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House of Earth and Blood: Part 3 – Chapter 67

Ruhn was in the apartment lobby when Fury dropped her off. Tharion left them at the docks, saying he was going to help haul in the seized synth shipment, and Fury departed fast enough that Bryce knew she was heading out to make sure the Viper Queen didn’t abscond with any of it, either.

Ruhn said nothing as they rode the elevator.

But she knew Fury had told him. Summoned him here.

Her friend had been messaging someone on the walk back from the docks. And she’d spied Flynn and Declan standing guard on the rooftops of her block, armed with their long-range rifles.

Her brother didn’t speak until they were in the apartment, the place dark and hollow and foreign. Every piece of clothing and gear belonging to Hunt was like an asp, ready to strike. That bloodstain on the couch was the worst of all.

Bryce made it halfway across the great room before she puked all over the carpet.

Ruhn was instantly there, his arms and shadows around her.

She could feel her sobs, hear them, but they were distant. The entire world was distant as Ruhn picked her up and carried her to the couch, keeping away from that spot where she’d yielded herself entirely to Hunt. But he made no comment about the bloodstain or any lingering scent.

It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true.

No better than a bunch of drug addicts. That’s what Hunt had implied. She and Danika had been no better than two addicts, inhaling and snorting everything they could get their hands on.

It wasn’t like that. Hadn’t ever been like that. It had been stupid, but it had been for fun, for distraction and release, never for something dark—

She was shaking so hard she thought her bones might snap.

Ruhn’s grip on her tightened, like he could keep her together.

Hunt must have known she was getting close to learning the truth when she’d shown him the trial videos. So he’d spun her lies about a happy ending for the two of them, a future for them, had distracted her with his mouth and hands. And then, as one of the triarii, he’d gotten the alert from her old landlord about her request to visit the apartment—and snuck out, letting her think he was asleep. A bolt of his lightning had probably sparked the flame.

She remembered the water nymph saying that there hadn’t been any casualties—had some shred of decency in Hunt made him trigger the fire alarms in an attempt to warn people? She had to believe it.

But once Hunt had burned the building down so there was no hint of evidence left, he’d met with the Viper Queen to barter for what he needed to fuel his rebellion. She didn’t believe his bullshit about pulling out of the deal. Not for a heartbeat. He knew the world of hurt about to come down on him. He’d have said anything.

Danika had killed the Pack of Devils. Killed Thorne and Connor. And then herself.

And now Danika lived on, in shame, among the mausoleums of the Sleeping City. Suffering. Because of Bryce.

It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true.

By the time Fury came back, Bryce had been staring at the same spot on the wall for hours. Ruhn left her on the couch to talk to the assassin in the kitchen.

Bryce heard their whispering anyway.

Athalar’s in one of the holding cells under the Comitium, Fury said.

Micah didn’t execute him?

No. Justinian and Viktoria … He crucified the angel, and did some fucked-up shit to the wraith.

They’re dead?

Worse. Justinian’s still bleeding out in the Comitium lobby. They gave him some shit to slow his healing. He’ll be dead soon enough if he’s lucky.

What about the wraith?

Micah ripped her from her body and shoved her essence into a glass box. Put it at the base of Justinian’s crucifix. Rumor says he’s going to dump the box—Viktoria—into the Melinoë Trench and let her fall right to the bottom of the sea to go insane from the isolation and darkness.

Fucking Hel. You can’t do anything?

They’re traitors to the Republic. They were caught conspiring against it. So, no.

But Athalar’s not crucified beside Justinian?

I think Micah came up with a different punishment for him. Something worse.

What could be worse than what the other two are enduring?

A long, horrible pause. A lot of things, Ruhn Danaan.

Bryce let the words wash over her. She sat on the couch and stared at the dark screen of the television. And stared into the black pit inside herself.


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