Chapter no 96

House of Earth and Blood

Rigelus, the Bright Hand of the Asteri, had called her house. Bryce’s hands shook so badly she could barely keep the phone to her ear.

“We beheld your actions today and wished to extend our gratitude,” the lilting voice said.

She swallowed, wondering if the mightiest of the Asteri somehow knew she was standing in a towel, hair dripping onto the carpet. “You’re

… welcome?”

Rigelus laughed softly. “You have had quite a day, Miss Quinlan.” “Yes, Your Brilliance.”

“It was a day full of many surprises, for all of us.”

We know what you are, what you did.

Bryce forced her legs to move, to head to the great room. To where Hunt was standing in the doorway of his bedroom, his face pale. His arms slack at his sides.

“To show you how deep our gratitude goes, we would like to grant you a favor.”

She wondered if the brimstone had been a favor, too. But she said, “That’s not necessary—”

“It is already done. We trust you will find it satisfactory.”

She knew Hunt could hear the voice on the line as he walked over.

But he just held out his wrist. His tattooed wrist, with a stamped over the slave’s mark.


“I …” Bryce gripped Hunt’s wrist, then scanned his face. But it was not joy she saw there—not as he heard the voice on the line and understood who had gifted him his freedom.

“We also trust that this favor will serve as a reminder for you and Hunt Athalar. It is our deepest wish that you remain in the city, and live out your days in peace and contentment. That you use your ancestors’ gift to bring yourself joy. And refrain from using the other gift inked upon you.”

Use your starlight as a party trick and never, ever use the Horn.

It made her the biggest idiot in Midgard, but she said, “What about Micah and Sandriel?”

“Governor Micah went rogue and threatened to destroy innocent citizens of this empire with his high-handed approach to the rebel conflict. Governor Sandriel got what she deserved in being so lax with her control over her slaves.”

Fear gleamed in Hunt’s eyes. In her own, too, Bryce was sure.

Nothing was ever this easy—this simple. There had to be a catch.

“These are, of course, sensitive issues, Miss Quinlan. Ones that, were they publicly announced, would result in a great deal of trouble for all involved.”

For youWe will destroy you.

“All the witnesses to both events have been notified of the potential fallout.”

“Okay,” Bryce whispered.

“And as for the unfortunate destruction of Lunathion, we do accept full responsibility. We were informed by Sandriel that the city had been evacuated, and sent the Asterian Guard to wipe away the demon infestation. The brimstone missiles were a last resort, intended to save us all. It was incredibly fortunate that you found a solution.”

Liar. Ancient, awful liar. He’d picked the perfect scapegoat: a dead one. The rage that flickered over Hunt’s face told her he shared her opinion.

“I was truly lucky,” Bryce managed to say.

“Yes, perhaps because of the power in your veins. Such a gift can have tremendous consequences, if not handled wisely.” A pause, as if he were smiling. “I trust you shall learn to wield both your unexpected strength and the light within you with … discretion.”

Stay in your lane.

“I will,” Bryce murmured.

“Good,” Rigelus said. “And do you believe it necessary that I contact your mother, Ember Quinlan, to ask for her discretion, too?” The threat gleamed, sharp as a knife. One step out of line, and they knew where to strike first. Hunt’s hands curled into fists.

“No,” Bryce said. “She doesn’t know about the Governors.”

“And she never will. No one else will ever know, Bryce Quinlan.” Bryce swallowed again. “Yes.”

A soft laugh. “Then you and Hunt Athalar have our blessing.”

The line went dead. Bryce stared at the phone like it was going to sprout wings and fly around the room.

Hunt slumped on the couch, rubbing his face. “Live quietly and normally, keep your mouths shut, never use the Horn, and we won’t fucking kill you and everyone you love.”

Bryce sat on the rolled arm of the couch. “Slay a few enemies, gain twice as many in return.” Hunt grunted. She angled her head. “Why are your boots on?”

“Isaiah needs me at the Comitium. He’s up to his neck in angels wanting to challenge his authority and needs backup.” He arched a brow. “Want to come play Scary Asshole with me?”

Despite everything, despite the Asteri watching and all that had occurred, Bryce smiled. “I have just the outfit.”

Bryce and Hunt made it two steps onto the roof before she caught the familiar scent. Peered over the edge and saw who ran down the street below. A glance at Hunt, and he swept her into his arms, flying her down to the sidewalk. She might have snuck a deep inhale of him, her nose grazing the strong column of his neck.

Hunt’s caress down her spine a moment before he set her down told her he’d caught that little sniff. But then Bryce was standing before Ruhn. Before Fury and Tristan Flynn.

Fury barely gave her a moment before she leapt upon Bryce, hugging her so tightly her bones groaned. “You are one lucky idiot,” Fury said, laughing softly. “And one smart bitch.”

Bryce smiled, her laugh caught in her throat as Fury pulled away. But a thought struck her, and Bryce reached for her phone—no, it was left somewhere in this city. “Juniper—”

“She’s safe. I’m going to check on her now.” Fury squeezed her hand and then nodded to Hunt. “Well done, angel.” And then her friend was sprinting off, blending into the night itself.

Bryce turned back to Ruhn and Flynn. The latter just gaped at her. But Bryce looked to her brother, wholly still and silent. His clothes torn enough to tell her that before the firstlight had healed everything, he’d been in bad shape. Had probably fought his way through this city.

Then Ruhn began babbling. “Tharion went off to help get the evacuees out of the Blue Court, and Amelie ran to the Den to make sure the pups were okay, but we were nearly … we were half a mile away when I heard the Moonwood Gate. Heard you talking through it, I mean. There were so many demons I couldn’t get there, but then I heard Danika, and all that light erupted and …” He halted, swallowing hard. His blue eyes gleamed in the streetlights, dawn still far off. A breeze off the Istros ruffled his black hair. And it was the tears that filled his eyes, the wonder in them, that had Bryce launching forward. Had her throwing her arms around her brother and holding him tightly.

Ruhn didn’t hesitate before his arms came around her. He shook so badly that she knew he was crying.

A scuff of steps told her Flynn was giving them privacy; a cedar-scented breeze flitting past suggested that Hunt had gone airborne to wait for her.

“I thought you were dead,” Ruhn said, his voice shaking as much as his body. “Like ten fucking times, I thought you were dead.”

She chuckled. “I’m glad to disappoint you.”

“Shut up, Bryce.” He scanned her face, his cheeks wet. “Are you … are you all right?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. Concern flared in his face, but she didn’t dare give any specifics, not after Rigelus’s phone call. Not with all the cameras around. Ruhn gave her a knowing grimace. Yes, they’d talk about that strange, ancient starlight within her veins later. What it meant for both of them. “Thank you for coming for me.”

“You’re my sister.” Ruhn didn’t bother to keep his voice down. No, there was pride in his voice. And damn if that didn’t hit her in the heart. “Of course I’d come to save your ass.”

She punched his arm, but Ruhn’s smile turned tentative. “Did you mean what you said to Athalar? About me?” Tell Ruhn I forgive him.

“Yes,” she said without a moment of hesitation. “I meant all of it.” “Bryce.” His face grew grave. “You really thought that I would care

more about the Starborn shit than about you? You honestly think I care which one of us it is?”

“It’s both of us,” she said. “Those books you read said such things once happened.”

“I don’t give a shit,” he said, smiling slightly. “I don’t care if I’m called Prince or Starborn or the Chosen One or any of that.” He grabbed her hand. “The only thing I want to be called right now is your brother.” He added softly, “If you’ll have me.”


She winked, even as her heart tightened unbearably. “I’ll think about

Ruhn grinned before his face turned grave once more. “You know

the Autumn King will want to meet with you. Be ready.”

“Doesn’t getting a bunch of fancy-ass power mean I don’t have to obey anyone? And just because I forgive you doesn’t mean I forgive him.” She would never do that.

“I know.” Ruhn’s eyes gleamed. “But you need to be on your guard.”

She arched a brow, tucking away the warning, and said, “Hunt told me about the mind-reading.” He’d mentioned it briefly—along with a recap of the Summit and everything that had gone down—on the walk up to the roof.

Ruhn glared at the adjacent rooftop where Hunt stood. “Athalar has a big fucking mouth.”

One she’d like to put to good use on various part of her body, she didn’t say. She didn’t need Ruhn puking on her clean clothes.

Ruhn went on, “And it’s not mind-reading. Just … mind-talking.


“Does dear old Dad know?”

“No.” And then her brother said into her head, And I’d like to keep it that way.

She started. Creepy. Kindly stay the fuck out of my head, brother. Gladly. His phone rang, and he glanced at the screen before wincing.

“I gotta take this.”

Right, because they all had work to do to get this city to rights— starting with tending to the dead. The sheer number of Sailings would be

… she didn’t want to think about it.

Ruhn let the phone ring again. “Can I come over tomorrow?”

“Yes,” she said, smirking. “I’ll get your name added to the guest list.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re a fucking hotshot.” He rolled his eyes and answered the call. “Hey, Dec.” He strode down the street to where Flynn waited, throwing Bryce a parting grin.

Bryce looked to the rooftop across the street. Where the angel still waited for her, a shadow against the night.

But no longer the Shadow of Death.

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