booth was a disaster waiting to happen, so Nesta slipped outside to allow herself a moment to breathe.
Who could feel lonely with the ghosts of their past to keep them company?
If you’d like to be tagged in any of my fics, please send me an ask, a message, leave a comment, or mention being tagged in your reblog! I’ll be happy to add you!
[And, if I’ve left you off my list unintentionally, please don’t hesitate to remind me! No offense taken.]
Tags [master + Nessian]:
Bold tags didn’t work.
57 notes · View notes
[ Chapter 2 ]
[ masterpost ]
A/N: how do you know when/ something is triggering or not? Apart from, well, the very obvious subjects- Asking for a friend.
W/C: 2.3 k
T/W: brief mention of an anxiety/panic attack, cheating
She couldn’t breathe.
All the smoke and the lights and the alcohol and the music-
“I need to get out of here.”
Her voice was barely audible as she rushed toward the wall of windows. Only those were not windows. It was just glass, with no exits in close proximity.
Nesta hated parties of any kind, but she’d accepted going just this one time, please to make her friend happy. And safe. There was no way she would have left Emerie alone in a house full of horny and high and probably very drunk teenagers.
All at once, Nesta remembered exactly why she hated parties.
She swallowed and closed her eyes shut, ordering herself to calm the fuck down. She needed to find a way out of that damned house, but she didn’t have the time for that. Or the strength, for what mattered.
Not now, Nesta, she thought, but she knew how little it would do. She was already feeling light-headed, and she could bet her fingers were ice cold.
If she couldn’t get out, then she would find a place, a room, anywhere, to lock herself in until it was done.
She turned with renewed decision and found herself trapped in someone’s arms. Massive arms. Covered in swirling black ink.
Before a single word could leave her mouth, the owner of said massive arms whispered hot breath against her ear, “Come with me, Archeron.”
As soon as she recognized who that voice belonged to, her feet stopped short in their tracks and her face found that perfect crook between shoulder and neck to hide in.
Normally she would’ve already placed a well-assessed kick in the groin and left him wailing on the floor, but that was not a normal occasion and he was not a middle-aged stranger trying to kidnap her under everyone’s glassy eyes. On that not-normal occasion, he was her exit, the room to lock herself into.
Cassian stood still, his arms around her middle, and didn’t say a word for a full six seconds before tightening his grip and swooping her off the ground.
“What- Stop this nonsense and put me down!” She tried to push herself off of him, caged as she was, but once again her non-existent upper body strength did nothing to help her out of uncomfortable situations.
“Almost there, sweetheart.”
“Don’t call me that.”
He chuckled, the deep sound reverberating through his chest and herself in the process, and put her down soon after. On the house front porch.
“Sure thing, sweetheart.”
Nesta raised her head and found him already looking down.
“Get that shit-eating grin off your face, or I’ll do it myself.”
“Stand on your own first, then we can talk about the shit-eating grin thing.”
“I am standing on my own, you-”
She was not, in fact, standing on her own. It took Cassian another gentle squeeze of his hands on her hips to realize that he was, in fact, keeping her up.
She shoved again at his chest and, this time, he let go.
She fumbled back a few steps and looked straight at him, making sure her rage was well written on her face. He just grinned more, like it was all a fun game between them, and crossed his arms.
“You good now?”
“I was ‘good’ before. No need for you superhero moment.” Nesta hated being helped by others, but she hated being helped by Cassian Katliam even more. So she tucked some strands of wild golden-brown hair behind her ears, raised her chin, and just glared at him. She’d learned that the glaring look usually worked on most, but she’d also learned that Cassian was not “most”.
He was the hot himbo every girl in their class wanted to hook up with at least once before the end of the year. He got tattoos and long hair and pierced ears and lots, lots of muscles. But it wasn’t just that. No, it was the arrogance. It was the way he looked at her - at almost every girl, actually - like he was undressing them with his eyes. Like he knew the sounds they would make, how they would beg him for just another touch. It was the way he kept calling her - but not almost every girl, actually - with stupid pet names like “sweetheart” or “honey” or “doll”. It was the way he always, always had something to snap back at her. It was the way he reveled in getting under her skin, in seeing her undone.
How did it happen? Nesta questioned herself as she kept shooting imaginary fire-arrows his way. How did he manage to get so far? To get so in?
“What got you so hot and bothered before?” he asked, his voice low and his expression cool, calculated. Almost like he was worried for her well-being.
Extra points for the efforts put in this facade.
“Assholes like you, Katliam,” she spat back, daring a step forward, “disgusting people that only know how to look at a woman wondering what would she look like naked in their bed. That only care about what she says if it’s their name being moaned during a nice fuck.”
The first time Nesta Archeron had laid eyes on Cassian Katliam, back at the beginning of high school, only one word had been in her head: mountain. Not just for his towering and well-placed body, but also for the hard lines of his face, the strong cut of his jaw, the color of his eyes. They were hazel, a greenish ring on the outside and a warm, molten honey-like brown tone around the pupil, like a crown. No matter how many years had passed since then, how many times she had found herself raptured by his gaze, Nesta couldn’t help herself but imagine the peaks at the far North of their country. He was just like them: sure and savage and wild and majestic and so, so breath-taking.
He was very much the same now, just angrier. Nesta saw that just as much as she saw how he was trying to hide it. He took a deep breath and shrugged, “We can agree on the whole ‘assholes’ part.”
And that was it. He inhaled sharply through his nostrils right after that, and turned his head around, looking if someone was coming their way.
Nesta took a moment more to elaborate on the absence of a reaction from him, not even a tentative “I’m not like the others”, before adding, “That’s all you have to say?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
If she was surprised before, now she was confused in the literal sense of the word.
“You see, Archeron, when you go around pointing your finger at people - and that would be me, hi, I am people - there isn’t much I can do if not giving you a reason to go on and do even more. Besides, I know that’s not what you think about me. Not that I really care about your opinion, if I have to be honest.”
And that was it. The way he had stayed still but then raised a shoulder and dropped it, the way he had looked her straight in the eyes but had darted them away for just a moment before setting them on her once more.
Nesta knew how to get under Cassian’s skin just as much as he knew how to get under hers. What she also knew was how to tell if and when Cassian was lying, and she wasn’t sure Cassian knew how to do the same the other way around.
And that was one of the biggest lies he had ever told.
“Bullshit,” she snorted. It was her turn for the shit-eating grin. “You care about what I think of you more than you like to admit to yourself.”
He snorted, too, but didn’t deny. It was as good as sworn truth for her, yet she craved more.
“Am I wrong?” She tempted, daring to close the distance she’d put between them.
His wide chest rose and fell, twice, before he replied, “What if you’re not?”
That was a good question. What if he did care? What would it change?
Nothing, Nesta quickly thought, mostly to shut down her own other thoughts.
“What if I ran to get you out of this house while you were having a… What? Panic? Anxiety attack? What if I couldn’t keep my eyes off of you from the moment you walked in? What if you’re all I think about since that first day of three years ago?”
For the second time that night, Nesta found herself unable to breathe, and for a completely different reason.
All the ‘what ifs’ got straight to her heart, giving it an electric shock and making it beat like crazy.
Luckily for both of them, she tended to listen to her head way more often than she listened to her heart. And her head was now telling her not to fall for the trick.
“I’m not having sex with you, Cassian.”
“What if I don’t want that?”
She could see and name every tonality and color and shade of his irises until he dropped them.
[ 10 years after ]
With his lips on hers, every nerve in her body burned.
With his lips on hers, every sensation in her chest started fizzling.
With his lips on hers, every butterfly in her stomach came alive.
It was like their first kiss, just better.
Tongues dancing, hands ravaging, body pressed tight against each other.
It was so wrong, but Gods if it felt right.
Cassian’s hands gripped her ass, swept over her hips, her waist, up her bare back, and found their rightful place at the base of her hairline, supporting her head.
His lips left hers, and she hated it, then his lips found her neck, and she loved it.
Nesta was almost sure she let him know that with a moan, breathed right against his ear, if his muffled groan had been of any indication.
It was her hand’s turn to explore as they tasted and gripped and traveled down, down, down to the belt around his waist. And then stopped.
Cassian halted, catching his breath and he scanned her face, looking for any kind of trace or hint of discomfort that he might have misread.
You’re not going to find what you’re looking for, Nesta thought as she rested her forehead on his shoulder.
“Azriel and the girls… They’re inside. They’re probably waiting for me.” She said once oxygen reached her brain once again.
Cassian’s body tensed under her hands, just for a moment, before he started to retreat. She followed suit, fisting her hands around the unbuttoned collar of his shirt, and melting their lips together. Nesta kissed him deeply, too drunk on him to let go just yet. Like a drug addict when asked if they wanted a dose: it was impossible to say no.
“I’ll get my things and find an excuse to call it a night and be done with it. Wait for me.”
“I’ll start the car. Be right here.”
* * *
The first time Nesta Archeron had laid eyes on Cassian Katliam, back at the beginning of high school, only one word had been in her head: mountain. Not just for his towering and well-placed body, but also for the hard lines of his face, the strong cut of his jaw, the color of his eyes. They were hazel, a greenish ring on the outside and a warm, molten honey-like brown tone around the pupil like a crown. No matter how many years had passed, how many times she had found herself raptured by his gaze, she couldn’t help herself but imagine the peaks at the far north of their country. He was just like them: sure and savage and wild and majestic and so, so breath-taking.
Almost ten years had passed since then, but her opinion never changed.
She still thought about that mountain as she traced the curls of dark ink on his chest. She thought about that mountain as his breathing pattern changed and his body stirred under hers. She kept thinking about that mountain as he kissed her good morning. She was no longer thinking about the mountain as he made love to her, in that lazy way of his she loved so much.
She was thinking again of that mountain, but just a little, as she showered while Cassian cooked breakfast for both of them.
“Nes, you still like your eggs scrambled?” he half-asked-half-shouted from the kitchen.
“Yes,” she replied in a more controlled tone, padding her way to where the cook was working his magic.
It was so wrong, so why did it feel so right?
“What is it?” he asked, his back turned to her, every shifting muscle on display.
Nesta breathed in, hold it, and then breathed out.
“I wasn’t lying yesterday, about the boyfriend. It wasn’t just an excuse.”
The cook stopped, the magic vanished, the dream cracked.
She knew it was a lot to process, especially after the night they just had - and what a night they had.
Cassian cleared his throat, resuming his egg-mixing chore, “Well, I don’t think the boyfriend will be happy if he learns about this, would he?” He chuckled, the universal expression for “don’t answer, I already know”, and then turned off the stove.
“I’ll take you back to your place,” Cassian said as he walked past her, careful not to touch, not even by mistake.
“Don’t.” He halted but didn’t turn. “It was my fault, okay? I tempted you. You told me, you tried to stop me, yet I did it anyway. So it’s all on me. Now I take you back, and we don’t tell a single soul about tonight, and we pretend it never happened, alright? We go back to our lives, just like it was before. Nothing has changed.”
Nesta didn’t need to read his body language to know he was lying, he was hurt, he still cared. She felt just the same, after all.
Taglist: @confusedfandomslut @nestaspegasus @moodymelanist @iddragyouwithme @simpingfornestaarcheron @bookstantrash @sayosdreams @starksravings @thewayshedreamed @letstakethedawn @perseusannabeth @julemmaes @duskandstarlight I have the memory of a goldfish sO don’t be afraid to tell me if you want to be added or removed from the taglist!
36 notes · View notes