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House of Sky and Breath: Part 3 – Chapter 66

“You have to be ten kinds of stupid,” Fury hissed at Bryce from where they sat at the dive bar’s counter, nursing their drinks. Fury had initially refused to meet up when Bryce had called her last night, but Bryce had pestered her enough throughout the following morning that she’d agreed to meet here.

Bryce had barely been able to sleep, though Hunt had done a good job exhausting her. Her mind couldn’t stop turning over the things she’d learned. Danika had a mate. Sabine had known about it. Danika’s mate still loved her.

And Danika had never told Bryce about any of it.

“I know it’s insane,” Bryce murmured, swirling her whiskey and ginger beer. “But any help you can give me …”

“You need a shit-ton of help, but not with this. You’re out of your mind.” Fury leaned closer, getting in Bryce’s face. “Do you know what they’ll do to you if you’re caught? What they might do to your family, to Juniper, to punish you? Did you see what the Harpy did to those rebels? Do you know what Mordoc likes to do to his victims? I make sure to stay well out of his path. These people are soulless. The Asteri will gladly let them go to work on you and everyone you love.”

“I know,” Bryce said carefully. “So help me make sure I don’t get caught.”

“You’re assuming I just have blueprints of the crystal palace lying around.”

“I know you’ve been there. You have a better memory than anyone I know. You mean to tell me you didn’t take mental notes while you were there? That you didn’t notice the exits, the guards, the security systems?”

“Yeah, but you’re talking about the archives. I can only give you a vague layout. I’ve only ever walked the halls—never gone into the rooms.”

“So don’t you want to know what’s in those rooms? What Danika suspected might be inside that one room in particular?”

Fury swigged from her vodka on the rocks. “Don’t try to convert me to your bullshit cause. I’ve done work for both sides and neither is worth the time of day. They’re certainly not worth your life.”

“We’re not working for either side.”

“Then what side are you working for?”

“Truth,” Bryce said simply. “We want the truth.”

Fury studied her, and Bryce withstood the searing assessment. “You’ve definitely lost your mind, then. I’m going to take June out of this city for a while. Lie low.”

“Good.” Bryce wished she could warn her parents without raising suspicions. She tapped her foot on the bronze footrest beneath the bar.

“Can you take Syrinx with you?” She wouldn’t leave without knowing he’d be cared for.

“Yeah.” Fury sighed and signaled the bartender for another vodka. “I’ll get you what intel I can.”

Tharion found his fiancée sitting on the edge of the quay off the Bone Quarter, her delicate feet dipping into the turquoise water, sending waves splashing in the sunlight. Her black hair was unbound, cascading down her slim back in a luxurious fall.

Once, that beauty had staggered him, snagged him. Now it merely … weighed.

“Thank you for meeting me.” He’d sent the otter an hour ago. She twisted, looking back at him, a pretty smile lighting her face.

Tharion swallowed hard. She’d been so … starry-eyed at the party the other night. So elated to be there, dancing and laughing.

A decade. A decade wasted for him—and for her.

He’d advised Holstrom to settle any unfinished business. He needed to do the same.

“I, ah …” Tharion paced a step, keenly aware of the sobeks lurking in the river, appraising them with slitted eyes. The mer guards positioned near the dock, spears within throwing range, ready to impale him. “I wanted to talk to you.”

Her look turned wary. He could have sworn the sobeks drifted closer. Tourists spotted them and began snapping photos along the quay. Saw the River Queen’s daughter and began snapping photos of the beauty, too.

This was an awfully public place for this kind of meeting, but he knew if he did this at the Blue Court, if her mother got word of it before he could leave, she’d keep him Beneath, as trapped as any of the mortals who’d once been dragged below by the mer.

“You wish to call off our betrothal,” she said. Thunderclouds threatened in her eyes.

Instinct had him fumbling for soothing lies to comfort her. But … if he was going to die, either at the Asteri’s or her mother’s hand, he wanted to do it knowing he’d been honest. “Yes.”

“You think I did not know? All this time? A male who wanted to marry me would have acted by now.” Her nose crinkled in anger. “How many years did I spend trying to coax some affection, some intimacy from you? Something to heal this?”

He refrained from saying that she’d also been vindictive and childish and sullen.

The water at her feet thrashed. “Yet it was always I’m busy working on a case. Then it was the next case, and the next. Then your wave skimmer would break, then your mother would need you, then your friends would require you.” Power stirred around her. “You believe it is not obvious to all of the Blue Court that you don’t want to come back home?”

His breathing stalled. He’d vastly underestimated her. He dared ask, “Why didn’t you call it off, if you knew all that, then?”

“Because I harbored a shred of hope you might change. Like a fool, I prayed to Ogenas every day that you might come to me of your own free will. But that hope has withered now.” She stood, somehow towering over him even though she was more than a foot shorter. Her words were a chill wind skittering over the water. “You want to stay here, amid this filth and noise?”

“I …” He scrambled for the words. “I do.”

But she slowly shook her head. “My mother warned me of this. Of you. You do not have a true heart. You never did.”

Good. At least she finally knew the truth. But he said as gently as he could, “I have to leave the city for a while, but let’s talk about this more when I’m back. I feel like there’s a lot of air to clear here.”

“No more talking.” She retreated a step to the edge of the quay, bristling with power. Waves crashed against the stones, spraying her feet. “Come Beneath with me.”

“I can’t.” He wouldn’t.

Her teeth flashed, more shark than humanoid. “Then we’ll see what my mother has to say about this,” she hissed, and leapt into the river.

Tharion debated jumping in after her, but—why? His palms slickened with sweat. He had thirty minutes, he supposed. Thirty minutes until he was hauled Beneath by his fin, and he’d never, ever leave again.

Tharion dragged his hands through his hair, panting. He peered westward toward the low-lying buildings beyond the CBD. Celestina would never interfere, and Bryce and Ruhn didn’t have the authority. And there was no chance in Hel that Commander Sendes and the Depth Charger would get here in thirty minutes.

Only one person in Crescent City might stand up to the River Queen and survive. One person even the River Queen might balk at crossing. One person who valued powerful fighters and would hide them from their enemies. And one person he could reach in thirty minutes.

Tharion didn’t think twice before he began running.

“Thanks again for getting me in here,” Ithan said to Hypaxia, who sat in the waiting room of the Prime’s study at the Den. It was weird to have needed to ask a veritable stranger to get him safely into his own home, but … this was the only way.

The witch-queen offered him a soft smile. “It’s what friends do, isn’t it?”

He bowed his head. “I’m honored to be called your friend.” He’d been proud to walk through the gates moments before at the side of this strong, kind female. No matter that the wolves on duty had sneered as he’d passed.

A reedy voice grunted his name, and Ithan rose from the leather chair, offering Hypaxia a smile. “I’ll be quick.”

She waved him off, and Ithan braced himself as he entered the old wolf’s formal study. Wood-paneled walls crammed with bookshelves gleamed in the midday light. The Prime sat at his desk, hunched over what seemed to be a stack of paperwork. Sabine stood above him. Monitoring every shaking stroke of his hand.

Ithan stiffened. Sabine’s teeth gleamed.

Yet the old wolf lifted his head. “It is good to see you, boy.”

“Thank you for meeting with me.” Sabine knew that Danika had been sworn to a mate. That Baxian was in this city. Ithan shoved the thought away. “I know you’re busy, so—”

“Out with it,” Sabine snarled.

Ithan let her see the wolf in him, the dominance he didn’t shove down like he always had. But the Prime said, “Go ahead, Ithan.”

Ithan squared his shoulders, tucking his hands behind his back. The same pose he’d taken when getting instructions from Coach. To Hel with it, then.

“One of the Astronomer’s mystics is a wolf. An Alpha wolf.” The words were met with silence, but Sabine’s eyes narrowed. “She’s from Nena—sold so young she doesn’t know her name, or her age. I’m not even sure if she knows she’s an Alpha. But she’s a wolf, and she’s no better than a slave in that tank. I … We can’t leave her there.”

“What business is it of ours?” Sabine demanded.

“She’s a wolf,” Ithan repeated. “That should be all we need to help her.”

“There are plenty of wolves. And plenty of Alphas. They are not all our responsibility.” Sabine exposed her teeth again. “Is this part of some scheme you and that half-breed whore are concocting?”

She sneered as she said it, but … Sabine had come to Bryce’s apartment that night to warn her to stay out of wolf business. Out of some fear, however unfounded, that Bryce would somehow back Ithan—as if Sabine herself could be at risk of being overthrown.

Ithan tucked that aside. Tossing out wild accusations wouldn’t help his cause right now. So he said carefully, “I just want to help the mystic.”

“Is this what you’ve dedicated your time to now, Holstrom? Charity cases?”

Ithan swallowed his retort. “Danika would have done something.”

“Danika was an idealistic fool,” Sabine spat. “Don’t waste our time with this.”

Ithan looked to the Prime, but the old wolf said nothing. Did nothing. Ithan turned to the door again and strode out.

Hypaxia rose to her feet as he appeared. “Done so soon?”

“Yeah, I guess.” He’d told someone about the mystic. He supposed … Well, now he supposed he could go to Pangera with few regrets.

Sabine strutted out of the study. She growled low in her throat at Ithan, but faltered upon seeing Hypaxia. Hypaxia held the wolf’s stare with steely calm. Sabine only snorted and stalked away, slamming the hall door behind her.

“Let’s go,” Ithan said to Hypaxia.

But the door to the study opened again, and the Prime stood there, a hand on the jamb to support himself. “The mystic,” the Prime said, panting slightly, as if the walk from his desk to the door had winded him. “What did she look like?”

“Brown hair. Medium brown, I think. Pale skin.” A common enough description.

“And her scent? Was it like snow and embers?”

Ithan stilled. The ground seemed to sway. “How do you know that?”

The old wolf bowed his silvery head. “Because Sabine is not the only Fendyr heir.”

Ithan rocked back on his heels at that. Was that why Sabine had come to the apartment that night to warn off Bryce? Not to keep Ithan from becoming the Prime Apparent, but to scare Bryce away before she could discover there was a true alternative to Sabine. A legitimate one.

Because Bryce would stop at nothing to find that other heir.

And Sabine would kill them to prevent it.


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