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House of Sky and Breath: Part 2 – Chapter 44

“You have to teleport us out,” Bryce ordered Cormac, who pressed a hand to his bloody shoulder. “Let me get that gorsian bullet out of you and—”

“You can’t. They’re designed to split apart into shrapnel on impact to make sure that the magic is suppressed for as long as possible. I’ll need surgery to get every last shard out of me.”

“How did the Hind find us?” Bryce demanded, breathing hard.

Cormac pointed to the smoke. “Someone must have tipped her off that there was something going down here today. And Athalar just let her know our precise location.”

Hunt bristled, lightning flaring around his head like a bright twin of the halo. Bryce grabbed his shoulder in warning, but said to Cormac, “I’ll try, then. Teleporting.”

“You’ll wind up in the sea,” Cormac hissed.

“I’ll try,” she repeated, and clenched Hunt’s hand harder. Only a little guilt stabbed her that it was his and not Ruhn’s that she grabbed, but if it came down to it … she’d get Hunt out first.

Tharion cut in, “I could protect us in the water, but we’d need to jump in first.”

Bryce shut out his voice as the others began arguing, and then—

Fuck,” Hunt snarled, and she knew even before she opened her eyes that the Hind had appeared on the horizon. Guns cracked from a distance at a steady beat, but Bryce kept her eyes closed, willing herself to concentrate. Hunt said, “They want to keep me from flying.”

Ruhn asked, “Do they know who we are?”

“No,” Cormac said, “but the Hind always has snipers do this. You get airborne,” he said to Hunt as Bryce gritted her teeth, ordering her power to move them away, “and you’ll be vulnerable.”

“Can we make it to the next island before they reach us?” Ruhn asked Tharion.

Tharion rifled through the compartment beside the steering wheel. “No. They’re on a faster boat. They’ll be on us when we hit open water.” He pulled out a pair of binoculars. “A good two miles from shore.”

“Shit,” Ruhn said. “Keep going. We’ll run until there’s no other option.”

Bryce tried to calm her frantic breathing. Hunt squeezed her hand in encouragement, lightning zapping into her fingers, but Cormac said to her quietly, “You can’t do it.”

“I can.” But she opened her eyes, blinking at the brightness. This was such a beautiful place to die, with the turquoise sea and white islands behind them.

“Pollux and the Harpy are with the Hind,” Tharion announced, lowering the binoculars.

“Get down,” Hunt warned, ducking low. They all went with him, the water from the floor of the boat soaking into the knees of Bryce’s leggings. “If we can see them, they can see us.”

“You say that as if there’s a chance of us somehow getting away unseen,” Bryce muttered. She said to Tharion, “You can swim. Get the Hel out of here.”

“No way.” The wind tossed the mer’s red hair as they bounded over the swells, the boat steered on a current of his power. “We’re in this until the bitter end, Legs.” But then the mer stiffened and roared, “Into the water!

Bryce didn’t second-guess him. She flung herself over the boat’s side, Hunt splashing in with her, wings spraying water wide. The others followed. Tharion used his water magic to propel them a safe distance away, a wave of power that had Bryce sputtering as she emerged, salt stinging her eyes.

Right as something massive and glowing shot beneath her legs.

The torpedo struck the boat.

The tremor in the water rippled through her, and Tharion propelled them farther out as the boat exploded into smithereens, a plume of spray shooting sky-high.

Then it subsided, a field of debris and lashing waves left in its wake.

Exposed and adrift in the water, Bryce scanned for anywhere to go. Hunt was doing the same.

But Ruhn said, “Oh gods.”

She looked to where her brother was treading water. Beheld the three massive black shapes aiming for them.


Ruhn had never once in his life felt as useless as he did treading water, flotsam drifting past, Ydra distant behind them and the next island not even a smudge on the horizon.

Even if Athalar could manage to get airborne with waterlogged wings, snipers were waiting to down him—and Bryce. Cormac couldn’t teleport, and Tharion might be able to move them a little with his water, but against three Omega-boats …

He met Hunt’s stare over the bobbing swells, the angel’s soaking face grim with determination. Hunt asked, “Shadows?”

“Sun’s too bright.” And the waves shifted them too much.

Two of the Omega-boats peeled off for Ydra, presumably to prevent any Ophion boats from escaping. But that still left one massive submersible against them. And the Hind, the Harpy, and the Hammer on that approaching speedboat.

Once their faces became clear, it’d be over. Sandriel’s old triarii would know who they were, and they’d be dead fucking meat. The Helhound, apparently, had tried to help them, but the rest of those assholes …

“Get out of here,” Bryce scolded Tharion again.

Tharion shook his head, water spraying. “If Athalar can down their boats—”

“I can’t,” Hunt cut in, and Ruhn raised his brows. Hunt explained, “Even if it wouldn’t give away my identity, you’re in the water with me. If I unleash my lightning …”

Ruhn finished, “We’re deep-fried.”

Hunt said to Bryce, “You can’t blind them, either. They’ll know it’s you.”

“That’s a risk I’m willing to take,” she countered, treading water. “Lightning, they’d know it’s you. But a bright burst of light … there are more ways to excuse it. I can blind them, and when they’re down, we seize their boat.”

Hunt nodded grimly, but Ruhn countered, “That doesn’t handle the Omega-boat. It doesn’t have windows.”

“We’ll take our chances,” Hunt said.

“Right.” Bryce focused on the approaching death squad. “How close do we let them get?”

Hunt eyed their enemies. “Close enough that we can leap on board when they’re blinded.”

Ruhn muttered, “So really damn close.”

Bryce blew out a breath. “All right. All right.” Light began flickering from her chest, building, casting the water around her into palest blue. “Just tell me when,” she said to Hunt.

“Someone’s coming,” Tharion said, pointing with a clawed hand to the fleet. A wave skimmer broke away from the speedboat. A familiar golden head appeared atop it, bouncing across the waves.

“The Hind,” Cormac said, blanching.

“At least she’s alone.”

“There goes our plan,” Bryce hissed.

“No,” Hunt said, though lightning began to glow in his gaze. Burning Solas. “We hold to it. She’s coming to talk.”

“How do you know that?”

Hunt growled, “The others are holding back.”

Ruhn asked, hating that he didn’t know, “Why would the Hind do that?”

“To torment us,” Cormac guessed. “She toys with enemies before slaughtering them.”

Athalar said to Bryce, the general incarnate, “Blind her when I give the signal.” He ordered Tharion, “Use one of those knives as soon as she’s down.” The mer drew a blade. Bryce’s light fluttered in the water, reaching down in the depths.

The Omega slowed behind the Hind, but continued to creep closer.

“Say nothing,” Cormac warned them as the wave skimmer slowed, engine quieting.

And then the Hind was there, in her impeccable imperial uniform, black boots shining with water. Not one hair on her golden head lay out of place, and her face was the portrait of cruel calm as she said, “What a surprise.”

None of them said a word.

The Hind slung one of her lean legs over the wave skimmer so she sat sidesaddle, and braced her elbows on her knees. Put her delicate chin in her hands. “This is the fun part of my job, you know. Finding the rats who nibble away at the safety of our empire.”

Such a dead, hateful face. Like she was a statue, flawless and carved, brought to life.

The Hind nodded to Bryce, though. Her red lips curved upward. “Is that little light for me?”

“Come closer and find out,” Bryce said, earning a warning look from Hunt. What was he waiting for?

But the Hind surveyed Tharion. “Your presence is … troublesome.”

The water around him thrashed, roiled by his magic, but the mer kept silent. For some reason, he hadn’t yet shifted. Was it some attempt to remain unrecognized for what he was? Or maybe a predator’s instinct to hide one of his biggest assets until he could strike?

But the Hind sized up Tharion again. “I’m glad to see the River Queen’s Captain of Intelligence is indeed smart enough to know that if he used his power to do something stupid like overturn this wave skimmer, my companions would unleash Hel upon all of you.”

Tharion’s teeth flashed. But he didn’t attack.

Then the Hind met Ruhn’s stare, and all that he was diluted to pure, lethal rage.

He’d kill her, and do it gladly. If he could get on that wave skimmer before Tharion, he’d rip out her throat with his teeth.

“Two Fae Princes,” the Hind purred. “Crown Princes, no less. The future of the royal bloodlines.” She clicked her tongue. “Not to mention that one of them is a Starborn heir. What a scandal this shall be for the Fae. What shame this will bring.”

“What do you want?” Hunt challenged, lightning skittering over his shoulders. Bryce twisted toward him with alarm, and Ruhn tensed.

Athalar’s power glowed along the tops of his wings, twining in his hair. Each breath seemed to summon more of it, keeping it well above the waves’ reach. Readying for the strike.

“I already have what I want,” the Hind said coolly. “Proof of your treachery.”

Bryce’s light shimmered and built, rippling into the depths below. And Hunt … If he unleashed his power, he’d electrocute all of them.

Ruhn said to his sister, mind-to-mind, Get on that wave skimmer and run.

Fuck that. Bryce slammed her mind shut to him.

The Hind reached into her pocket, and the lightning above Athalar flared, a whip readying to strike whatever gun the deer shifter possessed. Still he didn’t give the signal.

But the Hind pulled out a small white stone. Held it up.

She smiled slightly at Cormac. “I showed one of these to Sofie Renast before she died, you know. Made this same demonstration.”

Died. The word seemed to clang across the water. The Hind had truly killed her, then.

Cormac spat, “I’m going to rip you to pieces.”

The Hind laughed softly. “From where I’m sitting, I don’t see much chance of that.” She extended her arm over the water. Her slim, manicured fingers splayed, and the stone plunged. It left barely a ripple on the waves as it fluttered down, down, down, shimmering white in Bryce’s light, and then vanishing into the deep.

“Long way to the bottom,” the Hind observed dryly. “I wonder if you’ll drown before you reach it.” The Omega-boat surged closer.

“Choose wisely,” the Hind crooned. “Come with me,” she said to Hunt, to Bryce, “or see what the seafloor has to offer you.”

“Get fucked,” Hunt seethed.

“Oh, I plan to, once this is done,” she said, smiling wickedly.

Hunt’s lightning flickered again. Glowed in his eyes. Shit—Athalar was walking a fine line of control.

Bryce murmured Hunt’s name in warning. Hunt ignored her, but Tharion cursed softly.

What is it? Ruhn asked the male, who didn’t look his way as Tharion replied, Something big. Gunning for us.

Not the Omega-boat?

No. It’s … What the fuck is it?

“Hurry now,” the Hind drawled. “Not much time.”

Lightning wrapped around Hunt’s head. Ruhn’s heart stalled a beat as it lingered—like a crown, making of Hunt an anointed, primal god. Willing to slaughter any in his path to save the female he loved. He’d fry every single one of them if it meant getting Bryce out alive.

Some intrinsic part of Ruhn trembled at it. Whispered that he should get far, far away and pray for mercy.

But Bryce didn’t balk from the knee-wobbling power surging around Athalar. Like she saw all of him and welcomed it into her heart.

Hunt, eyes nothing but pure lightning, nodded at Bryce. As if to say, Blind the bitch.

Bryce sucked in a breath, and began to glow.

Something solid and metal hit Bryce’s legs, her feet, and before she could fully release her light, she was hurled up with it. When the water washed away, she lay on the hull of an Omega-boat.

No—it wasn’t imperial. The insignia on it was of two entwined fishes.

Hunt lay beside her, wings dripping wet—lightning still crackling around him. His eyes …

Holy fuck, his eyes. Pure lightning filled them. No whites, no irises. Nothing but lightning.

It snapped around him, vines wreathing his arms, his brow. Bryce had the vague sense of the others behind them, but she kept her focus on Hunt.

“Hunt,” she gasped out. “Calm down.”

Hunt snarled toward the Hind. Lightning flowed like tongues of flame from his mouth. But the Hind had fallen back, revving her wave skimmer and retreating toward her line of boats. Like she knew what kind of death Hunt was about to unleash on her.

Hunt,” Bryce said, but something metal clanked against the broad snout of the ship, and then a female voice was bellowing, “Down the hatch! Now!

Bryce didn’t question their good luck. Didn’t care that the Hind had seen them, knew them, and they’d let the spy-breaker live. She hurtled to her feet, slipping on the metal, but Hunt was there, a hand under her elbow. His lightning danced up her arm, tickling, but not hurting. His eyes still blazed with power as they assessed the unknown female ahead, who—to her credit—didn’t run screaming.

Bryce glanced behind to find Ruhn helping Cormac along, Tharion at their backs, a wave of water now towering between him and the Hind. Hiding them from the view of the approaching speedboat, with Pollux and the Harpy on it.

It didn’t matter now. The Hind knew.

A dark-haired female waved to them from a hatch midway along the massive length of the ship—as large as an Omega-boat. Her brown skin gleamed with ocean spray, her narrow face set with grim calm as she gestured for them to hurry.

Yet Hunt’s lightning still didn’t ease. Bryce knew it wouldn’t, until they were sure what the fuck was happening.

“Hurry,” the female said as Bryce reached the hatch. “We have less than a minute to get out of here.” Bryce gripped the rungs of a ladder and propelled herself downward, Hunt right behind her. The female swore, presumably at the sight of Hunt’s current state.

Bryce kept going down. Lightning slithered along the ladder, but didn’t bite. Like Hunt was holding himself in check.

One after another, they entered, and the female had barely shut the hatch when the ship shuddered and swayed. Bryce clenched the ladder as the craft submerged.

“We’re diving!” the female shouted. “Hold on!”

Bryce’s stomach lurched with the ship, but she kept descending. People milled about below, shouting. They halted as Hunt’s lightning surged over the floor. A vanguard of what was to come.

“If they’re Ophion, we’re fucked,” Ruhn muttered from above Hunt.

“Only if they know about what we did,” Tharion breathed from the end of their party.

Bryce rallied her light with each step downward. Between facing the two enemies now at their throats, she’d take Ophion, but … Could she and Hunt take down this ship, if they needed to? Could they do it without drowning themselves and their friends?

She dropped into a clean, bright white chamber—an air lock. Rows of underwater gear lined it, along with several people in blue uniforms by the door. Mer. The female who had escorted them joined the others waiting for them.

A brown-haired, ample-hipped female stepped forward, scanning Bryce.

Her eyes widened as Hunt dropped to the wet floor, lightning flowing around him. She had the good sense to hold up her hands. The people behind her did, too. “We mean you no harm,” she said with firm calm.

Hunt didn’t back down from whatever primal wrath he rode. Bryce’s breathing hitched.

Ruhn and Cormac dropped on Bryce’s other side, and the female scanned them, too, face strained as she noted the injured Avallen Prince, who sagged against Ruhn. But she smiled as Tharion entered on Hunt’s right. Like she’d found someone of reason in this giant clusterfuck that had just tumbled down the hatch.

“You called for us?” she asked Tharion, glancing nervously toward Hunt.

Bryce murmured to Hunt, “Chill the fuck out.”

Hunt stared at each of the strangers, as if sizing up a kill. Lightning sizzled through his hair.

“Hunt,” Bryce muttered, but didn’t dare reach for his hand.

“I …” Tharion drew his wide eyes from Hunt and blinked at the female. “What?”

“Our Oracle sensed we’d be needed somewhere in this vicinity, so we came. Then we got your message,” she said tightly, an eye still fixed on Hunt. “The light.”

Ruhn and Tharion turned to Bryce, Cormac nearly a dead weight of exhaustion in her brother’s arms. Tharion smiled roughly. “You’re a good luck charm, Legs.”

It was the stupidest stroke of luck she’d ever had. Bryce said, “I, uh … I sent the light.”

Hunt’s lightning crackled, a second skin over his body, his soaked clothes. He didn’t show any signs of calming down. She had no idea how to calm him down.

This was how he was that day with Sandriel, Ruhn said into her mind. When he ripped off her head. He added tightly, You were in danger then, too.

And what’s that supposed to mean?

Why don’t you tell me?

You seem like you know what the fuck is happening with him.

Ruhn glared at her as Hunt continued to glow and menace. It means that he’s going ballistic in the way that only mates can when the other is threatened. It’s what happened then, and what’s happening now. You’re true mates—the way Fae are mates, in your bodies and souls. That’s what was different about your scent the other day. Your scents have merged. As they do between Fae mates.

She glared right back at her brother. So what?

So find some way to calm him down. Athalar’s your fucking problem now.

Bryce sent a mental image of her middle finger back in answer.

The mer female squared her shoulders, unaware of Ruhn and Bryce’s conversation, and said to Tharion, “We’re not out of this yet. There’s an Omega on our tail.” She spoke like Hunt wasn’t a living thunderstorm standing two feet away.

Bryce’s heart strained. True mates. Not only in name, but … in the way that Fae could be mates with each other.

Ruhn said, Athalar was dangerous before. But as a mated male, he’s utterly lethal.

Bryce countered, He was always lethal.

Not like this. There’s no mercy in him. He’s gone lethal in a Fae way.

In that predatory, kill-all-enemies way. He’s an angel.

Doesn’t seem to matter.

One look at Hunt’s hard face, and she knew Ruhn was right. Some small part of her thrilled at it—that he’d descended this far into some primal instinct to try to save her.

Alphaholes can have their uses, she said to her brother with a bravado she didn’t feel, and returned to the conversation at hand.

Tharion was saying to the female, “Captain Tharion Ketos of the Blue Court, at your service.”

The female saluted as the people with her opened an airtight door to reveal a shining glass hallway. Blue stretched around it, a passageway through the ocean. A few fish shot past—or the ship shot past the fish. Faster than Bryce had realized. “Commander Sendes,” the female said.

“What mer court do you come from?” Bryce asked. Hunt walked at her side, silent and blazing with power.

Commander Sendes glanced over a shoulder, face still a little pale at the sight of Hunt. “This one.” Sendes gestured to the glass walkway around them, the behemoth of a ship that Bryce could now make out through it.

They hadn’t entered along the flat back of the ship as Bryce had thought, but rather at the tip of it. As if the ship had pierced the surface like a lance. And now, with a view of the rest of the ship expanding beyond—below—the glass passage, what she could see of it appeared to be shaped like some sort of squid as it shot into the gloom below. A squid as large as the Comitium, and made of glass and matte metal for stealth.

Sendes lifted her chin. “Welcome to the Depth Charger. One of the six city-ships of the Ocean Queen’s court Beneath.”


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