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House of Sky and Breath: Part 3 – Chapter 55

Bryce didn’t have time to scream. Didn’t have time to do anything but fall back on her ass, scrambling away from Ithan, his blood spraying, gurgling as his throat—

The beast—the demon—ripped out Ithan’s throat.

Tipped back its broad, flat head and swallowed the chunk of flesh between black, curved fangs.

“Get up,” Hypaxia ordered from where she stood above Bryce, a knife in her hand. Where it’d come from, Bryce had no idea.


She couldn’t do this again. Couldn’t endure it.

The demon stepped away from Ithan’s twitching, dying body. Would he survive that kind of a blow? If the demon had poison on its fangs like the kristallos—

This thing might have been some relative. Its matte gray scales flowed over a muscular, low-slung body; a tail as long as Bryce whipped back and forth, its spiked end carving grooves in the stone. People along the quay, the streets beyond, started fleeing.

Her body couldn’t move. Shock—she knew this was shock, and yet—

Help would come soon. Someone, either in the Aux or the 33rd, would arrive. Hunt—

Get up,” Hypaxia said, gripping Bryce under a shoulder to haul her to her feet. Slowly, the witch-queen dragged Bryce back—

A snarl reverberated through the stones behind them.

Bryce twisted to find a second demon, twin to the one that had ripped out Ithan’s throat, approaching at their rear. The two of them were closing in on the prey now trapped between them.

Fear, cold and sharp, sliced through her. Shattered the shock rooting her into uselessness. Clarified her fogged, bloody vision.

“Back-to-back,” Hypaxia ordered, voice low and calm. One knife—that’s all they had. Why the fuck didn’t she carry a gun?

But Ithan had a gun. On his lifeless body, Bryce could make out the gun he hadn’t had a chance to draw. How many rounds did it hold? If the demon was fast enough to sneak up on him, though, she didn’t stand a chance. Not unless …

“What kind of magic do you have?” Bryce murmured, pressing her back to Hypaxia as she eyed the second demon. She’d kill these fuckers. Rip them apart piece by piece for this.

“Does it matter?” Hypaxia asked, angling her knife at the first demon.

“Is it energy? Like lightning?”

“Healing and wind—and the necromancy, which I can’t even begin to explain.”

“Can you pinpoint it? Shoot it into me?”


“I need a charge. Like a battery,” Bryce said, the scar on her chest glowing faintly.

The demon before her bayed to the night sky. Her ears rang.

“To do what?”

“Just—do it now, or we are going to be royally fucked.”

The first demon howled. Like so many beings from the Pit, their eyes were milky—blind. As if they’d been in the dark so long they’d ceased to need them. So blinding wasn’t an option. But a bullet … “You think a knife is going to work on them?” Bryce demanded.

“I …” Hypaxia guided them toward the quay railing. Three feet remained until there was nowhere to go but the water. Bryce shuddered, remembering the sobeks that had attacked them that day fleeing the Bone Quarter.

“Use your healing power and hit my fucking chest,” Bryce snarled. “Trust me.” They had no other choice. If Hunt’s power had charged her up, maybe …

The creature nearest the witch-queen lunged, snapping. The two females slammed into the railing.

“Now!” Bryce shouted, and Hypaxia whirled, shoving a shining palm to Bryce’s chest. Warmth flowed into her, soft and gentle, and—

Stars erupted in Bryce’s mind. Supernovas.


It was as easy as taking a step.

One breath, Bryce stood against the quay. The next, she was beside Ithan’s body, behind the creatures, who pivoted toward her, sensing that her scent had shifted away.

Hypaxia tapped the golden brooch on the lapel of her jacket. With a woomph of air, her broom appeared before her, and the queen leapt onto it, shooting skyward—

Bryce grabbed the gun from Ithan’s waistband, clicked off the safety, and fired at the closest demon. Brain matter splattered as the bullet plowed between its sightless eyes.

The second demon charged at her, Hypaxia forgotten as she hovered on her broom in the air above. Bryce fired, and the beast dodged the blow—as if it could feel the air itself parting for the bullet. It was onto her, aware of what weapon she bore—

The demon leapt for her, and Bryce rallied her power.

Stepped from her place beside Ithan’s body to the open walkway behind the charging creature.

It hit the ground and spun, claws gouging deep. Bryce fired again, and the demon used those preternatural senses to veer left at the last millisecond, taking the bullet in the shoulder. The shot did nothing to slow it.

The demon jumped for her again, and Bryce moved. Slower this time—Hypaxia’s power was already funneling out of her.

“Thirty feet behind you!” Hypaxia ordered from above, pointing, and Bryce gritted her teeth, mapping out how to get there. The dance she had to lead the creature into.

It leapt, claws out, and Bryce teleported back ten feet. It leapt again and she moved, body shaking against the strain. Another ten feet back. She could make the last jump. Had to make the last jump as the demon sprang—

Roaring, Bryce flung all of herself, all that remained of the spark of Hypaxia’s power, into her desire to step, to move—

She appeared ten feet back, and the creature, sensing her pattern, jumped.

It didn’t look up. Didn’t see the witch-queen plunging to the earth, dagger aloft.

Bryce hit the ground as Hypaxia jumped from her broom and landed atop the beast, slamming her blade into its skull. Witch and demon went down, the former astride it like a horse from Hel. But the demon didn’t so much as twitch.

Scraped palms and knees already healing, Bryce panted, shaking. She’d done it. She’d—

Ithan. Oh gods, Ithan.

On wobbling legs, she scrambled to her feet and rushed for him. His throat was healing—slowly. He stared unseeingly at the night sky.

“Move back,” Hypaxia said, breathing heavily, broom discarded beside her. “Let me see him.”

“He needs a medwitch!”

“I am a medwitch,” Hypaxia said, and knelt.

Wings filled the skies, sirens blaring from the streets. Then Isaiah was there, hands on Bryce’s shoulders. “Are you all right? Is that Holstrom? Where’s Athalar?” The rapid-fire questions pelted her.

“I’m here,” Hunt said from the darkness, landing with enough force that the ground shook. Lightning skittered over the concrete. He assessed Bryce, then Ithan, the wolf’s body glowing under Hypaxia’s hands. Then he registered the two demons and went pale. “Those …” He scanned Bryce again.

“You know what they are?” Isaiah asked.

Hunt rushed to Bryce and tucked her into him. She leaned into his warmth, his strength. He said quietly, “Deathstalkers. Personal pets of the Prince of the Pit. They were seen in Nena four days ago. They somehow crossed the border.”

Bryce’s stomach hollowed out.

Isaiah held up a hand to keep the other advancing angels and Aux at bay. “You think these two came here all the way from Nena? And why attack Bryce?”

Bryce wrapped her arms around Hunt’s waist, not caring that she was clinging. If she let go, her knees might very well give out. Hunt lied smoothly, “Isn’t it obvious? Hel’s got a score to settle with her after this spring. They sent their best assassins to kill her.”

Isaiah seemed to buy that theory, because he said to Bryce, “How did you even bring them down?”

“Ithan had a gun. I got a lucky shot on the first. Queen Hypaxia took care of the second.”

It was mostly true.

“There,” Hypaxia announced, stepping back from Ithan’s healed, limp body. “He’ll wake when he’s ready.” She gathered her broom and, with a touch—or some of her witch-power—it shrank back into the golden brooch of Cthona. She pinned it onto her gray jacket as she pivoted to Isaiah. “Can your soldiers transport him to the witches’ embassy? I’d like to tend to him personally until he’s conscious.”

Bryce couldn’t argue with that. But … there was no one to call for Ithan. No family, no friends, no pack. No one except—

She dialed Ruhn.

Deathstalkers. He should have sent out a warning the moment he’d IDed the tail of one in that photo from Nena. Should have had every soldier in this city on alert.

But Bryce … by some miracle, she didn’t have a scratch on her.

It wasn’t possible. Hunt knew how fast the deathstalkers were. Even Fae couldn’t outrun them. They’d been bred that way by Apollion himself.

Hunt waited to speak until he and Bryce stood in the golden hall of the witches’ embassy. Ithan had already been handed over from the two angels who’d flown him here to Ruhn and Declan, who’d gently carried the wolf into a small room to recover. “So, let’s hear the real story.”

Bryce turned to him, eyes bright with fear—and excitement. “I did it. Teleported.” She explained what Hypaxia had done—what she had done.

“That was one Hel of a risk.” He wasn’t sure whether to kiss her or shake her for it.

“My options were limited,” Bryce said, crossing her arms. Through the open doorway, Ruhn and Dec set Ithan on the cot, Hypaxia instructing them to position his body in a certain way. “Where the Hel was the dragon?”

“Fucking coward told Holstrom she’d climb up to the rooftops to provide a second set of eyes, and then bailed,” Flynn said, face dark as he stepped into the hall.

“Do you blame her?” Bryce said.

“Yeah.” Flynn glowered. “We did her a favor, and she fucked us over. She could have torched those demons.” Before Bryce could counter, the lord stalked away with a disgusted shake of his head.

Bryce waited until the hall was empty again before asking Hunt, “You think these were the appetizers the Prince of the Pit threatened to send to test us?”

“Yes. They answer only to him.”

“But they were about to kill me. He didn’t seem to want us dead. And it seems reckless to do it just to test me.” She gestured between them. “His epic opponents, remember?”

Ruhn stepped into the hall and murmured, “Unless you weren’t the one they were supposed to kill.” He jerked his chin toward Hypaxia, lowering his voice. He assessed the quiet halls of the embassy—no witches in sight—before saying, “Maybe her coven summoned them, somehow.”

Bryce frowned. “Why?”

Ruhn paced a step. “You’d be the perfect cover story. She was walking beside someone Hel has a score to settle with—someone who’d pissed Hel off this spring. Deathstalkers imply the Prince of the Pit’s involvement. If she’d died, all eyes would be on Hel. Everyone would think they’d targeted you, and she’d be the unfortunate additional loss.”

“What about Ithan, though?”

Hunt picked up Ruhn’s thread. “Also collateral. After this spring, I doubt Sabine would be stupid enough to summon a demon. That leaves our enemies or Hypaxia’s. But given what Apollion threatened … I’d say odds are it was him. Maybe he was willing to take the risk that you’d die during his little test—maybe he supposed that if you died, you wouldn’t be worthy of battling him anyway.”

Bryce rubbed her face. “So where does that leave us?”

Hunt interlaced their fingers. “It leaves us with the realization that this city needs to be on high alert and you need to be armed at all times.”

She glared. “That’s not helpful.”

Ruhn, wisely, kept his mouth shut.

“You didn’t have any weapons tonight,” Hunt snarled. “You two had one knife between you. You were lucky Ithan carried that gun. And you were even luckier in your guess that Hypaxia could charge up your ability to teleport.”

Ruhn grunted his agreement.

“So that’s how you did it,” Declan said, walking back into the hall. The warrior shut the door behind him, giving Hypaxia and Ithan privacy.

Bryce sketched a bow. “It’ll be my special solo act during the school talent show.”

Declan snorted, but Ruhn was assessing her. “You really teleported?”

Bryce explained everything again, and Hunt couldn’t keep himself from tugging her closer. When she finished, Ruhn echoed Hunt’s words. “We got lucky tonight. You got lucky tonight.”

Bryce winked at Hunt. “And I plan to get lucky again.”

“Gross,” Ruhn said as Declan snickered.

Hunt flicked Bryce’s nose and said to Ruhn, “Let’s set up watches around the apartment and this embassy—assign your most trusted soldiers. I’ll get Isaiah and Naomi on it, too.”

“The 33rd and the Aux teaming up to guard little old me?” Bryce crooned. “I’m flattered.”

“This is not the time to debate alphahole politics,” Hunt ground out. “Those were fucking deathstalkers.”

“And I dealt with them.”

“I wouldn’t be so dismissive,” he growled. “The Prince of the Pit will send hordes of them through the Northern Rift if he ever gets it fully open, rather than shoving one or two through at a time for fun. They hunt down whoever they’re ordered to stalk. They’re assassins. You get marked by them for execution, and you are dead.”

She blew on her fingers, as if chasing off dust. “All in a day’s work for me, then.”


Ruhn started laughing.

“What?” Hunt demanded.

Ruhn said, “You know who I was talking to before I got your call? My father.” Bryce went still, and Hunt knew it was bad. Ruhn grinned at him. “Your father in-law.”

“Excuse me?”

Ruhn didn’t stop grinning. “He told me the wonderful news.” He winked at Bryce. “You must be so happy.”

Bryce groaned and turned to Hunt. “It’s not official—”

“Oh, it’s official,” Ruhn said, leaning against the wall beside the door.

“What the fuck are you two talking about?” Hunt growled.

Ruhn smirked at Hunt. “She’s been bandying about the royal name, apparently. Which means she’s accepted her position as princess. And as you’re her mate, that makes you son-in-law to the Autumn King. And my brother.”

Hunt gaped at him. Ruhn was completely serious.

Bryce blurted, “Did you ask him about Cormac? The Autumn King insists the engagement is still on.”

Ruhn’s amusement faded. “I don’t see how it could be.”

“I’m sorry,” Hunt cut in, “but what the fuck?” His wings splayed. “You’re now officially a princess?”

Bryce winced. “Surprise?”


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