Table after table of food had been lined up along the far edge of the plateau, and I lost Tamlin while I waited in line to fill a plate, leaving me to try my best not to look like I was some human plaything of his. Music started near the giant, smoking bonfire—fiddles and drums and merry instruments that had me tapping my feet in the grass. Light and joyous and open, the mirthful sister to the bloodthirsty Fire Night.
Lucien, of course, excelled at disappearing when I needed him, and so I ate my fill of strawberry shortcake, apple tart, and blueberry pie—no different from summer treats in the mortal realm—alone beneath a sycamore covered with silken lanterns and sparkling ribbons.
I didn’t mind the solitude—not when I was busy contemplating the way the lanterns and ribbons shone, the shadows they cast; perhaps it would be my next painting. Or maybe I would paint the ethereal faeries beginning to dance. Such angles and colors to them. I wondered if any of them had been the subjects of the painters whose work was displayed in the gallery.
I moved only to get myself something to drink. The plateau became more crowded as the sun sank toward the horizon. Across the hills, other bonfires and parties began, their music filtering through the occasional pause in ours. I was pouring myself a goblet of golden sparkling wine when Lucien finally appeared behind me, peering over my shoulder. “I wouldn’t drink that if I were you.”
“Oh?” I said, frowning at the fizzing liquid.
“Faerie wine at the solstice,” Lucien hinted.
“Hmm,” I said, taking a sniff. It didn’t reek of alcohol. In fact, it smelled like summers spent lying in the grass and bathing in cool pools. I’d never smelled anything so fantastic.
“I’m serious,” Lucien said as I lifted the glass to my lips, my brows raised. “Remember the last time you ignored my warning?” He poked me in the neck, and I batted his hand away.
“I also remember you telling me how witchberries were harmless, and the next thing I knew, I was half-delirious and falling all over myself,” I said, recalling the afternoon from a few weeks ago. I’d had hallucinations for hours afterward, and Lucien had laughed himself sick—enough so that Tamlin had chucked him into the reflection pool. I shook away the thought. Today—just for today—I would indeed let my hair down. Today, let caution be damned. Forget the blight hovering at the edges of the court, threatening my High Lord and his lands. Where was Tamlin, anyway? If there had been some threat, surely Lucien would have known—surely they would have called off the celebration.
“Well, I mean it this time,” Lucien said, and I shifted my goblet out of his reach. “Tam would gut me if he caught you drinking that.”
“Always looking after your best interests,” I said, and pointedly chugged the contents of the glass.
It was like a million fireworks exploding inside me, filling my veins with starlight. I laughed aloud, and Lucien groaned.
“Human fool,” he hissed. But his glamour had been ripped away. His auburn hair burned like hot metal, and his russet eye smoldered like a bottomless forge. That was what I would capture next.
“I’m going to paint you,” I said, and giggled—actually giggled—as the words popped out.
“Cauldron boil and fry me,” he muttered, and I laughed again. Before he could stop me, I’d downed another glass of faerie wine. It was the most glorious thing I’d ever tasted. It liberated me from bonds I hadn’t known existed.
The music became a siren song. The melody was my lodestone, and I was powerless against its lure. With each step, I savored the dampness of the grass beneath my bare feet. I didn’t remember when I’d lost my shoes.
The sky was an eddy of molten amethyst, sapphire, and ruby, all bleeding into a final pool of onyx. I wanted to swim in it, wanted to bathe in its colors and feel the stars twinkling between my fingers.
I stumbled, blinking, and found myself standing at the edge of the ring of dancing. A cluster of musicians played their faerie instruments, and I swayed on my feet as I watched the faeries dancing, circling the bonfire. Not formal dancing. It was like they were as loose as I was. Free. I loved them for it.
“Damn it, Feyre,” Lucien said, gripping my elbow. “Do you want me to kill myself trying to keep you from impaling your mortal hide on another rock?”
“What?” I said, turning to him. The whole world spun with me, delightful and entrancing.
“Idiot,” he said when he looked at my face. “Drunken idiot.”
The tempo increased. I wanted to be in the music, wanted to ride its speed and weave between its notes. I could feel the music around me, like a living, breathing thing of wonder and joy and beauty.
“Feyre, stop,” Lucien said, and grabbed me again. I’d been dancing away, and my body was still swaying toward the pull of the sound.
“You stop. Stop being so serious,” I said, shaking him off. I wanted to hear the music, wanted to hear it hot off the instruments. Lucien swore as I burst into movement.
I skipped between the dancers, twirling my skirts. The seated, masked musicians didn’t look up at me as I leaped before them, dancing in place. No chains, no boundaries—just me and the music, dancing and dancing. I wasn’t faerie, but I was a part of this earth, and the earth was a part of me, and I would be content to dance upon it for the rest of my life.
One of the musicians looked up from his fiddling, and I halted.
Sweat gleamed on the strong column of his neck as he rested his chin upon the dark wood of the fiddle. He’d rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, revealing the cords of muscle along his forearms. He had once mentioned that he would have liked to be a traveling minstrel if not a warrior or a High Lord—now, hearing him play, I knew he could have made a fortune from it.
“I’m sorry, Tam,” Lucien panted, appearing from nowhere. “I left her alone for a little at one of the food tables, and when I caught up to her, she was drinking the wine, and—”
Tamlin didn’t pause in his playing. His golden hair damp with sweat, he looked marvelously handsome—even though I couldn’t see most of his face. He gave me a feral smile as I began to dance in place before him. “I’ll look after her,” Tamlin murmured above the music, and I glowed, my dancing becoming faster. “Go enjoy yourself.” Lucien fled.
I shouted over the music, “I don’t need a keeper!” I wanted to spin and spin and spin.
“No, you don’t,” Tamlin said, never once stumbling over his playing. How his bow did dance upon the strings, his fingers sturdy and strong, no signs of those claws that I had come to stop fearing … “Dance, Feyre,” he whispered.