Chapter no 6

House of Earth and Blood

The half-Fae female looked like Hel.

No, not Hel, Isaiah Tiberian realized as he studied her through the one-way mirror in the legion’s holding center. She looked like death.

Looked like the soldiers he’d seen crawl off the blood-drenched battlefields of Pangera.

She sat at the metal table in the center of the interrogation room, staring at nothing. Just as she had done for hours now.

A far cry from the screaming, thrashing female Isaiah and his unit had found in the Old Square alley, her gray dress ripped, her left thigh gushing enough blood that he wondered if she’d faint. She’d been half-wild, either from the sheer terror of what had occurred, the grief sinking in, or the drugs that had been coursing through her system.

Likely a combination of all three. And considering that she was not only a source of information regarding the attack, but also currently a danger to herself, Isaiah had made the call to bring her into the sterile, subterranean processing center a few blocks from the Comitium. A witness, he’d made damn sure the records stated. Not a suspect.

He blew out a long breath, resisting the urge to rest his forehead against the observation window. Only the incessant hum of the firstlights overhead filled the space.

The first bit of quiet he’d had in hours. He had little doubt it would end soon.

As if the thought had tempted Urd herself, a rough male voice spoke from the door behind him. “She’s still not talking?”

It took all two centuries of Isaiah’s training on and off the battlefield to avoid flinching at that voice. To turn slowly toward the angel he knew would be leaning against the doorway, wearing his usual black battle-suit

—an angel who reason and history reminded him was an ally, though every instinct roared the opposite.

Predator. Killer. Monster.

Hunt Athalar’s angular dark eyes, however, remained fixed on the window. On Bryce Quinlan. Not one gray feather on his wings rustled. Ever since their first days in the 17th Legion in southern Pangera, Isaiah had tried to ignore the fact that Hunt seemed to exist within a permanent ripple of stillness. It was the bated silence before a thunderclap, like the entire land held its breath when he was near.

Given what he’d seen Hunt do to his enemies and chosen targets, it came as no surprise.

Hunt’s stare slid toward him.

Right. He’d been asked a question. Isaiah shifted his white wings. “She hasn’t said a word since she was brought in.”

Hunt again regarded the female through the window. “Has the order come down yet to move her to another room?”

Isaiah knew exactly what sort of room Hunt referred to. Rooms designed to get people to talk. Even witnesses.

Isaiah straightened his black silk tie and offered up a half-hearted plea to the five gods that his charcoal business suit wouldn’t be stained with blood by sunrise. “Not yet.”

Hunt nodded once, his golden-brown face betraying nothing.

Isaiah scanned the angel, since Hunt sure as Hel wasn’t going to volunteer anything without being prompted. No sign of the skull-faced helmet that had earned Hunt a nickname whispered down every corridor and street in Crescent City: the Umbra Mortis.

The Shadow of Death.

Unable to decide whether to be relieved or worried at the absence of Hunt’s infamous helmet, Isaiah wordlessly handed Micah’s personal assassin a thin file.

He made sure his dark brown fingers didn’t touch Hunt’s gloved ones. Not when blood still coated the leather, its scent creeping through the room. He recognized the angelic scent in that blood, so the other scent had to be Bryce Quinlan’s.

Isaiah jerked his chin to the white-tiled interrogation room. “Bryce Quinlan, twenty-three years old, half-Fae, half-human. Blood test from ten years ago confirmed she’ll have an immortal life span. Power rating near-negligible. Hasn’t made the Drop yet. Listed as a full civitas. Found in the alley with one of our own, trying to keep his heart from falling out with her bare hands.”

The words sounded so damn clinical. But he knew Hunt was well versed in the details. They both were. They’d been in that alley, after all. And they knew that even here, in the secure observation room, they’d be fools to risk saying anything delicate aloud.

It had taken both of them to get Bryce to her feet, only for her to collapse against Isaiah—not from grief but from pain.

Hunt had realized it first: her thigh had been shredded open.

She’d still been nearly feral, had thrashed as they guided her back to the ground, Isaiah calling for a medwitch as the blood gushed out of her thigh. An artery had been hit. It was a gods-damn miracle she wasn’t dead before they arrived.

Hunt had cursed up a storm as he knelt before her, and she’d bucked, nearly kicking him in the balls. But then he’d pulled off his helmet. Looked her right in the eye.

And told her to calm the fuck down.

She’d fallen completely silent. Just stared at Hunt, blank and hollow. She didn’t so much as flinch with each punch of the staple gun Hunt had pulled from the small medkit built into his battle-suit. She just stared and stared and stared at the Umbra Mortis.

Yet Hunt hadn’t lingered after he’d stapled her leg shut—he’d launched into the night to do what he did best: find their enemies and obliterate them.

As if noticing the blood on his gloves, Hunt swore and peeled them off, dumping them into the metal trash can by the door.

Then the male leafed through Quinlan’s thin file, his shoulder-length black hair slipping over his unreadable face.

“Seems like she’s your standard spoiled party girl,” he said, turning the pages. A corner of Hunt’s mouth curved upward, anything but amused. “And what a surprise: she’s Danika Fendyr’s roommate. The Party Princess herself.”

No one but the 33rd used that term—because no one else in Lunathion, not even the Fae royals, would have dared. But Isaiah motioned to keep reading. Hunt had left the alley before he’d learned the entire scope of this disaster.

Hunt kept reading. His brows rose. “Holy fucking Urd.” Isaiah waited for it.

Hunt’s dark eyes widened. “Danika Fendyr is dead?” He read further. “Along with the entire Pack of Devils.” He shook his head and repeated, “Holy fucking Urd.”

Isaiah took back the file. “It is totally and completely fucked, my friend.”

Hunt’s jaw clenched. “I didn’t find any trace of the demon that did this.”

“I know.” At Hunt’s questioning glance, Isaiah clarified, “If you had, you’d be holding a severed head in your hands right now and not a file.”

Isaiah had been there—on many occasions—when Hunt had done just that, returning triumphant from a demon-hunting mission he’d been ordered to go on by whatever Archangel currently held their reins.

Hunt’s mouth twitched slightly, as if remembering the last time he’d presented a kill in such a manner, but he crossed his powerful arms. Isaiah ignored the inherent dominance in the position. There was a pecking order among them, the five-warrior team who made up the triarii

—the most elite of all the Imperial Legion units. Micah’s little cabal.

Though Micah had appointed Isaiah the Commander of the 33rd, he’d never formally declared him its leader. But Isaiah had always assumed he stood right at the top, the unspoken finest soldier of the triarii, despite his fancy suit and tie.

Where Hunt fell, however … no one had really decided in the two years since he’d arrived from Pangera. Isaiah wasn’t entirely sure he really wanted to know, either.

Tracking down and eliminating any demons who crept through cracks in the Northern Rift or entered this world through an illegal summoning was his official role, and one well suited to Hunt’s particular skill set. The gods knew how many of them he’d tracked down over the centuries, starting from that very first Pangeran unit they’d been in together—the 17th—dedicated to sending the creatures into the afterlife.

But the work Hunt did in the shadows for the Archangels—for Micah, currently—that was what had earned him his nickname. Hunt answered directly to Micah, and the rest of them stayed out of his way.

“Naomi just arrested Philip Briggs for the murders,” Isaiah said, naming the captain of the 33rd’s infantry. “Briggs got out of jail today— and Danika and the Pack of Devils were the ones who busted him in the first place.” That the honor hadn’t gone to the 33rd had irked Isaiah to no end. At least Naomi had been the one to apprehend him tonight. “How the fuck a human like Briggs could summon a demon that powerful, I don’t know.”

“I suppose we’ll find out soon enough,” Hunt said darkly.

Yeah, they fucking would. “Briggs has to be ten kinds of stupid to have been released only to go for a kill that big.” The leader of the Keres

rebels—an offshoot of the larger rebellion movement, the Ophion— hadn’t seemed dumb, though. Just a fanatic hell-bent on starting a conflict to mirror the war raging across the sea.

“Or maybe Briggs acted on the sole chance of freedom he had before we found an excuse to bring him back into custody,” Hunt countered. “He knew his time was limited and wanted to make sure he got one up on the Vanir first.”

Isaiah shook his head. “What a mess.” Understatement of the century.

Hunt blew out a breath. “Has the press gotten wind of anything?” “Not yet,” Isaiah said. “And I got the order a few minutes ago that

we’re to keep it quiet—even if it’ll be all over the news tomorrow morning.”

Hunt’s eyes gleamed. “I’ve got no one to tell.”

Indeed, Hunt and the concept of friends didn’t mesh well. Even among the triarii, even after being here for two years, Hunt still kept to himself. Still worked relentlessly toward one thing: freedom. Or rather, the slim chance of it.

Isaiah sighed. “How soon until Sabine gets here?”

Hunt checked his phone. “Sabine’s on her way downstairs right—” The door blew open. Hunt’s eyes flickered. “Now.”

Sabine looked barely older than Bryce Quinlan, with her fine-boned face and long, silvery blond hair, but there was only an immortal’s rage in her blue eyes. “Where is that half-breed whore—” She simmered as she spotted Bryce through the window. “I’ll fucking kill her—”

Isaiah extended a white wing to block the Prime Apparent’s path back out the door and into the interrogation room, a few steps to its left.

Hunt fell into a casual stance on her other side. Lightning danced along his knuckles.

A mild showing of the power Isaiah had witnessed being unleashed upon their enemies: lightning, capable of bringing down a building.

Whether ordinary angel or Archangel, the power was always some variation of the same: rain, storms, the occasional tornado—Isaiah himself could summon wind capable of keeping a charging enemy at bay, but none in living memory possessed Hunt’s ability to harness lightning to his will. Or the depth of power to make it truly destructive. It had been Hunt’s salvation and destruction.

Isaiah let one of his cold breezes sift through Sabine’s corn-silk hair, over to Hunt.

They’d always worked well together—Micah had known it when he put Hunt with Isaiah two years ago, despite the entwined thorns tattooed across both their brows. Most of Hunt’s mark was hidden by his dark hair, but there was no concealing the thin black band on his forehead.

Isaiah could barely remember what his friend had looked like before those Pangeran witches had branded him, working their infernal spells into the ink itself so they might never let his crimes be forgotten, so the witch-magic bound the majority of his power.

The halo, they called it—a mockery of the divine auras early humans had once portrayed angels as possessing.

There was no hiding it on Isaiah’s brow, either, the tattoo on it the same as on Hunt’s, and on the brows of the nearly two thousand rebel angels who had been such idealistic, brave fools two centuries ago.

The Asteri had created the angels to be their perfect soldiers and loyal servants. The angels, gifted with such power, had relished their role in the world. Until Shahar, the Archangel they’d once called the Daystar. Until Hunt and the others who’d flown in Shahar’s elite 18th Legion.

Their rebellion had failed—only for the humans to begin their own forty years ago. A different cause, a different group and species of fighters, but the sentiment was essentially the same: the Republic was the enemy, the rigid hierarchies utter bullshit.

When the human rebels had started their war, one of the idiots should have asked the Fallen angels how their rebellion had failed, long before those humans were even born. Isaiah certainly could have given them some pointers on what not to do. And enlightened them about the consequences.

For there was also no hiding the second tattoo, stamped on their right wrists: SPQM.

It adorned every flag and letterhead of the Republic—the four letters encircled with seven stars—and adorned the wrist of every being owned by it. Even if Isaiah chopped off his arm, the limb that regrew would bear the mark. Such was the power of the witch-ink.

A fate worse than death: to become an eternal servant to those they’d sought to overthrow.

Deciding to spare Sabine from Hunt’s way of dealing with things, Isaiah asked mildly, “I understand you are grieving, but do you have reason, Sabine, to want Bryce dead?”

Sabine snarled, pointing at Bryce, “She took the sword. That wannabe wolf took Danika’s sword. I know she did, it’s not at the apartment—and it’s mine.”

Isaiah had seen those details: that the heirloom of the Fendyr family was missing. But there was no sign of Bryce Quinlan possessing it. “What does the sword have to do with your daughter’s death?”

Rage and grief warred in that feral face. Sabine shook her head, ignoring his question, and said, “Danika couldn’t stay out of trouble. 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.” Her voice nearly cracked. “Danika should have known better.”

Hunt asked a shade more gently, “Known better about what?”

“All of it,” Sabine snapped, and again shook her head, clearing her grief away. “Starting with that slut of a roommate.” She whirled on Isaiah, the portrait of wrath. “Tell me everything.”

Hunt said coolly, “He doesn’t have to tell you shit, Fendyr.”

As Commander of the 33rd Imperial Legion, Isaiah held an equal rank to Sabine: they both sat on the same governing councils, both answered to males of power within their own ranks and their own Houses.

Sabine’s canines lengthened as she surveyed Hunt. “Did I fucking speak to you, Athalar?”

Hunt’s eyes glittered. But Isaiah pulled out his phone, typing as he cut in calmly, “We’re still getting the reports in. Viktoria is coming to talk to Miss Quinlan right now.”

“I’ll talk to her,” Sabine seethed. Her fingers curled, as if ready to rip out Hunt’s throat. Hunt gave her a sharp smile that told her to just try, the lightning around his knuckles twining up his wrist.

And fortunately for Isaiah, the interrogation room’s door opened and a dark-haired woman in an immaculately tailored navy suit walked in.

They were a front, those suits that he and Viktoria wore. A sort of armor, yes, but also a last attempt to pretend that they were even remotely normal.

It was no wonder Hunt never bothered with them.

As Viktoria made her graceful approach, Bryce gave no acknowledgment of the stunning female who usually made people of all Houses do a double take.

But Bryce had been that way for hours now. Blood still stained the white bandage around her bare thigh. Viktoria sniffed delicately, her pale green eyes narrowing beneath the halo’s dark tattoo on her brow. The wraith had been one of the few non-malakim who had rebelled with them two centuries ago. She’d been given to Micah soon afterward, and her

punishment had gone beyond the brow tattoo and slave markings. Not nearly as brutal as what Isaiah and Hunt had endured in the Asteri’s dungeons, and then in various Archangels’ dungeons for years afterward, but its own form of torment that lasted even when their own had stopped.

Viktoria said, “Miss Quinlan.” She didn’t respond.

The wraith dragged over a steel chair from the wall and set it on the other side of the table. Pulling a file from her jacket, Viktoria crossed her long legs as she perched on the seat.

“Can you tell me who is responsible for the bloodshed tonight?” Not even a hitch of breath. Sabine growled softly.

The wraith folded her alabaster hands in her lap, the unnatural elegance the only sign of the ancient power that rippled beneath the calm surface.

Vik had no body of her own. Though she’d fought in the 18th, Isaiah had learned her history only when he’d arrived here ten years ago. How Viktoria had acquired this particular body, who it had once belonged to, he didn’t ask. She hadn’t told him. Wraiths wore bodies the way some people owned cars. Vainer wraiths switched them often, usually at the first sign of aging, but Viktoria had held on to this one for longer than usual, liking its build and movement, she’d said.

Now she held on to it because she had no choice. It had been Micah’s punishment for her rebellion: to trap her within this body. Forever. No more changing, no more trading up for something newer and sleeker. For two hundred years, Vik had been contained, forced to weather the slow erosion of the body, now plainly visible: the thin lines starting to carve themselves around her eyes, the crease now etched in her forehead above the tattoo’s twining band of thorns.

“Quinlan’s gone into shock,” Hunt observed, monitoring Bryce’s every breath. “She’s not going to talk.”

Isaiah was inclined to agree, until Viktoria opened the file, scanned a piece of paper, and said, “I, for one, believe that you are not in full control of your body or actions right now.”

And then she read a shopping list of a cocktail of drugs and alcohol that would stop a human’s heart dead. Stop a lesser Vanir’s heart, too, for that matter.

Hunt swore again. “Is there anything she didn’t snort or smoke tonight?”

Sabine bristled. “Half-breed trash—”

Isaiah threw Hunt a look. All that was needed to convey the request.

Never an order—he’d never dared to order Hunt around. Not when the male possessed a hair-trigger temper that had left entire imperial fighting units in smoldering cinders. Even with the spells of the halo binding that lightning to a tenth of its full strength, Hunt’s skills as a warrior made up for it.

But Hunt’s chin dipped, his only sign that he’d agreed to Isaiah’s request. “You’ll need to complete some paperwork upstairs, Sabine.” Hunt blew out a breath, as if reminding himself that Sabine was a mother who had lost her only child tonight, and added, “If you want time to yourself, you can take it, but you need to sign—”

“Fuck signing things and fuck time to myself. Crucify the bitch if you have to, but get her to give a statement.” Sabine spat on the tiles at Hunt’s booted feet.

Ether coated Isaiah’s tongue as Hunt gave her the cool stare that served as his only warning to opponents on a battlefield. None had ever survived what happened next.

Sabine seemed to remember that, and wisely stormed into the hall. She flexed her hand as she did, four razor-sharp claws appearing, and slashed them through the metal door.

Hunt smiled at her disappearing figure. A target marked. Not today, not even tomorrow, but at one point in the future …

And people claimed the shifters got along better with the angels than the Fae.

Viktoria was saying gently to Bryce, “We have video footage from the White Raven, confirming your whereabouts. We have footage of you walking home.”

Cameras covered all of Lunathion, with unparalleled visual and audio coverage, but Bryce’s apartment building was old, and the mandatory monitors in the hallways hadn’t been repaired in decades. The landlord would be getting a visit tonight for the code violations that had fucked this entire investigation. One tiny sliver of audio was all the building cameras had managed to catch—just the audio. It held nothing beyond what they already knew. The phones of the Pack of Devils had all been destroyed in the attack. Not one message had gone out.

“What we don’t have footage of, Bryce,” Viktoria went on, “is what happened in that apartment. Can you tell me?”

Slowly, as if she drifted back into her battered body, Bryce turned her amber eyes to Viktoria.

“Where’s her family?” Hunt asked roughly.

“Human mother lives with the stepfather in one of the mountain towns up north—both peregrini,” Isaiah said. “The sire wasn’t registered or refused to acknowledge paternity. Fae, obviously. And likely one with some standing, since he bothered to get her civitas status.”

Most of the offspring born to human mothers took their peregrini rank. And though Bryce had something of the Fae’s elegant beauty, her face marked her as human—the gold-dusted skin, the smattering of freckles over her nose and high cheekbones, the full mouth. Even if the silken flow of red hair and arched ears were pure Fae.

“Have the human parents been notified?”

Isaiah dragged a hand over his tight brown curls. He’d been awoken by his phone’s shrill ringing at two in the morning, hurtled from the barracks a minute after that, and was now starting to feel the effects of a sleepless night. Dawn was likely not far off. “Her mother was hysterical. She asked over and over if we knew why they’d attacked the apartment, or if it was Philip Briggs. She saw on the news that he’d been released on a technicality and was certain he did this. I have a patrol from the 31st flying out right now; the parents will be airborne within the hour.”

Viktoria’s voice slid through the intercom as she continued her interview. “Can you describe the creature that attacked your friends?”

But Quinlan was gone again, her eyes vacant.

They had fuzzy footage thanks to the street cameras, but the demon had moved faster than the wind and had known to keep out of lens range. They hadn’t been able to ID it yet—even Hunt’s extensive knowledge hadn’t helped. All they had of it was a vague, grayish blur no slowdown could clarify. And Bryce Quinlan, charging barefoot through the city streets.

“That girl isn’t ready to give a statement,” Hunt said. “This is a waste of our time.”

But Isaiah asked him, “Why does Sabine hate Bryce so much—why imply she’s to blame for all this?” When Hunt didn’t answer, Isaiah jerked his chin toward two files on the edge of the desk. “Look at Quinlan’s. Only one standing crime before this—for public indecency during a Summer Solstice parade. She got a little frisky against a wall and was caught in the act. Holding cell overnight, paid the fine the next day, did community service for a month to get it wiped off any permanent record.” Isaiah could have sworn a ghost of a smile appeared on Hunt’s mouth.

But Isaiah tapped a calloused finger on the impressively thick stack beside it. “This is part one of Danika Fendyr’s file. Of seven. Starts with

petty theft when she was ten, continues until she reached her majority five years ago. Then it goes eerily quiet. If you ask me, Bryce was the one who was led down a road of ruination—and then maybe led Danika out of hers.”

“Not far enough to keep from snorting enough lightseeker to kill a horse,” Hunt said. “I’m assuming she didn’t party alone. Were there any other friends with her tonight?”

“Two others. Juniper Andromeda, a faun who’s a soloist at the City Ballet, and …” Isaiah flipped open the case file and muttered a prayer. “Fury Axtar.”

Hunt swore softly at the mercenary’s name.

Fury Axtar was licensed to kill in half a dozen countries. Including this one.

Hunt asked, “Fury was with Quinlan tonight?”

They’d crossed paths with the merc enough to know to stay the Hel away. Micah had even ordered Hunt to kill her. Twice.

But she had too many high-powered allies. Some, it was whispered, on the Imperial Senate. So both times, Micah had decided that the fallout over the Umbra Mortis turning Fury Axtar into veritable toast would be more trouble than it was worth.

“Yes,” Isaiah said. “Fury was with her at the club.”

Hunt frowned. But Viktoria leaned in to speak to Bryce once more. “We’re trying to find who did this. Can you give us the information

we need?”

Only a shell sat before the wraith.

Viktoria said, in that luxurious purr that usually had people eating out of her palm, “I want to help you. I want to find who did this. And punish them.”

Viktoria reached into her pocket, pulled out her phone, and set it faceup on the table. Instantly, its digital feed appeared on the small screen in the room with Isaiah and Hunt. They glanced between the wraith and the screen as a series of messages opened.

“We downloaded the data from your phone. Can you walk me through these?”

Glassy eyes tracked a small screen that rose from a hidden compartment in the linoleum floor. It displayed the same messages Isaiah and Hunt now read.

The first one, sent from Bryce, read, TV nights are for waggle-tailed pups. Come play with the big bitches.

And then a short, dark video, shaking as someone roared with laughter while Bryce flipped off the camera, leaned over a line of white powder—lightseeker—and sniffed it right up her freckled nose. She was laughing, so bright and alive that the woman in the room before them looked like a gutted corpse, and she shrieked into the camera, “LIGHT IT UP, DANIKAAAAA!”

Danika’s written reply was precisely what Isaiah expected from the Prime Apparent of the wolves, whom he’d seen only from a distance at formal events and who had seemed poised to start trouble wherever she went: I FUCKING HATE YOU. STOP DOING LIGHTSEEKER WITHOUT ME. ASSHOLE.

Party Princess, indeed.

Bryce had written back twenty minutes later, I just hooked up with someone in the bathroom. Don’t tell Connor.

Hunt shook his head.

But Bryce sat there as Viktoria read the messages aloud, the wraith stone-faced.

Danika wrote back, Was it good?!!? Only good enough to take the edge off.

“This isn’t relevant,” Hunt murmured. “Pull in Viktoria.” “We have our orders.”

“Fuck the orders. That woman is about to break, and not in a good way.”

Then Bryce stopped responding to Danika.

But Danika kept messaging. One after another. Over the next two hours.

The show’s over. Where are you assholes?

Why aren’t you picking up your phone? I’m calling Fury. Where the FUCK is Fury?

Juniper never brings her phone, so I’m not even gonna bother with her. Where are you?!!!

Should I come to the club? The pack’s leaving in ten. Stop fucking strangers in the bathroom, because Connor’s coming with me.

BRYYYYCE. When you look at your phone, I hope the 1,000 alerts piss you off.

Thorne is telling me to stop messaging you. I told him to mind his own fucking business.

Connor says to grow the Hel up and stop doing shady-ass drugs, because only losers do that shit. He wasn’t happy when I said I’m not sure I can let you date a holier-than-thou priss.

Okay, we’re leaving in five. See you soon, cocksucker. Light it up.

Bryce stared at the screen unblinkingly, her torn face sickly pale in the light of the monitor.

“The building’s cameras are mostly broken, but the one in the hall was still able to record some audio, though its video footage was down,” Viktoria said calmly. “Shall I play it?”

No response. So Viktoria played it.

Muffled snarling and screaming filled the speakers—quiet enough that it was clear the hall camera had picked up only the loudest noises coming from the apartment. And then someone was roaring—a feral wolf’s roar. “Please, please—

The words were cut off. But the hall camera’s audio wasn’t.

Danika Fendyr screamed. Something tumbled and crashed in the background—as if she’d been thrown into furniture. And the hall camera kept recording.

The screaming went on, and on, and on. Interrupted only by the camera’s fritzed system. The muffled grunts and growls were wet and vicious, and Danika was begging, sobbing as she pleaded for mercy, wept and screamed for it to stop—

“Turn it off,” Hunt ordered, stalking from the room. “Turn it off now.” He was out so fast Isaiah couldn’t stop him, instantly crossing the space to the door beside theirs and flinging it open before Isaiah had cleared the room.

But there was Danika, audio crackling in and out, the sound of her voice still pleading for mercy coming from the speakers in the ceiling. Danika, being devoured and shredded.

The silence from the murderer was as chilling as Danika’s sobbing screams.

Viktoria twisted toward the door as Hunt barreled in, his face dark with fury, wings spreading. The Shadow of Death unleashed.

Isaiah tasted ether. Lightning writhed at Hunt’s fingertips. Danika’s unending, half-muffled screams filled the room. Isaiah stepped into the chamber in time to see Bryce explode.

He summoned a wall of wind around himself and Vik, Hunt no doubt doing the same, as Bryce shot out of her chair and flipped the table. It soared over Viktoria’s head and slammed into the observation window.

A feral growl filled the room as she grabbed the chair she’d been sitting on, hurling it against the wall, so hard its metal frame dented and crumpled.

She vomited all over the floor. If his power hadn’t been around Viktoria, it would have showered her absurdly expensive bespoke heels.

The audio finally cut off when the hall camera went on the fritz again

—and stayed that way.

Bryce panted, staring at her mess. Then fell to her knees in it.

She puked again. And again. And then curled over her knees, her silky hair falling into the vomit as she rocked herself in the stunned silence.

She was half-Fae, assessed at a power level barely on the grid. What she’d just done to the table and chair … Pure, physical rage. Even the most aloof of the Fae couldn’t halt an eruption of primal wrath when it overtook them.

Unfazed, Hunt approached her, his gray wings high to avoid dragging through the vomit.

“Hey.” Hunt knelt at Bryce’s side. He reached for her shoulder, but lowered his hand. How many people ever saw the hands of the Umbra Mortis reach for them with no hint of violence?

Hunt nodded toward the destroyed table and chair. “Impressive.”

Bryce bowed farther over herself, her tan fingers near-white as they dug into her back hard enough to bruise. Her voice was a broken rasp. “I want to go home.”

Hunt’s dark eyes flickered. But he said nothing more.

Viktoria, frowning at the mess, slipped away to find someone to clean it.

Isaiah said, “You can’t go home, I’m afraid. It’s an active crime scene.” And it was so wrecked that even if they scrubbed it with bleach, no Vanir would be able to walk in and not scent the slaughter. “It’s not safe for you to return until we’ve found who did this. And why they did it.”

Then Bryce breathed, “Does S-Sabine—”

“Yes,” Isaiah said gently. “Everyone who was in Danika’s life has been notified.”

The entire world would know in a few hours.

Still kneeling beside her, Hunt said roughly, “We can move you to a room with a cot and a bathroom. Get you some clothes.”

Her dress was so torn that most of her skin was on display, a rip along the waist revealing the hint of a dark tattoo down her back. He’d seen whores in the Meat Market wearing more modest clothes.

The phone in Isaiah’s pocket buzzed. Naomi. The voice of the captain of the 33rd’s infantry was strained when Isaiah answered. “Let

the girl go. Right now. Get her out of this building, and for all our sakes, do not put anyone on her tail. Especially Hunt.”

“Why? The Governor gave us the opposite order.”

“I got a phone call,” Naomi said. “From Ruhn fucking Danaan. He’s livid that we didn’t notify Sky and Breath about bringing in the girl. Says it falls under the Fae’s jurisdiction and whatever the fuck else. So screw what the Governor wants—he’ll thank us later for avoiding this enormous fucking headache. Let the girl go now. She can come back in with a Fae escort, if that’s what those assholes want.”

Hunt, having heard the entire conversation, studied Bryce Quinlan with a predator’s unflinching assessment. As one of the triarii, Naomi Boreas answered only to Micah and owed them no explanation, but to disregard his direct order in favor of the Fae … Naomi added, “Do it, Isaiah.” Then she hung up.

Despite Bryce’s pointed Fae ears, her glazed eyes registered no sign that she’d heard.

Isaiah pocketed his phone. “You’re free to go.”

She uncurled on surprisingly steady legs, despite the bandage on one of them. Yet blood and dirt caked her bare feet. Enough of the former that Hunt said, “We’ve got a medwitch on-site.”

But Bryce ignored him and limped out, through the open door and into the hall.

His eyes fixed on the doorway as the scuffle-hop of her steps faded.

For a long minute, neither of them spoke. Then Hunt blew out a breath and rose. “What room is Naomi putting Briggs in?”

Isaiah didn’t get the chance to answer before footsteps sounded down the hall, approaching fast. Definitely not Bryce’s.

Even in one of the most secure places in this city, Isaiah and Hunt positioned their hands within easy reach of their weapons, the former crossing his arms so that he might draw the gun hidden beneath his suit jacket, the latter letting his hand dangle at his thigh, inches from the black-hilted knife sheathed there. Lightning again writhed at Hunt’s fingers.

A dark-haired Fae male burst through the interrogation room door. Even with a silver hoop through his lower lip, even with one side of his long raven-black hair buzzed, even with the sleeves of tattoos beneath the leather jacket, there was no disguising the heritage the strikingly handsome face broadcasted.

Ruhn Danaan, Crown Prince of the Valbaran Fae. Son of the Autumn King and the current possessor of the Starsword, fabled dark blade of the

ancient Starborn Fae. Proof of the prince’s Chosen One status among the Fae—whatever the Hel that meant.

That sword was currently strapped across Ruhn’s back, its black hilt devouring the glaring firstlights. Isaiah had once heard someone say the sword was made from iridium mined from a meteorite, forged in another world—before the Fae had come through the Northern Rift.

Danaan’s blue eyes simmered like the heart of a flame—though Ruhn himself bore no such magic. Fire magic was common among the Valbaran Fae, wielded by the Autumn King himself. But rumor claimed Ruhn’s magic was more like those of his kin who ruled the sacred Fae isle of Avallen across the sea: power to summon shadows or mist that could not only veil the physical world, but the mind as well. Perhaps even telepathy.

Ruhn glanced at the vomit, scenting the female who’d just left. “Where the fuck is she?”

Hunt went still at the cold command in the prince’s voice.

“Bryce Quinlan has been released,” Isaiah said. “We sent her upstairs a few minutes ago.”

Ruhn had to have taken a side entrance if he’d missed her, and they hadn’t been warned by the front desk of his arrival. Perhaps he’d used that magic of his to worm through the shadows.

The prince turned toward the doorway, but Hunt said, “What’s it to you?”

Ruhn bristled. “She’s my cousin, asshole. We take care of our own.”

A distant cousin, since the Autumn King had no siblings, but apparently the prince knew Bryce well enough to intervene.

Hunt threw Ruhn a grin. “Where were you tonight?”

“Fuck you, Athalar.” Ruhn bared his teeth. “I suppose you heard that Danika and I got into it over Briggs at the Head meeting. What a lead. Good job.” Each word came out more clipped than the last. “If I wanted to kill Danika, I wouldn’t summon a fucking demon to do it. Where the fuck is Briggs? I want to talk to him.”

“He’s incoming.” Hunt was still smiling. That lightning still danced at his knuckles. “And you don’t get the first shot at him.” Then he added, “Daddy’s clout and cash only get you so far, Prince.”

It made no difference that Ruhn headed up the Fae division of the Aux, and was as well trained as any of their elite fighters. Or that the sword on his back wasn’t merely decorative.

It didn’t matter to Hunt. Not where royals and rigid hierarchies were concerned.

Ruhn said, “Keep talking, Athalar. Let’s see where it gets you.” Hunt smirked. “I’m shaking.”

Isaiah cleared his throat. Burning Solas, the last thing he needed tonight was a brawl between one of his triarii and a prince of the Fae. He said to Ruhn, “Can you tell us if Miss Quinlan’s behavior before the murder tonight was unusual or—”

“The Raven’s owner told me she was drunk and had snorted a pile of lightseeker,” Ruhn snapped. “But you’ll find Bryce with that kind of shit in her system at least one night a week.”

“Why does she do it at all?” Isaiah asked.

Ruhn crossed his arms. “She does what she wants. She always has.” There was enough bitterness there to suggest history—bad history.

Hunt drawled, “Just how close are you two?”

“If you’re asking whether I’m fucking her,” Ruhn seethed, “the answer, asshole, is no. She’s family.”

“Distant family,” Hunt pointed out. “I heard the Fae like to keep their bloodline undiluted.”

Ruhn held his stare. And as Hunt smiled again, ether filled the room, the promise of a storm skittering over Isaiah’s skin.

Wondering if he’d be dumb enough to get between them when Ruhn attempted to bash in Hunt’s teeth and Hunt turned the prince into a pile of smoldering bones, Isaiah said quickly, “We’re just trying to do our job, Prince.”

“If you assholes had kept an eye on Briggs like you were supposed to, maybe this wouldn’t have happened at all.”

Hunt’s gray wings flared slightly—a malakh’s usual stance when preparing for a physical fight. And those dark eyes … They were the eyes of the feared warrior, the Fallen angel. The one who had smashed apart the battlefields he’d been ordered to fight on. The one who killed on an Archangel’s whim, and did it so well they called him the Shadow of Death.

“Careful,” Hunt said.

“Stay the fuck away from Bryce,” Ruhn snarled before striding back through the door, presumably after his cousin. At least Bryce would have an escort.

Hunt flipped off the empty doorway. After a moment, he murmured, “The tracking device in the water Quinlan drank when she got here. What’s the time frame on it?”

“Three days,” Isaiah replied.

Hunt studied the knife sheathed at his thigh. “Danika Fendyr was one of the strongest Vanir in the city, even without making the Drop. She begged like a human by the end.”

Sabine would never recover from the shame.

“I don’t know of a demon that kills like that,” Hunt mused. “Or disappears that easily. I couldn’t find a trace. It’s like it vanished back to Hel.”

Isaiah said, “If Briggs is behind it, we’ll learn what the demon is soon enough.”

If Briggs talked at all. He certainly hadn’t when he’d been busted in his bomb lab, despite the best efforts of the 33rd’s interrogators and the Aux.

Isaiah added, “I’ll have every available patrol quietly looking out for other young packs in the Auxiliary. If it winds up not being related to Briggs, then it could be the start of a pattern.”

Hunt asked darkly, “If we find the demon?”

Isaiah shrugged. “Then make sure it’s not a problem anymore, Hunt.”

Hunt’s eyes sharpened into lethal focus. “And Bryce Quinlan—after the three days are up?”

Isaiah frowned at the table, the crumpled chair. “If she’s smart, she’ll lie low and not attract the attention of any other powerful immortals for the rest of her life.”

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