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House of Sky and Breath: Part 2 – Chapter 36

The bridge was blissfully quiet compared to the absolute insanity of Ruhn’s day.

He’d brought Holstrom back to his place, where Flynn and Dec had been gobbling down five pizzas between the two of them. The former had arched a brow at Ruhn’s announcement that the fourth bedroom—a disgusting heap of crap thanks to years of throwing their messes in there before parties—was now Ithan’s. He’d have the couch tonight, and tomorrow they’d clean out all the shit. Declan had only shrugged and tossed Ithan a beer, then pulled his laptop over, presumably to continue combing through the gallery footage.

Flynn had eyed the wolf, but shrugged as well. The message was clear enough: Yeah, Holstrom was a wolf, but so long as he didn’t mouth off about Fae, they’d get along just fine. And a wolf was always better than an angel.

Guys were simple like that. Easy.

Not like the female burning across from him on the bridge.

“Hey, Day.” He wished he had someplace to sit. For one fucking moment. He was technically sleeping, he supposed, but …

Well, damn. A deep-cushioned armchair appeared a foot away. He slumped into it and sighed. Perfect.

Her snort rippled toward him, and another chair appeared. A red velvet fainting couch.

“Fancy,” he said as Day draped herself over it. She looked so much like Lehabah that his chest ached.

“Seeing me like this causes you distress.”

“No,” he said, puzzled as to how she’d read his emotions when night and stars covered his features. “No, it’s … I, ah, lost a friend a few months ago. She loved to sit on a couch like that one. She was a fire sprite, so your whole fire thing … struck a little close to home.”

She angled her head, flame shifting with her. “How did she die?”

He checked himself before he could reveal too much. “It’s a long story. But she died saving my—someone I love.”

“Then her death was noble.”

“I should have been there.” Ruhn leaned back against the cushions and gazed toward the endless black above them. “She didn’t need to make that sacrifice.”

“You would have traded your life for a fire sprite’s?” There was no condescension in the question—merely bald curiosity.

“Yeah. I would have.” He lowered his stare back to her. “Anyway, we made the intel drop-off. Nearly got caught, but we did it.”

She straightened slightly. “By whom?”

“Mordoc. The Hind. The Harpy.”

She stilled. Her fire guttered to that violet blue. “They are lethal. If you’re caught, you will be lucky to just be killed.”

Ruhn crossed an ankle over a knee. “Believe me, I know that.”

“Mordoc is a monster.”

“So’s the Hind. And the Harpy.”

“They’re all … Where you are now?”

He hesitated, then said, “In Lunathion. Might as well tell you—you could have turned on the news and figured out where they are.”

She shook her head, flame flowing. “You say too much.”

“And you too little. Any other intel about the shipment on the Spine?”

“No. I thought you called me here to tell me something.”

“No. I … I guess my mind reached for yours.”

She watched him. And even though he couldn’t see her face, and she couldn’t see his, he’d never felt so naked. She said quietly, “Something’s riled you.”

How could she tell? “My day was … difficult.”

She sighed. Tendrils of fire rippled around her. “Mine too.”



The word was teasing, a reminder of their earlier conversation. She did have a sense of humor, then.

Day said, “I work with people who are … Well, they make Mordoc seem like one of those sweet little otters in your city. There are days when it wears on me more than others. Today was one of them.”

“Do you at least have friends to lean on?” he asked.

“No. I’ve never had a true friend in my life.”

He winced. “That’s … really sad.”

She snorted. “It is, isn’t it?”

“I don’t think I’d have made it this far without my friends. Or my sister.”

“For those of us with neither friends nor family, we find ways to make do.”

“No family, eh? A true lone wolf.” He added, “My father’s a piece of shit, so … a lot of the time I wish I were like you.”

“I have a family. A very influential one.” She propped her head on a burning fist. “They’re pieces of shit, too.”

“Yeah? Your dad ever burn you for speaking out of turn?”

“No. But he did flog me for sneezing during prayers.”

She wasn’t an Asteri, then. Asteri had no family. No children. No parents. They just were.

He blinked. “All right. We’re even.”

She laughed quietly, a low, soft sound that ran delicate fingers over his skin. “A truly tragic thing to have in common.”

“It really is.” He smiled, even if she couldn’t see it.

She said, “Since you are in a position of power, I’m assuming your father must be as well.”

“Why can’t I be self-made?”

“Call it intuition.”

He shrugged. “All right. What about it?”

“Does he know of your rebel sympathies?”

“I think my work has gone beyond sympathies now, but … no. He’d kill me if he knew.”

“Yet you risk your life.”

“What’s the question, Day?”

Her mouth quirked to the side. Or what he could see of it did. “You could use your power and rank to undermine people like your father, you know. Be a secret agent for the rebellion in that sense, rather than doing this message-carrying.”

She didn’t know who he was, right? Ruhn shifted in his chair. “Honestly? I’m shit at those deception games. My father is the master of them. This is far more my speed.”

“And yet your father is allowed to stay in power?”

“Yeah. Aren’t all of these assholes allowed to stay in power? Who’s going to stop them?”

“Us. People like us. One day.”

Ruhn snorted. “That’s some idealistic shit right there. You know that if this rebellion is triumphant, we’ll likely have a war for dominance between all the Houses, don’t you?”

“Not if we play the game well.” Her tone was completely serious.

“Why tell me any of this? I thought you were all … no-personal-stuff.”

“Let’s chalk it up to a difficult day.”

“All right,” he repeated. He leaned back in his chair once more, letting himself fall quiet. To his surprise, Day did the same. They sat in silence for long minutes before she said, “You’re the first person I’ve spoken to normally in … a very long time.”

“How long?”

“So long that I think I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be myself. I think I’ve lost my true self entirely. To destroy monsters, we become monsters. Isn’t that what they say?”

“Next time, I’ll bring us some psychic beers and a TV. We’ll get you normal again.”

She laughed, the sound like clear bells. Something male and primal in him sat up at the sound. “I’ve only ever had wine.”

He started. “That’s not possible.”

“Beer wasn’t deemed appropriate for a female of my position. I did have a sip once I was old enough to … not answer to my family, but I found it wasn’t to my liking anyway.”

He shook his head in mock horror. “Come visit me in Lunathion sometime, Day. I’ll show you a good time.”

“Given who is present in your city, I think I’ll decline.”

He frowned. Right.

She seemed to remember, too. And why they were here. “Is it confirmed where the rebels are making the strike on the Spine shipment?”

“Not sure. I’m the go-between, remember?”

“You told them what I said about the Asteri’s new mech-suit prototype?”


“Don’t forget that it’s the most valuable thing on that train. Leave the rest.”

“Why not blow up the entire Spine and break their supply lines?”

Her fire sizzled. “We’ve tried multiple times. With each attempt, we’ve been thwarted. Either by betrayal or things simply going wrong. An attack like that requires a lot of people, and a lot of secrecy and precision. Do you know how to make explosives?”

“No. But there’s always magic to do that.”

“Remember that the rebellion is mostly humans, and their Vanir allies like to remain hidden. We are dependent on human resourcefulness and abilities. Simply compiling enough explosives to enact a serious hit on the Spine takes a great deal of effort. Especially considering the great losses Ophion has taken to its numbers lately. They’re on the ropes.” She added, oozing disgust, “This isn’t a video game.”

Ruhn growled. “I’m aware of that.”

Her flame banked a fraction. “You’re right. I spoke out of turn.”

“You can just say ‘I’m sorry.’ No need for the fancy talk.”

Another soft laugh. “Bad habit.”

He saluted her. “Well, until next time, Day.”

He half hoped she’d counter with something to keep them talking, keep him here.

But Day and her couch faded into embers drifting on a phantom wind. “Goodbye, Night.”

Ithan Holstrom had never been inside a full-fledged Fae’s house. There’d only been two Fae males on his CCU sunball team, and both were from cities across the territory, so he’d never had the chance to go to their homes and meet their families.

But Prince Ruhn’s house was cool. It reminded him of the apartment Connor and Bronson and Thorne once had—a few blocks from here, actually: crappy old furniture, stained walls with posters of sports teams taped on them, an overly large TV, and a fully stocked bar.

He hadn’t minded crashing on the couch last night. Would have slept on the porch, if it meant being far away from where Bryce and Hunt slept together.

The clock beneath the TV read seven in the morning when Ithan rose and showered. He helped himself to Tristan Flynn’s array of fancy shampoos and body products, all marked FLYNN’S. DO NOT TOUCH, RUHN. I MEAN IT THIS TIME.

Ruhn had written beneath the scribbling on one of the bottles: NO ONE LIKES YOUR WEIRD SHAMPOO ANYWAY.

Flynn had scrawled, right along the bottom edge of the bottle, THEN WHY IS IT NEARLY EMPTY? AND WHY IS YOUR HAIR SO SHINY? ASSHOLE!!!

Ithan had snickered, even as his heart squeezed. He’d had that kind of dynamic once with his brother.

His brother, who was either already turned into secondlight—or on his way there.

The thought had any rising interest in breakfast melting into nausea. By the time Ithan had dressed and gone downstairs—the three Fae males who lived in the house were still asleep—he’d raised his phone to his ear.

Hey, this is Tharion, if you can’t get me, send an otter.

All right, then.

An hour later, after a quick check of the program scanning the gallery footage for Danika, Ithan had headed for the Istros, grabbing an iced coffee on his way. He suppressed a smile as he handed over a silver mark to a whiskery otter whose name tag on his yellow vest said Fitzroy. Ithan parked his ass on a bench beside the Istros and stared across the river.

He’d wanted to fight Sabine last night. Had actually contemplated how her blood would taste when he ripped out her throat with his teeth, but … the Helhound’s words lingered.

Connor had been an Alpha who’d accepted the role of Second because he’d believed in Danika’s potential. Ithan had fallen in with Amelie’s pack because he’d had nowhere else to go.

But last night, just for a moment, when Bryce had stepped up and the two of them had Sabine backing away … he’d remembered what it’d been like. To not only be a wolf in a pack, but a player on a team, working in unison, as if they were one mind, one soul.

Never mind that he’d once thought of himself and Bryce that way.

The fucking Hind could go to Hel. He had no idea how she’d pieced that together, but he’d kill her if she ever mentioned it to anyone again. Especially Bryce.

It was no one’s business but his, and it was ancient history now anyway. He’d had two years without Bryce to sort his shit out, and being near her again had been … hard, but he’d never told anyone about his feelings before Connor died, and he sure as Hel wasn’t going to start now.

The Hind had been right, though: he’d walked into Connor’s dorm that day early in his brother’s freshman year at CCU, intending to meet the awesome, gorgeous, hilarious hallmate Con talked about endlessly. And on his way down the dingy, carpeted hall, he’d run into … well, an awesome, gorgeous, hilarious hallmate.

He’d been struck stupid. She was the hottest person he’d ever seen, no joke. Her smile had warmed some gods-forsaken place in Ithan’s chest that had been icy and dark since his parents had died, and those whiskey eyes had seemed to … see him.

Him, not the sunball player, not the star athlete or anything like that. Just him. Ithan.

They spoke for ten minutes in the hall without exchanging names. He’d just been Connor’s little brother, and she hadn’t given her name and he’d forgotten to ask for it, but by the time Connor poked his head into the hall, Ithan had decided he was going to marry her. He’d attend CCU, play sunball for them and not Korinth U, who’d already been wooing him, and he’d find this girl and marry her. He suspected they might even be mates, if he was right about that gut tug toward her. And that would be that.

Then Connor had said, “Looks like you met Ithan already, Bryce,” and Ithan had wanted to dissolve into that disgusting dorm carpet.

He knew it was fucking stupid. He’d spoken to Bryce for ten minutes before finding out she was the girl his brother was obsessed with, but … it had messed with him. So he’d thrown himself into the role of irreverent friend, pretended to be into Nathalie so he had something to complain to Bryce about. He’d suffered on the sidelines watching Connor tiptoe around Bryce for years.

He’d never told Bryce that the reason why Connor had finally asked her out that night was because Ithan had told him to shit or get off the pot.

Not in those terms, and he’d said it without raising his brother’s suspicions, as he’d always done when talking about Bryce, but he’d had it. Had just had it with his brother hesitating while Bryce dated a string of losers.

If Connor didn’t step up to the line, then Ithan had decided he’d finally come forward. Take a gamble and see if that spark between them might lead somewhere.

But Bryce had said yes to Connor. And then Connor had died.

And while Connor was being murdered, she’d been fucking someone else in the White Raven bathroom.

Ithan had no idea how there wasn’t some black hole where he’d been standing the moment he’d found out about that night. That was how hard he’d imploded, like the star he’d been gave the fuck up and bailed.

Ithan leaned back against the bench, sighing. These last few days, he’d felt like he was poking his head out of that black hole. Now this bullshit about Connor and the Pack’s souls being fed into the Dead Gate threatened to pull him back in.

He knew Bryce was pissed about it. Upset. But she had Athalar now.

And no part of Ithan resented them for it. No, that history was behind him, but … he didn’t know what to do with himself when he spoke to her. The girl he’d been so convinced would be his wife and mate and mother to his kids.

How many times had he allowed himself to picture that future: him and Bryce opening presents with their children on Winter Solstice eve, traveling the world together while he played sunball, laughing and growing old in this city, their friends around them.

He was glad to not be living in her apartment anymore. He’d had nowhere else to go after Sabine and Amelie had kicked him out, and he sure as fuck wasn’t planning to stage any kind of coup with her, as Sabine seemed to fear, but … he was grateful Ruhn had offered him a place to stay instead.

“A little early, isn’t it?” Tharion called from the river, and Ithan stood from the bench to find the mer treading water, powerful fin swirling beneath him.

Ithan didn’t bother with pleasantries. “Can you get me to the Bone Quarter?”

Tharion blinked. “No. Unless you want to be eaten.”

“Just get me to the shore.”

“I can’t. Not if I don’t want to be eaten, either. The river beasts will attack.”

Ithan crossed his arms. “I have to find my brother. See if he’s okay.”

He hated the pity that softened Tharion’s face. “I don’t see what you can do either way. If he’s fine or if he’s … not.”

Ithan’s throat dried out. “I need to know. Swim me past the Sleeping City and I’ll see if I can glimpse him.”

“Again, river beasts, so no.” Tharion slicked back his hair. “But … I need to find that kid, if he’s not in the Sleeping City. Maybe we can kill two birds with one stone.”

Ithan angled his head. “Any idea where to look instead?”

“No. So I desperately need a hint in the right direction.”

Ithan frowned. “What do you have in mind?”

“You’re not going to like it. Neither is Bryce.”

“Why does she need to be involved?” Ithan couldn’t stop his voice from sharpening.

“Because I know Legs, and I know she’ll want to come.”

“Not if we don’t tell her.”

“Oh, I’m going to tell her. I like my balls where they are.” Tharion grinned and jerked his chin to the city behind Ithan. “Go get some money. Gold marks, not credit.”

“Tell me where we’re going.” Somewhere shady, no doubt.

Tharion’s eyes darkened. “To the mystics.”


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