We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

House of Sky and Breath: Part 3 – Chapter 54

Sitting in her office at the archives, phone at her ear, Bryce drained the last sips of her third coffee of the day, and debated whether a fourth cup would have her crawling on the ceiling by lunchtime.

“So, um—Cooper’s good?” she asked her mother, setting her coffee cup atop the paper that held the sequence of numbers and letters from Sofie’s arm. Randall had now deemed it safe enough to discuss the boy on the phone. Bryce supposed it’d be weird not to, since her parents had just publicly adopted the kid.

“He’s an exceptionally bright boy,” Ember said, and Bryce could hear the smile in her voice. “He appreciates my art.”

Bryce sighed at the ceiling. “The surest test of intelligence out there.”

“Do you know he hasn’t been to school in more than three years?” Ember’s voice sharpened. “Three years.”

“That’s awful. Has he … ah … talked about his … previous home?”

Her mom caught her meaning. “No. He won’t talk about it, and I’m not going to push. Milly Garkunos said to let him bring it up on his own time.”

“Milly Garkunos suddenly became a child psychiatrist?”

“Milly Garkunos is a good neighbor, Bryce Adelaide Quinlan.”

“Yeah, and a busybody. Don’t tell her anything.” Especially about this.

“I wouldn’t,” Ember hissed.

Bryce nodded, even though her mom couldn’t see through the phone. “Let the kid quietly adjust.”

“Am I his caretaker, or are you, Bryce?”

“Put Randall on the phone. He’s the voice of reason.”

“Randall is beside himself with happiness at having another child in the house, and is currently on a walk through the woods with Cooper, showing him the lay of the land.”

Bryce smiled at that. “I loved doing that with him.”

Ember’s voice softened. “He loved doing that with you, too.”

Bryce sighed again. “Thanks again, Mom. I know this was a shock—”

“I’m glad you included us, Bryce. And gave us this gift.” Bryce’s throat ached. “Please be careful,” Ember whispered. “I know you think I’m overbearing and annoying, but it’s only because I want the best for you. I want you to be safe, and happy.”

“I know, Mom.”

“Let’s plan on a girls’ weekend this winter. Someplace nice and cold. Skiing?”

“Neither of us skis.”

“We can learn. Or sit by the fire and drink spiked hot chocolate.”

Here was the mom she adored, the one she’d worshipped as a kid. “It’s a plan.”

A ripple of fire, of pure power, shuddered through the building. Silence flowed in its wake, the usual background noise halting. “I gotta get back to work,” Bryce said quickly.

“Okay, love you.”

“Love you,” Bryce said, and had barely hung up when the Autumn King walked in.

“Trash gets dumped in the back,” she said without looking up.

“I see your irreverence has not been altered by your new immortality.”

Bryce lifted her head. This wasn’t how she wanted to start her day. She’d already spent her walk to work with Ruhn, needing him to explain to her twice about the plan to have Queen Hypaxia escorted by Ithan and the dragon in exchange for the witch-queen contacting Connor’s spirit on the equinox. She’d been slightly nauseated at that, but had grunted her approval before she left him on the street, telling him to give Hypaxia her number in case she needed anything. A few minutes later, Ruhn had forwarded the queen’s contact information.

Her father sniffed her. “Would you like to explain to me why you have mated with Athalar, when you are betrothed to a Fae Prince?”

“Because he’s my mate?”

“I didn’t know half-breeds could have such things.”

She bared her teeth. “Real classy.”

Fire filled his eyes. “Did you not consider that I arranged for your union with Cormac out of your best interests? The interests of your offspring?”

“You mean your best interests. As if I’d ever let you within a hundred miles of any child of mine.”

“Cormac is powerful, his household strong. I want you in Avallen because it is a safehold. Even the Asteri cannot pierce its mists without permission, so old is the magic that guards it.”

Bryce stilled. “You’re full of shit.”

“Am I? Did you not kill an Archangel this spring? Are you not now at the mercy of the Asteri? Are demons not once more creeping through the Northern Rift—in greater numbers than ever before?”

“Like you give a single fuck about my safety.”

Flame rippled around him, then vanished. “I am your father, whether you like it or not.”

“You didn’t seem to care about that until I surpassed you in power.”

“Things change. I found watching Micah harm you to be … unsavory.”

“Must have really bothered you, since you’ve seemed to have no issue with harming others yourself.”


“Oh, come on. Don’t give me that blank fucking look. The last Starborn Prince. You killed him because he was special and not you, and everyone knows it.”

Her father threw back his head and laughed. “Is that what you think? That I killed my rival for spite?”

She said nothing.

“Is that what prompted you to hide your gift all these years? Concern that I’d do the same to you?”

“No.” It was partly true. Her mother had been the one who’d thought that.

The Autumn King shook his head slowly and sat in the chair opposite her desk. “Ember fed you too many lies born of her irrational fears.”

“And what about the scar on her face? Was that a lie, too? Or an irrational fear?”

“I have already told you that I regret that more than you know. And that I loved Ember deeply.”

“I don’t think you know what that word means.”

Smoke curled from his shoulders. “At least I understand what it means to use my household name.”


“Princess Bryce Danaan. That was the name you gave the Governor, as well as the director of the Crescent City Ballet, isn’t it? And what your lawyer—Marc, is it?—called you in his letter to the Astronomer, justifying the fact that you and your brother had commandeered four of his slaves.”


Her father smiled faintly. “You purchased influence with my name. The royal name. You bought it, and there are no returns, I’m afraid.”

Her blood went cold.

“The legal paperwork for your official name change is already filed.”

“You fucking change my name and I will kill you.” Starlight flared at her chest.

“Threatening your king is punishable by death.”

“You will never be my king.”

“Oh, I am. You declared fealty by using my name, your title. It is done.” Rage surged through her, rendering her mute. He went on, enjoying every second of it, “I wonder how your mother shall react.”

Bryce shot out of her chair, slamming her hands on the desk. Light shimmered at her fingertips.

Her father didn’t so much as flinch. He looked at her hands, then her face, and said blandly, “You are now officially a Princess of the Fae. I expect you to act as such.”

Her fingers curled on the desk, her long nails gouging the wood. “You have no right.”

“I have every right. And you had the right not to use your royal privileges, but you chose otherwise.”

“I didn’t know.” He couldn’t get away with this. She’d call Marc immediately. See if he and his team could find some way out of it.

“Ignorance is no excuse,” her father said, cold amusement frosting his face. “You are now Bryce Adelaide Danaan.”

Bile burned her throat. She’d never heard anything more hateful. She was Bryce Adelaide Quinlan. She’d never stop being a Quinlan. Her mother’s daughter.

Her father continued, “You will maintain appearances with Cormac for as long as I command you to.” He rose, glancing again at her hands—the lines she’d gouged in the desk thanks to that new Vanir strength. His eyes narrowed. “What is that number there?”

She flipped over the piece of paper on which she’d written the sequence of numbers and letters on Sofie’s body. But despite her rage and disgust, she managed to ask, “You know it?”

He scanned her face. “I will admit to turning a blind eye to the recklessness of your brother, but I would think you, Princess, would be more careful. The Asteri won’t come to kill me first. Or even Athalar. They’ll go right to Nidaros.”

Her stomach twisted. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” What did the sequence from Sofie’s arm have to do with this? Had he known Sofie? She didn’t dare ask. Her father stalked for her office door, graceful as a leopard.

But he paused on the threshold, attention going to the star on her chest. “I know what it is you’re searching for. I’ve been seeking it for a long, long time.”

“Oh?” she sneered. “And what is that?”

The Autumn King stepped into the dimness of the stacks. “The truth.”

Juniper didn’t attend dance class that evening, and Madame Kyrah didn’t so much as look at Bryce.

Though everyone else did. There were glares and whispers.

So inappropriate.

What an entitled brat.

Can you imagine ever doing that to a friend?

Bryce left class during the five-minute break and didn’t return.

She found a bench in a quiet part of the Oracle’s Park and slumped onto the wooden slats, tugging her hat low over her face.

She was a fucking princess. Yes, she’d been one before today, but …

A folder full of documents had been delivered right before she’d gone to class. In it had been a new scooter registration, proof of name change, and a credit card. A sleek, black credit card with HRH Bryce Danaan stamped on the front. A long, golden leash stretched from it to her father. And his bank account. She’d shoved everything into a drawer in her desk and locked it.

How could she tell her mother? How could she tell Randall?

She’d been so fucking stupid. She wished Danika were with her. Wished June didn’t hate her guts, that Fury wasn’t hundreds of miles to the north. With her parents, who already had enough to deal with, without her telling them about this spectacular fuckup.

And yeah, she knew if she called Hunt, he’d find her in two seconds, but … She wanted to talk to another female. Someone who might understand.

She dialed before she could second-guess herself.

Thirty minutes later, Bryce waited at a pizza counter, nursing a beer, watching people begin to queue at the alley food stalls as night fell, the baking temperature with it.

The witch-queen entered so casually that Bryce might not have noticed if it hadn’t been for Ithan’s presence. He sat at one of the small tables in the alley, clad in an old sunball T-shirt and track pants, looking for all the world like a guy out to meet a friend. Except for the outline of the handgun tucked into the back of his waistband. The knife she knew was in his boot.

No sign of the dragon, though. Unless Ariadne was somewhere out of sight.

Bryce said to Hypaxia, “Nice jeans.”

The witch peered down at herself, the light green blouse, charcoal biker jacket, and tight black jeans, the sensible flats and pretty gold bracelet. A matching gold brooch of Cthona adorned the lapel of her jacket. “Thank you. Ithan suggested I blend in.”

“He’s not wrong,” Bryce said, glancing at the wolf sizing up every person on the street. She said to Hypaxia, “Order what you want and we’ll pay the tab when we leave.”

The witch strode the ten feet to the display in the tiny shop, then quietly ordered. If the male behind the counter recognized her, he didn’t let on.

Hypaxia took a position at the counter overlooking the alley. Ithan lifted his brows high. She nodded. All was fine.

Bryce said to her, “He’s pretty intense about the guard duty.”

“Very professional,” Hypaxia said approvingly.

Bryce offered a friendly smile. “Thanks for coming. I know my call was super random. I just … I had a crazy day. And thought you might have some advice.”

Hypaxia smiled at last. “I’m pleased you did. I’ve wished to see you since our encounter this spring.” When the queen had been playing medwitch. And …

It all came rushing back.

Hypaxia had freed Hunt from the halo. Had removed it. Had given him the ability to slay Sandriel and come aid Bryce—

“Thank you for what you did,” Bryce said, throat tight. “For helping Hunt.”

Hypaxia’s smile only widened. “From your scent, it seems as if you and he have made things … permanent. Congratulations.”

Bryce casually rocked back on her heels. “Thank you.”

“And how’s your thigh?”

“No more pain. Also thanks to you.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

Bryce sipped from her beer as the server brought over the queen’s pizza. She murmured to him, and the male brought the second slice out to Ithan, who grinned over at Hypaxia and held up the slice in a long-distance cheers. Still no sign of the dragon. Maybe that was a good thing.

When Hypaxia had taken a bite, Bryce said, “So, I, uh …”

“Ah. The reason you asked me here?”

Bryce sighed. “Yeah. My father—the Autumn King—visited today. Said that because I used his name for a few things, it meant I had accepted my royal title. I tried to refuse, but he’d already done the paperwork. I’m now officially a princess.” She almost choked on the last word.

“Judging from your expression, this is not good news.”

“No. I know you’re pretty much a stranger, and that you were born into your title and never had the choice to be normal, but … I feel like I’m drowning here.”

A gentle, warm hand landed atop hers. “I am sorry he did that to you.”

Bryce studied a stain on the counter, unsure if she could look at the witch without crying.

Hypaxia said, “Why do you think I came here this spring? I wanted to be normal. If only for a few months. I know what you’re feeling.”

Bryce shook her head. “Most people wouldn’t get it. They’d think, Oh, poor you, you have to be a princess. But I’ve spent my entire life avoiding this male and his court. I hate him. And I just walked right into his clutches like a fucking idiot.” She heaved a shuddering breath. “I think Hunt’s answer to all of this would be to go flambé my father until he reversed this bullshit, but … I wanted to see if you had any alternate ideas.”

The queen took another bite of her pizza, contemplating. “While I might enjoy the sight of Hunt Athalar flambéing the Autumn King …” Bryce’s mouth quirked up at that. “I think you’re right that a more diplomatic method is required.”

“So you think there’s a way out of this?” Marc had agreed to help, but hadn’t sounded hopeful.

“I think there are ways to manage this. Manage your father.”

Bryce nodded. “Ruhn mentioned you had some … drama with your coven.”

A soft laugh. “I suppose that’s a good way to put it.”

“He also mentioned that you had some unusual tutors growing up.” Ghosts, he’d told her on the phone this morning.

“Yes. My dearest friends.”

“No wonder you wanted to bust out and escape, if you had only the dead for company.”

Hypaxia chuckled. “They were wonderful companions, but yes. They encouraged me to come here, actually.”

“Are they with you on this trip?”

“No. They cannot leave the confines of the keep where I was raised. My mother’s summoning spell bound them there. It is … Perhaps it’s the reason I returned to my homelands again.”

“Not to be queen?”

“That too,” Hypaxia said quickly. “But … they are my family.”

“Along with the Hind,” Bryce said carefully.

“I do not count her as kin.”

Bryce was grateful for the shift in their conversation, even if for a few minutes. She needed time to sort through her raging feelings. “You look nothing alike.”

“That is not why I don’t consider her a sister.”

“No, I know that.”

“Our mother was as golden-haired and tan-skinned as she. My father, however—I take after his coloring.”

“And who was the Hind’s father?”

“A rich and powerful stag shifter in Pangera. My mother never told me the details of how they came to breed. Why she agreed to it. But the Hind inherited her father’s powers, not the witch gifts, and thus she was sent at age three to live with him.”

“That’s horrible.” When Bryce had been three … her mother had fought nearly to the death to keep her from the Autumn King’s clutches. Her mother had done all that, only for Bryce to wind up right here. Shame and dread filled her. She knew it was only a matter of time until her mom found out, but she couldn’t tell her—not yet.

“It was part of their deal,” Hypaxia explained. “Whatever gift Lidia inherited, that was where she would live. She spent the first three years with my mother, but when the shifter gifts manifested, his kin came to claim her. My mother never saw her again.”

“Was your mom bothered by what she became?”

“I was not privy to those thoughts,” Hypaxia said tightly enough that Bryce knew to drop it. “But it has never sat well with me.”

“Are you going to see her while she’s here?”

“Yes. I’ve never met her before. I was born several years after she was sent away.”

Bryce drank again. “I’d suggest not getting your hopes up.”

“I’m not. But we digress from your troubles.” The queen sighed. “I don’t know Fae royal laws, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you definitively, but … at this point, I think the only ones who might be able to stop your father are the Asteri.”

“I was afraid of that.” Bryce rubbed her temples. “Just wait until Hunt hears.”

“He won’t be pleased?”

“Why the Hel would he be pleased?”

“Because you are mated. And now your father has made you a princess. Which makes him …”

“Oh gods,” Bryce said, choking. “Hunt is a fucking prince.” She laughed bitterly. “He’s going to go ballistic. He’ll hate it even more than I do.” She laughed again, a bit hysterically. “Sorry. I’m, like, literally imagining his face when I tell him tonight. I need to record it or something.”

“I can’t tell if this is a good or bad thing.”

“Both. The Autumn King expects me to keep up my engagement with Prince Cormac.”

“Even though your scent makes it clear you’re with another?”

“Apparently.” She didn’t want to think about that. She finished the beer, then gathered up her plate and Hypaxia’s to toss in the trash. She quickly paid their tab, and as she pocketed the receipt, she asked the queen, “Wanna walk a little? It’s not as hot as it was.”

“I’d like that very much.”

They kept silent, unnoticed by those around them as they entered the alley. Ithan fell into step a polite distance behind. The dragon, if she was there, was nowhere to be seen.

“So your brother told you of the situation with my mother’s coven, then.”

“Yeah. That sucks. I’m sorry.”

They reached the river a block away and turned down the quay. Dry, warm wind rustled the palms lining it. Hypaxia studied the stars. “I had such visions for what the future would be like. Of witches returning to power. Of being with the person who I …” She cleared her throat.

“You’re seeing someone?” Bryce asked, brows lifting.

The queen’s face shuttered. “No.” Hypaxia blew out a long breath. “The relationship wasn’t possible anymore. I might have continued it, but it was not … They didn’t want to.”

Bryce blinked. If Hypaxia was in love with someone else … Fuck. “Poor Ruhn,” she said.

Hypaxia smiled sadly. “I think your brother wants to marry me as little as I want to marry him.”

“Ruhn’s hot, though. So are you. Maybe the attraction will kick in.” Bryce owed her brother at least an attempt to try to play up his good attributes.

A laugh. “It takes far more than that.”

“Yeah, but he’s a good guy. Like, a really good guy. And I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but … while I’m sure the person you love is great, you really couldn’t do better than Ruhn.”

“I’ll remember those words.” Hypaxia toyed with one of her long curls. “The engagement to your brother was an attempt to prevent my mother’s coven from gaining too much power.”

Bryce said, “But you said you want the witches to return to power. Or is it that you want your people to regain their power—but you want your mother’s coven to … be excluded from that?” Hypaxia nodded gravely. Bryce’s brows knit. “Aren’t the witches already powerful?”

“Not as we once were. For generations now, mighty bloodlines have run dry, magic withering. Like they are … siphoned into nothing. My mother’s coven has no interest in discovering why. They only want us to become even more subservient to the Asteri.”

This female had freed Hunt in pure defiance of the Asteri. Was Hypaxia a rebel? Did she dare ask her? How much had Ithan and Ruhn told her yesterday?

Dark mists curled on the other side of the river. She asked quietly, “Did your mom summon your tutors from the Bone Quarter? Or another eternal resting place?”

“Such things did not exist when my tutors walked the earth.”

Bryce gaped. “Your tutors predate the Asteri’s arrival?”

Hypaxia narrowed her eyes in warning for Bryce to keep her voice down. “Yes. They were already long dead when the Northern Rift opened.”

“They remember a time before the Asteri—when Parthos still stood?” Bryce ventured.

“Yes. One of my tutors, Palania, taught mathematics and science at its academy. She was born in the city surrounding it, and died there, too. So did generations of her family.”

“The Asteri don’t like people talking about these things. That humans accomplished so much before their arrival.”

“They are classic conquerors.” Hypaxia gazed toward the Bone Quarter. “They have conquered even death in this world. Spirits that once rested peacefully are now herded into these … zones.”

Bryce started. “You know about that?”

“The dead speak to me of their horrors. When my mother died, I had to do some things that … Let’s say my mother’s coven was not happy that I found a way for my mother to avoid going to an eternal resting place. Even if doing so sacrificed my ability to speak with her forever.” Shadows darkened her eyes. “But I could not send her to a zone like the Bone Quarter. Not when I knew what would become of her.”

“Why not tell everyone? Why not tell the whole world?”

“Who would believe me? Do you know what the Asteri would do to me? To my people? They would slaughter every single witch to punish me. My mother knew it as well—and also chose not to say anything. If you are wise, you will not, either. I shall help Ithan Holstrom and his kin as best I can on the equinox, but there are limits.”

Bryce halted by the rail overlooking the night-dark river. “Where did the dead go before the Asteri arrived? Did your tutors ever tell you that?”

Her mouth softened into a smile. “No. But they told me it was … good. Peaceful.”

“Do you think the souls that are harvested here ever wind up there?”

“I don’t know.”

Bryce blew out a breath. “Well, this is the most depressing girl talk I’ve ever had.”

“It’s the first girl talk I’ve ever had.”

“Normal girls dish about normal shit.”

“You and I are not normal girls.”

No, they weren’t. They were … a queen and a princess. Meeting as equals. Talking about things that could get them killed.

“It can be very lonely, to wear a crown,” Hypaxia said quietly, as if reading her thoughts. “But I’m glad to have you to speak with, Bryce.”

“Me too.” And she might not be anywhere near done fighting her father’s bullshit, but … it was a comfort to know that she had the witch-queen on her side, at least. And other allies.

Ithan stood guard twenty feet behind. His stare met hers, bright in the dimness. She opened her mouth to call him over, to ask how much he’d heard.

But at that moment, a massive, scaled gray beast leapt over the quay railing.

And before Bryce could shout, it barreled into Ithan and closed its jaws around his throat.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode