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House of Sky and Breath: Part 2 – Chapter 37

“Keep holding, hold, hold!” Madame Kyrah chanted, and Bryce’s left leg shook with the effort of keeping her right leg aloft and in place.

Beside her, Juniper sweated along, face set with focused determination. June held perfect form—no hunched shoulders, no curved spine. Every line of her friend’s body radiated strength and grace.

“And down into first position,” the instructor ordered over the thumping music. Totally not the style that ballet was usually danced to, but that was why Bryce loved this class: it combined the formal, precise movements of ballet with dance club hits. And somehow, in doing so, it helped her understand both the movements and the sound better. Merge them better. Let her enjoy it, rather than dance along to music she’d once loved and daydreamed about getting to perform onstage.

Wrong body type had no place here, in this bright studio on an artsy block of the Old Square.

“Take a five-minute breather,” said Madame Kyrah, a dark-haired swan shifter, striding to the chair by the wall of mirrors to swig from her water bottle.

Bryce wobbled over to her pile of crap by the opposite wall, ducking under the barre to pick up her phone. No messages. A blissfully quiet morning. Exactly what she’d needed.

Which was why she’d come here. Beyond wanting to come here twice a week, she needed to be here today—to work out every swirling thought. She hadn’t told Juniper what she’d learned.

What could she say? Hey, just FYI, the Bone Quarter is a lie, and I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a true afterlife, because we all get turned into energy and herded through the Dead Gate, though some small bit of us gets shoved down the gullet of the Under-King, so … good fucking luck!

But Juniper was frowning at her own phone as she drank a few sips from her water bottle.

“What’s up?” Bryce asked between pants. Her legs shook simply standing still.

Juniper tossed her phone onto her duffel bag. “Korinne Lescau got tapped to be principal.”

Bryce’s mouth dropped open.

I know,” Juniper said, reading the unspoken outrage on Bryce’s face. Korinne had entered the company two years ago. Had only been a soloist for this season. And the CCB had claimed it wasn’t promoting anyone this year.

“This is definitely a fuck you,” Bryce seethed.

June’s throat bobbed, and Bryce’s fingers curled, as if she could rip the face off of every director and board member of the CCB for putting that pain there. “They’re too afraid to fire me, because the shows where I’m a soloist always bring in a crowd, but they’ll do what they can to punish me,” June said.

“All because you told a bunch of rich jerks that they were being elitist monsters.”

“I might bring in money for the shows, but those rich jerks donate millions.” The faun drained her water. “I’m going to stick it out until they have to promote me.”

Bryce tapped her foot on the pale wood floor. “I’m sorry, June.”

Her friend squared her shoulders with a quiet dignity that cracked Bryce’s heart. “I do this because I love it,” she said as Kyrah summoned the class back into their lines. “They’re not worth my anger. I have to keep remembering that.” She tucked a stray curl back into her bun. “Any word about that kid?”

Bryce shook her head. “Nope.” She’d leave it at that.

Kyrah started the music, and they got back into position.

Bryce sweated and grunted through the rest of the class, but Juniper had become razor-focused. Every movement precise and flawless, her gaze fixed on the mirror, as if she battled herself. That expression didn’t alter, even when Kyrah asked June to demonstrate a perfect series of thirty-two fouettés—spins on one foot—for the class. Juniper whipped around like the wind itself propelled her, her grounding hoof not straying one inch from its starting point.

Perfect form. A perfect dancer. Yet it wasn’t enough.

Juniper left class almost as soon as it had finished, not lingering to chat like she usually did. Bryce let her go, and waited until most of the class had filtered out before approaching Kyrah by the mirror, where the instructor was panting softly. “Did you see the news about Korinne?”

Kyrah tugged on a loose pink sweatshirt against the chill of the dance studio. Even though she hadn’t danced on CCB’s stage in years, the instructor remained in peak form. “You seem surprised. I’m not.”

“You can’t say anything? You were one of CCB’s prized dancers.” And now one of their best instructors when she wasn’t teaching her outside classes.

Kyrah frowned. “I’m as much at the mercy of the company’s leadership as Juniper. She might be the most talented dancer I’ve ever seen, and the hardest-working, but she’s going up against a well-entrenched power structure. The people in charge don’t appreciate being called out for what they truly are.”


“I get why you want to help her.” Kyrah shouldered her duffel and aimed for the double doors of the studio. “I want to help her, too. But Juniper made her choice this spring. She has to face the consequences.”

Bryce stared after her for a minute, the doors to the studio banging shut. As she stood alone in the sunny space, the silence pressed on her. She looked to the spot where Juniper had been demonstrating those fouettés.

Bryce pulled out her phone and did a quick search. A moment later, she was dialing. “I’d like to speak to Director Gorgyn, please.”

Bryce tapped her feet again as the CCB receptionist spoke. She clenched her fingers into fists before she answered, “Tell him that Her Royal Highness Princess Bryce Danaan is calling.”

Push-ups bored Hunt to tears. If it hadn’t been for the earbuds playing the last few chapters of the book he was listening to, he might have fallen asleep during his workout on the training roof of the Comitium.

The morning sun baked his back, his arms, his brow, sweat dripping onto the concrete floors. He had a vague awareness of people watching, but kept going. Three hundred sixty-one, three hundred sixty-two …

A shadow fell across him, blocking out the sun. He found the Harpy smirking down at him, her dark hair fluttering in the wind. And those black wings … Well, that’s why there was no more sun.

“What,” he asked on an exhale, keeping up his momentum.

“The pretty one wants to see you.” Her sharp voice was edged with cruel amusement.

“Her name is Celestina,” Hunt grunted, getting to three hundred seventy before hopping to his feet. The Harpy’s gaze slid down his bare torso, and he crossed his arms. “You’re her messenger now?”

“I’m Ephraim’s messenger, and since he just finished fucking her, I was the closest one to retrieve you.”

Hunt held in his cringe. “Fine.” He caught Isaiah’s attention from across the ring and motioned that he was leaving. His friend, in the middle of his own exercises, waved a farewell.

He didn’t bother waving to Baxian, despite his help last night. And Pollux hadn’t come up to the ring for their private hour of training—he was presumably still in bed with the Hind. Naomi had waited for him for thirty minutes before bailing and going to inspect her own troops.

Hunt stepped toward the glass doors into the building, wiping the sweat from his brow, but the Harpy followed him. He sneered over a shoulder. “Bye.”

She gave him a slashing grin. “I’m to escort you back.”

Hunt stiffened. This couldn’t be good. His body going distant, he kept walking, aiming for the elevators. If he sent a warning message to Bryce right now, would she have enough time to flee the city? Unless they’d already come for her—

The Harpy trailed him like a wraith. “Your little disappearing act last night is going to bite you in the ass,” she crooned, stepping into the elevator with him.

Right. That.

He tried not to look too relieved as the acid in his veins eased. That had to be why Celestina was summoning him. A chewing-out for bad behavior, he could deal with.

If only the Harpy knew what he’d really been up to lately.

So Hunt leaned against the far wall of the elevator, contemplating how he’d best like to kill her. A lightning strike to the head would be swift, but not as satisfying as plunging his sword into her gut and twisting as he drove upward.

The Harpy tucked in her black wings. She’d been built wiry and long, her face narrow and eyes a bit too large for her features. She went on, “You always did think more with your cock than your head.”

“One of my most winning attributes.” He wouldn’t let her bait him. She’d done it before, when they’d both served Sandriel, and he’d always paid for it. Sandriel had never once punished the female for the brawls that had left his skin shredded. He’d always been the one to take the flaying afterward for “disturbing the peace.”

The Harpy stepped onto the Governor’s floor like a dark wind. “You’ll get what’s coming to you, Athalar.”

“Likewise.” He trailed her to the double doors of Celestina’s public office. She halted outside, knocking once. Celestina murmured her welcome, and Hunt stepped into the room, shutting the door on the Harpy’s pinched face.

The Archangel, robed in sky blue today, was immaculate—glowing. If she’d been kept up all night with Ephraim, she didn’t reveal it. Or any emotion, really, as Hunt stopped before her desk and said, “You asked for me?” He took a casual stance, legs apart, hands behind his back, wings high but loose.

Celestina straightened a golden pen on her desk. “Was there an emergency last night?”

Yes. No. “A private matter.”

“And you saw fit to prioritize that over assisting me?”

Fuck. “You seemed to have the situation under control.”

Her lips thinned. “I had hoped that when you promised to have my back, it would be for the entire night. Not for an hour.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, and meant it. “If it had been for anything else—”

“I’m assuming it had to do with Miss Quinlan.”


“And are you aware that you, as one of my triarii, chose to assist a Princess of the Fae instead of your Governor?”

“It wasn’t for anything political.”

“That was not how my … mate perceived it. He asked why two of my triarii had ditched our private celebration. If they thought so little of me, of him, that they could leave without permission to help a Fae royal.”

Hunt ran his hands through his hair. “I’m sorry, Celestina. I really am.”

“I’m sure you are.” Her voice was distant. “This shall not happen again.”

Or what? he almost asked. But he said, “It won’t.”

“I want you staying in the barracks for the next two weeks.”

What?” Hunt supposed he could always quit, but what the fuck would he do with himself then?

Celestina’s gaze was steely. “After that time, you may return to Miss Quinlan. But I think you need a reminder of your … priorities. And I’d like you to fully commit to helping Baxian adjust.” She shuffled some papers on her desk. “You’re dismissed.”

Two weeks here. Without Quinlan. Without getting to touch her, fuck her, lie next to her—



Despite his outrage, his frustration, he looked at her. Really looked.

She was alone. Alone, and like a ray of sunshine in a sea of darkness. He should have had her back last night. But if it was between her and Bryce, he’d always, always pick his mate. No matter what it cost him.

Which was apparently two weeks without Bryce.

But he asked, “How’d it go with Ephraim?” You don’t look too happy for a female who recently bedded her mate.

Her head snapped up. Again, that distance in her eyes that told him he’d been shut out before she even said, “That’s a private matter, to use your words.”

Fine. “I’ll be around today if you need me.” He aimed for the door, but added, “Why send the Harpy to get me?”

Her caramel eyes shuttered. “Ephraim thought she might be the most effective.”

“Ephraim, huh?”

“He is my mate.”

“But not your master.”

Power glowed along her wings, her tightly curling hair. “Careful, Hunt.”

“Noted.” Hunt strode into the hall, wondering if he’d done something to piss off Urd.

Two weeks here. With all the shit happening with Bryce and the rebels and Cormac … Fuck.

As if the mere thought of the word rebels had summoned her, he found the Hind leaning against the far wall. There was no sign of the Harpy. The Hind’s beautiful face was serene, though her golden eyes seemed lit with Helfire. “Hello, Hunt.”

“Here to interrogate me?” Hunt aimed for the elevator that would take him back to the training ring. He kept his pace casual, arrogant. Utterly unfazed.

Even if Danaan had been freaked out by her, Hunt had seen and dealt with Lidia Cervos enough to know which buttons to push. Which to avoid. And that if he got her away from Mordoc, from Pollux, from her entire dreadwolf retinue, he’d leave her in smoking ruin. Fancy that—she was alone right now.

The Hind knew it, too. That was what made her dangerous. She might appear unarmed, vulnerable, but she carried herself like someone who might whisper a word and have death fly to defend her. Who might snap her fingers and unleash Hel upon him.

He’d been in Sandriel’s possession when the Hind had signed on—recruited by the Archangel herself to serve as her spy-master. Lidia had been so young: barely into her twenties. She’d just made the Drop, and had no apparent deep well of magic, other than her swiftness as a deer shifter and her love of cruelty. Her appointment to such a high position had been a blaring alarm to stay the fuck away from her—she was a Vanir who’d cross any line, if she pleased Sandriel so greatly. Pollux had courted her almost immediately.

“What the fuck do you want?” Hunt asked, stabbing the elevator button. He blocked any thought of Ophion, of Emile, of their activities from his mind. He was nothing but the Umbra Mortis, loyal to the empire.

“You’re friends with Ruhn Danaan, are you not?”

Burning fucking Solas. Hunt kept his face neutral. “I wouldn’t say he’s a friend, but yeah. We hang out.”

“And Ithan Holstrom?”

Hunt shrugged. Calm—stay calm. “He’s a decent guy.”

“And what of Tharion Ketos?”

Hunt made himself blow out a loud sigh. It served to loosen the growing tightness in his chest. “Isn’t it a little early for interrogating?”

Fuck, had she gone after Bryce already? Was one of her goons—Mordoc, even—at the apartment while she cornered Hunt here, at the elevator?

The Hind smiled without showing her teeth. “I woke up refreshed this morning.”

“I didn’t realize fucking Pollux is so boring that you could sleep through it.”

She snickered, to his surprise. “Sandriel might have done so much more with you, if she’d only had the vision for it.”

“Too bad she liked gambling more than torturing me.” He could only thank the gods that Sandriel had gotten so buried in her debts that she’d had to sell him to Micah to pay them off.

“Too bad she’s dead.” Those golden eyes gleamed. Yeah, the Hind knew who was responsible for that death.

The elevator opened, and Hunt stepped in, the Hind following him. “So why the questions about my friends?” How much time would he have to warn them? Or would all of them fleeing the city confirm that they were guilty?

“I thought they were merely people you hung out with.”


Her small, bland smile raked down Hunt’s temper. “An unusual group, even in a city as progressive as Lunathion. An angel, a wolf, a Fae Prince, a mer, and a half-human whore.” Hunt growled at the last word, rage shaking him from his dread. “It sounds like the start to a bad joke.”

“You want to ask me something, Lidia, then fucking say it. Don’t waste my time.” The elevator opened into the hall of the training floor, bringing the scent of sweat.

“I’m merely observing an anomaly. Wondering what might be so … compelling that so many people of power, from different species and Houses, are hanging out at Bryce Quinlan’s apartment.”

“She’s got one Hel of a video-gaming system.”

The Hind chuckled, the sound laced with menace. “I’ll find out, you know. I always do.”

“I look forward to it,” Hunt said, stalking toward the doors. A dark figure loomed ahead of them—Baxian. His eyes were on the Hind. Stony, and yet seeking.

She stopped short. The Hind stopped short.

Baxian said, “Lidia.”

The Hind replied flatly, “Baxian.”

“I was looking for you.” He inclined his head to Hunt in dismissal. He’d take over from here.

“Is it to explain why you vanished into the night with Hunt Athalar?” she asked, folding her hands behind her back in a perfect imperial stance. A good little soldier.

Hunt passed Baxian. “Not a word,” Hunt said so softly it was barely more than a breath. Baxian nodded subtly.

Hunt had barely pushed open the doors to the training area when he heard Baxian say carefully to the Hind, as if remembering who she was, “I don’t answer to you.”

Her voice was smooth as silk. “Not to me, or Ephraim, but you still answer to the Asteri.” Her true masters. “Whose will is mine.”

Hunt’s stomach churned. She was right.

And he’d do well to remember it before it was too late.


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