“Sabine lied about Danika not being at the temple. But we need a solid plan for catching her if she’s summoning this demon,” Hunt said to Bryce twenty minutes later over lunch. The angel devoured no less than three bowls of cereal, one after another. She hadn’t spoken on the way back to the apartment. Had needed the entire walk here to reel herself back together.
Bryce pushed at the puffed rice floating around in her own bowl. She had zero interest in eating. “I’m sick of waiting. Just arrest her.”
“She’s the unofficial Head of Moonwood and basically the Prime of the wolves,” Hunt cautioned. “If not in title, then in every other way. We have to be careful how we approach this. The fallout could be catastrophic.”
“Sure.” Bryce poked at her cereal again. She knew she should be screaming, knew she should be marching back to the Den to kill that fucking bitch. Bryce ground her teeth. They’d had no word from Tharion or Ruhn, either.
Hunt tapped a finger on the glass table, weighing her expression. Then he mercifully switched subjects. “I get Ithan’s history, but what’s Amelie’s problem with you?”
Maybe Bryce was just tired, but she wound up saying, “Did you ever see them—the messages from that night? Every newspaper had them on the front page after they leaked.”
Hunt stilled. “Yeah,” he said gently. “I did.”
She shrugged, swirling the cereal in her bowl. Around and around. “Amelie had … a thing. For Connor. Since they were kids. I think
she still does.” “Ah.”
“And—you know about me and Connor.” “Yeah. I’m sorry.”
She hated those two words. Had heard them so many times she just fucking hated them. She said, “When she saw the messages from that night, I think Amelie finally realized why he had never returned her feelings.”
He frowned. “It’s been two years.”
“So?” It sure as shit hadn’t done anything to help her feel better about it.
Hunt shook his head. “People still bring them up? Those messages?” “Of course.” She snorted, shaking her head. “Just look me up online, Athalar. I had to shut down every account I had.” The thought made her stomach churn, nauseating panic tightening every muscle and vein in her body. She’d gotten better about managing it—that feeling—but not by much. “People hate me. Literally hate me. Some of the wolf packs even wrote a song and put it online—they called it ‘I Just Hooked Up with Someone in the Bathroom, Don’t Tell Connor.’ They sing it whenever
they see me.”
His face had gone cold as ice. “Which packs?”
She shook her head. She certainly wouldn’t name them, not with that murderous expression on his face. “It doesn’t matter. People are assholes.”
It was as simple as that, she’d learned. Most people were assholes, and this city was rife with them.
She sometimes wondered what they’d say if they knew about that time two winters ago when someone had sent a thousand printed-out lyric sheets of the song to her new apartment, along with mock album artwork taken from the photos she’d snapped that night. If they knew she had gone up to the roof to burn them all—but instead wound up staring over the ledge. She wondered what would have happened if Juniper, on a whim, hadn’t called just to check in that night. Right as Bryce had braced her hands on the rail.
Only that friendly voice on the other end of the line kept Bryce from walking right off the roof.
Juniper had kept Bryce on the phone—babbling about nothing. Right until her cab had pulled up in front of the apartment. Juniper refused to hang up until she was on the roof with Bryce, laughing it off. She’d only known where to find her because Bryce had mumbled something about sitting there. And perhaps she’d rushed over because of how hollow Bryce’s voice had been when she’d said it.
Juniper had stayed to burn the copies of the song, then gone downstairs to the apartment, where they’d watched TV in bed until they fell asleep. Bryce had risen at one point to turn off the TV and use the bathroom; when she’d come back, Juniper had been awake, waiting.
Her friend didn’t leave her side for three days.
They’d never spoken of it. But Bryce wondered if Juniper had later told Fury how close it had been, how hard she’d worked to keep that phone call going while she raced over without alerting Bryce, sensing that something was wrong-wrong-wrong.
Bryce didn’t like to think about that winter. That night. But she would never stop being grateful for Juniper for that sense—that love that had kept her from making such a terrible, stupid mistake.
“Yeah,” Hunt said, “people are assholes.”
She supposed he’d had it worse than her. A lot worse.
Two centuries of slavery that was barely disguised as some sort of twisted path to redemption. Micah’s bargain with him, reduced or no, was a disgrace.
She made herself take a bite of her now-soggy cereal. Made herself ask something, anything, to clear her head a bit. “Did you make up your nickname? The Shadow of Death?”
Hunt set down his spoon. “Do I look like the sort of person who needs to make up nicknames for myself?”
“No,” Bryce admitted.
“They only call me that because I’m ordered to do that sort of shit. And I do it well.” He shrugged. “They’d be better off calling me Slave of Death.”
She bit her lip and took another bite of cereal.
Hunt cleared his throat. “I know that visit today was hard. And I know I didn’t act like it at first, Quinlan, but I’m glad you got put on this case. You’ve been … really great.”
She tucked away what his praise did to her heart, how it lifted the fog that had settled on her. “My dad was a Dracon captain in the 25th Legion. They stationed him at the front for the entire three years of his military service. He taught me a few things.”
“I know. Not about you being taught, I mean. But about your dad.
Randall Silago, right? He’s the one who taught you to shoot.”
She nodded, an odd sort of pride wending its way through her.
Hunt said, “I never fought beside him, but I heard of him the last time I was sent to the front—around twenty-six years ago. Heard about
his sharpshooting, I mean. What does he think about …” A wave of his hand to her, the city around them.
“He wants me to move back home. I had to go to the mat with him— literally—to win the fight about going to CCU.”
“You physically fought him?”
“Yeah. He said if I could pin him, then I knew enough about defense to hold my own in the city. Turns out, I’d been paying more attention than I’d let him believe.”
Hunt’s low laugh skittered over her skin. “And he taught you how to shoot a sniper rifle?”
“Rifles, handguns, knives, swords.” But guns were Randall’s specialty. He’d taught her ruthlessly, over and over and over again.
“You ever use any outside of practice?”
I love you, Bryce.
Close your eyes, Danika.
“When I had to,” she rasped. Not that it had made a difference when it mattered.
Her phone buzzed. She glanced at the message from Jesiba and groaned.
A client is coming in thirty minutes. Be there or you’ve got a one-way ticket to life as a vole.
Bryce set down her spoon, aware of Hunt watching her, and began to type. I’ll be at—
Jesiba added another message before Bryce could reply. And where is that paperwork from yesterday?
Bryce deleted what she’d written, and began writing, I’ll get it— Another message from Jesiba: I want it done by noon.
“Someone’s pissed off,” Hunt observed, and Bryce grimaced, grabbing up her bowl and hurrying to the sink.
The messages kept coming in on the walk over, along with half a dozen threats to turn her into various pathetic creatures, suggesting someone had indeed royally pissed off Jesiba. When they reached the gallery door, Bryce unlocked the physical and magical locks and sighed. “Maybe you should stay on the roof this afternoon. She’s probably going to be monitoring me on the cameras. I don’t know if she’s seen you inside before, but …”
He clapped a hand on her shoulder. “Got it, Quinlan.” His black jacket buzzed, and he pulled out his phone. “It’s Isaiah,” he murmured, and nodded to the now-open door of the gallery, through which they
could see Syrinx scratching at the library door, yowling his greeting to Lehabah. “I’ll check in later,” he said.
He waited to fly to the roof, she knew, until she’d locked the gallery door behind herself. A message from him appeared fifteen minutes later. Isaiah needs me for an opinion on a different case. Heading over now. Justinian’s watching you. I’ll be back in a few hours.
She wrote back, Is Justinian hot?
He answered, Who’s the pervert now?
A smile pulled at her mouth.
Her thumbs were hovering over the keyboard to reply when her phone rang. Sighing, she raised it to her ear to answer.
“Why aren’t you ready for the client?” Jesiba demanded.
This morning had been a wreck. Standing guard on the roof of the gallery hours later, Hunt couldn’t stop thinking it. Yes, they’d caught Sabine in her lie, and all signs pointed toward her as the murderer, but … Fuck. He hadn’t realized how rough it’d be on Quinlan, even knowing Sabine hated her. Hadn’t realized the other wolves had it out for Bryce, too. He should never have brought her. Should have gone himself.
The hours ticked by, one by one, as he mulled it all over.
Hunt made sure no one was flying over the roof before he pulled up the video footage, accessed from the 33rd’s archives. Someone had compiled the short reel, no doubt an attempt to get a better image of the demon than a toe or a claw.
The kristallos was a gray blur as it exploded from the front door of the apartment building. They hadn’t been able to get footage of it actually entering the building, which suggested it had either been summoned on-site or had snuck through the roof, and no nearby cameras had picked it up, either. But here it was, shattering the front door, so fast it was just gray smoke.
And then—there she was. Bryce. Hurtling through the door, barefoot and running on shards of glass, table leg in her hand, pure rage twisting her face.
He’d seen the footage two years ago, but it made slightly more sense now, knowing that Randall Silago had trained her. Watching her leap over cars, careening down streets, as fast as a Fae male. Her face was smeared with blood, her lips curled in a snarl he couldn’t hear.
But even in the grainy video footage, her eyes were hazy. Still fighting those drugs.
She definitely didn’t remember that he’d been in that interrogation room with her, if she’d asked about the messages during lunch. And, fuck—he’d known everything from her phone had leaked, but he’d never thought about what it must have been like.
She was right: people were assholes.
Bryce cleared Main Street, sliding over the hood of a car, and then the footage ended.
Hunt blew out a breath. If it really was Sabine behind this … Micah had given him permission to take out the culprit. But Bryce might very well do it herself.
Hunt frowned toward the wall of fog just visible across the river, the mists impenetrable even in the afternoon sunlight. The Bone Quarter.
No one knew what went on in the Sleeping City. If the dead roamed through the mausoleums, if the Reapers patrolled and ruled like kings, if it was merely mist and carved stone and silence. No one flew over it—no one dared.
But Hunt sometimes felt like the Bone Quarter watched them, and some people claimed that their beloved dead could communicate through the Oracle or cheap market psychics.
Two years ago, Bryce hadn’t been at Danika’s Sailing. He’d looked. The most important people in Crescent City had gone, but she hadn’t been there. Either to avoid Sabine killing her on sight, or for reasons of her own. After what he’d seen today, his money was on the former.
So she hadn’t witnessed Sabine pushing the ancient black boat into the Istros, the gray silk-shrouded box—all that remained of Danika’s body—in its center. Hadn’t counted the seconds as it drifted into the muddy waters, holding her breath with all those on shore to see if the boat would be picked up by that swift current that would bring it to the shores of the Bone Quarter, or if it would overturn, Danika’s unworthy remains given to the river and the beasts who swam within it.
But Danika’s boat headed straight for the mist-shrouded island across the river, the Under-King deeming her worthy, and more than one person had heaved a sigh. The audio from the apartment building’s shitty hall camera of Danika begging for mercy had leaked a day before.
Hunt had suspected that half the people who’d come to her Sailing hoped Danika’s begging meant she’d be given to the river, that they could deem the haughty and wild former Alpha a coward.
Sabine, clearly aware of those anticipating such an outcome, had only waited until the river gates opened to reveal the swirling mists of
the Bone Quarter, the boat tugged inside by invisible hands, and then left. She didn’t wait to see the Sailings for the rest of the Pack of Devils.
But Hunt and everyone else had. It had been the last time he’d seen Ithan Holstrom. Weeping as he pushed his brother’s remains into the blue waters, so distraught his sunball teammates had been forced to hold him up. The cold-eyed male who’d served as escort today was a wholly different person from that boy.
Talented, Hunt had heard Naomi say of Ithan in her endless running commentary about the Aux packs and how they stacked up to the 33rd. Beyond his skill on the sunball field, Ithan Holstrom was a gifted warrior, who had made the Drop and come within spitting distance of Connor’s power. Naomi always said that despite being cocky, Ithan was a solid male: fair-minded, smart, and loyal.
And a fucking prick, it seemed.
Hunt shook his head, again staring toward the Bone Quarter.
Did Danika Fendyr roam that misty island? Or part of her, at least? Did she remember the friend who, even so long after her death, took no shit from anyone who insulted her memory? Did she know that Bryce would do anything, possibly descend to the level of rage forever preserved in the video, to destroy her killer? Even if that killer was Danika’s own mother?
Loyal unto death and beyond.
Hunt’s phone rang, Isaiah’s name popping up again, but Hunt didn’t immediately answer. Not as he glanced at the gallery roof beneath his boots and wondered what it was like—to have a friend like that.