Chapter no 94

House of Earth and Blood

She was sea and sky and stone and blood and wings and earth and stars and darkness and light and bone and flame.

Danika was gone. She had given over what remained of her soul, her power, to get Bryce off the runway, and for that initial rocketing Ascent.

Danika had whispered, “I love you,” before fading into nothing, her hand sliding from Bryce’s.

And it had not destroyed Bryce, to make that final goodbye. The roar she had emitted was not one of pain. But of challenge.

Bryce barreled higher. She could feel the surface nearby. The thin veil between this place and life. Her power shifted, dancing between forms and gifts. She thrust upward with a push of a mighty tail. Twisted and rose with a sweep of vast wings. She was all things—and yet herself. And then she heard it. His voice. His answering challenge to her call.

He was there. Waiting for her.

Fighting to keep her heart going. She was close enough to the veil to see it now.

Even before she had come to lie dead before him, he’d fought to keep her heart going.

Bryce smiled, in this place between, and at last careened toward Hunt.

Come on,” Hunt grunted, continuing the chest compressions, counting Bryce’s breaths until he could shock her again with his lighting.

He didn’t know how long she had been down, but she’d been dead when he’d awoken, healed and whole, to a repaired city. As if no magic bombs, no demons, had ever harmed it.

He saw the glowing Gate, the blazing light—the firstlight—and knew only someone making the Drop could generate that kind of power. And when he’d seen her lifeless body before the Gate, he’d known she’d somehow found a way to make the Drop, to unleash that healing firstlight, to use the Horn to seal the portals to Hel at the other Gates.

So he’d acted on instinct. Did the only thing he could think of. He’d saved her and she’d saved him, and he—

His power felt it coming a moment later. Recognized her, like seeing itself in a mirror.

How she was bringing up this much power, how she was making the Ascent alone … he didn’t care about that. He had Fallen, he had survived, he had gone through every trial and torture and horror—all for this moment. So he could be here.

It had all been for her. For Bryce.

Closer and closer, her power neared. Hunt braced himself, and sent another shock of lightning into her heart. She arced off the ground once more, body lifeless.

“Come on,” he repeated, pumping her chest again with his hands. “I’m waiting for you.”

He’d been waiting for her from the moment he’d been born. And as if she’d heard him, Bryce exploded into life.

She was warm, and she was safe, and she was home.

There was light—around her, from her, in her heart.

Bryce realized she was breathing. And her heart was beating. Both were secondary. Would always be secondary around Hunt.

She dimly registered that they were kneeling in the Old Square. His gray wings glowed like embers as they curved around them both, holding her tightly to him. And inside the wall of velvet-soft wings, like a sun contained inside a flower bud, Bryce shone.

She slowly lifted her head, pulling away only far enough to look at his face.

Hunt already stared down at her, his wings unfurling like petals at dawn. No tattoo marked his brow. The halo was gone.

She ran her shaking fingers over the smooth skin. Hunt silently brushed away her tears.

She smiled at him. Smiled at him with the lightness in her heart, her soul. Hunt slid his hand along her jaw, cupping her face. The tenderness in his eyes wiped away any lingering doubts.

She laid her palm over his thundering heart. “Did you just call me a fucking coward?”

Hunt tipped his head to the stars and laughed. “So what if I did?”

She angled her face closer to his. “Too bad all that healing firstlight didn’t turn you into a decent person.”

“Where would the fun be in that, Quinlan?”

Her toes curled at the way he said her name. “I suppose I’ll just have to—”

A door opened down the street. Then another and another. And stumbling, weeping with relief or silent in shock, the people of Crescent City emerged. Gaped at what they beheld. At Bryce and Hunt.

She let go of him and rose. Her power was a strange, vast well beneath her. Belonging not only to her—but to all of them.

She peered up at Hunt, who was now gazing at her as if he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. She took his hand. Interlaced their fingers.

And together, they stepped forward to greet the world.

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