Chapter no 38

House of Earth and Blood

“It makes sense,” Hunt said carefully, watching Bryce where she sat on the rolled arm of her sofa, chewing on her lower lip. She’d barely thanked Declan before hanging up.

Hunt said, “The demon has been staying out of view of the cameras in the city. Sabine would know where those cameras are, especially if she had the authority to oversee the video footage of criminal cases.”

Sabine’s behavior earlier tonight … He’d wanted to kill her.

He’d seen Bryce laugh in the face of the Viper Queen, go toe-to-toe with Philip Briggs, and taunt three of the most lethal Fae warriors in this city—and yet she’d trembled before Sabine.

He hadn’t been able to stand it, her fear and misery and guilt.

When Bryce didn’t reply, he said again, “It makes sense that Sabine could be behind this.” He sat beside her on the sectional. He’d put on a shirt a moment ago, even though he’d enjoyed the look of pure admiration on Bryce’s face as she got an eyeful of him.

“Sabine wouldn’t have killed her own daughter.” “You really believe that?”

Bryce wrapped her arms around her knees. “No.” In a pair of sleeping shorts and an oversize, worn T-shirt, she looked young. Small. Tired.

Hunt said, “Everyone knows that the Prime was considering skipping over Sabine to tap Danika to be his heir. That seems like a good fucking motive to me.” He considered again, an old memory snagging his attention. He pulled out his phone and said, “Hold on.”

Isaiah answered on the third ring. “Yeah?”

“How easily can you access your notes from the observation room the night Danika died?” He didn’t let Isaiah reply before he said,

“Specifically, did you write down what Sabine said to us?”

Isaiah’s pause was fraught. “Tell me you don’t think Sabine killed her.”

“Can you get me the notes?” Hunt pushed. Isaiah swore, but a moment later he said, “All right, I’ve got it.” Hunt moved closer to Quinlan so she could hear the commander’s voice as he said, “You want me to recite this whole thing?”

“Just what she said about Danika. Did you catch it?”

He knew Isaiah had. The male took extensive notes on everything. “Sabine said, Danika couldn’t stay out of trouble.” Bryce stiffened,

and Hunt laid his free hand on her knee, squeezing once. “She could never keep her mouth shut and know when to be quiet around her enemies. And look what became of her. That stupid little bitch in there is still breathing, and Danika is not. Danika should have known better. Hunt, you then asked her what Danika should have known better about, and Sabine said, All of it. Starting with that slut of a roommate.”

Bryce flinched, and Hunt rubbed his thumb over her knee. “Thanks, Isaiah.”

Isaiah cleared his throat. “Be careful.” The call ended.

Bryce’s wide eyes glimmered. “What Sabine said could be construed a lot of ways,” she admitted. “But—”

“It sounds like Sabine wanted Danika to keep quiet about something. Maybe Danika threatened to talk about the Horn’s theft, and Sabine killed her for it. ”

Bryce’s throat bobbed as she nodded. “Why wait two years, though?”

“I suppose that’s what we’ll find out from her.”

“What would Sabine want with a broken artifact? And even if she knew how to repair it, what would she do with it?”

“I don’t know. And I don’t know if someone else has it and she wants it, but—”

“If Danika saw Sabine steal it, it’d make sense that Danika never said anything. Same with the guard and the acolyte. They were probably too scared to come forward.”

“It would explain why Sabine swapped the footage. And why it freaked her out when we showed up at the temple, causing her to kill anyone who might have seen anything that night. The bomb at the club was probably a way to either intimidate us or kill us while making it look like humans were behind it.”

“But … I don’t think she has it,” Bryce mused, toying with her toes. They were painted a deep ruby. Ridiculous, he told himself. Not the alternative. The one that had him imagining tasting each and every one of those toes before slowly working his way up those sleek, bare legs of hers. Bare legs that were mere inches from him, golden skin gleaming in the firstlights. He forced himself to withdraw his hand from her knee, even as his fingers begged to move, to stroke along her thigh. Higher.

Bryce went on, oblivious to his filthy train of thoughts, “I don’t see why Sabine would have the Horn and still summon the kristallos.”

Hunt cleared his throat. It’d been a long fucking day. A weird one, if this was where his thoughts had drifted. Honestly, they’d been drifting in this direction since the gun range. Since he’d seen her hold that gun like a gods-damned pro.

He forced himself to focus. Consider the conversation at hand and not contemplate whether Quinlan’s legs would feel as soft beneath his mouth as they looked. “Don’t forget that Sabine hates Micah’s guts. Beyond silencing the victims, the killings now could also be to undermine him. You saw how tied up he is about getting this solved before the Summit. Murders like these, caused by an unknown demon, when Sandriel is here? It’ll make a mockery of him. Maximus Tertian was high profile enough to create a political headache for Micah— Tertian’s death might have just been to fuck with Micah’s standing. For fuck’s sake, she and Sandriel might even be in on it together, hoping to weaken him in the Asteri’s eyes, so they appoint Sandriel to Valbara instead. She could easily make Sabine the Prime of all Valbaran shifters

—not just wolves.”

Bryce’s face blanched. No such title existed, but it was within a Governor’s right to create it. “Sabine isn’t that type. She’s power hungry, but not on that scale. She thinks petty—is petty. You heard her bitching about Danika’s missing sword.” Bryce idly braided her long hair. “We shouldn’t waste our breath guessing her motives. It could be anything.”

“You’re right. We’ve got a damn good reason for thinking she killed Danika, but nothing solid enough to explain these new murders.” He watched her long, delicate fingers twine through her hair. Made himself look at the darkened television screen instead. “Catching her with the demon would prove her involvement.”

“You think Viktoria can find that footage we requested?”

“I hope so,” he said. Hunt mulled it over. Sabine—fuck, if it was her

Bryce rose from the couch. “I’m going for a run.”

“It’s one in the morning.”

“I need to run for a bit, or I won’t be able to fall asleep.”

Hunt shot to his feet. “We just came from the scene of a murder, and Sabine was out for your blood, Bryce—”

She aimed for her bedroom and didn’t look back.

She emerged two minutes later in her exercise clothes and found him standing by the door in workout gear of his own. She frowned. “I want to run alone.”

Hunt opened the door and stepped into the hall. “Too fucking bad.”

There was her breathing, and the pounding of her feet on the slick streets, and the blaring music in her ears. She’d turned it up so loud it was mostly just noise. Deafening noise with a beat. She never played it this loud during her morning runs, but with Hunt keeping a steady pace beside her, she could blast her music and not worry about some predator taking advantage of it.

So she ran. Down the broad avenues, the alleys, and side streets. Hunt moved with her, every motion graceful and rippling with power. She could have sworn lightning trailed in their wake.

Sabine. Had she killed Danika?

Bryce couldn’t wrap her mind around it. Each breath was like shards of glass.

They needed to catch her in the act. Find evidence against her.

Her leg began to ache, an acidic burn along her upper thighbone. She ignored it.

Bryce cut toward Asphodel Meadows, the route so familiar that she was surprised her footprints hadn’t been worn into the cobblestones. She rounded a corner sharply, biting down on the groan of pain as her leg objected. Hunt’s gaze snapped to her, but she didn’t look at him.

Sabine. Sabine. Sabine.

Her leg burned, but she kept going. Through the Meadows. Through FiRo.

Kept running. Kept breathing. She didn’t dare stop.

Bryce knew Hunt was making a concerted effort to keep his mouth shut when they finally returned to her apartment an hour later. She had to grip the doorway to keep upright.

His eyes narrowed, but he said nothing. He didn’t mention that her limp had been so bad she’d barely been able to run the last ten blocks.

Bryce knew the limp and pain would be worse by morning. Each step drew a cry to her throat that she swallowed down and down and down.

“All right?” he asked tightly, lifting his shirt to wipe the sweat from his face. She had a too-brief glimpse of those ridiculous stomach muscles, gleaming with sweat. He’d stayed by her side the entire time— hadn’t complained or spoken. Had just kept pace.

Bryce made a point not to lean on the wall as she walked toward her bedroom.

“I’m fine,” she said breathlessly. “Just needed to run it out.”

He reached for her leg, a muscle ticking in his jaw. “That happen often?”

“No,” she lied.

Hunt just gave her a look.

She couldn’t stop her next limping step. “Sometimes,” she amended, wincing. “I’ll ice it. It’ll be fine by morning.” If she’d been full-blooded Fae, it would have healed in an hour or two. Then again, if she were full-blooded Fae, the injury wouldn’t have lingered like this.

His voice was hoarse as he asked, “You ever get it checked out?” “Yep,” she lied again, and rubbed at her sweaty neck. Before he

could call her on it, she said, “Thanks for coming.”

“Yeah.” Not quite an answer, but Hunt mercifully said nothing else as she limped down the hallway and shut the door to her room.

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