Chapter no 10

House of Sky and Breath

Absolute quiet settled over the Governor’s office as Hunt and his friends took in the two newcomers.

One was dark-haired and brown-skinned, tall and finely muscled—the Helhound. His jet-black wings shimmered faintly, like a crow’s feathers. But it was the wicked scar snaking down his neck, forking across the column of his throat, that snared the eye.

Hunt knew that scar—he’d given it to the Helhound thirty years ago.

Some powers, it seemed, even immortality couldn’t guard against.

Baxian’s obsidian eyes simmered as they met Hunt’s stare.

But Pollux’s cobalt eyes lit with feral delight as he sized up Naomi, then Isaiah, and finally Hunt. Hunt allowed his lightning to flare as he stared down the golden-haired, golden-skinned leader of Sandriel’s triarii. The most brutal, sadistic asshole to have ever walked Midgard’s soil. Motherfucker Number One.

Pollux smirked, slow and satisfied. Celestina was saying something, but Hunt couldn’t hear it.

Couldn’t hear anything except Pollux drawling, “Hello, friends,” before Hunt leapt from his chair and tackled him to the floor.

Ithan Holstrom dabbed a damp washcloth at the last of the cuts healing on his face, wincing. Bryce’s bathroom was exactly as he’d expected it to be: full of at least three kinds of shampoos and conditioners, an array of hair treatments, brushes, curling rods of two different sizes, a blow-dryer left

plugged into the wall, half-burned candles, and makeup scattered up and down the marble counter like some glittery bomb had gone off.

It was almost exactly the same as her bathroom at the old apartment. Just being here made his chest tighten. Just smelling this place, smelling her made his chest tighten.

He’d had little to distract himself today, sitting alone with her chimera

—Syrinx, Athalar had called him—on the couch, nearly dying of boredom watching daytime TV. He didn’t feel like trawling the news for hours, awaiting a glimpse of the new Archangel. None of the sports channels had interesting coverage on, and he had no desire to listen to those assholes talk anyway.

Ithan angled his face before the mirror to better see the cut lacing across his brow. This particular beauty had been from Sabine, a swipe of a claw-armed fist.

He had a feeling the blow had been intended for his eyes. Sure, they’d have healed after a few days or weeks, sooner if he’d gone to a medwitch, but being blinded wasn’t at the top of his to-do list.

Not that he really had anything else on his to-do list today.

His phone buzzed on the counter, and Ithan peered down to see three different news alerts and photo essays about the arrival of Celestina. Had shit not gone down with Sabine, he’d probably be gearing up to meet the beautiful malakh as part of the wolves’ formal welcome. And fealty-swearing bullshit.

But now he was a free agent. A wolf without a pack.

It wasn’t common, but it did happen. Lone wolves existed, though most roamed the wilds and were left to their own devices. He’d just never thought he’d be one.

Ithan set down his phone, hanging up the washcloth on the already-crowded towel bar.

He willed the shift, inhaling sharply and bidding his bones to melt, his skin to ripple.

It occurred to him a moment after he took his wolf form that the bathroom wasn’t quite large enough.

Indeed, a swish of his tail knocked over various bottles, sending them scattering across the marble floor. His claws clicked on the tiles, but he lifted his muzzle toward the mirror and met his reflection once more.

The horse-sized wolf that stared back was hollow-eyed, though his fur covered most of his bruising and the cuts, save for the slash along his brow.

He inhaled—and the breath stuck in his ribs. In some empty, strange pocket.

Wolf with no pack. Amelie and Sabine had not merely bloodied him, they’d exorcised him from their lives, from the Den. He backed into the towel rack, tossing his head this way and that.

Worse than an Omega. Friendless, kinless, unwanted

Ithan shuddered back into his humanoid form. Panting, he braced his hands on the bathroom counter and waited until the nausea subsided. His phone buzzed again. Every muscle in his body tensed.

Perry Ravenscroft.

He might have ignored it had he not read the first part of the message as it appeared.

Please tell me you’re alive.

Ithan sighed. Amelie’s younger sister—the Omega of the Black Rose Pack—was technically the reason he’d made it here. Had said nothing about her sister and Sabine ripping him to shreds, but she’d carried him into the apartment. She was the only one of his former pack to bother to check in.

She added, Just write back y/n.

Ithan stared at the message for a long moment.

Wolves were social creatures. A wolf without a pack … it was a soul-wound. One that would cripple most wolves. But he’d been struck a soul-wound two years ago and had survived.

Even though he knew he couldn’t endure taking his wolf form again anytime soon.

Ithan took in the bathroom, the various crap Bryce had left lying around. She’d been a wolf without a pack for those two years, too. Yeah, she had Fury and Juniper, but it wasn’t the same as Danika and Connor and the Pack of Devils. Nothing would ever be the same as that.

Ithan typed back Yes, then slid his phone into his pocket. Bryce would be home soon. And she’d mentioned something about pizza.

Ithan padded out into the airy apartment, Syrinx lifting his head from the couch to inspect him. The chimera lay back down with a puff of approval, lion’s tail waggling.

The silence of the apartment pressed on Ithan. He’d never lived on his own. He’d always had the constant chaos and closeness of the Den, the insanity of his college dorm, or the hotels he’d stayed at with the CCU sunball team. This place might as well have been another planet.

He rubbed at his chest, as if it’d erase the tightness.

He’d known precisely why he’d disobeyed Sabine’s order this spring when Bryce had screamed for help. The sound of her pleading had been unbearable. And when she’d mentioned children at risk, something had exploded in his brain. He had no regrets about what he’d done.

But could he endure its consequences? Not the beating—he could weather that shit any day. But being here, alone, adrift … He hadn’t felt like this since Connor and the others had died. Since he’d walked away from his sunball team and stopped answering their calls.

He had no idea what the Hel he’d do now. Perhaps the answer wasn’t some big, life-altering thing. Maybe it could be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.

That’s how you wound up following someone like Amelie, a voice that sounded an awful lot like Connor’s growled. Make better choices this time, pup. Assess. Decide what you want.

But for now … one foot in front of the other. He could do that. If just for today.

Ithan walked to the door and pulled the leash off the hook on the wall beside it. “Want a walk?” he asked Syrinx. The beast rolled onto his side, as if saying, Belly rub, please.

Ithan slung the leash back onto its hook. “You got it, bud.”

“Approachable Asshole, huh?”

Bryce leaned against the bars of the immaculate cell beneath the Comitium, frowning at where Hunt sat on a steel-framed cot, head hanging. He straightened at her words, gray wings tucking in. His face— Bryce stiffened. “What the fuck, Hunt?”

Black eye, swollen lip, cuts along his temple, his hairline … “I’m fine,” he grumbled, even though he looked as bad as Ithan. “Who called you?”

“Your new boss—she filled me in. She sounds nice, by the way.” Bryce pressed her face through the bars. “Definitely nice, since she hasn’t kicked

your ass to the curb yet.”

“She did put me in this cell.” “Isaiah put you in the cell.” “Whatever.”

“Don’t whatever me.” Gods, she sounded like her mother.

His voice sharpened. “I’ll see you at home. You shouldn’t be here.”

“And you shouldn’t have gotten into a stupid fight, but here you are.” Lightning forked down his wings. “Go home.”

Was he—was he really pissed she was here? She snorted. “Were you intentionally trying to sabotage yourself today?”

Hunt shot to his feet, then winced at whatever pain it summoned in his battered body. “Why the fuck would I do that?”

A deep male voice answered, “Because you’re a stupid bastard.” Bryce grimaced. She’d forgotten about Pollux.

Hunt snarled, “I don’t want to hear your fucking voice.”

“Get used to it,” said another male voice from the elevator bay at the end of the white hall.

Bryce found a tall, lean angel approaching with a natural elegance. Not beautiful, not in the way that Hunt and Pollux and Isaiah were, but … striking. Intense and focused.

Baxian Argos, the Helhound. An angel with the rare ability to shift into the form that had given him his nickname.

Hunt had told her about him, too. Baxian hadn’t ever tortured Hunt or others, as far as she knew—but he’d done plenty of awful things in Sandriel’s name. He’d been her chief spy-master and tracker.

Baxian bared his teeth in a fierce smile. Hunt bristled. Like Hel would these males make her back down.

Pollux crooned from his cell, his pretty-boy face as battered as Hunt’s, “Why don’t you come a little closer, Bryce Quinlan?”

Hunt growled. “Don’t talk to her.”

Bryce snapped, “Spare me the protective alphahole act.” Before Hunt could reply, she’d stalked over to Pollux’s cell.

Pollux made a show of looking her over from head to stilettos. “I thought your kind usually worked the night shift.”

Bryce snickered. “Any other outdated jabs to throw my way?” At Pollux’s silence, Bryce said, “Sex work is a respectable profession in

Crescent City. It’s not my fault Pangera hasn’t caught up with modern times.”

Pollux brimmed with malice. “Micah should have killed you and been done with it.”

She let her eyes glow—let him see that she knew all he’d done to Hunt, how much she detested him. “That’s the best you can come up with? I thought the Hammer was supposed to be some kind of sadistic badass.”

“And I thought half-breed whores were supposed to keep their mouths closed. Fortunately, I know the perfect thing to shove in that trap of yours to shut you up.”

Bryce winked saucily. “Careful. I use teeth.” Hunt coughed, and Bryce leaned forward—close enough that if Pollux extended an arm, his hand could wrap around her throat. Pollux’s eyes flared, noting that fact. Bryce said sweetly, “I don’t know who you pissed off to be sent to this city, but I’m going to make your life a living Hel if you touch him again.”

Pollux lunged, fingers aiming for her neck.

She let her power surge, bright enough that Pollux reared back, an arm flung over his eyes. Bryce’s lips quirked to the side. “I thought so.”

She backed away a few steps, pivoting toward Hunt once more. He cocked an eyebrow, eyes shining beneath the bruises. “Fancy, Quinlan.”

“I aim to impress.”

A low laugh whispered behind her, and Bryce found the Helhound now leaning against the wall opposite the cells, beside a large TV.

“I take it I’ll be seeing more of you than I’d like,” Bryce said.

Baxian sketched a bow. He wore lightweight black armor made of overlapping plates. It reminded her of a reptilian version of Hunt’s suit. “Maybe you’ll give me a tour.”

“Keep dreaming,” Hunt muttered.

The Helhound’s dark eyes gleamed. He turned on his heel and said before entering the elevator, “Glad someone finally put a bullet through Micah’s head.”

Bryce stared after him in stunned silence. Had he come down here for any reason other than to say that? Hunt whooshed out a breath. Pollux remained pointedly silent in his cell.

Bryce gripped the bars of Hunt’s cell. “No more fights.”

“If I say yes, can we go home now?” He gave her a mournful pout almost identical to Syrinx’s begging.

Bryce suppressed her smile. “Not my call.”

A fair female voice floated from an intercom in the ceiling. “I’ve seen enough. He’s free to go, Miss Quinlan.” The bars hissed, the door unlocking with a clank.

Bryce said to the ceiling, “Thank you.”

Pollux growled from his cell, “And what of me? I didn’t start this fight.” The shithead had balls. Bryce would give him that.

Celestina answered coolly, “You also didn’t do anything to defuse it.” “Forgive me for fighting back while being pummeled by a brute.”

From the corner of her eye, Bryce could have sworn Hunt was grinning wickedly.

The Governor said, voice taking on a no-bullshit sharpness, “We shall discuss this later.” Pollux was wise enough not to snap a reply. The Archangel went on, “Keep Athalar in line, Miss Quinlan.”

Bryce waved at the camera mounted beside the TV. When Celestina didn’t answer, Bryce stepped back to allow Hunt out of the cell. He limped toward her, badly enough that she looped her arm around his waist as they aimed for the elevator.

Pollux sneered from his cell, “You two mongrels deserve each other.” Bryce blew him a kiss.

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