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House of Sky and Breath: Part 2 – Chapter 46

There was only his power, and Bryce. The rest of the world had become an array of threats to her.

Hunt had the vague notion of being brought onto an enormous mer ship. Of talking with its commander, and noticing the people and the Omega-boat and Cormac being wheeled off.

His mind had drifted, riding some storm without end, his magic screaming to be unleashed. He’d ascended into this plane of existence, of primal savagery, the moment the Hind had appeared. He knew he had to take her out, if it meant getting Bryce to safety. Had decided that it didn’t matter if Danaan or Cormac or Tharion got cooked in the process.

He couldn’t turn away from that precipice.

Even as Bryce walked down a quiet, warm hallway toward a lush forest—pines and ferns and flowers; birds and butterflies of every color; little streams and waterfalls—he couldn’t settle.

He needed his magic out, needed to scream his wrath and then hold her and know she was fine, they were fine—

He followed Bryce into the greenery, across a trickling stream. It was dim in here, mist curling along the floor. Like they’d walked into some ancient garden at the dawn of the world.

She halted in a small clearing, the floor covered with moss and small, white flowers shaped like stars. She turned to him, her eyes glowing. His cock stirred at the glittering intent in them.

Her lips curved upward, knowing and taunting. Without saying a word, she lifted her soaked T-shirt over her head. Another second and her purple lace bra was gone too.

The world, the garden, vanished at the sight of her full breasts, dusk-rose nipples already peaked. His mouth watered.

She unfastened her pants. Her shoes. And then she was shimmying out of her purple underwear.

She stood totally naked before him. Hunt’s heart pounded so wildly he thought it’d burst from his chest.

She was so beautiful. Every lush line, every gleaming inch of skin, her beckoning sex—

“Your turn,” she said huskily.

His magic howling, begging, Hunt had the vague sense of his fingers removing his clothes and shoes. He didn’t care that he was already fully at attention. Only cared that her eyes dipped to his cock and a pleased sort of smile graced her mouth.

Naked, they faced each other in that garden beneath the sea.

He wanted to please his mate. His beautiful, strong mate. Hunt must have said it aloud, because Bryce said gently, “Yes, Hunt. I’m your mate.” The star on her chest fluttered like an ember sputtering to life. “And you are mine.”

The words rang through him. His magic burned his veins like acid, and he grunted against it.

Her eyes softened, like she could sense his pain. She said hoarsely, “I want you to fuck me. Will you do that?”

Lightning sparked over his wings. “Yes.”

Bryce ran a hand up her torso, circling the glowing star between her full breasts. His cock throbbed. She took one step toward him, bare feet cushioned by the moss.

Hunt backed away a step.

She lifted a brow. “No?”

“Yes,” he managed to say again. His head cleared a fraction. “This garden …”

“Closed to the public,” she purred, the star’s light shining through her fingers. She took another step, and Hunt didn’t retreat this time.

He couldn’t get a breath down. “I …” He swallowed. “My power—”

She paused a foot from him. The scent of her arousal wrapped invisible fingers around his cock and stroked hard. He shuddered. “Whatever you need to throw at me, Hunt, I can take it.”

He let out a low groan. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t.” She smiled softly—lovingly. “I trust you.”

Her fingers brushed over his bare chest, and he shivered again. She closed the distance between them, mouth grazing over his pec—his heart. Hunt’s lightning flared, casting the garden in silver. Bryce lifted her head.

“Kiss me,” she breathed.

Hunt’s eyes were pure lightning. His body was pure lightning as Bryce opened her mouth to him and his tongue swept in, tasting of rain and ether.

His power flowed over her, around her, a million sensual caresses, and she arched into it, gave herself over to it. He palmed her breast, power zapping at her nipple, and she gasped. He drove his tongue deeper, like he’d lap up the sound.

She knew Hunt needed a way to work off his magic, a way to reassure him that she was safe and his. My beautiful, strong mate, he’d growled as he looked at her naked body.

His other hand kneaded her ass, pulling her against him, pinning his cock between their bodies. He groaned at the touch of her stomach against him, and she writhed—just enough to drive him wild.

Lightning danced down her skin, along her hair, and she basked in it. Took it into herself, let herself become it, become him, and let him become her, until they were two souls twining together at the bottom of the sea.

Bryce had the vague sense of falling through air, through time and space, and then she found herself laid gently, reverently, on the mossy ground. Like even in his need, his fury, he wanted her safe and well. Feeling only pleasure.

She wrapped her arms around his neck, arching into him as she nipped at his lip, sucked on his tongue. More. She needed more. He clamped his teeth on the side of her throat, sucking hard, and she arched again, right as he settled between her legs.

The brush of his velvety cock against her bare sex had her shaking. Not with fear, but at his closeness, that nothing now lay between them and would never lie between them again.

He slickened himself with her wetness, his wings twitching. Lightning spiderwebbed on the moss around them, then up the trees overhead.

“Hunt,” Bryce gasped. They could explore and play later. Right now, when death had been hovering so close, right now she needed him with her, in her. Needed his strength and power and gentleness, needed that smile and humor and love—

Bryce wrapped a hand around the base of his cock, pumping him once, angling him toward where she was absolutely drenched for him.

Hunt stilled, though. Gritted his teeth as she pumped the magnificent length of him again. His eyes met hers.

Only lightning filled them. An avenging god.

The star on her chest flared, merging with his lightning. He laid a hand atop it. Claiming the star, the light. Claiming her.

Bryce positioned him at her entrance, panting at the brush of the blunt head of his cock. But she released him. Let him decide whether this was what he wanted. This final bridge between their souls.

The lightning cleared from his eyes—as if he willed it. As if he wanted her to see the male beneath.

Pure Hunt. No one and nothing else.

It was a question, somehow. As if he were showing her every scar and wound, every dark corner. Asking if this—if he—was what she really wanted. Bryce only smiled softly. “I love you,” she whispered. Shuddering, Hunt kissed her and slid home.

Nothing had ever felt so right.

Hunt worked himself into her, filling her deliciously, perfectly. With each gentle thrust, each inch gained into her, her light flared brighter. His lightning cracked, over and around them.

His back flexed beneath her fingers, his wings tucking in tight. His chest heaved in great bellows, pushing against her breasts, the star between them.

Another inch, another shudder of pleasure. And then he slid out. And out. And out.

His tongue flicked against hers as he slammed back, right to the hilt. Light spilled from her like an overflowing cup, rippling across the forest floor.

Bryce clawed at his back, his neck, and Hunt’s teeth found her breast, clamping down. She went wild, hips driving up to meet him, power clashing with power.

Hunt set a steady, punishing pace, and she laid her hands on his ass just to feel the muscles clenching with each thrust, to feel him pushing into her—

He claimed her mouth again, and Bryce wrapped her legs around his waist. She moaned as he sank in, and his thrusts turned harder, faster. Lightning and starlight ricocheted between them.

She needed him wilder. Needed him to release that edge of fear and rage and become her Hunt again. She tightened her legs around him, and flipped them. The world spun, and then she was staring down at him, his cock buried so deep—

Lightning flowed over his teeth as he panted, all those abs flexing. Gods, he was beautiful. And hers. Utterly hers.

Bryce lifted her hips, rising off his cock—and then plunged back down. She arched as he kissed the star on her chest. She rose again, a steady, taunting slide, and then impaled herself.

He snarled against her skin. “Merciless, Quinlan.”

Close. So close. She rose once more, luxuriating in each inch of his cock, nearly pulling herself from his tip. And as she drove down, she clenched her delicate inner muscles around him.

Hunt roared, and she was again on her back as he slammed into her. His power flowed over her, filled her, and she was him, and he was her, and then his cock hit that perfect spot deep in her, and the world was only light—

Release blasted through her, and Bryce might have been laughing, or sobbing, or shouting his name. Hunt rode her through it all, nursing every last drop of pleasure, and then he was moving again, punishing thrusts that sent them sliding across the mossy floor. His wings were a wall of gray above them, his wings were—glowing.

They filled with iridescent light. He filled with light.

Bryce reached a hand toward his blazing wings. Her own fingers, her hand, her arm—they radiated the same light. As if they had become filled with power, as if her light had leaked into him, and his into her—

“Look at you,” he breathed. “Bryce.”

“Look at us,” she whispered, and lifted up to kiss him. He met her halfway, tongues tangling. His thrusts turned wilder. He was close.

“I want to go with you,” he said against her mouth. Sounding … almost normal again.

“Then make it happen,” she said, hand sliding for his balls. His fingers caressed her clit. Began stroking.

Bryce kneaded his balls, and a shudder went through him. Another. On the third stroke, she squeezed hard, right as lightning streamed from his fingers and—

She was falling. Had the distant sense of screaming her pleasure to the surface miles above, of an orgasm rocking through her, reducing her mind to rubble. She was vaguely conscious of Hunt pumping into her, spilling into her, over and over—

Falling through time and space and light and shadow—

Up was down and down was up, and they were the only beings in existence, here in this garden, locked away from time—

Something cold and hard pushed into her back, but she didn’t care, not as she clenched Hunt to her, gasping down air, sanity. He was shaking, wings twitching, whispering, “Bryce, Bryce, Bryce,” in her ear.

Sweat coated their bodies, and she dragged her fingers down his spine. He was hers, and she was his, and—

Bryce,” Hunt said, and Bryce opened her eyes.

Harsh, blinding light greeted them. White walls, diving equipment, and—a ladder. No hint of a garden.

Hunt was instantly up, whirling to assess their surroundings, cock still jutting out and gleaming. Bryce needed a moment to get her knees operational, bracing against the cold floor.

She knew this room.

Hunt’s eyes remained wild, but—no lightning danced around them. No trace of that primal fury. Just a glowing, iridescent handprint on his chest, a remnant of starlight. It faded with each breath.

He asked between pants, “How the fuck did we wind up in the air lock?”

“Okay,” Flynn said, clapping his hands together. “So to make sure I have this right …” He pointed to the slender fire sprite floating in the air to his left. “You’re Ridi.”

“Rithi!” she squeaked.

“Rithi,” Flynn amended with a smile. He pointed to the full-bodied sprite before him. “You’re Malana.” She beamed. He pointed to the sprite to the right of her. “And you’re Sasa. And you’re triplets.”

“Yes,” Malana said, long hair floating in the air around her. “Descendants of Persina Falath, Lady of Cinders.”

“Right,” Ithan said, as if that meant anything to him. He knew nothing about sprites and their hierarchies. Only that they’d been banished from Sky and Breath ages ago for a failed rebellion. They’d been deemed Lowers ever since.

“And you,” Flynn drawled, pivoting to the naked female on the other end of the sectional, a blanket draped around her shoulders, “are …”

“I haven’t given you my name,” came the answer, her red eyes now faded to a charred black. She’d stopped burning—at least enough to avoid singeing the couch.

“Exactly,” Flynn said, as if the Fae lord weren’t taunting a dragon. A fucking dragon. A Lower, yes, but … fuck. They weren’t true shifters, switching between humanoid and animal bodies at will. They were more like the mer, if anything. There was a biological or magical difference to explain it—Ithan vaguely remembered learning about it in school, though he’d promptly forgotten the details.

It didn’t matter now, he supposed. The dragon could navigate two forms. He’d be a fool to underestimate her in this one.

The dragon stared Flynn down. He gave her a charming smile back. Her chin lifted. “Ariadne.”

Flynn arched a brow. “A dragon named Ariadne?”

“I suppose you have a better name for me?” she shot back.

“Skull-Crusher, Winged Doom, Light-Eater.” Flynn ticked them off on his fingers.

She snorted, and the hint of amusement had Ithan realizing that the dragon was … beautiful. Utterly lethal and defiant, but—well, damn. From the gleam in Flynn’s eyes, Ithan could tell the Fae lord was thinking the same.

Ariadne said, “Such names are for the old ones who dwell in their mountain caves and sleep the long slumber of true immortals.”

“But you’re not one of them?” Ithan asked.

“My kin are more … modern.” Her gaze sharpened on Flynn. “Hence Ariadne.”

Flynn winked. She scowled.

“How did all of you”—Declan cut in, motioning to Ariadne, her body similar to that of a Fae female’s—“fit into that tiny ring?”

“We were bespelled by the Astronomer,” Sasa whispered. “He’s an ancient sorcerer—don’t let him deceive you with that feeble act. He bought us all, and shoved us into those rings to light the way when he descends into Hel. Though Ariadne got put into the ring by …” She trailed off when the dragon cut her a scathing, warning look.

A chill went down Ithan’s spine. He asked them, “Is there anything to be done to free the others he still controls? The mystics?”

“No,” Ariadne answered. She peered down at her tan wrist. The brand there. SPQM. A slave’s mark. The sprites also bore it. “He owns them, as he owns us. The mystic you spoke to, the wolf …” Her black eyes shifted toward red again. “He favors her. He will never let her go. Not until she grows old in that tank and dies.”

Centuries from now, possibly. Ithan’s gut twisted.

“Please don’t make us go back,” Rithi whispered, clinging to Malana.

“Hush,” Malana warned.

Marc studied them. “Look, ladies. You’re in a tough spot. You’re not only slaves, but stolen slaves.” A warning look at Ithan, who shrugged. He had no regrets. “Yet there are laws about your treatment. It’s archaic and nonsensical that anyone can be owned, but if you can prove severe maltreatment, it might allow for you to be … purchased by someone else.”

“Not freed?” Sasa whispered.

“Only your new owner could do that,” Marc said sadly.

“So buy them and be done with it.” Ariadne crossed her arms.

“What about you, sweetheart?” Flynn purred at the dragon, like the Fae male literally couldn’t help himself.

Her eyes burned crimson. “I’m beyond your pay grade, lordling.”

“Try me.”

But the dragon turned back to staring at the TV, still paused on the video game. Ithan swallowed and asked her, “It’s bad, then—what he does to the mystics?”

“He tortures them,” Ariadne said flatly, and Rithi whimpered her agreement. “The wolf female is … defiant. She did not lie about his punishments. I’ve sat on his hand for years and witnessed him send her into the darkest corners of Hel. He lets the demons and their princes taunt her. Terrify her. He thinks he’ll break her one day. I’m not so sure.”

Ithan’s stomach turned.

Ariadne went on, “She spoke true today about the necromancer, too.” Flynn, Marc, and Declan turned toward Ithan, brows high. “You want answers about your dead brother, then you should find one.”

Ithan nodded. The dragon belonged to the House of Flame and Shadow, even if the slave tattoo removed her from its protections. She’d have knowledge of a necromancer’s ability.

Declan announced, “Well, since we’re now harboring stolen slaves, we might as well make you ladies comfortable. Feel free to claim Ruhn’s room—second bedroom at the top of the stairs.”

The three sprites zoomed for the staircase, as if they were no more than three excited children. Ithan couldn’t help his smile. He’d done some good today, at least. Even if it would land him in a heap of trouble.

Ariadne slowly got to her feet. They rose with her.

Flynn, standing closest, said to the dragon, “You could run, you know. Shift into your other form and take off. We won’t tell anyone where you went.”

Her red eyes again dimmed to black. “Don’t you know what this does?” She lifted her arm to reveal the tattoo there. She laughed bitterly. “I can’t shift unless he allows it. And even if I manage it, anywhere I go, anywhere on Midgard, he can track me in that form.”

“You teleported,” Cormac said to Bryce an hour later as she and Hunt stood beside his cot in the city-ship’s hospital. The prince was pale, but alive. Every shard of the gorsian bullet had been removed. Another hour and he’d be back to normal.

Hunt didn’t particularly care. They’d only come to Cormac for answers.

Hunt was still recovering from the sex that had blasted him apart mind and body and soul, the sex that Bryce had known would bring him back from the brink, that had made his magic sing.

Had made their magics merge.

He didn’t know how to describe it—the feeling of her magic wending through him. Like he existed all at once and not at all, like he could craft whatever he wished from thin air and nothing would be denied to him. Did she live with this, day after day? That pure sense of … possibility? It had faded since they’d teleported, but he could still feel it there, in his chest, where her handprint had glowed. A slumbering little kernel of creation.

How?” Bryce asked. She’d had no shame, not even a blush, striding in here—the two of them wearing navy-blue aquatic body armor they’d taken from the air lock to cover themselves. Ruhn had looked thoroughly uncomfortable, but Tharion had laughed at Hunt’s disheveled hair and whatever stupid happiness was on his face, and said, “Good work bringing our boy back, Legs.”

Bryce had gone right to Cormac and explained what had happened in the most Quinlan-like way Hunt could imagine: “Right at the end of banging Hunt’s brains out, right when we came together, we wound up in the air lock.”

Cormac studied her, then Hunt. “Your powers merged, I take it.”

“Yeah,” Bryce said. “We both went all glowy. Not in the way that he was glowing during his …” She frowned. “Rage-daze.” She waved a hand. “This was like … we glowed with my starlight. Then we teleported.”

“Hmm,” Cormac said. “I wonder if you need Athalar’s power for teleporting.”

“I can’t tell if that’s an insult or not,” Bryce said.

Hunt lifted his brows. “In what way?”

“If my powers only work if my big, tough male helps me out—”

“It can’t be romantic?” Hunt demanded.

Bryce huffed. “I’m an independent female.”

“All right,” Hunt said, laughing softly. “Let’s just say that I’m like some magic token in a video game and when you … use me, you level up.”

“That is the dorkiest thing you’ve ever said,” Bryce accused, and Hunt sketched a bow.

“So Hunt’s magic is the key to Bryce’s?” Ruhn asked Cormac.

“I don’t know if it’s Hunt specifically, or simply energy,” Cormac said. “Your power came from the Gates—it’s something we don’t understand. It’s playing by unknown rules.”

“Great,” Bryce muttered, sinking into the chair beside Ruhn’s near the window. Black, eternal water spread beyond.

Hunt rubbed his jaw, frowning. “The Prince of the Pit told me about this.”

Bryce’s brow scrunched. “Sex teleporting?”

Hunt snorted. “No. He told me that you and I hadn’t … explored what our powers could do. Together.”

Ruhn said, “You think this is what he had in mind?”

“I don’t know,” Hunt admitted, marking the gleam of worry on Bryce’s face. They still had a lot to talk about.

“Is it wise,” Tharion drawled, “to do as he says?”

“I think we should wait to see if our theory is correct,” Bryce said. “See if it really was our powers … merging.” She asked Hunt, “How do you feel?”

“Fine,” he said. “I think I kept a kernel of your power in me for a while, but it’s gone quiet.”

She smiled slightly. “We definitely need to do more research.”

“You just want to bang Athalar again,” Tharion countered.

Bryce inclined her head. “I thought that was a given.”

Hunt stalked toward her, fully intending to drag her to some quiet room to test out the theory. But the door to the room slid open, and Commander Sendes appeared. Her face was grim.

Hunt braced himself. The Asteri had found them. The Omegas were about to attack—

But her gaze fell on Cormac. She said quietly, “The medwitch told me that in your delirium, you were talking about someone named Sofie Renast. That name is known to us here—we’ve heard of her work for years now. But I thought you should know that we were summoned to rescue an agent from the North Sea weeks ago. It wasn’t until we reached her that we realized it was Sofie.”

The room went utterly silent. Cormac’s swallow was audible as Sendes went on, “We were too late. Sofie had drowned by the time our divers picked her up.”


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