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House of Sky and Breath: Part 3 – Chapter 63

“He was a micromanaging fucking nightmare,” Bryce ranted the next day as she stood with Hunt, Ruhn, and Declan in the Aux training center during her lunch break. Tharion lay sprawled on a bench against the wall, napping. Cormac, standing across the space, frowned.

Her brother was pale. “You really think Theia and a bunch of Fae sided with Hel during the war?”

Bryce suppressed a shiver of cold at the memory. “Who knows what’s true?”

Across the vast, empty room, Hunt rubbed his jaw. She hadn’t even mentioned what Apollion had said—that little tidbit about Hunt being bred. She’d tackle that later. Hunt mused, “What’s the benefit in convincing us of a lie? Or the truth, either, I suppose. All that matters is that Hel is definitely on the move.”

Declan said, “Can we pause for a moment and remark on the fact that both of you have spoken to the Prince of the Pit? Is no one else about to puke at the thought?”

Ruhn held up a hand, and Tharion lazily lifted one from the bench, but Bryce high-fived Hunt. “Special kids club,” she said to the angel, who winked at her. She leapt back a step, rallying her power. “Again.” They’d been in here for twenty minutes already, practicing.

Hunt’s lightning flared at his fingertips, and Bryce set her feet apart. “Ready?” he asked.

Tharion roused himself enough to turn over, propping his head on a fist. Bryce scowled at him, but the mer only waggled his brows in encouragement.

She faced Hunt again, right as the angel hurled his lightning at her like a spear. It zinged against her chest, a direct hit, and then she was glowing, power singing, soaring—

Two feet in front of the windows.

She’d no sooner thought the command than she appeared across the space. Exactly two feet from the windows. Back to a foot before Hunt.

She appeared before him, so suddenly that he staggered back.

Ruhn. She moved again, slower this time. But her brother yelped.

Declan braced himself, like he thought he’d be next, so Bryce thought, A foot behind Hunt.

She pinched her mate’s butt so fast he didn’t have time to whirl before she’d moved again. This time in front of Declan, who cursed when she poked him in the ribs, then teleported once more.

Cormac called from where he’d been standing in the far corner, “You’re slowing.” She was. Damn it, she was. Bryce rallied her power, Hunt’s energy. She appeared in front of Tharion’s bench, but the mer was waiting.

Fast as a striking shark, Tharion grabbed her face and planted a smacking kiss on her lips.

Hunt’s laugh boomed across the space, and Bryce joined him, batting the mer away.

“Too slow, Legs,” Tharion drawled, leaning back against the bench and crossing an ankle over a knee. He draped an arm along the back of the plastic bench. “And too predictable.”

“Again,” Cormac ordered. “Focus.”

Bryce tried, but her bones weighed her down. Tried again to no avail. “I’m out.”

“Concentrate, and you could hold on longer. You use too much at once, and don’t reserve the energy for later.”

Bryce put her hands on her hips as she panted. “Your teleporting works differently than mine. How can you know that?”

“Mine comes from a source of magic, too. Energy, just a different form. Each jump takes more out of me. It’s a muscle that you need to build up.”

She scowled, wiping her brow as she walked back over to Hunt.

“It does seem like he’s right,” Declan said to Bryce. “Your teleporting works when your power gets charged up by energy—considering what I heard about how quickly you ran out of steam with Hypaxia, Hunt’s is the best form of it.”

“Damn right it is,” Hunt growled, earning a smack on the arm from Bryce.

“Do you think the power will … stay in me if I don’t use it?” she asked Dec.

“I don’t think so,” Dec said. “Your power came from the Gate—with a shit-ton of firstlight mixed in. So your magic—beyond the light, I mean—needs to be powered up. It relies on firstlight, or any other form of energy it can get. You’re literally a Gate: you can take in power and offer it. But it seems the similarity ends there. The Gates can store power indefinitely, while yours clearly peters out after a while.” He faced Hunt. “And your power, Athalar, as pure energy, is able to draw from her, like she did from the Gate. Bryce, when you draw from a source, it’s the same way the Gates zap power from people using them to communicate.”

Bryce blinked. “So I’m like some magical leech?”

Declan laughed. “I think only of certain kinds of magic. Forms of pure energy. Throw in the Horn, which relies on a blast of power to activate it …”

“And you’re a liability,” Ruhn said darkly. Tharion grunted his agreement.

Declan rubbed his chin. “You told Ruhn after the attack that Hypaxia aimed for your scar to supercharge your powers, right? I wonder what would happen if you were struck on the Horn.”

“Let’s not find out,” Bryce said quickly.

“Agreed,” Cormac said from across the room. He pointed to the obstacle course he’d laid out in the center of the space. “Back to work. Follow the track.”

Bryce pivoted toward the Avallen Prince, and said as casually as she could, “I’m shocked you’re even here.”

Cormac said icily, “Because you decided to end our engagement without consulting me?”

Hunt muttered to her, “Anything to avoid your exercises, huh?”

She glared at her mate, especially as Ruhn chuckled, but said to Cormac, “I had no other choice.”

Shadows rippled around Cormac. “You could have let me know while you were plotting.”

“There was no plotting. Athalar and I decided, and then just waited.”

The Avallen Prince snarled low. Hunt let out a warning growl of his own. Tharion said nothing, though she knew the mer was monitoring every breath and word. But Cormac didn’t take his eyes from her. “Do you have any idea what the phone call with my father was like?”

“I’m assuming it was similar to the Autumn King telling me I’m a little bitch?”

Cormac shook his head. “Let’s be clear: I’m only here today because I’m well aware that if I’m not, then your brother will cease contacting Agent Daybright.”

“I’m flattered you know me so well,” Ruhn drawled, his arms crossed. He’d moved into a position on Cormac’s other side—without her even noticing. Placing himself between the Avallen Prince and Bryce. Oh please.

Cormac glowered at him, but then focused upon Bryce again. “I’m willing to move beyond this, on the condition that you don’t surprise me again. We have too many enemies as it is.”

“One,” she said, “don’t give me conditions. But two …” She made a show of examining her bare arms. “Nothing up my sleeves. No other secrets to hide, I swear.”

Except for that itsy-bitsy thing about Emile. Hunt gave her a dry look, as if to say, Liar, but she ignored him.

Cormac, however, did not. Catching that look, the Avallen Prince said, “There’s something else.”


But even Ruhn now lifted his brows at her. Hunt said casually, “Don’t be paranoid.”

“You have something planned,” Cormac pressed. “For fuck’s sake, tell me.”

“I don’t have anything planned,” Bryce said, “other than figuring out this teleporting crap.”

One moment, Cormac was glancing between her and Hunt. The next, he’d vanished.

Only to reappear at Bryce’s back with a knife to her throat.

Bryce stiffened. “Come on, Cormac. There’s no need for this.” Lightning shone in Hunt’s eyes. Ruhn had drawn his gun. Tharion remained sprawled across the bench, but—that was a knife now gleaming in his hand. His focus was fixed on the Avallen Prince.

Tell me,” Cormac snarled, and cool metal bit into her throat.

Trying not to breathe too deeply, Bryce laid a finger on the blade. “I made the Drop. I’ll survive.”

Cormac hissed at her ear. “Tell me what the fuck you have planned, or you’ll lose your head. Good luck growing that back.”

“You draw blood and you lose your head, too,” Hunt growled with lethal menace.

She could blind Cormac, she supposed. But would his shadows muffle the impact? She doubted he’d truly kill her, but if he tried … Hunt would definitely attack. Ruhn would, too.

And she’d have an even bigger mess on her hands.

So Bryce said, “Fine. It’s about Emile.”

Hunt started. So did Tharion as the mer said, “Bryce.”

Cormac didn’t remove the knife. “What about Emile?”

“I found him. At the Viper Queen’s warehouse.” She sighed loudly. “I learned he was there, that all the reptiles and gross things in the marshes had told her where he was and she’d gone to retrieve him. She was the one who killed the people who helped him, and intended to control him. But when I went to the warehouse two days ago, he was already gone.”

Cormac whirled her to face him with rough hands. “Gone where?”

“Somewhere safe. Apparently, the Vipe found it in herself to put him into the care of people who will look after him.”

Who?” His face was white with rage. Tharion’s eyes had widened.

“I don’t know. She wouldn’t tell me.”

“Then I’ll make her tell me.”

Ruhn laughed. “No one makes the Viper Queen do anything.”

Into her mind, her brother said, Cormac might not know you well enough to tell when you’re lying, but I do.

It’s not a lie. Emile is safe.

He’s just not where you’re claiming.

Oh, he was with the Viper Queen. And now he’s somewhere else.

Cormac shook his head. “Why would the Viper Queen have any interest in that boy?”

“Because she likes to collect powerful beings to fight in her pits,” Hunt snarled. “Now put the fucking knife away.”

To her relief, the prince lowered the knife from her neck with an easy flip of the blade. “But why would she let go of someone so powerful, if she likes to use them in fights?”

Bryce said, “Because Emile has no powers.”

Are you shitting me? Ruhn asked.

Nope. Kid’s totally human.

Cormac’s eyes narrowed. “Sofie said—”

“She lied,” Bryce said.

Cormac’s shoulders slumped. “I need to find him. I shouldn’t have put off questioning Spetsos—”

“Emile is safe, and cared for,” Bryce interrupted, “and that’s all you need to know.”

“I owe it to Sofie—”

“You owe it to Sofie to keep Emile out of this rebellion. Your life is hardly what I’d call a stable environment. Let him stay hidden.”

Cormac said to Tharion, “What are you going to tell your queen?”

Tharion offered him a razor-sharp smile. “Absolutely nothing.” A threat of violence simmered beneath the words. If Cormac breathed anything to the mer, to the River Queen, the Avallen Prince would find himself in a watery grave.

Cormac sighed. And to her shock, he said, “I apologize for the knife.” To Hunt, he said, “And I apologize for threatening your mate.”

Ruhn asked, “Don’t I get an apology?” Cormac bristled, but Ruhn grinned.

Bryce caught Hunt watching her, his expression proud. Like she’d done something worthy. Had it been her smooth weaving of lies and truth?

“Apology accepted,” Bryce said, forcing herself to sound chipper. Steering away from the topic of Emile. “Now back to training.”

Cormac shrugged, pointing to the spots he’d taped off: X’s on the floor, atop chairs, atop piled mats, beneath a table.

Bryce groaned, but marked them, cataloged the path she’d take.

“Well, that was exciting,” Tharion announced, groaning as he got to his feet. “Right. I’m out.”

Hunt arched a brow. “Where to?”

“I’m still technically employed by the River Queen. Regardless of what happened with Emile, there are other matters to attend to.”

Bryce waved at him. But Ruhn said, “Dinner tonight?”

Tharion winked. “You got it.” Then he sauntered through the metal doors and was gone.

“All right, Athalar,” Bryce muttered when the mer had shut the doors. “Time to level up.”

Hunt laughed, but his lightning flared again. “Let’s do this, Your Highness.”

There was something in the way he said Your Highness that made her realize that the expression on his face a moment before hadn’t been pride in her manipulation—it had been pride in the way she’d defused things without violence. Like he thought she might actually deserve the title she now bore.

Bryce tucked the thought aside. By the time the bolt of lightning slammed into her chest, she was already running.

Despite the exhaustion weighing on his very bones, despite the urgency that had sent him and Hypaxia racing here, Ithan couldn’t help gaping from the doorway as the party girl he’d loved moved through the Aux training space like the wind, vanishing and appearing at will. At his side, Hypaxia monitored the remarkable feats, studying Bryce intently.

Bryce finished the obstacle course and halted at Hunt’s side, bending over her knees to catch her breath.

Hypaxia cleared her throat, stepping into the gymnasium. Even the queen looked … ruffled after the endless, terrifying night they’d had.

They’d passed Tharion on his way out. The mer had been speaking in low tones to someone on the phone, and had raised his brows with concern at the sight of the dirt and sweat on them. But whoever had been on the phone must have been important enough that he couldn’t hang up, and Tharion had only continued on after Hypaxia had given him a gesture that seemed to assure him that she was fine. The mer had stopped and peered back over a shoulder at Ithan, as if needing to confirm the queen’s claim, but Ithan had nothing to offer him. What the Hel could he say? They weren’t fine. Not at all. So they’d left Tharion in the hall, the mer staring after them for a long moment.

“What’s up?” Ruhn asked Ithan, waving his greeting to Hypaxia. Then the prince did a double take. “What the Hel happened to you two? I thought you were summoning Connor.”

The others in the training space halted.

“We did indeed try to summon Connor Holstrom last night,” Hypaxia said gravely.

Bryce paled as she hurried over. “What happened? Is Connor all right? Are you guys all right?”

Ithan’s throat worked. “Ah …”

Hypaxia replied for him, “We did not encounter Connor. The Under-King answered.”

“What happened?” Bryce asked again, voice rising.

Ithan met her stare. Pure predatory wolf gleamed there. “He detained us for his amusement. Sicced Flame and Shadow’s nightmare dogs on us and warded us into an olive grove with them. It took Hypaxia until now to figure out an exit through the wards that wouldn’t get us ripped to shreds. We’re fine, though.” Ruhn whirled with alarm to his fiancée, and the witch-queen nodded solemnly, shadows in her eyes. Ithan scrubbed at his face before he added, “He wants to see you at Urd’s Temple.”

Hunt’s lightning sparked at his fingertips. “Fuck no.”

Ithan swallowed hard. “You don’t have a choice.” He turned, pleading and exhausted, to Bryce. “Connor is safe for right now, but if you don’t show within an hour, the Under-King will throw him and the rest of the Pack of Devils through the Gate immediately. He’ll make secondlight of them all.”


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