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House of Earth and Blood: Part 2 – Chapter 32


After dropping off his gear at the apartment, Hunt trailed Bryce back to work, where she said she intended to look through Danika’s location data from Declan and cross-reference it with her own list—and the murder scenes so far.

But the thought of sitting underground for another few hours grated enough that he found himself sitting on the roof instead. He needed the fresh, open air. Even if angels were still flying past—leaving the city. He made a point not to look toward the Comitium, looming at his back.

Just before sundown, Syrinx in tow, Bryce emerged from the gallery with a grim expression that matched Hunt’s own.

“Nothing?” he asked, landing on the sidewalk beside her.

“Nothing,” she confirmed.

“We’ll look tomorrow with fresh eyes.” Maybe there was something they were missing. Today had been long and awful and weird, and he was more than ready to collapse on her couch.

He asked as casually as he could, “There’s a big sunball game on tonight. You mind if I watch it?”

She glanced at him sidelong, her brows rising.

“What?” he asked, unable to keep the corner of his mouth from twitching upward.

“It’s just … you’re such … a guy.” She waved a hand at him. “With the sports and stuff.”

“Females like sports as much as males.”

She rolled her eyes. “This sunball-watching person doesn’t fit with my mental image of the Shadow of Death.”

“Sorry to disappoint.” Hunt’s turn to lift a brow. “What do you think I do with my spare time?”

“I don’t know. I assumed you cursed at the stars and brooded and plotted revenge on all your enemies.”

She didn’t know the half of it. But Hunt let out a low chuckle. “Again, sorry to disappoint.”

Her eyes crinkled with amusement, the last of the day’s sun lighting them into liquid gold. He forced himself to monitor the streets around them.

They were a block from Bryce’s apartment when Hunt’s phone rang. She tensed, peering at his screen the same moment he did.

The phone rang a second time. They both stared at the name that popped up, pedestrians streaming past.

“You gonna answer it?” Bryce asked quietly.

It rang a third time.

Hunt knew. Before he hit the button, he knew.

Which was why he stepped away from Quinlan, putting the phone to his ear just as he said blandly, “Hi, boss.”

“I have work for you tonight,” Micah said.

Hunt’s gut twisted. “Sure.”

“I hope I’m not interrupting your fun with Miss Quinlan.”

“We’re good,” Hunt said tightly.

Micah’s pause was loaded. “What occurred in the lobby this morning is never to happen again. Understood?”

“Yes.” He bit out the word. But he said it—and meant it—because the alternative to Micah was now staying at the Governor’s residence in the Comitium. Because Sandriel would have drawn out his punishment for refusing to bow, for embarrassing her, for days, weeks. Months.

But Micah would give him this warning, and make him do this job tonight to remind him where the fuck he stood in the pecking order, and then that would be that.

“Good,” Micah said. “The file’s waiting at your room in the barracks.” He paused, as if sensing the question now burning through Hunt. “The offer still stands, Athalar. Don’t make me reconsider.” The call ended.

Hunt clenched his jaw hard enough to hurt.

Quinlan’s forehead wrinkled with concern. “Everything okay?”

Hunt slid the phone into his pocket. “It’s fine.” He resumed walking. “Just legion business.” Not a lie. Not entirely.

The glass doors to her building opened. Hunt nodded toward the lobby. “You head up. I’ve got something to do. I’ll call if we get the date and time for Briggs.”

Her amber eyes narrowed. Yeah, she saw right through it. Or rather, heard everything he wasn’t saying. Knew what Micah had ordered him to do.

But she said, “All right.” She turned toward the lobby, but added over her shoulder, “Good luck.”

He didn’t bother answering before he shot into the skies, phone already to his ear as he called Justinian to ask him to play sentry for a few hours. Justinian whined about missing the sunball game, but Hunt pulled rank, earning a grumbled promise that the angel would be at the adjacent rooftop in ten minutes.

Justinian arrived in eight. Leaving his brother-in-arms to it, Hunt sucked in a breath of dusty, dry air, the Istros a teal ribbon to his left, and went to do what he did best.

“Please.”

It was always the same word. The only word people tended to say when the Umbra Mortis stood before them.

Through the blood splattered on his helmet, Hunt regarded the male cougar shifter cowering before him. His clawed hands shook as he left them upraised. “Please,” the man sobbed.

Every utterance dragged Hunt further away. Until the arm he outstretched was distant, until the gun he aimed at the male’s head was just a bit of metal.

A death for a death.

“Please.”

The male had done horrible things. Unspeakable things. He deserved this. Deserved worse.

“Pleasepleaseplease.”

Hunt was nothing but a shadow, a wisp of life, an instrument of death.

He was nothing and no one at all.

“Ple—”

Hunt’s finger curled on the trigger.

Hunt returned early. Well, early for him.

Thankfully, no one was in the barracks bathroom while he showered off the blood. Then sat under the scalding spray for so long that he lost track of time.

He would have stayed longer had he not known that Justinian was waiting.

So he patched himself up, pieced himself together. Half crawled out of the boiling-hot shower and into the person he was when he wasn’t forced to put a bullet between someone’s eyes.

He made a few stops before getting back to Bryce’s apartment. But he made it back, relieving Justinian from his duties, and walked through Bryce’s door at eleven.

She was in her bedroom, the door shut, but Syrinx let out a little yowl of welcome from within. Her scolding hush was proof that she’d heard Hunt return. Hunt prayed she wouldn’t come into the hall. Words were still beyond him.

Her doorknob turned. But Hunt was already at his room, and didn’t dare look across the expanse of the great room as she said tightly, “You’re back.”

“Yeah,” he choked out.

Even across the room, he could feel her questions. But she said softly, “I recorded the game for you. If you still want to watch it.”

Something tightened unbearably in his chest. But Hunt didn’t look back.

He slipped into his room with a mumbled “Night,” and shut the door behind him.


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