Chapter no 81

House of Earth and Blood

Time warped and stretched.

Hunt had the distinct feeling of falling backward, even though he was already against a wall and hadn’t so much as moved a muscle.

Yet the coffee in the mug on the nearest table tilted, the liquid endlessly rocking, rocking, rocking to one side—

The death of an Archangel, of a world power, could shudder through time and space. A second could last an hour. A day. A year.

So Hunt saw everything. Saw the endlessly slow movements of everyone in the room, the gaping shock that rippled, Sandriel’s outrage, Pollux’s white-faced disbelief, Ruhn’s terror—

The Godslayer bullet was still burrowing through Micah’s skull. Still twisting through bone and brain matter, dragging time in its wake.

Then Bryce stood at the office’s blown-out window. A sword in both hands.

Danika’s sword—she must have left it in the gallery on her last day alive. And Bryce must have stashed it in Jesiba’s office, where it had stayed hidden for two years. Hunt saw every minute expression on Sabine’s face, the widening of her pupils, the flow of her corn-silk hair as she reeled at the sight of the missing heirloom—

Bryce leapt from the window and into the showroom below. Hunt saw each movement of her body, arcing as she raised the sword above her head, then brought it back down as she fell.

He could have sworn the ancient steel cut the very air itself. And then it cut through Micah.

Sliced his head in two as Bryce drove it through, the sword cleaving a path into his body. Peeling him apart. Only Danika’s sword would do for this task.

Hunt savored these final moments of her life, before the synth took over. Was this the first sign of it—this madness, this pure, frenzied rage?

Bryce. His Bryce. His friend and … everything they had that was more than that. She was his and he was hers, and he should have told her that, should have told her in the Comitium lobby that she was the only person who mattered, who would ever matter to him, and he’d find her again, even if it took him a thousand years, he’d find her and do everything Sandriel had mocked him about.

Bryce still leapt, still kept cutting through Micah’s body. His blood rained upward.

In normal time, it would have splattered. But in this warped existence, the Archangel’s blood rose like ruby bubbles, showering Bryce’s face, filling her screaming mouth.

In this warped existence, he could see the synth heal every sliced, bruised place on Bryce as she cut her way down through Micah. Cut him in half.

She landed on the green carpet. Hunt expected to hear bone cracking. But her calf was wholly healed. The last gift of the synth before it destroyed her. Yet in her eyes … he saw no haze of insanity, of self-destructive frenzy. Only cold, glittering vengeance.

The two halves of Micah’s body fell away from each other and Bryce moved again. Another swipe. Across his torso. And then another to his head.

The red alarm lights were still blaring, but there was no mistaking the blood on Bryce. The white shirt that was now crimson. Her eyes remained clear, though. Still the synth did not take control.

Hypaxia murmured, “The antidote is working. It’s working on her.”

Hunt swayed then. He said to the witch, “I thought you were only sending over the venom.”

Hypaxia didn’t take her eyes off the screen. “I figured out how to stabilize the venom without needing to be present, and—I sent the antidote to her instead. Just … just in case.”

And they’d watched Bryce down it like a bottle of whiskey.

It had taken almost three minutes for the antidote to wholly destroy the synth in Hypaxia’s clinic. Neither Hunt nor the witch-queen took their eyes off Bryce long enough to count the minutes until the synth had vanished from her body entirely.

Bryce walked calmly to the hidden supply closet. Pulled out a red plastic container. And dumped the entire gallon of gasoline on the Governor’s dismembered corpse.

“Holy fuck,” Ruhn whispered, over and over. “Holy fuck.”

The rest of the room didn’t so much as breathe too loudly. Even Sandriel had no words as Bryce grabbed a pack of matches from a drawer in her desk.

She struck one, and tossed it onto the Governor’s body.

Flames erupted. The fireproofing enchantments on the art around her shimmered.

There would be no chance of salvation. Of healing. Not for Micah. Not after what he had done to Danika Fendyr. To the Pack of Devils. And Lehabah.

Bryce stared at the fire, her face still splattered with the Archangel’s blood. And finally, she lifted her eyes. Right to the camera. To the world watching.

Vengeance incarnate. Wrath’s bruised heart. She would bow for no one. Hunt’s lightning sang at the sight of that brutal, beautiful face.

Time sped up, the flames devouring Micah’s body, crisping his wings to cinders. They spat him out as ashes.

Sirens wailed outside the gallery as the Auxiliary pulled up at last.

Bryce slammed the front door shut as the first of the Fae units and wolf packs appeared.

No one, not even Sandriel, spoke a word as Bryce took out the vacuum from the supply closet. And erased the last trace of Micah from the world.

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