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House of Sky and Breath: Part 3 – Chapter 57

Hunt waited until he and Bryce had entered the apartment, the door firmly shut behind them, before he said, “I’m a prince now?”

Bryce slumped onto the couch. “Welcome to the club.”

“Your father really did this?”

She nodded glumly. “My mom is going to freak.”

Hunt stalked to the couch. “What about you, Bryce? Your mom can deal with it. I can deal with this, believe it or not. But … are you okay?”

She only stroked Syrinx’s coat.

He scented salt and water, then, and sat on the new coffee table, lifting her chin between his thumb and forefinger to find tears running down her cheeks. Ones he had no doubt she’d been holding back for hours.

He’d turn the Autumn King into smoldering carrion for putting those tears, the fear and panic and sorrow, in her eyes.

“I spent my whole life avoiding this. And I just feel …” She wiped angrily at her face. “I feel so fucking stupid for having walked into his net.”

“You shouldn’t. He bent the rules to his will. He’s a snake.”

“He’s a snake and now technically, legally, my king.” She choked on a sob. “I will never have a normal life again. I’ll never be free of him, and—”

Hunt gathered her into his arms, moving to the couch and pulling her into his lap. “We’ll fight him on this. You want a normal life, a life with me—we’ll make it happen. You’re not alone. We’ll fight him together.”

She buried her face against his chest, tears splashing onto the black armor of his battle-suit. He stroked her silken hair, letting the smooth strands slide through his fingers.

“I could handle the Starborn shit. I could handle the magic,” she said, voice muffled against his chest. “But this … I can’t fucking handle this.” She lifted her head, dread and panic flooding her expression. “He owns me. I’m chattel to him. If he wanted me to marry Cormac tonight, he could sign the marriage documents without even my presence. If I wanted a divorce, he’d be the one to grant it, not that he would. I’m a commodity—either I belong to him, or I belong to Cormac. He can do whatever he wants, and no amount of bravado from me can stop it.”

Lightening skittered down his wings. “I’ll fucking kill him.”

“And what will that do, beyond get you executed?”

He leaned his brow against hers. “We’ll think of a way out of this.”

“Hypaxia said only the Asteri could override him. Considering our status with them, I doubt they’ll help.”

Hunt blew out a long breath. Tightened his arms around his mate. He’d slaughter anyone who tried to take her from him. King, prince, Fae, or Asteri. He’d fucking kill


He blinked.

“Your eyes went all … rage-dazey.” She sniffled.

“Sorry.” The last thing she needed right now was to have to handle his fury, too. He kissed her cheek, her temple, her neck.

She rested her brow on his shoulder, shuddering. Syrinx whimpered from where he had cuddled up on her other side.

For long minutes, Hunt and Bryce sat there. Hunt savored every place his body touched hers, the warmth and scent of her. Racked his mind for anything he might do, any path out of this.

Her fingers curled against the nape of his neck. He loosened his grip, pulling back to scan her face.

Starlight and fire sparked there. “Tell me that look means you came up with some brilliant yet painless way out of this,” he said.

She kissed him softly. “You’re not going to like it.”

Ruhn wasn’t at all shocked when he found himself standing before that mental couch.

After the night he’d had, nothing could shock him.

On the bridge, Day surveyed Ruhn without saying a word. Somehow, he could have sworn she sensed his turmoil.

But Ruhn said, “Anything for me?” He hadn’t forgotten their last conversation. She’d told him he was a worthless, do-nothing loser who’d never known sacrifice or pain.

“You’re angry with me.”

“I don’t care about you enough to be angry with you,” he said coldly.


The word was an arrow shot between them. The night around him rippled. His temper hadn’t improved when he discovered that Ariadne had straight up bailed. Fled the moment no one was looking and gone the gods knew where. He didn’t blame the dragon. He was just … pissed he hadn’t anticipated it.

He asked Day, “What the fuck do you want me to say?”

“I owe you an apology for last time. I’d had a rough day. My temper got the better of me.”

“You spoke the truth. Why bother apologizing for it?”

“It’s not the truth. I …” She seemed to struggle for words. “Do you know when I last spoke honestly with someone? When I last spoke to someone as I do to you, as close to my real self as I’ve ever come?”

“I’m guessing it’s been a while.”

She crossed her arms, wrapping them around herself. “Yes.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

She angled her head. “What?”

He rubbed his neck, his shoulder. “What do you think makes a good leader?” The question was ridiculous—an essay for a second-grader. But after all that had gone down …

She didn’t balk. “Someone who listens. Who thinks before acting. Who tries to understand different viewpoints. Who does what is right, even if the path is long and hard. Who will give a voice to the voiceless.”

His father was none of those things. Except for thinking before acting. That male had schemes that had been in play for decades. Centuries.

“Why do you ask?”

Ruhn shrugged. “All this rebel stuff has me thinking about it. Who we’d replace the Asteri with. Who we’d want to replace them with.”

She studied him, her gaze a brand on his skin. “What do you think makes a good leader?”

He didn’t know. Only that he wasn’t entirely sure he fit the bill of what she’d described, either. Where would that leave his people? “I’m trying to figure that out.” If he became king one day, what sort of ruler would he be? He’d try to do right, but …

Silence fell, companionable and comfortable.

But then Day blew out a breath, blue flame rippling from her mouth. “I’m not used to this sort of thing.”

He lowered himself onto his couch. “What sort of thing?”


“You consider me a friend?”

“In a world full of enemies, you’re my only friend.”

“Well, maybe I should give you friendship lessons, because you fucking blow at it.”

She laughed, and the sound wasn’t entirely joyous. “All right. I deserved that.”

He gave her a half smile, even if she couldn’t see it. “Lesson one: don’t shit on your friends when you have a bad day.”


“Lesson two: Your true friends won’t mind when you do, so long as you own up to it and apologize. Usually in the form of buying them a beer.”

Another laugh, softer this time. “I’ll buy you a beer, then.”

“Yeah? When you come to visit me?”

“Yeah,” she said, the word echoing. “When I come visit you.”

He rose and crossed to her couch, peering down at her. “Which will be when, Day?”

She tipped her head back, as if staring up at him. “On the Autumnal Equinox.”

Ruhn stilled. “You … What?”

She brought her burning hand to her head—her ear. Like she was tucking a strand of hair behind it. She stood, walking around the couch. Putting it between them as she said, “I must attend the ball for the Archangels. I could … meet you somewhere.”

“I’m going to that ball,” he said, unsure why his voice went hoarse. For her to be invited there, she had to be important, precisely as they’d suspected. “The equinox fete is always a masked ball. We can meet there.”

She backed up a step as he rounded the couch. “In front of so many?”

“Why not? We’ll both be in masks. And we’re both invited to the party, so why would it be suspicious for two people to talk there?”

He could have sworn he heard her heart pounding. She asked, “How will I know you?”

“The party’s in the conservatory on the rooftop garden of the Comitium. There’s a fountain on the western side of it—right off the stairs from the conservatory. Meet me there at midnight.”

“But how can I be sure not to mistake someone else for you?”

“If I think it’s you, I’ll say ‘Day?’ And if you answer ‘Night,’ we’ll know.”

“We shouldn’t.”

Ruhn took a step toward her, his breathing uneven. “Is it so bad if I know who you are?”

“It jeopardizes everything. For all I know, you could be baiting me for the Asteri—”

“Look at me and tell me you think that’s true.”

She did. Ruhn came close enough that the heat of her flame warmed his body.

And, deciding to Hel with it, he reached for her hand. The flame warmed his night-skin, but did not burn. The hand beneath the fire was slender. Delicate.

Her fingers contracted against his own, but he held firm. “I’ll be waiting for you.”

“And if I’m not what you expect?”

“What do you think I’m expecting?”

Again, her fingers twitched, like she’d yank away. “I don’t know.”

He tugged on her arm, pulling her a little closer. When was the last time he’d had to work for a female’s attention like this? Fuck, he was working for it, wasn’t he? He wanted to see her face. Know who was bold and brave enough to risk her life again and again to defy the Asteri.

Ruhn stared down at the veil of flame between him and Day. “I want to smell your scent. See you. Even for a moment.”

“That ball will be swarming with our enemies.”

“Then we won’t stay long. But … just meet me, all right?”

She was silent, as if she were trying to pierce the blanket of stars he wore. “Why?”

His voice dropped. “You know why.”

She hesitated. Then she said softly, “Yes.”

Her flames seemed to reach for his stars and shadows. “Midnight.”

She faded into embers on the wind. “Midnight,” she promised.


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