Ithan rubbed at his face. This day had gotten … complicated.
“You look like you need a drink,” Tharion said as he strode to the apartment door. Ruhn had left a moment ago. Ithan supposed he’d sit on his ass for a good few hours and contemplate the epic mess he’d somehow landed in the middle of. That Bryce seemed intent on involving herself in.
“How long have you guys been doing all this shit?”
“You know what happened during the Summit, right?”
“Demons wrecked the city, killed a lot of people. Two Archangels died.
Everyone knows that.”
Tharion’s brows rose. “You ever learn how Micah and Sandriel died?” Ithan blinked, bracing himself.
Tharion’s expression was dead serious. “I am telling you this after I received a personal phone call from Rigelus three months ago, telling me to keep my mouth shut or I’d be killed, my parents with me. But as everything I’m doing these days seems to point toward that road anyway—you might as well know the truth, too. Since you’ll likely wind up dead with us.”
“Fantastic.” Ithan wished Perry had dumped him anywhere but this apartment.
Tharion said, “Hunt ripped Sandriel’s head from her shoulders after the Archangel threatened Bryce.”
Ithan started. He’d known Athalar was intense as shit, but killing an Archangel—
“And Bryce slaughtered Micah after he bragged about killing Danika and the Pack of Devils.”
Ithan’s body went numb. “I …” He couldn’t get a breath down. “Micah
By the time Tharion finished explaining, Ithan was shaking. “Why didn’t she tell me?” That packless wolf inside him was howling with rage and pain.
Fuck, Sabine had no idea Micah had killed her daughter. Or … wait. Sabine did know. Sabine and Amelie had both been at the Summit, along with the Prime. They’d witnessed through the feeds what Tharion had just described.
And … and hadn’t told him. The rest of the Den, fine, but Connor was his brother. The urge to shift, to bellow and roar, filled his blood, trembling along his bones. He suppressed it.
Tharion went on, unaware of the animal within trying to claw free. “The Asteri have made it clear to Bryce and Athalar: one word to anyone, and they’re dead. The only reason they’re not dead yet is because they’ve played nicely this summer.”
Claws appeared at Ithan’s fingertips. Tharion didn’t fail to note them.
Through a mouth full of lengthening fangs, Ithan growled, “Micah killed my brother. And Bryce killed Micah because of it.” He couldn’t wrap his mind around it—that Bryce, before the Drop, had destroyed an Archangel.
It made no sense.
He’d had the audacity, the ignorance, to question her love for Danika and Connor. His claws and fangs retracted. That wolf inside ceased baying.
Ithan rubbed at his face again, shame an oily river through him that drowned that wolf inside his skin. “I need some time to process this.” The wolf he used to be would have run to the sunball field to practice until he became nothing but breath and sweat and the thoughts sorted themselves out. But he hadn’t set foot on one of those fields in two years. He wasn’t going to start now.
Tharion headed for the door again. “I’m sure you do, but a word of advice: don’t take too long. Urd works in strange ways, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that you were brought here right as this shit started.”
“So I’m supposed to go along with it on some hunch that fate is nudging me?”
“Maybe,” the mer answered. He shrugged his powerful shoulders, honed from a lifetime of swimming. “But whenever you’re tired of sitting on the couch feeling sorry for yourself, come find me. I could use a wolf’s sense of smell.”
Tharion’s face turned grave. “I need to find Emile before Pippa Spetsos.
The mer left him with that. For a long moment, Ithan sat in silence.
Had Connor known anything about Danika’s involvement with Sofie Renast? Had Sabine? He doubted it, but … At least Bryce had been as much in the dark about this as he was.
Bryce, who had used Danika’s sword during the attack on this city, and kept it ever since. Ithan glanced to the door.
He moved before he could second-guess the wisdom and morality of it, going right to the coat closet. Umbrellas, boxes of crap … nothing. The linen closet and the laundry closet didn’t reveal anything, either.
Which left … He winced as he entered her bedroom.
He didn’t know how he hadn’t seen it the other night. Well, he’d been beaten to Hel and back, so that was excuse enough, but … the sword leaned against the chair beside her tall dresser, as if she’d left it there for decoration.
Ithan’s mouth dried out, but he stalked for the ancient blade. Gifted to Danika by the Prime—an act that had infuriated Sabine, who’d long expected to inherit the family weapon.
He could still hear Sabine raging in the weeks after Danika’s death, trying to find where Danika had left the sword. She’d practically torn that old apartment to pieces to find it. Ithan had thought it lost until he saw Bryce brandishing it this spring.
Breath tight in his chest, Ithan picked up the blade. It was light but perfectly balanced. He drew it from the sheath, the metal shining in the dim light.
Damn, it was gorgeous. Simple, yet impeccably made.
He blew out a long breath, chasing away the clinging cobwebs of memories—Danika carrying this sword everywhere, wielding it in practice, the blade somehow validation that even if Sabine sucked, with Danika, they had a bright future, with Danika, the wolves would become more—
He couldn’t help it. He took up a defensive stance and swung the blade. Yeah, it was perfect. A remarkable feat of craftsmanship.
Ithan pivoted, feinting and then striking at an invisible opponent. Sabine would lose her shit if she knew he was messing around with the blade. Whatever.
Ithan struck again at the shadows, shuddering at the beautiful song of the sword slicing through the air. And … what the Hel: he’d had a weird fucking morning. He needed to burn off some tension.
Lunging and parrying, leaping and rolling, Ithan sparred against an invisible enemy.
Maybe he’d gone crazy. Maybe this was what happened to wolves without a pack.
The sword was an extension of his arm, he thought. He slid over the glass dining table, taking on two, three, ten opponents—
Holstrom blocks; Holstrom presses—
Moving through the apartment, Ithan leapt up onto the coffee table in front of the sectional, wood shuddering beneath him, the narration loud and precise in his head. Holstrom delivers the killing blow!
He swiped the sword down in a triumphant arc. The front door opened.
Bryce stared at him. Standing on the coffee table with Danika’s sword. “I forgot my work ID …?” Bryce started, brows so high they seemed
capable of touching her hairline. Ithan prayed Solas would melt him into the floor and boil his blood into steam.
It seemed the sun god was listening. The coffee table groaned. Then cracked.
And collapsed entirely beneath him.
Ithan might have continued to lie there, hoping some Reaper would come suck the soul from his body, had Bryce not rushed over. Not to him— not to help him up. But to investigate something just beyond his line of sight.
“What the Hel is this?” she asked, kneeling.
Ithan managed to move his ass off the debris, lifting his head to see her crouching over a stack of papers. “Was there a drawer in the table?”
“No. There must have been a secret compartment.” Bryce flicked splinters of wood from the half-scattered pile. “This table was here when I
moved in—all the furniture was Danika’s.” She lifted her gaze to him. “Why would she hide her old college papers in here?”
Ruhn held the Starsword to the grindstone. Black, iridescent sparks flew from the blade’s edge. Behind him in the otherwise empty Aux armory, Flynn and Declan cleaned their array of guns at a worktable.
He’d planned to meet them here this afternoon. Had intended to hone the sword, clean and inspect his guns, and then cap the day off with a City Head meeting to discuss the new Archangel.
A normal day, in other words. Except for the colossal, life-threatening shit that had just gone down. Incredibly, the Prince of the Chasm was the least of his problems.
“Out with it,” Flynn said without halting work on his handgun. “What?” Ruhn asked, pulling the blade away.
Declan answered, “Whatever has kept you standing there in silence for ten minutes, not even complaining about Flynn’s shitty playlist.”
“Asshole,” Flynn said to Dec, nodding toward where his phone blasted heavy metal. “This stuff is poetry.”
“They’ve done studies where plants wither up and die when exposed to this music,” Declan countered. “Which is precisely how I feel right now.”
Flynn chuckled. “I’m guessing you’re brooding about one of three things: horrible daddy, baby sister, or pretty fiancée.”
“None of them, dickhead,” Ruhn said, slumping into the chair across the table from them. He glanced to the doors, listening. When he was assured no one occupied the hall beyond, he said, “My lunch hour began with finding the Prince of the Chasm in feline form at Bryce’s apartment, where he revealed that Cormac is an Ophion rebel, and it ended with learning that Cormac is on the hunt for a missing kid and the kid’s spy sister. Who happens to be Cormac’s girlfriend. And he’s basically threatened to tell my father about my mind-speaking gifts if I don’t meet him at some bar to hear his pitch for how I can be of use to Ophion.”
His friends gaped. Declan said carefully, “Is everyone … alive?” “Yes,” Ruhn said, sighing. “I was sworn to secrecy, but …”
“So long as you didn’t swear a blood oath, who cares?” Flynn said, gun forgotten on the table beside him.
“Trust me, Cormac tried. I refused.”
“Good,” Dec said. “Tell us everything.”
They were the only two people in the world Ruhn would trust with this knowledge. Bryce—and Hunt—would kick his ass for saying anything, but too fucking bad. They had each other to vent to. So Ruhn opened his mouth and explained.
“And … that’s where I’m at,” Ruhn finished, toying with the ring through his lip.
Flynn rubbed his hands together. “This should be exciting.” He was totally serious. Ruhn gawked at him.
But Declan was eyeing him thoughtfully. “I once hacked into an imperial military database and saw the uncensored footage from the battlefields and camps.” Even Flynn’s smile vanished. Declan went on, red hair gleaming in the firstlights, “It made me sick. I dreamed about it for weeks afterward.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Ruhn asked.
“Because there was nothing to be done about it. It seemed that way, at least.” Declan nodded, as if to himself. “Whatever you need, I’m in.”
“That easy, huh?” Ruhn said, brows lifting. “That easy,” Dec answered.
Ruhn had to take a moment. He had no idea what god he’d pleased enough to warrant being blessed with such friends. They were more than friends. They were his brothers. Ruhn finally said hoarsely, “We get caught, and we’re dead. Our families with us.” He added to Dec, “And Marc.”
“Trust me, Marc would be the first one to say Hel yes to this. He hates the Asteri.” Dec’s smile turned subdued. “But … yeah, I think it’s safer if he doesn’t know.” He frowned at Flynn. “Can you keep quiet?”
Flynn made an outraged sound.
“You talk when you’re wasted,” Ruhn chimed in. But he knew Flynn was a steel vault when he wanted to be.
Declan’s voice deepened into a ridiculous mockery of Flynn as he said, “Oh, sexy nymph-writer, look at your boobs, they’re so round, they remind me of these bombs the Aux is hiding in their armory in case of—”
“That was not what fucking happened!” Flynn hissed. “She was a reporter, first of all—”
“And it was twenty years ago,” Ruhn cut him off before this could descend into further insanity. “I think you learned your lesson.”
Flynn glowered. “So what now? You’re going to go meet Cormac and hear him out?”
Ruhn blew out a breath and began cleaning the sword in earnest. Bryce was going to go ballistic. “I don’t see how I have any other choice.”