Chapter no 65

House of Earth and Blood

Bryce gripped Tharion’s waist so hard it was a wonder he didn’t have difficulty breathing. Beneath them, the wave skimmer bobbed on the river’s current. Only the occasional passing glow under the dark surface indicated that there was anything or anyone around them.

She’d hesitated when the mer arrived at the pier, the matte black wave skimmer idling. It’s either this or swimming, Legs, he’d informed her.

She’d opted for the wave skimmer, but had spent the last five minutes regretting it.

“Up there,” the mer male murmured, cutting the already quiet engine. It must have been a stealth vehicle from the River Queen’s stash. Or Tharion’s own, as her Captain of Intelligence.

Bryce beheld the small barge idling on the river. Mist drifted around them, turning the few firstlights on the barge into bobbing orbs.

“I count six people,” Tharion observed.

She peered into the gloom ahead. “I can’t make out what they are.

Humanoid shapes.”

Tharion’s body hummed, and the wave skimmer drifted forward, carried on a current of his own making.

“Neat trick,” she murmured.

“It always gets the ladies,” he muttered back.

Bryce might have chuckled had they not neared the barge. “Keep downwind so they can’t scent us.”

“I know how to remain unseen, Legs.” But he obeyed her.

The people on the boat were hooded against the misting rain, but as they drifted closer—

“It’s the Viper Queen,” Bryce said, her voice hushed. No one else in this city would have the swagger to wear that ridiculous purple raincoat. “Lying asshole. She said she didn’t deal in synth.”

“No surprise,” Tharion growled. “She’s always up to shady shit.” “Yeah, but is she buying or selling this time?”

“Only one way to find out.”

They drifted closer. The barge, they realized, was painted with a pair of snake eyes. And the crates piled on the rear of the barge … “Selling,” Tharion observed. He jerked his chin to a tall figure facing the Viper Queen, apparently in a heated discussion with someone beside them. “Those are the buyers.” A nod to the person half-hidden in the shadows, arguing with the tall figure. “Disagreeing about what it’s worth, probably.”

The Viper Queen was selling synth. Had it really been her this entire time? Behind Danika and the pack’s deaths, too, despite that alibi? Or had she merely gotten her hands on the substance once it leaked from the lab?

The arguing buyer shook their head with clear disgust. But their associate seemed to ignore whatever was said and chucked the Viper Queen what looked like a dark sack. She peered inside, and pulled something out. Gold flashed in the mist.

“That is a fuck-ton of money,” Tharion murmured. “Enough for that entire shipment, I bet.”

“Can you get closer so we can hear?”

Tharion nodded, and they drifted again. The barge loomed, the attention of all aboard fixed on the deal going down rather than the shadows beyond it.

The Viper Queen was saying to them, “I think you’ll find this to be sufficient for your goals.”

Bryce knew she should call Hunt and Ruhn and get every legionary and Aux member over here to shut this down before more synth flooded the streets or wound up in worse hands. In the hands of fanatics like Philip Briggs and his ilk.

She pulled her phone from her jacket pocket, flicking a button to keep the screen from lighting up. A push of another button had the camera function appearing. She snapped a few photos of the boat, the Viper Queen, and the tall, dark figure she faced. Human, shifter, or Fae, she couldn’t tell with the jacket and hood.

Bryce pulled up Hunt’s number.

The Viper Queen said to the buyers, “I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship, don’t you?”

The tallest buyer didn’t reply. Just stiffly turned back to their companions, displeasure written in every movement as the firstlights illuminated the face beneath the hood.

“Holy fuck,” Tharion whispered.

Every thought eddied out of Bryce’s head.

There was nothing left in her but roaring silence as Hunt’s face became clear.

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