Home > A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)(4)

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)(4)
Sarah J. Maas

And it hadn’t stopped her from buying me three small tins of paint—red, yellow, and blue—during that same summer I’d had enough to buy the ash arrow. It was the only gift she’d ever given me, and our house still bore the marks of it, even if the paint was now fading and chipped: little vines and flowers along the windows and thresholds and edges of things, tiny curls of flame on the stones bordering the hearth. Any spare minutes I’d had that bountiful summer I used to bedeck our house in color, sometimes hiding clever decorations inside drawers, behind the threadbare curtains, underneath the chairs and table.

We hadn’t had a summer that easy since.

“Feyre.” My father’s deep rumble came from the fire. His dark beard was neatly trimmed, his face spotless—like my sisters’. “What luck you had today—in bringing us such a feast.”

From beside my father, Nesta snorted. Not surprising. Any bit of praise for anyone—me, Elain, other villagers—usually resulted in her dismissal. And any word from our father usually resulted in her ridicule as well.

I straightened, almost too tired to stand, but braced a hand on the table beside the doe as I shot Nesta a glare. Of us, Nesta had taken the loss of our fortune the hardest. She had quietly resented my father from the moment we’d fled our manor, even after that awful day one of the creditors had come to show just how displeased he was at the loss of his investment.

But at least Nesta didn’t fill our heads with useless talk of regaining our wealth, like my father. No, she just spent whatever money I didn’t hide from her, and rarely bothered to acknowledge my father’s limping presence at all. Some days, I couldn’t tell which of us was the most wretched and bitter.

“We can eat half the meat this week,” I said, shifting my gaze to the doe. The deer took up the entirety of the rickety table that served as our dining area, workspace, and kitchen. “We can dry the other half,” I went on, knowing that no matter how nicely I phrased it, I’d still do the bulk of it. “And I’ll go to the market tomorrow to see how much I can get for the hides,” I finished, more to myself than to them. No one bothered to confirm they’d heard me, anyway.

My father’s ruined leg was stretched out before him, as close to the fire’s heat as it could get. The cold, or the rain, or a change in temperature always aggravated the vicious, twisted wounds around his knee. His simply carved cane was propped up against his chair—a cane he’d made for himself … and that Nesta was sometimes prone to leaving far out of his reach.

He could find work if he wasn’t so ashamed, Nesta always said when I hissed about it. She hated him for the injury, too—for not fighting back when that creditor and his thugs had burst into the cottage and smashed his knee again and again. Nesta and Elain had fled into the bedroom, barricading the door. I had stayed, begging and weeping through every scream of my father, every crunch of bone. I’d soiled myself—and then vomited right on the stones before the hearth. Only then did the men leave. We never saw them again.

We’d used a massive chunk of our remaining money to pay for the healer. It had taken my father six months to even walk, a year before he could go a mile. The coppers he brought in when someone pitied him enough to buy his wood carvings weren’t enough to keep us fed. Five years ago, when the money was well and truly gone, when my father still couldn’t—wouldn’t—move much about, he hadn’t argued when I announced that I was going hunting.

He hadn’t bothered to attempt to stand from his seat by the fire, hadn’t bothered to look up from his wood carving. He just let me walk into those deadly, eerie woods that even the most seasoned hunters were wary of. He’d become a little more aware now—sometimes offered signs of gratitude, sometimes hobbled all the way into town to sell his carvings—but not much.

“I’d love a new cloak,” Elain said at last with a sigh, at the same moment Nesta rose and declared: “I need a new pair of boots.”

I kept quiet, knowing better than to get in the middle of one of their arguments, but I glanced at Nesta’s still-shiny pair by the door. Beside hers, my too-small boots were falling apart at the seams, held together only by fraying laces.

“But I’m freezing with my raggedy old cloak,” Elain pleaded. “I’ll shiver to death.” She fixed her wide eyes on me and said, “Please, Feyre.” She drew out the two syllables of my name—fay-ruh—into the most hideous whine I’d ever endured, and Nesta loudly clicked her tongue before ordering her to shut up.

I drowned them out as they began quarreling over who would get the money the hide would fetch tomorrow and found my father now standing at the table, one hand braced against it to support his weight as he inspected the deer. His attention slid to the giant wolf pelt. His fingers, still smooth and gentlemanly, turned over the pelt and traced a line through the bloody underside. I tensed.

His dark eyes flicked to mine. “Feyre,” he murmured, and his mouth became a tight line. “Where did you get this?”

“The same place I got the deer,” I replied with equal quiet, my words cool and sharp.

His gaze traveled over the bow and quiver strapped to my back, the wooden-hilted hunting knife at my side. His eyes turned damp. “Feyre … the risk …”

I jerked my chin at the pelt, unable to keep the snap from my voice as I said, “I had no other choice.”

What I really wanted to say was: You don’t even bother to attempt to leave the house most days. Were it not for me, we would starve. Were it not for me, we’d be dead.

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