Chapter no 11

House of Earth and Blood

The Archangel rang the buzzer precisely seven minutes later.

Calming her panting, Bryce scanned the gallery for the tenth time, confirming that all was in place, the art dust-free, any contraband stored below—

Her legs felt spindly, the old ache in her thigh clawing at the bone, but her hands remained steady as she reached the front door and hauled it open.

The Archangel was gorgeous. Horrifically, indecently gorgeous. Hunt Athalar and Isaiah Tiberian stood behind him—almost as good-

looking; the latter giving her another bland smile he obviously believed was charming. The former … Hunt’s dark eyes missed nothing.

Bryce lowered her head to the Governor, stepping back, her stupid heels wobbling on the carpet. “Welcome, Your Grace. Please come in.”

Micah Domitus’s brown eyes devoured her. His power pressed against her skin, ripped the air from the room, her lungs. Filled the space with midnight storms, sex and death entwined.

“I assume your employer will be joining us through the vidscreen,” the Archangel said, stepping in from the glaringly bright street.

Fucking Hel, his voice—silk and steel and ancient stone. He could probably make someone come by merely whispering filthy things in their ear.

Even without that voice, it would have been impossible to forget what Micah was, what the Governor radiated with every breath, every blink. There were currently ten Archangels who ruled the various territories of the Republic, all bearing the title of Governor—all answering only to the Asteri. An ordinary angel’s magic might level a building if they were considered powerful. An Archangel’s power could

level an entire metropolis. There was no predicting where the extra strength that separated Archangel from angel came from—sometimes, it was passed on, usually upon the careful breeding orders of the Asteri. Other times, it popped up in unremarkable bloodlines.

She didn’t know much about Micah’s history—had never paid attention during history class, too busy drooling over the unfairly perfect face currently before her to listen to her teacher’s droning.

“Miss Roga is waiting for our call,” she managed to say, and tried not to breathe too loudly as the Governor of Valbara swept past. One of his pristine white feathers brushed her bare collarbone. She might have shuddered—were it not for the two angels behind him.

Isaiah just gave her a nod as he trailed Micah toward the chairs before the desk.

Hunt Athalar, however, lingered. Holding her gaze—before he glanced at her collarbone. As if the feather had left a mark. The tattoo of thorns across his forehead seemed to turn darker.

And just like that, that scent of sex rippling off the Archangel turned to rot.

The Asteri and the Archangels could have easily found another way to hobble the power of the Fallen, yet they’d enslaved them with the witch spells woven into magical tattoos stamped onto their foreheads like fucked-up crowns. And the tattoos on their wrists: SPQM.

Senatus Populusque Midgard.

The Midgard Senate and People. Total fucking bullshit. As if the Senate was anything but a puppet ruling body. As if the Asteri weren’t their emperors and empresses, ruling over everything and everyone for eternity, their rotted souls regenerating from one form to the next.

Bryce shoved the thought from her mind as she shut the iron door behind Hunt, just barely missing his gray feathers. His black eyes flashed with warning.

She gave him a smile to convey everything she didn’t dare say aloud regarding her feelings about this ambush. I’ve faced worse than you, Umbra MortisGlower and snarl all you like.

Hunt blinked, the only sign of his surprise, but Bryce was already turning toward her desk, trying not to limp as pain speared through her leg. She’d dragged up a third chair from the library, which had aggravated her leg further.

She didn’t dare rub at the thick, curving scar across her upper thigh, hidden under her white dress. “Can I get you anything, Your Grace?

Coffee? Tea? Something stronger?” She’d already laid out bottled sparkling water on the small tables between the chairs.

The Archangel had claimed the middle seat, and as she smiled politely at him, the weight of his gaze pressed on her like a silken blanket. “I’m fine.” Bryce looked to Hunt and Isaiah, who slid into their chairs. “They’re fine, too,” Micah said.

Very well, then. She strode around the desk, sliding her hand beneath its ledge to push a brass button and sending up a prayer to merciful Cthona that her voice remained calm, even as her mind kept circling back to the same thought, over and over: Briggs didn’t kill Danika, Briggs didn’t kill Danika, Briggs didn’t kill Danika

The wood panel in the wall behind her split open, revealing a large screen. As it flickered to life, she picked up the desk phone and dialed.

Briggs had been a monster who had planned to hurt people, and he deserved to be in jail, but—he’d been wrongly accused of the murder.

Danika’s killer was still out there.

Jesiba answered on the first ring. “Is the screen ready?”

“Whenever you are.” Bryce typed the codes into her computer, trying to ignore the Governor staring at her like she was a steak and he was … something that ate steak. Raw. And moaning. “I’m dialing you in,” she declared.

Jesiba Roga appeared on the screen an instant later—and they both hung up their phones.

Behind the sorceress, the hotel suite was decorated in Pangeran splendor: paneled white walls with gilded molding, plush cream carpets and pale pink silk drapes, a four-poster oak bed big enough for her and the two males Bryce had heard when she called before.

Jesiba played as hard as she worked while over on the massive territory, seeking out more art for the gallery, either through visiting various archaeological digs or courting high-powered clients who already possessed them.

Despite having less than ten minutes, and despite using most of that time to make some very important calls, Jesiba’s flowing navy dress was immaculate, revealing tantalizing glimpses of a lush female body adorned with freshwater pearls at her ears and throat. Her cropped ash-blond hair glowed in the golden firstlight lamps—cut shorter on the sides, longer on the top. Effortlessly chic and casual. Her face …

Her face was both young and wise, bedroom-soft yet foreboding. Her pale gray eyes gleamed with glittering magic, alluring and deadly.

Bryce had never dared ask why Jesiba had defected from the witches centuries ago. Why she’d aligned herself with the House of Flame and Shadow and its leader, the Under-King—and what she did for him. She called herself a sorceress now. Never a witch.

“Morning, Micah,” Jesiba said mildly. A pleasant, disarming voice compared to that of other members of Flame and Shadow—the hoarse rasp of Reapers, or the silken tones of vampyrs.

“Jesiba,” Micah purred.

Jesiba gave him a slight smile, as if she’d heard that purr a thousand different times, from a thousand different males. “Pleased as I am to see your handsome face, I’d like to know why you called this meeting. Unless the Danika thing was an excuse to talk to sweet Bryce.”

The Danika thing. Bryce kept her face neutral, even as she felt Hunt watching her carefully. As if he could hear her heart thundering, scent the sweat now coating her palms.

But Bryce gave him a bored look in return.

Micah leaned back in his chair, crossing his long legs, and said without so much as glancing at Bryce, “Tempting as your assistant is, we have important matters to discuss.”

She ignored the outright entitlement, the timbre of that sensual voice. Tempting—as if she were a piece of dessert on a platter. She was used to it, but … these gods-damned Vanir males.

Jesiba waved with ethereal grace to continue, silver nails sparkling in the hotel’s lamplight.

Micah said smoothly, “I believe my triarii informed Miss Quinlan of the murder last night. One that was an exact match for the deaths of Danika Fendyr and the Pack of Devils two years ago.”

Bryce kept herself still, unfeeling. She took a subtle inhale of the soothing peppermint wisps from the infuser a few inches away.

Micah went on, “What they did not mention was the other connection.”

The two angels flanking the Governor stiffened almost imperceptibly. This was clearly the first they were hearing of this as well.

“Oh?” Jesiba said. “And do I have to pay for this information?”

Vast, cold power crackled in the gallery, but the Archangel’s face remained unreadable. “I am sharing this information so we might combine resources.”

Jesiba arched a blond brow with preternatural smoothness. “To do what?”

Micah said, “For Bryce Quinlan to find the true murderer behind this, of course.”

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