Home > Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)(5)

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)(5)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

The spindly fingers darted back over the crest of the rock—which, like so many in these woods, had been carved with symbols and whorls.

The Little Folk had been tracking them since they crossed the border into Terrasen. Escorting, Aedion had insisted whenever they spotted large, depthless eyes blinking from a tangle of brambles or peering through a cluster of leaves atop one of Oakwald’s famed trees. They hadn’t come close enough for Aelin to even get a solid look at them.

But they’d left small gifts just outside the border of Rowan’s nightly shields, somehow deposited without alerting whichever of them was on watch.

One morning, it had been a crown of forest violets. Aelin had given it to Evangeline, who had worn the crown on her red-gold head until it fell apart. The next morning, two crowns waited: one for Aelin, and a smaller one for the scarred girl. Another day, the Little Folk left a replica of Rowan’s hawk form, crafted from gathered sparrow feathers, acorns, and beetle husks. Her Fae Prince had smiled a bit when he’d found it—and carried it in his saddlebag since.

Aelin herself smiled at the memory. Though knowing the Little Folk were following their every step, listening and watching, had made things … difficult. Not in any real way that mattered, but slipping off into the trees with Rowan was certainly less romantic knowing they had an audience. Especially whenever Aedion and Lysandra got so sick of their silent, heated glances that the two made up flimsy excuses to get Aelin and Rowan out of sight and scent for a while: the lady had dropped her nonexistent handkerchief on the nonexistent path far behind; they needed more logs for a fire that did not require wood to burn.

And as for her current audience…

Aelin splayed her fingers over the stream, letting her heart become as still as a sun-warmed forest pool, letting her mind shake free of its normal boundaries.

A ribbon of water fluttered up from the stream, gray and clear, and she wended it through her spread fingers as if she were threading a loom.

She tilted her wrist, admiring the way she could see her skin through the water, letting it slip down her hand and curl about her wrist. She said to the faerie watching from the other side of the boulder, “Not much to report to your companions, is it?”

Soggy leaves crunched behind her, and Aelin knew it was only because Rowan wanted her to hear his approach. “Careful, or they’ll leave something wet and cold in your bedroll next time.”

Aelin made herself release the water into the stream before she looked over a shoulder. “Do you think they take requests? Because I’d hand over my kingdom for a hot bath right about now.”

Rowan’s eyes danced as she eased to her feet. She lowered the shield she’d put around herself to keep dry—the steam off the invisible flame blending with the mist around them. The Fae Prince lifted a brow. “Should I be concerned that you’re so chatty this early in the morning?”

She rolled her eyes and turned toward the rock where the faerie had been monitoring her shoddy attempts to master water. But only rain-slick leaves and snaking mist remained.

Strong hands slid over her waist, tugging her into his warmth, as Rowan’s lips grazed her neck, right under her ear.

Aelin arched back into him while his mouth roved across her throat, heating mist-chilled skin. “Good morning to you,” she breathed.

Rowan’s responding grumble set her toes curling.

They hadn’t dared stop at an inn, even after crossing into Terrasen three days ago, not when there were still so many enemy eyes fixed on the roads and taprooms. Not when there were still streaming lines of Adarlanian soldiers finally marching out of her gods-damned territory—thanks to Dorian’s decrees.

Especially when those soldiers might very well march right back here, might choose to ally themselves with the monster squatting down in Morath rather than their true king.

“If you want to take a bath so badly,” Rowan murmured against her neck, “I spotted a pool about a quarter mile back. You could heat it—for both of us.”

She ran her nails down the back of his hands, up his forearms. “I’d boil all the fish and frogs inside it. I doubt it’d be very pleasant then.”

“At least we’d have breakfast prepared.”

She laughed under her breath, and Rowan’s canines scratched the sensitive spot where her neck met her shoulder. Aelin dug her fingers into the powerful muscles of his forearms, savoring the strength there. “The lords won’t be here until sundown. We’ve got time.” Her words were breathless, barely more than a whisper.

Upon crossing the border, Aedion had sent messages to the few lords he trusted, coordinating the meeting that was to happen today—in this clearing, which Aedion himself had used for covert rebel meetings these long years.

They’d arrived early to scope out the land, the pitfalls and advantages. Not a trace of any humans lingered: Aedion and the Bane had always ensured any evidence was wiped away from unfriendly eyes. Her cousin and his legendary legion had already done so much to ensure the safety of Terrasen this past decade. But they were still taking no risks, even with lords who had once been her uncle’s banner men.

“Tempting as it might be,” Rowan said, nipping her ear in a way that made it hard to think, “I need to be on my way in an hour.” To scout the land ahead for any threats. Featherlight kisses brushed over her jaw, her cheek. “And what I said still holds. I’m not taking you against a tree the first time.”

“It wouldn’t be against a tree—it’d be in a pool.” A dark laugh against her now-burning skin. It was an effort to keep from taking one of his hands and guiding it up to her breasts, to beg him to touch, take, taste. “You know, I’m starting to think you’re a sadist.”

“Trust me, I don’t find it easy, either.” He tugged her a bit harder against him, letting her feel the evidence pushing with impressive demand against her backside. She nearly groaned at that, too.

Then Rowan pulled away, and she frowned at the loss of his warmth, at the loss of those hands and that body and that mouth. She turned, finding his pine-green eyes pinned on her, and a thrill sparked through her blood brighter than any magic.

But he said, “Why are you so coherent this early?”

She stuck out her tongue. “I took over the watch for Aedion, since Lysandra and Fleetfoot were snoring loud enough to wake the dead.” Rowan’s mouth twitched upward, but Aelin shrugged. “I couldn’t sleep anyway.”

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