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House of Sky and Breath: Part 2 – Chapter 35

Bryce cursed herself for opening the door. For letting the wolf in. For letting it get to this so quickly: Ithan and Sabine, about to splatter this apartment with blood. Ithan’s blood.

Bryce’s mouth dried out. Think. Think.

Ruhn swiftly glanced at her, but didn’t suggest any bright ideas mind-to-mind.

Sabine snarled at Ithan, “Your brother knew his place. Was content to be Danika’s Second. You’re not nearly as smart as he was.”

Ithan didn’t back down as Sabine advanced. “I might not be as smart as Connor,” he said, “but at least I wasn’t dumb enough to sleep with Mordoc.”

Sabine halted. “Shut your mouth, boy.”

Ithan laughed, cold and lifeless. Bryce had never heard him make such a sound. “We never learned during that last visit: Was it an arranged pairing between you two, or some drunk decision?”

Mordoc—the Hind’s captain?

“I will rip out your throat,” Sabine growled, stepping closer. But Bryce saw it—the glimmer of surprise. Doubt. He’d thrown Sabine off her game a little with that volley.

Again, Ithan didn’t lower his eyes. “He’s here in this city. Are you going to see him? Take him to the Black Dock to bid farewell to his daughter?”

Bryce’s stomach dropped, but she kept her face neutral. Danika had never said. Had always claimed it was a …

A male not worth knowing or remembering.

Bryce had assumed it was some lesser wolf, some male too submissive to keep Sabine’s interest, and Sabine had refused to let Danika see him because of it. Even when Danika had known the truth of Bryce’s parentage, she’d never told Bryce about her own lineage. The thought burned like acid.

Sabine spat, “I know what you’re trying to do, Holstrom, and it won’t work.”

Ithan flexed his broad chest. Bryce had seen that same intense expression while facing off against opponents on the sunball field. Ithan had usually been the one to walk away from the encounter. And he’d always walked away if a teammate joined in the fight.

So Bryce stepped up. Said to Sabine, “Was Danika a rebel?”

Sabine whipped her head to her. “What?

Bryce kept her shoulders back, head high. She outranked Sabine in position and power now, she reminded herself. “Did Danika have contact with the Ophion rebels?”

Sabine backed away. Just one step. “Why would you ever ask that?”

Ithan ignored the question and countered, “Was it because of Mordoc? She was so disgusted by him that she helped the rebels to spite him?”

Bryce shoved from the other side, “Maybe she did it out of disgust for you, too.”

Sabine backed away one more step. Predator turning into prey. She snarled, “You’re both delusional.”

“Is that so?” Bryce asked, and then took a stab in the dark. “I’m not the one who ran all the way here to make sure Ithan and I weren’t plotting some kind of wolf-coup against you.”

Sabine bristled. Bryce pushed, getting no small delight out of it, “That’s the fear, right? That I’m going to use my fancy princess title to get Holstrom to replace you somehow? I mean, you’ve got no heir beyond Amelie right now. And Ithan’s as dominant as she is. But I don’t think the Den likes Amelie—or you, for that matter—nearly as much as they love him.”

Ithan blinked at her in surprise. But Bryce smiled at Sabine, who’d gone stone-faced as she snarled, “Stay out of wolf business.

Bryce taunted, “I wonder how hard it would be to convince the Prime and the Den that Ithan is the bright future of the Valbaran wolves—”

“Bryce,” Ithan warned. Had he truly never considered such a thing?

Sabine’s hand drifted to something at her back, and Ruhn aimed his gun. “Nah,” Bryce’s brother said, smiling wickedly. “I don’t think so.”

A familiar ripple of charged air filled the room a moment before Hunt said, “Neither do I,” and appeared in the doorway so silently Bryce knew he’d crept up. Relief nearly buckled her knees as Hunt stepped into the apartment, gun pointed at the back of Sabine’s head. “You’re going to leave, and never fucking bother us again.”

Sabine seethed, “Allow me to give you a bit of advice. You tangle with Mordoc, and you’ll get what’s coming to you. Ask him about Danika and see what he does to get answers out of you.”

Ithan’s teeth flashed. “Get out, Sabine.”

“You don’t give me orders.”

The wolves faced off: one young and brokenhearted, the other in her prime—and heartless. Could someone like Ithan, if he wanted it, ever win in a battle for dominance?

But then another figure stepped into the apartment behind Hunt.

Baxian. The angel shifter had a gun drawn, aimed at Sabine’s legs to disable her if she tried to run.

Only a glimmer of surprise on Hunt’s face told Bryce this wasn’t a planned appearance.

Sabine turned slowly. Recognition flared in her eyes. And something like fear.

Baxian’s teeth gleamed in a feral grin. “Hello, Sabine.”

Sabine simmered with rage, but hissed, “You’re all carrion,” and stormed from the apartment.

“You all right?” Hunt asked Bryce as he looked her over. The redness around her throat was fading before his eyes.

Bryce scowled. “I could have done without being hurled into the side of the couch.”

Baxian, still by the door, huffed a laugh.

Hunt turned toward him, lightning at the ready. “You got nothing better to do with your time than follow me around?”

“It seemed like you had an emergency,” Baxian retorted. “I figured you might need backup. Especially considering where you were this morning.” A slash of a smile. “I worried something had followed you back across the Istros.”

Hunt clenched his jaw hard enough to hurt. “What about Isaiah?”

“You mean his pathetic distraction attempt?” Baxian snorted.

Before Hunt could reply, Ithan asked the Helhound, “You know Sabine?”

Baxian’s face darkened. “In passing.” From the way Sabine had acted, there was definitely more to it than that.

But Bryce suddenly asked Ithan, “Mordoc is … was … He’s Danika’s father?”

Ithan gazed at his feet. “Yeah.”

“As in, the male who sired her. Like, gave her his genetic material.”

Ithan’s eyes blazed. “Yeah.”

“And no one thought to fucking tell me?”

“I only knew because he visited the Den once, a year before we met you. She got her bloodhound gift from him. It was her secret to keep, but now that she’s gone—”

“Why wouldn’t she tell me?” Bryce rubbed at her chest. Hunt took her hand. Brushed his thumb over her knuckles.

“Would you want that asshole for a father?” Hunt asked.

“I have an asshole father already,” Bryce said, and Ruhn grunted his agreement. “I’d have understood.” Hunt squeezed her hand in gentle reassurance.

“I don’t know why she didn’t say anything to you.” Ithan dropped onto the couch and ran his hands through his hair. “Danika would have become my Alpha one day, and Sabine ruler of us all, so if they wanted it kept quiet, I had no choice.” Until Sabine had exiled him, freeing Ithan from those restrictions.

“Would you have taken Sabine down just now?” Tharion asked.

“I might have tried,” Ithan admitted.

Hunt whistled. But it was Baxian who said, “You wouldn’t have won tonight.”

Ithan growled, “Did I ask for your opinion, dog?”

Hunt glanced between them. Interesting, that Ithan saw him as a dog, not an angel. His animal form took precedence for another shifter, apparently.

Baxian growled right back. “I said you wouldn’t have won tonight. But another day, give yourself a few more years, pup, and maybe.”

“And you’re an expert in such things?”

Ithan was still itching for a fight. Perhaps Baxian was about to give him one, sensing his need for it. Baxian’s wings tucked in. Definitely primed for a fight.

Bryce massaged her temples. “Go to the gym or the roof if you’re going to brawl. Please. I can’t afford to lose any more furniture.” She scowled at Ithan at that.

Hunt snickered. “We’ll get through the mourning process together, Quinlan. Have a proper send-off for the coffee table. Holstrom should give the eulogy, since he broke it.”

His phone buzzed, and he checked it to find Isaiah’s message. All ok?

He wrote back, Yeah. You?

She’s upset you left. Didn’t say anything, but I can tell. Baxian bailed, too.

Fuck. He replied, Tell her it was an emergency and that Baxian needed to help me.

He trailed you?

Just busting my balls, Hunt lied.

All right. Be careful.

Ithan said to Ruhn, “I’m accepting your offer.”

Hunt’s brows twitched toward each other. Bryce asked, “What offer?”

Ruhn sized her up before saying, “To come live with me and the guys. Because of your thin-ass walls.”

Tharion said with mock outrage, “I had dibs on the pup as my friend.”

“Sorry for sexiling you, Ithan,” Bryce muttered. Hunt laughed, but Ithan didn’t. He didn’t look at Bryce at all. Weird.

Ruhn said to Ithan, “All right. You fighting that asshole first, or can we go?” He nodded to Baxian.

Hunt kept perfectly still. Ready to either intervene or referee.

Ithan surveyed the angel with that athletic precision and focus. Baxian only smiled at him in invitation. How many times had Hunt seen that expression on the Helhound’s face before he ripped into someone?

But Ithan wisely shook his head. “Another time.”

Three minutes later, Ithan was stepping into the hallway with Ruhn and Tharion, who had to go report to his queen once more.

“Ithan,” Bryce said before he could leave. From the kitchen, Hunt watched her take a step into the hall, then halt, as if catching herself. “We made a good team.”

From his angle, Hunt couldn’t see Ithan’s face, but he heard the quiet “Yeah,” right before the elevator doors dinged. Then, “We did.” For all the world, Hunt could have sworn the wolf sounded sad.

A moment later, Bryce walked back into the apartment and aimed right for Hunt, looking like she’d drop into his arms with exhaustion. She drew up short upon seeing Baxian. “Enjoying the view?”

Baxian stopped his surveying. “Nice place. Why’d Sabine come here?”

Bryce examined her nails. “She was pissed that I’ve been harboring Ithan after she kicked his ass to the curb.”

“You know about her and Mordoc, though.” It wasn’t exactly a question.

You know?” Hunt asked.

Baxian shrugged one shoulder. “I’ve spent years with the Hind and those who serve her. I picked up a few interesting details.”

“What happened when Mordoc visited Danika?” Bryce asked.

“It didn’t go well. He came back to Sandriel’s castle …” Baxian said to Hunt, “Remember the time he ate that human couple?”

Bryce choked. “He what?”

Hunt said roughly, “Yeah.”

“That was when he’d returned from the visit to the Den,” Baxian explained. “He was in such a rage that he went out and killed a human couple he found on the street. Started eating the female while the male was still alive and begging for mercy.”

“Burning fucking Solas,” Bryce breathed, her hand finding Hunt’s.

“Sabine was right to warn you away from him,” Baxian said, aiming for the door.

Hunt grunted. “I never thought he’d be in this city.”

“Let’s hope he’s gone soon, then,” Baxian said, not looking back.

Bryce said, hand sliding from Hunt’s, “Why did you come here, Baxian?”

The angel-shifter halted. “Athalar seemed like he needed help. We’re partners, after all.” His grin was savage, mocking. “And watching Celestina and Ephraim pretend to be into each other was too torturous, even for me.”

Bryce was having none of it, though. “You were also at the Black Dock this morning.”

“Are you asking if I’m spying on you?”

“Either that or you desperately want in on the cool kids’ club.”

“A good spy would tell you no, and say you were being paranoid.”

“But you’re … not a good spy?”

“I’m not a spy at all, and you’re being paranoid.”

Bryce rolled her eyes, and Hunt smiled to himself as she walked to the door, making to shut it behind Baxian. As she closed the door, he heard her say to the Helhound, “You’re going to fit right in around here.”

“Why’d you say that to him?” Hunt asked as he slumped onto the bed beside her later that night.

Bryce rested her head on Hunt’s shoulder. “Say what?”

“That thing to Baxian about fitting in.”


“I just …” His chest heaved as he sighed. “He’s a bad male.”

“I know. Don’t think too much about my nonsense, Hunt.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s … He’s a bad male. I know he is. But I was no better than him.”

She touched his cheek. “You’re a good person, Hunt.” She’d assured him of that so many times now.

“I told Celestina I’d have her back with Ephraim and then bailed. Good people don’t do that.”

“You bailed to come rescue your mate from the big bad wolf.”

He flicked her nose, shifting onto his side, wings a wall of gray behind him. “I can’t believe Mordoc is Danika’s father.”

“I can’t believe our souls get turned into firstlight food,” she countered. “Or that the Hind brought her dreadwolves here. Or that the Under-King is a fucking psychopath.”

Hunt’s laugh rumbled through her. “Rough day.”

“What do you think happened in the Bone Quarter—with your lightning and the firstlight and everything?”

“What were you even thinking, jumping in front of my lightning?”

“It worked, didn’t it?”

He glared. “You know that scar on Baxian’s neck? I did that to him. With my lightning. With a blow a fraction of what I unleashed on the Starsword.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re the tough, smart male who knows best and I’m an impulsive female whose feelings get her in trouble—”

“For fuck’s sake, Quinlan.”

She propped her head on a hand. “So you had no idea you could do that? Take the energy from the Dead Gate and transform it into lightning and all that?”

“No. It never occurred to me to channel anything into my lightning until the Prince of the Pit suggested it the other night. But … it made sense: you took the power out of the Heart Gate this spring, and Sofie Renast, as a thunderbird, could do something similar, so … even if the push came from the Prince of the Pit, trying it out seemed like a good alternative to being eaten.”

“You went …” She wiggled her fingers in the air. “All lightning-berserker.”

He kissed her brow, running a hand down her hip. “I get a little hysterical when your safety is involved.”

She kissed the tip of his nose. “Such an alphahole.” But she flopped back on the bed, tucking her arms under her head. “You think there actually is a resting place for our souls?” She sighed at the ceiling. “Like, if we died and didn’t go to those places … what would happen?”


She scowled. “You’re not helping.”

He chuckled, tucking his hands behind his own head. She crossed her ankle over his shin, and they lay there in silence, staring at the ceiling.

He said after a while, “You traded your resting place in the Bone Quarter for Danika’s.”

“Given what happens to everyone over there, I feel kind of relieved about that now.”

“Yeah.” He took one of her hands in his and laid their interlaced fingers atop his heart. “But wherever you’re headed when this life is over, Quinlan, that’s where I want to be, too.”


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