Feyre had just about had it with Friends reruns. She harrumphed to herself, drawing her knees to her chest. Her movement jostled the things laying on her bed - or technically, her boyfriend Tamlin’s bed - sending her abandoned sketchbook and colored pencils flying.
She slammed the pause button on the remote, freezing Monica mid rant about something Rachel had said, and glared out the window. She pictured Tamlin, standing in the doorway like he had only hours prior, looking down at her. Blonde, tan, tall, perfect, Tam was exactly the kind of boy she expected to meet when she transferred to Prythian High School. Or Prissyian, as her sister liked to call it.
“Calanmai isn’t a joke, okay?” he said to her, a too-small doorway bracketing his massive form on all sides, “It’s like if any other party you’ve been to was on steroids. Magic steroids, mixed with coke, LSD, and molly.”
“And you’re going without me,” she said, feeling petulant. She couldn’t help it - she was lucky to be with him, she knew, but was he really that embarrassed of her? It was only convenience that his father had been the one to secure her scholarship to Prythian, only convenience that Tam had been the first she’d met over the summer, before she started school in the fall. Before him, Feyre didn’t think she’d have friends at all, let alone a boyfriend who was captain of the football team, part of the student council, and involved in a million other extracurriculars.
“Trust me, it’s the last thing I want to do. But I have to make an appearance. Don’t make it worse by making me worry about you too.”
Another retort grew in her throat, stronger, but she swallowed it down. And then he was gone.
She knew it was close, only a few houses down from Tamlin’s big empty mansion - his family was on a trip for a year while he finished his senior year - but she hadn’t realized how close until the music started. Bouncing bass, laughter, the deep rhythm of something new and trendy.
Feyre was nearly consumed with images of it, dropping low as she danced, eyes closing and hips moving in tandem with the beat.
That was it.
She rose from the bed.
Tamlin be damned. If she wanted to hide, she would have stayed on the other side of town, going to school with her sisters like she had last year. But no - she came to Prythian to experience life. She wasn’t going to let it pass her by now.
It took her no time at all to find the house, led by the steady rhythm, standing out deeply in an otherwise quiet neighborhood. It was intoxicating, even from this distance. She could only imagine how it would feel with a drink in her hand.
When she reached the right house, she felt pitfully underdressed. Of course she would wear her rattiest t-shirt, the name of her old school pasted across the front. But she’d snagged Tamlin’s varsity jacket on her way out, and now she was glad for it, as she pulled it close, covering the ripped and dirty shirt.
But she’d made it barely six steps in before running smack dab into someone in the same jacket, flaming red hair tied back into a bun.
“Feyre?” Lucien asked, his eyes widening. One was a beautiful shade of brown, the other a startling yellow. Heterochromia, Tamlin had told her when he first introduced his best friend, a genetic abnormality he didn’t much like to talk about. “Oh good God, Feyre,” he said, grasping her arm. It wasn’t rough, not by any means - despite being one of the best football players at the school, Lucien had been nothing but gentle with Feyre, and she always liked him for it. Tonight, however, he looked nothing less than murderous. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to mingle,” she said, though it sounded pathetic and feeble out of her lips. She struggled to keep her eyes on him as, all around them, people streamed by. New students, dozens of them, in various styles, hair colors, and states of intoxication. God, she wanted to join them. “I go to this school now too, Lucien.”
“Don’t remind me,” he said. Two fingers not wrapped around the SOLO cup in his hand pushed her jacket away, revealing the shirt underneath. “Better question: what are you doing here wearing that?”
Feyre swallowed. “If Tamlin had given me a chance to change —”
“He doesn’t know you’re here, does he?”
Feyre held his two-colored gaze.
“Motherfucker,” he sighed, putting a hand to his eyes. “Of all the stupid ways to start your year, Feyre…”
“You don’t need to worry about me,” she interrupted, her annoyance growing. His concern could have been sweet, if it wasn’t ruining her fun completely.
“It’s not you I’m worried about,” he hissed back. Seeing the surprise on her face, he sighed, stepping closer, features softening as he lowered his voice. “I’m worried about you, yes, but I’m more worried about Tam, okay? He won’t exactly…be himself tonight. And if he sees you here, without being sober, being as unsober as he will be, it will spell big trouble. For everyone. Okay?”
Feyre couldn’t reply, though, as someone suddenly called Lucien’s name. On instinct, he turned, and for good reason, as a football came flying straight towards them. He went to catch it, saving his drink, and Feyre saw her opening - in a moment, he’d turned, and she slipped right by him, disappearing into the crowd.
It was an easy crowd to disappear into; loud, vivid, rowdy, pulsing, colorful, she couldn’t absorb enough of it into her bloodstream. Like a kaleidoscope swirling around her, she let herself get taken by the crowd, accepting when a drink was pushed into her hand and drinking it in one go. It burned going down her throat, but sat in her stomach pleasantly, just as intoxicating as it was sweet and sugary. Words, Tamlin’s, Lucien’s, those of her older sisters and family, mixed in her head, not strong enough to change her course. No. She didn’t believe in fate, but if she did, she might think that something bigger was at play tonight.
But around her, there was no sign of Tamlin. From across the yard, she could see some kind of shack, a tiny backyard construction of wood and stone, garishly decorated with old Christmas lights and spray paint - perhaps he was in there, doing whatever duty he had come to the party to do. Perhaps indulging in whatever not sober activities Lucien had warned her about.
Stepping off of the concrete patio and into the darker bushes, she found light to be snuffed out, the music strangely quiet. This was not part of the party. But it was the quickest route to the shack.
She hadn’t realized other people were there too until someone grabbed her arm.
“Looking for me, baby?”
Feyre’s head shot around, eyes connecting with the offending perpetrator. Long face, eyes hazed by some kind of drug, he looked at her like he might be her next hit, a friend beside him. Her stomach turned uncomfortably.
“Excuse me,” Feyre said, moving backwards a bit, but they stepped forward, crowding her again.
“Mind the bushes,” the other one said, bracing her shoulder. She froze as his hand wandered down, brushing her jacket aside and grazing her breast as it did. “What’s this?”
His friend laughed, greasily. “You’re on the wrong side of the tracks,” he said, laughing to his friend. “And all on your own?”
“No,” she lied. “My boyfriend —”
“Has been looking everywhere for you,” a dark voice interrupted. Feyre’s spine locked, as strong hands that most definitely did not belong to Tamlin broached her back. At the same time, the two guys backed up, nearly tripping over themselves in their haste. Their faces were so surprised they nearly bordered on fear. “I’m glad someone found you back here, darling,” he practically purred, looking down at her. Feyre glanced up, eyes locking with the most startling shade of blue she had ever seen. He only smiled, a single hint of doubt missing from his face. He looked back at the boys, who were already diving back into the bushes. “Enjoy the party.”
When they were gone, Feyre stepped away, acutely noting the missing presence of his warmth at her back as she did. From this glance, she could see how truly…beautiful he was.
Short dark hair, ruffled and tumbling into his face, did nothing to hide the sharp cheekbones, sculpted jaw, fine nose. Whatever luck God gave the pretty, this dude had it in spades.
“Rhys,” he said, offering his hand. Feyre glanced down at it, still too surprised to speak. “You were just about to ask my name. For being so kind as to save you.”
Feyre glared. She hadn’t expected her savior to be so…arrogant. It wasn’t befitting how attractive he was. Nor how turned on it made her. “Thank you,” she said, meaning to step away, but her feet wouldn’t move.
“What are you doing here?” He nodded down at her shirt.
She closed her jacket self-consciously. “My friends brought me.”
“Mhm? Who? I probably know them.”
Sensing her hesitation, Rhys gave that infernal smile again. “Yeah, I thought as much. I’ll call you an Uber.”
She bristled. “No,” she said, losing her cool for a moment, before she crossed her arms. “What about you? You don’t exactly look like a line-backer yourself.”
“Like on the football team?” He had the audacity to laugh. “Of course I don’t. If I wanted a brain injury, I’d do it myself, not while running around in a pair of tights.”
Feyre couldn’t help the way her eyes widened. “Then why are you here?”
“This isn’t a fundraiser. I’m here for the same reason we all are. The same reason you are.”
His eyes cut deeply into her, deeper than she wished for how tipsy she was. She’d had enough. “Enjoy the party,” she said, using his own words against him.
He gave a feline kind of smile, tucking his hands into his coat suavely. “Enjoy the party, Feyre.”
And he left her, wondering if she had told him her name or how he knew it at all, or if she was drunk on fate tonight.