The conference room shook.
Ruhn had kept Sandriel distracted, kept her talking while Queen Hypaxia had freed Hunt from the halo’s grip. He’d sensed the ripple of her power down the table, then seen Athalar’s halo begin to glow, and had understood what the witch, her hand on Hunt’s, was doing.
There was nothing but cold death in Hunt’s eyes as the halo tattoo flaked away from his brow. The true face of the Umbra Mortis.
Sandriel whirled, realizing too late who now stood at her back. No mark across his brow. Something like pure terror crossed the Archangel’s face as Hunt bared his teeth.
Lightning gathered around his hands. The walls cracked. Debris rained from the ceiling.
Sandriel was too slow.
Ruhn knew Sandriel had signed her own death warrant when she didn’t bring her triarii back with her. And stamped the official seal on it the moment she’d revealed that she’d put Bryce in the Asteri’s line of fire.
Even her Archangel’s might couldn’t protect her from Athalar. From what he felt for Bryce.
Athalar’s lightning skittered over the floors. Sandriel barely had time to lift her arms and summon a gale-force wind before Hunt was upon her.
Lightning erupted, the entire room cracking with it.
Ruhn threw himself under a table, grabbing Hypaxia with him. Slabs of stone slammed onto the surface above them. Flynn swore up a storm beside him, and Declan crouched low, curled around a laptop. A cloud of debris filled the space, choking them. Ether coated Ruhn’s tongue.
Lightning flared, licking and crackling through the room.
Then time shifted and slowed, sliding by, by, by—
“Fuck,” Flynn was saying between pants, each word an eternity and a flash, the world tipping over again, slowing and dragging. “Fuck.”
Then the lightning stopped. The cloud of debris pulsed and hummed. Time began its normal pace, and Ruhn crawled out from under the table. He knew what he’d find within the whirling, electrified cloud everyone gaped at. Fury Axtar had a gun pointed at where the Archangel
and Hunt had stood, debris whitening her dark hair.
Hypaxia helped Ruhn to his feet. Her eyes were wide as they scanned the cloud. The witch-queen had undoubtedly known that Sandriel would kill her for freeing Hunt. She’d taken a gamble that the Umbra Mortis would be the one to walk away.
The cloud of debris cleared, lightning fading into the dust-choked air. Her gamble had paid off. Blood splattered Hunt’s face as his feathers fluttered on a phantom wind.
And from his hand, gripped by the hair, dangled Sandriel’s severed head.
Her mouth was still open in a scream, smoke rippling from her lips, the skin of her neck so damaged Ruhn knew Hunt had torn it off with his bare hands.
Hunt slowly lifted the head before him, as if he were one of the ancient heroes of the Rhagan Sea surveying a slain creature. A monster.
He let the Archangel’s head drop. It thumped and lolled to the side, smoke still trickling from the mouth, the nostrils. He’d flayed her with his lightning from the inside out.
The angels in the room all knelt on one knee. Bowed. Even a wide-eyed Isaiah Tiberian. No one on the planet had that sort of power. No one had seen it fully unleashed in centuries.
Two Governors dead in one day. Slain by his sister and his sister’s … whatever Hunt was. From the awe and fear on his father’s face, Ruhn knew the Autumn King was wondering about it. Wondering if Hunt would kill him next, for how he’d treated Bryce.
Bryce, his Starborn sister.
Ruhn didn’t know what to think about it. That she’d thought he valued the Chosen One bullshit more than her. And when that fight had happened, had she let things rupture between them to keep him from ever learning what she was? She’d walked away from the privilege and honor and glory—for him.
And all those warnings she’d given him about the Autumn King, about their father killing the last Starborn … She’d lived with that fear,
Hunt threw the Autumn King a feral grin.
Ruhn felt a sick amount of satisfaction as his father went pale.
But then Hunt looked to Fury, who was pulling debris from her dark
hair, and growled, “Fuck the Asteri. Get your gods-damned helicopter over here.”
Every decision, every order flowed from a long-quiet place within Hunt.
He sizzled with power, the lightning in his veins roaring to crack free into the world, to burn and sunder. He suppressed it, promised it he’d allow it to flow unchecked as soon as they reached the city—but they had to reach the city first.
Fury shook slightly—as if even she had forgotten what he could do. What he’d done to Sandriel with primal satisfaction, sinking into a place of such rage that there had only been his lightning and his enemy and the threat she posed to Bryce. But Fury said, “The helicopter is landing on the roof now.”
Hunt nodded and ordered the remaining angels without looking at them, “We move out.”
Not one of them objected to his command. He hadn’t given a shit that they’d bowed—whatever the fuck that meant. He’d only cared that they flew to Lunathion as fast as they could.
Fury was already at the exit, phone at her ear. Hunt strode after her, through the room full of rustling wings and stomping feet, but looked back over his shoulder. “Danaan, Ketos—you in?” He needed them.
Ruhn shot to his feet without question; Tharion waited until he got the nod from the River Queen’s daughter before rising. Amelie Ravenscroft stepped forward, ignoring Sabine’s glare, and said, “I’m going with you, too.” Hunt nodded again.
Flynn was already moving, not needing to voice that he’d join his prince—to save his princess. Declan pointed to the screens. “I’ll be your eyes in the field.”
“Good,” Hunt said, aiming for the door.
The Autumn King and the Prime of the wolves, the only City Heads present, remained in the pit, along with Sabine. Jesiba and Hypaxia would have to keep them honest. Neither of the females so much as acknowledged the other, but no animosity sparked between them, either. Hunt didn’t care.
He silently scaled the stairs toward the roof, his companions behind him. They were thirty minutes by helicopter from the city. So much
could go wrong before they reached it. And when they got there … it would be pure slaughter.
The helicopter’s blades whipped Fury’s black hair as she crossed the landing pad. Flynn trailed close behind, sizing up their ride, and let out an impressed whistle.
It wasn’t a luxury transport. It was a military-grade helicopter. Complete with two gunners on either door and a cache of assorted guns and weapons in duffels strapped to the floor.
Fury Axtar had not come to this meeting expecting it to be friendly. She grabbed the headset from the departing pilot before slinging her slender body into the cockpit.
“I’m with you,” Hunt said, gesturing to the helicopter as the angels took off around them. “My wings can’t handle the flight yet.”
Ruhn leapt into the helicopter behind Flynn and Amelie, Tharion claiming the left gunner. Hunt remained on the roof, shouting orders to the departing angels. Establish a perimeter around the city. Scout team: investigate the portal. Send survivors to triage at least five miles beyond city walls. He didn’t let himself think about how easy it was to slip back into a commander’s role.
Then Hunt was in the helicopter, taking up the right gunner. Fury flicked switch after switch on the control panel. Hunt asked her, his voice hoarse, “Did you know about what happened on the roof with Bryce and Juniper?”
It had fucking gutted him to hear Bryce allude to it—that she’d considered jumping. To hear that he’d come so close to losing her before he even knew her. Ruhn turned toward them, his agonized face confirming that he felt the same.
Fury didn’t stop her prep. “Bryce was a ghost for a long while, Hunt. She pretended she wasn’t, but she was.” The helicopter finally pulled into the air. “You brought her back to life.”